Safe Haven Village
Chapter 5written by confunded - illustrated by Nowhere and Samara/ContemplatingSketches
He tried to open his eyes, but the blinding white light of heaven forced them closed again. Kenny let out a groan and pushed himself up off the ground - or cloud, whatever. Really, his eyes didn't need to be open to know who was talking to him.
He was rarely brought up to heaven unless they wanted something from him, so this could only mean that something annoying was about to happen. All things considered, he was pretty sure God caused that tree branch to fall and impale him after they crossed into Utah. A tree branch, of all things, in the fucking zombie apocalypse.
By Kenny's estimations, it had been about a month between his current death and the day all this zombie business began. He'd only managed to die another two times before this one, both from attacks, but each time it grew increasingly more difficult to locate the group, so, while expected, it was all very irritating. He woke up in South Park, would always wake up in South Park, and every time he had to find a new car and drive an even longer distance. Cell phones had stopped working weeks ago, so it was all up to his tracking skills, which were extremely lacking, to find his friends.
At least he knew what general direction to go in now. But time worked in strange ways when he was between this world and the next; he never knew precisely how many days had passed between death and ?rebirth'. It really sucked, especially now, when no one would be around to tell him the date and time.
"Kenny, my son, open your eyes."
He sighed and squinted at them. Jesus and God stood before him, their expressions serious. Fuck. On top of everything else, being brought to heaven meant even more time passing down on Earth.
"I hope you're planning to explain what's going on down there," he said, his voice echoing eerily through the limitless white space around him. "Is this another way of smiting humanity?"
"It is a virus created by man, a biological weapon that got out of hand and spread before it was meant to, both in places it was and wasn't intended to." God paused for a moment before bluntly adding, "However we cannot, and will not, stop it."
"Why the fuck not?!"
"My child, there comes a time, like every couple thousand years or so, when the human race reaches a point of necessary purging. The modern world is full of hate, violence against innocents, wars waged in my name, and willful ignorance. People indulge in every sin without guilt or repentance. Snooki and the Gangnam style guy hold more moral influence than I do."
"Okay... you're saying the world has gone to shit so you're letting the human race die out."
"... Basically. But not entirely."
"There is no cure for this engineered virus, but the opportunity is there for survival," Jesus added, placing his hand on Kenny's shoulder. "Those with strength and persistence will be tasked with rebuilding the world. People will relearn the value of honest work and community togetherness."
"And if those who survive are just murderous assholes?"
"Then I'll flood the Earth again, or something."
It seemed like a terrible plan, overall. But then, it often seemed to Kenny that God never did anything right and it always fell on him to fix it. "Why are you telling me all this now? You didn't bring me up here the last couple of times I died."
"For now, all I can tell you is this - there is no cure, and the inhuman creatures you encounter down there have no soul left inside them. However, their spirits cannot find a resting place while their bodies remain animated. What has been done cannot be reversed. Be the servant of death you were bred to become. End their pointless existence."
"Good bye, child," Jesus said, and before Kenny could ask any more questions, a blinding white light flashed.
When his eyes readjusted, he found that he was lying in his bed. God and Jesus were always unnecessarily vague, and yet again they seemed to have thrust some ridiculous responsibility onto him without giving him a chance to argue.
He sighed and listened for any noise. Silence. No footsteps, no groaning. Even though he'd been back to South Park three times now, he had yet to see Karen. She could have wandered to Wyoming, for all he knew, but he kept hoping she would turn up in their old house. God's words echoed through his mind - ?end their pointless existence'. He wanted to find his sister and give her body the rest it deserved, especially if her spirit was doomed to wander until that happened. All he could hope for now was that someone else had already gotten to her.
"So basically I have to kill them all," Kenny told the poster of Jenna Jameson that hung on his ceiling. "That's definitely the most annoying thing the universe has asked me to do."
With another sigh, he stood up and started looking through his closet for a weapon. Everything he brought with him so far certainly didn't reincarnate along with his body, so he was already down two guns and a pocket knife. Eventually he'd run out of blunt objects, too, if this kept up.
