Blood. All around, blood pooled beneath piles of corpses. Movement stirred, causing disturbance in the light of day as it shifted with the shadows on the red ground. Utter shock shackled his legs, gripping tighter and tighter as he stared at his trembling hands. The warm liquid dripped between his fingers but the blood was not his own.
He knew because murderers never bled. He slowly looked around, watching with horror as the corpses stood up, groaning in unfelt agony. It was not long before they noticed a warm body; fresh meat for their unending appetite. However, they showed no aggression. Instead, they circled him with their rotting heads bowed as if he was their God.
“No…” the murderer could barely find his voice. “What have I done?”
. . .
She was scared in the darkness with the scent of urine and rotting flesh suffocating her. The air was barely breathable and cold. She cuddled against herself, feeling her heavy heart thump against her chest. She wanted to cry out for help but her throat was too sore from thirst, her dry lips as white as snow.
The girl was helpless, utterly helpless and alone in face of pain and suffering she knew was to return. Her thighs and wrists began throbbing again when she heard movement outside the blackness.
He was coming.
Suddenly, bright light burst into the room, blinding her. The girl shielded her eyes and once they had adjusted themselves, she saw a stark, tall figure looming above her head. A wide grin spread ear to ear on his pale face and the long, blonde hair did very little to hide the menace in his twinkling eyes.
“I must say,” he spoke, head cocked sideways in amusement. His voice sent shivers down her spine. “It is quite fortunate that we found you here. Don’t you know how dangerous it is for a little lady like you to wander the roads alone? The infected are everywhere! Just one can tear you from limb to limb. Now, I would never want that for you.”
The girl twitched upon the man’s lustful touch, his fingers gently caressing her soft cheeks. “You know, it has been two days since we met and I have given you everything but I don’t know your name. Weird isn’t it?”
The man forced her to face him, “I’m Lars. Now you know my name, why don’t you tell me yours? Come on, I’ll be gentle this time.”
The girl turned away, tears welling up inside her eyes as she gulped down her fears. Lars sighed, clearly disappointed. He moved closer for a kiss anyway. She closed her eyes, dreading the pain and humiliation, her own blood a hostage in her veins. She wanted all this to end, to suffer no more.
For once, someone listened.
Lars stopped before he even began as a ruckus erupted above their heads. He groaned in annoyance but not before flashing a cheery smile her way did he leave. “I’ll be back my sweet.”
Maybe, it was just her luck today. The girl noticed that the door did not click this time it was closed meaning, it was not locked. She mustered what little was left of her strength and stood up, leaning against the wall.
It was now or never.
. . .
The magazine contained seven bullets, his last line of defense. It was a defense that the nineteen year old straggler had foolishly used up when a lone infected jumped him in the dim light of the tunnel. It was a wild, hideous beast with its claw-like hands stretched out to grab its prey. Two shots missed, four landed on the body, not even making it flinch until the last went right between the eyes but not before it got too close for comfort.
Now the straggler strolled across the empty, lifeless highway. His shoulder was numb but he let the bite bleed into his upper. There was no point in patching it up. The Sun looked down on him, mocking him as karma finally caught up. He shook with laughter, yanking the pistol into the windshield of a red Sedan.
Run little rabbit, run.
The straggler scoffed. He would run no more. As if in defiance, the cracking of fire echoed in his mind and rang in his ears, the bright, burning flames reeled across his eyes and the smell of ashes filled his nostrils. He clenched his fists and greeted his teeth as the world around him had begun to spin. It spread an itch in his leg, the same itch that made him run away when it mattered the most.
“Damn it!” He cursed himself, punching the ground. “Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!”
No matter what he felt, this was what he deserved. A traitor like him should never have lived this long. There was no fitting end for a coward than a pathetic death; turning into one of them.
A few minutes of silence prevailed until it was disturbed by the sound of soft, running footsteps. The straggler perked his ears and opened his eyes. He slowly stood up, the dizziness hazing his mind but curiosity guided his strength a bit further. Out of the blue, a girl ran into him but the car to his back prevented him from falling down.
She was not so lucky. When the girl came to, she gasped and backed away, panting with breathlessness. At best, she was thirteen or fourteen years old. Her white dress was dirty and torn up while her short curly hair was a mess. Tears rolled down her sunken cheeks as if droplets on a window pane. She was sobbing as she ran. If she indeed was, the glare in her eyes pointed otherwise now. What truly caught the straggler’s attention were her dry lips and the way her stare dropped down to the water bottle against his waist.
