Do not leave your homes/ stay inside, help will come to you/ repeat/ do not leave your homes/ stay inside, help will come to you
The armed forces are currently dealing with the outbreak of the parasitical pandemic, 7GH4O/ do not leave your homes, the situation is under control/ repeat/ the armed forces are currently dealing with the outbreak of the parasitical pandemic, 7GH4O/ do not leave your homes, the situation is under control
“Pray! Perhaps our Heavenly Father will see our repentance!” An old man, garbed in a grey, tattered robe, stood atop a piece of broken, twisted concrete. His hair hung in patches from his burnt, scarred head. “All who can hear me, I pray that you will hear the grace, God will pour out on you! We must simply pray for it!”
Remy, along with several other companions, glanced up at the preacher with disdain.
He ushered them down the boulevard, already crowded with refugees, away from the city centre. A nameless, lying preacher would not distract him.
He’d already had his fill of ‘faith’ and ‘grace’.
“Listen to me! This affliction will not overcome us—God made us, loves us and will keep us! Do not stray! For his burden is light; he will guide us to salvation! We will overcome.” The priest urged the refugees, snaring only a handful, to listen to his message. For those who stayed, the priest was a symbol of times gone past. An age when religion was at the forefront of humanity, surrounded by politics, economics, sciences and philosophies.
Now? All one could do was try to hold onto what little life remained.
Survival was all that mattered.
Still, to those who stayed and listened to the priest, he was a beacon of hope. Perhaps mankind could really usher back in the old ages, put a stop to the nightmare that had enveloped their entire planet. Maybe God would hear their petitions.
Remy, however, kept moving down the boulevard, trying to outrun what was apocalyptic consuming the city’s centre. In a matter of hours, the plague would claim the entire city, moving outwards and into the surrounding countryside.
Those that were taken by the affliction were quickly outnumbering those still alive.
“Cole’s still out there.” Miranda whimpered, reaching for Remy’s hand with tight, spindly fingers. “I think we should try for Riverton. It’s a small town, not as known as the other ones. He’ll be there.”
Remy took her hand, squeezing it gently. “In days the entire south is going to be taken over by the plague. Every small town will be overrun, I’m sorry, Miranda, but I’ve always been clear on going north when the city was attacked.”
“North? Right, because rationally the disease cannot survive up in the cold?” Brandon pushed a young man out of his way, trying to keep up with Remy and the others. “How do you know that, really? The disease could be just as potent in colder conditions. We don’t know much about it!”
“Please, Remy, we have to check Riverton. Cole has to be there. He just has to be!”
“We can’t risk taking such a long journey, I’m sorry Miranda. You are free to go there, but I won’t be joining you.” He let go of her hand, trying to keep his face fixed in a grim, emotionless expression. He had to be strong—in charge, not unsure of himself or his convictions.
“I might go too.” Brandon spoke up again.
“Go for it.” He turned his head to glance at the young man. “But hear me out first; this plague has only been infecting the populated regions so far. We saw it on the news, when this plague was restricted to Europe alone. The disease will take a while to branch out to the vast wilderness of the north. And not just because it’s cold— but because of how it’s barely populated.”
“Let’s hope Santa has enough room for us at the North Pole.” Carolyn muttered. She put her arm around Ben’s waist, holding him tightly.
“I hear reindeer taste pretty good with a little marinade.” Ben quipped, an odd, crooked smile on his face.
The joke, which sounded foreign on the boulevard crowded with bleeding, dying refugees, caused the corner of Remy’s lip to lift just a nudge. It was the first time he’d come close to smiling in days.
“I don’t know if we’ll go that far up north. I was thinking we’d find an island we could live on for a while. As far as I know, the disease doesn’t carry well over water. There are hundreds, if not thousands of lakes in the northern regions of the province.”
“The disease crossed the Atlantic just fine.” Carolyn said with a grimace.
“On an airplane, yes. I doubt anyone will be flying anymore by the time this disease takes over North America.” Brandon said with his hands in his pockets.
“We don’t know if it’ll take over North America. It’s not like we can’t fight this thing off.” Ben said, his eyebrows raised. “We had several months to plan for when this disease came to North America, I’m sure the government has a plan. Hell, they could be already distributing the vaccine right now.”
“That’s true, since there’s no news broadcaster anymore; maybe they’ve found the cure and just haven’t been able to let everyone know yet.” Miranda added.
