It was almost two in the afternoon when they saw the farmhouse. Two PM: the hottest part of the day.
No matter where you were on the earth, you didn't want to be out at two in the afternoon. But ever since the virus known as the Flare had spread across the planet; people were often "out" whether they wanted to be or not.
The kid, probably no more than four, asleep in his sister's arms. The girl; in her early twenties, fatigued from walking all day. And their strange companion. Though he couldn't be more than a couple years older than the girl, one could tell, he had been through more than most.
When the house came into view, expressions of relief were visible across all of their faces. Shelter. Finally.
It was as if the weight of the world -or in this case, her brother- had been lifted off her shoulders. The girl nudged her younger sibling awake and set his tiny feet on the well-worn path.
He let out a small yawn and attempted to rub the sleep out of his eyes. She knelt beside him and readjusted his large sunhat.
"How you doin', little man?" She asked.
"Water?" Was his only response.
She haphazardly groped through her rucksack, but already knew what the result was going to be. Empty. As per the usual.
"Sorry bro, I'm all out." Again.
"Here, have mine."
The girl groaned internally; he was acting as some kind of bodyguard for the two of them. And he was always just so prepared.
Which technically wasn't a bad thing, for her brother that is. He was the last normal thing in her currently-horrible life that she could love -even if she couldn't understand him half the time.
Her brother gladly took the water skin from him and gulped down its remaining contents. The kid handed it back to his sister and toddled off in the direction of the house.
The girl got up and brushed some dirt off her pants. She glared at the way-too-attractive-to-be-as-badass-as-he-actually-is guy and shoved the bottle into his chest.
He smirked and followed the two of them towards the house.
Someone obviously hadn't lived her for at least several weeks. A thick layer of dust coated every surface available; none of the lights worked, and there were only a few items of canned food in the pantry.
"I'll go fill up," he said, holding his hand out for their bottles. "I saw a stream on the way in."
She sighed, but accepted his offer. While he went to get some much-needed water, the two siblings settled down for a nap that was a long time coming.
The boy was asleep in minutes, carefully cradled in his sister's arms. Once the guy returned,he attempted to keep watch. He simply rested his eyes -one at a time. Though in reality he was watching the girl.
The girl whom he had fallen so hardly for.
One month earlier…
"So, what? He's your son or something?" He had just saved their asses from being mauled by a group of the crazies.
"How old do I look?" The girl shifted to face their saviour, unintentionally waking her younger brother.
He hadn't spoken in days, but that didn't stop him from wailing louder than a baby.
"Shhh; now, now. Don't cry," she tried to comfort him. "Please don't cry. You'll let every crazy on the block know where we are!"
"Not too good with kids, are you?" He smirked at the pathetic sight of her trying to calm him down by patting his back like he needed to be burped. The kid was obviously too old for that.
The girl muttered some unkind words under her breath.
He was right. She had no idea how to care for her four-year-old step-brother.
Her parents had been divorced since she was fifteen, and she'd only been supposed to be visiting her mom during the fall break when all this shit'd gone down.
And then this thumb-sucking, always-crying, lump of responsibility had been thrust upon her.
She was just lucky that way.
After a few more minutes of humiliation, the guy took the boy out of his sister's incompetent hands.
Using the stuffed giraffe he'd been carrying around for so long, he was able to lull the kid back to sleep.
The sister settled back into a corner of the once-well-used living room.
"So, where're you two from?"
She started at the sound of his voice. It was the first non-snarky thing he'd said to her so far. It was strange to hear someone else speak.
Sensing she wasn't too comfortable with him -even though he'd just saved their lives- he didn't ask anymore questions.
Everyone had a right to their past.
He watched her sleep, as creepy as it sounded; he couldn't help it.
He wondered what kind of person she'd been before the Flare. They were all different now. No one stayed the same after going through something -anything like this. People who said they were fine were either lying or Gone.
Her perfect porcelain skin; almond-shaped eyes; hair blacker than night. Despite the aura she gave off, he could tell that she cared a great deal for her brother.
But someone as young as him wouldn't last long. This world was no place for a child. No place for anyone with an innocent heart.
He'd heard rumours. Rumours of children going missing; gone, missing… or given up by their parents.
She made a few congested breaths before readjusting her sleeping position, sure to keep a careful grip on the kid.
It took another half hour, but he eventually found his eyelids drooping. He was soon snoring along with the rest of them.
Unfortunately, none of them noticed the blinking red light of the video-recorder stationed on the ceiling.
They were woken, hours later, by a banging below them. The noises were sharp and loud. They echoed up from the root cellar, the random beat punctuating through out the entire house.
Then the voices came. Wails and screams that would be made by only one thing.