At least his luck was a little better than it had been when he was younger. It turned out that the excessive deaths in his elementary school days were meant to build his mental and emotional strength and force him to become unfazed by the process of dying. Gradually, the instances became less frequent and now he only really got into fatal accidents when someone needed him on the other side. God revealed that whole plan to him a few years back, and he'd never been more annoyed by anything in his life. Until now, anyway.
He never asked to be the savior of the world. Wasn't that Jesus' job? Why couldn't he come to Earth and kill all the zombies?
There was a baseball bat in the back of his closet, and he'd seen what Stan could do with his bat, so that was what he ended up choosing. It would serve, at least until he found the group again.
He hoped he'd actually be able to. They could be anywhere by now; he had no idea how long he'd been dead. The last time he died they were somewhere in southern Utah, but that might not help him now.
Sighing, he left his house and went in search of a car. The first time this happened, he took his parents' car. The second time, an abandoned car by Craig's house that still had the keys in the ignition. This time, though, he had no such luck. There were no keys lying around this time, and contrary to popular belief, he did not, in fact, know how to hotwire a car just because he was poor and unable to afford his own vehicle.
Eventually he decided to break into someone's house and steal their car keys. It wasn't like anyone was going to notice or miss their car, after all.
Kyle's mom had a pretty nice car, as far as he could recall. It had four wheel drive, anyway, and was fairly new and therefore unlikely to break down. And, deep down, he also liked the idea of driving a car that was wasn't a pile of junk, for once. But despite knowing that the Broflovskis were dead, he still felt guilty as he swung open their front door. He was never the type of kid who would enter a house without knocking, and as he stepped into the foyer it suddenly hit him that Kyle might be mad about this later.
By the time he wondered if maybe it was a bad idea to risk incurring the wrath of Kyle, he realized that the house was far from silent. There was a distinct banging coming from the basement, the entrance to which was blocked by various pieces of furniture.
"The fuck?" he muttered, momentarily forgetting about both the car and Kyle, and walked toward the noise. It occurred to him that whatever was down there probably wasn't human (anymore), but he couldn't leave without checking to make sure. So, he began to move the furniture aside.
Either Ike was performing some kind of experiment down there before Kyle found him, or this was Kyle and Cartman's doing, and the reason why they came here in the dead of night. Either option was equally likely, and equally creepy. Kenny held his breath as he unlocked and opened the door.
Sheila Broflovski, or what used to be her, burst through the doorway the moment it was possible, causing Kenny to leap back against the wall. "Holy shit!" he shouted, elbowing her in the throat as he fumbled to get a good grip on his bat. He barely had time to take in the gaping wound in her neck or the sight of her rotting teeth before his bat made contact with the side of her head. She fell, and he hit her again for good measure, judging his kill thorough only when she stopped gurgling.
"This thing is pretty sweet," he mused, mentally thanking Stan for the idea as he peeled a piece of skin off of the bat. He stared down at Kyle's mother, who really didn't look much like her old self anymore (not that his bludgeoning helped at all). Her hair was a wild mess of red, the blood from her wounds blending with it almost seamlessly, and her skin had become bloated, grey and waxy like the rest of them.
He frowned. "Why the hell did he put you down there?"
The steps creaked and he realized that there was likely another parent to contend with. He turned around just in time to see Kyle's dad ascend into the doorway, groaning hungrily when he saw Kenny standing there. The blood soaked clothing and hanging entrails suggested that his death was more painful than Sheila's, and Kenny was willing to bet she was the one that turned first. She turned, and instead of doing anything to her, Gerald waited for her to take him, too. Romantic, in a sick sort of way.
But now wasn't the time to come up with a story about how Kyle's parents died. So, he took his bat in hand and swung it hard, pinning Mr. Broflovski's skull to the doorway with a nauseating crunch.
It was only after he caught his breath and took in the situation that a thought came to him: Kyle did this for a reason, back when he was clinging to the hope of a cure. He was going to be pissed.
Maybe Kenny would just keep this little event to himself, at least for a while. It would be hard to explain that God told him there was no cure.
