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Crime Drama Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The Station was falling apart, and there was nothing Shyla could do about it. The battered walls did little to protect from the cold. It was an old train station, really only a rectangular box with one open wall. Even with her multiple warm layers, the chill would sneak its way through her shoes, freezing her toes until they went numb. More often than not, she and the other survivors would huddle in the corner least damaged, waiting out the night. The sun didn’t shine bright enough to pierce through the ever-present clouds, but with the day came some small semblance of warmth.

But then winter would hit. That’s when their already small numbers grew ever smaller.

Shyla braced her back against the crumbling brick wall. Her mouth was tucked into her coat. She tried her best not to shiver so much; it annoyed the others, reminding them of their own suffering. Instead, she took long, even breaths. Her breath, only slightly warmer than the air, provided just enough heat to keep her chest from freezing.

She glanced around, noting that some of the others were doing the same. A boy a few years younger than her rocked back and forth, probably hoping the constant motion would keep him from falling into a deadly sleep. A woman around her age was going with old-reliable, rubbing her gloved hands together. No one spoke. Speaking meant losing precious heat. Shyla had stayed at the Station long enough to know the rules, and preserving warmth was the foremost among them.

The world was silent, save for the occasional cough. The outside world was blanketed in a heavy coat of snow. Shyla couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen greenery. There were rumors, of course, of lands farther south, where the cold couldn’t reach. Shyla didn’t believe it. The cold reached everywhere, touching the natural world as well as her belly. At least she could thank the winter for that. It was hard to feel hungry when you were already freezing to death.

The quiet was suddenly broken by a low murmuring sound. The crunch of boots, the laughter of men joking beyond the station. The boy, who had been rocking back and forth seconds earlier, sprang up and rushed to the entrance of the Station. No one berated him as he tripped over a sleeping man, though he did earn a few glares for his behavior. The boy stopped at the open entrance of the Station. He waved his hands back and forth, a smile slowly growing on his face.

The murmuring grew louder in response. Shyla heard the men’s boots slap against the concrete station platform. One after another, they all filed inside. Two of the men pulled a makeshift sled behind them, made from a broken extension cord and the Station’s bathroom door. One it was a load of blacked wood. While some of the other survivors rose to help unload the precious resource, Shyla hid her frown in the depths of her coat. It would barely last them a week if they were lucky. And they were rarely that fortunate.

It was the other men who caught Shyla's attention. They were older, grey hair sprouting from their balding heads. Their bodies were exceptionally frail, and yet in their arms was the largest deer Shyla had ever seen. Her head jerked up, immediately exposing her cheeks to the bitter cold. The men tossed the deer in the center of the Station floor. Shyla wished she could say her stomach turned at the sight of the thing’s seemingly bashed-in head. The creature’s face was nothing but bloody gore. Instead of sickness creeping through her veins, Shyla’s stomach churned. When was the last time she’d had meat?

Gasps echoed throughout the Station. For once, no one cared about the sacred rule of silence. The boy was the first to say something. He slowly shambled up to the corpse of the deer, putting his hand on it almost reverently. Most kids his age would cry if they saw the blood, but he looked about ready to die of happiness. He looked up to the old man as if he were a deity descended from heaven.

“Where?” The boy’s voice was scratchy from lack of use. The word was quickly said by multiple others. Shyla used the wall to stand, willing the blood to come back into her legs so that she too could touch the dead animal. The first old man seemed almost smug, taking a moment to ruffle the boy’s hair.

“Near the old park,” he said. His lips were blue, but the old man couldn’t seem to care less. He laughed, the strange and foreign sound bouncing around the Station’s dilapidated structure. “It was froze to the ground. Must have tried to break the ice and then stuck its foot in a little too close. It barely put up a fight when we knocked it dead.”

Old man #2 quickly laughed at that statement. His voice was colder than the wind outside the station walls. “When I knocked it dead. I don’t think you should go around getting everyone’s hopes up, Del. The thing’s half-starved—it’ll barely last us a day.”

