Just a little longer…
Janus writhed in pain on the floor of the abandoned station platform, gritting his teeth and trying his utmost best to stay conscious, locked in the Inner Struggle to stay alive.
His hands and legs twitched and contorted to angles that stretched his flexibility to the limit. Tears fell down his anguished features as he prayed it would all stop; that one day he would subdue it completely. That one day, he would triumph over what was within him, and within almost every other human on Earth.
The Wave is almost… Just a bit more.
And like that, it was gone. The pounding in his ears and unbearable burn throughout his body, all at once stopped. His broken, demented bones fixed themselves routinely as his frayed, dying skin, stitched itself up. The blood lost was recovered along with all other physical pain, however, the mental torment remained as it always did. Surviving the wordly torture was only the beginning; what came next was where the real struggle began.
“Well that wasn’t so bad ye wee guy? An here i was finkin it’d be a lot worse. Up ye get naw. Don’t wanna be makin a scene.” Stevie; a filthy-looking homeless man with long, uncombed, greasy hair, and a nearly toothless grin. Homeless well before the epidemic took place, and going about his life without a care in the world. Janus wasn’t sure he even realised what was going on at the moment, living in the moment and forgetting the past in an instant. For Stevie, the ‘struggle’ began long before; every day was a scrounge for food, a battle for survival in the cold streets. Perhaps that was why the Strain simply bypassed him.
Well there’s no way to know for sure. Up you get Janus.
Janus tenderly applied weight to his hands and knees to test their stability and found them to be acceptable, launching himself up and dusting off. He recently began to feel extremely nimble and agile straight after a Wave.
Well… What doesn’t kill you…
“There ye go laddy. Much better naw huh? Like yer a new lad.” Stevie happily mused to himself, mumbling random words, barely forming coherent sentences. Janus ignored him as usual, he was used to it by now. He swiftly moved towards the platform walls and scratched a line next to many others, with a key he produced from his long overcoat.
“That’s the fifth Wave this week. They’re getting closer in number, and more powerful. You hear that Stevie? We might be on to a trend.” Janus shouted it casually, not really expecting an answer. Talking to someone, even someone who was a bit ‘Stevie’, helped keep him sane.
“Oooh that’s a good thing eh? Trends are good. Trends. Trends. Trends.” The homeless man continued his chant rhythmically and Janus soon began to wish that he hadn’t said anything.
But there is something here. I’m sure I’m getting stronger. The Waves are seeming to tend to one final point. What would happen if I survived that?
The truth was that after every episode, Janus’ physical abilities and senses exceeded that of an ordinary human and remained that way. Not enough time had passed for him to deem it permanent, but the evidence was strong.
A virus that makes you stronger? But too many have died from it. It can’t be based on physical strength to overcome it then. And going by Stevie and the Homeless Network, it doesn’t affect them. People of a certain mindset then? The virus can be overcome through the mind? It seems farfetched. How could it read your personality, or your mental fortitude? Though, there have been stranger things…
Janus was in the zone. Before the outbreak three years ago, he had been a Biologist, and an exceptional doctor too. World renowned; on the cover pages for more than just one scientific journal and on a regular occurence. He had the knack to just think things through and come to the answer, no matter the problem. A modern day genius he was labelled. A ‘genius’, who finally met his match with a problem, letting ninety five percent of the population die.
All he could tell from the virus, was that it had a motive of sorts, or perhaps a code that controlled its actions. The more he delved into it, the more he realised that this was not man made. This was nature, with its raw, animalistic side on show. It felt almost as if…
“Survival of the Fittest.” He stood there, the colour draining from his face. Shocked, confused and bewildered; his conclusion had to be right, but what did that mean for humanity?
“Stevie. Stevie! It’s Darwinian, it’s – How could I not see it before? It keeps the strongest alive! Not physically, but mentally! Or consciousness perhaps? In any case, this ‘thing’ is evolving us! It’s like Noah’s Ark, it’s -”
In his fervent display, he did not realise that Stevie was standing right in front of him, dagger in hand, plunged through his heart. His eyes met the homeless man’s and he did not see the clueless tramp from before. He saw something more menacing and calculated, something premeditated.
“Stevie?..” He stuttered the words out.
“You interfere with God’s work. The knowledge you have cannot and will not spread.” Cold, harsh, and to the point, he yanked his blade out ruthlessly and spun, walking towards the station exit.
Janus lay in a pool of his own blood, fading in and out of consciousness, the sounds of Stevie’s footsteps slowly fading.
I – I almost… I.
His thoughts would not formulate. There was no pain like he had felt through the virus, nothing scary at all. Just the feeling of death consuming him, comforting in some odd way. Darkness clouded his eyes from the edges, edging closer to the centre. He knew that when they reached there, he would be dead. Everything moved in slow motion, the black fog inched ever closer for what seemed to be an eternity. He could still use his mind, sort of; it was clearer without the panic. Perhaps this was his acceptance?
But. I don’t want to die.
Thump – thump.
… No. I wan’t to live.
Thump – thump.
Dammit. I WILL LIVE.
Thump – thump – thump.
His body twitched, his heart pumped furiously and for once in his life, he was glad for the pain he was about to experience. Another Wave had come and Janus was evolving.