This was written for a prompt. Can you write me something where the first line has Character 1 asking Character 2, a complete stranger, whether they can borrow their gun?
“Give me the gun kid. I got this.” That is what he said and I trusted him.
I was being a coward, I know that, I just wanted to give someone else the responsibility. I never for a moment thought I would end up like this, forced to be brave because I am all alone, with no hope and time is running out. I think I have to accept that I have no choices left.
Twelve Hours Earlier….
I was running as fast as I could, my legs ached. My cheek burned as I ran too close to a low hanging tree branch and it cut into my skin. My breathing was laboured. My chest felt tight and my throat burned, I was sure it would be the bile acid rising and threatening to spill out. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a decent meal. I was starting to feel dizzy.
I would have perished by now if it wasn’t for the strong grip of the man who was dragging me along. I hadn’t seen his face yet, but he was heavy set and tall. He had an axe and a cricket bat strapped to his back, both were covered in blood, he had clearly made good use of them.
I thought this area was safe, but I was wrong. I thought cutting through the woods would be a good idea as so many of the roads were swarming.
At first the woods were silent, but then I heard them. At first it was just the all too familiar noise of low groaning and constant movement, but the moment they picked up on my scent it all changed. Their groaning became louder and their movements quickened.
I turned and started running immediately, I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly escape them, this area was too open, I hadn’t passed any hiding places in miles. I had lost my footing and stumbled, when he appeared out of nowhere, he pulled me up off the ground with ease and started to run, pulling me along with him.
I had no idea how long we ran for, but we stopped suddenly and he let go of my hand, I was confused for a moment, had I finally become too slow for him, was he going to abandon me after all? I relaxed as I realised what he was doing. We were in front of a sturdy looking tree, the lowest set of branches looked nice and strong. I watched as he climbed the tree with ease, but I knew there was no way I could do the same. I just didn’t have the strength.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pull you up.” he said, clearly picking up on my panicky reaction.
Seconds later he had lowered a rope, I wrapped it around my wrist and held tight. He pulled me off the ground then helped me climb onto the thick sturdy branch and now we were huddled together. It was cold underneath my jeans and the bark was rough and uncomfortable, but it was at least high enough to be safe from being reached from the ground.
I was still working hard to get my breath back, but I noticed that he was already breathing steadily, he clearly had more stamina than me.
“What now?” I whispered.
I stared at him, noticing how tense his body was and how intently his eyes were focussed on the woods around us. We could still hear them, but they weren’t visible yet.
A feeling of despair fell over me as I considered our predicament. Now they had our scent, they would search us out and if we didn’t handle them quickly, they would alert others.
In my small backpack I had a glock 17 gun, which I was given by a policeman when the outbreak had started and I had 2 clips, with more bullets. I had fired the gun a few times, so I probably had about 40-45 bullets in total. I also had a small hunting knife. This man only seemed to have the Axe and a Cricket bat.
I hadn’t known this man for more than a few moments, but I could already feel myself growing dependent on him. I would never be able to thank him enough for saving me, he was the first person I had been around for a long time. I let myself lean closer into him, relishing the human contact.
I felt contented for a few moments until I felt him tense further as they started to appear in the distance, it took a little time for my eyes to adjust, there looked to be about a dozen of them, they moved as a group, heading straight towards us.
The closer they got, the more confused I got, this group looked odd, it wasn’t until they got much closer that I realised the reason for that. These were once children, it was hard to tell the ages, but they couldn’t have been much older than 8 or 9 when they were changed, they all wore the same school uniform. There were five in checked pinafore dresses and cardigans and the rest wore trousers and cardigans, it was a disturbing sight. One of the girls was taller than the others and were a pace or two in front of the others and she had her long hair in pigtails tied with ribbons, such a jarring feature set amongst the savage features of her face.
I turned to look up at my companion, the one who had been so strong when we first met and I no longer saw a strong man, I saw someone who had a face that must surely mirror my own expression of fear. This made me feel uneasy.
“Have you ever…”
He turned to me and shook his head, our eyes met briefly, before his eyes quickly returned to the oncoming group.
“What do we do?”
“I guess we deal with these and run.”
I smiled meekly.
“What is your name?” I asked, trying to distract us from the horror below.
“Well Nick, I’m Amy. I’d say it was a pleasure to meet you, but under these circumstances I don’t think that sounds right. I am glad you are here though, I haven’t been around another human for quite some time.”
