Warning: Graphic depictions of violence, Language
“Shit, this is cutting it too close.” Jeon pressed his back up against the cold, brick wall behind him. His eyes flicked to the iron watch resting on his wrist and he inhaled sharply.
4:20 pm. He had exactly 10 minutes to reach safety. 10 minutes to not be locked out of the compound. 10 minutes until he would possibly never be seen again.
Jeon shivered at the frigid breeze that swept his dark hair to the side. Winter is the most dreaded season these days. The sun sets much too early, abandoning this side of the world to the dangers that lurked in the shadows.
Jeon peered around the corner of the building he was hiding behind and narrowed his eyes, scanning the roadside. He then turned and let his eyes scour the sidewalk in the other direction, begging for the familiar form of his partner to appear.
“Where the hell are you, Peter?” Jeon muttered, checking his watch again.
If they ran, it would take around 4 minutes to reach the warmth and comfort of the compound. Even if Peter magically appeared and they left right now, they would be cutting it far too close.
Jeon adjusted the heavy pack that he was carrying. Stuffed all the way to the brim were supplies. Food, medical equipment, and blankets. All were necessities to reach the compound tonight. But that wouldn’t happen if Peter didn’t show up. Because there was no way he was leaving his partner behind to face what nightfall would bring.
5 hours earlier.
“Aw come on, J! It’d go so much faster if we split up! We could collect double the supplies and cover double the area.”
“Yeah and double our chances of not getting back in time.” Jeon retorted, glaring at Peter and flicking him in the face.
“Ow! Rude.” Peter huffed and picked up the pace, practically zooming down the empty sidewalk.
“Hey! What did I say about sticking by my side?” Jeon called after the younger boy.
Peter spun around with a sheepish look on his soft features. “Oops.”
Jeon sighed. “Yeah ‘oops.’ I don’t know why I agreed to let you come with me.” He said, motioning for Peter to come over to help him loot a store.
“Cause Sam is sick and you need a partner and who’s a better option than your best friend that you’ve known for 20 years?!” Peter exclaimed while hopping over a shard of broken glass.
“Thanks for the exposition, Pete.” Jeon said.
The two began swiping food from the shelves into their packs. A couple of times Jeon had to bat Peter’s hands away from trying to grab a cartoon of cheese or milk.
The next 4 hours went smoothly. The two men collected lots of canned food and even some medicine. The only hindrance was Peter complaining that his pack was too heavy which led to Jeon taking a few extra cans to lighten up the younger one’s pack.
Around 20 minutes later, the pair found themselves in an electronics store in search of some batteries or flashlights.
“Grab anything useful you see,” Jeon instructed.
Peter nodded and snatched up a pack of double A batteries before turning to Jeon.
“Hey so I actually saw a stuffed animal store on our way here, could I run back and grab some? It’d only take a minute or two.”
Jeon shot an incredulous look towards his friend. “How old are you again?”
“No, no, not for me! I just thought some of the younger kids back home would like one.” Peter said, fiddling with his hands.
Jeon took in Peter’s pouting lips and doe eyes for about a millisecond before he gave in.
“Fine. But you had better be back in 15 minutes or less, ok? You said it was down the street just a couple stores away, correct?” He asked.
Peter grinned and nodded. “Y…yeah. Not far away at…at all.”
“Be safe, Pete,” Jeon said. He watched his best friend skip out of the store happily before turning back to the flashlights he was looking at. He glanced at his watch.
“We’ve got time.”
“That better not have been the last time I’m going to see that idiot.” Jeon said, stepping out from behind the building and darting down the sidewalk for a few steps before ducking into another storefront.
Where are you, Pete???
Because as it turns out, they didn’t have time. 15 minute had come and gone with Jeon becoming more and more panicked.
He had frantically searched all of the surrounding stores but none of them had stuffed animals in them.
Peter had lied to him. That hurt Jeon more than anything. Even if Peter hadn’t meant any harm by it, he clearly hadn’t realized how far away the store was. And now he was lost and Jeon didn’t know what to do.
Then, a piercing howl broke through the silence.
