Pull The Trigger
A/N: This chapter takes place a week into our group’s journey to Doddson ranch; where fun and fresh things happen. As to not get too ahead of myself or bore you all with filler chapters. I won’t leave out major things and important details. So things like injuries and deaths would be documented. Be on the lookout for plot hints!
Letting loose an arrow I hit my mark.
“A great shot as always.” Oscar commented, exiting the grocery store we had found in this small ghost town.
Well, there were infected, and dead bodies. I had seen so many on our journey here that I’d been desensitized to it all. I wasn’t quite sure where we were. But the heat and dry air told me we were probably getting close. It had taken us ages to reach here. A trip that would take hours dragged on for days. Highways were blocked by abandoned cars. Or alarmingly large groups of tweakers and lurkers to navigate around. It was exhausting, to say the least.
“Did you find anything useful?” I asked, turning to him.
“Just some candy bars and a bottle of water. It was pretty empty in there.” Oscar sighed.
Food and water was our main concern. Daniel was pretty dehydrated so that would go to him. So we had all split into groups to cover more ground. Oscar offered to come with me while Jonas went with Ellis. And Daniel had been with Alisha.
“We also need to find some more bandages for Ellis’ bullet wound.” I huffed, glaring off into the distance at some slowly moving infected; likely lurkers.
I had learned a lot about them in the times that we stopped and set up makeshift camps. Lurkers were when the fungus took hold. They were generally short-lived in terms of danger. During the day they moved slow; weren’t as aggressive. While at night their speed and aggression increased dramatically. Tweakers were dangerous no matter the time of day. They were extremely strong considering some of them could be in pretty bad shape. There was suddenly an extremely loud humming sound from above us.
I squinted up at the sky, the hot sun blinding me. It was a plane, falling from the sky in a stream of black smoke.
“It’s a good thing it’s crashing there.” Oscar mentioned.
It was a bit selfish, but it was for the best that it crashed there. The sound would attract countless infected. There was a nudge at my shoulder as Oscar beckoned me to follow him. I was armed with my bow and Oscar with a machete we found in a garden supply store a while back. So he went into the buildings to check for supplies while I stood guard outside. Though the building we approached was different this time. The glass of the storefront was broken and shattered.
“People are looting already?” I questioned.
“Maybe they realized we’re screwed.” Oscar chuckled, beckoning for me to follow him inside.
Looked up at the sign as we drew closer I saw it was a pawn shop. Hopefully, we could find more guns and potentially ammo. Our reserves were running low and the only thing we had in abundance was my arrows. Though even that was starting to show signs of depletion.
“We both go in case there’s someone hiding out in here.” Oscar instructed.
Then I spotted yet another detail. A giant colorful stalk was sprouted behind the counter.
“A stalk of fungus. You should let me take this one.” I replied, taking my bow off of my shoulder.
“How’s your aim with one of these?” I asked as I prepared to hand it to him.
I had quite a few arrows remaining so he could afford to make a few mistakes.
“I was a boy scout when I was younger. It might come back.” He smiled, taking my bow from me.
“Well just aim for the body.” I sighed, amused at his humor placement.
He gave me his machete, wishing me luck as I opened the door to the building, the ringing of a bell startling me a bit in the silence. I paused, waiting a moment while listening for footsteps. I haven’t seen much of the lurkers as they didn’t seem common out here in the middle of nowhere; seeming to flourish in cities. And a tweaker would have made itself known by now. So I continued into the dimly lit store. The wall behind the counter was empty, hooks, and price tags telling a story. Perhaps looters came by and raided the place? Either way, it might be best for us to hurry up and leave here if people were already resorting to looting with this much violence. I slowly made my way around the glass display counter, an acrid stench assaulting my nose. Behind the counter was a dead man, a vibrant display of fungi sprouting from all over his body. It was other-worldly how something like this could exist.
Turning to move, my footing slipped a bit on bullet shells.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered, offering so respect to the fallen man.
I left from behind the counter, deciding to roam the small aisles of the store, seeing a variety of things, ranging from records, to instruments, and even something that instantly caught my eye up on the wall.
A katana. It wasn’t an effective weapon in all of this as they could break and dull easily. But it was something besides a gun. I couldn’t use one very well either, so I stood there for a moment, debating whether I should take it or not. A shiver ran through me as I felt something cold pressed against the back of my head.
“Gimme your shit.” A raspy voice demanded from behind me.
I stood stone still, wondering just what to do. If I shouted for help I could just end up getting shot as Oscar wouldn’t make it inside in time.