“A few weeks. Maybe a month, I have been hiding mostly, had a comfortable stay in a nearby house, it was well stocked with supplies, but they found me eventually, they always do.”
Nick studied my face for a moment then grunted and continued to watch the group below.
“Have you been alone for long too?”
“I am sorry I don’t mean to pry and I realise that I am talking a lot, but I can’t help it. I’ve not had anyone to speak to for a while and I am feeling a little overwhelmed. I finally find someone, they save my life and then we end up stuck up a tree together.”
Nick sighed and turned to face me.
“How old are you kid?”
His hard features softened for a moment and he smiled.
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude. I haven’t been alone for too long, I was in a small group, we travelled together. We always travelled together, I only lost them two days back. We were ambushed, I was lucky to get away… but they weren’t. So I am not all that used to being alone.”
I reached out and patted him on the arm, I felt him flinch, but he didn’t move away. I had lost many people, but it felt like it had happened so long ago, I had long since come to terms with it, yet I remember how raw I felt at the time and for it to have happened so recently for him, made me feel sad for him.
“I’m sorry to hear you were alone though.” He said tenderly then quickly looked away. I didn’t push him any further.
For a little while we sat in silence, I tried to do anything but look down at the group that were still gathered at the base of the tree, their small bodies never seemed to tire, their hands and fingers clawed at the tree. I had an errant thought that the only way they would leave us alone would be if some poor person wandered into the area, but this was rather unlikely and I felt bad for even thinking about it..
It was Nick who eventually broke the silence.
“What weapons do you have?” he asked still turned away from me.
“I have a gun and a couple of spare clips and a small hunting knife, but I … “I said, my voice cracking.
He suddenly turned to look at me, he looked hopeful at the mention of the word gun.
“… I’m sorry, but I don’t think I could kill them, I know they aren’t human any more, but they were children and I had a younger sister … she …” I stopped talking as I began to get hysterical.
He turned his attention back down at the group who were still directly beneath us. I had come into close proximity to many of them and I was no longer shocked by their bloodied appearance, but this group looked more deadly than the others, because they still appeared to have a level of innocence about them, which felt wrong.
I pulled out the gun from my backpack and held it in my hands, it felt heavy.
“Is surviving even worth it?” I muttered.
Nick shot me a confused look. He sighed and shook his head sadly.
“Good question kid, is surviving worth it? Well I can’t answer for you, but I have lost count of how long I have been running from place to place, how many I have killed. How many times I have scavenged food from abandoned houses and shops. After my teenage son was turned and then attacked my wife and younger daughter I faced the unthinkable, I destroyed them all to save them from what they had become. I didn’t have much time to mourn, because I soon found a group of people who needed help, we stuck together and I tried to keep myself busy and tried not to think about my family, but it has been harder this past few days, since I have been all alone.”
I watched as his face flushed as she spoke, his voice was thick with emotion and he was fighting tears.
“… alone, till you met me.”
I smiled softly and placed my hand on his leg, there was no flinch this time, he needed the human contact too.
“I too have lost family, but I have been alone for so long, I am almost used to it. The only thing that has been keeping me going is the hope that the radio broadcast about a safe haven is right, but it is always the same message played over and over again and never anything new. I can’t help but wonder whether it is a safe haven any more and even if it is, will this world ever be anything resembling normal. Is this what life will be reduced to, shooting what used to be children in order to survive.”
Nick studied my face for a moment, I tried to read the emotion on his face, but he was hard to read.
“That’s pretty profound kid, I was also following the directions to the safe haven, but to to be fair I hadn’t thought beyond surviving. I never considered what surviving would mean. Don’t you ever get mad at those that had died a good death, they sure had it easy.”
The silence between us started to feel heavy, the group below still continued to clamour at the tree, their hands and nails continued clawing relentlessly at the bark, desperate to reach us. Eager to satisfy their hunger. The guttural noise continued to grow louder and I knew that the louder they got, the more they would attract others.
It was clear that the only weapon we could use was the gun. The other weapons were all useless from up here. I felt sick, my hands began to shake and I tightened my grip on the gun, fearing I would drop it.
Nick smiled softly, and he held out his hand.
“Give me the gun kid. I got this.”
I gripped the gun tighter, this weapon had been my safety net for so long, even though I didn’t use it all that often, just knowing that I had it made me feel better. Could I really hand it over and give Nick the responsibility of shooting the group below. I watched them for a moment, my eyes locking on the girl with the ribbons, I thought back to my little sister Cara and realised that I was a coward. There was no way I could do it. Without any further hesitation I handed him the gun, relieved that he was a stronger person than me.