"What was I here for?" he asked. "Right, car keys." He looked down at Sheila's body. "Mrs. Broflovski, I'm taking your car."
And with that, he grabbed the keys off of the table by the front door and was on his way.
It took Kenny two days, three cars (he really needed to learn how to siphon gas), and countless kills to finally locate his friends' vehicles on the side of the road. It didn't help that he had no maps and had to depend only on highway signs to lead him west, but it was a pretty straight shoot across Utah and he knew the gang was intending to head to Las Vegas. He figured as long as they didn't go off course, he'd get to them eventually, and thankfully he did. Cartman's van and Stan's car were seemingly abandoned on the side of the highway, and there was a distinct trail of corpses leading into the woods. He parked, no longer having to worry about Kyle recognizing his family's car, and followed the makeshift path.
"I heard you go into Kevin's tent last night," came Kyle's voice, sooner than Kenny expected. Through the trees he could see bright red and equally bright blonde curls by a shallow creek. Kenny smiled fondly; they were doing laundry, of all things. It had to be done, he supposed, but it seemed ridiculous and pointless with the state the world was currently in.
"And?" Bebe replied, not looking up from fruitlessly scrubbing at a blood stain.
Kyle stood to sling a pair of wet pants over a low hanging tree branch. "Did you sleep with him?" he asked. "And before you answer, when I say I heard you, I mean I heard you."
"Then why did you have to ask?" She sighed. "It just happened. We were talking, and we've both lost friends, good friends... and I was starting to feel like, you know, I was the only one who cared about it. Like, everyone else seems so apathetic."
"We aren't apathetic."
"I know that but I feel uncomfortable like, being upset about everything, you know? Like I'll be judged for it, or they'll think I'm weak." Bebe scowled down at the soapy river water. "Like we're all expected to just get over everything and continue on like people we love aren't dead. And I thought Kevin was like that too, because he seemed so... I don't know."
"Like this is a video game?"
"Exactly. But Craig, I think, was the last straw for him. And it's hard not to get closer to people in a situation like this, so we'd already been talking... and I heard him crying last night, in his tent, and I felt bad because he was alone and Cartman was on watch duty and even if he wasn't, what a shitty person to share your tent with, right? So I went over, and it just... happened."
Kenny's heart hurt, though he knew he didn't have the right to feel jealous. Kevin was alive, consistently alive, and had really stepped up to the plate since all this started. And Kenny barely knew Bebe on a personal level, his boyish love for her was founded mostly on the fantasy of what it might be like to be able to have a girlfriend without feeling guilty for constantly, albeit unintentionally, causing her pain. If he could ever have a real girlfriend, she was the kind of girl he wanted, but the universe always had plans for him, and none of those plans involved settling down.
It was a good thing that Bebe had moved on from Clyde, and it was a good thing the person she found was someone like Kevin. That's what he had to keep telling himself, anyway.
"It was nice," she continued, and, clearly having given up on the stain, stood to hang the shirt to dry. "I just never thought my first time would be with Kevin Stoley, in a tent in the woods, during the zombie apocalypse."
"You and Clyde never...?"
She sighed, and when Kyle started to apologize for mentioning him, she waved him off. "It's fine, we need to be able to talk about the people we lost," she said, with unexpected strength in her voice. "No, Clyde and I were never together like that. I wanted to wait. I think he might have cheated on me because of it, but I can't confirm that now and I guess it doesn't matter anymore."
A walker came out of the trees and before Kenny had a chance to leap out to help them, Bebe had taken a knife out of her belt and driven it into its eye. It seemed so effortless, so part of their daily routine... neither of them so much as flinched.
"Christ," she said with an irritated groan. "If they fuck up our laundry I will be so pissed."
Kenny decided now was a good time to come out of the trees, before the conversation went back to sex. Despite his acceptance that he and Bebe weren't going to happen and shouldn't happen, he still didn't want to hear about her escapades with Kevin.
"Hey guys," he called out before they had the opportunity to think he was a walking corpse (ironic, since he sort of always had been). They looked up, and didn't look even remotely fazed by his sudden reappearance.