“You can’t cure this damn thing with a vaccine!” Brandon snapped, stepping over a body that lay on the ground. “It’s not like the Black Plague, H1N1, AIDS or any other major disease that’s caused epidemics. This isn’t even a disease.”
Ben only gave his head a shake, making no reply.
Miranda, Carolyn and Remy kept walking down the boulevard, then turning off it onto one of the main arteries that led out of the city. Thousands of others did the same, some running down the road, while others limped on, barely able to keep from being trampled by the fleeing crowds.
No one drove.
Those who had thought they could drive out of the city were unable to make it past the abandoned cars left on the pavement. So they too left their cars, creating an even bigger barrier and jamming up the roads further.
An hour ago, two people on a motorcycle had tried to navigate the boulevard, but the rider was knocked out, his passenger ruthlessly shot. Then, in a mad-scramble, people tried to take the bike, turning into savages for a chance to escape the city faster.
In the end, the bike tumbled into the ditch, crushing its rider and several others who’d tried to hitch a ride.
Brandon spoke up once more, bothered that no one was listening to him. “It’s not a disease! It’s a parasite. I remember we were doing a biology study into symbiotic relationships in insects. But while I was researching, I stumbled onto this article about these parasites that would infect insects that lived in the rainforests of South America. They used a sort of ‘mind-control’, if you will, on the insects, using their bodies as a breeding ground. Then, when it was finished, it would sprout this antenna out of the head of the insect, where it would spread more parasites. I could get more technical, but that’s the gist of it.”
This caused a few eyebrows to be raised in the company, especially Remy’s. “How do you cure a parasite?”
“Lot’s of ways. Actually nine in ten people are already infected by intestinal parasites. It’s nearly impossible to avoid getting them. However, when this particular parasite was discovered in Europe, we found from research teams that this parasite is advanced. I can’t get into too many details, since it was all theory really, but from what we gathered, there is no cure.” Brandon shrugged, unable to look right into the eyes of those in the company.
“But it was all theory, right?” Remy wasn’t sure he liked all of what the young scientist was telling them. Not that he wasn’t interested, he just didn’t like how hopeless it all sounded. No cure? He was never a person to believe in absolutes, there was always a way to fix something.
“Yeah, just theory,” he smiled weakly. “I’d like to be wrong, hopefully I am.” But he didn’t sound convinced of that.
In fact, he was quite sure that Brandon knew exactly what he was talking about.
And that the priest was horribly wrong—they were already dead.
And no amount of prayer would change that.
Remy stepped hesitantly onto the snow-blanketed street, muttering a sigh from his bleeding, dry lips. Dancing snowflakes, unaware of anything but their own decent, cascaded from the dark sky above.
A low, solitary light dangled from ripped, bare wires protruding from a streetlight’s now-empty socket. The light—barely glowing as it slowly ran out of the electricity it desperately needed to keep going—wasn’t aware that it was already dead.
Every other streetlight on the lonely, dark road had toppled over, their lights long extinguished.
As if denying reality itself, the little light kept glowing, holding on to every last, remaining second. Then, without warning or prelude, winked out for the very last time.
Remy, shivering in the cold, frigid air, barely acknowledged the lone streetlight, still standing with its now-extinguished light. Instead, he shuffled along down the road, making the house at the end of the street his destination.
“Oh God, please grant me this last prayer.” Remy pulled out the flashlight he kept in his satchel. “Let her be alive. Do not let her be one of them. Please.” Was it too much to ask, really?
Trudging down the road, he kept glancing warily at the side of the road. On either side of path, were snow-covered fields, ending in dark, thick forests. Without the streetlights or moonlight, it was impossible to see much of anything. Only the weak, dying beam from his flashlight provided any illumination in the night.
When would it blink out of existence as well?
“Remy?” A young man’s voice called out to him from the darkness. “Can we go to Riverton now, this place isn’t safe!”
Ignoring the voice, a tremor in his hand, he pressed onwards.
This time, his flashlight caught sight of Brandon, standing right in front of him. Wearing only a thin, holey shirt with matching pants, he called out to Remy. “Remy, please, we’re freezing.”
“Not now, Brandon.” He said through gritted teeth.
“But we’re dying! Miranda, Ben… all of us!”
“Shut up!” Remy shouted this time, his voice carrying far into the night. Glancing ahead, he could see that Brandon was no longer there. Of course he wasn’t, Remy had remembered holding him in his arms as he was dying weeks ago.
