I'm A Monster
by Gabrielle Lawson
During the ride, he tried to go back. Back to the facility where Archie and Sarah were. Where the zombie apocalypse was a delusion and he hadn't killed Sam. Or anyone. But it didn't work. And then the van stopped and he was still in the apocalypse, and it wasn't Archie and Sarah with him but Simon and Amelia.
"Abel's half a mile there, Five," Simon told him as he pulled him out of the van. "Just run straight there and you should be fine. They'll forgive you, you'll see." Five thought maybe he heard a bit a wistfulness in his snide remark. But he couldn't focus on that right now.
Simon got back in the van and Amelia drove away. Five didn't move. He looked in the direction of Abel but couldn't get his feet to move. Instead he remembered everything he'd told Moonchild, everything Moonchild had told him to do. The explosions of the ships. Opening the gates at Abel. Hurting Jody. Attacking Sam.
It was the growls behind him that made him move. It was force of habit. He started walking, then jogging and then he was running. And the memories just faded away. It was just him and the ground beneath his feet, the wind in his hair, the sound of his feet and the zombies falling back behind him.
He was so lost in the running that he was startled by the gate. It brought him back into focus. The gate began to raise and the weight of his guilt drove him to his knees. He couldn't even look up to see who belonged to all the feet that surrounded him.
It was Sam! Sam wasn't dead! A tiny spark of relief welled up in him. But was snuffed out again by the guilt.
"Well, we know you're not mind-controlled any more," Sam said. "You wouldn't be this miserable if you were."
The next hour was a blur. He didn't speak. He was led to the hospital where Dr. Myers ran him through test after test. It was only when they were alone that he dared to speak. Dr. Myers knew was it was like.
"I'm not sure how you broke the mind-control, Five," Maxine said. "But I can't find any trace of the dopamine effect in your brain."
"Runner Three," Five whispered.
"Simon?" Maxine sat on the bed beside him.
Five nodded. "He was on the ships. To get the serum, same as me."
"The Comansys fleet?" Maxine sucked in a breath. "It was you."
The guilt crashed in on him again. He'd killed them. He'd killed them all.
Maxine put a hand on Five's shoulder. "I shouldn't have said that. She killed them, Five. She just used you to do it."
Five wanted to believe her but it just hurt so much. He laid down on the bed and covered his face in his arms as the faces flashed behind his closed eyelids. Every scientist, every guard, Ed. No Ed was alive. Simon had said he was alive.
Maxine moved and knelt down to be at eye level. "Tell me about Simon, Five. What did Simon do?"
Five uncovered his face. The faces went away. There was just Maxine. "He gave me the serum."
"But I didn't see any necrosis!" Maxine exclaimed. She rolled up Five's sleeves to look again.
"Van Ark's injection," Five's voice was a bit stronger.
"We never did know what it did to you." Maxine stood again. "Listen, Five, you need to put the blame where it belongs. On Moonchild. You couldn't help but do what she wanted, want what she wanted. I know. I did it. I tried to destroy the machine and I enjoyed it, Five. It felt good. I was happy."
Five heard her but didn't think it equated. "You didn't kill anyone."
"I don't think you did, either."
Five didn't understand. How could she think that? He had pushed the buttons, put in the code. The ships exploded.
"Sam said you were fighting it. I'm not sure how but you were. You didn't kill Jody and you didn't kill Sam. You could have. But you didn't."
"I put in the code."
"Did you try to kill the people on the ships, Five, before the explosion?"
Five shook his head.
"Did Moonchild tell you to kill them?"
"But you didn't. Did she tell you to blow up the ships?"
Five shook his head. "Cut power."
"See," Maxine said, kneeling again. "She lied to you."
"How could I fight it? I wanted what she wanted."
Maxine shrugged. "Maybe your will is too strong. Maybe Van Ark's injection helped with that. Hard to know. But you did fight it, Five. You fought it and she had to lie to you to get you to kill."
Five just couldn't let himself off the hook like that. "I hurt Jody. I let the zombies in."
"You didn't kill Jody, Five, and she's not hurt bad. Bruises. No broken bones, no concussion. She's fine. She's glad you're back. We all are. The zombies were a distraction, for sure. But we handled them. You were here for something."
"Moonchild wants it? Why?"
Five had to think about that. As much as he had shared with Moonchild, Moonchild had not been so forthcoming with him. "She just said she wanted to make everyone happy. That she would make the sacrifice to do it."
"Well, we're going to have to try and work that out. We need you, Five. We trust you, Five."
Five felt his throat constrict again and found his eyes welling with tears. He didn't deserve it. He was a monster.
Dr. Myers dimmed the lights. "We forgive you, Five," she said, then left him to cry alone.