Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Award-Winning Teen Fiction Post #2

Here is the next story from one of our top nine writers in the POV Story Writing Contest. Katrina is 14, and is in 9th grade.

Sacrifices of Siblings

by Katrina Darwich

Blood. That’s all I can see. Blood everywhere, the red liquid splashing across my weapon and the floor. The groans of the undead are all I can hear as they stumble towards me, their red eyes set on my brother and me. Swinging, firing, and swearing all at once-- the air is filled with its hateful noises. The sounds of death. Eventually, I lower my bat, panting and sweating. It had only been two. We’ve handled more before. It was no big deal, just another two corpses. But, just as I turn to say something to Ben, I hear a groan. And out of nowhere, I see another zombie, moving extremely fast for a member of the undead. It doesn’t hobble or stumble, it runs. And it makes me freeze with fear, my feet locked in place. Black saliva trails down its grey chin, chunks of its cheeks missing to reveal the rotting gums and blackened teeth inside its putrid mouth. The tongue looks like a slab of rotting meat, maggots snuggling into the decaying flesh. But before I can react,  it’s upon us. Lumbering swiftly with arms outstretched, mouth open wide like a pit to Hell,  just waiting to consume me.

Just as I open my mouth to scream one last time, putting my hands up to shield myself from the creature’s onslaught, its blank bloody eyes trained on me...I hear a gasp. Opening my eyes slowly,  I tremble at the sight of my brother in front of me. His blade has completely gone through the zombie. Slamming it into the ground,  he steps onto its skull, smashing it under his combat boot. I’m shaking, the fear of sudden death leaking away as relief replaces it. At least, it does until I see the bloody tear on my brother’s arm. Instantly, I realize what he’s done. What he’s risked, and lost,  while trying to save me.

“Ben…that looks bad.” I whisper, staring at him fearfully. He shakes his head, ripping the navy blue sweater off to really examine it. And I’m right. It is bad. The bite punctured the skin,  and blood is trailing down his bare arm. A thick, black liquid seems to mix with the blood, and it smells like rot. Like Them. I grit my teeth to keep from vomiting as I examine the teeth marks. The most unnerving part about it is they’re human teeth marks. Bits of flesh are missing from where it took a bite, but he managed to save his arteries from being punctured. At least, that’s what I hope. We move past the slain corpses around us, avoiding the grisly remains of our fight. Ben’s arm is already reacting to the bite, the skin turning grey around the marks as it begins rotting away, even as we speak.

“You need to wrap that thing up. Here, I think I have some rubbing alcohol left, maybe we can…” but as I pull off  my backpack, beginning to rummage through the salvaged contents for something of use, Ben speaks, for the first time since he’s been bitten.

“That isn’t going to help.” My sweat goes cold at his words. Wiping my hands,  I set down my bloodied baseball bat, picking through my supplies unconsciously, and running my fingers through my shaggy black hair.

“Of course it will, come on Ben; maybe if we nip the infection in the bud,  we can…” He sighs.

“It isn’t going to help.” He repeats, a little more firmly this time. My mouth goes dry. I know he’s right, it isn’t going to help. It never helps. Whether we pour a little or the entire bottle of rubbing alcohol. It won’t do much. But that won’t stop me from trying.

“Well, then what should we do? You can’t fight without that arm,  and if we’re ambushed I’m going to need help!” I demand, my voice going higher than I want it to. Ben reaches for his belt with his left hand, pulling out one of the guns we managed to find. It's practically a relic, one of those revolvers you see  in old western movies. But, as a 16-  and a 13-year-old, you don’t have much access to guns. Even during the bloody end of the world. I watch with wide eyes as he examines the weapon like it’s a new video game, only to extend it to me.

“Go on. Do it.” Instantly, I know what he means. I recoil, my heart racing with fear,  as if he  has offered me a groaning zombie head instead of a simple gun.

“NO! No, no, no. Come on,  Ben, we…we have other options. I was exaggerating,  it isn’t even that bad!” I shout, only to lower my voice. They’ll hear us if I’m too loud. His hazel eyes stay calm, but on the inside, I know he’s freaking out too. He’s never been expressive when it comes to panic. Even when our parents put impossible deadlines on him for homework or stuff like that he didn’t freak out. I never dealt well with stress or panic at all. And I kind of hate him for handling situations better than I do.

“Aden, you know as well as I do that it won’t do us much good to look  for another option. I haven’t got much time as it is.” My throat burns as he puts  the gun in my hand, wrapping my fingers around it. The metal is still hot from his warmth. Warmth I know will be fading fast.

“Remember how I taught you,  all right?” he murmurs, helping me hold it correctly. I bite my lip to the point of blood as he sinks to his knees before me, staring at me expectantly.

