Warning: Graphic depictions of violence
“Faster!” Ash screamed, holding tight to Levi’s jacket. He shoved the older boy forwards, nearly causing him to trip over a fallen tree.
The intense growls and shrieks ringing through the thick forest spurred Ash on to sprint even faster. He leapt over roots and dodged the low-hanging branches weighed down by ice covered orange and yellow leaves. All while keeping the other boy in his view.
Ash wrenched his thoughts away from visible blood trickling down his friend's back. They would deal with that later, once they were in the safety of their walls.
“We’re almost there!” Ash heard Levi yell from ahead. “I can nearly see the walls!”
Ash didn’t reply, instead focusing on pumping his arms and legs even faster. The pounding of heavy footsteps and shrieks of creatures only grew louder though. It seemed like the faster Ash ran, the faster the creatures would go too.
A risky glance behind him showed three creatures sprinting after him, faces mangled with their jaws hanging open. Their eyes glowed a sickly green color when they met Ash’s own blue ones.
“Disgusting,” Ash thought, whipping his head back around just in time to avoid a boulder looming ahead of him. He grabbed onto the boulder with his left hand, using the momentum to propel him forwards and out into a clearing where salvation was visible in the form of stone walls that rose 30ft into the air.
Ash felt his chest start to close up similar to how the walls began to close in as he sprinted closer. His lungs were begging for the cold crisp air of fall that he couldn’t supply.
A ringing in his ears slowly began to drown out the snarls of the creatures. Although he was still able to hear the blaring trumpet sound as the gates began to open.
Fuzzy black dots began to swarm in Ash’s vision. He clenched his teeth together and tried to blink them away. They held back for long enough so he could watch as Levi made it inside the gates. He was safe. That’s all that mattered.
Ash saw Levi frantically motioning for him to hurry, eyes begging him not to give up.
“Don’t you dare!” He heard Levi cry out. “Ash, come on!”
“Fine, you moron, I’ll give it one more shot.” Ash’s thoughts were then rudely interrupted by a hand grabbing his ankle. White-hot pain seared through his leg as the claws sank into his flesh.
Ash felt himself being yanked roughly to the ground. The collision wasn’t pretty either. As darkness once again clouded his vision, all he could hear were the cries of Levi.
“At least he’s safe,” were Ash’s last thoughts before his thoughts faded away into nothingness.
It was the year 1229 when the world erupted into chaos. A simple mistake was all it took. Some people blamed the government, others claimed it to be the punishment of gods. Many even believed that it was nature’s way of whittling down the population.
A chemist had been messing around with some radioactive materials and ended up mixing some elements that really shouldn’t have been mixed. One of the elements was even the chemist's own discovery. An element called Chleon, that was found in the depths of the sea in a rare species of seaweed. The chemist had taken Chleon and mixed it with Xenon. The results seemed to be a dud so he had dumped it down the drain, which is what protocol told him to. However, he didn’t realize that he had poured it into the drain that led into the ocean.
That was mistake number one. It only took a month, but in one way or another, through rain touching the skin or through ingestion, the particles made their way into the human bloodstream.
In three months, 20% of the world's population watched as the other 80% was infected with these particles. It would disintegrate bits of the brain, melt skin and turn the eyes green. The best part about all this, was that it was a complete chance on whether you were immune or not.
Enough time passed by for survivors to learn more about these particles. First, was the fact that the original particles only survived for a few days. So the people who were still un-infected, either were immune, or had filtered water and hadn’t been out in the rain for a week or less.
Once you were infected though, the particles could be transferred to a healthy person by means of any bodily fluids. Even if you weren’t immediately infected, your life was still in danger.
Year 1210 was when Ash and Levi were born. The best friends had nineteen years of friendship shared between them when the particles wreaked havoc on the planet. It started in university, when the two watched in horror from their dorm room window as rain began turning their classmates into monsters on the street below.
