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The Last of Us: Desperation


Prolouge:

The pain of hard steel connecting with my skull jolts down through my spine.

I fall to my knees.

Vision blurs.

Gunfire.

The pain.

Ears ringing. Screaming... So much screaming... Wait not my screaming.

A woman's screaming.

I collapse to the ground.

The pain is too much.

There is still screaming.

I look from where I lay in the mud.

A woman is being dragged away. Why?

Darkness is consuming my mind.

Wait where is Rebekah?

The woman!

REBEKAH! NO!

The darkness consumes my mind.



Part 1: Winter


"That survival instinct, that will to live, that need to get back to life again, is more powerful than any consideration of taste, decency, politeness, manners, civility. Anything. It's such a powerful force."  Danny Boyle 



Chapter 1: 

Curtis awoke from his nightmare in a cold sweat, it was the same nightmare he had had every night for ten years, the scar on the back of his head throbbed from the painful memories. He extracated himself from the threadbare blanket that was now entwined with him from his restless dreams, the blanket was old and decaying as was the room he occupied. The walls held signs of what may once have been a child's room, though it was hard to tell due to the flaking wallpaint. The only clue that may have indicated as such was a half moth-eaten stuffed rabbit that sat atop the termite ridden dressing table. 


It had been 20 years since the begining of the end, it had all come so fast. The infected couldn't be contained and had rapidly overrun the population leaving it decimated and in ruins. The government had responded with quarrintine zones that had been built prior to the outbreak, unlike many of the larger continents Australia had had time to prepare. Because of its distance from the main continents it took an extra week for the Cordyceps fungus to hit Australian shores, it had also taken a month longer than originally anticipated for it to spread across the entire continent.


But even with its prior knowledge they still couldn't be prepared enough. Within a few years the Military gave up on governing the zones due to constant riots and the formation of the rebel group known as the Red Cross, the constant militant pressure of keeping the rebels at bay had cost them heavy casualties. The zones then fell to either the infected or brutal survivors in a bid for dominance over remaining habitable land. Curtis pulled himself out of his dark thoughts and continued to pour the last of the brandy into the cracked glass that sat upon the milk crate he used as a makeshift table. 


"Well, here's to another happy birthday... again." He sighed to himself as he downed the Brandy. 


The 20 years of survival had taken a toll both physically and mentally on him, though he was still reasonablly young at 39 the weight of his descions made him feel older than he looked. His filthy brown hair was matted with grime and had grown down past the collar of his chequred red flanelette, at one point he had kept it groomed but now he just kept it tied back with a thin bloodstained leather strip. His face was mostly obscured by a rough fullface beard that had already started to sprout grey hairs, what was left to be seen under the beard were his dark hazel eyes. Whatever fire had once burned within them had long since fizzeled out leaving but a desperate emptiness of a man who had lost everything. The clothes he wore were as sad as the man himself, the faded blue shirt fit loosley over his wiry frame and may have once had an image but it had since peeled off, his tan brown cargo pants were frayed around the rims and had several odd patches sewn over old tears, finally his boots were a colour faded beyond recognition and held together at various points by duct tape.


The cold night breeze ruffled the curtains as it passed through the smashed window, there was a faint scent on the air. It was an acrid smokey smell that burnt the nostrils, that smell had become all too familiar with him now. It was the smell of burning flesh, probably human. 


"Shit, damn hunters are coming too damn close to here," Curtis said to the air more than himself.


The local hunters didn't know he had been holed up in this house but it wouldn't be long before they ran out of infected and less fortunante survivors to burn. When they were done with thier fun they would probably come to the ruined slums in search of supplies and more victims.


It was probably about time for him to move anyway, his supplies were running low but not too low yet, and he was down to the last twelve bullets for his 44. Magnum revolver. Anyway I was getting tired of Redfern, I should probably head out towards the Opera House and search for supplies, he thought to himself. He packed away his glass and readjusted the pack so that his machete was more accessible in the event he ran into unexpected trouble.


