“You have got to be kidding me!” Raz slung the rifle over her shoulder and gave the rubbish bin a kick, with a well-executed grunt for good measure.
“No, he’s not kidding,” Ky said, kneeling beside Will who was collapsed against the wall.
“I’m not kidding,” Will gasped. He clutched at his bloody shoulder.
“The bullet’s gone right through.” Raz continued giving the rubbish bin a beating. The poor thing didn’t deserve it, but Raz’s temper was sky-high.
Nothing had gone right these past few days. First they got kicked out of the shelter… well, Raz got kicked out for beating a guy who stole her food, and her boyfriend decided to follow, along with his idiotic best friend who had somehow managed to get shot.
Then she started laughing at the hilarity of the situation. Scratch laughing, she was cackling like a witch over her cauldron.
“Umm, is she okay?” Will whispered to Ky.
“She’s in one of her moods,” Ky said. “It’ll pass.”
Raz finally got everything out on the rubbish bin. She stood with her forehead against the wall for a few seconds before whipping out her dagger, the tip millimetres from Will’s throat.
Will squealed, jumping a little, then grimaced, paling in pain. “Please don’t kill me, I don’t want to die.” The world had been destroyed by a deadly outbreak of zombie-itis, dying was inevitable. It was a miracle they had even survived this long.
“Who’s brilliant idea was it to bring you along?” Raz said.
Will gulped. “Ky’s,” he whimpered.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that,” Raz moved the dagger closer, enough to nick his skin. “Say it a little louder.”
“Ky’s,” Will repeated, bottom lip trembling.
Raz pulled back the dagger, shifting it to Ky who had definitely seen it coming, but knew better than to argue with Raz when she was angry.
“So, let me get this straight. You insisted that your friend tag along even though he would have been perfectly fine at the shelter. Because you know, out here in the fucked up real world, the military shoots whoever wanders past, whether they’re zombies or not. Now he’s shot, and you’re going to expect me not to abandon him, but instead come up with some brilliant idea to save him. Am I about right?”
“There’s a hospital not far from here, I’m sure we can get some supplies—”
Raz shook her head. “I wasn’t asking you to come up with a solution.”
Ky touch Raz’s arm, putting on his best puppy eyes. “Please, Raz. He can’t die.”
“I’m going to die?” Will said, looking at his wound, horrified. Goodness, he really was an idiot.
Raz sucked in her cheeks, sighing the longest sigh. “If we get killed,” she sheathed her dagger, “I will beat both your arses in the afterlife.”
Ky set his hand on Raz’s waist, down the perfect curve of her hips, and the hard muscle of her thighs. He kissed away Raz’s anger, tasting the dust on her lips, but also the sweet cherry balm he had lent her.
“I’m dying over here,” Will cried. “Please save your mushiness for when I am not hanging above the jaws of death.”
Raz rolled her eyes. “You’re not going to die,” she said. Ky helped Will up. Raz loaded her rifle with more bullets. “Stay behind me.”
Darkness had fallen, meaning whatever zombies lurking around wouldn’t see them. But that also meant Raz couldn’t see them either. Ky shone a torch behind her, but the light was dim – anything too bright and they might as well be asking to get infected.
They made their way down the pavement lined with broken street lamps.
The hospital was hidden behind a barrage of abandoned skyscrapers. Raz had never seen the city in its glory. Her mum had been eight months pregnant with her when all hell broke loose. She got infected and Raz’s dad had carried her all the way to the hospital.
They shot her and cut Raz from her dead body.
Her dad always her told stories of what the city looked like when it was lit up. Everyone described it as a ghost town now, but Raz had never known anything different.
Her dad’s last words had been. “我爱你，蕊，我一会儿就回来”. I love you, Rui, I will be back in a bit. Because she had been screaming for him not to go. As can probably be figured, he never came back.
And she never let anybody call her Rui again.
The hospital doors were jammed open, a light behind the counter still blinking. It looked frozen in time – chairs knocked over, gurneys abandoned. There were blood marks all over the floor, and intestines smeared everywhere.
Will made a choked sound. “I think I’m going to faint.”
Raz pulled the dagger on him again. “If you do not shut up, I will personally asphyxiate you.” Everything was dark save for that one blinking light and Ky’s torch. “Wait here.”
