Chink, Chink, Snap!
I look over as the gun’s barrel snapped back into place. He hands me one of them, and I take it willingly, slinging it over my shoulder. He does the same, and we both pick up our packs, full of clothes, food, water and extra weapons. I stuff my hair back under the hat and break the silence.
“Do you have the medical kits?” I ask him.
He shakes his head and we creep down the stairs, heading straight for the bathroom. We grab the two we had prepared and make our way to the living room.
The room was choked with dust. A thin layer of it covered everything, from the tattered couch to the pitiful-looking cupboard. A floorboard creaked and a piece of my jet-black hair fell into my eye, where I pushed it aside and back under my hat. The silence masked what was truly happening, the world in total disarray. We shared a silent moment at the entryway, then pushed the door, letting the silence flood the room, and let the darkness swallowed us whole.
It all started with a cold. Just a simple, run-of-the-mill cold, nothing new or extraordinary about it. Same symptoms, with an exception of one person. One. And that was all it took.
My mother was with us in the car, taking us somewhere I couldn’t remember. Wouldn’t. It was a normal day like any other, mildly warm with a cool wind sprinkled here and there. My twin had convinced me to wear capris, something I usually never wore outside of my jeans and T-shirt routine. We dressed similarly with grey sleeveless tops and black tennis shoes, our black hair down around our shoulders.
Our mom had just come home from a business trip in Greenland, and had come home coughing, and we begged her to stay home.
She refused saying, “It’s just allergies.”
We both knew better then that, but went along with her game anyways. We all piled into the car, even dad, who never left the living room. We were driving into when suddenly she let out a loud groan and launched herself at my dad.
The car swerved and went off the road, and my mother was still thrashing with him. Chink, Chink, Chink
A steady stream of bullets flew into the chambers as Hunter and I prepared ourselves. Hatchets and kitchen knives, as well as a pocket knife or two went into the leather belts I had created as an easy way to transport them.
Someone screamed, maybe Hunter, possibly me, as the car slammed into a tree. All I could think of was that I didn’t want to die, and I wanted out. I shoved my body against the nearest door, flying out of it. My mother turned her head at me and scratched at the window, her cataract-filled eyes staring at me blankly. Her mouth opened and let out in inhuman screech and I stumbled back, the screech I still hear haunting me today.
I turned around and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I didn’t stop until I hit the main road, and stopped to gulp down breaths of air. A hand touched my shoulder and I turned around, screaming only to see my twin standing next to me. I sighed in relief, and shook my head, still breathing hard.
“Did...he...make it?” I asked my him in between breaths. Hunter opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted as a crash from a nearby bush answered my question.
My father staggered out of the woods, one of his legs locked straight, his arms limp at his side. I gasped and he turned to face us with a loud groan. Our eyes widened and we looked at each other for a moment, then took off running. Some people stopped and got out of their car curiously, and he staggered faster towards them. I’m guessing people thought this was a prank until, of course, he lunged at one of the passersby and turned them too. They fell to the ground spasming, and the people around them screamed, and started running to their cars, or away, just trying to get away from the monster that came from the forest.
And that’s how it all started. One simple illness, a populated road, and my mistake for running caused the downfall of the entire human race.
The silence lasted but a minute, the shuffling and groaning of the undead breaking the quiet night air. We made it to the front lawn, and I dashed to the neighbor's house across from us. I waited a moment, listening for faster shuffling, before I motioned over Hunter over. He ran over, taking his spot next to me behind the dying bush, keeping his breathing steady. We continued this pattern until we were out of the neighborhood, onto the next block.
A strong wind threw the stench of decay at us, reminding us that the undead where close by. A loud scrape of decaying flesh against cement startled us, having Hunter slip his gun into his hands, and slide the silencer on. We waited a couple of minutes, and the sound slowly moved away. He put his gun back into place, and I peered around the corner.
