Lara of the Dead
Lara sighed as she watched the streetlights flicker by the trolley window. It was way past her brother's curfew, and he knew it. Luckily for him, Master Croft always went to bed unaware of what his children were up to. It was always up to Lara to bring Roger home safely. Roger's habit of sneaking out always had Lara worried, and it was cutting into her personal time. The true burden, however, was pulling him off of some homely girl almost every night. Lara made a vow to never bring herself out at this time of night again. It was a chore and a hazard.
She pulled her jean jacket tighter to her chest, and rose from her seat. She went upstairs to the top deck of the trolley. Her shortcut was coming up around the corner.
Lara positioned herself on the very left side of the deck, and jumped up on a seat. When the trolley neared the corner, she ran and jumped off the right side, and landed on a rooftop.
Lara jumped from roof to roof, occasionally slipping on a faulty shingle, then grabbing onto the gutter to pull herself back up. Her seven years of gymnastics were finally paying off.
Lara landed onto an alley way aside a school, then continued onward to her brother's usual rendezvous, the old drive-in theater. She cautiously walked in between cars, keeping alert for her brother's presence.
Screams came from the projector screen. Lara looked up to see the The Omen play in front of her. She rolled her eyes and continued.
It wasn't long before she heard the all too familiar 14-year old voice drift from a nearby car. Master Croft's Cadillac, she observed.
Lara scoffed as she marched up to the back window and pounded harshly. Roger rolled down the window, wide-eyed and guilty.
"Hijacking father's car again I see," Lara put her hands on her hips, "This is the last time I come out here to-"
"Oh come on Lara! You know I hate being in that stuffy house all the time-"
"Stuffy house! It's the size of the Taj Mahal!" Lara leaned down to look in the window at her brother, whose large green eyes seemed to shimmer in moonlight. She had always envied the color of his eyes, and would trade them in for her dark brown ones any day. "You know better than this Roger," Lara's voice softened, "You are better than this. Don't you think dad will figure out what you’re doing?"
"No, not if you keep getting me every night," Roger grinned.
Lara reached over and pinched his arm. "Ow!" he yelped.
"This is the last time I come to check on you," Lara hissed, then looked over at the pudgy girl, sitting silently in the corner of the seat, "And you," Lara pointed, "I don't care who else you put between your legs, as long as my brother isn't a part of the body count."
The girl grimaced, "You have no right to address me like that!" she seethed.
"And you have no right to have such a putrid face," Lara shot back.
The girl's mouth formed an 'O' of shock, and Lara turned to leave. Roger got out of the car and followed her. When they were about five cars away (three of them steamed up), Roger grabbed Lara's shoulder and turned her around. Lara stared down at him, her eyes narrow and arms folded across her chest.
"Why did you say such a horrid thing to Selma? She's not in the least bit putrid…"
"I know that, she's actually very lovely."
"Then why did you say that Lara?"
"To drive her off. She's not good enough for you."
"But you just said she was lovely…"
"Quite. But you are also 14 years of age, no one is good enough for you. No one will ever be good enough for you until you are least 21."
"That's not fair! Just because you're 21 doesn't make it the magic age!" Roger spat, "What about your engagement? You're going to be 22 soon and you still don't know if that's what you want…"
Lara bared her teeth, "It pleases Father," she said between clenched incisors, "William is a gentleman, he'll take good care of me and our family."
"Ugh! That's what it's always about here!" Roger growled.
"What are you talking about?"
"This - this stuffiness! We are the most uptight country on this damn planet!"
Lara stared. He had a point. "Okay, well, you have a point Roger. Marrying Will won't be my favorite thing to do this year… but it will make our dad happy, so I'll try to be happy."
"Don't you want to be free?" Roger questioned.
"I already am. I can do whatever I want. And I want to m-marry Will."
Roger scrunched his face in disgust, "That's a lie." He turned on his heel and walked back to the car.
Lara felt her shoulders slump, and she left to go back home.
She pulled herself through the open window of her bedroom, and collapsed onto the floor. Lara rolled over and stared up at the ceiling. It was a pretty ceiling, with swirling imprints that left a lot to the imagination. Lara was always seeing different images in the ceiling, and now in her half-asleep state of mind, she could see a lioness. Lara frowned. She hated seeing things that were unrealistic, and this felt very unreal to her. She was seeing something that she would never become: strong, independent, and yet, graceful, just like the lioness. Lara sighed, drew her legs to her chest, put her hands under her knees, and swung herself up. She drudged to the full-length mirror in the corner of the room, and forced herself to see her face.
