31 Mar Through the Woods
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"Through the Woods"Written by
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Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
I don’t have long left. They’re coming for me and it is only a matter of time before they find me. I’m sitting here, in this abandoned shack I found in the woods, using only the shafts of moonlight that’s coming through the broken windows to write this. I know that this will be the last chance I get to warn everyone, to tell them to find safety and hide.
Hide. I never thought in a thousand years that I would ever think to use this word for myself.
I can barely write this, my hands are shaking so violently, the blood off of my fingers is staining the paper as I try to write. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that it has come to this, that I have had to hide like some kind of animal.
They’re all dead. My friends. My comrades. Jess was the first to go down. They caught her as we were leaving the old mill back in town. I don’t know how they found out that we were staying there, but they did. We were packing, taking as much as each of us could carry on our backs. We heard them break through the front doors of the mill, their booted steps echoing through the empty building as they ran, looking for us. We grabbed what we had and ran for the roof… But Jess forgot something. A locket or some shit. I told her to leave it… We’d come back for it later. But she couldn’t leave it.
Jess had told me once that the locket was a gift from another life, from a time she would never forget. A lover lost to war. I wasn’t surprised that she wouldn’t leave it, but I still tried to beg her to come with us, that it wasn’t worth it. The others tried to tell her as well, but they were the ones who told me to leave her. They’re the ones who told me that we needed to run. It had just started to rain as we ran across the roof. We could barely hear those first gun shots over the low rumble of thunder above us.
The first screams still echo in my ears. I can hear them as if they were still around me. The screams made my skin crawl, the air filling with the sounds of death. Then… Silence. The four of us were scaling down the ladders when the silence filled our ears… A deafening sound.
We all stopped. We shouldn’t have stopped, but we did. Luke was on the ground already. He was always the fastest out of the five of us. He was looking up at the roof, just as we were. Zack was beneath me on the ladder. Abby was above me, frozen as she waited. I should have known she’d have called to the roof for Jess. She should have never called out for her. We might have gotten away if she hadn’t.
It was only seconds after Abby had called out that we saw the black figure look over the edge of the roof, and I know my eyes went wide, just like the others. That black, menacing figure. I’d heard so many tales of black dogs being omens, or black cats… Ravens and crows. But I had never felt as afraid as I had right then when I was staring up at the faceless black figure that stared back at us. It was Zack that broke the silence finally. He yelled for us to jump and run. We were still half way up the building on the ladders, and looking down, I remember seeing Luke, shouting up at us. I couldn’t hear what he was yelling… The gun shots were too loud around us.
I didn’t get a chance to jump. Zack grabbed my ankle and tugged me hard, forcing me to release the prongs of the ladder. Abby had already jumped off to the side of where she’d been, hurling herself down to the ground below. She’d always been the one to make these kind of jumps with such precision and beauty. She’d been a dancer once… A long time ago. She landed almost naturally on the ground below, rolling a few feet before standing up and grabbing at Luke, trying to pull him with her, telling him we’d catch up.
I felt the ground before I saw it. My body bounced against the hard cement, and I felt my knees and palms scrape against its rough surface. Zack though was there with me, grabbing me up and pulling me to my feet. Luke was around us, trying to get us to move. It was all happening so fast. I remember briefly looking back at the mill’s roof and seeing eight black figures now, all of them shooting towards us. But we were faster then they were anticipating. We weren’t Jess… We weren’t reckless and rushing in blindly like she had.
The next thing I knew, the four of us were running down the alley between the old general store and the florist. Zack brought me here once… It was one of the only places in this small town that sold our favorite brand of drink. It had been back when I’d first met him, after I’d wandered into the town. I remember that day like it was yesterday. His dark hair and those violet colored eyes. He was dashing and polite… But so mysterious. I had been so thirsty from wandering through the woods that surrounded the town, so hungry.
I still don’t know how the four of us managed to get away from the mill. But we knew that it hadn’t been without sacrifice. None of us asked about Jess. None of us questioned if she’d catch up or where she could be. It was like all four of us knew the answer without asking it aloud. I knew. There was no way that she had gotten out of there alive. They’d killed her, just like they’d kill us if they caught us.