"Oh well, so long room it was nice," he donned his pack and walked down the hall and through the door into the cold night, never once looking back.



Chapter 2: 

The winter's night breeze bit the ends of his nose and fingers as he wrapped the flannelette more tightly around himself. Flicking on the torch he pulled out the map of Sydney to examine it more closely, the most direct route it seemed was sraight up through George Street. However he was fairly certain that the hunters had come down from that way, it would most likely be safer to take a slightly longer route through Sussex and avoid any conflict altogether. He stowed away his map and began to walk.


"It's never that easy, is it?" Curtis sighed to himself.


Thirty minutes into his walk and he had already encountered trouble, but this was merely a hinderance. The entire Wilson Parking complex had collapsed across the road now blocking access to the end of the street. He had become used to these sorts of things and was capable at traversing the crumbling landscape. Though the more he looked at it the more beautiful it was in a strange way. Moss and vines interwove throughout the dilapidated structure creating a complex weave of different greens and greys, as nature reclaimed its dominion.


Sounds of talking from where he had come snapped Curtis right out of his trance, had the hunters found him? No, if they had he would be dead. Quickly assessing his surroundings, Curtis saw a large gaping maw of darkness in the ruins of the parking complex. Oh well now or never, he thought to himself and scrambled up the uneven and moss slick rubble into the uncertain darkness. He looked around blinking as his eyes began to adjust to the extreme darkness. 


"Hm, looks inviting better not be any infected," he said to the nearby skeleton that was crushed under a large block of concrete.


Crouching low Curtis began to navigate the cramped interior of collapsed concrete pillars and smashed up cars. His torch cast a wavering beam in front of him as he delved deeper within, leaving the sounds of talking behind. After 5 minutes of crawling he had come to an impasse, the way through was blocked by a dull red hatchback Toyota with a caved in roof. No way past, noticing moonlight flickering in the hatchbacks mirror he looked up, there was a large hole made by the years of erosion, it was composed of broken rubble and slick moss. A tough ascent but not impossible. Reaching up he hoisted himself and his backpack into the hole. From there Curtis began to awkwardly and almost comically shimmy up the wall in a spider like fashion. 


Only the final metre of the hole remained, reaching up at a piece of steel girder he grabbed the handhold firmly. Then it shifted under the unexpected weight, the shift caused him to swing  precariously from the remaining hand still holding the steel. The rubble began to move as the steel continued to groan under his weight. He hung there swinging on the sprot as feelings of terror and fear flooded his body, this was it it was the end, then it happened. 


The rubble came loose in a god almighty rumble as the entire tunnel collapsed. Losing grip Curtis fell the entire seven metre climb he had taken, he hit the ground hard and blacked out from the pain as his limp body slid to a halt against the red hatchback, dust settling over him. 


Chapter 3:

"Run Rebekah! Run!" We ran, we ran so fast.

Hunters chased us, They would not relent.

A bullet wizzed past my head as I slipped on the uneven surface.

Then we fell, down... down the muddy slope.

I look up from the mud as I pull Rebekah up.

There they are my salvation and my torment.

The Red Cross look down at where we lay.

Then it came, the hard stock of a gun connecting with my skull sending jolts of pain down through my spine.

I fall to my knees.

My vision blurs.

"Hunters, engage and retreat!" Yells their leader as they spot them over the crest.

Gunfire.

My ears ring.

Screaming... So much screaming... But not my screaming. A woman's screaming.

I collapse to the ground.

The pain overtakes me.

There is still screaming.

I look from where I lay in the mud.

A woman is being dragged away by the Red Cross. Why?

Darkness is consuming my mind.

"Quickly get her to saftey," I hear.

Wait where is Rebekah?

"What about the man?"

"Leave him we have to go... Now! That is an order!"

Wait not Rebekah, please come back.

REBEKAH! NO!

The darkness consumes my mind.



Chapter 4:

"Well, looky wat we got 'ere, Burt."

