Murdoc grit his teeth as the cyborg tightened his bonds, his arms pulled painfully behind his back. She looped the rope around his wrists a final time and tied it tightly before moving on to his legs. As she bound his legs together to keep him from running off, Murdoc spared a glance at 2D. He hadn't been tied up yet, and sat fearfully in the corner of the wretched shack the cyborg had found for them to sleep in, knees drawn up against his body, watching the two of them. A part of Murdoc hated the useless dullard for just sitting there and waiting his turn to be trussed up like some hunter's kill, but another part of him was glad the singer didn't make a move. There was no way he could defeat or even outrun the cyborg, and he would likely get hurt if he tried. It was a bit strange how the logical part of Murdoc's mind seemed to be winning out over the cloudy, muddled, angry part lately. Given how unpleasant their ordeal was turning out to be, Murdoc would have assumed it would be the other way around. Then again, anger didn't accomplish much in a situation like this, so perhaps it was simple survival instinct finally winning out in a man who had dedicated most of his adult life to steadily killing himself with vice.
The cyborg finally finished tying him up and slipped a gag between his teeth, then a blindfold over his eyes. Then he heard her footsteps clomp away from him, and a moment later, he heard 2D whimper softly. Murdoc didn't hear anything else but the sound of the rain on the windows of the shack while the cyborg tied 2D up. Finally, he heard her footsteps move toward the door. It squeaked open, letting in a chill wind and the sounds of the storm outside for only a moment, then slammed shut, leaving the two of them alone in the shack.
As the minutes stretched on, Murdoc tried to ignore the discomfort in his limbs from the bonds. He wondered how long the Cyborg would be gone for tonight. At least he didn't have to wonder where she was going. It had become part of their daily routine lately. Several days ago, the food she had brought with her had run out, and since they were now in the a**-end of nowhere, she hadn't been able to buy or steal any more from anywhere. So she'd taken to tying them up at night and going hunting, bringing them back rabbits mostly, but once the bloody hind leg of a deer had made an appearance. Thankfully, Murdoc and 2D, being the heavy smokers that they were, always carried an abundant supply of matches with them, so they had at least been able to make campfires to cook these goodies she brought back for them. Murdoc wasn't sure he could stomach eating raw meat…his evil, blood drinking, puppy-eating Satanist image be damned. He had accepted long ago that he was a poser, even if the rest of the world had been slow figuring that out.
He fought the urge to moan from the numbness in his arms, and wondered just how long they had been sitting in here waiting that mechanical b***h to return. With his luck, it had only been a couple of minutes and not the hours that it felt like, and he still had ages to wait before she came back and untied him. He wiggled his thumbs slightly, trying to keep the blood in his hands flowing as best he could. He thought he could safely say that this was the worst camping trip that he had ever been on. That it was also the only camping trip he had ever been on was irrelevant, he decided. He doubted he could have a more miserable time if he had been camping in Siberia in January with no jacket.
A slight scuffling sound from the corner of the shack broke him out of his self-pity. Had that been 2D? Or was there some giant black rat in here that was going to start crawling across his face? Murdoc listened intently, and soon heard it again, this time accompanied by a slight grunt.
It probably was 2D then. What was the dullard doing? If the cyborg had tied him as tight as she had tied Murdoc, there was no sense in struggling. Then again, 2D had never been the brightest light in the sky, and that was putting it rather kindly…
"Murdoc?" came 2D's hesitant voice.
If Murdoc hadn't been tied up, he would have jumped high enough to hit the ceiling. As it was, he could only make a tiny startled sound through his gag. How the hell had 2D gotten his own gag off?
That suddenly became the least of his concern as he heard 2D's footsteps come toward him. A second later, he felt the singer's hands undo his blindfold, and then it was gone. He looked up to see 2D's tall, lanky silhouette leaning over him. The young man reached down and pulled the gag from Murdoc's mouth.
"What the HELL?" Murdoc spluttered. "How the hell did you get loose, D?"
"I picked up a broken piece of rock the last time she let me go to the bathroom," 2D whispered as he untied the rope around Murdoc's wrists. "One side of it was really jagged, so I thought it might be able to cut my bonds, if I worked hard enough. I made sure I had it in my hand when she tied me up."
"She didn't notice?" Murdoc wondered, as his hands were finally freed. He pulled his arms in front of himself and began to rub his hands and wiggle the fingers to try and make the numbness go away.