Luke was the first one to speak as we ran across Main St, leading us into the old movie theater. He said what we all knew. We had to leave, to run as fast as we could and get out of there. He told us of a sanctuary, a place where we’d all be safe. St. Louis. I’d never been there before, but I knew that it was at least an hour and a half away from our little town of Hermann. Zack asked him how we’d possibly make it there, and Luke just told him we’d figure it out. I almost felt as if maybe Luke knew what was to come, but was just too afraid to tell us.
Abby was already checking the theater, making sure that we were safe, at least for a few moments. She was the quietest of us all, so she was always the first to volunteer to go scout around if we needed it. When she came back though, none of us were ready for the look on her face. She had no color on her face, which was saying something due to how light toned she already was. She told us we couldn’t stay here, but of course, when Luke asked her why and she wouldn’t answer, he pushed her out of the way and walked into theater number one. I shouldn’t have followed. I should have listened to Zack when he told me to stay with Abby.
My hand shot to my face immediately after walking into the dark room. I covered my mouth and my nose. The smell of blood was so overwhelming that it made my stomach lurch and turn. At least fifteen people… All of them dead. There were bullet casings covering the floors, and the bodies were just… Thrown across the chairs and in the aisles. Zack told me later that this was where they’d lured everyone at first, that this was how they got so many of us down so quickly. I still didn’t understand what was going on though, but I was too afraid to ask.
Abby came running into the theater room shortly after, telling us we had to leave right then. We didn’t ask questions, we didn’t need to. Zack ran to the back of the theater, back past the screen, and pushed open the door to the back alley. We ran. We had to. We left our temporary hiding place and ran back out into the rain that was now pouring down from the sky like buckets that were being dumped down on top of us.
We had to run for the forest, to where we had constant cover and safety. But that was at least eight blocks away in either direction. We were in almost the center of town. Luke thought we should head towards where the bus station was, back on the east side of town. It made the most sense because St. Louis was east of here. But Zack thought that it would be too obvious, that they’d probably be waiting for us and that the roads most likely had road blocks by now. But it was Abby who thought much differently. She’d been so quiet this entire time, but finally she said we needed to go back for Jess. Zack just looked at her. Luke bluntly said no. Abby though wasn’t going to settle for that answer. She started to cry, or maybe that was just rain dripping down her face. She asked what if Jess was still alive, or hurt and needed help. The three of us knew that we couldn’t go back, regardless if she was alive or not, but Abby didn’t want to hear it. I begged her to stop getting louder, but soon, she was shouting at us, calling us monsters… Telling us that this was all our fault.
Abby said she was going back by herself, that she was going to go get Jess. She kept backing up and we were trying to get her to stay, to calm down and think about this. But just as she stepped back to where the side alley of the theater was… Her head jerked to the right, an explosion of blood spraying from the left side of her head. She made a sick, groaning sound, as if still trying to talk, then just dropped to the ground. I know that I screamed, even though I shouldn’t have, because Zack grabbed my arm and pulled me as him and Luke began to run the opposite way down the alley. East it was.
I was in shock. I hadn’t even heard the gunshot before she fell to the ground. Abby and Jess were the second people I’d met when I’d come here. They were in the general store, buying the same brand of drinks that Zack was buying me. They were beautiful girls, and best friends. They’d been friends since before they could remember, and they were nearly inseparable. In fact, over the past numerous years, I can only recall a handful of times when they’d been away from one another. Jess had been in love with Luke, but Luke liked Abby. Unfortunately, Abby had never gotten over her lost love…
We ran down that alley as fast as we could. We didn’t even look behind us. We’d turn down this alley, then that, swerving in and out of the buildings, doing the best that we could to avoid the main streets. We didn’t see another soul until we got to where the bus station was. Hermann station was small, nothing big and glamorous. Just a small, outdoor station with kiosks where they sold the tickets. It was quiet there. Luke had expected to find at least a bus or two, since there were normally a couple that were kept here for back up or emergencies. But they were long gone. Apparently, they’d been evacuating for a day or two before now… Quietly. It was like they knew who they did and didn’t want to save.