“There could be zombies in there,” Will said.
Raz waved the rifle in his face. “You think I’m holding this for fun.”
Her boots still squeaked against the hadn’t-been-polished-in-years floor, so she went on her tiptoes.
She had been trained since birth to be conscious of everything around her.
Zombies were monsters, you couldn’t hold compassion for them.
There had been a woman at the shelter whose child had been infected. As per shelter rules, the child either had to be killed or they had to leave. She left with him. The next day during patrol, Raz had found her wandering in an alleyway, blood down the front of her dress. She was still clutching onto her child, a bite mark on her neck.
Raz shot them both right there.
“There’s a surgery room down the hall,” Raz said after she had done a whole sweep and didn’t come across any zombies. “They have some supplies there.”
Will’s face was ashen, his breathing laboured. “I don’t know if I can walk any more, I can’t really feel my legs.”
Raz looked at Ky. “He’s lost a lot of blood,” he said.
“Hold this.” Raz shoved her rifle into Ky’s arms. She walked up to Will and bent down. “Put your arms around my neck.”
“What?” Will scrunched his face, confused.
“I’m going to carry you to the room,” Raz said. “Unless you want to walk.”
“I think I’d rather walk,” Will said, fear in his eyes.
“You’re wasting everybody’s time here,” Raz said, her patience wavering.
Finally, Will slung an arm around Raz’s neck, in a swift movement, she lifted him from the ground. It would have been easier to just throw him over her shoulder, but she knew Ky would disapprove.
They made their way to the surgery room. Raz set Will down on the table and snatched her rifle back from Ky. “Just fix him.”
“Thank you for doing this,” Ky said. “I know you didn’t want him to come, but I couldn’t leave him.”
Raz shifted uncomfortably. “You could have just not come. You didn’t beat up a guy.”
Ky smiled. That was what Raz had fallen in love with. That smile that made his dimples appear and his eyes sparkle. “I wouldn’t dream of leaving you. Can’t think of anyone better to protect me.” He kissed her neck.
“All right, how about we do this after the idiot stops bleeding,” Raz said, turning around to stand guard at the door.
Everything was going smoothly until a thud came from the entrance.
Raz remained calm, peeking around the corner. The shadow of a person stood against the glass, complete with the tell-tale twitching of the undead. She fired once, hitting them right in the head. They crumpled without a sound.
Heavy footsteps fell behind her.
Raz was completely calm.
The blinking light shone onto their rotting faces, blood dripping from their lips, flesh between their teeth. There were five of them, stumbling towards her, growling at the scent of fresh meat.
Raz put a bullet in each of them. Then kicked their strewn bodies aside. It was that easy.
However sometimes, easy was not always the case.
A hand clamped around her ankle and pulled. Raz slipped on the blood. She managed to catch herself, but the zombie was already climbing up her back, slimy hands pinning her to the ground.
Its hair tickled the back of Raz’s neck as it leaned down to take a bite of the exposed skin.
Raz ripped the dagger out of its sheath.
She twisted her arm, shaking her shoulder from the zombie’s grip and rolled out from beneath it. She drove the dagger through its half-falling-out eye, and slid across the pool of blood. It snarled and made another lunge at Raz. But this time, she filled the body with bullets.
It was a little girl. She even had pigtails and a pink dress.
Raz didn’t feel anything though.
What else could have been done?
You knew it was a fucked up world when children were taught not to feel love or compassion, but to kill. The only reason Raz could even love was because that was the one thing her dad taught her.
Raz stood up, covered in blood like Carrie from prom night. She had found an old DVD lying around the shelter and watched it on the crappy TV.
She almost slipped in the blood again, and looked up. Only to see not one, not five, but around twenty zombies lumbering from the other side of the hallway.
Raz ran, almost flying to the surgery room. She didn’t run laps around the shelter at five am for nothing.
Ky was still stitching Will up when Raz went rushing in. “We have to go.” Ky’s brows furrowed at Raz’s blood-covered clothing.
“I’m almost done,” Ky said.
Raz shut the door, severing a zombie’s fingers. She stood up against it, but they were all pounding and scratching. “I won’t be able to hold this for very long.”
Ky remained calm though, wrapped bandages methodically around Will’s shoulder.
Sweat was gathering on Raz’s forehead. Zombies just had to be so stubbornly determined.