“I don’t have anything of value.” I replied, adding a bit of shakiness to my tone.
I wasn’t physically strong. So I needed many things working in my favor to survive this encounter. If that meant using what I learned to psychologically disarm someone I’d do it.
“What about yer friend out there? He gotta nice bow.” The man went on, pushing my head forward a bit with his gun.
“We’re just trying to pass through. We both don’t have much.” I winced, hoping my acting was good.
Suddenly; as if something were trying to save me. Something fell off the shelf, distracting the man for just a moment. In that instant I took hold of Oscar’s machete and spun around, slashing the man’s throat open with cold precision. Not done, I kicked his rigid body down. Pinning him down beneath me as he bled out rapidly. He struggled to form words as I clutched at my head, presented with a moral decision. Let him die slowly or end his suffering. Though I decided to go with the latter. I couldn’t let someone suffer. His eyes were afraid as he grasped at his throat. I raised the machete into the air, shuddering at the sight of his blood dripping from it. I did this to him. Could I have aimed lower for something less vital? I could have. But what would the outcome have been had I not?
I silenced my thoughts, driving the machete into the man’s skull, his eyes growing empty instantly. I removed the blade, tossing it aside, falling off of him, and rolling clear of the growing puddle of blood. I stared blankly up at the ceiling, my forearm rested across my forehead. How can I kill so easily? Infected or not it was becoming easier and easier. I hadn’t killed anyone since Argos. But I’ve lost track of how many infected I’ve killed. I didn’t falter when it came to infected anymore; considering them lost now. But I didn’t suffer that same internal conflict and my body just reacted, slashing the man’s throat open and then finishing him off. Just what was I turning into?
I felt so dirty, covered in imaginative blood. How did people in combat situations kill so freely? I felt so torn apart already. I’d see Argos’ dying face in my dreams at night, sending me spiraling into night terrors. Would I see this stranger’s face as well? I didn’t like the idea of that. Hearing a snarl above me I was almost too late to react. It was the store clerk’s corpse from before bearing down on me. I managed to roll out of the way of grasping hands and chomping jaws, scooping up the machete.
“I’m sorry.” I uttered, slicing into the skull of the infected man, struggling to get it back out.
I stood there for a moment, collecting myself. Taking deep calming breaths to slow the thoughts about myself. Instead, I wondered how Jonas and Alisha were doing. Had they run into trouble? Alisha was a capable young lady and I knew she could take care of herself. But Jonas was still banged up from the run-in he had with his gang leader. I kept my thoughts going in that direction. I picked up the katana, a little happy with the sheath having a length of string at the end and just underneath the scabbard of the sword. That means I could carry both it and my bow; although I’d need a bit more finesse to switch between the both of them. The blade was long and curved dramatically for a katana, the exact name of this type of sword evading me.
I bent down, avoiding looking at my two recent kills directly as I took the pistol from the man’s hand. I racked the slide back, almost messing up and pinching the webbing of my hand. The clip was empty. The man could have lived. And I didn’t have to kill him. I turned my attention to his now slowly paling body, crouching down yet again and shutting his eyes.
“I should have trusted you more.” I sighed, hanging the katana on my right shoulder, as I was right hand dominant with my bow.
Enough was enough. I hadn’t even checked the rest of the store yet it feels like I’ve been in here for ages. I decided to just leave. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to kill something else so soon. Oscar heard the door opening, turning to me. I quickly counted the arrows in the quiver, cocking my head to count every last one.
“Didn’t have to shoot. That’s good.” I commented, trying to be positive, forcing my emotions in a box to deal with later when I had a moment.
“I see you had a run-in.” He chuckled, gesturing to the blood-soaked machete.
“Yeah, an infected. From the fungus behind the counter.” I explained, telling only half of the story.
Had he known I’d taken the life of a healthy man he might judge me. And that was the last thing I wanted.
“What did you find?” He asked, changing the subject as he looked me over.
“This sword, which I’ll be keeping since I’m no good with guns.” I smirked, handing him the pistol I had taken from that man alongside his machete.
He racked the slide back as well, sighing with disappointment.
“Yeah, it’s empty.” I commented.
“Well, it’s something.” He replied, a radiant smile warming me a bit.
“Should we go back to the meeting point and wait for the others?” I questioned, looking around as he had gone through the four stores in this area.
We had a decent amount of things to add to our supplies. Some water and a few snacks. As well as new weapons and batteries for the walkie-talkies we had.
