“I. Must. Find. Micah. Come. Through. The hole. Now.” Sarah was getting irritated.
“You keep saying that but how do you even know he’s in this direction? Besides, I can’t fit through here.” Erin was being unreasonable. Again.
“You just saw me come through there and I’m way bigger than you!”
“Yeah but you’re more limber.”
“This is not happening. I don’t have time for this. Come through now or I’m leaving you.”
“Alright alright, already. Calm down. Sheesh. You’re so serious all the time.”
What wasn’t there to be serious about? It was the end of the world and they had just come through another decrepit rubble-filled falling-apart building trying to hide from some unsavory characters they saw on the road. Well, literally everyone seemed unsavory now, but that’s beside the point.
Erin interrupted her thought. “I’m just scared, okay? You’re all I have, now.” She squeezed through the hole in the wall.
“We just met! And if you were scared, you’d keep your voice down!”
“Exactly. And before you, I didn’t have anyone at all.”
Sarah was incredulous. How did this little kid manage to convince her to take her along? “God I’m such a sucker,” she muttered to herself.
“I heard that. For real, though, how do you know he’s in this direction? Who is he anyway? And why is it so important to find him? Are you in loooove with him? It seems to me we’re better off finding a place to hide. A place with food. Do you have any food? What are we going to eat? I’m hungry.”
Damn it with the questions. Question after question after question. This girl couldn’t be but maybe ten-years-old. It occurred to her that she’d never asked the girl’s age. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Only little kids add the ‘and-a-half.’ Are you a little kid?”
“That’s…” Erin let out some grunt noises. “Fine, I’m ten. How old are you?”
“I’m not going to tell you that!”
“But I told you my age!”
“Why do you get to know my age and I don’t get to know yours? This is so not fair!” Erin crossed her arms and tossed her hair to the side and refused to speak.
Silence. Sweet, sweet silence. If only it could’ve lasted.
“So how do you know he’s in this direction?”
“I just know, okay? I can’t explain it. And, he’s my husband.”
“But how do you even know he’s still alive? Everyone I knew is dead. I mean, you can’t possibly think he’s still alive after all that’s happened.”
“I JUST KNOW DAMN IT SHUT UP!”
In the distance, they heard what-could-have-been yelling, and that settled the matter. They instinctively looked around for a place to hide. They spotted an alley to their right and settled down in the crawl space between two buildings inside the alley.
The truth was that Erin had a point. Sarah had not seen Micah since the world fell apart. After hiding in their home for a week, she made the long trek to his office only to find it empty and in ruins. Then she made her way back home, but checked every single building, alley, and alcove on the way back, hoping she would find him alive or maybe find his body. She found neither and was both anxious and relieved.
When she had arrived home, Erin had just kind of appeared in the hallway with a “Hello! I’m Erin!” Then she refused to answer any of Sarah’s questions and insisted that she had moved in because the house still had food.
Sarah whispered, “Look, you really need to tell me where you came from. Maybe we can find your parents or a relative or something after I find Micah.”
Erin whispered back, “I already told you I’m not ready to talk about that, yet. And we’ll never find my parents. Ever.”
Sarah sighed. It had been six days since she had awoken to the faint sound of Micah screaming. At the same time, she had felt a powerful pull in the direction she was now heading. It felt like Micah was calling for her. Or maybe that’s just what she had hoped. The pull persisted for four days, until two days ago, when it suddenly stopped. Sarah was beside herself with anxiety. Erin grabbed her hand and held it in both of hers.
They waited about an hour before they emerged from the crawl-space. Instead of going back out the way they had entered, they made their way to the back of the alley and were relieved to find that the alley extended behind a long row of buildings. They began their walk down it.
“Oh ho ho, what have we here? It looks like two chickadees,” came a voice from their left. Leaning against a doorway in the shadows was a man in a duster smoking a cigarette. They ran. The man shouted something at them, but they did not hear.
When they emerged from the back-alley, what they saw stopped them mid-stride: a pile of corpses in the middle of the road and a man with an ax beheading another man leaned over a chopping block. After his head fell, the man with the ax tossed the body into the pile and another man stepped up and willingly threw himself down on the chopping block. A line of men stood patiently waiting their turn. The man with the ax saw them and grinned. They ran again.
They ran until Erin could run no longer, and then Sarah carried her piggy-back style. They darted through streets, weaving in and out of alleys and buildings hoping they would lose anyone trying to follow. They didn’t care which way they ran so long as it was away from what they just saw. When it was dark, they finally stopped and found a place to hide inside an empty dumpster.
“Just what was that?!” Erin whispered.
“I don’t know, but let’s not go back that way. And let’s try to whisper from now on and only do that when absolutely necessary.”
Erin nodded. Sarah pulled two granola bars out of the small pack she had tied around her waist. She also pulled out her last bottle of water. She offered the water to Erin, first, and Erin took a drink and handed it back. Sarah whispered that she should drink more, but Erin refused.
Sarah drank heartily. She was so thirsty. And sweaty. She dared not drink it all, though, since she didn’t know when she might get to refill it. Again she offered it to Erin and Erin refused. Erin did take the granola bar, however.
Shouldn’t Erin be more sweaty and thirsty after that? she thought to herself. I guess it’s because I carried her the last half of the way.