"Sumone els to fuel the fire Larry."

"We be thinking the same thang."


Curtis' eyes flickered open as the two hunters dragged him from the rubble.

"Ha, he's still breathing Larry."

"Lets get him to squeal then." The shorter of the two men pulled out a large and menacing cleaver.


"Time to carve you up sonny," Larry grinned maniacly.


His mind rapidly unfogged at the sight of the sharp steel, and without even thinking drew his revolver. He clasped around nothing, wait where was it?


Burt grinned a toothless smile, "Lookin for thisy 'ere?" He held up the revolver loosley from his fingertips.


Survival instincts kicked in, Curtis kicked his left leg up at a sharp angle connecting with Toothless's gun hand sending the revolver sailing into a dark recess. Toothless recoiled clutching his bruised hand and tripping on the rubble from the hole above. Shorty recovered from his shock quickly and pounced at Curtis with his glinting cleaver, twisting his head to the left Curtis narrowly cleared the sharp blade as it sunk deep into the pack still on his back. Shorty yanked the cleaver clear from the pack and prepared to finish the troublesome survivor, but too late... Crack! Cold steel sunk into his cranium before he could realise what had happened.

"Holy Shit... Larry!" Burt recoiled from the brutality of his friends death. "You Fucker!" He screamed at Curtis as he pulled a 9mm pistol from his trousers.


Curtis leapt to his feat as Burt drew the pistol on him, frantically he tugged at the machete still lodged deeply in the hunters skull. Too late... Bang! The pistol fired, yanking in desperation he pulled both the machete and body down with him as he fell. The bullet thudded into the already dead Larry, now acting as a meat shield. Burt stepped forward, now with a clear shot he pulled the trigger once again.



Chapter 5:

CLICK! CLICK!

Burt looked down in horror, he was out of bullets. That was all he needed, with that Curtis sprung from the ground and drove hard into the remaining hunter pushing both of them back along the confined passageway, hitting the rough concrete floor at great force. Before Burt knew what was happening, the survivor was on top of him, he felt helpless as quick powerful punches struck him in the kidneys. Curling up from the pain, Burt felt himself roll over as the survivor pulled back his head and drove it hard into the ground, as Burt's face collided with the ground his last thoughts were had he heard the survivor say sorry? But his thoughts were interrupted as his nose splintered from the impact and drove up into his brain killing him instantly.


Curtis slowly got up from where he knelt, he felt a searing pain in his right forearm now that the adrenaline had worn off. He was bleeding from a shallow cut that must have happened from his struggle with the cleaver wielding maniac, he flung his pack off and rifled through it till he withdrew some bandages and a needle with thread. Placing the bandages between his teeth he began to stitch his wound back together, the needle stung with each pass and he wished he had saved the rest of his brandy to numb his wound. Finally it was done, he relaxed as he snapped of the string and began to wrap up his wound with the bandage, quickly tying it off he placed the needle back in the bag and shouldered it again. He walked over to where Shorty lay still with the machete lodged firmly in his skull.  Placing his foot on Shorty's head, he eased the blade out, small amounts of grey sludge and blood fell from the blade as he cleaned it against the mossy wall. Placing the machete back into his bag he walked over to the dark corner where his revolver lay. He picked it up and placed it back into the holster strapped to his leg, then he looked up through the hole he had climbed earlier.


The rubble that had come loose had left many handholds in the unstable hole, without another thought Curtis re-entered the shaft and climbed up. Finally he exited the hole after a few grueling minutes, he was sore and the pain in his arm hadn't helped either. Finally looking out from the top of the collapsed Wilson Parking complex he could see what was left of the old highway, many parts had collapsed leaving gaping holes in the old road, he followed the path of the highway with his eyes  to what lay beyond. As the sun rose on a new dawn Curtis could see the large bridge that spanned the harbor, what was once the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and next to it lay the still spectacular sight of the Opera house now reclaimed by nature. With a slight smile he headed down the ruin towards a rising dawn.

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