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All That Remains

by Caitlin McColl 8 months ago in Short Story · updated 7 months ago
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A post-apocalyptic short story

All That Remains
Photo by ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND on Unsplash

Amelia, a young woman who once thought herself damaged after an accident leaving her with a prosthetic leg and arm, realizes her imperfections are an advantage in a post-apocalyptic world

Chapter 1 – All That Remains

It was a phrase that Amelia Brown heard a lot in the days following the accident. “All that remains”, the accident investigation officers kept saying to others, as she lay in the hospital. All that remains of her car, all that remains of the storefront. It seemed like that phrase was contagious because the doctors and nurses started saying it too. “All that remains of your leg, Amelia,” they’d say in soft, soothing tones. “All that remains of your arm,” they’d add. As if the parts that were left were a negative thing, she always thought. She had hit one of them. It had appeared out of nowhere, and she’d swerved, but it still hit her, and then she hit the storefront. At first, she felt awful about it, but not anymore. Not when people finally started to realize what they were.

Since the accident, Amelia Brown had felt self-conscious about herself. She still wasn’t used to seeing smooth, hard, shiny material where there was once soft, matte skin. Her prosthetic leg and arm on her left side hadn’t taken all that long to get used to, even though sometimes it chafed and itched when she first put them on. The thing that almost bothered her more was that she was, or rather had been, left-handed, so she had to train herself to write with her right hand now. That still kind of irked her, because the smooth, flowing handwriting of her former self was now jagged and jumpy and looked like something a young child would do instead of a woman in her mid-thirties.

But that was almost six months ago now. Amelia laughed at the thought that she had been irritated by her unruly penmanship. That was the least of her worries now. And she wasn’t self-conscious about her fake limbs anymore either. In fact, she was grateful. Never in a million years would she have thought that surviving a car accident and coming away with new body parts made of special plastics and stainless steel would be a blessing, rather than a curse.

But here she was, sitting on top of an apartment rooftop, screwing on a new hand. She was now a weapon if she wanted to be. And in this new world, always having a weapon was the only way you could ever hope to survive. People who didn’t carry weapons were just fooling themselves. Her mother’s face rose in her mind, unbidden, with her brown hair tied back in its usual two side twists and her dimpled smile. She focused on putting on her hand. She didn’t want to think about her mother and her mother’s insistence on not using weapons. She didn’t want to think about where that got her.

She placed her regular hand in the satchel that lay slung across her body, hanging at her hip. It clattered against the other interchangeable bits and pieces of her that she could use depending on the circumstances – different leg attachments for hiking, running, climbing. And different hands, or at least things she could put on in place of her hand. Inside the bag was an assortment of knives, lock picks, needles, and even one that was an axe head. She hadn’t thought that that would ever come in, she winced at the unintentional pun, handy, but realized it was useful for breaking through stubborn wooden doors or boarded-up windows. There were a lot of those these days.

But at the moment she was putting on her telescope hand. With her living hand, as she liked to call it, she extended the telescope to its furthest point and lifted it to her eye, squinting with the other instinctively. A cold wind blew across the top of the building and she shivered pulling the shawl she’d thrown over her shoulders around her a bit tighter.

Amelia was so focused on what she was looking at, across the ruins of the city, with jagged remains of buildings sticking up like broken, rotted teeth that she didn’t hear the person who had come up behind her.

Chapter 2 – An Unlikely Group

“Hey there, pretty lady,” the man said, his shadow falling over her and causing the cold roof to become infinitesimally cooler.

Amelia started and tried to scramble up, but remembered she’d removed her leg to be more comfortable.

She whipped around, her heart her throat and her live hand instantly going for her bag so she could pull out one of her knife prosthetics.

“Whoa, whoa, easy there!” the man said, raising his hands up defensively and taking a step back. “I just came up here to see how you were doing.”

“Jeremy!” Amelia shouted in a lowered voice, so anyone below wouldn’t be able to hear. “You scared me!”

