Mortemer, a deadly disease, spread through a single bite, is turning healthy people into something savage, unthinking and undead. As the virus threatens to ravage all of humanity, Rei Divata leads her group of survivors on a worldwide search to find the source of the pandemic and, with much needed help, a plan to cease its spread.
Warning: This story mentions thoughts of suicide, depression, self-harm, rape, and violent themes. Reader discretion is advised.
"I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens."
- Woody Allen
The sun was covered by a haze. The once rich color of white and yellow bursting rays was now a dim orange hue. The sky had been lathered in smoke for the past several months now. When mornings came, the sun would hardly seem noticeable. This depressing atmosphere was the norm, and I was one of those who preferred it over the life we had back then. It was basically the same way of living, except we had the revenants to deal with daily, trying to kill us on our voyages for food and supplies.
The revenants are what you'd expect from your classic zombie movie. Slow, stupid, but mighty in numbers. They're tough to deal with the first time, but it'll seem like a video game after many days. Kill, kill, kill, and kill. That routine was not limited to just the revenants, but also the living. In all honesty, human beings are the real monsters, even in this apocalyptic world filled with walking dead.
My last remaining minutes of the daily watch was almost over. I took one last look at the overpass, checking if there were any more hoards of revenants left. Only a few were limping about on the bridge, so they weren't a problem. Approaching the span was the voyage car that went out into the Glade every so often for supplies. It was nearing the outpost entrance, and the gates opened up for them, closing quickly after their entry.
I climbed down the scaffolding and ran up to the voyage car that was now parked by the plantation center. Stepping out of the vehicle was my twin brother, Ren, and his two best friends, Ignazio and Aaron. I walked up to the trunk of the car and opened it, revealing its contents. As expected, they had gathered weapons and rations from abandoned towns and stores past the Glade. Those three were always assigned to the voyage car, much to my jealousy.
My brother and I were always together in every activity we did, but this was my first time being separated from him in this way. We initially did the voyages together, but I was replaced by Aaron ever since my arm injury several months ago. He was formerly assigned to the watch post, but we switched positions. The only thing I was glad about leaving the job was not dealing with Ignazio's bullshit. I will never understand how my brother and Aaron tolerate his attitude.
Ren patted my shoulder as I grabbed bags of food from the trunk. "How was the watch? Did anything happen while we were gone?"
"No. It was incredibly boring," I replied, sighing.
My brother gives me an apologetic look, "You've got a few days until your arm completely heals. You'll be back with us in no time."
"We might as well request to make the voyage groups into teams of four rather than three," I said. "It would make things easier."
"Teams of four? That actually doesn't sound half bad," Ignazio mumbled beside us as he rummaged through the trunk. "The four warriors of light!" He laughs, and Ren snickers at his stupid joke. I roll my eyes, and I see Aaron smiling from the corner of my eye. My heart pounds rapidly in my chest, and I turn away from him.
Ignoring the three of them, I make my way to the storage house. The storage house is where we keep the food, weapons, and other essentials for our survival. It's heavily guarded by armed people on each corner of the building. Thankfully, I was on neutral terms with the guards since I was always passed by the storage house after the watch. I bowed my head in greeting as soon as I made eye contact with the guards. They parted from the door and let me through.
As soon as I was inside, I quickly ran into the food den and placed the cans from the bag onto the shelves. When I finished, I was startled by the sound of someone's breathing and footsteps behind me. I whirled around, and Ignazio stood by the doorway, his arms folded across his chest, staring at me. I stare back at him, unblinking.
"What do you want?" I asked, and he shifted from his position, now standing straight.
"Just checking you out," He says, winking at me.
I shake my head and ask him again. "What do you actually want?"
"I can try and get the teams up to four, you know? You forget that the Rector is my father."
"You don't need to do that, Ignazio."
"I'm gonna do it anyway." He winks at me one more time before he leaves the room.
That man will always confuse me.
My most favorite part of the day.
Every night, the Rector chooses volunteers to go out on Hunts, and I'm almost always chosen to go out for them. Right now, all the residents of the settlement are in the Alcove, the meeting quarters. We gather here every night to see who'll get chosen. The Alcove was once used to decide whether or not to keep strays from staying in the outpost. For the past few weeks, no survivors from the outside have dared to enter our safe haven.
Enzo the Rector, Ignazio's father, raised his hand in the air, and everyone in the Alcove hushed their voices. I sat in the front circle like always, waiting for the Rector to say his nightly spiel.