“Yeah. We should call it while we’re ahead. I haven’t seen any flares so I assume everyone is okay.” Oscar responded, staring off down the long stretch of desert road we soon are going down.
We began our journey back to the small dusty park Jonas had parked his truck. I took out the few infected that challenged us from a distance with my bow. I’d avoid using this katana until I found things to take care of it as I knew it would wear down quickly. And we seemed to make it back before everyone else. Oscar sat on an old-looking wooden bench while I took up a vantage point atop Jonas’ truck.
“I wonder if this place was this raggedy before all of this.” Oscar joked, calling my attention to him.
“Maybe. It’s a cute little town though.” I shrugged.
“It’s definitely got character.” He tacked on.
“So I’ve been meaning to ask.” I began, a breeze coming and offering some reprieve from the hot sun.
“I’m all ears.” Oscar replied.
“Are you still going to try getting to your brother?” I asked, wondering how he coped with family being so far; not knowing if they were okay.
Oscar looked thoughtful for a moment, seeming to consider every word I spoke.
“I want to. But being out here even with a group is hard. I don’t think I’d make it to him. He was heading down to Mexico to family land on his yacht the last time I got to speak to him.” He began.
“Lucky bastard.” I huffed, offering him a small smile.
“He should be okay so long as he stays on the water.” Oscar huffed.
“So that has to be comforting. It would be stupid for me to chase after him.” He shrugged.
“Maybe when I’m older and grayer I’ll head down to Mexico.” He smiled.
“Not much else to lose then.” He chuckled darkly.
Some laughing in the distance caught my attention. It was Jonas and Ellis returning, carrying crates. If it were a competition for who could bring back the most, they might have won.
“I see Bambi made it back. Is Lisha here yet?” Jonas commented, spotting me atop his truck instantly.
“Not yet. We haven’t seen a flare either.” Oscar replied, taking the words right out of my mouth.
“So what did you guys find?” Ellis grunted as he set the crate he was carrying down, wiping away at the sweat that dripped down his forehead.
“Yeah, we’re rolling in A/C until we make it to the ranch. I’m tired of being uncomfortable.” Jonas snickered.
I liked the heat; it was better than being freezing cold in my opinion. But it wasn’t the best environment to stay in. We’d constantly be at risk of dehydration if we stayed.
“I found a handgun and this sword.” I began, listing off the things I managed to find.
“And Oscar found some snacks and some bottles of water.” I finished.
“Well it’s a good thing we came through, ain’t that right Ellis?” Jonas mocked, wiggling his brows at me as he nudged at Ellis who joined in on the teasing.
“Ugh, men.” I groaned.
“That’s sexist and you’re a man.” Oscar brought up smugly from where he sat.
I was going to defend myself but I drew a blank in this moment of happiness.
“Can’t relate.” I shot back finally, laying back on the roof of the truck and staring up at the empty sky.
Being around people was good. If it would always be like this during the good times and if this was the new way of life I think I’d be okay.
“Well look who made it back.” Ellis announced as I sat up, seeing my sister and Daniel return.
“It’s hot as fuck out here. My country boy card has been revoked.” Daniel panted, fanning himself off animatedly.
“He is such a clutz I’m not doing something like that with him again.” Alisha sighed, a humored smile on her face.
“I think gender roles should be broken down. She was my knight in shining armor twice.” Daniel added.
They seemed to have a light load, a few jars, and cans in their arms.
“Well, all isn’t good. We heard gunshots on the other side of town. I was worried something happened to one of you.” Alisha informed us, everyone going silent.
“Welp I was hoping to take a bit of a break. But we gotta go now. I don’t think a fire-fight would be good.” Jonas huffed, walking around to the back of his truck.
“Agreed.” I sighed, climbing down from my vantage point and joining Jonas around back.
“I can drive if you want.” I offered, as everyone was sick and tired of driving. And by far I had done the least of it and Jonas having done the most of it.
He was a strong member of our group and he needed the rest, I didn’t mind filling in despite the fact that I hated driving.
“I’m good.” Jonas asserted.
“Nope, give me the keys or I’ll make you suffer at the next opportunity I have.” I warned.
“The last time you told me that you gave me blue balls.” Jonas said.
“I could have lived without hearing that detail.” Alisha commented blankly and bluntly as she placed the things she and Daniel found into the back of the truck.
“Sex is great. And with Bambi it’s amazing.” Jonas teased, just adding to it as Alisha looked mortified.
“Let’s not go any further.” I sternly said, softly punching Jonas in the shoulder.