"Uh uh," 2D replied, now working on the ropes that bound Murdoc's legs. "She wasn't very careful about tying me up. Not like she was with you. She just sat me down, tied my arms behind me around a post, and stuck a gag in my mouth. She even covered me up with a blanket or something. There!" 2D said, as he removed the rope from around Murdoc's ankles.
Murdoc sat up painfully. His feet were as numb as his hands. He wiggled them a bit and felt a tingling as the feeling began to return, but he suspected it would be a few minutes before he could walk. "Post? Blanket?" he wondered aloud.
"Over there," 2D whispered, gesturing toward the back of the shack. Murdoc turned and saw that the room was actually quite larger than he'd thought from the brief glimpse he'd gotten when he first entered. The "post" turned out to be a support post for one of several stalls that stretched back into the darkness, and the "blanket" was an empty burlap sack, taken from a stack of them that was against the wall. There were coils of rope next to the pile of sacks, and a few bits of leather and metal next to those. Horse tack maybe?
"We're in a stable," Murdoc realized. "Must have been a farm here once." Not anymore though, judging from the emptiness and mustiness of everything. The place had been long abandoned.
"I guess so," 2D agreed, reaching down a hand to help him up. "Can you walk?"
Murdoc stumbled to his feet, ignoring 2D's hand. "Of course, I can, Faceache!" he snapped. "I'm not some-" The rest of his sentence ended in a squawk as his body seemed to deny the existence of his legs and he pitched forward.
2D caught him before he could fall and helped steady him on his feet. Ignoring Murdoc's growl, he began helping the bass player toward the door. "Don't argue," he whispered. "We've got to get out of here before she comes back."
Accepting that the young man was right, Murdoc swallowed his pride and let 2D help him toward the door of the stable. Once 2D had opened it, Murdoc poked his head out. It was black as pitch outside, and raining like hell, but he thought he could make out a patch of woods about fifty feet away from them. He turned his head and looked in the other direction, but only spotted open country, possibly what was left of the crop fields that belonged to the farm that once stood here.
The bass player paused for a moment, wondering which way to go. The open area would be easier to travel in the dark, but it would also make it easier for the cyborg to see them. The brush would be harder to travel in the dark, but it would offer more hiding places. Of course, they also ran the risk of getting lost in it, but forests in Great Britain tended to not be very large, and besides, they were probably lost enough already. He began to head for the woods, the feeling having returned to his legs enough for him to walk under his own power.
He heard 2D make a quiet whimper, as if he didn't think much of Murdoc's choice of a destination, but he made no further protest, and Murdoc heard his footsteps in the wet grass following behind him.
Murdoc expected to have to go blundering blindly through the bushes, pushing foliage out of the way and probably making enough noise to wake the dead, so he was quite surprised to find a small, weed choked path leading off into the woods once he finally reached them. Thanking fate for small favors, he gestured for 2D to follow him and the two of them started down the path.
There was silence for a few minutes as the two of them blundered down the path in the rainy darkness, trying not to trip over rocks and tree roots, or step into giant puddles. Murdoc didn't know where the path was leading them, and he didn't care either. The important thing was to get as far away from the cyborg as possible. They could figure out where they were and how to get to civilization when the sun came up.
2D, of course, had to pick that exact moment to ask a stupid question. "Murdoc?" he asked. "Murdoc, where are we going?"
"Istanbul," Murdoc snapped at the singer in annoyance.
"Huh?" 2D sounded genuinely baffled by this.
Murdoc sighed. He should have figured sarcasm was wasted on someone with an empty space between his ears. "I don't know where we're going, Faceache," he forced himself to say as calmly as possible. If he lost his temper, he was liable to start shouting, and THAT was certainly going to alert everything within a ten mile radius. Including crazy robot-women. "I don't even know where we ARE. I just want to get as far away from that stable as possible before the Cyborg comes back."
"But then what'll we do?" 2D said, his voice soft and frightened.
"I don't know that either D," Murdoc admitted. "But we'll think of something. We may be in the middle of nowhere, but there's bound to be some sheep-shaggers or something around somewhere. We'll find someone and ask them for help."
"M'kay," 2D mumbled behind him. "Do you think we can get away from her?"
"I hope so," Murdoc muttered, pushing a wet branch out of the way. "You know, I gotta admit that thing with the rock was clever, D." He held the branch out of the way for 2D, rather than letting go of it and watching it snap back in the singer's face. "Especially coming from you."
2D seemed too nervous and preoccupied to appreciate the praise from the bass player, even as uncharacteristic as it was. "I don't think it would have worked if she hadn't been so careless about tying me up."
