Don’t blame me for this, because you sure as hell wouldn’t do any better. I have a reputation to withhold - not a very clean one, but a reputation nonetheless - and I think losing two fingers and being chased by a couple of The Hills Have Eyes rejects earns me more than a good word with the big man upstairs. Frankly, I never was religious, but that night was… well, it pretty much flushed any hope we ever had of a god down the shitter. Maybe that’s for the best.
It was around the time Martin went Jonestown. Two digits down and a stack full of documents that were doing me shit-all, I had just escaped Walker for the hundredth when a door at the end of the hallway shut a little too gently to be a patient.
At first I thought it might be some poor Murkoff receptionist, but at the same time I was absolutely livid. The things I saw, the people I met, I was never going to be the same, and whose fault was it? Not just executives, but the shitlords who sat by and watched as countless men who couldn’t fend for themselves were subjected to acts of cruelty so inhumane that I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. No amount of apologies could excuse these people, and I had just about had it with being chased around by their shortcomings.
Turns out, it was another patient, but not like I had met before. He was fresh off the engine, probably still a little fuzzy from the drugs they pumped into his system, but he was lucid, and well-shaven, and crying, and I knew he must be somebody like me; wrong place, wrong time, hell of a guilty conscience.
“Please!” he cried into his knees, “Please, just leave me alone! I just want out! I-I haven’t done anything!”
“Hey uhh-“ I took a small step forward, “I’m not gonna hurt you.”
His face snapped up, and man did he ever look fucking rough. His hair was shaggy and all over the place, eyes sunken in and dark, with stains and splatters of blood and matter all over his horrendously yellow jumpsuit. If it weren’t for the clarity of which he spoke, you’d have no idea he was just a normal guy and not a Murkoff lab rat.
“You’re not – You’re not –“ he bit his lip, still fighting off a fresh surge of tears. I couldn’t really tell whether he looked relieved to see me, or whether he was considering the horrifying possibility that I might be some sort of coping mechanism his brain had created.
“Yeah man, I’m stuck here just like you.”
Now, I’m not exactly sure what to do in this situation, I missed the class where they handed out the manual on ‘Consoling Tiny Blond Men Who Are Experiencing Debilitating Trauma’ but I knew he probably needed to talk to somebody like a normal person, so I sat down like I was getting ready for show n’ tell and rested my hands on my knees.
“You gonna be okay?”
His lip quivered, but he laughed a bit.
“What do you think?”
I also huffed a laugh, not prepared for the snark I no doubt would have spat if asked the same question.
“I know you’re not, but if we’re here we might as well help each other out. You remember who you are?”
Dark blue eyes locked onto my mutilated hands, and I found them stinging in reply. Sure, they hurt like a bitch when Trager lopped them off with a pair of bone shears, but shock had definitely set in, and it was most likely a mental response.
“Waylon… I’m Waylon Park.”
“Nice to meet you, Waylon. Name’s Miles, Miles Upshur.”
I decided to save the handshake for another time, especially with the way he flinched when I said my name. Like I said, my work isn’t always so neat and tidy, but it sure as hell isn’t bad enough to warrant that kind of response. He stood slowly and didn’t meet my eyes.
“Miles Upshur… the journalist?”
I forced a cocky smirk, “So you’ve heard of me.”
“I…” tears began dripping down his cheeks again, “You don’t know me. I have to make this quick. They might be monitoring…”
I ground my teeth, finally catching his eye. “Two weeks of software consult at Murkoff Psychiatric Systems’ facilities in Mount Massive.”
“I’m sorry,” he broke down again, letting his body go limp against the wall furthest from me in the cramped office. “God, I’m so fucking sorry, Miles-“
“Hey,” I stepped towards him, pulling his hands from his face. “Waylon, look at me.”
He managed to look up, big watery doe eyes boring straight into my soul like he was willing me out of there; like he wanted me to be a mirage.
“Fuck those guys, right? That’s what you said. ‘People are being hurt and Murkoff is making money. It needs to be exposed.’ Are those not your words?”
“No Waylon, you can’t change things, but fuck those guys, alright?”