“Right here,  buddy. Right here.” I almost can’t bear  it as he puts  his finger to the center of his forehead. Angry determination fills me.

“No…No,  I’m not going to shoot you,  Ben! Get up, get up and help me look for something to help you! Anything!” I snarl, replacing my fear with anger. He presses that same finger to his lips, reminding me of how he’d do that when I was younger. When I’d wail because I hurt myself or because I had a bad nightmare. That single finger to his lips. Hush. I bit back the urge to break that finger or to scream at him to stop treating me like a child. Even though both of us ached to return to those simpler times, when we didn’t have to kill to survive in this miserable world.

“Don’t argue,  Aden. It isn’t going to do us much good. You’re just wasting the time I have left,” he whispered wearily. I glance at his arm, discovering that he’s right again. It’s spreading fast. The saliva must have gotten to the blood. Half his arm is an ugly grey, hanging limply at his side, like the arm of  a ragdoll. I can barely look at it before bile begins to rise to my throat. Yanking my eyes away,  I focus on his face, still as comforting as ever. The face I stared up at for guidance or advice when our parents weren’t around. Which was most of our lives.

“Ben…I’m not going to shoot you,” I say with finality.

“And what’ll happen if you don’t? You know,  Aden, you know exactly what will happen if you don’t,” he retorts hotly. I shut my eyes as I remember exactly what he means. About trying to save his girlfriend. And how she’d been bitten.

“Do you want to go through what I did,  Aden? Do you want to shoot me when you have no other choice? When I’m a drooling, flesh-eating monster and I’m trying to kill you? Is that what you want?!” he demands, voice sharpening on the stones of anger. Memories of Riley, sitting beside him, her leg lifeless from the bite and tears streaming down her face from the pain. Ben is strong not to admit how much it hurts. It made Riley scream all night. In the end, I remember him taking the gun as she crawled towards us, eyes dead of life and mouth hanging open as she sought her prey. He’d pushed me behind him so I hadn’t seen him take the shot, but the sound still rang in my ears. The sound of death, final and instant. But the worst part had been when he’d begun to cry. Ben had crumbled to his knees, the gun loose in his hands. Sobs and inhuman wails tore from his throat, so excruciating that I nearly had to cover my ears. His gasp of pain snaps me back to reality.

“Ben, are you all right?” He glares up at me, hazel greeting spring green.

“What do you think?” I nearly laugh at his sarcasm-- if it wasn’t for the situation,  of course. “Aden, I love you. And if you love me, you’ll pull that trigger. Understand? It’s the only way.” Grim reality spits in my face and I hold up the gun, staring into it quietly.

“Do you love me,  Aden? Do you love me?” I can barely look at him,

“Y…Yes. I do.” I whisper, shocked that he dares to turn it against me like that.

“Then do it. Shoot me before there’s no more of me left. Save me.”

“Ben, please…” He grabs at the gun, gritting his teeth as he presses it to his forehead.

“Fine, you know what? I’ll do it myself!” he snarls, sucking in a deep breath as he closes his eyes. I yell as his fingers grow tight on the trigger, yanking it out of his hand as fast as I can.

“NO,  BEN! You aren’t going to do this to me, not now. Not after, not after all we’ve been through.” Though I know he doesn’t want me to, I begin to rant. “We’ve gone through Hell together,  Ben, and I’m not going to let you sink to another level of it without me!” His soft hazel eyes brighten and he smiles.

“Then send me off to heaven with a bullet. I don’t think God will mind.” All the venom in his voice from before seems to disappear, and I’m left with the brother I know so well. The gun weighs a ton in my fingers, crushing them with the weight of the world. But I know it’s only my fear that makes it so heavy. His words send angry tears into my eyes.

“Don’t do this Ben. Don’t make me pull this trigger,” I plead. He clutches at his arm, grimacing.

“I’m not making you do anything,  Aden. I need you to do something. But you can always just hand it to me and walk away.” He’s so calm, so calm I nearly hold up the gun and shoot. I just…I just want to see some emotion from him again. Fear, anger whatever! I need to see some emotion from him! I…need to know he is as frightened as I am.

“I’m not going to walk away and let you die like this,  Ben! What kind of brother would I be then?!” I demand, wiping at my eyes with my dirty sweater. I don’t want him to see any tears.

“A scared one.” He mumbles simply. That only infuriates me further.

“Of course I’m scared! Aren’t you!? Everyone stuck in this miserable place is scared! Everyone suffering through this Hell is scared out of their wits!!!” A burst of bravery surges through me suddenly, mixing with the toxic elixir of anger and fear in my blood. The concoction is almost as deadly as the one surging through Ben’s veins right now. Shakily I raise the gun and rest the muzzle on his forehead. His eyes drift shut and he exhales softly, face tilted upwards as he awaits his fate. The fate he wasn’t supposed to have. The fate that was supposed to be mine.