Jeon froze, absolute horror stabbing through him. He forced his eyes down to check his watch.
They’re out early tonight.
Jeon felt around for the gun that he kept in a holster on his cargo pants. He pulled it out and checked the ammunition.
I really don’t want to have to use this.
With the weapon clutched tightly in his hands, Jeon stepped out of the storefront and back onto the sidewalk. Off in the distance, the moon was rising, barely a thin crescent. It did little to nothing in shedding light on the nearly pitch-black expanse of road.
Keeping his senses on high alert, Jeon paced down the road, scanning the storefronts for any sign of the phantom ‘stuffed animal’ store that Peter had begged to go find.
I’m such an idiot. Why did I let him go by himself? Why!?
Jeon shook his head, trying to get rid of his screaming thoughts. He didn’t have time to focus on his guilt right now. That would be something to deal with later.
A second howl then rang through the streets, triggering Jeon to raise his gun and whip it around.
He’d never seen one of the…things. But he’d heard enough stories from others to know that he certainly didn’t want to encounter one. His normal partner Sam had come face to face with one before and the look in his eyes from that night still haunted Jeon. He prayed that he wouldn’t ever see one. Even worse, would be Peter seeing one on his first supply run.
The thought urged Jeon to pick up the pace. By now, he was sprinting down the sidewalk, staying as close to the buildings as he could. Shrieks and howls started more frequently as well.
But then, Jeon’s ears picked up a different sound. It contrasted so starkly to the grating sound of yells. It was a cry of fear. A human cry.
Jeon’s heart skipped a beat. It was Peter, he knew it was.
Without any other thought in his brain other than get to him, Jeon sprinted across the street to where the sound came from.
Jeon’s eyes were adjusted to the dark enough that he was able to make out two figures in the alley ahead of him. One was slim and tall, the other was hunched over and gnarly.
Jeon ran closer and saw that Peter was backed up against the alley wall, hands in front of him. The creature was looming above him and growling. It was the most horrifying sound Jeon had ever heard.
“Peter, duck!” Jeon screamed. The moment he saw the other man drop to the floor, he raised his gun and fired a set of rounds into the creature.
It jolted forwards when the first bullet lodged into its flesh and collapsed to the ground at the second.
Jeon wanted to throw up as he watched the abomination convulse on the ground, spewing brown and red liquid from the wounds. The creature's purple eyes flicked up and bored into Jeon, who shivered. Then, it seemed to gather up all of his remaining energy and let it out in one long howl.
Jeon resisted the urge to cover his ears and forced himself to run the rest of the way to Peter, who was still on the ground.
Jeon dropped to his knees in front of the man and cupped his pale face in his hands.
“Pete? Pete are you with me?” Jeon asked frantically, searching Peter’s glazed over eyes for signs of life.
Jeon’s hands carded through Peter’s mussed up hair and down his neck, searching for injuries. Thankfully, the motion seemed to wake the other up from his trance.
Jeon’s heart rejoiced when Peter blinked owlishly at him.
“I…is it gone?” He whispered.
Jeon nodded vigorously and began looping his arms around Peter to pull him up.
“Yes it’s dead but we have to go now.” Jeon risked a glance at his watch.
“It made such a horrible noise.” Peter said, letting himself be hauled up.
“Yeah, that wasn't just a dying shriek. That was a call. It let all the other creatures know where it is. Where we are.” Jeon said, tightening the straps on Peter’s backpack.
“Well that’s not good.” Peter said.
“You’re right. We have to run as fast as we can back to the compound, can you do that?” Jeon asked, hoping that his friend’s lethargic state wouldn’t last much longer.
“You should just go withou…”
Jeon didn’t let Peter finish his sentence, he grabbed his friend's hand and began sprinting down the alley. Away from the monster and towards home.
The pair rushed down the streets, Jeon pulling Peter along.
“I don’t think… we’re gonna make it… before they close the gates!” Peter shouted between pants of breath.
“What happened to you being the positive thinker of our little duo?” Jeon asked. He didn’t wait for an answer, just tightened his grip on the soft hand in his and pumped his legs even harder.