The young man had been eaten up by the parasite, his skin falling away in patches. His eyes had already clouded over, while his nails grew long, his teeth crooked and animistic. Then the tremors ran through his body as he tried to speak. “Kill me, Remy… please, don’t… I can’t control it!” He had another series of spasms, growling and screaming loudly.
“I can’t do it! Damn it, Brandon, you can’t die as well!”
Ben had stepped up to them, his expression unreadable. “I’ll do it. Let him go, Remy.” He unclipped the gun that Carolyn had once kept strapped to her waist. Letting out a sigh, he turned off the safety and pointed the gun at Brandon’s chest. “Move, Remy.”
Brandon saw the gun, his eyes widening as he let out a long, eerie howl.
“Don’t do it, Ben.” Remy held tightly to the young man, but his grip was slipping. “We can save him!”
“No, we can’t! Get out of the way!”
“Please, Remy. You have to let him go.” This time, Miranda, her shirt blood-stained and ripped. Came towards them, in her hand, she held a shotgun. The gun, which had once belonged to Cole, was trembling in her grip. “We have to go now, they’re coming.”
Brandon let out a scream.
“They will hear him, damn it!” Ben put his finger on the trigger. “Let him go, or I’ll shoot you both.”
“Please, Remy. I love you.” Miranda pleaded with him, her eyes widening.
Remy, who was sitting on the concrete floor, tears streaming down his face, let out a whimper. “Do it.” He let go of Brandon, who lurched forward, his jaw snapping at Ben. Two shots rang through the warehouse, while the young scientist’s contorted body crumpled to the ground. Blood pooled on the concrete, creeping towards Remy who remained on the floor.
“I can’t believe you did that.” He whispered, keeping his jaw tight.
Miranda stepped over Brandon, grabbing Remy’s hand. “We have to go!”
Ben was already running towards the jeep, the sound of screams and cries coming from the infected, which were outside the warehouse. He fished the keys out of his pocket, hopped into the driver’s seat and jammed them into the ignition.
The jeep roared to life.
Remy got to his feet, aided by Miranda, and then together, they ran towards the jeep.
It wasn’t the last time they had to kill one of their own.
Walking down the snowy road, completely alone, Remy swept the ground ahead with the weak beam of light, his flashlight provided. There were a few footsteps, but those had belonged to him and Marie’s when they left the house. Yesterday, on a typical supplies run into the town, he’d walked out of the house with Marie.
Now, in the dark of night, he was walking back alone.
He remembered how they had found Marie, and her younger brother Jasper. While driving through Thompson, which they had hoped would be free from the plague; they saw the siblings running down the road. Jasper had been running behind his sister, turning around to fire at the horde of the infected coming their way. When he ran out of ammo, Remy saw him call out to his sister to run ahead, towards the jeep they drove.
Remy had been at the wheel, with Miranda in the passenger’s seat and Ben sitting in the back, readying his rifle.
“Stop for them!” Miranda had shouted, grabbing Remy’s shoulders tightly.
“No, we don’t need more mouths to feed. The least I can do for them is give them a better death.” He raised his rifle, aiming at the girl. “I won’t need to fire twice.”
Remy, who was growing tired of fighting with Ben, was about to give him the go ahead. However, what he saw Jasper do was something that made no sense at all—it made him rethink mercy killing the two runners.
When all his ammo was spent, instead of running towards the jeep, Jasper had taken out an axe strapped to his back. Wielding the weapon, he charged the hundreds of infected, drawing their attention away from his sister. He gave up his life.
Remy knew there were so little people with that kind of heroism left in them.
So little, lights left shining in a world that had grown dark.
He would not extinguish them.
So while Ben spat out curses, Remy slammed on the breaks, fishtailed and called out to Marie. “Get in! Now!”
Without a word, she hopped over the door and slid into the seat beside Ben. Since the jeep was without a roof, there was nothing he could do to stop her from climbing aboard. Begrudgingly he moved over, aimed his rifle and took fire at the infected closing in on her brother.
“You have to help him! Please, get my brother!” Marie now spoke, her voice shrill and breaking. “Please! We’re the only ones still alive in this town! He’ll die if he stays here!” She pointed at her brother, who was now running away from the infected, towards the jeep, his eyes wide with terror.
“No way, Remy. We don’t have the supplies!” Ben shouted in-between gunshots.
