I sort of went off the deep end with this one. Oops. A Zombie Apocalypse AU. Content warning: Death. Implied violence.
Even though it was impossible to forget, Mike was sure to keep his memories close, a constant reminder of all that they had lost right under his fingers. He could feel the notches in the worn wood each time he picked up his bat. They burned his fingertips each time he swung to save his own life. Five marks scratched into the handle of the weapon he held close at all times. Five marks he stared at without fail each night before fitful sleep took him.
Five memories that he’d rather not have, but that he’d never allow himself to leave behind.
The first notch was for his father, carved several days after the world Mike had once known fell apart. The news had broken at mid-afternoon and the phone lines were immediately useless. No matter how many times Karen, frustrated to tears, punched in the number to Ted’s office, she got nothing more than the buzzing of a dead line. Ted had not come home that evening. Or the next day. Or the next. After that, Hopper suggested they assume the worst.
Mike ran his fingers over the second notch and felt a thick lump grow in his throat. Hopper.
They would never have made it out of Hawkins without him and it had been critical for them to leave the town. Hopper never explained why, but Mike figured it was safe to accept that he knew something they didn’t. After taking on a job at the Lab, Hopper always seemed to know something they didn’t. Mike would never forget the look on his face; the set expression of fierce determination. He’d never forget the words on his lips; Go. Now. Uttered with such untroubled satisfaction and surety that they had done just that.
Mike pressed into the second notch and held in a sigh. Was it horrible he had cried when carving a mark for the Chief when his eyes had been dry for his father?
The third notch was the worst. Mike couldn’t touch it. He could only look, his gaze hard and his chest tight as it had been when he carved it.
Dustin had never been one for this world and Mike suspected that, after several weeks of grotesque horrors, he just gave up. In retrospect, Mike believed he had seen it in Dustin’s eyes for a long while and wondered if he should have said something. Could he have changed something?
He tried not to dwell on those thoughts, as they always led to the question Mike dreaded most. Am I cut out for this world? Lucas was tough as nails and determined. Will had experienced hell and survived once, of course he could do it again. Max was fearless, smart, and quick. And El…El could protect herself. Her entire life had been spent learning to endure. In himself, Mike saw none of the things he saw in his friends.
Yeah, the third notch was the worst. Everyone had looked at each other in shocked, horrified silence until Jonathan had stepped forward, tears in his eyes. Mike had to turn away into El’s shoulder, his hands coming up to shield his ears while El whispered comforting words to him.
Jonathan. He was notch number four. He had left camp one day with Steve and had never come back. Steve returned with a trunk full of canned goods salvaged from a store eighteen miles out and a glassy look in his eyes. No one said anything as the car door slammed shut and Steve cut a harsh path to Joyce’s tent, his feet throwing up dust as they dragged along the dry ground.
Steve got reckless after that. Detached and impulsive, he was notch number five. It was Nancy who stepped forward that time, but there were no tears in her angry eyes. Mike noticed, days later, the same glassy and distant expression on her face that he had seen on Steve’s and Mike worried that his sister would become notch number six.
He wouldn’t let that happen.
“We don’t have to do this,” Lucas placed a hand firmly on her wrist and looked at her earnestly, his imploring eyes meeting hers, hard and cold.
“We do,” El said hoarsely. She shook free of Lucas’s grip and watched him sink back against the wall, defeated, before she placed the knife against the wood. She felt numb, her mind detached from her body as her hand began to mechanically scratch a sixth notch into the handle of the bat.