It came from nowhere. The zombie threw itself onto me, jaws snapping. The only thing keeping us apart was my leg, planted square in its chest. My hands fumbled for a knife, but Hunter was quicker.
Bam Bam Bam!
It fell limp, and I tossed it shakenly to the side. Strong arms pull me up and we take off running. A hoard of them follow us, we pushed ourselves to go faster and make it to edge of the neighborhoods, where we lose them in the woods. We don’t stop until we know we’re safe, which meant climbing a nearby tree.
We sit quietly, keeping our breathing steady even though our lungs are screaming for more air and listen. The forest is quiet, with our breathing the only sound for what seems like miles. The wind soon returns to our lungs and we start to speak.
“So….we made it this far. I’m actually…..quite surprised,” I say, shaking my head in disbelief. Hunter smiles and shakes his head.
“I’m not. We’re a great team, Ash. You should know this by now,” He leans against the trunk of the tree and sighs.
“I knew we could do it. It was only a matter of preparing and planning.” I shake my head, smiling, and ruffle his hair.
“I can count on you to be the positive one in this duo,” I said, as a smile appears on him.
“If I wasn’t, who would?” I shrug my shoulders and he chuckles. I move to a branch closer to him.
The silence settles down on us like a blanket, worn and comfortable. I take the bag off my shoulder and reach into it for the canister of water. I take a sip and pass it over, where Hunter takes a drink too, and then hands it back. He sits up, his legs dangling close to mine, and passes some jerky over. I take half of it and sit in silence, chewing thoughtfully until I’ve organized my thoughts.
I dig into my bag again, pulling out the map. I unfold it, smoothing out the wrinkles and locate the scarlet dot we used as our “Home” mark. I traced the way to the blue dot, which marked our destination. The Hospital.
Over the crank radio, we had heard that they carried the vaccine for the undead virus. And that they possible had a counteractant. I could feel butterflies in my stomach from the news. A cure! A vaccine! If we were lucky enough to get one, Hunter and I could walk around without fear of getting bitten and turned. So we’d started planning, saving resources, and gathering what we needed from the places around us.
“Ash?” I blink, and see a hand fly past my face.
“Welcome back to Earth.” Hunter says with a small laugh. I shake my head.
“Sorry. Zoned out for a bit.” He takes my hat and sets it on his own head.
“I can tell.” He says from behind the brim. He points to a spot on the map.
“We’re here.” His finger goes farther up, to about halfway to the Hospital.
“We should get here or close by tomorrow, assuming we don’t run into anymore zombies, or say some stray raiders,” I nod, and cringe as he says “raiders”. He notices and puts a hand on my shoulder, giving it a light squeeze.
“I won’t let them get you. I promise you that,” he says as he pulls me into a quick hug.
“I’d rather you turn then get taken by them,” he says softly, and I nod. He pulls back, and I put the map back into my bag.
I prop the bag up behind me and lean against it, using it as a makeshift pillow. My eyes flutter closed as Hunter does the same, and I fall into a dreamless sleep.
I jump awake and hold a fist in front of my face as I’m violently shaken awake.
“Woah there tiger, calm down. It’s just me,” Hunter whispers.
He taps my head and hands my hat back, which I gladly accept. I stretch, the air bubbles in my back cracking, and I groan. My body aches from yesterday’s trek, and I can feel pain in muscles that I forgot existed. I have no idea how I’m going to endure today’s run when I still have the phantom of yesterday’s.
We saddle ourselves back up and make our way back down to the ground, and creep out of the forest. I keep the mental picture of where we need to be by nightfall and hold it as a goal.
Sometimes I miss the sounds of the animals. Birds chirping, dogs barking, cats meowing. The world was a quieter place without them, and it made me crave the loudness of my life before. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as awful as others. But of course, they had to go. If they didn’t, we’d starve. And I promised myself that Hunter and I would live to become legal adults. I chuckled at that thought and he looked at me curiously. There seemed to be no legal age of adulthood anymore, as you became an “adult” by being able to defend yourself and others. I shrugged my shoulders and he looked away.