"I stand before you now to inform you of our new voyaging rule." He scanned the audience with his steely blue eyes. "From now on, voyaging teams will now be in groups of four. This is to accommodate the fact that if the teams were to split up, they would do so in pairs to prevent unnecessary casualties." His roaming eyes stop on a particular person in the crowd for an uncomfortably long time.
"Ignazio, Rei will now be joining your team."
My eyes widened in surprise. Ignazio wasn't lying when he said he'd do it anyway…
He sits a few seats away to my left. He nods in understanding, the corners of his mouth raised into a smile, albeit smug. I stare at Ignazio with a conflicted look on my face. Deep inside, I was excited that I was back to voyaging. Still, part of me wanted to tell the Rector about the situation myself. I sighed, knowing well that I couldn't do anything about it. I might as well just let it be.
I blank out for what seemed like forever until I heard the Rector's voice repeat my name. "Rei. Would you still like to go on the Hunt?"
I blinked, and I stood up from my seat in instinct and bowed my head, "Yes. I will continue to volunteer for future Hunts as well."
The Rector nods his head, and I drift off into my thoughts again.
The meeting was promptly dismissed, and I readied myself for the Hunt. Why did I enjoy going on Hunts? It's my stress reliever. Killing revenants reduces my stress by a ton. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's undoubtedly benefitting my sanity. I was never told why Hunts were always conducted at nightfall, though. I always assumed it was because the revenants are more active during that time.
I was in the armory, taking with me the weapons I regularly used on Hunts. I snagged myself a standard pistol, a silencer, ammunition, a tanto, and a bō staff. I always picked these weapons because it covered all types of ranges. The gun was for long-ranged combat, the tanto was for short-range, and the bō was for medium range. Ranged, bladed, and blunt. My preferred three categories for essential weaponry.
I hurriedly rushed outside to the gates, preparing myself for the worst. Once they opened, I jogged my way across the overpass and into the Glade. Most would say that the Glade was just a wasteland, but I saw it as more. It was the hunting grounds for revenants. It was a vast open plane of grass with zero hiding spots, and it was perfect for hunting sprees.
The other Hunters were also in the Glade with me, but we never took the same paths. I went my way, and they went theirs'. I went down a path that I never went to before. There were fewer revenants, which was strange considering it was nighttime. I began to speculate that someone was already down this part of the Glade. I continued to walk until I stepped on something foreign.
It was a jacket. Someone's jacket.
I examined the clothing and noticed there were bloodstains on it. I pressed my fingers on the stains, realizing it was wet, meaning that whoever left this jacket had passed by here not too long ago. I readied my gun, aiming it in front of me just in case there was anyone dumb enough to attack me in this direction. Just as I started moving, a noise came from afar. It sounded like someone yelling.
I sprinted in the general direction of the sound. As I got closer, it came to my attention that I was no longer in the Glade. I was in someone else's territory. My curiosity got the best of me, so I continued onward, my pistol still raised. I could see a long wire fence stretching all the way down to a lonely tree far from the Glade's direction in the distance.
I was surprised that not a single person from the settlement had come across this place. I understood that it was a bit far from our area, but it could be abandoned. I slowly approached the wire fence's entrance gate. Inside, there was a sizable facility that looked to be a headquarters of some kind. I carefully opened the entryway and crept my way to the side of the base.
I immediately hid behind a stack of barrels when I heard someone's footsteps coming from the opposite direction. I took a small peek from one of the barrels' cracks to see who this mystery person was. It was a man, about middle-aged, smoking a cigarette carefreely. There was a dagger strapped to his waist, but no gun was visible anywhere on his person. How foolish of him to stand there so carelessly with only a bladed weapon as a means of defense.
I wanted to come out and scare him, but my gut was telling me that he wasn't alone. I rolled my way stealthily to another arrangement of barrels, attempting to get a different view of the facility and the surrounding area. There were no others around when I began to scan the scenery. The man started whistling and sauntered over to a revenant outside the fence, clawing at it ferociously.
I watched as the man pulled out his dagger and stabbed it in the head. The revenant falls to the ground with a light thud. He stepped back into his original spot and blew smoke out of his mouth, twiddling the cigarette with his fingers. I equipped my silencer to my pistol and gingerly stepped out into the open, aiming my gun at the man's forehead.
"You made a mistake not locking up that entrance. There are more than just revenants walking around causing trouble, you know," I muttered loud enough for the man to hear. He whirled around, about to reach for his dagger. He raised his hands up in the air when he saw the gun pointed at him. The cigarette fell from his mouth.
"Shit," he cursed.
"Are you alone?" I inquired, lowering my voice.
The man slowly inched towards me. I pulled down the pistol hammer with my thumb and steadied my arms. "Come closer, and I'll blow your brains out. I just wanna know if you're alone."
