Updated: Feb 8
Virgil Bowers was introduced in Pandemic Dawn Book IV: Before the Sun Sets in Chapter 9. He is part of The 9, a group of survivors looking for shelter. Virgil was working in a small salvage yard and living on the property before the cleansing. He remained in the salvage yard, sheltered from the chaos for weeks after the cleansing, but eventually left in need of food and water. Virgil is 29 and in great shape, usually going by the nickname Verge. He didn't have any plans other than surviving until he met her. This is his story.
The sound was loud and echoed in the alley, PLINK, PLINK, the sound of the aluminum bat hitting the victim's head was distinct. As Virgil passed, looking down toward the sound, it was evident the assailant was not killing one of the cursed. Still, it was apparent to Virgil it was too late to intervene. He kept walking.
He didn't try to find trouble. He didn't want it. But it sickened him how quickly man turned on themselves just to live. Animals, he thought to himself.
He crossed the street, trying to ignore the people and their words. Some ask for handouts, others directions. So many lost in the city, so many have no hope since the cleansing. There was nothing he could do.
He reached the storefront and asked to enter. The man guarding had a gun, not just any weapon, which would be enough to strike fear into any man, but one that had two barrels and cut shorter than a man's arm. Everyone knew what that would do to a person, and no one dared tempt him.
The man let Virgil in, immediately recognizing him. Virgil came often bringing parts from the salvage yard in trade for food and water. He was lucky. Virgil had been living in the yard for a few months now. The owners never came back after the cleansing, and when he ran out of food and water began helping himself to the yards treasures to survive.
At first, he kept an account, willing to repay what he had to, but after all this time, it was clear they were never coming back, and he had to eat and no longer cared or kept track.
"Hey Tim," Virgil said as he placed a small industrial pump motor on the counter of the revamped store.
"here you go, one 12 volt pump. It's submersible, so it pumps about 2 1/2 gallons per minute. That should work."
"Great, now we need to start building the filter system. You got anything for that?"
"Well, I have lots of pipe and fittings, but I'm not sure about water filters, but I can look."
"Super, how about the usual?"
"Thanks," he said as he walked over to the shelves and took some canned food and a few bottles of water.
"I'll be back in a couple days and let you know what I can find."
"See you then!'
Virgil left the building with his supplies, "See you in a few days, man," he said to the guard, who nodded then continued watching the activities around them.
He walked about ten feet, hearing something down the alley he was about to cross. He wanted to keep walking but couldn't keep himself from looking. Three men were shoving a girl around and laughing.
He stopped dead in his tracks and turned toward the alley. One of the men grabbed the young girl's face. She looked in her early 20's if not younger.
"Come on, love, give us a kiss," he pulled her face with his hand and put his mouth on her.
Virgil paused from going into the alley. She wasn't fighting, she didn't scream, she just stood there. Is this some kind of trap to get guys like me to come to the rescue, only to become the victim, he thought to himself.
He realized she was traumatized. Like a zombie standing there as they played with her hair and took turns kissing her and touching her, then his fury boiled, "Stop!" he yelled, gaining their attention.
"Keep walking, man. This has nothing to do with you. I'm just spending some time with my girlfriend, that's all," he said as he grabbed her, pulling her close and squeezing her tightly.
The other two laughed as they gripped their tools of destruction tighter. One held a pipe and the other some sort of ball bat.
Virgil realized his strong words wouldn't be enough to stop them. He yelled again in hopes of convincing them, "knock it off, you can see she's hurt or something, leave her alone, I mean it!" his voice strong and loud.
"Uh oh boys, I think he really means it. Let's see how serious he really is," as the man shoved the young girl to the ground, and she sat there motionless.
As they approach, he drops his pack and clenches his fists, preparing to fight. He wasn't afraid, he didn't care, all that was left anymore in life was protecting others, and if that's how he would die, then so be it. Virgil wondered if they were ready to die for her as he was.
The sound of two hammers clicking echoed. Virgil turned around to see the guard from the shop standing there with a smile on his face wanting to let both barrels spew their violent fiery vomit of flames and lead down the alley.
"Get her," he said to Virgil in his deep gruff voice.
Virgil ran down to where she had been thrown and helped her to her feet, still zombified, and led her out of the alley, grabbing his pack, "thanks, man, I owe you."
He took her by the hand and led her away. He didn't go straight home; he never did. Although the salvage yard was a little way from the city, he was always paranoid about being followed. He had multiple paths to travel, never taking the same route in a single day.
They reached the edge of the burbs a few blocks from the yard, and she looked up at him as they walked. She stared as looking through a fog, unable to put words together.