She knew she wasn't ugly, but she couldn't help but feel displeased with herself. She lifted her chin a bit to get a different view of her face. She had defined eyebrows and cheekbones, which was all right, and her lips were quite full. Her hair was long and a chestnut-brown, and cascaded around her shoulders like a curtain. It was thick hair, and it would often get caught up in knots, but she didn't have the heart to cut all of it off. The one thing she couldn't stand about herself was her eyes. They were brown. A deep, dark brown. She would much rather have an exotic color, like green (as her brother's), blue, or maybe even gold.
Lara shook her head at herself. If her mother and father could hear her negativity, they would be very disappointed.
Lara lied still in her bed, the thoughts of the adventures of the night slowly drifting away, leaving her mind isolated. All she saw was the glowing, white ceiling that loomed above her. All she felt was the softness of the mattress that cradled her back.
Lara flinched when she heard the sound in the next room over. Obviously, Roger was home. He wasn't nearly as graceful as Lara when it came to crawling through a window and making a clean landing. She looked over at her alarm clock that read 2:36 AM, and sighed disappointedly. It was surprising that cops hadn't caught him.
Being content with her brother's arrival, safe and secure, Lara drifted off to a deep, intoxicating sleep.
The warm sun pushed its rays through the window pane and flooded Lara's face, making her sneeze. She woke up to the sensation of flem blocking off her breathing passage.
She sat up suddenly. Something didn't feel right.
Lara pulled her bathrobe around herself, ran her fingers through her knotted hair, and went down the stairs leading to the main hall.
Winston, who was the family butler, looked up at Lara as she came down the stairs. He stood with his arms folded across his chest, which stirred Lara's mind a bit. He never stood like that unless he was disappointed about something. Lara figured it was her early-morning attire.
She approached him.
"Winston, you can't expect me to wake up every morning dressed like a lady."
Winston's eyes widened. "No, you look fine. It's your father. He's gone."
Lara sighed. "Did he leave a note?"
"Yes, actually. I haven't read it though."
"Okay," muttered Lara as she took the letter from Winston and unfolded it, "Strange that he would take off so suddenly…"
She gaped at the paper. There was no message, but the date was written in bold, black ink in the center. Lara frowned. Today was her mother's birthday, and she had forgotten.
Winston looked down at the paper and realized he had forgotten as well. Seeing the all-too-familiar look on Lara's face, Winston put a gentle, age-worn hand on her shoulder.
"Lara…" he said quietly.
Lara looked up at him from the letter, bleary-eyed.
Winston sighed, "Dove, please remember that this day is not meant to be sad."
She grimaced, "How can I think of it any other way?"
"I know it's hard," said Winston, "but this is your mother's birthday. You should be celebrating her life, and how wonderful she was."
Lara exhaled loudly through her nose, as she did anytime someone proved a point that wasn't her own.
"Cheer up," he added, and pulled out an object from seemingly nowhere and handed it to her, "Your soon-to-be-husband brought this for you earlier today."
It was a rose. Lara grinned as she admired it. The rose's petals were a deep and luscious red, and its stem was bright green. It almost seemed to glow with beauty.
"Ah. Here he comes now," said Winston sullenly.
Lara looked up to see William emerge from the shadows of the hallway that led to the ballroom.
Lara panicked. "How dare you?" she rasped, "I'm not properly dressed or bathed."
William shook his head, "You're always lovely to me, no matter what condition."
Lara sneered at him, "There can't be any truth to that statement."
"I do have to say," William continued, ignoring her jibe, "you would look great with a nice bun in your hair."
Lara raised an eyebrow. William flinched; he could never tell if he was offending her or not. He quickly drummed up an explanation.
"You have such a beautiful face, darling, and your hair just swallows it all up."
"I see. Hm. My mother used to braid my hair when I was a young girl."
William shrugged, "Buns are more elegant."
"GOOD MORNING!" A hoarse voice flew out from Roger's bedroom. The party below looked up to see Roger leaning over the balcony of the upstairs hallway.
"Morning, Roger," Lara called back.
"Whatcha cool cats talkin' about?" said Roger casually as he descended down the stairs.
Lara chuckled, "You have a horrid American accent," she noted, "and we were talking about my unruly hair."
"Well, it would look great in a braid."
William scoffed. "That's the hairstyle of Indians."
"Then Lara is a super Indian," said Roger, who had come up behind Lara and hugged her waist, "she looks better than anybody."
Lara sighed with relief. Roger was never truly mad with her.
"That's true," said William, his dark eyes were unreadable, "However, she is my wife, therefore she should obey my requests."
The word "wife" stung Lara's brain. Not just her fear of the concept, but he tone that William used…
"You say the term 'wife' in the same usage as 'property'," said Winston, "I think you owe your lady an apology."
William sucked in his breath, and Roger gripped Lara's arms.
"I was only stating my opinion," he said, "I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion without having to apologize."
