“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I’m afraid.” She was afraid. Afraid, and ashamed. Here she was, crying like a little kid again. She thought that she was over the tears, that she had no reason to care anymore.
She was wrong. A while ago, she hadn’t had anything to care about, but now she had a reason. He was sitting in front of her.
“I’ll protect you,” he promised.
She laughed a little through her tears. “I’m not afraid of that. I’m--” she faltered for a moment, then took a deep breath and continued. “I’m afraid that you won’t come back, that you’ll leave me, sometime, like everyone else I’ve ever cared about.” The hysterical tears broke over her eyes again at the memories, though she fought to keep them back.
“I’ll never leave you,” he promised. “There’s nothing more in this city that I could care about more than you.”
“Nothing?” she asked, hiccupping slightly.
“Nothing at all. I love you more than my own life.” The tears started again.
“Then you will leave. You aren’t cursed like the rest of us. You’re going to get caught playing the hero, and then you’ll die and I’ll be all alone again, just like before you found me.”
He leaned over, holding her tightly to him. “That’ll never happen. You know that.”
She sniffed. “You’re right. I’m just being silly.”
He gave her a reassuring squeeze, not trusting himself to say anything. Considering everything that she’d been through--the loss of her family, her pet and best friend, and then the only people she’d felt safe around--he didn’t think that she was being silly at all.
They stayed there, in that abandoned warehouse, for three days. Their food was running low, and he’d have to make a trip into the city sometime soon. She didn’t want him to go, but she knew that he had to. Unlike her, he could starve to death. She cried as she kissed him goodbye, and he promised that he’d be back. The both hoped that he would.
Days passed, and he didn’t come back. She wept silently, in the dark, before gathering her few belongings. Before she left the closest thing to a home she’d had, she left a note, scratched into the peeling paint in the wall. I can’t stay here any longer. It isn‘t safe, they can smell me. I will be headed northwest, if you still want to find me. One last look, tears blurring her eyes, and she left home forever.
Why hadn’t she gone with him? she asked herself, running through the streets, trying not to be seen, not to be smelled, not to be there. She could protect him. At least she would know if he was ever going to come back, ever find her message to him, ever going to come and find her, rescue her from her loneliness. She tried not to think about it. If she thought, she’d cry, and blurry vision was something that she couldn’t afford.
She rounded a corner and her heart stopped. One of Them was waiting at the end of the alley. Quietly, if she could edge away before it saw her…
A gentle breeze blew from behind her, gently ruffling her hair, the garbage in the streets twirling in little circles.
And there was no time to think anymore. Its sightless eyes turned slowly towards her, as her scent reached its nostrils. She reached for her gun, praying that she could shoot it before it could tell the others she was there.
It took a step towards her, and she froze.
“No,” she whispered. It couldn’t be.
Her hands shook at she fought with herself. Could she really kill him?
At the first syllable of the feeding groan, she stopped thinking. Instinct--instinct forged in these very streets--took over and, hands shaking wildly, she pulled the trigger.
The silencer whistled. The round flew through his eye, exiting through the back of his head, spattering red-brown across the alleyway. As he slumped to the ground, she fell to her knees, useless tears spilling over her eyes.
But she couldn’t stay long, she knew. Quickly, she fought her way to her feet, shaking as she made her way over to the corpse.
She brushed the hair out of his eyes, letting her fingers linger on his temple before running them down his jaw.
But there were things that had to be done before she could grieve. She reached into her bag, taking out a bright orange cylinder. She pulled the top off and set the flare lovingly on his chest, the flames eating eagerly at his clothes.
And then she ran, looking for some safe place, anywhere she could stop and stay for a few days. And as she ran, she sealed away her heart.
What was the point of feeling anything anymore? Her only reason was gone.