NightCrawlers: Victims of a Parasite that turned into Nocturnal Cannibalistic Hunters whose only instincts are to kill and eat.
It hurt to see Datura in such a sad state. Yes, Onyx had only known the older woman for a couple of weeks now, but she could tell that her current persona was far different from the regular Datura.
Onyx had always imagined her being a bubbly soul, offering shining smiles and giving out friendly hugs to any kid who came asking. Maybe it was just a foolish dream. Hoping that Datura lived a life where happiness dominated her thoughts instead of the eternal dread that flashed through her cold eyes. There was the wedding band on her ring finger. Onyx had noticed her rubbing it unconsciously during their few lively conversations. That must mean she had something worth smiling for before. One may call her naive, but who is there to stop her from believing in the better.
“Anything on your mind?” Onyx cautiously poked, conveniently placing herself next to Datura while prepping her bag. She gave a soft grunt, her back facing Onyx while she hugged her pillow as if it were trying to run away. Onyx waited a bit longer in hopes for a more vocal answer, but such waiting brought no reward.
“I’m about to do some scavenging, is there anything you’d like me to look for?” She poked again, leaning in closer to Datura, who quickly twisted her face away more, but not before Onyx caught sight of her wet cheeks. Onyx sighed as she pulled away, it was just one of those days.
“I’m going to try and find us some more water and parts for my radio,” Onyx said in attempts to break the awkward silence, but she had a feeling that she was just making it worse. “Maybe if I get lucky, I can finally break into the electronics repair shop and get those special tools for working with small wiring.”
Onyx commented while she grabbed her crowbar, her latest steal from a recent scavenge of an abandoned house down the block. There was a dead body in the house, three weeks worth of stench coming from the rotting skin with rats crawling in and out, but hey, a crowbar!
“There is a baby supply store right next by, I could get in there and grab some stuff, do you have anything particular in mind, any special colours? I’ve always thought babies looked super cute in yellow, but that’s just me.”
“What’s the point?”
Onyx stopped in her steps, temporarily slapped in the face with a wave of confusion. She was no professional when it came to raising a child. Her Catholic school had only taught her to avoid having a child by never doing anything unless marriage was a thing. Her second source of sexual education focused on the many different freaky and fun ways to get pregnant, but it never dove into the topic of what to do after the pregnancy. Despite her lack of education on the subject, she was pretty sure that babies needed things like diapers, rattles and cute animal onesies.
“I’m like pretty sure that getting some stuff to prepare for the baby to come would be our best move-”
“What’s the point of even trying?” Datura spoke over Onyx, her voice telling a story of both anger and exhaustion. “I’m am bringing a child into this shit world. There is nothing here for them to enjoy, just fear. Everything is shit, it’s all just shit! There is nothing for them to look forward to.”
Onyx didn’t know what to do after Datura did her mini-rant using her favourite curse word many times. She desperately wanted to comfort the woman currently lying in her pillow nest, but Datura had already put back up her cold, silent walls.
Despite how much she hated giving up, Onyx left Datura to be on her lonesome. Onyx left with her bag around her shoulder, wagon in hand, and fluffy companion by her side, completely unaware of the tension they left behind.
There was a lot to think about while she made her way down to the electronic store. She had saved both Datura and her unborn baby from death from either blood loss, dehydration, or NightCrawler attack—whichever one would have come first, Onyx’s money would have been NightCrawler, it’s a death wish to stay out past sundown—one would think that Datura should be a bit more grateful to still be alive instead of spending her every waking moment moping around.
But those were privileged thoughts and those needed to be kicked out pronto. Datura didn’t really have any other options but to mope, a broken femur didn’t really allow much mobility. Her negativity wasn’t convenient in the slightest for their situation. However, it was totally understandable, who could really deal with a zombie apocalypse and come out still singing about sunshine and daisies like Onyx apparently did.
That thought made her stop for a moment, Dr. Doggy looking back at her with that cute tilt all dogs seemed to do. It finally hit Onyx that her parents might have been right, that there was something mentally wrong with her when they threw her to the street dogs. She knew that they were referencing to her ‘phase’ of believing she was a girl when her ‘God-given body’ was male, but maybe they were right, but just in the wrong topic. That would honestly explain a lot of things.
Too bad all the therapy clinics were closed because almost everyone was dead. This would have been a great realization to come two years ago while she could still visit her high school counsellor. Guess better late than never doesn’t apply to all situations.
Onyx pushed her random thoughts to the back of her head as she hit the baby store. Her wagon, unfortunately, wasn’t big enough to hold any cradles. Still, it was big enough to grab some toys, bottles, baby mixture and some super cute onesies. Onyx tried to pick ones she hoped Datura would like, but ended up just getting one of each design. It wasn’t like they weren’t going to all be used anyways.
After the baby store, Onyx arrived at the Electronic Repair Shop, the gem in her eyes ever since she made a claim to this neighbourhood. The lock on the door had turned the shop into a forbidden desire, but her new crowbar served as the key to wherever she wanted. Wielding the bar made her feel like the star of an adventure video game, new items unlock new areas.
The place was pure filth. It had the look and smell of a frat house, the funk was enough to bring on a world record migraine. Onyx had a feeling there was a dead body lying somewhere, but this building had been locked up for months now, and that was not the kind of body she wanted to find.