Lara raised her eyebrows. Roger's grip on her arms tightened. He knew her too well.
"Well, your 'opinion' was quite rude." Lara growled.
Will looked at Lara without blinking, and then his gaze switched to the floor.
"I'm sorry," he muttered.
"Accepted!" said Lara almost too fast, grinning. "I'm going to shower now, and we can have breakfast. Sound good?"
"And then we'll walk in my garden and you're going to tell me over and over again how happy you are to be engaged to me."
William bit his lip, "Of course, love."
"Don't call me that," Lara snapped, and then turned to her brother, "See, Roger?" I do know what I want."
Roger smiled at his sister and then winked at William, who looked more surprised than hurt.
"Your life sucks," Roger stuck out his tongue.
Lara stared at the dress's reflection in the mirror. She hated it, but it was her mother's, so she didn't hesitate to wear it on Lady Croft's birthday. To anyone else, however, it could be pretty. It was yellow, with threaded daisies circling the bottom hem of the skirt that stopped right above her knees.
She sat down at her mother's vanity set and sighed. There was a knock on the door.
"Not right now, Roger," Lara called.
"It's me, Dove," Winston cracked open the door.
"Oh, come in, please."
Winston smiled and closed he door behind him. He immediately went to put up Lara's hair, despite her groan. He fondled with her hair until it was drawn up into a military sock bun. Lara sneered at this.
"Hm," Winston pondered, "You have a very soft face… maybe this is too harsh for you." He undid her hair. "Let's do what Roger suggested."
Lara nodded. Winston quickly took tendrils of Lara's hair and started weaving them into a French braid.
"You're very good at this Winston," Lara remarked, watching Winston's hands magically transform her hair.
"I have three daughters, if you recall."
"Right," said Lara, smiling, "How are they?"
"Married," replied Winston.
"Why haven't you retired?"
"Ha ha, I am retired. This is just a hobby, especially since your mother passed. It was an honor to help you and your father brother out, and be a help to your father It's hard to raise children on your own."
"It's like having two gay dads."
"Very funny, Lara."
Lara and Winston left her room and went downstairs to the main hall. William smiled when he saw Lara.
"Okay, I was wrong," he said, "The braid looks beautiful."
"I'm so glad I have your approval, William," Lara smirked.
"Breakfast is going to take awhile, so why don't you two lovebirds go and play outside," said Winston.
Lara threw up in her mouth a little, and they turned to leave. Once outside, William started an awkward conversation.
"How are you today, Lara Bear?"
Lara's eye twitched violently. His hand brushed hers, but she wouldn't hold it.
"Not that great," she muttered.
"Why?" Will attempted to grab her hand again. She drew it back.
"My mother's birthday is today."
"Ah, Mrs. Kaylee Croft."
"Yes," said Lara, "Right now my father is sitting on a bench in Germany in front of the hospital where my mother was born. He takes their wedding pictures and sifts through them repeatedly throughout the day…"
"That sounds psycho," commented William. Lara glared at her fiancé.
"They were in love!" she snapped.
"Well, if you died, I would let you rest in peace," William yawned, "Speaking of rest; I'm still quite tired-"
"He is! Is it wrong to let someone rest but remind them that you love them? Keep in mind that that's my mother you're disrespecting!"
William raised his eyebrows, and then sighed.
"I'm sorry, Lara," he said quietly, "That was extremely rude, and I wasn't thinking straight."
They sat on the side of a fountain. Lara bit her bottom lip. She would never accept that apology. Instead, she changed the subject:
"Do you like history?" Lara inquired.
"What kind of man would I be if I didn't?"
"Great. Well, have you heard of the dagger of Xian?"
"It's hidden in the Great Wall of China."
"Legend says that the last emperor of China drove the dagger into his heart, and he turned into a dragon."
"Lara, don't say things like that."
"It's just a myth. It creeps me out, too. I'm glad it's not real, actually."
"Can we talk about something civilized, please?"
"Do you like Meatloaf?"
"Of course. He's very gifted."
Lara and William entered the kitchen to find Winston and Roger absorbed into the little TV on the counter.
"What's going-" asked Lara.
"Sh!" Roger silenced her.
Lara pushed Winston and Roger apart to see what they were watching.
It was a commercial.
"We're waiting for the news to come back on," explained Winston, "Apparently there's been some gang violence going on."
"And a lot of missing people," added Roger.
"That's very…odd," murmured Lara.
"William, I don't think you should be home by yourself tonight. Stay here awhile," said Winston.
Lara's eyes widened, "Wait! He has tons of mirrors at home! When he sees his reflections it'll feel like people are there!"
Winston rolled his eyes, "He can stay in a different room, Lara. He doesn't have to bunk with you."