“You have to!” Marie pleaded, her eyes on Ben’s. “Please, we can show you where to get more supplies.”
“Shut up!” He fired two more shots, before putting his gun down while Remy drove down the road.
“If you’re not going to save him, then let me out!” Marie was about to climb over the door, when Remy drove towards Jasper, shouting at him to get in.
“Shut up, Ben! We will decide what to do with them later, but we’re not leaving them here!” He stopped the car, only a few meters away from the infected. One of them, growling and deformed, leapt into the air. It sailed far, landing on the hood of the jeep.
Miranda screamed; Ben raised his rifle, shot and missed the infected as it let out a howl. “Damn it!” He fired again, this time hitting the monster in the chest. Blood and flesh flew into the air as it fell to the side, crumbling on the hood with a thud.
Without a word, Jasper got into the seat, his body shaking violently. Marie hugged him, weeping shamelessly while Remy put the jeep into reverse, spinning the wheels as he drove away from the mass of infected.
Now, walking on that snowy, dark road, Remy realized all he had done was extend Marie’s life by a few months. No tears fell as he thought to how they’d been ambushed in the town, completely surrounded by the infected as they viciously attacked them. How could he cry anymore? All his tears had been spent on all the tragedies that had befallen him.
“Was it worth it?” He asked no one in particular. “Are you glad you got to live, only to see a horrific death months later?” Her blood could still be felt on his skin as he tried to pull her to safety, while one of the infected latched onto her arm. When he pulled, her shoulder popped, and then was torn off completely.
Her screams echoed in his mind.
Aroused by the fresh blood, the infected attacked with renewed vigor, overtaking the wounded, traumatized Marie. There was nothing he could do as she fell to the ground, the infected leaping on her, tearing her body to pieces.
“I’m so sorry!” He hollered, his voice hoarse and strained as he limped away from her. “I’m so sorry, Marie!” But he still felt all the guilt in the world fall upon his shoulders. He’d done this to her—Ben could’ve shot her in the town, given her a merciful death. Instead, he had stubbornly let her live, only to be the reason she was torn to pieces and killed.
How could he tell Jasper?
Remy continued his trek down the road, making little progress through the thick, deep snow. His old footprints mostly erased, leaving only small, barely noticeable prints—Marie’s were gone entirely.
As if the forces that be already knew she was dead.
But then, weren’t they all?
“They’ve been gone for so long.” Miranda said, staring out the window, hoping that when she looked, she would see Remy and Marie both coming towards the house. Their backpacks would be loaded with food, water and warmer clothes. They would be safe.
However, the window was fogged and only provided a blurred, indiscernible picture of the outside world. Besides, it was dark outside and Remy wouldn’t be stupid enough to risk waving his flashlight around in the dark.
“It’s a long walk.” Ben said, coming towards her with a grim frown. “Remy’s a survivor though, he’ll make it back just fine.” He glanced over at Jasper, who sat in the living room near the fire, his eyes glazed and crestfallen. “And Marie too, he’ll take care of her.”
Jasper cocked his head, giving it a short nod.
“I hope so.” She walked back into the living room, going near the fireplace to warm up. Sitting beside Jasper, she drank from the pot filled with melted snow, which was also littered with pieces of leaves, bark, dirt and grass.
“And if they don’t, I’ll go out in the morning to get them.”
“So we can lose you too?” Miranda’s eyes widened, her frail form shaking. “Thanks, but we’re not risking your life as well. I’m sure Jasper wouldn’t want that either.” She looked up at him, but his expression was stony, unreadable. He only sat near the fire, staring at the flames with dull, lifeless eyes.
“We need the supplies as well.”
“Then we’ll go together—all three of us.” She curled up beneath a blanket, her breath coming out in vapors.
Ben mulled this over, his eyes darkening. “We’ll cross that particular bridge when we get there, I suppose. For now, you should get some rest, Miranda. I’m going to keep watch.” Standing up, he went back into the kitchen, grabbing his rifle that leaned against the wall. Checking to see if there was enough ammo, he saw they were on their last cartridges. Grimacing, he beckoned Jasper over, while Miranda closed her eyes to sleep.
Jasper stood up, also grimacing as he knew what his task would be.
“I’m going to need you to light the way,” Ben instructed Jasper, who’d never gone out at night. “But you’re going to have to be damn discreet. No shining around, just illuminate the path ahead, and only occasionally. We don’t need a swarm of them over here.”