Ash never forgot how Levi yanked the curtains shut, ran and locked their door and pulled him close, promising how they would survive this.
“We’ve seen enough zombie movies to make it through this, Levi. I’d venture to say we might even thrive!” Ash had quipped, which earned him a side-eye from his best friend.
“Well just know that if there’s ever the chance, I’m gonna be the one who’s sacrificing my life for you.” Levi had said.
“You’re quite eager to die, I see.”
“More like I’m eager for you to live.”
Ash had rolled his eyes at that, but couldn’t help the uncomfortable feeling that began to sprout in his chest. The thought of losing Levi and being alone in this new world scared him. Having to watch his best friend change and morph into something he wasn’t, was terrifying to think about.
Perhaps it was selfish of him, but at that moment, Ash had sworn that he would be the one that would die for Levi, not the other way around.
And so, sitting in their dorm room as shrieks began to fill the air, and only ramen in their cupboards for sustenance, the two boys started their journey.
A journey that may be ending very soon.
It's the year 1233 and Levi is watching Ash, his best friend, being dragged to the ground. He’d be damned if he let the younger boy die before him. All thoughts left his head as he snatched a spear from a guard standing next to him by the wall.
Ignoring her calls, Levi ran back out onto the field where the three creatures were swarming around Ash.
“Hey!” He yelled, trying to bring their attention to him. Two of the creatures snapped their heads up and hissed, eyes flashing green. They twitched and growled, slowly moving towards Levi while the third one hovered over Ash, protecting its prey.
Levi caught sight of Ash’s face and saw that his eyes were closed. Fear and rage filled his chest at the sight. It wasn’t right. Ash was never quiet. He always had something to say. Some quip to throw out, some movie reference that no one understood. He was a lot of things, but quiet was not one of them.
Levi took all of those thoughts and channeled them into his arm that held the spear. He lunged at the first creature, thrusting the spear forwards. It seemed to be taken by surprise, because it stumbled back, allowing Levi to press forwards and stab the spear through its chest, killing it instantly. The other creature wouldn't be so easy, however.
The creature darted towards Levi when his back was turned, claws aiming for his back. Levi sensed it in time and whipped around, swinging his spear with him. The creature jumped back and snarled. It threw itself at Levi, who dodged to the right and brought the spear down on the creature’s back, who howled in pain.
All of a sudden, Levi was knocked to the ground by a heavy weight barreling into him. The third creature had tackled him from the side.
He fell hard, thankfully not landing on his spear. He twisted around and held the creatures snapping jaws away from his face.
“If Ash saw this, he’d definitely make some comment about how this is like Jurassic Park,” Levi couldn’t help but think.
He cringed as some green saliva from the creature landed on his face. His arms strained as he held the monster above him, willing himself to find just a bit more strength. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other creature leap up and start to approach Ash’s limp body.
“No!” Levi cried out.
Just then, a whizzing sound zipped through the air and the body of the creature Levi was holding up suddenly went still.
Levi gasped when he saw the arrow sticking from the monster's head.
There was only one person who that could be.
“Thanks Ella,” Levi thought, extremely grateful for his bow-wielding cousin. He shoved the creature to the side and limped to Ash, who was stuck under the third creature who had also been taken down by an arrow.
Levi freed Ash and carefully picked him up. His heart beat sped up in fear when he couldn’t feel Ash’s pulse for a moment. But then...it was there.
“Thank you,” Levi whispered. He winced as blood from the gouge in Ash’s ankle began to drip onto his own leg.
He looked up to see a figure hurrying towards them, bow and arrow in hand.
“Ella.” Levi whispered, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Are you okay? We need to get him checked for immunity now. Come on, give him to me.”
Levi sighed and transferred his best friend into the arms of his cousin.
“Careful with him.”
“You know I will be.”
Levi watched as Ella ran to the walls, holding Ash tight. In a few minutes, they would know if Ash was immune or not. In a few minutes, Levi’s life could completely fall apart.
