“Trapped!” her mind screamed frantically at her. She glanced down at the large hunting knife in her hand. Its blade was covered in blood and brain matter from the three Walkers she had already killed. Her sides ached and her lungs burned but the thought that the forest, which had once seemed so safe and welcoming to her, would now be her grave got her moving again. She stumbled away from the large tree she was resting against as the three Walkers behind her shambled closer.
Holding her side she dodged around a bush dotted with red berries. A fourth Walker appeared in front of her and with a thin cry of defiance she hurled herself at it. His bony fingers scraped at her arms, his mouth reaching for her wrist as she grabbed the rotting flesh on the side of his head with her free hand and shoved the hunting knife through his opposite temple. The knife slid easily through the soft, putrid skin and pierced the Walker’s brain. He immediately fell to the ground pulling her down with him.
Sobbing and gasping, she staggered to her feet, placed one foot on the Walker’s head and wrenched the knife free. She could hear moaning behind her and turned to see the other three Walkers less than 5 feet away. Her struggle with the Walker had closed the short lead she had managed to gain. Already she was stumbling from exhaustion; she had no chance of outrunning them now.
She was going to die. She looked at the knife still clutched in her hand and thought about ramming it into her own eye. Her mind stopped it’s frantic, howling gibbering and a cold voice inside her spoke.
She suspected that this cold voice, so different from her usual internal one, was the voice that spoke for the true core of her. The one that spoke up only in matters of life and death, and it whispered to her now in the cold, calculating tone of someone who realizes death is imminent.
“At least take one of these rotting bastards out with you. Don’t die a coward’s death.”
Her heart, already fluttering like a trapped bird in her chest, began to race faster as fresh adrenaline coursed through her veins. The sound of her rapid, pounding heartbeat filled her ears. The forest around her seemed to sharpen; the orange and yellow of the changing leaves were so bright she was nearly blinded by them and time seemed to slow as the moaning, shuffling Walkers closed in around her.
She opened her mouth, drew breath to the bottom of her lungs and shrieked her final war cry to the forest before launching herself at the Walker nearest to her. She felt something brush past her face ruffling her hair, a gust of wind perhaps, and the Walker in front of her dropped like a stone, an arrow protruding from one eye.
The adrenaline pumping through her propelled her forward; she tripped over the body of the slain Walker and landed on her stomach, knocking her breath from her. She rolled to her back, gasping for air, as the second Walker descended upon her. She threw her hands up, one still gripping the knife tightly, as the rotting corpse of a woman dropped down on to her and the upturned knife. It lunged for her throat and with one hand she pushed on the shoulder of the Walker, forcing it backwards. She could feel the collarbone snapping under her hand as she struggled to pull the knife free from the rib cage of the thing on top of her. With a squealing, unearthly sound, the knife pulled free and she shoved the blade as hard as she could under the jaw of the Walker and up through its head. She turned her head away in disgust as blood from the Walker’s mouth showered onto her chest and throat.
The weight of the dead Walker bore down on her. Small breathless sobs escaped from her mouth as she shoved at the corpse. Its crushing weight disappeared as a hand gripped its shoulder and flung it to the ground beside her.
She took another deep, gasping breath and after a moment’s hesitation, accepted the hand of the man standing above her. He yanked her to her feet with one hard pull. He knelt down and wiped his own knife free of blood and gore on the dress of the Walker she had killed. She could see the third Walker on the ground behind him, a large fresh wound dribbled blood from the back of its skull.
Panting, her heart still beating like a runaway train in her chest, she stared at the man who had saved her life. He was wearing a dark pair of cargo pants and a leather vest over a long-sleeved shirt. A crossbow was strapped across his back and as he stood and faced her she found herself staring for a moment too long into his dark blue eyes.
He nodded silently.
She rubbed her hands across the front of her pants and held out the least blood-covered one towards him.
Ignoring her hand, he carefully placed his knife back in the holder attached to his belt.