"Alright…" she looked apologetically at William, "Sorry, but I'm saving myself for our wedding night, and if we share a room…anything could happen."
"I understand completely," he said, a disappointed tone in his voice.
Lara felt disgusted. Why was the one man that her father liked have to be such a prick? At least she didn't have to share a room with him. She also wasn't telling the truth about wanting to wait until the wedding night to honor her virginity… it was already taken care of, but he didn't need know that. Lara could also tell by the hushed whispers of other girls that Will had secrets as well.
Roger had his right leg out the window when Lara opened the door.
"Are you insane?" She stood, peering at him.
Roger sighed and drew his leg back in.
"I just want to go have some fun," was his protest.
"Did you not see the news today?" she retorted. Roger rolled his eyes.
"Nothing is going to happen to me," he said.
"Fine. I'm not going after you this time."
"Good. I don't need you to."
Something definitely didn't feel right. Lara sat up in her bed, her hands folded in her lap. First of all, Roger was still gone, and that uneased her. But something else was lurking, and she couldn't put her finger on it.
She stepped out of the room in nothing but a long Queen tee shirt and instantly regretted it; there was a brisk draft crawled up her legs and seeped through the shirt. Someone obviously left a door or window open.
A light went on in the kitchen, so Lara went downstairs to investigate.
As she got closer, she could hear munching sounds, and see Roger's shadow stretch upon the tile floor. She entered to see Roger with a box of Ritz crackers, a dissatisfied expression on his face.
"What the hell are you doing?" Lara eyed her brother.
He looked up at her. His left eye was beaten black, and his thick eyebrows housed clumps of dirt. His hair was dusty, and his eyes were bloodshot. There were bloody rips all over his shirt.
Lara jumped back a bit. The sight was atrocious, and depressing.
"Did that fat cow beat you up?"
Roger's face was stone-hard, "I was running away from them."
"You saw them?"
"Yeah… one of 'em bit me." He lifted up his shirt to reveal a bright, red gash on his flat stomach. Lara gasped and rushed to him, but he stopped her. "No… it's already stinging because of my sweat… I don't want it touched."
"But, Roger… there's teeth indentations…"
"You think I don't see that?" Roger swayed slightly; the fluorescent lighting seemed to make his wound glisten. He looked down into the box disgustedly. "These taste like shit." He dropped the box and a stack of crackers slid in single file across the kitchen floor. Lara stared at the wasted crackers on the floor, then back at her brother.
"I'm taking you to the hospital. Let's go."
"Don't you dare. I had my face smashed in dirt… I want to go to bed. I'm tired and I feel sick."
"But that bite could be infected."
"I don't care," Roger growled. He stepped past her into the hallway, then stopped. Lara resumed staring at the crackers like someone who just watched their best friend get killed.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, "I should've listened to you."
Lara sighed heavily. She figured that this would be the last time he snuck out late. She got down on her knees and started cleaning up the crackers; she didn't want Winston to do anymore than he had to.
She became lost in making sure every crumb was removed from the floor, until she heard a faint creaking sound behind her.
"Go to bed, Roger, or I'm forcing you to go to the hospital," she called. There was an agonized moan about six feet behind her. "Oh, wonderful, he's sleep-walking," Lara muttered to herself. She stood up and turned around to face a person that wasn't Roger.
The thing's face horribly mutated. Lara gasped and felt warm bile shoot up her throat. It was missing an eyeball. It reached out to her, almost seeming to want comfort. Lara looked down to see that its hands were reaching toward her chest. She instantly assumed it was a male.
She raised her right leg and kicked it harshly in the stomach.
"Pervert!" she screamed.
The creature fell back on a wrong angle, and Lara watched, horrified, as its neck made a horrible cracking sound. She walked around it and flipped on the light switch, illuminating the main hall. She started to back away, to get to a telephone, at least something of use, when the man started to get up and reassemble itself. Lara screamed and ran up the stairs. It followed slowly behind her. She ran into her father's library.
The smell of books usually comforted her, but the awful stench that the monster was giving off seemed to override it. Panic struck, she looked around for something of defense. She could smell the creature getting closer, gaining on her, his smell flooding the room.
Her eyes caught the book ladder on the far wall, and her legs carried her over without thinking. She pulled herself up to the very top bookshelf, the thing desperately trying to bite at her ankles and feet.
There was a heavy encyclopedia siting on the shelf, gathering massive chunks of unhealthy dust. Lara put it to good use by whipping it at the intruder, hitting him square in the chest. He faltered, but kept going for the tall girl clinging to the ladder. Lara continued grabbing books and throwing them at the creature. The books either missed him or barely touched him.
