12. Welcome Back (D2)

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” shrieked Jimmy as he felt the teeth of a starving stray dog chewing through his wound. He felt something smother his mouth with so much force that he felt as if he were about to be raped. His eyes sprang open and he tried to struggle but he was too weak to do anything.

The hazy outline of the anemone-like creature loomed over him as its teeth clamped down over his side and sucked the remaining blood from it. There were figures standing around it, watching with big smiles. None of them made any attempt to help him. They were there only to watch for their own entertainment, as they always had.

The pain stopped and he felt his body pulled up into a warm embrace, causing the creature and its companions to vanish. He blinked a few times until his vision cleared and he saw Patricia pull back and look him directly in the eyes. He wanted to pull her back in and never let her embrace end. He watched her lips move but heard nothing. He touched his ear and felt something slimy over them. 

Blood.

He blinked a few times as he looked at it and tried to make sense of it all. How was Patricia here? He had left her behind. There was no way she could have known where he was headed.

He felt dizzy and nauseous, unable to concentrate on anything. He saw Patricia’s hand come up and he tried reaching for it but it ended up in a completely different spot. She gently nudged his head to the side and inspected his ear. Her free hand came up, a small device in the shape of a barrelless and snubby gun in it that he had seen before but he couldn’t figure out where.

He felt it pressed against his ear while her hand kept his shivering body in place. A long slimy feeling slithered around inside his ear like a loose tongue trying to dig as deep as it can reach. It pierced his ear canal and began a tickling sensation that would be impossible to reach,  causing his face to twitch. It didn’t last long. The tickling turned to burning and Jimmy threw his head back. He writhed on the floor until Patricia held him in place.

Why was she here?

He groaned in pain until his hearing began to return and the embarrassment of listening to his own whining came with it. He clenched his quivering jaw as tight as he could, causing his short breaths to be sucked in and pushed through his teeth. He wanted the pain to end, for the spinning to cease. He just wanted to go back to his routine.

“Can you hear me?” said Patricia as she pulled his face in front of her own. He nodded through the shakes, making him appear like he was having a seizure. “I need to do the other. Stay still.”

He tried to shake his head, to push her hands away while grumbling incomprehensible objections through his chattering teeth. Patricia was having none of it. She was concerned for his life, but she was unmistakably unhappy. He felt the device press against his other ear followed by the long tongue. He tried to contain his groans this time leading him to heave up whatever acid was left inside his stomach.

When the biting in his ear ceased, he was glad there had been nothing in his stomach left. Emptying himself onto her would have been another horror he felt incapable of dealing with at the moment. His abdominals burned, having heaved more times in these last few days than he remembered doing his entire life.

“Care to explain yourself?” said Patricia. He blinked, not knowing what to say. “DIdn’t think so.” Patricia stood and picked up something leaned against one of the lockers. “I know you’re in pain but we need to go.”

He tried to calm his chattering as much as he could and mustered to say “Ele…elevat…or.”

Patricia nodded and reached under his arm and around his back. He saw she had some sort of rifle in her free hand and wondered where she had found it. She rocked him back twice before pulling him up. He fought the urge to scream but still cried out as the rabid dog chewed his flesh. He wasn’t supposed to be walking, laying there was hard enough. He had become a sack of rocks for Patricia to lug around. He just wanted to rest, to sleep all the pain away. 

He winced each time they took a step, feeling increasingly frail as time went by. His body begged him to shut off and let go but his mind insisted on reminding him who he was.

“You’re an incredibly luck son of a bitch, you know that?” said Patricia as she fumbled him around the dark halls.

His suit had finally warmed his body enough to calm his muscle contractions. He felt guilty not responding to her when she had just saved his life. “No such thing,” he said through a heavy breath. He winced with the next step and sucked in air like a chore, “as luck.”

The words felt foreign to him. His mind felt so hazy and jumbled that he wasn’t sure if he had even said it in a comprehensible manner. He glanced up at Patricia and caught her with a smirk.

There was no reason for her to be smiling but here she was.

A sudden movement caught their attention as they entered the welcoming room of engineering. Jimmy could hear scratching resonating all around them, his ears clearly not adjusted to the shotgun repair that had been forced on him. Patricia looked around the room, raising the rifle in her free hand. If Jimmy had any more adrenaline to give, he was sure his body would have tapped him for it. He could only hope he hadn’t been saved from dying out there to come die in here.

The scratching stopped. Patricia stood perfectly still, ready for anything. Jimmy’s body wobbled, able to stay upright only because of her. They waited. One minute in total silence.

Two minutes.

Five.

Patricia nudged him toward the door, taking soundless precautions and tip toeing her way toward it. He could feel how tense she was by the grip she had around his back. Jimmy felt a flood of sorrow. If she died, he was responsible. The poor woman would have likely made it without him. Collecting her fingers and keeping to a route. He had disrupted it all and forced her to come after him. It was his fault, and as much as he hoped she did not blame him, he knew it was unlikely.

