Part of Month of the Macabre
click HERE for the content warning and about Month of the Macabre
“Trail in the Snow”
a short story by Jeremy C Kester (All Rights Reserved)
[original draft appeared on site in October 2020]
It is tough to move in the damn snow. Cold only made it worse. Cold and wet — not that we feel much of it. You’re breathing heavy. Probably from fear, but more likely from the injuries. Blood was slowly trailing behind us leaving that goddamn red path right to where we’re going. It didn’t matter much though. Both of us would be dead soon. We’re certain, try as we might to run away from it.
It was my damned fault we got into this mess to begin with. Not the attack. Fuck. I was still trying to figure it out as you kept telling me to leave you where we were. Of course, I ignored you. “Just a little further,” I said. You were at least nice enough to pretend that you didn’t know I lied.
We were lost. I misread the directions to the next safe haven, our only hope for real survival. Deeper into the wilderness we went instead.
They all came unexpectedly, which is foolish in these times. Those things were always around. Around searching for the living. For blood. Flesh. A heartbeat. It was like they had an unfulfilled hunger, yet could survive without ever eating.
Could be the fucking zombies or some of the other monsters out there: other humans. Sure, we’re all trying to fight for survival in this terrible shit-storm of a world right now, but do we have to make it worse?
At random times you stumble. I follow it by trying to pull you up, throwing words of encouragement at you as if that would do anything.
You laugh. I tried to ignore it, pulling you along while dealing with the fact that I am also fucked.
“What’s so funny?” I ask. I am annoyed, but I try not to show it through my tone.
You snorted, as you tried to stifle the laugh. You know as well as I do it wasn’t a good time to laugh. “Sorry. Just remembering a joke my wife used to tell me,” you say.
Fuck. She was alive only an hour ago, before you realized that you couldn’t save her. Or your kids. Or my own. We watched them all die, unable to help. Your screaming was deafening. I had to pull you away after of course I had found my own family being eaten, already dead.
Somehow I stuffed down the images of my daughter, barely old enough to stand on her own screaming for me as they tore her limb from limb. It was like I placed a wall there to prevent me from remembering. I was frozen in place then, unable to move, unable to process what I was seeing — that my wife and other children were all screaming for me to save them, my wife begging me to kill them all so that the suffering would end.
It was then that I was knocked to the ground by some of the others trying to run. Fear took over my mind. Like the others, I ran. I ran until I found you.
You were holding your child’s dismembered limbs, screaming. I grabbed you as more and more of our small settlement fell. Gunshots mixed with screams. Still they came. Eventually the screams died out with the others. Only they remained — those abominations.
Eventually, we ran, when we knew we were the only ones left alive.
Running into the snow, into the dark, wasn’t a good idea with no supplies. Only a few rifles, some ammunition, and what little we had in our pockets was all that we carried. I guess screwing up the directions on us wasn’t the worst thing.
Once you stop laughing, you groan. “C’mon,” I say, pulling at you to move. “We shouldn’t have that long to go.”
“Just go on without me,” you tell me. “I’m as good as dead anyway.”
Blood comes up as you cough. Infection probably got into your lungs already. Those bites were nasty. If you’re lucky, like most, you just die, eaten alive from the inside by the virus; if you aren’t… then you become one of those things.
“Look at me,” you say. “They got me good. If I don’t die, it’ll take over me. I don’t want to know what happens then.” Your words mix with coughs and wheezing. You were having more trouble breathing.
“No no,” I insisted. “We’re both going to make it through.” It was the same fear that made me run from those begging me to help. I winced as I thought about it. Moving, the fear and the adrenaline, were the only things keeping those thoughts out of my head. Survival now was all that was left.
Moonlight was casting shadows around the area. I scanned around us trying to see if there was anywhere safe that we could stop. “Let’s just find a place to rest,” I tell you. “A little rest and it’ll all be fine.”
You sigh, following it up with a sputtered cough. “You dumb shit,” you say. “Save yourself. This thing is killing me. I hurt all over. Let me die here, as close as I can be to my family.”
As you speak, the world goes quiet. That’s how it always gets. All that ambient noise of forests and woods — nature goes quiet when those abominations are around. As gently as I could, I set you down and prepped my rifle. Then I leveled my sight on one of those things. Then two. Then more than that.
They walked straight at us. No lumbering or crawling, they just walk. Like normal fucking people. That’s the worst thing about them too: they behave just like us, only shells of us. Often they look like drunks. Or someone struggling to stay awake. There’s no shuffling or shambling. The walk.
I fire a shot. It hit one. It stumbled, but it continued moving. I have to hit them in the head or the legs, to kill them or stop their movement. I was never a good shot, though.
“Go!” you yell. “I can’t walk good. I’m only slowing you down. You can get away without me.”
“I will get us both out of here,” I say. “Trust me.”
You only laugh — and cough. “Fucking idiot,” you tell me.
Another two rounds. They both miss.
“Don’t waste so much ammo. Run. Leave me.” Your voice sounded tired behind the blood you’re coughing up into the snow.
I’m pissed. Pissed at you, pissed at them, pissed at the goddamn world that brought them on us, those fucking bastards screwing around with things they didn’t know how to control. Now we all suffered for it.
I fire another shot and see, even in the darkness, the blood splatter across the snow as the body drops. It was a lucky shot, I am sure. I fire another into a puff of snow. Indeed.
By then I was shaking. I put the rifle back on my shoulder and tried to pull you up. It shocked me when you swiped at me with a knife. When did you get that? Did you always have it on you?
“Go, you damned fool!” you yelled. Then you slit your own throat.
I stand — stunned. Dark fluid pours out of the front of you as you glared at me, holding that last bit of anger, that last bit of insistence that I leave.
I shivered. Damn, it was cold. Why did that even come into my mind?
As the last bit of your life faded out, you laugh — I think. You must’ve thought about the same thing you had moments ago. At least that is the hope. We can only hope to laugh as we die.
Story written and owned exclusively by Jeremy C Kester. Do not reprint, copy, or anything other than sharing direct links to this page without written permission from there author.