IF YOU DIE...
"Ben...?" Natasha muttered in a drowsy voice as she slowly woke up from her long anxiety-induced slumber. She blinked a couple of times to get the blurriness away from her eyes as they gradually adjusted to the dim lights in the room.
The air was filled with the rich scent of hazelnut mixing together with cream and extra sugar, a luxury Natasha was used to smelling whenever she would wake up in the mornings. What usually followed after that though was her fiancé's rough and charming voice.
"Sorry, Tasha? We ran out of coffee today. This is all we have left," he said, desperately trying to make his voice soft and gentle, a habit he had picked up on whenever he would talk to her. In all the years she had known him, this man had always treated her as if she was made out of glass. Natasha never cared though and found that little habit of his to be quite cute.
Ben was a handsome man, from the tone of his rough voice to the way his copper-brown eyes creased up when he smiled. His hair was a light auburn brown that was just as curly as her own, but while her hair could be described as wild, his was just childish and cute. He was also of average height too but looked extra tall when standing beside Natasha who was extra small.
Ben kneeled close beside the bed and pressed his hand against the side of Natasha's face, smiling tenderly which made his copper-brown eyes crinkle up. He held the cup up in his hand and placed it in front of her steely eyes, so she knew where it was.
Natasha sat up in bed and took the mug. "Thanks…" She was about to take a sip when she noticed Ben was wearing his uniform. A gray shirt with dark green pants and no shoes. He must've been getting dressed but stopped halfway to make her a cup of coffee. "Why you dressed? You about to leave?"
Ben confirmed her suspicion with a sharp nod. It showed clear on his face though that he was feeling reluctant about it and didn't really want to leave. "Yeah, uh...got a call from my sergeant half an hour ago. He said I need to head downtown as soon as I can."
Natasha cocked a brow when she heard the odd request. "Something up?" They've been in quarantine for over a month now and was given strict instructions not to leave, which is why she found it weird.
Ben noticed her suspicious gaze and shrugged. "Honestly...I don't know. He sounds shaken up, and I'm not used to that?"
Natasha swallowed hard and placed the mug on the table beside the bed. Something wasn't sitting right with her and she couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness that has been building up inside her heart for a while now. Ever since quarantine began inside Atlanta, too many questions had surfaced with vague and distrustful answers. Natasha didn't trust any bit of it. Not even Ben was getting the full picture of what was going on. The only thing they knew for sure was that there was a virus going around that was classified as extremely dangerous.
"Ben...doesn't all this seem kinda...off to you? They quarantined our apartment building and even blocked off the windows on the first, second, and third floor." She swallowed hard and pulled the blanket off her legs. "I don't wanna stay in Atlanta anymore. I wanna leave."
Ben could sense Natasha's anxiety building up within her like a volcano ready to erupt. "I know, baby, I know. And we will real soon." Ben quickly got on his knees and grabbed her hands tightly. He held them to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "I just need to know what's going on, ok? I need to know, and once I do...we can bail and find someplace to lay low until all this blows over." He placed a hand against her face and tucked her wild hair behind her ears. Natasha only looked away from him though, which made his heart drop. "You alright?"
"Thin walls, Ben. Thin walls. I've heard the Garcias next door talking. Talking about...things. A lot of crap going down outside. They said that people...are eating people."
Her grim words took Ben by surprise and he sat up in an instant. "Okay. Now you're just screwing with me. I heard anything like that."
"Maybe because they're trying to cover it up." Natasha pushed on with her theories that she sounded so sure of.
"You're actually believing this? Okay. Enough with the crazy talk and drink your coffee that I put my heart and soul into making." He grabbed her coffee from off the table and placed it back in her hands. He kissed her quickly on the forehead and went back to getting ready while Natasha pondered on her thoughts.
She doesn't have any evidence, which is why their just theories she put together in the time she spent isolated from the world. There had been strange signs though that she had noticed. Like the windows on the first three floors being blockaded and guarded by armed forces, and the lack of information everyone had been getting over the span of a month.
Ben was nearly finished getting ready. He had his phone on him and made sure to put his dog tags on too before grabbing his coat that was inside the closet. He stopped though when he pulled it off the hanger, catching a glimpse of stark white that was right next to it. Natasha's wedding dress and veil. He stared warmly at it before a doubtful look crossed his face. He closed the door.
"I don't know when I'm gonna get back...but I'll call you when I'm on my way," he said while putting his coat on and buttoning it up.
Natasha shrugged and continued to drink her coffee. "Alright. It's not like I can go anywhere, so I'll be here," she said with sarcasm bleeding from her voice.