And with that, we were ready to go. I climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck, Daniel taking his place in the passenger seat to give directions. He was a jack of all trades. He could do so many things but I wouldn’t call him an expert at any of them. Starting the truck I instantly got complaints of the heat and a request to turn on the A/C by Jonas.
“But what about gas?” I mentioned, noticing the tank was running low, about 200 miles remaining.
“Coast it. If we find another diesel truck we might be able to siphon from it.” Jonas explained.
“We can stop after about 100 miles. So that way we have gas to find more gas if that makes any sense.” Ellis proposed.
“Agreed.” I nodded, pulling off slowly and carefully as I wasn’t used to driving something so large. It dwarfed my two-seater economy car by a lot.
Once back on the road. I put myself into auto-pilot. Luckily where we were passing through was pretty devoid of life. And with the speed, we were going we’d leave behind anything infected chasing us. I did as instructed, coasting along the empty and winding highways. To my sides were vast expanses of emptiness and desert. I looked back at everyone for a moment, seeing that they were all sleeping softly. It had been a long day so I’d let them rest.
Daniel had looked wary as well as he took a sip of his water. I guessed I hadn’t been paying attention as he pointed ahead, alerting me to something. A massive roadblock of cars ahead. By the looks of it, it was abandoned. I came to a stop, looking for some opinions. The night was starting to fall as we sat poised atop the hill. Daniel woke everyone up while I shut off the truck to conserve gas.
“What’s going on?” Oscar asked, groggily.
“That.” I said, pointing ahead as everyone else woke up.
“We should get off the road, turn the headlights off.” Ellis suggested.
“So we’re stopping for the day?” My sister asked.
“It looks that way.” I sighed, wishing we could just make it to the ranch already.
Daniel promised so much good and ease. It sounded as if the place was prepared generations in advance for disaster. Only then could I unpack the things at the back of my mind and deal with them. I didn’t want to keep it in for so long. I started the truck back up, flicking the headlights off and leaving the road slowly into the desert, the sun setting as we traversed further into the desert. The road after a while wasn’t in sight and night had fallen. Shutting Jonas’ truck off I climbed out alongside everyone, grabbing my weapons. It was unlikely that infected weren’t out here. But I guessed they could be lured here by fires. So we’d have to take shifts watching over one another while others slept.
“We can start a fire. But we’ll have to have lookouts.” I said.
“Agreed. But I don’t think there will be any infected out here.” Oscar said.
“They’re attracted to light and sound. And a fire at night could be seen for miles on terrain like this.” I reasoned.
“So dinner? And who is taking the first watch?” Alisha asked.
“I can take first watch.” Oscar offered.
“Okay then. We’ll just work around how tired everyone is then.” I shrugged, closing my door as I stretched.
“How many miles did we make it?” Jonas asked, coming up to me.
“About 23.” I sighed, using my new sword as an armrest, creating a bit of tension on the length of rope that hung from my shoulder.
“Yo Dani. How much further do we have?” Jonas asked.
“About 300 or so.” He replied as he had already started constructing a fire.
He knew how to get to and from Dallas to where his family lived in Arizona; well his mom’s side of the family. I hadn’t asked how he managed to learn so much of such a vast area. But it helped.
“Hey Jonas, can you move your truck to block the light of the fire from the road?” I asked, going over to help Daniel who was struggling to tug up a tumbleweed to use for the fire.
I heard the truck start up as Jonas moved it. We were doing pretty good for ourselves. It was taking more time than I thought it would get to where we were going. And I hoped my parents were following behind as well. I wanted to believe in them. But what we left was terrifying. There were so many infected that Jonas’ truck struggled to break through the hoard. It was also alarming to see that many people infected already. And we were about three weeks into this. My thoughts were going down a dangerous path. So I decided to look at something to take my mind off of things. The sky was breathtaking. Every star and other celestial body visible. It actually shone a soft silvery light over the desert as the moon was close to being full tonight.
“That,” I began. “Is beautiful.” I finished as my sister came to marvel at the sight beside me.
“One benefit of all of this is there isn’t much light pollution. So we can actually see the night sky for what it really is.” My sister explained, her eyes twinkling.
I wasn’t sure how she was coping with all of this. But she was proving that she was capable of handling a lot of what this rapidly changing world could throw at her.
“You know. I wish I was as strong as you.” I sighed wistfully.
“I use a gun while you use a bow or physically take the infected on.” She countered, seemingly humored.
“I meant mentally. It took me a while to be able to kill them without freezing up.” I went on as the men around us settled down around the fire Daniel started.