Lara squeezed her eyes shut, she wanted all of this to be a bad dream, a very bad dream. When she opened her eyes, however, she was dismayed to still see the horrifying reality of the thing failing (but in an intimidating manner) at climbing up the ladder. Hopeful, she reached for another heavy book, but felt her fingers spread against something cold, and hard. Reluctant, but curious, she took it out to look at it.
There, shining brilliantly in her hand, was her father's favorite pistol. She has only see it once in her entire life before, and instantly recognized the engraving on the side:
The intruder continued groaning and wheezing from below her. Hesitantly, she aimed at the beast, who was clawing at the sides of the ladder, and shot.
The bullet went straight through the shoulder. It didn't even flinch. Lara, on the other hand, went flying backwards due to the impact of the gun. She had never used one before, and this was a challenging first lesson.
The back of Lara's head hit the wall harshly, and she landed on her tailbone on the hardwood floor. She looked up weakly at the decomposed-looking thing as it cornered her. She raised the pistol with a shaking arm and shot it straight in the heart. A thick, white puss leaked out, and the creature leaned in, his face coming into two inches of hers. She grimaced and aimed the pistol between its one eye and vacant eye socket, and shot again. This time, heavy, stale, dark red blood splattered all over the walls, and the intruder fell to its knees, headless, and finally keeled over.
Lara sat, numb and quavering, staring and the bloody mess. What she just saw was unnatural… a creature that just wouldn't die. She had heard stories of these monsters before. It started with the Zed letter… She sifted through the file cabinet of her mind and came up with the only plausible name: Zombie.
"We need to get rid of these staircases," said Lara, gesturing towards the stairs that spliced into the main hall.
"Have you lost your mind?" William yelled, thrusting his arms up in the air as if spiking an over-blown volleyball.
Winston emerged from his butler's quarters. "What's going on?'
Lara ignored his question, figuring that he would realize the situation if she and William continued arguing.
"I know what I saw," said Lara, staring down the left staircase.
"What you saw, Lara, was a figment of your imagination, brought on by bad dreams or drugs," William eyed her; "you do look rather baked."
Winston scoffed, "William, how can you accuse Lara of taking drugs?"
William folded his arms, "she claims she saw a zombie."
"I didn't just see it. I destroyed it," Lara growled, her face tingling with indignation.
"Lara!" Winston gasped, "have you been taking advantage of your father's medicine?"
"You know that plant is grown special for your father's arthritis. How dare you abuse it?"
Lara sighed. It was going to be hard getting out of this one. She would have to show them the corpse in the library.
"There's a mutilated corpse lying in the library as we speak. I'll show it to you." Lara turned towards the library, but Winston grabbed hold of her shoulders.
"No, Lara," he said sternly, and then whispered over her shoulder to William: "That's where the rest of the weed is!"
Oh!" William marched forward and grabbed Lara's shoulders from behind.
"Damn it!" Lara screamed, "You're not listening to me!" She resisted their grip. She knew Winston was too old to keep holding on: his Adam's apple, along with other parts of his body, were trembling.
Winston let go of her shoulders, and Lara ran out of William's grip and fled to the library. William ran after her, shouting back to Winston: "She's gone crazy! Call the police! An ambulance! Animal Control! Someone!" He disappeared into the library after Lara.
Winston shuffled over to the nearest telephone. After wiping the receiver with a handkerchief, he placed the phone up to his ear and started to dial 911. There was no ringing. All he heard was a busy tone.
"Believe me now?" said Lara, watching William's face turn into a rose pink as he stared down at the corpse.
"Okay… Obviously, we had an intruder.”
"Bloody hell! Are you blind, William?"
"How the hell do you expect me to react! This isn't a normal occurrence!"
"I need you to work with me here! We can't afford to stand here and argue. I've proved myself, now we need to get moving or we'll all be killed." Realization dawned upon her. "We need to get Roger!"
William murmured something that sounded like "Did mim rye bite Jews?"
"Did it try to bite you?" He asked, pointing at the corpse.
The lights flickered. Outside, sounds of groaning and bodies being dragged across the ground leaked in through the windows. Lara shuddered.
"Will… get a sledgehammer. Start destroying the main staircase. We'll take shelter in my father's room. I'll get Roger."
Lara ran into Roger's bedroom to find him in a deep sleep. She gently shook him by the shoulder.
"Wake up, Roger. We need to leave."
Roger didn't respond.
"Quit playing games, Roger. I'm dead serious; get up."
He remained still. Lara scoffed. She yanked the sheets off of him and realized with disgust that he was naked. She picked him up despite his awful smell and carried him to their father's bedroom.
William cringed when she saw Lara approach with the naked teenager in her arms. Winston sat on the bed, organizing food he had taken into groups according to expiration date. When he saw Lara and Roger, he immediately drew back a corner in the bed sheets. She laid him down and Winston immediately covered Roger.
