A short story written by Siobahn Harris 7/3/2017
I hated running. In school, I always walked the mile and I would laugh at those who would run. I just thought, “Morons, what does running teach you?” But, I should’ve run. And I should’ve learned how to breath while running. Now, I’m forced to run and dammit, I can’t breathe! It’s like the earth no longer has air to give me. It just ran out of air. Is that even possible? My feet are slamming onto the wet road so hard that it’s causing pain that feels like lightning bolts to shoot up my legs. At this point I’m just on autopilot. I can’t stop. If I stop, he’ll catch me.
I’m trying to keep my eyes forward. I don’t need to see the mess the world has left behind. Everything has blood on it. A drop here, a puddle there, hand prints, and bodies. Everywhere.
And those churning grey clouds above me don’t give me any comfort. It’s been raining all week. The half-eaten corpses left to rot in puddles are now bloated and stink worse than ever. The last thing we all need right now is more rain. It washes nothing away. All the pain and rot just floats back up. It causes flooding that brings the crawling dead towards us faster. We don’t need any more rain.
I can hear him behind me. In between my steps, I can hear his. Just as fast, if not faster than mine. He’s catching up. I think he was one of those runners from school, he doesn’t seem as out of breath as I am. He wants me dead, maybe that’s driving him to run faster.
Glancing back, I can see him. He’s tall and skinny. Very skinny. That’s probably why he’s so angry; I stole an apple from his group. Sadly, I didn’t even get a bite before I had to run. I can see light dancing off the knife he is gripping. I remember before the dead could walk, a girl like me would just be able to flash a smile and get a free drink but now I’m being hunted down for an apple.
This four-lane highway used to be so busy. Cars, trucks, and vans used to zip by so fast that the cops had to put out those digital speed traps, not that it slowed anyone down. Now it sits empty of all cars, except for the broken down ones. I can see shops up ahead on the left. If I can make it there, I may have a place to hide.
He sounds like he is getting closer. My face is hot and it feels like my chest is on fire. My cheeks hurt from slamming up and down on my face. I can’t do this anymore.
The sky finally releases the rain it’s been threatening all day. No one is safe in the rain. I’m not safe in the rain. The rain is pouring down and I can’t hear his steps anymore. I know he is behind me, but how close, how far, how fast.
The green dumpster behind the coffee house is almost glowing through the grey and red that has painted this world. It’s all I’ve got right now. My feet drag my body to the dumpster and I crumple down behind it. Gasping for air like a fish out of water doesn’t improve my ability to hear him. Is he still there? All I can hear is the rain. The ball in my stomach grows hot and tight as I grip the slippery lid of the dumpster. I need to see if he is still there but my legs no longer want to work. My eyes dart around the highway I just ran from but nothing. I know he was behind me but he’s gone now. Did he give up on me?
As I pull my body back up on my lifeless legs, the rain slows as if a warning. Glancing down the highway, I still see nothing, no man, no knife, nobody. A new sound takes over, one that makes me long for the sound of the rain again. From behind me, the sounds of sprinting footsteps, broken bones twisting and cracking into other bones, and the shrieks and groans of the dead.
Before I could run, he found me. Hiding on the other side of the dumpster, that bastard tricked me. He spun me around and wrapped his arm across my chest as we watched the horde of the dead come piling towards us. I could feel his breath in my right ear, hot as he began to laugh. The blade felt cold pressed against my throat as he slid it across without hesitation. My neck ripped open like an empty cave, pouring blood down the front of my body. The air was gone again as I fell to the ground and watched the dead surround me, preparing to feast.