Little Things, pt. 5

And here we end our little tale of the zombie apocalypse. Thanks for reading!

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The going was faster with the improved light, and they soon left the lake behind them. Jake grimaced as a dull pain spread out from where he’d gashed himself. “Hey,” he said a short time later. “We got anythin’ left in the pack? This ain’t stopped bleedin’ yet.”

Oliver gave him a pained look. “Might be somethin’. If we press on, we can be there soon.”

“Yeah, and we’ll be trailin’ a line of the dead right behind us. Every step I take, I’m leavin’ blood behind.”

The other man sighed in resignation. “Right. We’re low though, man. Real low. This’ll clean us out but good.” He snapped the lid open on their travel kit and passed over a bottle of disinfectant, relatively clean rags for bandages, and the real prize of the lot, the all-important anti-bacterials.

“Damn. This is all we’ve got left?”

“Stop cuttin’ yourself and it’d last longer,” Oliver said grimly. He unstrapped a small hand axe from his belt, eyeing the land around them. “And hurry up about it, I don’t like just sittin’ here.”

“Me? You cut yourself more with that tree-splitter than I ever have on anything,” Jake spat, downing the last anti-bacterial tablet with some water, then cleaning the gash in his leg thoroughly. He was just about to start wrapping the bandage when Oliver jerked around to face behind him, eyes wide, raising his axe. He lurched to his own feet and awkwardly turned, stumbled backward, looking up into the half-missing face of the dead man that had walked up right behind him.

His brain numb with shock, he grabbed at his belt for his own axe, but Oliver was already beating the dead thing back, hacking at its neck with grim intensity until the head bounced off the side of the road.

Jake shook himself to clear his head and hastily tied off the bandage, fingers shaking. “Thanks,” he croaked, his throat suddenly sore.

“You alright? You don’t look so good,” the other man said.

“I’m fine. It just surprised me is all.” He felt a bit feverish and hot, and his legs shook as he stood. “I just need a few minutes to walk it off.” It’s just the shock, lettin’ it sneak up behind like that. “And that’s what we’d better do. We gotta kee—” He fell to one knee, retching.

“Aw hell, did it get you?” Oliver looked torn between rushing to his side and backing away. “Couldn’t have bitten you, but did it scratch?”

He coughed up a storm, but managed to shake his head no. “Didn’t—didn’t touch me,” he forced out. It would’ve taken longer than that anyway. Nobody’d ever turned in less than half an hour. But if not that thing, then what?

His hand leaped up to his neck. He hadn’t been bitten by the dead, true … there it was. Boiled up to the side of a small grape, right where the damn bug had bitten him. His eyes met Oliver’s, and he nearly threw up again as he started noticing that Oliver looked oh so very tasty.

* * *

Oliver slipped the axe back into the loop on his belt, turned, walked away. He felt bad just leaving Jake back there, but staying at the site of a fresh kill was a good way to get dead fast.

As he pushed on, he forced his mind to backtrack over every step of their journey. Jake hadn’t been bit; he’d bashed his leg open on something sharp. Was that what got him infected? Try as he might, he’d never heard of anyone turning because of a cut before. It had to be a bite, a scratch, some kind of contact with the dead that opened the skin, let out the blood.

The path before him crossed a small bridge over a babbling creek. He wasn’t ordinarily the philosophical sort, but crossing that bridge felt strangely powerful just then, a leaving behind of his former self and on to the next stage of his life.

Something tickled his neck, just under his earlobe. He swatted it idly, wincing at the faint itching he felt spreading from the bite. “Damn ‘squitos,” he muttered. No matter. He’d be home soon.