"Relax, lady. I'm not alone. My friends are inside the building."
"How many of you are there?"
I circled the man, my gun still aimed for his head. "Got any supplies?"
"Not that I know of."
"Not a good answer." My finger was ready to pull the trigger.
"Wait! Wait! Wait! I'll tell you anything, just don't fucking shoot me!" The man's voice was as loud and clear as day.
"Dave? Is everything okay over there?" Someone from inside the building blatantly called. His voice was getting closer.
The man named Dave started laughing, "They're gonna get you, girly."
"You piece of shit," I snarled and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered as the bullet went right into his skull. I grabbed the dagger off of his waist and broke into a sprint, dashing my way out of the fence's entrance. I heard many voices calling out to me from behind, and I knew they were following me.
"Get back here!"
I ran as quickly as I could, bullets flying by me and one almost hitting my foot. I sped up as soon as I saw the bridge. Beside the bridge were countless trees and brambles, and I decided that it would be best to hide there until they stopped chasing me. I did what I had to do and crouched at the side of a large tree and a couple of bushes. I tried my best to stay hidden as I could hear them getting closer and calling out for me.
"Where the hell is this bitch?"
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
I stabilized my breathing. If they were to find me, I'd be dead. I couldn't die now; my parents and brother would be more than disappointed. I counted in my head the number of people that were surrounding me right now.
One, two, three…
It seems like the rest of them were left in the facility to guard it.
If I could just take all three of them out, I can get out of here.
I braced both my gun and dagger. One of them was really close to my location, so I swiftly got out of my hiding spot and shot at him. The bullet barely missed his ear, and he flinched, giving me a chance to finish him off. I pulled the trigger. The man tried to evade it, but it was too late. It shot him dead in the face.
Even with the silencer equipped, the other's proximity was close enough for them to hear from my position. I'll be screwed if I don't kill both of them. Just as I began to run away, something substantial collided with my jaw, and I dropped to the floor, caressing the spot on my face that was hit by the object. I winced in pain, and I looked up to see the two leftover men who were searching for me.
They peered down on me with crazy looks on their faces. I didn't dare move as one of them had a gun pointed at me.
"Should we kill her or take her back to the base?" The one with the gun asked his partner.
"We can play with her and then kill her after," the other one responded, his eyes staring me down hungrily.
"You're right… She's got a nice body." The gunman still had the gun aimed at me as I was lying on the ground in pain. With his other hand, he attempted to grope me, but I swatted it away viciously.
"Don't fucking touch me!" I barked.
He slapped me across the cheek and pulled me upward to his face, close enough for me to smell his nasty breath. His companion started to unzip my jacket, and I started flailing, but they both held me down with so much might that I couldn't move! At this moment, I felt so weak. So vulnerable. I knew how to fight, but I always feared that my skills weren't enough, and that fear was coming true.
I tried to fight back the tears in my eyes. My vision was blurry from the wetness, and I could no longer see the faces of the assailants I wanted to kill so bad. I continued to struggle, but that only seemed to turn them on even more. They tore apart my jacket and were forcing me to remove my jeans and tank top. I was beginning to lose hope for myself. I shut my eyes, slowly letting myself fall into fear's embrace.
Before I knew it, I heard two gunshots. I sluggishly opened my eyes, and the next thing I knew, both my assailants were lying on the ground, dead. Through my blurred vision, a man came running toward me, calling out my name.
"Rei! Talk to me! Are you alright?!"
I knew this voice…
I wiped away my tears. "Ignazio…?"
He kneeled in front of me, caressing my face with his strong hands. "You're fucking stubborn, you know that, right?"
I stared deeply into his sapphire blue eyes as he held me. For some reason, for the first time, I felt safe around this man. Something inside me shattered, and I broke down and cried. I no longer cared how weak I looked. It's been so long since I last shedded tears. Maybe, just maybe, I should thank him for what he did. I think I'd feel bad about myself if I didn't.
"I'm sorry…" I apologized to Ignazio.
He wiped away my tears with his thumbs. "For what? Being so tenacious?"
My heart quivered as he said this, and I giggled, sniffling.
He nodded his head at me and helped me up. I sighed heavily, and then I realized that my skin was partially exposed. I hastily reached for my jacket and covered myself, and I felt my face heat up like a volcano.
"Relax, amore. I would never look at you like they did." He smiled warmly at me. "Now come on. Let's get back to the outpost before your brother kills me." Before he could turn around to leave, I pulled up the courage to say what I had to.
He looked over his shoulder. "What?"
For the first time in months, I genuinely smiled.