I remember the day of the first apocalypse. Bridget was watching the Disney Channel, Mom was cooking in the kitchen, and Dad was sitting in the armchair, glasses on and newspaper in hand. That was the last moment of normal I ever knew. It was 5 years ago, I was only 14 years old. I can’t forget that. It was the single most horrifying moment of my life.
Sirens started to wail as our door burst open, making us all jump. I remember the one that had ended my family’s life. It was a mature adult male, it’s nose and most of its fingers missing. All of the limbs were broken and swaying in their sockets. The eyes had no irises, just deadly, deathly white.
The zombie slammed into the kitchen, and my mom, frozen with fear, was the first victim. This particular zombie was a Ropell-Hybrid, the newest, fastest, and strongest hybrid to plague our planet. His green and purple-tinted hand grabbed her by the neck, and with a single snap, my mom’s eyes rolled back and she went limp. The zombie flung pots and pans off of the stove and in one swift move, picked up the body and slammed her face into the burner, melting and incinerating my beautiful, smart mother’s face almost immediately.
My dad was ripe with rage, making himself an easy target. The swift zombie raced across our apartment and lifted my dad up by the neck in one fluid motion. He started choking as it slammed him against the glass windows in the living room, the impact causing his head to bleed. With one solid crack, the window shattered and my dad went flying down to the street, hollering the whole way down. We lived on the 17th story, I knew he wouldn’t survive.
The zombie’s murderous eyes then went to Bridget. Sweet, innocent little Bridget. I knew immediately what it was thinking. I grabbed her arm at the same time that the zombie lunged forward and latched onto her leg. I pulled with all of my might as Bridget screamed her lungs out, begging for help. She began to kick at it with her other foot and managed to knock a finger off, loosening its grip long enough for me to pull her away. I clutched Bridget to my chest as I burst through the front door and ran down the hall.
It was a horrifying sight.
Blood and gore spilled out through the open doors of our complex. Shrieks and moans echoed through the dark, lightless halls. Bridget shut her eyes and whimpered. I stroked her back and whispered in her ear, “It’s okay, everything’s going to be okay,” and rushed down the stairs, dodging separated limbs and crashing through the door.
Outside was a similar scene. Windows were smashed and the glass shards lay at their bases. Doors were broken in half and wooden splinters sat point up, ready to stab anyone who might wander over, in the foot. I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t know where to go, how to hide, all I knew was that I needed to protect Briget. I ran, not stopping or having any idea of a destination, and managed to get outside of the city. I stopped for a moment on a bridge, putting Bridget down. I panted and heaved into the ravine below. I have regretted that moment since.
“Taryn!” Bridget screamed, and pointed at the dim hoard in the distance.
A small group, composed of four or five Ropell-Hybrids, bounded towards us, cracking the bridge in their haste. The bridge began to cave, ready to dump its contents into the ravine below.
I lunged for the edge, hoping and praying for my hands to latch onto a rock or into a crevice, and my prayers were answered. My hands hooked onto a ledge about four inches wide, small but big enough for me to get a grip. The Ropell-Hybrids had all fallen to the bottom, and were trying to climb the steep sides. Bridget clung to a crumbling deformation in the ravine. Her feet slipping on the reddish rock. I knew what was going to happen before it did.
Bridget’s hands slid from the rock, wet from sweat, and fell down towards the zombies.
“Bridget!” I screamed and jumped down after her, landing in a crouched position. Bridget lay crumpled, feet away from me, regaining her consciousness.
“Come on, Bridget!” I cried, tears falling from my face. “Come on, we have to go!”
Our comotion alerted the zombie from the other side of the ravine. They ran towards us at breakneck speed. I slung Bridget over my shoulder and ran. I knew the Ropell-Hybrids would eventually catch up, but I didn’t know when. My legs were already burning after our sprint from the city, and almost immediately, they gave out. No. I cried to myself. No, you have to keep going. You have to keep running. Do it. Do it for Bridget. You have to save her.