He nodded his head.
“No, I know you can talk, Jasper. I need you to say it out loud. Do you understand?”
Again, after some hesitation, he nodded his head.
Sighing, he shot Jasper a glare, but didn’t pursue the matter. “If those things come about and you don’t say anything, I’m going to kick your mute ass, got it? I don’t care what Marie says, it’s times like now that being silent will save you—but it can also screw you over.”
Jasper smiled ever-so-slightly, nodding his head.
“For god’s sake we should’ve let you die in Thompson.” Ben armed himself with the rifle, while Jasper took the flashlight, turning it on.
He threw it in the air, catching it in the other hand, and then twirling it in a circle from hand to hand. Turning it if off as Ben cautiously opened the door, peeking his head out of the doorway. “Clear.” He walked out, followed by Jasper.
The two men stood on the porch, gazing out at the surrounding countryside. Above, the dark, grey clouds spilled flakes of snow upon them. A light wind blew the snow in eddies and circles, lowering the already low visibility.
“Can’t see a damn thing.” Ben walked down the stairs leading off the porch, then stepped onto the snowy ground. He checked the road, seeing that it was as empty as everything else in the surrounding countryside. The only thing to stir was the wind.
Jasper illuminated the front lawn, seeing that it was empty. For the most part, all they relied on was their hearing, and the god-awful stench that came with the infected. So far, the only sound was the wind; there was no stench either.
“Clear.” Tensely, Ben began to circle to the back of the house. Carefully, and with Jasper shining his light every few steps, they saw that all was clear. Just like every other night before, these last searches were always fruitless.
Ben hoped to keep them that way.
“Clear.” He said when they approached the back yard, and Jasper turned off his light. Neither man, however, was entirely sure about that. Jasper elbowed Ben lightly, pointing at the contiguous fields.
“Okay, just for a second.” He cringed as Jasper shone his light into the field. He knew that even a glint of light could be seen for kilometers out in the country.
The light shot straight ahead, illuminating the field for a mere second, before Jasper shut it off. “Clear.” Ben sighed in relief, stepped forward, and then came to a halt.
Hidden by the wind, there was a small, almost inaudible noise that Ben nearly missed. The sound that’s made when a branch is snapped or a leaf moved not by the wind, but by someone brushing their foot against the ground. “Wait.”
The two men came to a stop behind the house. Neither said anything as Ben kept listening, hoping that it was an anomaly, or perhaps a deer or bear walking nearby.
However, the sound came again, this time louder.
Jasper gasped, Ben swore under his breath. More noises came from the woods, this time the distinct sound of heavy, numerous footfalls. Bodies hitting trees and snow being crunched under underfoot. Except, there were more then one creature making that noise.
“Damn it, okay, we have to go.” Ben didn’t even bother shining his light on the field—he just wanted to go inside. If he was wrong and spooking himself, the worst that would happen was embarrassment; if he was wrong, he could very well be dead soon.
In minutes, whatever was in the woods would cross those fields and come to the house.
The two men jogged back around the house the same way they came, their breath coming out as vaporous clouds. When they rounded the corner of the house, Ben saw someone walking down the road, holding what he presumed was a flashlight. Squinting, he saw that the figure was in no particular hurry, while the light swung back and forth.
“What the hell?” He briefly wondered if it was an infected, but then there’d be no way it would be holding a flashlight. Still, Marie or Remy would know better then to keep their flashlight on in such an obstinate manner.
Jasper shined his flashlight at whoever was coming down the road. In the light, Ben’s eyes widened as he saw that it was Remy coming down the road.
“Damn it, that idiot has to turn off his light.” Ben directed Jasper to the house, “You lock every damn door in that house, and make sure the windows are all boarded up. If I’m not back in three minutes, you do not hesitate to lock that front door.” He pointed his finger at the man’s chest. “You hear me? Lock that door no matter what, even if I’m not back with Remy.”
He nodded his head, then ran off towards the home.
Ben also took off running, his heart racing as he thought about what may be coming right towards the house. What he heard in the forest wasn’t one or two of the infected—it was a damn swarm, dozens and dozens of them. With only one clip of ammo, he would be overwhelmed in minutes.
“Remy! Hey! Turn off that damn light, already!” Ben was heaving as he approached Remy; sweat beading on his forehead despite the cold night.