Ben snickered under his breath and leaned in. He wrapped his long arms around her petite body and squeezed tightly, rocking her back and forth and kissing the top and side of her head until he finally got a laugh out of her. A small and innocent laugh that reminded him of a child. He loved her laugh. He loved hearing it so much. He kissed her again but this time on the lips. "I'll see you soon, Natasha," he said and parted.
Natasha stayed on the bed and watched Ben head for the door. He looked back over his shoulder at her and a grin cracked to his lips. He waved once and headed outside, closing the door behind him and leaving Natasha's anxiety to surface again, but this time worse than before.
Natasha doesn't know how many times she had checked the clock in the span of an hour, expecting different results each time she glanced at it. It was unlike him. Unlike Ben to be out the majority of the day. He left at noon and now it was nearly eight o'clock. It's been far too long, and she hadn't once gotten a call from him. Even if he was running late, there was no doubt that he would've called to give her a heads up.
Hysteria has ensured as the day progressed inside the apartment complex. She could hear people outside her apartment rushing up and down the halls as if they were in a hurry for whatever reason. Natasha wouldn't have paid it any mind if it was just a person or two, but it felt like over twenty people had passed by in an hour.
Something was strange was going on and the growing unease in Natasha's gut had only gotten worse.
Natasha turned her head towards the bedside table and saw her phone light up and began to buzz, finally showing that Ben was calling her after all this time. She snatched it up in a blink of an eye and answered it. "Hello?"
"Hey, baby…" said a weak and trembling voice on the other end. It was Ben though; she could tell that easily despite how quiet he sounded at the moment.
She thought hearing his voice would put her at ease, but something didn't seem right with the way he was talking right now. He sounded in pain. "Ben? What's going on out there. The apartment is going crazy and I don't know what's going on?"
"Natasha. I'm gonna need you to listen to me. Just listen and do exactly what I say and don't question me. Okay?" he said sharply, not explaining a thing.
"Ben? Where are you? Are you coming back?" she demented while getting up from the bed.
"I said don't ask me questions," he reminded, his words echoing with a weak and strained laugh, "but no, I'm still downtown and...I don't think I'm gonna make it back."
Natasha tightened her jaw and narrowed her eyes. "Not happening. I'm going down there and getting you. I don't care anymore."
"You can't," he urged desperately and sounded close to crying.
"And why's that, huh? Why can't I get you? Ben, what's going on? I'm freaking out."
Ben was silent after that and swallowed his emotions. It took a couple of seconds for him to gather the courage to speak again, but this time his words ripped right through her and split her mind in two. "I got bit...so I can't go back to you anymore."
Natasha felt her knees get weak and had to sit back down on the bed. She tried to pull herself together again but her voice wasn't as strong and confident as it was before. There was a tremble in her words now. "Ben... I'm not doing this with you right now. What does that even mean?"
"The Garcia's were right. The world is burning, Natasha. These people...they're...oh God...I can't describe it to you. All I know is that you can't get bit, or you'll become one of them. My freaking sergeant just tried to kill me because of it, and I heard that they're gonna make a 'sweep' through the apartment. You gotta get out of there, baby. You just gotta," he begged her against struggled gasps of air.
Natasha's throat started to get tight as every muscle in her body tensed up and quivered. Her eyes became blurry with tears that rolled down her cheeks, turning her skin red and causing her to breathe irregularly. She grabbed the front of her chest and felt her heart throbbing inside her body like it was desperate to get out. "Oh, God... Ben, I... I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do."
"You're just gonna have to listen to me right now and do exactly what I say. Put the phone on speaker and get ready to start packing some things," he ordered, and this time, Natasha silently did what she was told. "Get dressed right now. Long sleeves and boots. Thick fabric. You understand?"
Natasha reluctantly nodded her head and walked to the other side of the room towards her closet. "Ok, just give me a minute." She stopped briefly and glanced out the window when she heard the sound of planes, maybe helicopters approaching. The sound of their engines made the air vibrate.
"We only have seconds. Please, please. Just hurry," Ben reminded.
Natasha pulled open her closet doors and shuffled through the racks of clothes she had inside. She found herself a pair of dark jeans with a long-sleeve gray top and knee-length boots that definitely had some wear to them. They were comfortable though and the quality of the leather would last a long time.
"You good?" Ben called back, the sound of his voice growing more worried. He was still maintaining that old habit of his though and kept his voice at a gentle tone.
Natasha stripped herself of her old clothes and quickly got dressed in her new ones. "Yeah. What else?"
"Get a bag. Something light. You have to be light on your feet or you're not gonna make it out of Atlanta alive. Pack at least two spares of clothes, enough water, and food. Do it now."