My vision began to blur and I felt a sharp tug pull me backwards. A tall, female Ropell-Hybrid had Bridget by the waist. I pulled and tugged with all of my might. I didn’t want to lose my little sister, the only living family member I had left. My determination and force managed to push the zombie’s grip onto her leg. That only made it worse. Within seconds, a loud crack came from Bridget’s leg. She screamed,
“Taryn! Help me! Please!”
I looked into her eyes, sensing the begging and her will to live. I knew their weak spots, but I couldn’t bear to touch one, not after my parents. Then I made the hardest decision I had ever made. She’ll be in a better place, I thought to myself. She’ll be with Mom and Dad.
I let her small hands slip from my grasp, feeling their soft, comforting touch one last time before she was yanked back by the Ropell-Hybrid, which slammed her on the ground, its mouth eager for a new meal.
Her last words still ring in my nightmares. I just turned around and began to run. Run to what? I didn’t know. I couldn’t be near that scene. I heard the roar of a motorcycle, hoping it was the authorities who would be willing to give Bridget a proper burial.
I was still on the run, I needed to go to the next town to get help. I have to do it for Bridget.
When I got to the next town I saw a very similar situation: glass shards everywhere ready to shred your feet to ribbons if you made the mistake to walk barefoot, bodies laying all over, the stretch of blood and flesh poisoning the air. I crept cautiously, picking up a plank of broken wood, the splinters stabbing my hands like miniature knives. I ventured deeper and deeper through the deserted town, emerging on the other side.
A rustle sends me fleeing into a nearby bush. A boy, maybe three years older than me, is limping through the trees. I could best describe him as having dirty blonde hair and dead blue eyes, blood gushed from an unseen cut along his hairline and his clothes were torn and dirty. Of course, everything was broken, torn, and dirty, including me. I started to straighten up, but cripple again when I saw him waist-down. A Ropell-Hybrid, missing everything beneath his waist, is gnawing on his ankle. The boy grunts with effort and takes a metal spike, driving it through the zombies head. It gave one last shudder and fell limp, it’s mouth hanging open and it’s eyes staring blankly. The boy’s ankle had deep, bloody bite marks and it was covered in slobber.
I try to approach him, emerging from my hiding place. A twig snaps underneath my feet and the boy jumps, holding the spike in a defensive position, fear bright in his eyes.
“It’s okay,” I say, rising up and putting my hands above my head.
The boy lowers the spike and I take a few steps towards him.
My name’s Taryn Matthews,” I say, extending my hand for him to shake.
He takes it hesitantly and shakes it slowly. I can see him trying to figure me out.
“My name’s Finn.”
His slight accent registers in my brain and he slings the metal spike over his shoulder.
“How’d you get here?” I asked.
“I used to live over by the lab. My entire family were some of the first ones to get hit. I was the only one who managed to slip away. You?”
“I lived in the city about four miles that way,” I pointed in the direction of home. “A Ropell-Hybrid broke into our apartment and got my parents. I got away with my little sister.”
“Where is she?”
I stare down at the ground. Tears clean trails down my dirty cheeks and land on the dry, broken ground.
“A few caught up with us about a mile out of town. We were on a bridge over a ravine and it caved in. One grabbed her leg and…”
I knew Finn got what I was talking about.
“I couldn’t bear to touch it. Not after my parents. I should’ve saved her, I should’ve…”
Finn patted my shoulder.
“What was your sister’s name?” he asked.
“I had two younger siblings, Jerad and Elsa. We have to keep going, for them.”
I slugged my wooden plank over my shoulder, grunting under the weight.
“We should stick together, we won’t survive on our own.”
“Okay,” Finn sighed. “We should get some food and supplies. I’m pretty sure all the Ropells are gone, and there’s a supermarket back in town.”
We travelled back into town, together, to what looked like a destroyed Meijer. We dropped our plank and spike outside the door, freeing our hands.
