Tina watched the waves crash over her bare feet and let the words leave her lips. “He’s dead.”
“Yeah.” Johnny kept his distance. He always did. How the man could be so comforting yet so detached from reality was beyond Tina. But she wished she could be detached, too. Numb. Empty. Why was it hard for her and easy for the others?
“Did you see it?” she asked softly. The cool breeze bit her cheeks and the smell of salt burned her nostrils.
Tina fought tears. “Did he…” Apologize? Mention her? Did he die fast or slow? No one had said. It was as if the apocalypse had erased all sense of moral decency from people’s minds. Didn’t death matter to anyone but her?
Johnny stepped closer and grabbed Tina’s shoulder, his grip gentle. “He wanted me to tell you he was sorry for what he did.”
Tina closed her eyes. Johnny could be lying. He’d lied to make people feel better before.
So what if he was? Would it hurt her to believe a lie? Just once?
Tina dug her toes into the wet sand. “I’m leaving the crew.”
“Yeah.” Johnny released her arm. “I think… I think that’d be best.”
“Are you?” She forced.
Johnny sighed and watched the tumultuous waves, then met her gaze. “Will you stay with the camp?”
“For now.” It was better than the group of nomads who’d left her brother for dead.
“Then yeah. I’ll stay.” Johnny looked away. “I made him a promise. I plan on keeping it.”
Tina licked her chapped lips and let the tears roll down her face. “We’ll be okay, won’t we?”
Johnny didn’t answer. They stood at the edge of the world as they knew it and let the shrill, panicked wind speak for them.
Tina didn’t sleep that night. She tried to. They wouldn’t leave till morning, after Johnny spoke with the leader, Hendrix. But she got up—her phone read 1:13 AM—and packed up what few possessions she had left.
She’d run. She’d leave the death behind.
She’d start something new, with Johnny on her side, they could fix… Something.
Or was the apocalypse hopeless? The Infected were numerous, taking over the country slowly but surely. Maybe Tina should give up. Peter was dead. Nothing would bring him back.
But what if something could have?
That tiny flame of hope burned in her chest. She tried smothering it out. It didn’t yield.
What if something could stop this virus?
If something could be found, she could save someone. Couldn’t she? No one would have to die again.
It was a stupid dream. A vain hope.
Still, it burned within her.
Peter wanted her to survive. He’d said so. He might’ve been rude, and obnoxious, and cold-hearted at times, but he’d protected her.
She owed him. And the best way to repay him would be to keep fighting and save as many people as she could. Right?
Tina zipped her military grade backpack shut. The other girls slept soundly in the bunkroom and Tina sucked in a breath. A few more hours, and she’d be heading into a broken world with a guy who she didn’t know well, but she trusted Johnny with her life. Could they survive? Could they make a difference?
If she had to fight Infected alone, she’d do so. If she faced a thousand more deaths and broke each time, she’d do so. Nothing mattered but using what Peter had given her—her life.
Good intro for a full-length story.
Attention-grabbing from the start! Great prose and a compelling little story.
Angela R. Watts