We were close to safety, I could almost taste it on my tongue. After days of killing the retched undead we could see a tall building. The signs had shown us the way, the radio's telling us where to go. A group of survivors, finally some kind of order. But an unexpected horde caught us as a thunderstorm started overhead.
“Fuck,” Joe muttered, holding his shotgun steady and taking three out in quick secession. I had my back to his and took out two of my own. I glanced around, searching for somewhere close by we could run too.
“That house!” I yelled, getting his attention. He nodded and we fought our way through the zombies as best we could. The rain was falling now and the ground grew slick, staining the bottom of my jeans with wet mud. I took a step backwards and slipped. I scrabbled back to my feet as fast as I could. I didn't realise one of the bastards had snuck up on me.
I let out a strangled cry as I felt it drag me back to the ground and pin me. I winced as a sharp pain gripped my shoulder. I bit my lip, suppressing tears as a burning sensation radiated from the wound. I struggled, trying to shake the body pinning me away. It's teeth kept snapping at me. The jaw was half rotted but it didn't even faze the once-human creature before me. The weight holding me down was suddenly lifted. Joe shot the zombies head off and grabbed my hand. He hauled me up and I half stumbled to keep up as he headed for the house.
“Come on!” he yelled. The rain made it impossible to see more than his forearm but I somehow managed not to fall over again as I slipped over the ground. Joe threw me in front of him and I stumbled up a pair of porch steps. I fell and winced as the wood scrapped my palms. I heard the door open and rushed to my feet. I heard the door slam shut behind me and instantly wrapped my arms around my body. The cold of the rain a sudden shock to my adrenaline fuelled body.
“Shit, that was close,” Joe muttered, leaning against the door and sliding down to the floor. I turned to see water dripping from his messy hair. His clothes were as soaked as mine. I turned back around and saw myself in the mirror. I felt my eyes widen, and my body moved, detached from my mind. I reached with one hand and pulled my shirt collar to the side. Joe saw it at the same time as me. I expected him to curse, that was his usual reaction. They'd been four of us originally. Both Lukas and Ben were gone. eaten or bitten and turned? We didn't hang around to find out to be honest. I suppose this is what I get for being such a coward. My shoulders shook and I bent my head, hiding behind my hair as wet, hot tears poured. Warming my pale skin like a cruel fire.
“Jen,” Joe whispered, now on his feet and behind me. Close enough that I could feel his warmth against my back. I waited for him to say something else, but all he did was lean forward and hold me. What hold I had on my emotions fell and I turned around, burying my face in his chest. There was nothing beautiful or delicate about my cries. They were loud and violent, shaking my body with the force of them. I waited for Joe to let go and walk away. I wouldn't blame him. But he stood them patiently until my sobs died down to hiccups and pathetic sniffles. I gulped and pulled away.
“You need to go,” I murmured. The sounds of the undead scratches the door had long since died, they must've found new prey or merely given up.
“No, I-” he began, I cut him off with a sharp look.
“I'm not going to let you die because you hung around. I don't want your death on my conscious! Just go.” the last part came out weak and small. I didn't wait for his reply, I dropped my rifle at his feet and then emptied my handgun of all but one bullet.
“I'll wait until your far enough away that you won't hear,” I said, meeting his beautiful blue eyes as I spoke. I saw the pain in them, watched how his face twisted with it.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered.
“What for? You've saved me plenty times. I would've died long before now without you,” I replied. I could see his eyes watering, knew he wanted to cry. I wanted to hold him just like he'd held me. But time was fast running out. I could feel the burning pain in my muscles fading. Any moment now feeling would go. My thoughts would go. I'd be mindless, destined to kill humans. I gripped the handgun tighter. I planned to take myself out before then.
“I won't forget you,” he said. I blinked, aware I was crying silently. I regretted the past weeks. We'd been ducking and dodging the subject of us. The apocalypse was too important. What was the use in pursuing our feelings? And now we'd run out of time. He didn't lean forward to kiss me before he left. The chance he'd get infected himself was far too high. I watched his back, heard the door close. All I could do was hope he made it. That he lived through this hell and had a good life for the both of us. I lifted the gun and stared down the barrel. I could feel my hand shaking as I lifted it to the side of my head.
Something knocked me from behind and I cried down. I reacted by instinct, kicking the zombie away and lifting the gun. One shot, dead center of the head. He slumped onto the floor and didn't move again. I sat there frozen as the realisation fell on me. I had no way out. I threw the gun at the nearest wall and fell back, crying and shaking. I wrapped my arms round me and spent my last few moments of awareness thinking of Joe. The times we almost kissed. The first time we met. How he'd held me when I finally broke down when the others were gone. Last night, when we'd almost explored everything unspoken between us. I wished I could go back, wish I'd had the confidence to close the small space between our lips. Eventually the regret faded, I faded. Replaced by a monster who wore my face.