"What are you doing in here?" Lara snapped at William, who was fiddling with a switch on the back wall of the room, "You were supposed to start destroying that staircase!"
Winston interrupted: "Lara, those stairs are made of solid concrete. William is not strong enough. The only way we could destroy those stairs is if we poured acid on them."
"Then let's do that," said Lara matter-of-factly.
Winston shook his head. "Lara… there's no way. We don't have what is required."
There was a moan downstairs. They all stiffened in fear.
Lara bit her lip. It must've smelled their flesh. Now it would discover that the smell gets stronger the higher up the stairs he got.
"Who left the door open?" asked William, hands on his hips.
"It doesn't matter," Lara whispered. She looked intently at William. "You're going to be my husband soon. Stand by and fight with me. I'm sure there will be more."
"I've never fought before though."
"Now is your chance. Winston?"
"I know my father has a weapons closet somewhere, and I know that you know where it is and how to open it. We don't have much time, please hurry."
Winston pointed at the back wall. "There."
By the time Lara and William left the room, there were three zombies walking aimlessly in circles in the lobby, while one dutifully tried to lead the others up the stairs. William held up the shotgun he found and aimed it for the head of the monster. With one shot, the ghoul was down.
"And you've never fought before?" Lara questioned.
"Archery helps with aim," William replied tartly, but with a small smile.
"You can handle yourself for now then. I need to go get pants on. Seriously."
William looked down at her legs. "You really don't have to…"
Lara rolled her eyes. "Take care of the rest. I'll be right back." She ran back to her room just as William started picking off the remaining zombies one by one.
Lara quickly opened a dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of jeans. She quickly tugged them over her knees, thighs, and finally, her butt. Then, she tied on some black combat boots from her closet. She still had her braid in from earlier, so there was nothing that needed to be done with her hair.
She left her room to see Winston waiting outside of Master Croft's bedroom. He had something in his arms. Lara approached him.
"If you're going to fight, use these. They are your father's favorites." He held out two leather gun holsters with shiny pistols already inserted into the sockets. Lara flinched. She'd never seen her father wear them in her entire life.
"Attach them to your belt like this…"
"Uh…" William was faltering downstairs, "Could you come back please! There's more!"
"Here, Winston, I've got this." She put the holsters in much less time than Winston's old, tired hands ever could. Lara trotted down the stairs. "How many more?" she asked William.
"Um, how much is a lot?"
"Oh, well, there's a lot then."
Lara rolled her eyes and went to look out onto the yard. Indeed, the number of ghouls that were roaming around was intense, but measurable, about twenty or so. Lara took out a pistol and aimed at one. She squinted, and then took a shot. The bullet flew through the air and hit nothing.
All of the zombies turned to look in the direction of the deafening sound. Their senses locked in on her and for that one second, Lara felt the world crumble over her shoulders.
"Shit." She said blatantly. Lara walked backwards into the house and drew out the other pistol.
"I have your back, Lara." William said quietly.
Lara glanced at him briefly, and then rose up her pistols at the doorway, steadying herself for the wave that would intrude soon. "That's the first un-selfish thing I've heard you say, William."
"I know, and I'm sorry." He readied his shotgun. "Please believe me when I say that I am."
"Ok, I believe you." She focused her attention on a female in a tattered pink dress that seemed to be the closest.
"I can tell that you don't. Look, I was trying, but horribly failing at being the man that you deserve."
"I'm not into snobs," she said haughtily. "I'm only marrying you because it would make my father happy."
"I know…" he said, "I'm not worthy of you. I've been a jerk. But if we die, I want you to know something."
"What?" she said darkly, tightening her grip as the ghoul became closer. Sweat dampened her scalp line.
"I'm in love with you."
"What?" Lara shot the zombie in the forehead. Its eyes rolled into the back of its head and fell backwards. The herd of zombies started increasing their speed. William shot another one that looked like Mick Jagger.
Her heart pounded harshly. She wished she could rip it out of her chest.
"Don't say your goodbyes, William. We're going to live," she assured.
William swallowed, "Okay, I trust you."
Lara nodded. "We can't let them get inside."
Winston explored Master Croft's walk-in closet more closely. The array of weapons was astonishing, and terrifying. The closet led to an even bigger space to hold Master Croft's motorcycle.
"I was wondering where that went to," Winston spoke to himself as he reached for the handle.
There was a growling coming from the bedroom.
Lara stood in the middle of the yard. Three zombies lied on the ground around her. She aimed at another one and fired successfully. She could feel herself gaining power over the pistols as if they were her own limbs.
They were nearly done until one zombie came from behind and grabbed William by his hair, pulled his head back and grabbed onto his chin. Lara was frozen as she watched the zombie's fingernails dig deep into his skin.