The flashlight stopped swaying, as it was dropped on the ground, its light still shining. “Hey, what’s going on?” He squinted at his friend in the dim light, then took a step backwards. “No… no.” Behind Remy, another massive horde of infected were running down the road, coming from the direction of the town.
Remy had led them here.
“I’m… sorry… Ben.” Remy spoke in a guttural, unnatural voice. Then, doubling over, he began to scream. The light revealed some of his face, contorted and ridden with the plague. Infected. “Run!” It was the last thing he said before he fell to the ground, his back arching up as the parasite took full control.
Blood came out of his mouth like a fountain.
Ben stumbled backwards, holding his rifle chest level. He aimed it at Remy’s fallen body, blinked, then shot him in the chest, killing the parasite and Remy all at once. However, the gunshot rang loudly in the air, causing a cry to rise up from the mass of the infected from up the road and behind the house.
He was surrounded.
“Forgive me, Miranda.” He turned his rifle towards himself, resting it on the ground and putting the barrel to his neck. Clenching his jaw, he put his finger on the trigger and prepared to take his last shot.
“No!” A strange, unknown voice called out from behind him.
Ben turned, saw it was Jasper and swore. “Get back inside! Lock the damn door!”
“Not like this, Ben.” This time, Miranda spoke, a shotgun firmly in her grip. Walking down the steps, she saw several of the infected come around the house and opened fire.
Jasper held an axe in either hand, a grim, yet strangely eager expression on his face. Going the opposite direction of Miranda, he readied himself for the infected that came around the other side of the house. One of them, seemingly out of nowhere, let out a growl and leapt towards Jasper.
Striking out at the monster, he nearly dismembered it with one strike, then finished the job with a swing from his other axe. He let out a bellow, charging forward, striking at the infected that were closest, beheading them with expert blows. Others were knocked to the ground, then bashed open by several strikes of an axe to their chest.
Ben saw this happening, let out a desperate cry as he took his rifle back in his hands and fired at the approaching horde. “C’mon you bastards! C’mon!” He shot one in the chest, another in the gut and took out another’s head. He fired the entire clip, but still found in the darkness, dozens and dozens of them charging forward.
“Ben! Get over here!” Miranda blew two away with one blast from her shotgun, reloaded and took out another one. Breathing heavily, she gave up ground, nearing the front door of the home.
Jasper was also reaching the end of his rope, his axes dripping with blood. Wordlessly he stumbled back to the house, slashing any infected that was within arm’s reach.
Ben, rifle in hand, ran back towards the front door of the home, catching a cartridge that Miranda tossed to him. “Last one; make it count!” She was also on her last few rounds, while the infected kept filling the yard, growing closer and closer.
“Why did you come out of the house?” Ben fired three consecutive shots, taking down two, while missing his third shot.
Jasper let out a cry of pain, his axes falling to the ground. One of the infected had its arms around his neck, while its jaw snapped violently. Another came at the man, tearing into his shoulder with its maw. Several others soon joined in, overcoming Jasper as he was torn to shreds.
Ben knew it was hopeless, yet opened fire anyways, shooting five of them, killing three, injuring two. Beneath the pile of rotting flesh, he saw Jasper’s upturned face, frozen in a mask of pain. Yet, lifeless— his soul freed from this bitter, hellish world.
“Because,” Miranda began answering his question, while she backed up the front steps. “Don’t you know we’re already dead? It’s just a matter of time now.” She fired her last shot into the chest of an infected, then smashed the butt of her shotgun into the head of another. “I’m out.”
“I disagree!” Ben fired his final shots, threw his rifle away and ran to the door. “We can change this!”
“Can we?” Miranda opened the door, got inside and held it open for Ben. He stepped inside, kicked away an infected and slammed the door shut. Throwing in the deadbolt, he let out a defeated, anguished groan.
She ran into the kitchen, retrieving an axe. “No, Ben. This is it. I’m tired of pretending that we can make this world a better place. That we can make a difference. What’s out there, those creatures—that is all this world is now. Overrun, taken over, destroyed, lost! I don’t want to give up my life, but I’m sure as hell not hiding it away.”
“You don’t know that.” Ben slumped against the door, while the creatures slammed against it, their cries and howls growing in volume.
“The hell I do! Remy, Cole, Brandon, Jasper, Marie… Carolyn. All of them are dead. It’s only a matter of time before we are too. We’ve lost everyone, even if we did miraculously survive this night, what are we fighting for?”
