Author's Note: Sorry for taking so damn long to update. I've been extremely busy, freshman year in a new high school and all. Anyways, I hope no one's given up on the story, enjoy.
Chapter 6: Man's Best Friend
Jaden stumbled once more over his own two feet. How long had he been walking? Hours? Days? It didn't matter, time was irrelevant in this life. Still, Jaden drew in a long sigh as the sun dipped below the horizon, sending shadows sprawling across the wastelands.
It wasn't the darkness that frightened him. No, it was what lived in the darkness. Strange, nightmarish creatures lurked at every turn. Few paid much attention to him, but the thought of them was not a comforting one. He ignored the hissing cockroaches at his feet as he pressed onwards. He was starving, starving enough to eat the insects beneath him. Had he not tried to before, he probably would be doing so now, but their taste was almost nauseating. He was not in the mood to vomit again.
His feet continued to shuffle through the grainy sand as he began scratching at the ink numbers embedded into his skin. They would not come off, he realized as his nails began to draw blood. 14202-2666. He hadn't the faintest idea how they had gotten there, but he knew they weren't natural. Somehow he knew that he was supposed to hate them. And he did.
It had been a good half mile before he finally stopped his consistent scratching. Something else had drawn his attention. In the pure darkness, his nose caught on before his eyes did. There was food out there. He smiled slightly in anticipation as his nostrils inflated, edging him closer to the scent. His lips were salivating, but for all it was worth, he could not see past the length of his outstretched fingertips in the blinding darkness.
He shuffled closer and closer until finally his eyes picked up. There, perhaps a yard in front of him, laid the scent. It was not a basket of wondrous fruits that had been coincidentally laid out before him. To hope for that was nearly insane. No, it was a corpse. A corpse surrounded by vicious, snarling wastehounds.
From this distance, he could see everything. The blood and spit dripping from their cracked, dry lips. The pieces of flesh that hung from their razor-sharp teeth and the red that stained their elongated snouts. In all their ferocious glamor, Jaden was surprised to see them back away.
He edged closer, cautiously. And as he did he began to take in more and more. The animals were starving, their ribs protruding like daunting symbols of their suffering, visible even through their scant and meager fur. Were these things diseased? They were certainly weak. Not one of them dared to take a step forward at Jaden, nor did any try to take any more meat from their prey.
It was only then that Jaden realized he had not smelled the aroma of food, but the stench of death. He was scared to find they seemed almost the same to him. At the animals' feet lay a human corpse, its arms outstretched, its clothes torn, it skin doused in blood. Jaden was sure it was a he, but in all its mutilated form, he could only refer to the carcass as an it.
With a quick motion of his hands and a loud yell, he was quick to shoo the beasts away. To his surprise, they obeyed, yelping as they fled off into the distance, well beyond where his eyes would allow him to see.
Left alone in the silence, the blond haired man knelt before the body. Gashes were torn into it's legs, various scratches ripped across its rugged clothing. He guessed that the creatures had bitten into the person's legs in order to cripple it, before clawing their way up into what was now an enormous, gaping wound strapped across its throat. Blood still oozed from the neck, and though the thought never crossed him, most of the good meat was gone.
Jaden almost felt sorry for the man, ripped to shreds by haggard dogs, consumed from the inside out and drained of blood. It was a pitiful sight. It was even more pitiful that Jaden found himself looting the corpse. He felt a sense of sickening guilt as he purged the man's backpack, finding a large, 12-inch knife, some spare clothes, and a bottle of water. The last of which he drank with ample thirst. Disappointed in the torn, unwarming clothes, he instead used them as a sheath for his newfound knife before sliding it into his right pocket. He had a weapon now, but he was still hungry.
Jaden's blue eyes ran through the darkness for a few more moments before settling upon a single, mangled object. He moved closer to find another wastehound, this one sprawled almost lifelessly into the sand, its neck snapped, hacked and battered. It was reasonable to assumed it was broken. He reached out to touch it, only to recoil at the warmth. Was this thing still alive? He was surprised to feel breath still being drawn from its snout.
The thought of eating the poor creature crossed Jaden's mind for only a few seconds. He could not bare to do it, a part of him was still human, and for some reason, he felt as though this animal was good. It was almost as if something told him that, millenia ago, this creature had been a loving, loyal friend to him. He didn't know why he felt this way, but there was no denying the sympathy he felt for this poor, broken animal. It was almost enough sympathy to kill it. To end its suffering. Almost.
Jaden was suddenly struck by the urge to save its life.
Author's Note: I know, short chapter, I apologize. It's all I can squeeze in for now. Anyways, hope you enjoyed it. Review Please.