“I’ve been wondering lately, what is this all for? The world has been like this for far too long ever to be what it was again. Irreversible change at its best.”
Fifteen days have passed since I got separated from the group. I’ve been marking my sneaker with a pen I found at the abandoned school with Rusty. I can’t tell if it’s helping me or showing me how hopeless everything is. Someone has been watching me. Of course, I’m being followed. It was only a matter of time. Alone, I’m a sitting duck, a target. Sometimes when I listen closely, I hear someone’s breathing or their footsteps. I don’t plan on looking that closely into it. My only plan is to keep moving. I’ll find the rest and then whoever’s following me will see that they are outnumbered.
In truth, I don’t know how much longer I can stay in the city if I don’t find them. This place is overrun with the dead. I miss having someone to talk to. I will find them. I have to find them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about destiny—is it a real thing? Was this once great city suppose to fall? My parents were ripped from me and my brother by those horrible things…my brother. He had to have made it out of the building. I hope he’s with Rusty. Rusty will look after him. I’ll find them.
The sound of shattering glass fills the alleyway behind me. Panic rises in my chest. “Don’t look back,” I whisper to myself. A quick scan in the near distance tells me there are two possible hideouts up ahead. The problem with entering a new space is that you never know what’s already found it. Any wrong turn could be my last.
A woman’s distant scream causes all my muscles to tighten. I look behind me. The dead smell me. There’s six maybe seven. “I gotta make myself scarce.” My steps turn to a run. I tighten my grasp around my bag strap. I run up to the closest door. A bubble of fear swells inside my stomach. I swipe the glass bottle by the door and force myself into the building. The door shuts behind me. Stale, putrid air smacks me in the face. I throw the bottle away from me. Glass shatters. I wait. “Where the hell is my flashlight?”
A sharp blade presses into my neck. An arm wraps around my waist. “Don’t scream they’ll hear us,” a whispered male voice breathes in my ear.
“I’m not planning on hurting you.” His voice is hoarse and rushed—close to impossible to judge the sincerity of his words. I stood there not saying a thing, trying to figure out what my next move should be. Fighting him off of me was an option. What were my others? I’m not ready to die yet. I have to find my brother and Rusty.
“Are you planning on hurting me?” His quiet voice swirls in my ear. My heart pounds in my chest.
I shook my head. “Not if I don’t have to.” My voice comes out low and steady. I need to have my flashlight hooked to my jeans or something. This is ridiculous. Stupidity and carelessness is what kills people these days—I suppose not just in “these days” but it’s a lot more common of reason. We have to always be careful. Mistakes are costly.
“Are you alone?” The male’s voice asks. I’m noticing now that he sounds just about as uneasy as I feel.
I don’t know how to move. What’s the right answer here? I’m not sure.
“I’m making my way back to my group. It’s a small group, but we are good people. We aren’t set up too far from here.” He continues to make my next playable card unclear.
“Let me go and we both continue our ways then.” This will have to do. I close my eyes for a second (possibly less than) and push stale air out from my lungs.
The knife leaves my neck, so has the arm. He has let me go.
“I’m one of the good ones. Come with me if you’d like. Hunters aren’t far from here based on the screams I was hearing. I’m going to move on.” Now that his hands were off of me, I was able to sense kindness in him. I was tired of being alone. Was it worth the risk? I turn to face him. The building was almost pitch-black. I couldn’t only make out the outline of his face.
A raspy breathing broke up my curiosity in the stranger. Gunshots fire not too far from where we’re standing. I reach for the knife on my belt. Footsteps clamor outside the doorway I had just come in.
“Were you being followed?” He whispers.
“I’m pretty sure.” I whisper back, feeling altogether uneasy.
He grabs my hand. “Come with me. I think I know a way out. You can decide later if you want to try and kill me.”