"Hey Kenny," Kyle said, and went back to washing clothes.
Oh, so this was going to be one of those rebirths. The kind where not only did they forget he died, they'd think he'd been there all along. Of all rebirths, that was his least favorite kind. The 'oh, hey Kenny' kind. It made him feel so invisible. Unimportant.
"I hope you came over here to help us," Bebe said, looking both hopeful and annoyed.
"Uh, sure, I'll help."
"Good. Those other dickholes are so lazy. 'Guarding the camp' my ass."
Kyle hung up another piece of clothing. "It doesn't help that Cartman called it 'women's work' and assigned it to Bebe, Wendy, and me, naturally," he said, rolling his eyes. "Because clearly being gay makes me an honorary girl."
Kenny smirked. "So why is it just you two?"
"Wendy refused to come on grounds of sexism," Kyle replied.
"But really she just doesn't want to be around Kyle."
"Ah," Kenny said, feeling awkward. Apparently he hadn't missed much in the time he'd been gone, after all. Instead of pressing the subject further, he helplessly looked at the array of disgusting clothing and wondered where to begin.
"Don't think too hard about it," Kyle said, noting his confusion. "Washing them in river water doesn't do a whole lot of good. The goal is really to get rid of the smell and remove anything crusty. The stains are a lost cause." He handed Kenny the bottle of detergent.
"Right." Kenny wondered whether getting rid of the smell was actually a good idea, but he supposed it was awfully hard to deal with, even after getting used to it.
When they were finished, they took the wet clothes back to camp, which was a five minute walk from the creek, and hung them up again to finish drying. Kenny was relieved to see that everyone who was alive before he died was still there, and tried to ignore the fact that everyone acted like he'd been there all along. Dinner was canned soup, one per person, cooked over a pitiful little fire that Cartman made, and it was the first time in weeks that Kenny heard everyone talking and laughing as though nothing was wrong with the world.
They were all officially used to this life. It was both horrifying, because it meant that death and gore were the new normal, and satisfying, because they'd all become confident in their ability to survive. Kenny had no such confidence, but still found himself laughing along with the others to Cartman's retelling of the time they worked for the police department. It seemed like a story from another life - though he supposed, for him at least, that feeling was quite literal.
The only person missing from the campfire was Wendy, though she claimed it was because she wanted to nap before beginning her shift to watch over the camp. It was as good a reason as any, but no one believed it.
"How's it going?" he asked later that night, finding her sitting by the ashes that had been their fire.
"Fine." A moment of silence. "What do you want?"
"Can I sit?"
He sat. "I think you should stop avoiding the group. It's not safe."
"I'm sorry, I haven't exactly been in the mood to hang around everyone lately," she spat sarcastically, with enough venom to make Kenny cringe. "Besides, no one wants me around. I make them uncomfortable."
"That's not true," he said, though maybe it was. "Everyone wants you around, you're part of the group. You're one of us. Bebe-"
"Bebe's been hanging out with Kevin, not me. And now they're fucking, on top of it, so I'm completely alone. And not only would I have to deal with that, but I'd also have to be around them." Kenny didn't have to ask who she meant; her tone made it clear enough that she was talking about Stan and Kyle. "Always together, always touching, with no shame and absolutely no regard for me and my feelings. Like they've completely forgotten I'm here. He cheated on me and I'm the one that feels awkward and outcast. Like an exile."
"No one's exiling you," Kenny offered unhelpfully. It might not even be true; he hadn't exactly been around a lot lately. She shot him a glare, and it was the first time he got a good look at her face since his return. Maybe it was the moonlight, but he thought she looked kind of sick.
"Sure they are. And besides, they all have this creepy attitude now that this is how life is going to be. They all act like killing those things is meaningless and I'm still so bad at killing them. I'm bad at it and I still find them disgusting and terrifying."
"They are disgusting and terrifying. Everyone still thinks that. They're just..."
"Desensitized," Wendy finished for him. She picked up a stick and began drawing in the dirt by their feet. "Well, they shouldn't be. But I wish I was."