She was thirsty.
Slowly, without giving it a second thought, he placed his bottle on the floor and stepped aside. “You can have it,” he told her. “It’s full.”
The girl hesitated as she glanced between him and the bottle. He, however, did not mind as he understood. In fact, it was not smart to trust a stranger in this messed up world. He decided it best to give her some space but the minute he let his guard down, sharp pain erupted from his groin, forcing him to curl up on the floor in an agonizing daze. Once it had cleared, the girl was gone and so was the bottle.
He should have listened to his own advice however, he only chuckled. “Go on ahead, it’s not like I’d be needing it anymore.”
. . .
It was not long before the straggler heard a scream. Oddly it was familiar; in a voice he never expected to hear again. The straggler felt the adrenaline coarse through his veins, allowing him to ignore his body slowly shutting down. He willed himself to stand up and follow the scream, his heart growing heavier with each step he took. Could he take having to go through it again? Did he have what it took to make amends?
He had to try; he just had to.
As he followed the highway, the screams drew closer but mixed with it was… laughter. The straggler frowned, slowing his pace until he turned a corner and froze, petrified as the shackles tightened around his throat. No voice could escape his tongue. His entire body trembled. Was it fear or the change that was occurring? He did not know. A part of him begged him to run but his legs intentionally refused to obey. At the back of his head, a voice mocked him with amusement, the same voice that laughed in front of him.
One of the six brutes noticed his presence and elbowed the blonde, pale man curling all over his prey. The straggler did not want it to be, he dreaded the time he would have to face his regrets but when he saw the smug face, memories flooded into his mind; memories that were too painful to remember.
Lars stared at the straggler, recognition pooling his eyes. “Well isn’t this to most heartfelt reunion ever eh boys?”
The men chuckled. Lars got up from his prey who turned out to be the same girl who stole the water bottle. “I did not know you were in town man. I would have arranged a get together. Trust me, I don’t disappoint.”
“Yes me! Your old buddy! Man I won’t ever forget that day. What was your sister’s name? Abooha, Abeera? Oh! Abeeha! Don’t do that brother, your making me go down the memory lane.”
“Oh really?” Lars mocked. “When I take a trip down there, you of all people should know that I don’t stop and this is one hell of a trip I tell you. I mean, we did her just like this right? Each of us got a turn and it was glorious but that was not the best part. No! I mean, you saw it with us didn’t you? We brought you back when you ran away like a little rabbit. One never misses the best part.”
The straggler was on the verge of tears as he slowly stepped back. His conscience screamed at him to run but for some reason, he did not listen.
“I remember her screams; they are like music to my ears as I enjoyed the impressive bonfire she organized for us.”
The straggler slowly stepped back; he could no longer take any more of this pain. Lars noticed this. “Well go on run! Run little rabbit run!”
He wanted to, more than anything else but guilt took hold of him. His eyes met the girl’s, reflecting her own horrors. It was like adding fuel to the fire in his heart; he could not bring himself to make the same mistake.
Lars, however, was disappointed. “Well there goes the chance I wasted on you back then.”
The boom of gunfire rang in the air as the straggler stumbled with the impact, losing all control of his body. Another shot rang but this time more distant, as his perception slowly faded away. He did not feel the bullet hit him. There was a third shot, he knew, but this one missed. He glanced out of the corner of his eye, only to see the girl push Lars aside. What a fool; she could have ran.
People often said that when they die, their life flashes before their eyes and a bright light would shine down from the sky that only the dying could see. These were all lies for all he could see was the emerging darkness.
. . .
The girl’s body had moved on her own without even realizing it. Once, when the sirens boomed the skies, her mother had said, “In this new world, everyone will take advantage of you however they can. You just have to look after yourself.” She hated these words. Being alone was far scarier.
However, Lars was the perfect proof of these words and yet, this stranger… he was the opposite. He could have snuck away long before the men noticed him but he didn’t.
Now, it did not matter for he was dead.
Or was he?
Everything happened in a blur. When Lars slapped her, she heard the screeches of infected sprinting towards them, a hoard as per one of the men who shouted. Gunfire soon followed alongside screams of pain and then, in the end was a blood curdling roar. Her heart wrenched so painfully that the girl dared not open her eyes.
When all was calm, she opened them only to find the hoard surrounding her. She screamed but they ignored her. She pushed past them but they did not attack. She realized their… harmlessness too late for in her haze, she felt a warm liquid tickling her bare feet.
It was blood.