It was the year 1229 and the second day of the outbreak when Ash finally convinced Levi to let him drink water.
“Come on, you moron, I’m gonna die of dehydration if you don’t let me have some!” Ash yelled.
Levi had groaned, slapping his hand on his forehead. “It’s in the water, ok? Didn’t you see the people being turned by the rain? It’s been all over the news!”
Ash paced around the room, kicking articles of clothing that lay about.
“But our water is filtered. It’s fine! Either I die of no water, or I maybe die of some weird virus that may or may not be in the water.”
“It’s definitely in the water,” Levi had retorted.
“Levi, this is basic chemistry. Tell me, which of us got an A in chemistry? Which of us got a C with the help of their roommate, hmm? The virus will be filtered out by our water filter.”
“What if it somehow is smart and can evade our filter?” Levi asked, eyebrows raised.
Ash’s jaw dropped. “Literally don’t speak again.” He said. With that, he turned around and snatched his glass, filling it to the brim with water and downing it all in one go.
When he finished, he set the glass on the countertop and looked at Levi, who looked horrified.
“See? Absolutely no...ahem...uh…” Ash suddenly clutched his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut.
“A...Ash?” Levi said quietly, fear lacing his words.
“I...I think you were... *cough*... right about the... *cough*... water.” Ash fell to his knees dramatically.
Levi ran up to him and grabbed his face. “Damn it, Ash! I told you not to drink the water!”
A grin then broke out on Ash's face.
“Ha! Gotcha! I’m fine.”
Levi dropped his hands away from Ash’s face.
“Are you serious right now? You're actually the worst! What would I do if you actually died?” Levi whined, shoving Ash to the ground, who laughed.
“Awww, you big softie. You’d be fine. Just find a new best-friend or something.” Ash chirped.
“Yeah, like anyone could replace you.”
Levi sat on a chair beside Ash, who was lying on a bed covered in warm blankets. His knuckles were turning white from how hard he was clenching his hands together.
“Are the results almost in?” He asked Ella, who was bustling around the bed, bandages in her hands.
“Just a few more moments,” came the hurried reply.
Levi glanced over at his friend. His eyes traveled over his fluffy white hair, his closed eyes and his too thin form. His face looked...peaceful in a way. This was the first time Levi had seen him like this since the outbreak. No worry lines on his forehead, no downturned lips in disgust. Just the overall softness of his natural features.
Levi would later recall that it was in that moment that he knew. He knew that it was Ash’s time to go. It was his turn to find peace, even if he would be leaving Levi behind.
“The results are in.” Ella’s grave voice broke Levi out of his revere.
Levi swallowed hard and looked up into Ella’s sad eyes. He shook his head.
Levi nodded and stood up. He gently grasped Ash’s hand in his and gave it a small squeeze.
“Do you want to be the one to do it?” Ella asked quietly. Sadness tugged at Levi’s heart when he heard the words. They couldn’t have Ash turning into a creature there inside the walls where he could endanger others. In addition to that, Levi couldn’t stand the thought of watching Ash turn into something so awful. Something brainless and dead-eyed. Something so fundamentally not Ash.
People often view change as something good, something worth striving for, but Levi had always scoffed at that idea. Change isn’t always a good thing. It’s not innocent like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. Sometimes it’s like the leaves changing colors in fall. Sure, on the outside there’s beauty, but the leaves are dying and falling to the ground.
So no, Levi didn’t like change. He didn’t want to see Ash change. So he would have to be put to rest before that happened.
Levi shook his head. “Never. I can’t do it.”
He took one last long look at his best friend and walked out of the room, tears welling up in his eyes.
The loud bang of a gunshot was the final straw for Levi. He collapsed onto the ground, letting the tears flow freely.
“I’ll see you in another life, Ash. I promise. I’ll find the antidote for you, I swear.”
And so, Levi started a new journey, although there would always be a certain somebody missing from his side.