Natasha had to stop and think about that one for a bit. She knew she didn't have anything like that and only had heavy, hiking backpacks that she used in the past. "I don't have a bag light enough."
"I got an old satchel under the bed. Remember? Use mine and bring out my gun cases too. You're gonna take those with you, and a holster too
"Which holster?" Natasha got down on her knees and looked under the bed and saw what he was talking about. She saw the light green satchel and two black gun cases that were registered under Ben's name.
"Double shouldered one. It should be in the bottom shelf of the bedside table. Put that on right now and make sure they're loaded with the safety off. Safety's-
"On the side. I know," she cut him off while putting everything on the bed and grabbing the holster too.
Ben laughed weakly and she could hear the hint of a smile in his voice. "That's my girl."
It was at this time that Natasha could feel her lagging mind catching back up with questions she couldn't hold back anymore. "But what do I need guns for?" she asked but still did what she was told.
"It's because these things will kill you, Tasha. No questions. You good so far?"
"Yeah. I got everything. What about knives?"
"Take those too."
Natasha threw on the holster and popped open the gun cases to make sure they were ready. Ben always kept them loaded though so there wasn't any worry there. She tried to focus on getting everything organized but the sound of the plane engines got loud enough to where she couldn't ignore it anymore.
She stopped what she was doing and moved the curtains aside to peek out the window. They weren't planes. She could clearly see that they were helicopters, a couple of them heading towards downtown Atlanta where ben said he still was.
Ben breathed in sharply when he began to hear the sound of the engines too. "Oh, shit... Baby, Natasha, I think this is it for me. I think...I think I'm gonna have to hang up."
Natasha tensed up and snapped her head back to her phone. Her body started to throb with instant panic. "Ben? Ben! I still don't know what's going on. I can't do this alone! Please don't do this to me. I'm begging you." The distress and fear were clear in her voice.
"Keep your hair up and stay off the streets. Use the rooftops if necessary."
"No, no, no, no. Ben? I can't. Do you hear me? I can't! If you die..."
"Then I hope you won't follow after me." He coughed harshly over the phone that soon turned into wrenching cries of despair. "I wish I never took that call. I wish I never got out of bed. I wish I never ran out of…freaking coffee!" He paused one last time as the helicopter hovered over downtown Atlanta.
Natasha waited anxiously for something to happen. Anything. She was desperate to hear his voice. To hear him say her name again. "Benjamin?" She turned her eyes back to the window just when she saw something drop from the helicopters.
"I love you, Natasha. I love you; I love you; I love you...bye."
The world became deadly quiet for a fraction of a second when the night sky suddenly lit up with flashes of reddish-white opened her mouth to scream but the shockwave from the napalm charges drowned out her windows shattered and blew a million shards into her face as the force of the impact knocked her face burned from the cuts on her skin and she couldn't hear anything over the high-pitched ringing in her ears.
It took all of five minutes for Natasha to breathe again but she didn't move from the floor. Her hearing slowly came back but she wished that it didn't. She could hear the barrage of napalm charges drop into the citizen occupied streets one after another with blood-cooling screams filling the air.
She didn't move.
She didn't want to move anymore.
Natasha wasn't sure how much time had passed while she laid on the ground in her room. It took all the strength she had just to move her head to the side and stop staring at the same spot on the ceiling.
The sounds of screams eventually died down and so did the shrill cries. Panic was imminent though inside the apartment complex. Within her own catatonic state of silence, she could hear everyone in an uproar above and below her. What really made her blood run cold though was the sound of heavy gunfire, automatics firing off and silencing the cries in the floors below her.
That got Natasha moving again. She quickly turned her body to the side and pressed her ear to the floor. She closed her eyes and listened in closely to the sound of multiple people moving as a unit, wearing heavy boots and marching with purpose. There was a sound of doors being kicked open with weapons firing off the next second. People would scream but it wouldn't last for long when there was the unmistakable sound of dead weight hitting the floor...bodies dropping. People were dying.
There would be a brief moment of heart-wrenching silence as the unit made a sweep through the floor before heading up the stairs to the next one. They were moving so fast that it was like they were trained to do this one task. They knew what they were doing and were on her floor in a matter of minutes, doing the same thing they did on the floor below them. Break into an apartment, open fire at whoever was inside, and go to the next one.
She could remember now despite how scattered her mind felt at the moment. Ben mentioned something about people making a 'sweep' through their apartment complex. Is this what he meant? If that was the case, then she only had minutes before they got to her room. They were fast but that only meant she had to be faster. That was something she could do with great accuracy.
Natasha got up off the floor and looked over to her bed that already had everything she needed laying on it. She had food, clothes, weapons, and was already dressed to leave. It didn't seem like enough though. Like something was missing.