Jeremy Atwell shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to. Like I said, I just came up to see how you were doing. Sam said you went up here to take a look.”

Jeremy was part of the team, along with Sam and a small handful of others. He squinted at Amelia through his wire-rimmed glasses, to block out the rising sun which had begun to hit the metal and glass of the surrounding buildings with blinding ferocity. Jeremy still looked mostly like his former self, except didn’t wear suits anymore, of course, and instead was dressed in a rumpled long-sleeved shirt and similarly creased tan khaki pants. He no longer looked like an accountant, but an accountant on holiday. Except with the additions of a bulletproof vest and protective padding around arms and legs, with enough mobility to be able to run if necessary.

Amelia bristled at the interruption, more due to the fact that she was angry at herself than him. She had been unprepared for his arrival and hadn’t been in a position to really defend herself or run away if she really needed to, if it was one of them, instead of one of her team. She lowered her telescope and grabbed her prosthetic leg that lay on the ground beside her and deftly screwed it into the plate that was grafted to what was left. With the scrape of hard plastic against concrete, she stood, ignoring Jeremy’s offered hand to help her.

Jeremy moved to the edge of the roof, as close as he dared without being seen by anyone else out there in the wilderness of the city. If you couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see you as the saying went. Or at least you hoped that was the case. “Anything?” Jeremy asked.

Amelia shook her head. “Nope, nothing. Not yet anyway. Maybe it’s still a bit too early for them.” She looked up to the sky, at its clear robin-egg blue, looking for any sign of airships, their metal hulls glinting brilliant copper in the sun. You used to see them, of course, before the outbreak happened. Transport ships and passenger ships, so much more efficient than old-fashioned airplanes. They were larger, could carry more people and cargo more safely. They had even been designing one to go back into space. But that was before. It seemed that the creatures on the ground had put a stop to everything, including in the sky. She could vaguely recall hearing talk, when it all first started, of people taking refuge on airships, using them as floating islands, keeping survivors isolated from the chaos below on the ground. Amelia shook her head, sighed and turned away from the sky, empty of anything except the odd forlorn-looking cloud, or small mangy pigeon. “The sun hasn’t really risen much yet so it might still be too early for any activity,” she added.

Jeremy nodded. “You’re probably right. Have you noticed any other survivors from up here?”

“You mean besides the last group that we saw on the building next door before they continued on their way?” Amelia asked, her tone becoming slightly sarcastic. She was tired and stiff, and grumpy. She didn’t wait for Jeremy to reply. “No, no other survivors. Haven’t seen any really since the mass evacuation.”

Jeremy shook his head. “You’d think it’d be safer to stay in the cities. More resources, more places to hide, take refuge.”

“More people in one area means more risk of contracting the virus,” Amelia added. “People were smart to leave.”

Jeremy turned his dark eyes to Amelia’s. “Why didn’t you leave too?”

She shrugged. She didn’t really know, exactly, but it seemed like her new self, post-accident, part material, part flesh, was an advantage to fighting the infected people. She could hit them and kick them with her prosthetics with no worry that she would get bitten or cut, as long as she kept the flesh and bone part of her away from their teeth and nails.

The virus hit all of a sudden, and spread quickly, almost as fast as the Ebola outbreak of 2014, Amelia had thought when news of it had flown around the world like wildfire. She remembered the Ebola scare as if it were just yesterday, instead of almost eleven years ago.

On the other hand, this virus seemed like it had been around for years, instead of just the last year and a half. It was almost impossible to wrap your head around how quickly everything went from normal to chaos to unrecognizable. It was so fast that scientists hadn’t even had time to give the virus a name, other than its scientific one, a string of letters and numbers that didn’t mean much of anything to anyone. And Amelia supposed that the scientists that had isolated it in the lab, after they’d got the first cases of it in hospitals, weren’t even around now to care. They were probably among the first wave of victims, and probably still around somewhere, skulking in the dark alleyways and abandoned offices, waiting for prey to stumble across their paths before attacking and tearing into them with teeth and nails not made to do those sorts of things.

