(nome de plume)
“First, we have to build a safehouse. We search for father in the daylight,” Michael explained through bites of his dinner.
We had just finished seven-straight days of Zombie Ultimatum training and were just about ready to go out into the field. Father’s face as an Infected was still haunting me, but it was our main reason for coming here; we needed to save him from the scourge.
Michael’s suggestion still brought out tears from me and I tried to hide my emotions.
“Look at me, Emily. I need you to stay strong. I can’t do this without you.”
He reached out and squeezed my hand.
“Okay, let’s do this,” I said, squeezing his hand back.
We went to sleep and I dreamt of our old family; all of us huddled around a glowing tree opening wrapped boxes. Christmas fell away with civilization when the outbreak occurred.
In the morning we were rounded up into groups of five and put into separate rooms. Michael and I whispered to each other while waiting for officials to arrive.
“When we get in there, stay where you are. I’ll come to you. Keep your gun close and keep a look out for me.”
Before I could answer, the officials burst in and we were all injected with a sedative.
I woke up in a small room, myself and the bed the only occupants. There was a window, alongside which the bad was laid on the opposite end of the door. Beside the bed sat pre-filled survival tools issued to players. I grabbed the pack, took out the gun and strapped it over my shoulder.
Outside the window I could see nothing but trees. Looking under the bed I found a slightly out-of-place floorboard and, curious, pried it up to find a small silver key and a maze with an “X” in the top right corner.
I put both into my pocket for safekeeping.
With a trembling finger ready to switch-off the gun’s safety, I took a deep breath and then ran outside. I couldn’t take the chance that Michael might not find me in that room.
Running through the woods brought back memories of Michael, Nicole and I playing tag in the woods of a park near our old home. I could imagine Michael and Nicole running with me and laughing—at least until I heard gunshots in the distance. They got louder as I slowed to a stop. The fear was overwhelming.
Then I could see movement in the trees and heard the sound of twigs snapping and it wasn’t until my brother picked me up and carried me while he ran that I even noticed the gunshots were coming from him and four other players. The faces of the infected trailed behind us, eager for a chance at fresh meat. Their red eyes and decaying flesh brought out an even more intense fear in me. If Michael weren’t carrying me, I would have been dead.
We all took turns firing at the infected and I trusted Michael to get us to safety. Hope came to us in the form of a house into which we all burst, Michael putting me down before assisting the others in moving a large bookcase over to barricade the door.
The Infected were pounding on the doors and the pre-boarded windows, but it seemed that we were safe. After a while the group started venturing outside, but my reaction in the woods gave Michael another idea.
“Emily, I need you to stay here and protect the house,” he told me.
“You said family sticks together, though,” I whined, trying to get him to let tag along.
“I know, and I will always come back for you,” he promised.
He always came back, though his group fluctuated in number, he was always the first to arrive back. Over the weeks I got used to him checking on me after each venture out. And I was always happy to see him.
One night though, I awoke to Michael shaking me violently, his hands digging into my shoulders. Once I was awake he gave me my pack and my gun and had me run with him as he explained through panting breaths.
“One of the guys got bitten, and he brought it back here,” he said, the sentence punctuated by our racing footsteps, “Downstairs is being taken by the infection. We need to get out of here now!”
I could hear screaming and gunshots. Michael lead us to the roof where we climbed down a tree and ran into the forest. I imagined us playing tag as kids again. This gave me new energy to push myself faster. I ran fast enough to get several feet in front of him, where the ground beneath me gave way, landing me in a slightly illuminated hallway.
I yelled for Michael but didn’t hear anything back. I looked for an exit, but someone found me first.
“My beautiful baby girl.” the voice of my mother rang out.
Startled, I turned, then came face to face with her. She looked the same as I remembered but I could tell that there was something very wrong with her. Her eyes bore into mine.
“I love you Emily, but you need to kill me now, before the urge comes back.”
“What urge? What are you talking about? Mom I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
“I’ll always love you, Emily.”
I didn’t get the chance to ask her again. Her eyes turned red and low growl began to churn. She started walking toward me, arms outstretched. I froze in place, wide-eyed, just staring at her.
“Mommy?!” I sobbed before she pounced on me, knocking me to the ground and pinning me down.
I asked her to stop again and again, but she kept trying to claw me while lowering her head to bite me. I fought her as much as I could, but my strength was wearing thin. I could smell the rot coming from my mother’s mouth when a sheet of thick, moist breath smacked me in the face, her spacious and yellowed teeth finding their target. She let out a vicious screech and I knew darkness would be coming soon as her head came bearing down a direct line to my neck.
I closed my eyes, not knowing what kind of horrific pain to expect, and then I heard a dense thud and felt her arms leave my shoulders. Instinctively I got to my feet and then turned back to see mother on the other end of a furious foot—Michael had found me in time. He finished her hell with a crude hatchet I hadn’t seen him have before.
Relieved, I ran up to hug him, but Michael was holding the left side of his neck—and blood was seeping out from under his fingers.
“Please, Emily. Don’t let me become an infected,” he said to me, dutiful resignation in his eyes.
I couldn’t speak, just began to cry. He handed me another magazine.
“I love you,” he said quietly.
I didn’t have to say anything back. I did as instructed me, my final act of sisterly love.
I sat and wept, cursing this whole thing and questioning why we had ever come here in the first place. And then another echo resonated from somewhere in the hallways.
“My baby girl, finally come back to see her daddy. I’ve been waiting for you…”
Father’s voice. I had nothing left to lose; it was time to say goodbye.