Short, shallow breaths, her mother had taught during the chaos. It calmed the nerves and lets the fear flow away. The girl frantically searched around but the walking corpses were everywhere, standing in a circle as if worshipping something that stood in the centre. How was she still alive?
“No… What have I done?”
She pushed past the corpses and found him, the stranger at the centre. He was the God they worshipped. His eyes were blood red, once reflecting the lust to kill but now there was only confusion. He looked up, staring straight at her. The infected, as if they understood, moved away. The girl watched the impossible with awe.
She was just as confused as him but only he began to panic. Coughing blood violently, the man whose bottle she stole collapsed in a fit of panic. The girl wanted to run but something within her disagreed; it was the part that wanted to help him even though they had only just met. She began walking away but stopped just as quickly.
It was wrong to just leave him out here. She did not need a death in her conscience but what guarantee there he would continue the cycle of torture again? She could do nothing against him but he was also the first she met in her life who without hesitation gave her water.
She turned back, deciding, at last, to help him. “Hang on.”
. . .
For once, he slept a dreamless sleep. All around him there was only the soothing void and the silence. He wanted it to go forever but eventually like all life, it, too, demised. The straggler stirred sleepily, adjusting to the night around him. His head throbbed but the pain was dampened by a pillow that was a bag. He grunted, attempting to get up but his entire body was numb.
He should have been dead, but instead he had only a mild concussion and a faint idea on how he survived. Even now, he felt the empty minds of the infected roaming in the distance. What was he?
“You saved my life.”
The straggler heard the girl say to him. She sat beside him, legs raised and arms curled around them. He looked into her hard eyes and then turned away, embarrassed. “Why did you save me?”
“I could ask you the same.”
He had no answer. With a grunt, he sat up, “You’re wearing my upper.”
He felt her flush but it did not matter to him. Those men had torn away her clothes, leaving her exposed. His large upper was the perfect substitute. The straggler massaged his shoulder that apparently was patched up by the remnants of said dress. He looked at her for an explanation. “The bleeding wouldn’t stop,” she answered.
He ignored her and stood up anyway. His shirt hung on a rusty car; he wore it and began walking away, clutching his hand.
“What are you doing?” The girl called out.
“What you should be.”
“Don’t leave me!” She begged.
“Why are you saying things like that?” He snapped. “For all you know I could be just like them. You’re defenseless right now; nothing is stopping me from having my way with you so a word of advice, be careful with whom you affiliate with.”
The straggler was confused. Once, fear and hesitation dominated him but now, in just a few hours, all he could find was resentment, anger and frustration. What was happening to him? Was it the bite? He liked himself less and less because if it was one thing he despised, it was monsters.
The girl, however, was very stubborn. She stood in his way, forcing him to drop his eyes. “But you won’t; I just know it.”
He scoffed, “After everything that has happened to you, you’re still too naïve.”
“No. I can tell because you don’t look at me the way they did.”
The straggler stopped, utterly speechless. He glanced at the tears welling up inside her eyes, her heart melting like snow. “I heard what they said about your sister; I can tell what it does to you even though it was not your fault. You’re afraid that I’ll end up like her? Is that why you won’t let me come with you?”
“After what you just saw, you still want me near you?”
“Death is no stranger to me.”
“People learn from their mistakes,” the straggler spoke coolly. “But you seem to be the exception.”
These words broke her. “Mistakes? Is that what they are to you? Do you know what it’s like to be treated like a doll? Have you ever been raped all night like a toy tossed around by the boys? You can’t even begin to imagine the pain I went through, the insecurities I live with. There is no guarantee that after today another won’t jump on me that is if an infected doesn’t get me first. You know all this so would you be able to live with it for the rest of your life? If your conscience can accept leaving an innocent alone and defenseless, then you’re right; maybe you are another rapist in the making.”
The straggler could not even bring himself to look at her desperate, pleading eyes as she wiped them clean but the tears just kept on coming. He remembered his sister’s pleas; her voice still rang in his ears. He had betrayed her; hurt her because of his own lack of will. How could he even bring himself to repeat that? The girl in front of him did not deserve this fate.
He sighed and turned around, “Fine, you win.”
He understood the games she played but that did not make her wrong. Relief swept over the girl as she smiled faintly, “Thank you! Thank you so much.”
“I’m Ichigo by the way. Sorry for stealing your bottle.”
The straggler sighed, “Anakh.”
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Hi! I just want to say great job on writing this story! I think it's very entertaining! :)
No problem! :)
What was your favorite part?