"You'll get there," he said, half jokingly.
"No I won't." They sat in silence for a moment. "Everyone's pairing off. Pairing off or dying. And who do I have left to choose from? Cartman? He's an asshole and a sexist pervert. And all he ever talks about is Kyle. Kyle, Kyle, Kyle. It's always about him, with fucking everyone," she ranted, her voice gradually getting louder until she paused to contain herself. "I'm just so sick of him. I don?t get why everyone?s so obsessed with him."
"I don't know what to tell you, Wendy. You can't really avoid him, and I know he feels bad about everything."
"Of course he does. He acts like such a martyr and everyone feels bad for him, even Bebe, and she's my best friend. No one seems to care that he stole Stan from me." She tossed the stick into the pile of ashes. "But that's a joke, too. I never had Stan to begin with, let's be real here. I just didn't want to admit I failed."
"You didn't fail, sometimes things just don't work out the way you want them to."
"It wasn't even like I ever loved him, really. I was always on the lookout for someone better. I just... clung to him because I knew if I ended things for good he'd run off into the sunset with Kyle. And then I'd be the girl who turned her boyfriend gay. How unsexy is that?"
"You didn't turn him gay. He's definitely not gay, he was really into you. And he should've been, you're really hot," he said without thinking, and blushed. "Sorry."
"Thanks." She smiled at him. "My point, though, was that I'm going to die alone and it's a terrible feeling."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Kenny didn't really know what to say. It was a terrible feeling; he'd experienced it hundreds of times.
"Okay, look," she said suddenly, and turned to stare directly at him, her face oddly serious. "If I was literally on my death bed, would you help me die? Because I am going to die."
"That's a little morbid," he said, thinking she was talking figuratively about their overall situation.
"You don't understand." She sighed. "There's another reason, aside from Stan and Kyle, why I've been spending more time alone. I'm uncomfortable around everyone because of this..."
She pulled her sweatshirt down over her shoulder and he inhaled sharply. He didn't need her to tell him what was under the gauze and medical tape. Suddenly the reason behind her erratic behavior and apparent depression became clear.
"A couple of days ago," she answered quietly, pulling her sweatshirt back up. "I told you, I'm not good at killing them. I wasn't meant for this, I was meant for politics."
Kenny didn't know what to say. Their other friends had died so quickly, just as he had the first two times. There wasn't time to dwell on it, it just happened. Wendy was living with it and going about her business, forced to pretend nothing was wrong because if anyone found out, they'd surely put her down.
"This is why you're so bothered by how desensitized they are."
"If they knew about this, they'd kill me. My friends. How terrifying is that? If your friends could murder you any moment over a little cut..."
"Wendy, if you were bitten..."
"I know. And I can feel it taking over. It's strange, like the worst fever I've ever had without any other symptoms. I'm fine but I know I'm not fine, I feel like I'm burning up but when I touch my skin it's freezing. The skin around the bite is rotting. I'm rotting, Kenny."
There were tears in her eyes and rolling down her face, but she was strangely stoic.
"I mean, it's not like I wanted to live in this world. I'm not cut out for it. I wanted to find the cure for breast cancer or become the first female president. Scrounging around for food and shelter in this hell hole doesn't appeal to me," she said, waving her hand almost flippantly. "So I want you to do something for me."
"... Okay," he answered, having a feeling as to what she was going to ask.
"I want you to kill me. And then I want you to kill me again. Just, be quiet about it, whatever you do. I don't want to make a spectacle of it."
They decided to do it just outside of camp. Without speaking, Wendy took the pillow out of her tent and followed Kenny to the edge of the clearing. He straddled her hips as she laid back on the grass and it was almost erotic, in some insane way, even knowing what he was about to do.
"You look really beautiful right now," he said, and it was true - her hair fanned out under her and the light of the moon was shining on her face at a perfect angle.
- Samara -
Without really thinking about it, he leaned down and kissed her. Her skin was as cold as she said it was, but her lips were still soft, her mouth still sweet. She clutched at his shirt and her whole body shook with the sobs that were trying to escape her. He held her face, hands wet with her tears, and God's words echoed through his head again - "End their pointless existence."