The virus switched off the humanity of a person and turned on their primitive, animal instincts. It made them only aware of two things: hunting and survival. And for some reason, it also slowed them down when it was cold, like cold-blooded reptiles.

Which was the only way Amelia and her band of survivors, and any other ragtag groups of people who still managed to stay alive, had managed to survive this long. Like lizards, the infected slowed down at night, and during the winter, only becoming active during full daytime when the temperature rose. It was then they were most dangerous. It was like they needed their batteries recharged, and weren’t as much of a threat.

Of course, in warmer climates, they were always at full beast mode, which made countries like Africa pretty much a no-go zone. The warmer southern states, where it never fell below freezing were also mostly overrun by infected, who turned on survivors, and then on themselves, once their uninfected food source ran dry.

The military had been called in, and Martial law declared after about two months, when there were no signs of the virus abating, and instead reports of the number of infected was increasing rapidly. The victims of the virus at first were locked up – in anything – prisons, cages in zoos, anywhere to keep them away from the general population.

Amelia moved as close to the edge as she dared and looked down. The sun had begun to spread its fingers across the city, penetrating the shadowed streets. She saw movement down below them, the strange smooth gait of a person turned animal, stalking and hunting prey. The Werewolf virus people had started to call it much later, once descriptions of the symptoms of the virus hit the news and social media

She looked at Jeremy. He had a rifle slung across him. It looked incongruous, an accountant with slightly balding dark hair and a bit on the chubby side clutching a rifle and wearing makeshift armour. She reached into her bag with her good hand and pulled out a prosthetic with a sharp blade at the end. She flicked a small switch on the side and the blade retracted, like an X-Acto knife. It was a safety precaution, so she didn't accidentally hurt the others in her group.

"We better get moving if we want to make it outside the city," Jeremy said, still squinting out across what remained of a city that as little as six months ago was still vibrant and life went on as normal. People had thought, hoped, that maybe the werewolf virus would somehow spare them, that a cure would be found before it brought the world to the brink of extinction. Amelia turned away from the answer that the virus had chosen.

“Where are we going to go?” she asked, as she headed down the stairs leading from the roof to the rest of the building in a slightly stilted walk due to her prosthesis. She had lost her leg from just above the knee, so her new knee was basically a ball-bearing contraption and for some reason, this post-virus apocalypse world wasn’t kind to things like that. The knee-joint moved stiffly.

Jeremy shrugged causing the rifle to bounce. “Outside of the city. That’s where they said people should go.” Amelia sighed. They being the government, being the military, being the police. Being anyone in charge. And look what good they did? Amelia assumed that most of the important people were now victims of the virus. She hadn’t yet come across anyone who claimed to be anything important, anything really useful, like a doctor, or scientist, or even politician. Though what a politician could do against the animal-people, Amelia didn’t know.

Amelia pushed a door open on the twelfth and top floor with the stub of her arm and entered an office with cubicles scattered around in pods of four. Five clusters of four had been dismantled and the desks removed from the inside so that it was a fairly large space surrounded by four walls that Amelia couldn’t look over unless she stood on her toes, and even then she couldn’t see all the way in. Their group had made them their living quarters. Sam was sitting on the floor in his ‘bedroom’ curled up on a mass of blankets that they had managed to grab from a Department store before they stumbled across this now-empty office building.

It must’ve been on a weekend when the virus took hold of the city, Amelia thought. Thankfully. Otherwise, this building would have been filled with human-animals.

Sam glanced up briefly from his work, which was looking at maps spread out across his lap that flowed onto the floor. He held up his cell phone. “I think the generator in this building is finally dying,” he said. As if to confirm his hypothesis, the banks of fluorescent lights above them blinked and flickered. “My phone is having trouble staying charged,” he went on. “I was trying to look at the GPS on here to find the quickest way out of here. He pointed to the map that was on his lap. “If we head east, that’ll take us away from the coast and further inland.”