Nick held the gun in his hand, he squeezed my leg and did something my dad used to do and ran his hand through my hair. He tucked the gun between his legs then his hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“Do me a favour kid, hold on to this for me.”
I put it into my backpack, then pulled out the spare clip for the gun and held it out. Nick had picked up the gun again and had gripped it in both hands. He shook his head and sighed.
“I won’t need that. Kid”
“Are you sure, I don’t think there are many bullets left in the gun.”
“One will be enough.”
His face changed swiftly, all traces of emotion disappeared and his expression was blank. I watched in horror as he turned the gun on himself and pressed it against his temple.
“Wait! What are you doing?”
I lurched forward, but almost lost my balance.
“I’m taking the only option I can live with. I’m sorry kid, but I can’t do it, My daughter was their age. I don’t think I want to survive any more and I sure as hell don’t want to be like them. I want to be reunited with my family, they’ve waited long enough.”
“Please, don’t leave me like this.” I begged.
“I’m sorry kid, but I don’t have any other choice, there is no way I could ask you to shoot me, hell you can’t even face shooting them and they aren’t even human any more and I won’t take your life for you. Maybe if you are quick you can grab the gun before I drop, but I am done, this is too much and I can’t do this any more and I am sorry, but the one thing I have learnt since everything changed is that sometimes you have to be selfish to get anywhere .”
The loud pop from the gun made me jump and I watched in horror as Nick’s body fell from the tree and the group below immediately began to feast, fighting each over to get their share. Tears soaked my face as the gun was kicked away from his hand and was trampled on, it began sinking into the dirt.
I tried to ignore the sickening noise as they continued to feed, but it was deafening. I could hear the sound of more of them approaching and I knew I was all out of options. I both admired and hated Nick for what he had just done, on the one hand he had the strength to pull the trigger, something I had considered many times, but was too weak to do. On the other he had left me here all alone with no easy way out.
I took one last look at what was left of Nick’s body and tried to ignore the hungry faces of the group below who were reaching up to me. I couldn’t help but meet the eyes of the girl with the pigtails tied with ribbons, if you ignored the blood dripping out of her mouth and the manic look of her eyes she looked almost sweet. I pulled out Nick’s wallet, wondering why he had given it to me, it only had one thing inside, a well worn photo, I barely recognised him in it, his face was clean shaven, his hair cut short and he wore a shirt at tine. He looked happy, standing next to his wife. He had one hand on the shoulder of his teenage son and the other on a younger daughter, she couldn’t have been more than 8 she had lovely long hair, which was held in pigtails with ribbons. No wonder he couldn’t face the idea of shooting them.
I could no longer fight back the tears and I let them flow freely. Time continued to pass, more had come and I found myself feeling irrationally angry as the bigger ones pushed the children out of the way.
I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the noise and drifted into happy memories. My well meaning mum calling me all the time to see how I was and insisting on coming around to my student accommodation to tidy up, not content with my own room, but insisting on helping my house mates too. Taking my little sister to the cinema and always missing part of the film when she needed the toilet half way through. Going to the student union bar with my friends and enjoying cheap drinks and half rate food.
I loved my life and I loved everyone in it and I hated that it was all taken away from me. I had been fighting so hard to survive for so long and now I no longer felt like this was the right thing to do. What point is surviving if you have no-one to spend it with.
The darkness came and with it came the cold, my bum and legs hurt from the hard rough surface that I sat on, I felt tired and weak.
I fumbled with my bag and pulled out the hunting knife, I ran my finger across the blade and confirmed it was sharp. The moment it sliced through my finger the crowd went wild and I couldn’t help but laugh.
I had made my decision and I was at peace with it, I was giving in, I didn’t want to fight any more. I just wanted it to end. I just needed to make sure I was dead before I hit the ground, because I didn’t want to become one of them.
I shuffled towards the trunk of the tree and positioned myself above the rope, which was still wrapped around the branch, the one that Nick had used to pull me up. I secured it around my waist and anchored myself to the tree, I didn’t know how long it would take to die this way and I wanted to make sure that they could have no piece of me until I was truly gone.
I closed my eyes and focused on my the faces of mum and sister. I imagined I was with them again and then I pressed the knife against my throat.