A stick snapped under a foot and we stopped. Everything stood still as the air around us filled with the sound of moving feet and a foul stench floated around us so thick we could cut through it with a knife. The almost silent sound of cloth rubbing against cloth sounded, as well as the clink of bullets moving against the chamber. The gun in my hand was heavy, and the clink of bullets sounded again. Neither group moved until one rushed forward, all pale skin and bones and we launched into a volley of bullets.
The recoils nearly sent my lean frame shooting backwards, but my shoes helped me stay in my place. I stopped short as the undead stopped moving, and silence envelopes us again. Our weapons are slid back into place and we take off running again.
We didn’t stop until we reached a small lake. The water was slightly murky, but still a deep blue and a mist hung lightly around it. I collapsed on the ground in heaving gasps, facing the water. I shut my eyes and curled into a ball, a light thud sounding next to me. A hand rests on my shoulder and I feel a prickle of cold water on the back of my neck. I gasp and wipe the water away, then uncurl from my ball and swipe my hand through the water and flick some back at Hunter. Hands fly in front of his face and flinches as the water droplets touch his skin.
I smirk and he laughs, louder then he should have, and I hear the sound of footsteps. Human footsteps. I stop smiling as the sounds get closer, and Hunter takes notice. His voice fades quickly, but too late. Three men,probably between the ages of twenty and thirty, come racing out of the forest with their guns aimed at us. We copy them, and give them a once over.
Raiders. Just what we needed right now. From the numbers of them, they’re probably a patrol. Turf wars happen too often nowadays, and they think we’re invading. What luck we have.
“Put your weapons down and surrender.”
This voice belongs to the oldest, most likely the leader of the patrol group. We say nothing, and move our fingers onto the triggers. The click of the bullet falling into the barrel rings out, and I look at Hunter and shake my head.
He mouths, “This ain’t right” and his expression turns to one of fear and sadness.
A mask quickly slides over him and all I see is an emotionless being. We turn back to them, and a shot rings out, the youngest of the trio falling to the ground with a thud. All hell breaks loose as bullets fly past us and from us, ceasing only when one side runs out of bullets.
They charge at us, pulling knives out of pockets and lunge, barely a moment to defend ourselves. I slip a knife from my belt as the gun hangs at my side, and counter the attack from the raider. We struggle for some time, the raider throwing all his weight at me, and I counter or dodge his swings. My stamina is finite, and soon he has me by shirt collar, which he uses to pull me to his chest and holds his knife over my throat. I jerk my head back and hit him in the lip, splitting it and my hat slides off my head, my hair falling down.
I can almost hear his smile and pulls me closer.
“Lookie here, John. Looks like we caught one.” He smirks and runs his filthy hand through my hair. His partner looks over at us, and smiles a greedy smile.
“Perfect. The boss will love her.” The grip John has on Hunter slackens and Hunter takes that chance to hit him where the sun don’t shine. John falls over groaning and cusses up a storm while the man holding me tries dragging me away.
I aim my foot at his shin, the initial fear gone, and hear a crack as bone snaps beneath my foot. This one swears so much that it makes the trees around us shrivel.
“You’re gonna get it girl.” He sneers and digs his nails into my skin while he limps forward. I hold my ground, losing an inch or two every few minutes.
“Girl, move it or I won’t go easy on ya.” He yells. I don’t flinch and stare straight into his eyes defiantly. He snarls, but only to cover up his fear. I jerk my arm back and is soon out of his grasp. He isn’t even trying. We must be close to camp. I rustle from behind me sends me jumping out of my skin.
I cringe and watch as a knife appears in the chest of the man in front of me. I feel blood splatter on my cheek and his eyes land on something behind me as he falls to his knees, his breathing heavy and raspy. I gulp loudly and turn around, and like a picture out of heaven (Or hell, depending on your perspective), there stood my huffing twin, blood splattered across his clothes, running from his forehead, and heaving from his arm. I run to him and pull him into a tight hug, and he winces slightly. I loosen and he sighs as he puts an arm around me.