Sarah’s underwear were a swamp after so much sweat and she didn’t dare risk a yeast infection in this new world, so she took all her clothes off and risked opening the top of the dumpster so she could dry out. She laid her clothes out as best she could in the small space of the dumpster. Holy shit how relieving it was to get out of her bra. Erin looked embarrassed.
“It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked before. You’ve hardly left my side since I found you in my house.”
Erin just shrugged and turned away.
They tried to sleep for a bit, but sleep was hard in a dumpster. After about a half an hour, Sarah put her clothes back on sans-underwear. They weren’t 100% dry, but she didn’t want to have to run away naked if something had happened. They heard a sound coming from the building across the field from their dumpster.
“What is that?” whispered Erin. Sarah shushed her.
“It sounds like them,” Sarah whispered. She could see the fear wash over Erin’s face. “Just be quiet.” Sarah closed the dumpster.
Suddenly she had a feeling that Micah was in that building. She tried to shake it off, but the feeling grew stronger. It was overwhelming. She had to see if he was there.
“I… I think Micah is in there.”
Erin’s eyes bulged and she shook her head no.
“I have to see. I’m certain he’s in there. I just know it. You wait here.”
Sarah crept out of the dumpster as Erin tried to grab her to keep her from leaving. Sarah was out before Erin could get a hold.
She made her way across the field trying to be as small and quiet as possible. Luckily, the grass was tall, having not ever been cut it seemed to Sarah, helping her to hide. She found the edge of the field where it met the concrete and crouched in the grass to examine the building.
It was a regular office building. It was five stories tall, but rubble and garbage surrounded the outside and piled well above the entire first floor. There was no sign of movement in the windows, but it was hard to tell in the dark of night. The feeling grew stronger. She crept closer.
When she reached the giant pile of crap, she could hear them clearly; their raspy laughter sounds and erratic movements. She felt drawn to a window on the third floor. Seeing no other way up, she began to climb. Climbing the rubble was easy enough, except for the noise she was making. She was glad to reach the building so she could stop sending rubble sliding down the mountain of crap she had just climbed. She crept along the top of the rubble trying to keep her feet on the solid-yet-small ledge between floors one and two until she was under the window. The feeling was so strong at that point, she would have leapt into the window if she had been able. Instead, she was able to climb the decorative bricks jutting out of the regular bricks.
She peered into the window and all color left her face. She could see Micah in the glow of their branding irons. He was nailed with some metal rods through his body to a table in a crouching position as they shoved things into his body from behind while others branded him repeatedly all over the exposed parts of his body. He was nothing but skin and bone. They gleefully danced around him with their chaotic movements and took no notice of Sarah.
She felt a rage the like of which she didn’t even know was possible, and she pulled herself into the window. The one closest to her turned toward her. She grabbed its grotesque mask with both hands only to notice that it wasn’t a mask, it was an actual part of the thing. She dug her fingers into it and pulled. Its head ripped in half.
The rest of them noticed her then, and she was glad for it. She jumped on one, grabbed its arm, and pulled. The arm quickly separated from the body entirely. She briefly considered using the arm as a weapon, but then dropped it and turned her attention to the dozen or so remaining. She would tear them apart with her bare hands.
When it was done, she pulled the wooden bat out of Micah and then the metal rods and she held him in her arms. He was so light. His eyes were open but they couldn’t see her. He was mumbling something; the same thing over and over again, “Let me die. Please let me die.” She held him close as tears streamed down her face. Her voice left her and she could say nothing.
She held him for a while and rocked back and forth like he was a baby. She could find nothing with which to cover his nakedness, so she just held him tightly in her arms. Eventually, he stopped shaking. Just then, a head popped into the window, and noticing the gore that had been unleashed upon the room, exclaimed “Oh my god, what the fuck happened in here!? Is that Micah!?”
Erin crouched beside them. “Look I hate to tell you this, because he doesn’t exactly look like he can move, but they are outside.”
Sarah could hear them. She motioned for Erin to hold Micah and gently let him into Erin’s arms so she could look outside. Erin wasn’t lying. There were probably a hundred of them outside and they were coming this way, albeit more slowly than she expected, and they were moving backward. Their attention seemed to be turned toward the field of grass.
Something like a blue glow emerged from the grass and sped throughout the mass of them. It looked like the glow-thing was killing them, and it was doing it quickly. They were fast, but the glow was faster, darting back and forth amongst them, and they could not even seem to react to its movements. Sarah strained to keep up with just her eyes.
Then it stopped, suddenly and violently. A flash of blue light erupted from the glow and then subsided and Sarah could see that it was a person. The person was being held on either side by two of the largest of them as the smaller ones attempted attacks, but the person was somehow resisting. Sarah felt compelled to help, and without a second thought, jumped out of the window and landed on the pavement beyond the pile of rubble.
She strode to the one closest to her, grabbed it by the head, swung it around in a full circle, and hurled it toward the blue-glow person. Around ten of them in its flight-path were knocked down or sent flying and it bounced against one of the large ones. The large one staggered for just a moment, and the moment was enough for the blue-glow person to break free. Was that a sword they held? Then with a flick of their wrist, the sword swung around and cleaved the large one in two.
Together they finished the rest.
When it was done and Sarah had caught her breath, she could see that the person was a girl; a girl in full plate armor and carrying a really big sword. The girl swung her sword over her shoulder and into its place on her back and approached Sarah. “I am Alice and I see you are one whom also wields the fire. Though this feels like the right place, I am quite certain you are not the one I heard screaming six days ago.”