Lara went bug-eyed and ran to help, but it was too late. The zombie started tearing William's face off as it took a solid bit into his scalp. William's screams drowned out the sound of flesh being ripped from the bone. Two other zombies dove in on his thighs and stomach. William's bulging eyes seemed to search for her as he continued screaming.
Lara shot him first.
She walked in silently; her arms and legs were shaking. The morning sun was just starting to rise over England once again. There was no way to erase what she had just seen. Her mind was curious about the atrocities that might be happening downtown, but her heart didn't want to know.
She leaned against a wall, lost in thought. Lara had a sick feeling that there were even more zombies, and there was no telling when more would show up to the mansion.
Her thoughts traced back to William and the zombies feasting on his body right before she killed them all. She didn't want to shoot William, but she had no choice. He would've turned if she hadn't… Lara felt herself shudder with a sick and horrifying epiphany.
Roger had been bitten, she remembered. She stood straight and started to head upstairs. A loud thud coming from the bedroom made her start sprinting.
When she entered the room, Winston was lying on the floor unconscious, with Roger standing by the foot of the bed. He was still naked, but his eyes were glazed over, and his face was rigid with blankness.
Lara felt her heart sink. He had turned, and now she had to kill him. He started at her as if he recognized her, but Lara knew better.
Reluctantly, she pulled out a pistol and aimed. A groan leaked out of Roger's mouth. Lara started to cry. She felt the hot tears scroll down her cheeks and soak her lips. Roger stumbled towards her, and she fired. Roger's body slumped to the floor, and Lara fell to her knees, sobbing.
Her brother was gone, and he would never come back.
She put the pistol on the ground and put her face in her hands and cried harder. Killing William was one thing, but murdering her brother…
Roger had known Lara all of his years. He had depended on her, loved her, and trusted her with his life. Now she had taken it.
"I'm sorry…" she pleaded to Roger's zombified corpse, "this is my entire fault…"
Winston had already come to, and he watched Lara apologizing over and over to Roger.
"Lara, Dove," he managed to articulate.
Lara looked over at him, wide-eyed.
"Winston!" She crawled over to his side and immediately grabbed his wrist to check his pulse.
"You wasted too much time on a dead person," Winston gently scolded, "I could've had a heart attack."
"I'm sorry," she said quietly after putting his arm gently back on the ground, "can you get up?"
Lara made sure Winston was safe in his bed. She pulled up a chair by his side. He shook his head.
"Don't stay here with me, Lara."
"But I want to. I've taken two lives. I need to make sure you keep yours."
"I don't know what happened with William," he said, "but I trust that you did the right thing. Roger, however, was already dead. You did not take his life, Dove. Those monsters did."
Lara inhaled sharply. He tears were drying. He was right. Slowly, she felt her misery and pain turn into burning, vengeful hatred that filled her heart like hot lava.
"You need to go into town and help others," he continued, "You've learned how to handle yourself. It's your responsibility to help the people that can't."
"Why go to the town though?"
Winston gave a crooked smile.
"That's the fleshpot, Dove."
Lara bounded into her father's room and looked the other way when she saw Roger's corpse. She grabbed what she could carry over her back. Lara also found a small backpack that her father used for hiking trips and stuffed what she could find in there too.
She tied her Queen shirt tightly around her midriff so there loose ends that could be grabbed.
Lara considered shaving her head as well. She didn't want to meet the same fate as William, and she knew that her long braid would be an easy end to her life.
"I won't let my enemies get that close to me," she told herself. With that said, she sacked some grenades. She didn't know precisely how to use the weapons she was taking, but she'd seen plenty of war and action movies to have a sense of what she was doing. Lara knew that wasn't a good basis either, but for the time being, it was all she had.
She ventured into the back room, where the light flickered on as soon as she walked past the sensor. There, in all of its royal blue glory, was her father's prized motorcycle. She couldn't help but admire the way it flawlessly shined.
Lara knew her father would hate it if she high-jacked the glamorously-glossed beauty; the object that eased his miserable mood swings after Lara's mother died.
She also knew that her father wanted her to do the smart thing. Be the bigger person, be useful.
Lara went to get on and noticed that the key to the ignition was right on the seat, along with a pair of black, fingerless gloves. She slipped on the gloves and started the motorcycle. Her chest felt heavy with adrenaline, and her stomach was light with butterflies. The two of them almost seemed to push on each other.
She pushed the start button and the bike roared. Then she took the key out of the ignition and secured it in her pocket. Lara exhaled heavily then slowly released the brake.
She shot forward through the armory closet and eventually to the staircase. She veered to the left to avoid tumbling down the stairs. Instead, she crashed through the wooden railing and flew into the lobby, landed and drove out the open front doors, screaming the entire time.