He was first up, jumping to his feet like he had so many times before. She was the second to rise, blearily wiping her eyes with an unbreakable grip on her brother's wrist.
"Here?" She questioned, "But how?"
He took that moment to notice the blinking light of the camera.
"Shit!" He punched his rifle upwards, shattering the glass lens in an instant. "This isn't a safe house! It's a set-up!"
"A what?" She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to clear the sleep from them.
"I'll explain later! Now, we run!" He shoved some things into his backpack, and motioned for her to do the same.
They sprinted out the back entrance, only to be confronted with a huge brick wall and the root cellar from where the noises were coming from.
The moment they'd ran out into the back yard, a trap that slammed and locked the door shut was sprung. The guy leaped and tried to stop the door before it slammed shut, but he was too slow.
"Help me!" He cried as he jumped from the back door to block the root cellar from opening, "We have to -ahh!" He was thrown backwards as it burst open.
Three crazies, held back only by some thin strands of rope, lurched forward. He barely stumbled back in time, and narrowly missed getting caught in their death grip.
The girl screamed, and held on tighter to her brother.
"Over the wall!"
He stared, dumbfounded at her unmoving figure. "Move! NOW!"
The last bit shocked her into action. She turned away from the three monsters. The thoughts of 'who they had been' and 'why this was happening' drained from her mind.
He had already scaled halfway up the stone wall, and once he got to the top, she held her brother up for him to take.
And just as his tiny feet were pulled out of reach, there were three consecutive snapping sounds as the ropes broke.
Relentless, they sprinted towards the girl and tackled her down. She screamed, and stabbed aimlessly with her hunting knife, eventually taking one out. But the damage was already done.
Red cuts and scratches marred her body from where they were attacking her. She fell to the ground, head leaning back.
They made eye contact. Go, she mouthed.
He shook his head. He could help her, he could save-
"GO!" She screamed, and began to cry.
The boy was scared and confused. His sister. Where was his sister? He was too tired; too weak, to protest. The guy hopped down the other side of the wall. Leaving her behind.
He didn't say anything to the boy; only clutched him to his chest and ran.
She limped down the dirt path. A sizeable chunk had been taken out of her leg, but she'd eventually been able to fight them off.
But to what end? They were gone. And soon, so would she.
She'd foolishly used the last of her bullets on the crazies. She should've saved some… at least one…
But she couldn't think of a more beautiful place to be in at the moment. Huge maple trees lined both sides of the path; sunlight streamed through their leaves. Birds flew over head, letting out the occasional trill. She could hear a stream running nearby.
This would've been perfect. They could've stayed here; protected.
She turned to the sound of approaching vehicles. Three vans, all with the letters WICKED painted on them, screeched to a halt just outside the house.
Help. Help was here.
"Hey!" She screamed, waving her hands in the air. She ran back to them, much to the protest of her wounded leg.
All of the men yelled unintelligible things back at her, and raised their guns threateningly.
She slowed her pace, confused.
Another man stepped out. He wore a suit and looked to be in charge by the way he commanded the forces.
He walked over to her, a grim smile on his face.
"My brother," she gasped, doubled over on her knees. "Can you help him?"
He took one look at the wound on her leg, and saw how the black infection was already spreading.
He smiled. Then nodded and held a gun to her forehead.
The guy looked up when he heard the gun shot. Unsure of what happened, his fingers instinctively danced across the hilt of his machete.
"Where's my sister?" Asked the kid, brown eyes wide in fright from all that had happened.
He said nothing. A boy shouldn't have to learn about death this young. But in a world like this, most people didn't have a choice.
"She's gone," he said.
"When's she comin' back?"
Then they ran.
They lasted all but a week before WICKED caught up.
The soldiers tore the child out of his hands before shooting him in the chest three times. It was a bit much; but there were amnesiac serums for a reason.
The door slid open with a graceful swoosh. The woman in white entered, again.
"How are you doing Minho?" She asked, placing his lunch tray on the bedside table.
The boy shrugged, he didn't know why she kept on calling him Minho. That wasn't his name.
"I brought your favourite: eggs and bacon."
He couldn't help but crack a smile. At least she got that right.
Ava Paige smiled as he slowly advanced on his breakfast. It had been a rocky road, getting this one. Soon, the drug in his food would kick in.
The boy finished off his meal. He'd been in here a while, and wanted to go outside.
He asked the lady if he could. She said he would be able to in a couple of days.
A different person brought his meals for a while. But eventually, she returned.
"There's some people I want you to meet, Minho."
He took her outstretched hand, and followed her out the room.
Minho couldn't shake the feeling that he was forgetting something important.