Today’s story, The Follower, goes along with the song “Frank’s Death – Soldiers (Requiem in D Minor)” on 28 Days Later soundtrack by John Murphy.
It was inspired while writing my science fiction novel. It’s a chance for me to explore what other characters in my world would be doing both during and post apocalypse. Hope you enjoy my free short stories. Please share, tweet, and talk about my work. I look forward to your feedback.
I watch her sleep, her short bristle of hair twisted into sweaty knots. I can’t help her and it’s killing me. I lay down next to her, the heat baking off her in waves. I sigh and the dust puffs out, a few small dry leaves flap at me as if annoyed by the disturbance. Can’t you see we’re dying here?
Above us the night sky wheels slowly and we lay at the center of the universe. The stars are as careless of our existence as we are of theirs. They say some of the stars went out thousands or millions of years ago, but their light still reaches us. That alone should be enough to make one despair. How little the universe cares for the death of the great and mighty stars. How much less it will care for one tiny planet or one little life on that planet?
One little thing, sick, starving and alone. Or so she thinks.
I watch over her. I know she doesn’t want me around. She threw rocks at me.
“I can’t even take care of myself. What am I supposed to do with you? Go away!”
So I went, but I came back. I followed her along the brown stream with its plague of dying fish. I followed her through the forest where the squirrel skulls stared at us, nothing but empty hate in their tiny heads. I followed her past the little trailer park where colored streamers hung from a flagpole. Now, when it was too late, now no one cared what color their flag was.
I close my eyes and listen to the rattly sound of her breath. I sleep, knowing if that noise stops I’ll wake.
It’s not the lack of breathing that wakes me, but the scent of him. Like spoiled meat and musk, dirt, and waste.
A man stands over us. How could he have snuck up on me? He looks her over and smiles. In her sleep she looks so young and helpless.
I sit up and he starts in surprise.
“Didn’t realize the girl was spoken for, eh Buster?” The man winks at me. He squats and regards us critically. “My lucky day. One to eat and one to play with.”
I grab the girl’s wrist and try to tug her away. She struggles up, pulls away from me. She loses her balance and the man grabs her as she falls back. She screams.
The man laughs. He reaches into her coat. She cries out in pain, fumbles for the small knife at her hip, but he pins her wrist.
I charge him, throwing all my weight into his shoulder. I knock him down and we all go sliding through the mushy leaves, the rot underneath a slick lubricant. I kick him in the chest and when he reaches for my throat, I latch onto his hand. I growl like a savage beast as I clench my jaws on his fingers. He tries to pull away. A mistake. He kicks me in the stomach, flipping me over, yanks his hand out of my mouth. It trails ribbons of bloody flesh like the streamers of color the flag had. They glitter in the dim light of pre-dawn.
I scramble up, but my legs fail me. When he kicked me, something broke inside and I can feel my strength leaking away. I sag back, gasping in pain.
Beyond the man, she is on her feet, her knife clutched in her hand. Her eyes are wide, nostrils flared.
The man, satisfied I’m no threat, turns back to her.
“Take it easy, sweet thing, and I won’t have to hurt you too much,” he says. His voice is gentle and soothing, I want to believe him, but she doesn’t. Her whole body is rigid, radiating fear and hate.
He takes a step toward her and she backs away. Behind her the ground slopes up and even on flat ground as sick as she is, she couldn’t outrun him. It’s up to me.
I hear him fumble at the front of his worn pants. I gather my legs under me. Eyes closed against the pain, I stand. When I breath, I sound worse than she did. I can’t smell him for the scent of my own blood in my nose.
She looks around for an escape. The moment her eyes leave him, the man lunges, but so do I. I leap and my force combined with his forward momentum drive us to the ground.
He’s stunned, but won’t be for long. I can’t hold him. I’m too small. I look at her and our eyes lock. She understands. She raises the knife and plunges it down. It makes a soft popping sound. The man gurgles. I feel him spasm, life flowing out of him.
She stands over us and all I can think is: I’m glad she safe.
She falls to her knees, her hands shaking from fever and fatigue.
“Why did you come back, you stupid, stupid…” she sniffs, swipes her sleeve across her nose.
A rattle rolls up my chest and catches in my throat. I moan in pain. She gathers me into her arms, her tears hot against me. I know everything inside me is breaking down, but I don’t care. She’s safe. I just wanted her to be safe. I twist my head to look at her one final time as the darkness rolls in.
“I love you, you stupid dog.”