“This is to protect you Aden. I’m only doing this to protect you.” I grind my teeth and press the muzzle harder against his forehead, parting the matted brown hair that dangles there.

“No. That isn’t your job. That’s never been your job; you don’t need to protect me!” I nearly scream, my voice echoing through the empty car lot. Echoing through the empty world, a husk of what it used to be. His eyes open lazily and I find one clouding with blood. I really do vomit then, seeing the pupil completely black, his entire eye jerking in the socket as if trying to get out. He doesn’t say anything as I heave onto the asphalt, the splattering sounds only making my nausea worse. By the time I’m dry heaving on bile, his pupil has shrunk to half the size, this little black dot in a red sea. I nearly vomit again. But my body remembers there’s nothing left in my stomach to heave. It’s only once I’m wiping the bile from my mouth that he speaks.

“It’s always been my job to protect you,” he murmurs, voice ragged. The infection’s growing worse: The bite is an ugly red compared to the ashen grey of his arm. The marks are swollen and pus oozes down his skin. His other arm is grey too, and I know if I were to tear open his green, stained polo shirt, I’d see a chest to match the cloudy sky. I cringe at the sight and return my gaze to his face. His face, the face I’ve  known for so long. The face of the only family I have  left. And I know, once I pull that trigger, I’ll  be alone, completely and utterly alone. I can’t help it now, my eyes burn with tears and I can’t stop them from falling. Giving a sharp sob,  I break down, all the bottled emotion from all that has happened. Our parents' death, having to scavenge through wreckage to survive,spending every waking moment wondering,  ‘Is this how I’m going to die?’

“I can’t, I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T!!!!” I scream at the top of my lungs, falling to my knees, the gun clutched in my left hand. Sobbing brokenly,  I just can’t look at him, becauase I know that every moment I stand there, holding a gun to his head without pulling that trigger is another moment he suffers his hideous transformation. Another moment living with the last of his humanity. The least I could do is save what is left. Pain burns in my chest and I press my forehead to the bloodstained ground, tears mixing with the coppery liquid.

“If you die…then why should I stay alive? Why…why should I go on living…alone?” I choke out brokenly, face hot with tears and blood and vomit. Ben gives a gasping groan and I remember he’s the one truly in pain here.

“Aden, please, shoot me. Shoot me! SHOOT ME NOW!!!” I’ve gotten my wish, getting emotion out of him. It doesn’t make me feel any better,  though, it only frightens me. His tone is hoarse and desperate, a strangled cry for help. A strangled plea for me to save him. Looking up,  my eyes widen as icy fear grips at my chest. His face is grey, one eye completely red and blank, the pupil gone. The other is barely hanging on, blood creeping in thin steaks into his eye. The wound reeks of death and he groans loudly, head lolling about as if it is too heavy for his neck. Gritting my teeth,  I press the gun to his forehead again, bracing myself, bracing myself for the gunshot. For the blood. For the death that will  fill his face, emptying it of all life. Just as I gather my courage, the last of it, he looks up at me, blood seeping from one dead eye, tears from the other.

“I love you,  Aden,” he breathes, the blood leaving a crimson trail on his cheek. I give another sob. Seeing my brother, the only family I have left, so weak has shattered my soul. The world falls away at that. The guttural groans of new undead coming towards us, the hush of the wind against the dead trees,  and my own hiccupping sobs seem to quiet and fade away. All I can hear are those four words:  ‘I love you,  Aden.’ I had never thought this was how Ben would die. If anything, I thought it would have been me, crying and bitten, barely hanging on to life. But, even if it meant taking his life, Ben would protect me. He would protect me past death if he had to. He loves me that much. And that is something I’d taken for granted for so long; too long.

“I…I love you too.” I whisper, only to look away, my heart racing and my fingers so sweaty the gun nearly slips as I tighten my grip, knuckles white. My mouth is hot and arid, my breath coming out in short wheezes. Every limb of mine trembles, my eyes stinging with the next onslaught of tears. Not the tears of fear and anger like I’d shed before, but tears of the grieving. And, before my courage gives up on me, before I begin thinking about braving this hellhole alone,  I take one last look into his eye, the only part of him that is still human. That shockingly hazel eye that I’d looked up to my entire life. The only part of him I still recognize; and I slowly pull the trigger.

I love you,  Ben.


The featured artwork is from Rob Sacchetto's Zombie Portraits and is a depiction of Glen from the TV show The Walking Dead. We thank him for letting us use it. Please don't copy it; Rob is an artist, and makes his living from selling his art.

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