"I'm glad it's you," she whispered when he pulled away. "I always thought you seemed otherworldly, like you knew all the answers but kept them locked away inside you."
"You have no idea."
"Do you think there's an afterlife?"
He smiled sadly. "I know there is."
She closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. "I'm ready."
It was the first time Kenny had to perform a mercy killing, and he hoped it would be the only time. The way her body convulsed, hands wildly grasping at the pillow, sickened and horrified him, forced apologetic sobs from him even though he knew it was what she wanted. It was what had to be done.
When she stilled, and he took the pillow away, she still looked beautiful. Like she was just sleeping. He wiped his face on his sleeve and looked down at her, wishing there had been another option.
"I'm sorry it had to be this way," he whispered, and leaned down to press a chaste kiss to her forehead. Before he could even reach for the knife he'd brought to finish the job, she answered him with a groan.
"Oh, fuck!" he shouted, and a cold hand grabbed his arm as he tried to scramble away. Wendy's body came with him, eyes white and unseeing, teeth gnashing, fingernails scratching. He fumbled for the knife, but she was already on him. He screamed when her teeth tore through the flesh on his forearm, and by the time he jammed the blade into her eye - once, twice - it was too late.
Everyone was already awake and stumbling out of their tents when he dragged himself back to camp, all forced awake by the commotion he'd made. Kyle shouted and rushed toward him, seeing the blood seeping between his fingers as he uselessly tried to stop the bleeding with his other hand.
"Wendy - she was bitten, she turned," he said, purposely leaving the part out where she hid her bite for days and asked him to essentially assist her with her suicide. "She bit me before I could..."
Kyle held onto him as he fell to his knees, dizzy from shock and blood loss. He heard the familiar sound of Cartman's pistol.
"Move aside, Kyle. Gotta put him down."
"No! We're not killing Kenny!"
Kenny laughed at the irony of that statement and mumbled that it was really fine if they let him die, but he wasn't sure if anyone else heard him. He felt like passing out, could barely keep his head up. The blood wasn't stopping, and Kyle was screaming for supplies and for someone to start the fire back up. Vaguely, he could hear Bebe asking about Wendy.
He threw up.
It wasn't until Kyle had constructed a tourniquet underneath his elbow out of some kind of fabric and a screwdriver that he realized what he intended to do.
"Kyle, seriously, let me die, it's easier that way. I'll come back, I always do." But again, no one was listening to him. His vision was spotty, but he could make out Stan and Kevin at the campfire and Cartman standing by, still warily holding his gun. His arm felt numb.
"The bleeding stopped." Was that Ike? "We need something that will cut through bone."
"That might work... Kyle, are you sure about this? Even if we can cauterize it properly, no one here is a professional. The blood vessels won't be tied off, and burning runs a serious risk of infection," Ike continued, and Kenny looked up to see him pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Even I don't have the necessary skills for this kind of thing."
"It's the only thing we can do. We have to try. I'm not letting another person die without making any attempt to save them."
Just let me die, please just let me die. I'll come back, I always do.
Kyle took Cartman's machete from him and Kenny screamed when it tore through his arm, not just once, but again and again. Ike yelled at someone to 'put the shovel in the fire', and Kenny wasn't sure he was hearing right through his pain - that didn't make any sense.
He was begging with them to stop when Stan finally came over and took the machete from Kyle. For one brilliant moment, Kenny thought he was taking mercy on him. But then Stan brought it down on his arm one more time and he heard his bone crack straight through. It was something that happened to him a million times before, but having a limb torn from his body never stopped being painful
Kyle's voice floated into his ears, seeming so far away even though he was sitting right next to him. "Stay with us, Kenny, you're almost done."
Bebe handed Ike the shovel and Kenny could feel pressure on his remaining body parts - Stan and Cartman were holding him down. The metal head of the shovel was searing hot when it came in contact with his arm.
He screamed again, and everything faded to black.