Shyla ventured closer, having to shove others out of the way with her elbow, she wasn’t the only one who got up to see the meat. All thirteen of them had gathered around the two older men. Now that she was closer, Shyla could see the ribs poking at the deer’s skin. While the others stared at the animal with wonder, Shyla could only step backward, the pangs in her stomach growing more by the second. The old man was right. It wouldn’t feed them. While the two men erupted into an argument, Shyla looked around the room. Fifteen people in all. Slowly, she crouched to the ground and grabbed a brick, one that had long since loosed itself from the wall.

It wouldn’t feed all of them.

Her boots slid across the floor, as silent as a snake. The argument had grown louder, with Del and the second old man growling in each other’s faces. No one noticed the lone girl slowly making her way back to the group. Shyla stood behind the man who had been sleeping moments earlier. She grit her teeth, almost dropping the brick due to the numbness of her fingers. She tore off her right-hand glove with her teeth, exposing her fingers to even more harm, but also allowing her to stabilize her grip. Her heavy breaths fogged the air. In one jerking motion, she raised the brick over her head and slammed it down on the man’s head. It bounced off the first time, as if his head had frozen solid. He turned around, eyes wide with panic, but Shyla didn’t give him a chance to run. She let out a feral scream, one filled with hunger, and smashed it into his face. The man crumpled to the floor. Shyla was hitting the next person before he even hit the ground.

Shyla heard nothing, save for a constant ringing in her ears. Her body was suddenly rushing with an energy she hadn’t had in months. As her trusty brick came down on the second man, sweat beaded along her forehead. For once, the cold couldn’t compete with the heat of her blood, the adrenaline flowing through her veins. The second victim hit the floor, unmoving. Shyla looked for someone, anyone else that she could go after next, but the Station had erupted into pandemonium. The woman with the mittens had grabbed a long piece of metal and was hitting Del with it. The boy was running away from an older teen who was brandishing a heavy chunk of black wood. Old man #2 was finishing off a middle-aged woman with a rusted Swiss army knife. He turned his animalistic gaze on Shyla.

At that moment, time seemed to stop. Dully, Shyla heard glass shatter. She licked her lips. The old man’s hand trembled. Then, he was running. Straight for her.

Old man #2 may have had the better weapon, but Shyla was younger, and more rested to boot. The sweat made her shiver with pain, but that pain brought focus. The old man charged her, knife flashing. Shyla aimed for his head while he aimed for her gut. She barely felt the knife at all, instead putting all her energy into her swing. The old man yelped with pain, going down to one knee. The knife clattered to the concrete floor. Shyla felt her grip fading fast. The cold was simply too much for the exposed skin. Panic stirred the dredges of adrenaline back up. She raised the brick and hit the old man again, again, again, until his head resembled that of the deer. Shyla screamed with each hit, adding power to her strike.

Eventually, the brick fell from her hands. She could no longer feel them. Shyla took a step back before her knees buckled. Her hand went to her knife wound, or where the knife wound was supposed to be. The blade had cut through her layers but got stuck around a heavy-duty coat she had gotten last winter. Perhaps she had been lucky? She closed her eyes, basking in the sudden silence of the Station. It seemed she was the last one left. Her stomach gurgled. With a broken laugh, Shyla turned to the deer surrounded by blood—

—until something sharp was shoved into her eye.

Hot, searing pain coursed through her head. Shyla shoved the person away (the young boy, it seemed, had escaped his own demise after all), bending over and grasping at whatever had been stabbing into her. It was smooth, yet jagged. Her other, clear eye could barely see what it was: glass. Her mind could no longer function logically. Part of her wanted the glass out, but she was too weak. Even if she had been in the right mind, she wasn’t sure if she could. Shyla howled, an unearthly sound that was more akin to something a wolf would make.