“There’s an exit over there,” Will pointed behind him, proving useful for once.
Raz gritted her teeth. “Okay, on three, we’ll make a run for it. Understood?” Ky and Will nodded. “One.” Raz readied her rifle. “Two.” Her heart gave a beat. “Three!” They ran.
The door went off its hinges behind them and the zombies came piling in.
Raz ran, the exit in sight. They were almost going to make it out.
Then, a zombie leapt onto Ky.
He pushed Will towards Raz. She fired at it, pulling Ky out from the crowd before he could be devoured, then threw Will over her shoulder so he wouldn’t slow them down.
The air outside always smelt strongly of putrefying flesh, but Raz had never felt such an exhilaration in breathing it in. Adrenaline pumped all through her, a burn coursing in her muscles.
“They’re coming,” Ky panted. “Raz, give me your rifle.”
“What?” Nobody asked for her rifle.
“I can hold them off,” Ky said.
Ky was selfless, but he knew the line between selflessness and idiocy. He wouldn’t be volunteering to get killed unless…
Raz’s heart dropped to her stomach. “Are you infected?” she asked.
“Give me your rifle,” Ky repeated
“No, you tell me! Are you infected?” Will shined the torch onto Ky’s arm. Bloody teeth marks clamped across his bicep.
“It is too late.” His knees buckled. Raz rushed forwards, catching him before he fell and cracked his skull open.
“No!” Anger burned in Raz’s chest, because that was the only emotion she could really feel. She supposed she had just been born angry. “You don’t get to do this to me.”
Ky’s eyes drifted to Will, then back to Raz. “There’s something I have to tell you.” His chest heaved. Raz wasn’t stupid, she knew that once bitten, there was no chance of reversing the transformation. He swallowed. “My real name isn’t Kyle. It’s Kylie.”
A breath of a second of silence.
And Raz saw the years of hurt and shame flash across Ky’s face.
How many times had people told her that lifting weights were for men? That she had too much muscle for a woman, that no man would ever desire her that way. So much so that sometimes she wished she was a man.
Those were the cages that society, even a dysfunctional society put over people. Raz couldn’t even begin to imagine what it felt like to be confined to a female body when you knew that was not who you were.
Raz just held Ky’s cheeks and kissed him. “And I thought Will was the idiot,” Raz said. “Considering everything that’s wrong with the world. You thought I would care about that?” She tried to laugh. “My real name isn’t Raz either. It’s Rui, it means the stamen of a flower. My dad gave me that name.” The tears prickled at her eyes. “Kyle or Kylie, it doesn’t matter. It never mattered. You’re just Ky to me.”
A tear trailed down Ky's cheek. He wiped it away. "I'm sorry, I know you hate a person who gets overly emotional. It's just... no one has ever said that to me."
"Then they're all idiots," Raz said.
Ky reached into his pocket and pulled out a necklace. The clasp was rusted and so was the chain, but from it hung a pendent made of twisted wire - it spelt Kylie. "My mum made it for me because I was her little girl. I think she did understand when I told her that I was boy, but she just didn't want to acknowledge it. She died with this image of a daughter named Kylie who never existed."
"My dad only knew me as Rui as well. The gentle, sweet, loving Rui." Not Raz overwhelmed by the anger of the world.
“I have seen her, she is still in you," Ky said. "So, give me your rifle, Rui." He was still a smile on his face. “Let me protect you for once.”
Will had already started sobbing rivers. “This is too much for me, I can't watch this. You can't die, Ky!”
“It’ll be okay, Will.” The zombies were beginning to clamber out the jammed door. Pain clawed at Raz’s chest as she pressed the rifle into Ky’s arms. “Go,” he said. “Run!”
“我爱你。” wo'ai'ni. I love you. Raz had never said those words to anyone, not even her dad.
He used to sing this song to her every night in his soothing voice, gentle even when it hit the climax.
I still remember that you promised me you wouldn’t let me find you gone
But you followed the south-retuning birds, flying so far
Love is like a kite with a broken string
Cannot hold onto the promise that you made
The words echoed in her ears. Through her teary vision, Raz saw Ky’s gorgeous smile. She grabbed onto Will, sprinting into the night.
And from far, far away, she heard the firing of her rifle.