Friday, January 8, 2016

The Weak Die

I wrote a 250 word story a few years back. I have revisited it and expanded. This is not a tale for children.

The Weak Die

I woke feeling that something was wrong. It was quiet. Not unusual in itself, I lived alone and there weren’t anyone around for miles. Hell, I might be the last breather, for all I knew. But there was something about the quiet. It seemed almost desperate, as though there had been a noise, something out of the ordinary, which had suddenly been hushed. I stood from my bed and crossed the room. There was movement outside. I checked my gun, which was leaning against the wall by the door, as it should be. I hadn’t actually used it for some time, but was well maintained.
I pulled back the curtain in my window. It looked to be noon, judging from the sun. Crossing the long dead field, a girl moved cautiously toward my garden. She was young, but strong. A bit skinny, but this was the apocalypse, everyone still living was skinny. I watched the girl as she drew closer to my home. I was curious, I didn’t see many people come this way. Those who had lived around here before The End, knew to stay away from Old Phillis, who had gone strange since her husband left. The children told tales of what would happen if they came too close. Most of it wasn’t true, mainly because I hadn’t wished for a visit from the Sheriff. Now they were all dead, or had left for parts unknown, including the nosey Sheriff. Those that had come after learned that I liked my solitude and the smart ones left me alone. The not so smart ones, well, they no longer bother me. This girl, I didn’t know which type of person she was, but either way she wouldn’t be much of a bother. She looked tough though. Had to be, if she was out there by herself. It wasn’t a kind world for a girl on her own … and one, judging from the bundle in her arms, she was protecting an even more precious commodity.
She looked toward my garden, obviously well-tended, and then toward my cabin. She was wondering if anyone was home, and if so, was this a safe haven. I would answer her question, soon enough. When she slipped into the shadows and made her move for the garden, I grabbed my gun and opened the door.
“This place is mine. That food is mine.”
     She froze. Her eyes were wild as she sized me up.  She was tryin’ to decide if she could take me.
I leveled my gun. “I wouldn’t try it. I’m old, but strong. You don’t survive in this world if you can’t fight. You know that. You also don’t survive if you don’t know when to run.” I cocked the hammer. “Go on. Git.”
     She stood firm and held out the bundle she was carrying. “If I die, he’ll be alone. I just want a little and you have so much.”
     Well, so I was right about her package. It was a baby. I hadn’t seen one of those since… well, before the world went to hell. The weak were the first to die and you didn’t get much weaker than a new born.
“I have so much because I protect what is mine. I can’t just give it away, and you don’t look to have anything to trade.”
    She held the baby out.  “Please then, if you won’t let me eat … can you take him? He needs a home, someplace safe.”
“And what would I do with a baby? It’s not like I have any milk around to feed it. And if I did, why would I?”
“Then let me stay and help tend your garden. There’s strength in numbers.”
“Is that why you’re alone?”
She lowered her eyes. I knew the truth. A young girl like her, she’d probably been passed around, used by men until she was no longer any use to them. They probably wanted to leave the baby and she wouldn’t. There was a fire in her eyes. I knew which type of human she was. She was a fighter, and not about to run. We stared at each other, and then I pulled the trigger.
     She flinched, but I have to give her credit, she didn’t scream. Behind her, the Rotter dropped. I fired again, hitting the second. She ran, shielding the child and taking up a position behind me.
     “Git inside.” I snarled.
I hadn’t seen any living for a while, it had been nearly as long since I’d seen any of the dead. When the living left, so did they. Those two must have been tracking her. Those two appeared to be alone, but chances were, there would be more. They were like cockroaches that way. The shots would attract them. I needed to prepare. I placed the bodies on my burn pile and lit them. For some reason the smell of burning zombie’s deterred the others. It was like they instinctively knew to steer clear. Then I waited for the few that would ignore the warning. Like humans, there were always a few.
     Later, I sat with the girl around the fire while she nursed the babe. She’d told me her name, but I didn’t want to know. Still, I watched, curious while I roasted potatoes and a few ears of corn. I’d never been blessed to have a child. Maybe nature had smelled something in me … knew to steer clear. My husband had ignored that warning. Kept insisting we try, even after I told him what I would do to the baby if I did conceive. I wouldn’t be a good mother. I knew that. Nature knew that. He wouldn’t leave me though. He should have. I think he’d even thought of it, but he had that damned pride. He’d taken a vow … til death do us part, so I killed him and buried him in the garden. I liked to be alone. And now here I sat with another mouth to feed. It just wouldn’t do. Food was scarce in the apocalypse.
     She wasn’t expecting it when I slit her throat. I had warned her. She shoulda got when the gitten was good.
     The babe stared at me. I smiled and said calming things. Maybe I could have been a good mother. It was too late now. I slit its throat too. You don’t survive in this world if you can’t fight, but even the weak serve a purpose and tonight, I’d be eatin’ well.

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