"Maybe…" Murdoc mused, skirting around a large puddle. "I wonder why she tied you up like that. There was plenty of rope left in the stable, so it's not like she ran out and had to improvise or something.
"I don't know," 2D said from behind him. "It was almost like she was being nice to me. Like she didn't want me to be uncomfortable while I waited. It was weird."
"Maybe she's sweet on you," Murdoc teased the singer. "Lucky you, eh? I always figured, out of the four of us, you'd be the one to get a Stalker From Hell."
"Yeah," 2D muttered, almost sadly. "Lucky me. All the people who like me are either dead or treat me like-"
A huge crack of lightning and rumble of thunder cut off the rest of what 2D was going to say. The woods around them were lit up almost as bright as day. And Murdoc stopped in his tracks, causing 2D to blunder into him from behind.
There, on the path in front of them, with a gun in one hand and what looked like a dead dog dangling from the other, was the Cyborg.
Cursing himself for using the path for an escape route instead of traveling through the concealing underbrush, Murdoc sprang into action faster than he thought possible. Grabbing 2D by the shoulders, he pushed the singer off the right side of the path. "Split up!" he shouted over 2D's yelp. "I'll find you later!"
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Murdoc stooped down and picked up a rock from the ground. "Over here, you stupid metal b***h!" Murdoc shouted, throwing it at her. It missed her by several feet, but her eyes glinted in the darkness as they turned toward him.
"Yeah, that's right!" he snarled at her. "You stupid, phony robot b***h! Pretend Noodle! You're not Noodle, you're just an ugly, glorified can-opener! ******** stupid b***h! I'm gonna kill you!" Murdoc roared this last part at her as he dove off the left side of the path.
Hoping his taunting worked, he crashed his way blindly through the underbrush, hoping he didn't run into any unexpected obstacles in the dark. C'mon, c'mon, chase me you oversized tin can! He figured he would have a better chance of escaping the cyborg's pursuit than 2D would, and if he did manage to lose her, he could go back and find 2D later. He only hoped he would be able to stay ahead of her. He was getting old and was quite out of shape, after all, but in his panicked mind, he still seemed less vulnerable than the terrified 2D. Besides, even if the cyborg did catch him, there was still the chance that his capture could buy 2D enough time to get away, and then the singer could go find help. Of course, that was a long shot, since 2D would be more likely to get even further lost and starve to death, or just sit there terrified until the cyborg found him, but at this point, any chance was better than-
Murdoc screamed as his foot slipped on some wet mud and he suddenly found himself tumbling down a steep slope. He reached out desperately, cutting his hands on long, tough blades of grass as he tried to stop his fall, but all of them slipped out of his grip. He screamed helplessly again, sure he was going to die, and his scream ended in a pained grunt as he slammed into a fallen tree trunk.
For a moment, Murdoc could only lie sprawled out beside the log that had stopped his fall, the wind completely knocked out of him. His head spun and his mind seemed to want to check out for a while, maybe a long while, but he seemed to regain control of it before he could completely black out and fought to stay conscious. He forced himself to stay awake, forced his body to try and move. He began to twist painfully to his feet, knowing he had to get moving again before the cyborg caught up with him.
Using the log for support, Murdoc got to his feet, relieved that nothing seemed to be broken. He looked back up the slope and was amazed at how close to the top he actually was. It felt like he had fallen much further. There was no sign of the Cyborg at the top though, so he figured he had better get moving and get down the rest of the slope before she caught up with him.
And then he heard 2D scream.
Murdoc froze in horror, mismatched eyes wide. The Cyborg hadn't fallen for his taunting. She hadn't chased after him at all. She'd gone after 2D. And she had found him.
Murdoc's surprise turned immediately to rage. That ******** IDIOT! He had probably been slow and loud and easy to find and catch. He had probably not even tried to get away. His terror had probably kept him rooted to the same spot, like a goddamn deer staring at an oncoming truck, and she had caught him with no effort at all. Murdoc's whole painful diversion had been for nothing. This whole ESCAPE had been for nothing!
"Bloody stupid idiot!" Murdoc snarled under his breath. "******** him!"
He heard 2D scream again, and paused, wondering what to do. If he went back there, the cyborg would catch him, and at best, she'd bring both of them back to the stable and tie them up better this time. At worst, she'd… But, if he didn't go back, then what? He had promised he would keep 2D safe. Was it such a meaningless promise that he would break it the first time the opportunity presented itself?