I grabbed a broken shopping basket and started tossing in almost everything in sight. Finn followed my lead and ran to the other side of the store. I found camping supplies and took two giant backpacks for the two of us, filling them with flashlights, lighters, a cooking stove, pots and pans, canned food, hunting supplies, and anything that wasn’t broken. I slid a three person tent out of its box and clipped it to one of the backpacks.
I found Finn sorting through racks of clothes, and I tossed his backpack at him. In return, he tossed a pair of black jeggings, a plain, short-sleeved, olive green t-shirt, a long-sleeved camouflage jacket, and a pair of black combat boots.
I step into one of the remaining former dressing rooms and change, darting out quickly to grab a package of ponytails. I braid my hair into two identical cornrows, and hit up the pharmacy for a few first aid kits.
On the way back I pause in front of a display of sleep aids.
“God, I need these,” I whispered to myself.
I slipped a few bottles into the pockets of my jacket. There was still a bit of space left in my bag, so I found a few untorn books and an undented puzzle. I heard Finn whistle from the direction of the door.
I tiptoed my way up to the front of the store, but one of the sleep aid bottles fell out of my pocket. I bent down to pick it up, and cut my cheek on the end of something sharp. I winced in pain and cradled my cheek in my hand. The almost non-existent light coming from the overheads cast nothing to see by. I looked up to try and find what I had hit, and saw the over-wide aisle full of weapons.
Racks of rifles covered the shelves, crossbows hung on pegs in neat rows, a large glass counter with cases full of handguns and ammo. A compound bow sat on the only undamaged part of the counter. I stepped towards it cautiously. As I got closer, I saw that it was a dark, dull fuschia.
An arrow sat loaded between the strings, and I put my backpack down. Two arm guards were lying on the counter next to it, and I strapped them on, rolling up my sleeves.
Picking up the bow, I held the weight in my hands, the smooth plastic grip felt good against my cut and stinging palms. I angled it up, aiming for a broken sign hanging from the ceiling. I pull the string back but don’t shoot.
Finn’s footsteps echo through the entire store as he comes running.
“Get down!” He whisper-shouts.
He yanks my arm and dives over the counter. Two Ropell-Hybrids wander down the main aisle. I try to stand up, but Finn pulls me back down.
“What are you doing?!” he says.
I ignore him and stand up again.
“Are you crazy?!”
I aim my bow at the Hybrids, who have noticed me.
I pull the string back.
They sprint towards us and Finn shatters one of the cases, fumbling for a gun.
I take a deep breath in and the world seems to go in slow-motion. I let it out and release the arrow.
Time speeds up again.
In a single, fluid motion the arrow slices through the Hybrids skulls and plants into a cardboard sign. The zombies wobble before pitching to the ground.
Finn rises beside me, having put the gun down after failing to load it.
“Wow,” he says.
I give a tiny smirk and stare down at the zombie corpses.
That felt good.
“I think you found your weapon,” Finn chuckles. He was right. It felt like mine. A part of me. “Now I just need to find mine.”
He glances around at all of the choices.
He turns around in circles, looking at and examining each and every one. He pauses as something catches his eye. He lifts up an army green hunting rifle.
“Now I know how you feel about that thing,”
Finn slings the gun over his shoulder and kneels down to put a handgun in his bag.
“Probably best,” he says, tossing me one too, along with a few boxes of ammo. “Just in case.”
He zips his bag up and puts it on.
“Oh!” He yelps, surprised. “You might need this!”
I’m already halfway down the main aisle, and he comes running towards me with a quiver full of arrows. I yank it over my head and put my backpack on top. I grip my bow in my hand, not wanting to let it go.
“Com’on,” Finn is ahead of me now. “We need to get as far away from here as possible before nightfall,”
We walk out together into the warzone-of-a-town and make our way through the trees. Only one thought is in my head the entire time:
Let’s go kill some zombies.