Howls and the heavy pounding of feet sounded loudly behind them.
“Don’t look back!” Jeon yelled, steering Peter down a side road that would lead to the compound.
“Wasn’t going to!” Peter replied, sounding very out of breath.
Peter's panting got Jeon worried. They still had a few blocks to go until they reached the compound and there was no way they could slow down.
“Stop talking, just focus on running!” Jeon demanded.
“What time is it?” Peter asked, apparently ignoring what Jeon had just told him.
“Doesn’t matter, just keep running!”
Jeon tried to tune out the sound of the creatures closing in on them, but to no avail. Their growls were too loud. The wretched sounds were terrifying. They sounded angry, like they knew one of their own had been killed. Jeon didn’t feel the slightest bit sorry.
As the pair bolted down alleyways and side roads, fear sprouted through Jeon. He discreetly peeked at his watch and realized his worry was well-founded.
They had exactly one minute until the doors to the compound would be shut, leaving them to die in the night.
Jeon wouldn’t let that happen.
I won’t let Pete die.
They rounded the final corner, allowing the warm lights of the compound to come into view.
“We’re gonna make it!” Peter screamed.
Jeon nodded and squeezed Peter’s hand. He didn’t want to be hopeful prematurely, but it did seem like they had just about reached salvation.
Jeon could see the gatekeeper Elle standing by the entrance, eyes wide and motioning for them to hurry.
The pair were a mere 100 ft from the entrance when a crack in the road caught on Jeon’s shoe, sending him crashing to the ground.
“Go!” He screamed as he fell, yanking his hand out of Peter’s.
“No!” The other man cried. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of one of the snarling creatures galloping up to them.
Jeon could barely comprehend what happened next.
Peter, his sweet, sweet Peter picked up a sharp rock from the ground and lunged at the creature.
Jeon couldn’t believe his eyes as he watched Peter bash the rock against the monster's skull, sending it to the ground in a heap.
Then, he turned to Jeon and grasped his hand, yanking him up. The two stumbled their way to the compound and through the gates, collapsing on the ground on top of eachother.
Jeon didn’t even register the sound of Elle shutting the gates with a clang. All he could focus on was Peter beneath him. Peter was whole, he was safe, he was alive.
Jeon sat up and gently ran his thumb under Peter’s eye, brushing away the tears that had slipped out.
“Are you ok?” He asked, voice shaking.
Peter sniffed and nodded. “I think so. What about you? I thought…I thought you were gonna die.”
Jeon shook his head and pinched Peter’s ear.
“Nah, you saved me, didn’t you?”
At that, Peter’s face crumpled. “It was all my fault to begin with. I lied. I knew the shop was further away than I said. I…I got lost on my way back.”
Jeon nodded. “I figured that. So…did you get a stuffed animal though?”
Peter sniffled and nodded, sitting up. Jeon moved to get off of him, but still sat close by.
The younger man opened his pack and pulled out a stuffed cat and a stuffed bunny.
“The cat is for the younger kids to play with. I only had room for one more, so I got the bunny for you, since…you kinda look like a bunny.”
Jeon pressed his hand over his heart in mock offence. “What are you talking about? I’m tough and mean looking!”
Peter just rolled his eyes and the two men chuckled, which quickly faded into silence.
“It looked awful.” Peter whispered. “I’m afraid I’ll see it in my dreams.”
Jeon mentally cursed himself. He had hoped with all of his being that Peter wouldn’t have to encounter one of the beasts.
“If you have a nightmare, don’t hesitate to come find me, all right?” Jeon reached forwards and tucked a piece of hair behind Peter’s ear.
“I don’t think I want to go on another supply run for awhile.”
“As if I’d let you go on one ever again.”
Peter huffed. “I mean I want to go on another one eventually. And if you won’t take me, I bet I could ask Sam to bring me along.”
“Oh hell no. Either you’re not going at all or you’re going with me.” Jeon said, frowning.
Peter smiled softly. “I think we should both rest up before either of us go on another run, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. Sleep. That sounds good to me.”