When she entered town, it seemed to be vacant of souls. Lara drove slowly in the streets and examined the buildings and small shops. Nothing seemed populated. There weren't even any cars or trolleys on the road.
She parked in front of Christ First Church to see if any survivors had taken refuge inside. When Lara entered, there was an array of lit candles surrounding the altar. A short, elderly man kneeled in front of the cross, his head bent in deep prayer. She approached him as quietly as she could.
"What has happened here?" she asked politely.
The man kept his head bowed, but he responded:
"We have burnt the bodies, burnt them until they have become only ash."
"Bodies of whom?"
Lara nodded, "Where is everyone else?"
"The people who live have been evacuated. They have lost sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, sons, and daughters to the flesh-eaters disease."
"I understand. Are any of the, um, flesh-eaters still around?"
"I'll kill them all," Lara turned to leave.
"Wait," said the man.
"What is it?" Lara looked at him.
"Burn whatever you can. Get rid of the virus."
"I intended to. You will die if you stay here though."
"I choose to stay in the House of God."
Now that Lara knew she had no humans to worry about, she set out to hunt. She started by raising a pistol to the air and firing a single shot. It didn't take much time for cliques of zombies to leave their hiding spots and come towards her.
Lara grinned and then went to go climb the nearest shop. From there, she had a good view of the ghoul-infested village. She aimed a Desert Eagle and began firing. Lara could tell by the number of zombies that she would run out of ammo soon, and she would have to think of an alternative.
She threw a grenade into the streets. The ghouls below disintegrated into thin air.
Then she had an idea.
The gas lines.
Lara immediately went from rooftop to rooftop, searching crevices and hidden compartments for gas lines. She cut them all open with Swiss army knife and grinned manically as she watch gallons of gas bleed out all over the town.
After massacring the gas station (and stealing some Twinkies and a couple cans of Coke while she was at it), Lara ran back to where her bike was and drove and fast as she could to the edge of town. When she got there, she looked back and pulled a grenade out of her backpack. With one swift motion, she pulled the ring and threw it. Then she floored the motorcycle in the opposite direction.
Seconds later, she heard a BOOM! A blast of hot air hit her back as she continued riding. When Lara reached a safe distance, she stopped the bike and looked back. Everything was on fire.
She pulled out one of her looted Twinkies and took a large, grateful bite.
"I'm never doing anything like that ever again," she said, then crammed the rest of the Twinkie in her mouth.
EIGHT YEARS LATER…
Lara relaxed on a comfy red couch in her favorite hotel in Calcutta. Just as she was about to close her eyes, she hard heavy footsteps approach, and the sound of a thick magazine being slapped down on the coffee table in front of her. She looked at it lazily. It had her on the cover with the headline: "Lara Stamps Out Big Foot!" She rolled her eyes behind her sunglasses.
"What's a man go to do to get that kind of attention from ya?" said a man with a slight Southern accent.
Lara looked up to see that it was Larson, a fairly new person who pushed his way into her life.
"It's hard to say exactly," she responded tartly, "But you seem to be doing fine."
"Well, great. Though truth is, it ain't me that wants ya."
"No?" Aw, and I thought I might just get some tonight, Lara thought sarcastically.
"No," said Larson, pulling out a laptop and settling it onto the coffee table, "Miss Jacqueline Natla does."
He opened it to reveal an attractive blonde with narrow cheekbones and dark eyes.
"From Natla Technoligies, ya know?" Larson asked enthusiastically, "creator of all things bright and beautiful?" He laughed at what he thought was his charming wit.
"Seal it, Larson," Natla looked back as if she could see Larson standing behind the computer.
"Ma'am…" he murmured apologetically.
Natla turned back to Lara, and then raised her hands slightly.
"Feast your eyes on this, Lara," she said, as CGI money fell from the sky, "how does that make your wallet rumble?"
"I'm sorry," Lara stood up, trying not to laugh at Natla's ridiculous display, "I only play for sport."
"Then you'll like a big park. Peru? Vast mountain ranges to cover?" she asked seductively, "Sheer walls of ice? Rocky crags, savage winds; and there's this little trinket. An age-old artifact of mystical powers buried in the unfound tomb of Qualopec."
Lara pondered the pictures of landscape and the illustration of the artifact while Natla spoke.
"That's my interest," the suave blonde concluded, "You could leave tomorrow. Are you busy tomorrow?"
Lara found herself smiling.
NOTICE: This story is a work of fiction. Lara Croft, her likeness, and the Tomb Raider games are all copyright of EIDOS Interactive. There is no challenge to these copyrights intended by this story, as it is a
non-sanctioned, unofficial work of the author's own.