“The hope we all have.” Ben got to his feet, reaching for the axe she held in her hand. She pulled it away, taking a step back. “The hope we had before any of this happened! The good moments that shine amidst this hell! We were always going to die, Miranda. We were born to die.” His hands trembled, and his voice nearly broke. “But there is still good in the little time we have. Moments when there is pure happiness—joy, love, peace. Your first kiss, holidays with family, spending time with friends, traveling, doing what you love most, experiencing what you only dreamed of! Having a family, worshipping God, living to help others and being there for those you love. The good things in life, the moments we are to live for!”
He turned away from her, tears springing from his eyes. “Everything may have changed, but if you get down to it, we’re still alive. And that, Miranda, means something to me.”
Miranda looked at her axe, then put it down on the floor. She stared at the door, seeing it shudder and shake from the creature’s throwing themselves at it.
Ben walked over to the fireplace, then slumped to the ground and curled up by the fire.
“What do we do now?” Miranda came up beside him, her eyes brimming with tears. “I’ve lost Cole… now Remy. I don’t know what to do.” She sat beside Ben, staring at him with wide, green eyes.
“What we always have done.” He moved closer to her, putting an arm around her shoulder. “We live. Maybe day by day, but as long as we’re alive, we keep that way.”
“Then why did you put that rifle to your head? Admit it, you don’t want to live like this anymore then I do.” Miranda pulled out of his hold, taking a blanket off the floor and wrapping herself in it.
“Because I thought I was dead… I’d given up, I guess.” He sighed, going to the kitchen and staring out the window. Outside, hundreds of the infected stood on the lawn, while the others wandered away from the door. “But we’re safe now.”
“For tonight. Then what happens tomorrow? The day after? I still remember what Brandon told us: you can’t cure a parasite.” Miranda swore under her breath, her voice bitter and sorrowful.
“You can starve it out though. That’s what he forgot to mention. Our hope, I suppose, is that we live to see that day. A day when they run out of food, starve to death. There are only so many people on this planet.” Although it was a miserable hope, Ben decided that it was worth holding onto.
Miranda only stared at him, a frown taking permanent residence on her beautiful, yet bloodied face.
He walked back into the living room, surveying the furnishings that did little good but provide firewood. A desk with a laptop sat in one corner, while two chairs were pulled up beside it. Two bookcases lined one wall, each of them filled to the brim with thick, leather-bound classics, juxtaposed with new, hardcover best sellers.
None of them looked the least bit read; Ben decided to change that. “You get some sleep; I’m going to read some Lee Child.” He took the book off the shelf, holding it with admiration, then sorrow as he remembered how Carolyn adored the books. Jack Reacher—no one had been a bigger fan of his, then his dear Carolyn.
Without a word, Miranda did just as he suggested, her eyes closing, opening, then finally shutting. Her breathing slowed, while she slid down onto the floor, her head drooping to the side.
Ben smiled at her, dragged a chair closer to the fireplace and sat down to read. He crossed his legs, opened the book and let the story envelope him. He imagined that Carolyn was right beside him, reading as well, pointing out her favorite sections.
He could feel her hands on his knees, rubbing them gently.
Her laugh could also be heard, sounding sweetly in his ear. As he turned the page, he thought he heard her tell him to slow down, that he was reading too fast. With a smile, he continued reading anyways, remembering Carolyn and losing himself in the intriguing tale.
Miranda was also lost, her head filled with dreams of her times with Cole. The way he had gently held her, kissed her and been with her. She remembered all the good times, reliving them in her mind.
Completely asleep, at peace.
Neither of them was paying attention to the renewed frenzy occurring just outside the door. The handle began to vibrate, then shake, and then snap off as the infected attacked it viciously. Several of them, howling away, slammed against the door.
The house shook, the door groaned.
Miranda snored, Ben flipped over a page.
Another group of the infected rammed into the door, snapping one of the hinges off completely. A gust of cold, snowy air poured in through the crack in the door, while their howls grew in intensity.
One more of them rushed the door, breaking the last two hinges off and causing the door to fall to the ground.
Ben finally looked up from his book, then dropped it on the ground as the kitchen filled with the monsters. Getting to his feet, his body trembling, he grabbed the poker they had used to stir the fire.
It would hardly make a dent against the monsters moving into the living room.
Miranda awoke just as one of them came up to her, its mouth snapping open and closed.