A loud clang caused him to wince as the sound disoriented him. Patricia’s arm slipped out from his back and his body slammed to the floor, sending a shockwave of misery to disperse throughout him. He heard an uncomfortable noise from all directions that sounded like a heavy object piercing the water surface while submerged. The familiar shriek followed, causing him to squeeze his eyes shut.

WIth what strength he had left, he kicked with the leg opposite of the gash and tried to scoot himself away toward the exit. He dared open his eyes but kept his jaw clenched tight. He watched Patricia’s gorgeous outline standing her ground, facing away from him with the rifle in hand. He felt a pressure buildup followed by the uncomfortable noise that drowned out the shriek. A massive ripple formed in front of Patricia that shot out ahead, illuminating all in its path. He saw the white tendrils fly through the air.

In a flash, the tendrils shot through the ceiling. Another burst from Patricia’s weapon followed it causing panels to pry loose and clang to the floor.

He stared at her with admiration. This woman was something else. A goddess.

She turned and scooped him up. He made sure not to cry out, biting all his pain down. He could read the panic on her, smell the fear. Her focus was everywhere but on him and he couldn’t blame her. The insidious scratching continued all around them, distant, yet so dreadfully close. 

Patricia moved with careless speed, causing Jimmy’s pain to double. He could see she was regretting going to save him, wishing she had just left the fool who had ditched her.

But she still did not leave him.

He bit down his whining and made as much effort as possible to help her. They made their way through the dark halls of engineering. Patricia kept pointing the rifle at the ceilings as if at any moment the creature would drop down. It made it difficult for Jimmy to keep his balance with the constant twisting she was forcing on him.

The scratching followed them all the way to the Grand Hall, where it finally stopped. It should have eased the tension but it created only a level of uneasiness from not knowing. The creature was around, but now they had no way to predict where it would come from. Patricia’s sharp and sudden turns, as well as her trembling body, let Jimmy know that she felt the same.

The dark outline of the Galapagos 3 elevator entrance was clear ahead, calling them to make a run for it.

“We’re almost there,” he tried to say but it came out like unintelligible mumbling. If Patricia had understood it, she gave no sign to show it. She was going to feed him to the dog if it meant she survived. It’s what he would do in her shoes.

Patricia suddenly swung around and sent a shockwave of pain through him. He cried out and dropped to the floor. This was it. This is how she would justify it in her head. He hadn’t been strong enough, he had dropped. 

The pressure built around them as the rifle charged and fired a ripple. The ripple glowed as it traveled through the room until it smashed into the wall far off in the distance. He felt a tremble below him as if a minor earthquake had begun and imagined being hit by one of those rounds himself.

Patricia aimed the rifle all around her. Her mind seeming to wreak havoc on itself, just like his own.

Jimmy tried to stand and managed to get nowhere. At least it reminded her that he was there. If she had read his thoughts, it meant she was a better person than he was. She gripped his arm and pulled him, dragging him over the floor as he cried out until embarrassment quickly shut him up. She kept the weapon aimed with one arm as she dragged him toward the doors.

He tucked his legs close to his body as an attempt to help her but found that he was only able to for a few seconds. She seemed to give no hint that she were struggling. Jimmy attributed her heavy breathing to a body full of panic and adrenaline.

He was glad she was with him.

He stopped being dragged for a moment and then was quickly pushed up against a wall. He tried to close his eyes but something cold was pushed up against him. Patricia stood beside him looking down as she handed him the weapon.

“I need to open the door,” she said with fear in her eyes. He blinked a few times, wondering how she could possibly trust him with their lives at that moment but before he could protest, Patricia nodded and left him to it.

He realized how blurry his vision actually was the moment he tried to focus on the vast room. He could make out dark outlines when he squinted. He hoped nothing would require him to fire right now. He knew if that thing came for him, it would be the end of Patricia and his relationship.

He was not ready for that any longer.

He heard the loud escape of air as the locks were released on the door. If he had enough energy to jump he would have, but instead his reflexes made no reaction. He sat, staring at the dark field as the door opened. He felt it sliding behind him, pulling him sideways and causing him to try and scoot until it was too much effort. Before his backrest was completely slipped out from behind him, Patricia snatched the rifle from his hands and took hold of his arm, preventing him from dropping to the floor.

She pulled him in until his legs were clear of the door and allowed him to drop. He groaned for a moment until he heard the massive doors begin to close once again. He heard Patricia’s footsteps as she repositioned herself at the center of the door with the rifle ready.

His battle-hardened goddess.

The door sealed and Jimmy let his head drop back. He stared at the ceiling, remembering where they were. As glad as he was to be alive, he took no joy in knowing he would be forced to be around Zoe’s memory.

He heard Patricia walk toward him until he saw her out of his peripherals. She set the rifle down on the floor. She took a huge breath before allowing her body to drop back next to his.

They lay together in silence for a long while.

“You’re a stupid mother fucker,” she said.

He knew it had been coming. Everyone always has to rub it in when they see a person is wrong. He said nothing in response. Not because he didn’t want to but because he didn’t have the energy to carry the conversation. He couldn’t defend himself even if he wanted to. He could feel her eyes on him and he closed his own.

He felt warm fingers interlock into his nearly frozen own. “But I’m glad you’re not dead.”

So am I.

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