Dully, there was a scrapping noise to her left, where she could no longer see. Shyla turned her head as fast as she could, only to see the boy holding her blood-stained brick in his hands. With a cry that rivaled Shyla’s own, he swung it straight into Shyla’s face. Like a hammer to a nail, the brick shoved the glass deeper into her brain, scattering smaller pieces around to cut her face. Shyla made a strangled, gargled sound. She tried to raise her hand. To do what, she wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter. The cold, the fight, the glass in her eye…she couldn’t go anymore. With a sigh, Shyla toppled over, her head hitting the ground. She barely felt it.

With her last bit of strength, Shyla’s singular eye turned to the boy. He was the last of them. He would eat his fill. The boy laughed, but it didn’t sound right. It was too high, too squeaky, and just a bit mad. He bent down to the deer with another, smaller piece of glass, trying to cut through what probably felt like solid metal.

Shyla’s sight faded. Her time was running out. But at least she wasn’t hungry anymore. At least she wasn’t cold. Blood ran down her cheek, the last bit of her warmth slipping down onto the ground. 14 dead and one starving boy to survive them all.

Well, at least there’d be

plenty

to                                                  

eat.

October 19, 2022 00:24

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9 comments

Julie Pruitt
20:53 Oct 29, 2022

Sue – you're an excellent writer, but this plot is way too dark for me.

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Sue Hunter
16:28 Oct 30, 2022

Muhahaha, it was meant to be dark, you've fallen for my trap >:) Thanks for saying I'm a good writer because sometimes it feels like everything I write is lackluster. One day I will write a story with a happy ending, just for you.

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Riel Rosehill
22:14 Oct 20, 2022

Woah, such a gruesome story! That kid was incredibly lucky to be the last one standing. What I found interesting was, despite their small group, this girl didn't even refer to her fellow survivors by name. Despite her being considerate at the begiinning b not shivering to upset others, throughout, there's a sense of detachment of it all - fitting for someone who is having to prioritise her own survival. My favourite sentences were: "She raised the brick again and hit the old man again, again, again, until his head resembled that of the de...

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Sue Hunter
23:44 Oct 20, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind review! Yeah, I wanted Shyla to feel very detached. I like to think that she's so used to seeing loss that she doesn't get attached to anyone anymore. I guess the kid could be considered lucky, but also incredibly unlucky as he now has to survive on his own. But as the last line said, he'll probably have plenty to eat for a while >:)

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Michał Przywara
21:19 Oct 19, 2022

Very intense! Starvation horror. I got strong vibes of the wendigo. She wasn't thinking rationally - 1 vs 14 is terrible odds - but that was the point. It was hunger madness. I suspect she's not thrilled about being dead, but she's probably also okay with it, since anything beat the frozen limbo they were stuck in. None of it was living anyway, it was just a prolonged, frigid death. It's neat, too, how her one act of violence was the trigger that made their little society go up in smoke. Things are fragile when survival is at stake.

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Sue Hunter
21:59 Oct 19, 2022

Exactly. I was watching a video on London's 'To Build a Fire' and got some inspiration from it. None of us really know true, deadly cold. I honestly wasn't sure about having the protag start the fight because I wasn't sure if having an all-out brawl would make sense, so I'm glad that you thought it was neat :)

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Graham Kinross
04:03 Oct 24, 2022

“Dully, there was a scrapping noise to her left,” having the need for the comma feels odd here. It could be, ‘there was a dull scraping sound to her left.’ I like the imagery with the comparison between the old man and the deer. You avoid overusing the word blood even though it’s something that you have to talk about a lot. Really well done.

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Sue Hunter
16:34 Oct 24, 2022

Yeah, that's a much better way to put that sentence. Thanks so much for the feedback, Graham, I really appreciate it! I'll definitely use your advice moving forward.

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Graham Kinross
21:26 Oct 24, 2022

You’re welcome.

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