But what good was keeping a promise if it just resulted in him dying alongside 2D? Who would know? Who would care?
Besides, he could always do what he had been hoping 2D would do if Murdoc himself had been caught. Escape, go get help, and then come back and rescue 2D. Unless the Cyborg just decided to go ahead and kill 2D before he got back. But if she was going to kill him, she was going to kill him, and Murdoc couldn't stop her, regardless of whether he was there or not. He'd just get killed too. He was back where he'd started.
But if he broke the promise, a promise made hastily under the influence of guilt anyway, he would live, and perhaps 2D would live too. If not, at least, Murdoc would live. Was one person living not better than both of them dying? True, he would have to live with what he had done, but he had already broken so many promises in his life, hurt so many people, done so many shitty things, and he had been able to come to terms with them and move on. What was one sin added to the pile?
Even if he had a feeling that this sin would hurt more than most of the others, would be a sin it would take a lot of effort to ignore, would cause pain that would not be so easily vanquished. Like what happened to Noodle.
Like what he'd LET happen to Noodle.
Murdoc whimpered and felt his legs begin to give away underneath him. He grabbed at the log to try and keep himself on his feet. More misery…more self-loathing. More suffering, more guilt, more endless attempts to harden his heart and forget the pain. It was killing him, more than booze, cigarettes, and his entire vice-filled lifestyle put together. And he hurt regardless. It was all for nothing. He just kept adding more suffering onto himself with every selfish, cowardly act. If he kept on like this, his misery would never end.
He didn't want to die.
But he didn't want to live like this anymore either.
Which one was worse? Did he know? Did he even want to find out?
2D screamed again.
And Murdoc found himself moving. Moving UP the slope. Moving toward the sound of 2D's screams. And he hated himself for it, and he hated 2D for it, and he hated the cyborg for it, and he hated fate, or God, or whoever designed such a ******** up world where this was the preferable choice most of all, but he kept running, and strangely, he found himself, perhaps for the first time in a long time, feeling at peace with his decision.
As soon as he was at the top of the slope, Murdoc looked around until he spotted a slender, low-hanging tree branch. Running up to it, he seized it with both hands and pulled himself halfway onto it as if he were a gymnast doing on of those bar routines they had in the Olympics. He leaned hard against the branch, putting all his weight onto it, and was relieved when he heard the brittle snapping of wood. A second later, both Murdoc and the tree branch had fallen to the ground.
Murdoc quickly picked up his makeshift weapon and started running again, heading in the direction of 2D's shouting. He didn't think a broken tree branch would be much of a weapon against an armed robot, but he felt slightly more secure facing the Cyborg with as least something in his hands.
Murdoc finally reached the path again and darted across it, entering the underbrush on the right side of the path. He didn't see any signs of 2D, so he kept blundering blindly forward, hoping he would find the singer before the cyborg did anything awful to him.
Murdoc pushed through some tall bushes and found himself in the middle of a tiny clearing. 2D stood in the middle of it. Unharmed. Unharmed and…alone?
Murdoc opened his mouth to ask what was going on, but before he could say anything, 2D started screaming again.
"I'm sorry Murdoc!" the young man wailed. "She MADE me! She MADE me she MADE me she MADE me she MADE-!"
Too late, Murdoc realized he had fallen into a trap. He only had time to register a soft footstep behind him and then all there was was pain and blackness.
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Murdoc woke up to the sound of sobbing. It intruded on the pain and the fogginess in his head, pushed it aside and poked at his awareness, forcing him to return to consciousness, forcing the world into focus once more. Slowly, painfully, he opened his eyes, feeling the pain in his head double as he did so. Where was he? What had happened? His head hurt like a b***h, so he must have had one hell of a hangover. Either that or someone had clocked him a good one. A woman, maybe?
The cyborg! Suddenly he remembered what had happened. She had had 2D and Murdoc had gone back to save him. She'd come up behind him and…hit him over the head with a ******** club, from what it felt like. He groaned softly and instantly regretted it. Even a tiny vocalization made pain shoot through his head like lightning.
"Murdoc?" came 2D's voice from somewhere behind him.
"Mm?" replied Murdoc. It was all he could manage.
Murdoc heard the sound of 2D moving closer. "Murdoc, are you all right?" 2D asked hesitantly.
Murdoc groaned in reply. He wasn't sure he could even remember how to form the words to speak, even if they didn't send splitting pain through his head.
