You tumble to the side, barely avoiding a bullet flying towards you. On your arms and knees, you skuttle behind a car, splattered with bullet holes. The inside is no less of a mess, but it is exactly the kind of shelter you need. Lilly crouches beside you, and clutches her pistol tightly to her chest. You’re both breathing hard, relieved to have a moment out of the cross fire. You stare at your feet, examining the collage of stains: blood, dirt, mud, and grass. You briefly wonder if any of it’s your own blood, but a quick look at any skin visible outside of your uniform reveals an absence of injury. You look to Lilly and see that she wasn’t quite so lucky. A line of red trails down her left cheek. You reach over to wipe it off, and she shoots you an appreciative smile. Even the toughest soldiers need someone to look out for them.
An explosion rocks the ground somewhere to the left and you realize that it’s time to move. The air is so thick with dust that it’s hard to see. You tap Lilly on the shoulder and gesture for her to follow you. She nods. Slowly, you creep forward and peek around the car’s rear bumper. A flash of movement causes you to rear back so fast you almost knock over Lilly. She looks at you, confused and scared.
“Zombie at two o’clock,” you whisper.
Lilly’s eyebrows creep together. “Just one?” she whispers back.
You nod. This is odd. Ever since the apocalypse began, you have never seen a zombie wandering around by itself. They always travel in packs; they’re the most lethal that way.
“Does it have a weapon?” Lilly asks.
You slowly glance around the bumper again. The zombie has only approached a few more feet, dragging one leg behind it with agonizing slowness. A glint of metal in it’s right hand reveals that the monster is holding a pistol very similar to Lilly’s. Zombie’s may be slow, but they have pinpoint accuracy with guns. You gesture for Lilly to switch with you and watch as she raises her gun up and takes aim. The sound of the gunshot pierces the air and the zombie topples. You don’t wait to see the creature hit the ground. You grab Lilly by the sleeve of her uniform and break cover, sprinting as fast as you can. You hear more gunfire in the distance, but don’t turn to see if any of it’s at you. Your eyes sting from the lingering dust that filled the air after the last explosion. It dries your tongue out, and makes breathing difficult.
You leap over rocks and fallen bodies, heading for the distant silhouette of shelter. You imagine feet pounding behind you, but don’t stop to check, knowing that zombies could never catch up with anyone moving faster than a sloth. The shelter grows clearer, and your legs ache from exertion.
Before you know what’s happening, you find the ground to be approaching your face much faster than it should. Your temple hits a rock and your vision blurs. Pinpoints of light dot the air, and the ground tilts. You hear Lilly yelling to you, but the noise sounds far away. The world seems to go quiet and you feel as though you’re floating. The war seems to be in slow motion. From the ground, you watch zombie after zombie fall at the feet of the human soldiers. They are no match for your army.
You blink and try to sit up. Slowly, the world comes back into focus, sound comes rushing back, and time speeds back to normal. Lilly is crouched in front of you, holding your shoulders.
Your eyes rest on something behind her, and you freeze. A mob of dozens of zombies are approaching like a trudging, moaning herd of cows. A zombie in the front of the group raises it’s pistol at you. It’s jaw hangs awkwardly from it’s head, and it’s missing an arm. The clothes that remain on it’s rotted corpse are in tatters. Lilly drags you to your feet and screams that you need to run. Your head is pounding from your fall, but you force your legs to move anyways.
You hear a bang and an explosion of pain erupts in your leg. You vaguely hear someone screaming and your eyes flicker to Lilly before realizing that the sound is coming from you. Your leg feels as though it is on fire, but a glance down shows an absence of flames. A circle of red expands from a spot on the outside of your left thigh. Somehow, you block out the pain and keep going. Every step only makes the pain worse. Your muscle strain against the wound and you feel your leg try to give out with every step. Your breath is coming in harsh gasps, a mix between the exertion of running and the pain your suppressing. Your thoughts are a whirlwind of everything you learned in training coupled with the desperate need to survive. The thought of bleeding to death briefly flashes through your mind, but you push it away and force your legs to move faster.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” Lilly gasps.
“Is now really the best time?” you reply.
“I know. I should’ve told you sooner,” She pauses to catch her breath, “but I want to make sure you know in case we don’t survive this.”
“Lil, we’re winning the war. Why wouldn’t we make it out alive?” You risk a quick glance over your shoulder to see only a handful of zombies still have their guns pointed in your direction. It’s a good thing that zombies’ good aim only applies to non-moving objects.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t have casualties.”
“Fair enough. What do you need to tell me?”
“I lied to you,” she blurts.
“You lied to me?”
“I’m not as brave as you think.”
“What do you mean?”
“I only volunteered to be a soldier as a joke. I didn’t believe that the war we were really fighting was against zombies. I thought it was some trick to get volunteers for a bigger cause. I argued with my friends that I didn’t think zombies would even be able to hold guns. They don’t have muscles.” A bang sounds from behind you, and a bullet hits the sand just a few feet to your right.
“I think the ‘how’ is a little irrelevant at this point, Lil.”
“Are you mad at me?”
“Why would I be mad?”
“Because I’m not brave like you. I’m not a real soldier. I only volunteered because I wanted to be right.”
“You’re as much of a soldier as the rest of us.”
Lilly says nothing else. The gash in her cheek has started to bleed again. You’re almost to the shelter now. The zombies you have now left in the dust are aimlessly shooting after you, but an explosion puts an end to that. With a final burst of speed, you reach the shelter and frantically punch in the ten-digit code all soldiers had memorized.
The door slides open and you sprint inside. Instead of the doctors you expect to see, the heads of dozens of zombies turn to look at you with lopsided, toothless grins. Many are crouched over the bodies of the doctors, performing their own type of operations. The room is filled with bone-chilling moans, and the scrape of the zombie’s feet as they shuffle across the floor. A rotted arm drops from a socket and begins to inch it’s way across the floor. Lilly screams and raises her gun. Before you hear the bang, you feel yourself crash to the floor, and lay there as the world fades to black.
Jenna Cole '15