“Let’s go.” He whispers and we take off again.
We’ve made it to the edge of town and collapse into the nearest house after I check it thoroughly, and I rummage through our remaining pack. Mine had been left at the scene of the crime, and we needed to get out of there fast before another group found the their dead comrades.
I pull the medical kit out, rummaging through the supplies and pulling out bandages and hydrogen peroxide. He shakes his head.
“I don’t need that. Save it.” My gaze lingers on his arm, which is soaked in blood and I shake my head.
“For once, let me help you. You’re going to die if you don’t take care of your wounds.” He sighs and takes off his jacket. I kneel down next to him and pour the peroxide over the cut on his arm and he winces. I whisper to him as I watch the blood slowly drift away and try to decide if he needs stitches or not. I splash some hydrogen peroxide on my fingers and inspect his lesions closer.
I sigh and shake my head.
“How bad is it, Doc?” He says with a pained smile. I smile back, but it’s more worried than happy.
“Seems like you’re going to need stitches, son.” I say in a mock male voice. He chuckles and I continue.
“But don’t worry, we’re highly trained. As long as you can handle some pain, you should be fine.” He shakes his head and I look through the kit again. I find a need and look for something that can serve as a strong sort of thread. I find some thick thread that seems like it would work. I shuffle over to Hunter again and slip the thread onto the needle.
He looks away as I start, and I carefully thread the needle through his flesh. Every time I tug the thread to close the wound together, he groans from pain. I finish this quick as I can, and tie the end off. I rip some of his jacket with my teeth, wadding it up and dipping it into our antiseptic, then dab it over the ‘closed’ wound. I wrap it four times and tuck an edge under another. He leans back and I kiss his forehead.
“You’ve done great, son. Never had a better patient then you.” I say. I go through the bag and find the spare coat he had, and handed it to him. He slips it on, tugging it carefully over the bandaged area and pulls me into a hug.
“Glad I got the best doctor in town.” He laughs quietly at his own joke and shakes his head.
“Never gonna die from blood loss when you’re around.” He continues. I shake my head and he yawns.
I chuckle. “Well, looks like you should sleep. Being Superman and everything looks tiring.”
“Nah, it’s easy as pie. Just get super strength and the ability to fly, then life becomes your pie.” I shake my head.
“Well, where do I get those, I wonder?” I say sarcastically, then start to laugh. Hunter smiles, shakes his head and leans his head on my shoulder. His eyes fall closed and soon he’s asleep. I fix his hair and lean on him a bit, then drift off too.
I wake up, uncertain as to why. It’s quiet, and the stench of the dead is weak. Then the thorn finds its way into my flesh and I bolt up. Hunter falls to the floor and I hear his head thud on the floor. He groans and cusses up a storm while I stand there, paralyzed and then I realized why I woke up.
My hands fly to cover my ears as I hear the screech again.
“No no no. You’re gone.” I whisper to myself. I drop down to my knees and suck in a breath. The air around me seems to have turned to water. I inhale more and start to feel light-headed. An arm wraps around my shoulder.
“Ash, it’s okay. She’s not there, she’s not there.” He whispers to me. I grab hold of his words, but they soon slip from my fingers as I slip into darkness again.
“What have I done?” I hear a panicked voice say. “That was a terrible idea!” I groaned and lifted my hand to my face, finding it covered by something wet.
“You’re awake!” Hunter says. He uses his sleeve, and wipes up what I’m thinking is water.
“Well no dip Sherlock. I’m definitely sleeping.” I say with a voice overflowing with sarcasm. He shakes his head.
“We need to get going. We’ve spent almost two days here, and we still need to get to the center of town.” I nod and get up, brushing dust from my pants. He tries to shoulder the pack, but I take it from him.