2D was quiet for a long time, other than the sound of his sniffling as he must have tried to get his crying under control. Grateful for the silence, Murdoc lay still and let the pain in his head slowly subside.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed before he was finally able to speak. "Where are we, D?" he finally managed to ask.
"Back at the stable," 2D said quietly. "After she knocked you out, she picked me up and carried me back here, and tied me back up. I fought her, but her grip is like iron. I couldn't get her to let me go. I was so afraid she was going to just leave you there in the middle of the forest. But once she tied me back up, she went back and got you. Then she untied me, and since then, she's been standing guard outside the door." 2D sighed. "So much for our escape attempt. At least she didn't kill us. I don't think we're going to get any supper though."
"Damn," Murdoc muttered. "I was really looking forward to that dead dog, too. I'll bet it would have tasted just like how Mom used to make it."
He heard 2D chuckle quietly. "I'm glad you're okay, Murdoc," the singer said softly. "I was so afraid you weren't going to wake up. I was scared she'd really hurt you when she hit you. I was…I thought…I thought you were going to die." 2D's voice quavered slightly, as if he were trying not to start crying again. "I…I…I don't know what I would've done," the singer choked out. "First Noodle and then you. I don't know if I could have taken it."
Why? Murdoc wondered. I'm nothing like Noodle. You should be glad to get rid of me. I'm such a piece of s**t. But he pushed such thoughts aside and instead said "I'm fine D. Don't worry about me, all right?"
2D sniffled softly. "I'm really, really sorry, Murdoc."
"It's not your fault, D," Murdoc said quietly.
"Yes it is!" 2D protested tearfully. "I ran as fast as I could, but she caught me anyway, and then she told me to scream. When I said no, she put the gun against the back of my head and told me again. I knew it was a trap, that she was just trying to get you to come back, but I was so scared! I knew I shouldn't have done what she asked me to, but I really thought she was going to kill me. I kept hoping you wouldn't come, but you did and then she hit you. I'm so sorry Murdoc…I wish I hadn't been such a damn stupid coward. I was just so scared…I don't want to die." He sniffled again.
Yeah, I know the feeling, Murdoc thought to himself, remembering his own struggle when he'd first heard 2D start screaming. "It's not your fault, 2D," he said again. "I might have done the same thing in your shoes." Would he have? After the decision he'd made back on that slope, things no longer seemed so clear. Would the struggle between cowardice and conscience continue in the future? Murdoc had a feeling it would, and that more decisions like that awaited him down the line. And he had a pretty good guess how they were going to turn out, too.
"Besides," Murdoc said to the singer. "Even if you hadn't screamed, I would have come looking for you anyway. I said I would find you later, when we split up, remember? She would have caught me even if you'd been as silent as the grave. It wasn't your fault."
2D was silent for a long time. Finally, he asked a hesitant question. "Why, Murdoc?"
"Why what?" Murdoc asked, although he thought he knew.
"Why did you come back? Why didn't you just leave me?" 2D asked.
"I promised you I wouldn't let her hurt you, remember?" Murdoc cut in.
"Since when do you give a damn about promises?" the singer wondered.
Since I realized…since I realized what not keeping them does to me, Murdoc's mind answered automatically. And what it feels like…what it does to other people…what all the s**t I do does to other people…and how it always comes back around and does the same thing to me. But all that was too convoluted for someone with a splitting headache like Murdoc's to try and explain.
"Since Noodle," was all Murdoc said instead, hoping 2D would understand. He was beginning to grow exhausted with the efforts of trying to soothe the guilt-stricken young man.
Thankfully, 2D seemed to understand. Both points, actually, since Murdoc heard him get up, and go rummage around in a corner of the stable. A moment later, he returned and Murdoc felt him lay a blanket over him. No, not a blanket. One of those burlap sacks, most likely.
Murdoc tried to protest, since he hated being doted over. It made him feel like a weakling, or like the other person was being too sappy or…or…or….
"Shhhh," 2D said softly to him. "Just go to sleep, Murdoc. "You can be tough again in the morning, okay?"
That suddenly didn't sound so bad to Murdoc. He wanted to sleep very badly. "You promise?" he muttered to the singer.
"I promise," 2D said to him. "Goodnight, Murdoc."
Murdoc thought he might have said goodnight back, but he was no longer sure anymore. Sleep had begun to blur the edges between what was reality and what wasn't, and Murdoc was more than happy to let it. Somewhere in the swirling darkness between sleep and wakefulness, however, he was certain he did hear a single voice whispering something to him.
"Thank you, Murdoc," it said.
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