He noticed and looked at her, "It's OK, you're safe with me. Nothing to worry about, I promise," he smiled, and she didn't respond in any way.
He wondered if they hit her in the head if she had a concussion, or perhaps she was mentally ill or slow. Either way, she needed to be off the streets before something else happened.
They entered the yard, and he closed and locked the big gates. Even though the fence that surrounded the yard was the only chain-link with barbed wire atop it, the three dogs that had run of the yard were the real deterrent.
As they entered, the dogs ran to greet him, and he tossed them some of the food he brought back, and they tore it apart. They were mean enough if you were on the outside of the gate. Still, too often, they would be friendly to those inside the property line, losing the concept of defending the grounds. So Virgil was sure to keep the fence closed and never bring anyone inside, except for now.
He lived above one of the workshops on the property. It was decent with a bedroom, bath, small kitchen, and front room.
The entire apartment was 30 feet by 30 feet.
He brought her in and sat her on the only furniture in the front room, his dark green broke down couch that smelled a little dusty.
"Sorry for the mess, the yard is all dirt, and the dust comes in every time I open the windows for fresh air," he said as he put his food and water away in the kitchen.
"My name is Virgil. What's yours," he rhetorically asked, thinking she was incapable of speech.
"Tanner," she said softly.
He gasped in surprise, looking back to the couch where she sat, "Tanner, nice to meet you, Tanner, so I assume you didn't know those guys in the alley," he said, returning to his task.
"No, I don't," still seemingly in a daze.
"Would you like something to eat or..."
"My family is dead," she said, staring at the floor.
He didn't know what to say. Most of the people he talked to lost family, so many had died, so much suffering, it seemed endless and senseless.
"I'm really sorry, the cleansing?" he asked.
"They killed them, all of them. My mom, my dad, my baby brother," she said slowly as she continued staring blankly.
"They who, those guys in the alley?"
"No. The gangs, the ones in the city, they came to our building and did it, killed them." tears began to run down her face.
Putting his pack on the table and kneeling in front of her on the floor, "Oh. I'm so sorry, did this just happen?"
"I don't know, yes, I think, I'm not sure," she was still confused, and her eyes looked strange, not from crying but as if they could focus, couldn't look at any one thing, but darted around the room, never ceasing.
"Hey," he said, trying to keep her undivided attention.
"Hey, look, I'm sorry, you are safe here, you look like you need some rest..." she burst into tears and grabbed him, sobbing uncontrollably.
"This isn't right, this isn't fair, they never did anything to anyone, I should have made them leave, why didn't I?"
He sat there and held her, letting her cry. He felt helpless and angry himself, wishing there was something more he could do.
He got her a little food and water. She reluctantly ate and fell asleep on the couch. He fought with himself but eventually carried her to his bed, surprised she didn't wake.
He was sure she had been up for too long and over exhausted. She slept hard. He covered her and returned to the couch where he slept.
The morning came, and with the first-quarter day sunlight, his mind immediately went to her, Tanner. She was beautiful, frail, gentle in her mannerisms. He felt for her and was reluctant to rise and not be able to do anything for her.
He heard movement in the room and knew she was getting up. She came from the room, pulling one of his blankets around her and sitting at the kitchen table.
"Are you OK?" he asked.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up. I couldn't sleep any longer, my head hurts, and I don't feel good."
"It's OK. I was awake already, worrying about you. You probably need some water."
Virgil went to the kitchen and opened the cupboard where there were dozens of water bottles and gave one to her after he opened it.
"Thank you, and thank you for yesterday. I wasn't feeling very well. I can't even remember how I ended up there with those guys."
"It's OK. I'm just glad I happened to be passing when I was, or your night may have had a whole different outcome. It's bad out there. You shouldn't be traveling alone, you know," his words echoing in her father's.
one of the last things he said to her before he was killed, it's dangerous out there Tanny, I don't want you traveling alone.
"I know," she said, taking another drink. She was thirsty and drank the entire bottle. She wasn't sure how much time had passed since her family died, how long she wandered, or when the last time she ate or drank anything was.
"Here," he got up to get her another bottle.
"Thank you, I'm sorry, I should go," she said, not wanting to leave but afraid of becoming burdensome to him.
"No, you stay here as long as you like. When you're better, I'll take you home, but not until then. Consider yourself welcome. I have plenty of food, and water and you're safe here," Virgil said, smiling.
She smiled back, and something happened, a spark, a beginning, something that would take time but never an effort. They didn't yet realize it, but they were home, not at the yard in that dingy apartment above a garage, but because they were looking in each other's eyes.