“No!” He swung the poker, smashing the beast’s head in. Another howled at him, followed by several more as they charged into Ben.
“Miranda!” It was too late. A dozen or more swarmed her body, which all he could see of were two flailing arms. He could also hear her terrified, agonizing screams.
“No! You bastards! No!” He slammed into one of them, knocking the infected right off its feet. Diving for the axe, he grabbed it, gripping it tightly in his hand. He swung it around, tripping up two of them before slicing into another’s ankle.
With the poker in one hand, the axe in the other, he got to his feet, swinging his arms wildly. Many of the infected were fallen or kept back, yet a few were able to get at him, their jaws snapping and clawed hands reaching for his neck.
Bellowing, he jabbed his poker into one of the monster’s belly, and lost his grip. The infected stumbled away, an iron poker sticking from its swollen, rotten gut.
There was a small gap in the crowd of infected, which he leapt through. Running out of the living room, past several of the monsters, he ran down the hallway, towards a door at the end of the hall. Slamming the door behind him, breathing heavily, he remembered that this was the bathroom. Without the light on, he could only grope in the darkness, trying to remember where the window was.
Behind him, the monsters pushed against the door, howling desperately.
“I’m so sorry, Miranda.” He got on top of the toilet, found the window and remembered that they hadn’t bothered to board this one up entirely. This window was a good fifteen or so feet off the ground, way too high for the infected to use as a way in.
He slid open the window, shoved out the screen and peeked his head out into the cold, frigid air. Below, the snow was deep, since the wind had caused huge drifts to form against this side of the home.
None of the infected were around either, since all their attention was getting inside of the house.
The door heaved and groaned as more of the infected tried to knock it down.
Wincing, afraid that the fall was farther then he thought, Ben got onto the window sill, swung his legs out, hesitated, and then jumped off. For a moment, he was tempted to scream, yet held it in and was rewarded with a nice drop into fluffy, deep snow.
Crawling out of the drift, he rolled down its embankment and onto the field. Shaking off the snow, hoping he wasn’t detected, Ben ran out into the field. Away from the house, out into the field, and then he could get onto the road, which would lead him farther north.
There were no infected on this side of the house.
Fortunately, the prospect of another human waiting behind a door was too great a temptation for the infected to resist. They spent a good hour smashing against the door before it finally fell in.
Yet, inside, all they found was an empty, dark washroom.
The remaining infected, howling and moaning like animals, filled the remainder of the home, looking for anyone else who may be hiding. Their search turned out fruitless and by morning, all the house held was one, lifeless body.
In two weeks time, the house was filled with a family once more. Another group of survivors, laden with gear, food, ammunition and water found the house, killed the remaining infected and move in. They’d been scavenging towns nearby, slaughtering the infected, while never staying at one place for more then a night. There goal was to secure a location that could be fortified.
In the towns, there were simply too many infected to deal with at once.
Now that they had found a lone house, they set up camp. Doors and windows were bolted shut, while the front door was repaired, reinforced and kept guarded. Four of the younger men kept watch at all times, rotating on and off, two at a time.
Inside, the women cleaned up the place, scrounged for more supplies and harvested snow for drinking water. One of them, a young woman with long auburn hair and soft, blue eyes, had dealt with the body inside, and then cleaned the carpet it had stained. When she was done, she tended to the fire.
“Did you hear what happened in Colorado?” An older woman, opening a can of fruit, asked the younger woman.
“No.” She put more logs in the fire, and placed the pots of snow near its heat. “What was it?”
“A resistance is coming together—one, most say, that could actually wipe out the plague. Nothing’s for sure, and hell, it could be rumors, but I’m damn happy to hear some good news for once.” She put a can on the table, smiling at the young woman.
“Maybe you’re group was with them, the one’s you were separated from?”
She paused, her fingers trembling. “No, I don’t think so.” She sat at the kitchen table, trying not to think about her fiancé and the others they’d traveled with.
“Carolyn.” The older woman put an arm on her shoulder. “Forget I said anything. I’m just an old, hopeful woman, sometimes I forget how much this world has changed.”
Carolyn nodded her head, intertwining her fingers with one another. “Maybe you’re right; perhaps they’re still out there.” She fingered the ring that Ben had given her when he’d asked for her hand in marriage. A sorrowful smile came to her lips. “There is still hope. Even in a place as dead and horrific as this one.”
The older woman nodded her head. “There always was.”