By I. S. Nichols
I wake up sweating, with a blinding headache. Every muscle in my body aches, and my eyes burn. I lift my arm to check the scratches, and sure enough, they’re infected. My forearm is a weird shade of red, which oddly matches my nail polish, but the scratch is only two inches in length. I refuse to accept that I will die because of a stupid mistake.
Bill was supposed to have my back, but I guess he died.
“What the hell, Abigail? What happened out there?”
Blake’s watching me. I can tell he is mad, because he never used my full name before. I was always Gail to him. He also seems annoyed, like it is my fault for getting infected. It sort of is because I was the one to suggest the raid, but he would have been annoyed with me either way. Maybe it’s not really me who he’s mad at. Maybe he’s mad at himself, because he knows it was the right thing to do.
Last night, Bill, Josie, and I went on a raid to a nearby town, in search of guns, ammo, food, and medicine. We had been running low on food and ammo for some time, so we all knew a raid was in order, but nobody wanted to be the first to mention it. I stepped up and offered to go. Blake prohibited us, saying it was too dangerous, and we should just move on as we planned. I knew it would be risky, but when Bill volunteered too, I figured it would go pretty well. We always made a great team, ever since we were kids. And if Billy came, so would Josie, because by God, she would not let her husband out of her sight. I can’t answer, and I can’t tell if it’s because my throat is dry, or because I simply can’t say it.
“I’m sorry about your brother,” Blake says as he approaches me. I think he is finally going to hug me, but he just leaves a glass of water on my bedside table and returns to the window.
“Thank you.” I manage after a sip of water.
“So? What happened?”
“We were ambushed. There were a lot of Coons out there.” I pause for a second and think back to the first time I heard Billy call zombies “Coons.” He said that it’s because the virus which created them is similar to the one which transmits rabies. I guess it kind of stuck with me. “Bill and I got jumped while I was raiding the pharmacy. We had already gotten the ammo, and we thought we would split up to finish faster. Josie was gathering food, and I popped inside the pharmacy to get some pills and bandages. Bill was watching both of us from the hallway, but Josie let out a yelp and he went to check on her. I was suddenly attacked by two of those things. I managed to fight the first one, but I got scratched. By that time Bill and Josie were already coming back. The other thing raced towards Josie but veered at the last moment. It sent Bill straight into a wall and he hit his head. As Josie was starting towards him, another Coon showed up and started clawing towards Bill’s chest. I managed to beat the first one with a bat, but Bill wasn’t getting up. By the time I finished the last one, Billy wasn’t… I mean…he was gone.”
The words feel empty. My brother is dead. I’m soon to follow.
“You know what this means?” Blake seems to be more in shock than me.
“It means you’ll need a new wife when I’m gone. You and Josie will have each other.” I try not to let emotions carry me away, but I feel tears running down my face. They burn. Everything hurts or burns and all I want is to get it over with as soon as possible. I struggle to get up from the bed but feel so dizzy I think I will faint. Blake lunges towards me and catches me in his arms.
“Gail, I meant what I said. I always have and always will love you.” As he says this, he tries to look me in the eyes, but I glance away.
“I know. Which is why you must be the one to do it. You cannot ask it of anybody else, because you would not forgive them, and you cannot leave me like this, because you know what it means. Make a lesson of me and solidify your claim as their true leader.”
I look at him as he begins his speech. I can tell that he is nervous, but for everybody else, his fear and anguish represent anger. The anger that his wife has betrayed him, going on a raid that got her brother killed, only for a couple of guns, and some rice. The truth is, I went on that raid for him. I knew he was low on painkillers, and his knee is still hurting. It’s been six years since he was wounded in the war, but he feels he has to act tough so he can keep his people safe. Now, having seen his brother-in-law killed, and his wife soon to follow, he feels even guiltier, not just because he thinks he could not keep us safe, but because he knows I did it for him. I just hope Josie will be able to keep him alive, for I believe he is their only hope. I only want this to be over soon. The warm sun hurts my eyes, and I close them for a second.
“Abigail MacArthur, for failing to follow your commander’s orders, you are sentenced to death.”
I open my eyes just in time to see him pull the trigger.