“You’re hurt, and if we get into a sticky situation and we need to run, this will just slow you down.” He tries to argue back, but I refuse and he eventually gives up.
“Let’s go.” He mumbles, and we step outside.
A few hours later, we make it into town. The ghost-like silence reminds me of the horror movies I watched one too many of, and made me want to run in the opposite direction. But we can’t. Our future is dependent on that vaccine, and we didn’t come all this way for nothing.
We duck into an old apartment complex for the night as the stars start to fade. We eat quickly, wanting to make up what time we lost. More like the time I made us lose. I scowl as I eat, tearing through the meal. I nearly break the door as it flies open, and I’ve probably attracted zombies too.
“Calm. Jesus.” Hunter says and I hang my head.
“Sorry, just mad at myself. Let’s just keep moving.” I say, rejecting any more conversions he tried to start. He shook his head and we kept moving for half the night.
The building seems massive compared to what we’ve seen so far. It’s a dusty grey with most windows boarded up at the bottom two levels. We approach it slowly, seeing the flicker of lights one the second and third floors.
“We made it! This is actually amazing.” Hunter says joyously. I high-five him and we walk to the doors, knocking on them once, twice, three times. The door opens a crack, and we see someones’ brown eye peek through.
“Who are you two?” A gruff voice says.
“I’m Hunter. This is my twin Ash.” Hunter says. The man snorts.
“Who’s to say you’re not both raiders? Seems like all of them come by these days. “ He snarls. I step forward and the eye widends.
“We’re not, I promise sir. We’re here because of the vaccine. We’ve heard that you guys have developed one.” My voice is low and quiet.
“Show me your left wrist. Then we’ll see.” We do as he commands, and when he sees no mark, he opens the door and hurries us inside.
“You cannot tell anyone you were here. This is supposed to be a secret, but since you’ve both made your way here, we might as well help you.” I nod and thank him.
“But under one condition. You have to help us exterminate them, and spread the cure to remote places.”
“We’ll do it!” Hunter and I say at the same time. The guy gives us a confused look, but keeps walking.
We make it to the second floor, and the room is humming with the flow of electricity. I lose my breath at the sight of so much working machinery. A group of people turns toward us as we enter and frown.
“Who are they?” An older female asks.
“The male is Hunter, the female Ash.” He says. The female's eyes light up.
“Ah, how wonderful. We need more females in the workplace. Where have you guys traveled from?”
“Wisconsin ma’am.” She nods.
“Great, great. Have either of you been bitten in the past twenty-four hours?” We shake our heads no, and she writes something down on her clipboard.
“Any injuries?” Hunter raises his hand.
“May we see it? It might factor in if you’re qualified for the vaccine or not.” His eyes grow big for a second, and he shrugs off his jacket, then unwraps the bandage.
The woman and a male from the group step forward to examine it.
“Hmm…..Marvelous stitching. Doesn’t seem to be infected, although we might want to a day or two.” She jots down some notes and looks up.
“If you can wait a day or two, we need to check for infection. But it seems for now whoever did this was careful and took consideration. Who did this?” Hunter nods in my direction and she turns back to me. A smile tugs at the corner of her lips and she nods.
“Well, we can at least vaccinate your sister.” She turns to me.
“Would that be alright?” She asks tentatively. I look over at Hunter and he nods.
“Yea, that’d be alright.”
Ten years later……
“Alright! That’s the spirit!” I say as I teeter on the edge of the chopper. Hunter shakes his head at me. We both glance down at the ground, thousands of feet below us. We’ve managed, finally, to clear out the undead. We’re now being relocated to the edge of Lake Superior, which we’re really happy about. Since we were one of the first to try the vaccine, we’ve been immune.
Traveling wasn’t as fun as I thought, although seeing the happy faces of people who’ve been in hiding for years was a relief. Although I never saw my mother and father again, I’ve become happy again. And that’s all that matters to me now.