Dr. Doggy sniffed around the rows of discount cameras and laptops—most likely looking for treats that wouldn’t be there—while Onyx worked her magic behind the repair desk. The token of her desire was just what she needed to fix the busted radio. Datura had told her time and time again to give up, that nothing of use would come from her wasting time to fix it.
Onyx knew Datura was wrong, or just hoped she was wrong. Maybe if it were just a random radio plucked out of nowhere, it could be considered a waste of her time, but not this one. There was the frequency written on the side written with a new marker on a new stripe of tape that had to mean something!
“Jackpot!” Onyx claimed, finally grabbing hold of the valuable wiring tools. Dr. Doggy came running at the sound of her excitement. Feeling proud and quite happy from her find, she dug into her backpack and pulled out a dog treat, an unusual find from a past house raid. Dr. Doggy performed a majestic jump to catch the treat in his jaws while Onyx herself jumped over the desk. Her next task was to scrounge for any supplies before making their way back to the home base.
The sky was starting to turn dark, despite it only being the early afternoon. A storm was coming, and a storm was no way good news. Onyx walked with purpose, finding her way to the staff room in the back. This room was on a whole new level of disgusting, but at least there wasn’t a body. She had seen enough of those for a lifetime, but it was foolish to think she wouldn’t see another one soon. In the corner of the room was a mini-fridge, but with there being no power, there was no way anything of use would be in there. On the other hand, Onyx was able to fill her wagon with water bottles, a couple of first aid supplies, and a fire extinguisher. The last one was a huge relief, Onyx didn’t dare to tell Datura why the one in the Drug Store was empty.
Just before the two took their leave, something in the far corner of the room caught Onyx’s eye. A pile of comic books, stacked on a lonesome chair next to crumbled up burger wraps and empty soda cans. She hadn’t read a good comic book since this whole fiasco started, but remembered the joy that they brought.
A crack from the sky outside brought forth the sense of urgency to get their butts moving, but life was all about risks, and these comics sure were worth that risk. Flipping through the pages, memories came flooding back of her childhood heroes, fantasies of having super strength, the ability to become invisible, or just straight-up rich.
“This is just what we needed!” Onyx smiled while she loaded the books into her wagon. Dr. Doggy sniffed the books, She gave him a well-deserved pat on the head before ushering him to follow as they left the store.
The sky did not look friendly. Onyx didn’t know how to work the math, but they had to turn a thirty-minute walk into a five-minute run if they wanted to make it back to the base. The NightCrawlers typically only came out after sundown, but storms seemed to be the exception. Onyx did debate staying in the shop till the storm played its course but didn’t want to risk leaving Datura alone through the night if the sky didn’t clear quickly enough. Onyx knew that Datura didn’t want to admit it, but her broken leg made her vulnerable and dependent on Onyx.
Dr. Doggy seemed to be enjoying himself, tongue sticking out to catch the raindrops as they ran through the streets. Onyx wished she could enjoy it the same, but it was quite hard to do while watching for figures in the distance. As luck would have it, they avoided contact with any Crawlers and managed to make it back in the store mere seconds before the downfall really started.
“You should have come back as soon as the clouds came,” Datura commented from her nest in the back. Dr. Doggy went over to her, shaking his wet coat before attacking her with licks, both things she didn’t seem to appreciate. At least she was more talkative now than compared to this morning, hearing her squeal as she pushed the pile of fluff away from her.
“No need to worry,” Onyx lied through her teeth. “We had everything totally under control.” She wheeled her goods to the back, shooting a smile at Datura once she was in view. “I even got somethings!”
Datura did her best to look through the wagon of stuff, pulling out the bottles and mix, giving them a weird look. “You do know that I can breastfeed, I don’t need this crap.” She dismissed it, weakly tossing the container of powder to the side.
“But what if your boobs run out of milk? I would rather be prepared than be caught with nothing.” Datura glared at Onyx but didn’t say anything, just went back to the wagon.
“Comic books? You don’t even read comics, why waste the room.” Onyx came, sat down next to Datura, and grabbed a book off the top of the pile.
“These aren’t for me, they are for them,” Onyx stated while pointing at Datura’s protruding stomach. “One day, they will be old enough to read, and that is when they will discover the magic of superheroes! Flying high and saving the day from space aliens.”
“Why bother, there are space aliens outside that we already have to deal with.” She turned away from the books and huddled back into a cocoon.
“Those are regular Ol’ people infected with a parasite, not even close to aliens.” Onyx countered, flipping through the colourful pages.
“Doesn’t matter,” Datura grumbled, voice muffled by her pillow. “We don’t need it, so why bother bringing it?”
“It’s something for them to look forward to, past all the bad will be a little good in the future.” Onyx sighed, taking the comic books and putting them away next to her basic survival books and electronics repair manuals. She tried, but not all plans end in success. She went back to the wagon to put away the last piece, the fire extinguisher. As she made her way past Datura, she felt a hand reach out and grab the pant of her jeans.
“Thank you,” Datura said softly, giving Onyx a rare smile. “Thank you for caring.”
“For you and little you, I would do anything,” Onyx said with a wink, winning a laugh from Datura. It was nice to see Datura like this—happy—even if it was just for a second.