“I wouldn’t say I’m stronger. I’m just telling myself that things are just like this. They aren’t good or bad. Just neutral. That’s how I’ve always viewed life.” My sister elaborated.
“And you see it as what it really is. And that isn’t totally bad.” She added thoughtfully.
“So I think you’re doing great so far Izzy.” She smiled, patting my shoulder as she went to sit next to Jonas near the fire.
“Yo Bambi. You hungry?” Jonas asked, turning to look at me from the rock he sat on.
“Not really. I keep thinking of all the brain matter I’ve seen recently and I don’t want to throw up.” I chuckled.
I joined them nonetheless, light conversation breaking out among them while I sort of chimed in every now and again. Our group was interesting. A child prodigy, a bad boy, a ray of sunshine, a combat medic, and a university professor. I wondered what my classes would have been like had none of this all happened. I found myself disassociating from time to time. Wondering if this was all some odd dream I’d been having. But I realized after a while that I wasn’t, and this was very much real. But it seemed like something out of a movie.
“What’s on your mind?” Ellis asked me suddenly, everyone growing quiet and turning to look at me expectantly.
Debating for a moment, I decided it was okay to tell them. Though I would keep it a tad lighter than in my head.
“I was thinking about how diverse our group is. Ordinarily, some of us wouldn’t even be friends.” I began, adjusting how I sat to gain a little more comfort on the hard surface I sat on.
“I would have never met Ellis. I might have only run into Daniel once or twice in passing. Oscar would have been just my professor.” I continued.
“I might have still been mad at Jonas and never talked to him again.” I finished, shrugging.
“That last part stung a little.” Jonas laughed.
“That is something. We would have taken our first test in that class.” Oscar commented.
“So, how long do you all think this will last?” I asked, taking the conversation a bit deeper.
I wanted to know where everyone was at mentally. And asking this would give me a little insight. And if anyone was in trouble I could do something to help early.
“At this rate, it can go either way. Either it becomes life as we know it or ends.” Jonas answered first.
“The amount of infected might mean it becomes life. I’m not okay with that but I can accept it.” Alisha mused.
“I think we’ll all be okay. Hell, nothing lasts forever.” Daniel smiled, that happiness never-ending.
“I honestly don’t know.” Oscar added, getting a nod of agreement from Ellis.
Everyone seemed to be okay from that very small observation; save for Daniel who raised a bit of a red flag. In situations like this, it was very much okay to be distressed. While he seemed bright and radiant no matter what came our way. I’d keep an eye on him. And hopefully, we make it to the ranch without incident.
“What about you?” Oscar asked, catching me off-guard.
“I’m so used to be pessimistic. For a while, I took comfort in it. For years I never expected good to come from anything.” I began, recovering quickly.
“I now hope that it works out. If history has proved anything, it is that life goes on. So I agree with Jonas, it could go either way.” I shrugged, a yawn tearing free as my eyelids grew heavy.
“I think we should all get some rest. Who’s on the first watch again?” Jonas said.
“I’m up. I’ll come wake one of you to relieve me in some hours.” Oscar said, raising his hand.
Jonas got up and handed him the only gun we still had ammo for.
“Say no more.” Ellis yawned.
I guessed we’d all have to somehow sleep in the truck. It’d be tight, and hot. But safe nonetheless. Jonas opened the back door, also stepping around to the tailgate as well.
“Alisha gets the bed. We get the cab.” Jonas yawned.
“Thank goodness for chivalry. For once I’m not annoyed by it.” Alisha grinned, climbing into the back, as I went around to shut the tailgate for her.
Daniel opted to sleep in the front passenger seat. While Jonas climbed into the back while Ellis waited for me to climb in.
“Umm, I don’t want to be man sandwiched all night between you two.” I huffed, instantly flustering the man before me.
“I just thought you two wanted to be next to each other.” Ellis stuttered.
“No pressure. Bambi doesn’t like being bundled up with people when he’s sleeping. And he knows I’m a sucker for cuddling.” Jonas joked, making Ellis look even more uncomfortable.
“Don’t worry you aren’t my type. I like em short and skinny like Bambi.” He teased with a wink, earning a much-earned eye roll from me.
And with that we all settled in for the night, Oscar telling us all goodnight as he took up the first watch.
A/N: Moral dilemma after moral dilemma. Just how many will Issac face in this story? Just kidding. They’re about to end. How are you all liking this story so far? Let me know please? I hope you’re all enjoying it. The next chapter may or may not be spicy!