He sighed and reached out to my jacket, pulling me an inch or so closer. If it had been any other lucky fucker to still have use of their hands I’d have their head for getting stains on my abuelo’s jacket, but at this point it was already covered in blood, and semen, and saliva, and who knows what else, so I let it slide, just this time.
“How old are you?”
I frowned. That was the last question I was expecting, and it sure as hell caught me off guard.
“You gotta thing for young guys, or something? C’mon, why’s that important?”
“How old are you, Miles?”
I shook my head, picking his hands from my jacket. “Twenty-nine.”
I’m twenty-five. Not that it matters, twenty-nine just sounded better.
“No, no, no-” I immediately rushed forward, trying to stop the newest breakdown before it began. “Shhh – Waylon, c’mon, dude, you gotta work with me here.” I leant down a bit, pain shooting up my legs from running around in these god-awful boots, just to be able to look the little shit in the eye. He was limping too, and that leg injury wasn’t helping any. I cupped his cheeks in my hands, “Hey, look at me. One last time, just look.”
Baby blues caught my own, but he didn’t look any less apologetic.
“You gotta family? A lady to get home to?”
He nodded, “L-Lisa, and two boys.”
“Shit, you’re older than I thought,” I gave him another signature smirk, “They’re counting on you to get outta here, okay? No more crying, no more feeling sorry for yourself, what’s done is done, alright?”
The smile he offered was weak, but it was a smile regardless.
“Good, let’s get the fuck outta here, I’m missing my soaps.”
The guy had two kids, a wife, a desk job, and was no doubt older than thirty, but he was like a fucking twig. I had to bend down just to support him, but it eventually turned to him latching onto my waist like a fucking leach and holding on for dear life. Not that I minded, really, hot dad pulling at my belt? Talk about spank bank material, but it was hard to feel like the knight in shining armour when said dad was bloody, beaten, and probably tripping balls.
We got lucky for a while. Doors were left open, batteries lying around or in desks, and no variants in sight. Waylon needed out of there, and fast, but I didn’t come all this way to peek my head in the fucking cookie jar, I’m taking every last crumb of evidence I need to sink these sadistic fucks like the Titanic, even if it costs me my last dwindling shred of sanity.
That thing - the Walrider, the one that’s inside of me now – rushed passed us, as if warning us that something was coming. I know now it was Billy’s way of telling us to scram, but it was too late. Walker’s big dumb face came into view and I had just seconds to act.
“Waylon,” I turned to him, pulling his shoulders so he’d look at me and not the inbred behemoth tossing tables left and right to get to us. He wouldn’t look away, so I smacked one on him, right there in the middle of the hallway. Wish I could've savoured it. Hell, wish I could even remember what his lips felt like, but he tasted like blood and vomit, and I'm sure I didn't fare any better. Despite it, he didn’t even react, not in the slightest, but it definitely caught his attention since he was looking me dead in the eye when I pulled away. “Sorry, might be my last one, thought I'd shoot my shot. Make a run for it, alright?”
“C’mon, big fucker!” I ran towards the far hallway, using my arm to side-swipe a pile of books and papers into the air. “Little pig’s gettin’ away, you better come catch me!”
Waylon watched me like I was just as insane as the rest of these poor souls, and maybe I am, just in a different way. I still don’t know what compelled me, really, to pull that kind of stunt, but I knew no matter how much my survival instincts were screaming ‘Trip him, and leave him in the dust!’ I just couldn’t leave a man to die like that, and I couldn’t leave his family without a father.
“Run, Way!” he finally turned tail and dashed has fast as his bum leg could carry him, booking it into the nearest vent and disappearing. Chris paid him no mind, grunting and yelling like a caveman as I taunted and threw things like this was a middle school playground, and not the place where every good thing comes to die.
Eventually he cornered me. I threw my camera to the floor and I braced for impact, but his hand never caught me, and the next thing I knew I was covered in matter and viscera even worse than I had been before.
“It’s not done with you,” came Billy’s voice, not anything like he sounds today, and a key landed at my feet. “Meet us underground. Do not bring the Whistleblower.”