"So what now?" asked Gus.
The car couldn't go any further: the path was blocked by fallen trees. The trunks were gnawed and torn rather than cut; it was clearly an attempt to bar the way towards the river. Gus spotted a way through the foliage on their right, and Tony sent Koscienly to see if there's any way for the Humvee to pass through. The officer protested, but had gone anyway.
"It's kinda quiet." reflected Tony.
"You think that's a problem?" Gus tried.
"Nope. Not really." Tony spat on the ground, and checked his belt for shells. He was almost out.. "Need more ammo."
"What's going on man? What are you not telling me?" said Gus, more resolute than before.
"Check for the Army boy. See that he don't get himself into trouble."
"I said I already looked, I can't sense any. You're right, they must've moved on."
"No. They didn't." Tony frowned. "They're waiting at the cabin."
"What cabin?" Gus cried. He tried to sit up, but gave up: the pain was still too much to handle. "Ugh, damn bastard", he grunted, "got me good."
The darkness was thick, cold and silent. The moon was shining bright in the starless sky, casting shadows of leaves undulating in the soft breeze. Tony looked up and took a long breath.
"Why are we here?" Gus broke the silence.
"Goddamn it kid. I'm thinking."
"Goddamn you goddamn it! Look at me!" Gus couldn't control himself any longer. He shouted "I'm oozing blood, I can't even get up, I'm running dry for all the hell and fire I spilled back there... And I haven't got the slightest clue as to why are we even here, or where we're heading, or.... or anything!"
"We are not heading anywhere. You two are going back." Tony spoke in a hushed tone. His voice was trembling all of a sudden, but he struggled not to show it. Gus didn't take notice.
"And where are you going?"
"Listen, kid. You brought me this far, and for that I thank you. I needed you to be quiet and do your thing... and well, you wasn't quiet, but you sure as hell let loose back there, and we needed that." Tony took a deep breath. "But from here on out, it's my fight."
"The hell with that" snapped Gus.
"I've been here before." said Tony. "I know what's the cause of all this. You might even entertain the notion that I created it myself."
"What?" cried Gus.
"This place... This place is rotten, but it's me that brought it to the brink, and then pushed it over the edge. And I've been fighting it ever since. At every step."
"What the hell are you sayin' man?
"It's time to end it kid. I came here to end it all, and I'll be damned if I don't." Tony reached inside the Humvee and grabbed a rifle. He met Gus' eyes, gawking at him with surprise and rage, and stared right back.
"Now you listen here, boy." snapped Tony. "That Koscienly guy comes back, you scoot on outta here. This ain't your fight any more, you hear?"
In a spilt second, Gus flinched and Tony saw his eyes turn red. "Jesus man, run!" screamed the tracker, reaching with one arm towards the forest.
"What's happening kid?"
"They're after him!" shrieked Gus.
"Yeess! You've gotta help him!"
"How many?" Tony was already running towards the small gap in the tree line where Koscienly had disappeared earlier.
"Like, four? Five?" Gus was sweating and shaking madly. "I dunno! A lot of 'em."
"Goddamn it kid, where?"
"They're almost here!"
"What the hell has gotten into him?" Tony asked himself. Gus was a rookie, new to the field and to tracking, but he never faltered. Hell, back there he was a goddamn hero thought Tony. This is too much for him.
And then he saw Koscienly running towards him, and the ghouls following. And behind them, shrouded in darkness, was a figure Tony had hoped to see again. And the figure filled him with dread.