Natasha walked over to her closet and opened it up to see if she missed anything. She did though…in a way. It was her wedding dress that she bought nearly five months ago but only wore once back in the fitting room.
It was in a mermaid style dress that was tight-fitting at the top and fluttered out near the bottom. Natasha could recall the first time she wore it and how well it fit on her body. It was perfect. Like the dress was made just for her.
It was silly to think that way, but every woman had feelings like those whenever they would try on a wedding dress. She was no exception to the overwhelming feeling of joy she had at the moment.
Natasha bit down on her lips and tugged on the lace veil that was wrapped around it, suddenly tearing off a long strip. The sound of the fabric ripping nearly broke her heart as she walked away. She grabbed her engagement ring that was laying on the bedside table and looped the lace through it before tying it around her neck.
She looked back towards the closet when she finally spotted what she was originally looking for. It was Ben's military-grade coat that was absolutely huge on her small body, but the fabric was thick and perfect. She yanked it off the rack and began to put it on.
Natasha snapped out of her trance when she heard the door beside her room burst open. She could hear the Garcias inside let out shrill cries and pleas just as the unit opened fired on the family...and the small children they had with them. No mercy or hesitation.
Natasha covered her ears with her hands and hurried over towards her door. She didn't dare open it and quickly locked it up instead, even placing a chair and table in front of it for an extra countermeasure. It wouldn't stop them from getting inside but it will hold them back long enough for her to find another way out.
"You gotta be kidding me," Natasha muttered under her breath and took a step back.
She assessed the situation she was in and looked around for another exit. She didn't want to fight them because she knew it would be a losing battle if she did. She had to run, but where? Natasha's room was on the fifth floor, so the distance between her window and the street was too large. She'd break her bones if she jumped out.
Natasha rushed over to her shattered window and opened it up. There was a neighboring building right across from the apartment with a low roof that was close enough to make a long jump across. She didn't even have to judge the distance between her window and the roof either. This is what she was good at. She could jump it with no problem. Did she have the time though is the real question?
She could hear the unit outside her room now, slamming their feet against the door. The wood was splintering but it wasn't budging because of the locks she had on it. They stopped after the first couple of hits before trying a new approach. They fired into the frame of the door with their shotguns in an attempt to break the locks.
Natasha blocked out the sound and focused all her attention on getting everything into her satchel. She even tossed in the two guns and a gray scarf too before closing everything up. She headed over to the window and chucked the bag out to the neighboring rooftop.
They finally punched enough holes through the door and kicked it open just in time to see Natasha backing up. They didn't react in time and watched in awe as she ran for the open window, placed a foot on the ledge, and leaped out into the dark and burning world. Natasha held her breath the whole time until her body was no longer airborne. She felt her feet slide against the rooftop before tucking in her body and rolling to a stop.
Natasha quickly backed up on all fours behind a thick cement wall and waited there to make sure no one was going to follow her. She didn't move and sat there for a couple of minutes before finally peeking out and looking towards her window. She didn't see anyone there, so she guessed they might've given up.
Natasha leaned her head against the wall and repeatedly took in deep gasps. The only thing she could smell though was fire and smoke that thickly hazed the air. Looking out towards the city, she couldn't recognize a single thing anymore. All her usual landmarks were nowhere to be seen inside the thick cloud.
She swallowed hard and covered her mouth with her hands. "Ben…?" she muttered with a cracking voice that was on the brink of crying again.
Natasha looked up and saw her satchel laying a few feet away from her. She looped the strap with her foot and yanked it over and opened it up. She searched through it and pulled out Ben's guns and the gray scarf. After that, she stood up to get ready. She armed herself with the weapons and wrapped the scarf around her neck so she wouldn't have to breathe in the smoke.
She wasn't sure where to go from here, or if there was a place that was safe enough to lay low. That was Ben's first initial idea, yet...her first thought was how can she make it through the night in one piece.
"I guess...turn in a direction and just start walking," she grumbled while pulling the hood over her head. She slid her hand down her neck until her fingers brushed against her engagement ring that was a view sizes too big.
Ben always said he was going to get it fixed but kept on forgetting, but it was that little fond memory that gave her enough motivation to start walking, despite not knowing what was in front of her anymore. In both destination and future.
To be continued in...OF SOUND MIND!
Release date: February 4th!
This is the final chapter of Reanimation Gospel and the final story for 2020! I wanna give you all a quick thank you for your support through this story. It had made me beyond motivated and happy to continue writing Natasha's story. I love you all, from the bottom of my heart.
Let's say a final goodbye to 2020 and bring in the new year with hope for a better future.
Happy New Year everyone!