We would have to run from here. Make our way to St. Louis by foot. Luke even grabbed a map from a nearby kiosk, just so we knew where we were going… And where to avoid. He’d made the trip to St. Louis numerous times, but this would be the first time any of us walked there.
We let our guard down, though. We’d finally thought we were free, that we had our way out and that we were going to get out of there. We’d started walking towards the tree line to the woods, and we didn’t bother checking behind us. We were stupid.
Luke heard them first. Those heavy, combat grade boots slamming against the concrete as they ran. He told us to run, told Zack to keep me safe. They had their guns up and firing before I even knew what was going on. I heard the bullets ricocheting from around us as Zack pulled me by my hand towards the trees. I didn’t dare look back at Luke. I could hear the screams again, just like before at the mill. People were dying. Luke was dying.
While we were running, I asked Zack what was going on, why this was happening. I thought we had a government immunity. That we were safe. That we could live. Zack told me that the immunity was over, that the newest President had thrown out the agreements and had deemed us all a threat to the nation. He called us monsters. He said that we had no reason to be here any more. Zack told me that we were no longer safe. He said that all we could do was get to St. Louis, where the safe house had been built just in case anything like this had ever happened.
From that point to now, sitting in this shack, it is all still a blur. We’d ran for quite a while, then just started walking east. It had started to get dark when the sound of helicopters could be heard in the distance. Zack told me not to worry about it, to just keep moving… But I had this overwhelming feeling of dread building up inside of me.
We were in the middle of no where. I had no idea where we were, or which way to go. Zack was leading me every step of the way… And I trusted him, just as I always had since the day that I had met him. He was my savior, and my protector. He’d recognized me the moment I had entered Hermann. He knew that I was someone who would need to be protected. He took me under his wing and did just that. He introduced me to his friends, took me to the mill, showed me what it was like to trust and have friends again.
Even now, when his life was on the line, when he knew that if he left me behind he could save himself… He protected me. He’d taught me so much over the past numerous years… I didn’t know what I would ever do without him. I had relied on him so much… That now I didn’t want to think about what would happen if we were separated.
But we were separated. After hearing those helicopters in the distance, we heard the dogs, then the people. The men were loud as they hunted us through the woods, obviously not trying to hide that they were close. It was like a game of cat and mouse to them. The hunters had become the hunted.
When they were starting to surround us… Zack hid me in some brush and told me to find the first opening and make a run for it… I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay right there and die with him. I stayed long enough to see the start of the fight. They kicked him and punched him… And he took every hit, even though I knew that he could have fought back. He was stalling them. He was saving me. It took every fiber of my being to not call out for him, to scream his name, as I watched them taunt him and stab him. They laughed at him, called him names and dared him to fight back like the others… But he didn’t. He just looked towards where he’d hidden me… And closed his eyes.
I still don’t know how I got out of there… Or even when. I just know that I ran the moment they shot that first bullet. I ran for what felt like hours. I ran until my chest burned and my body ached. I ran as fast as I possibly could, putting as much distance as I could between me and them.
Now I’m here… Hiding. I can hear the helicopters now, far off in the distance. I could try to run for it, but I don’t know where I’d go.
I am going to fight.
I have to. It is in my nature. I’ve already drank my last bottle of Fangs… And I remember that first bottle Zack ever gave me. The government had created this for us… To sate our hunger so that we didn’t have to feed… So we could live with everyone else. We worked. We loved. We laughed. We did just as everyone else did. We made names for ourselves and became citizens. We didn’t need to train to hunt. We didn’t need to fight. We grew weak and… Civilized. We weren’t monsters. We weren’t vampires. We were… Us.
But that’s gone now. Abby… Jess… Luke… Zack… They’re all gone now. Fangs is gone. We are once again the monsters… The creatures of the darkness.
I can hear the dogs now, see the artificial rays from their flashlights and spotlights through the broken windows. The humans have declared war. They intend to eradicate and remove every last one of us.
This is war… And I will stand and fight.
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