Amelia shook her head, causing dirty blond hair she’d attempted to tie back to fall into her face. She brushed it away with her living hand. “But that way, we’d be trapped,” she said, matter of fact. “I know they,” she put emphasis on the word, “said it would be best to leave the cities where there’s higher concentrations of them, but…” she trailed off, not sure what she was actually trying to say. “But they could trap us. There would be nowhere to run if a bunch of them tracked us down.” Amelia had been trying to figure out exactly what sort of animal the Werewolf virus turned people into, but she hadn’t been able to pinpoint anything. Just that they turned from normal person to wild and savage, wanting to bite and scratch and attack anything that was living. They weren’t picky. Amelia had seen plenty of them eating one of the more plentiful sources of meat, the staple wild animal of every large city – pigeons. Good riddance, she thought.

Sam pointed to her handless-arm which held the hidden knife inside and gestured to Jeremy’s rifle. “But we have weapons,” he said simply as if that justified everything.

“What if we could find a boat or something and sail somewhere. Find somewhere the virus hasn’t hit?”

Sam and Jeremy stared at her. “The virus has hit everywhere,” Sam said in a slightly irritated tone. “Remember the news said it’s even his Australia and New Zealand? If it’s made its way there, it’s most likely everywhere.”

“But-” Amelia began to protest and Jeremy held up a hand to stop her.

“I know what you’re going to say. If we’ve managed to survive and not get infected, there’s going to be others.”

The sound of gunfire rang out from lower down in the building, interrupting him. Jessica. She was their lookout. She was the only one that had experience with actually handling and shooting a gun. Before the virus took hold, she was a police officer. Still was, in some ways.

Amelia ran to the window, threw it open, and poked her head out. She spotted Jessica’s short dark hair easily against the light concrete of the building, about 8 floors down. “What’s happening?” she yelled.

Chapter 3 – Breached

Jessica turned her head to look upwards, squinting against the brightness. “We’ve been breached!” she shouted back, pointing downwards to where a cluster of people were shoving and pushing their way into their building. Jessica turned back to them and continued to fire. Amelia watched as bodies fell.

She turned away from the window. “Come on!” she shouted urgently, panic rising up inside her like a wave.

Sam jumped up quickly. He was light and strong, a professional runner. Amelia envied him. She could run too, but not as smoothly as Sam and after a while the plastic of her prosthetic chafed where it met her skin, even though she couldn’t feel it much due to damaged nerve endings. But it could still start to bleed after a time, leaving her more susceptible to infection. To the virus, she thought without wanting to. She shuddered at the implications and shouldered her bag of hands and feet.

Jeremy was already out the door, shouting behind him as he disappeared. “East exit that leads toward the park! Remember our emergency plan!”

Amelia ran back to the window. “We’re going to go out the back east exit!” She shouted down to Jessica. “Emergency protocol is active!”

Jessica flashed a thumbs up before turning back to her task. “Got it! I’ll be right there!”

Amelia ran. When she was three floors from the bottom she heard noise – a loud popping and splintering of wood. She heard the squeak of running shoes and the stomp of others on the polished tiled floor of the building lobby. They were inside.

She moved as fast as she could, gripping the stair handrails with her good hand and jumping down a couple stairs at a time.

By the time she reached the narrow metal door that led out into a dirty alley cluttered with garbage that hadn’t been picked up for months, the others were gone.

Where they were headed was in the opposite direction from where Sam had wanted them to go on the map, but it was closer to where Amelia wanted to head for. The ocean.

They’d found their emergency plan gathering point when they’d first found the office building and were looking out over the city from the rooftop. It was a train station. The terminal where all the trains that came to the city stopped. It was full of passenger cars, which could be securely locked. They’d scouted out the station and the trains when it had turned night and the creatures had slowed down with the drop in temperature, finding places to hibernate, and the ones they did encounter were sluggish and easy to pick off.

It was empty. All the passengers and train crew had left when the city had ordered all trains stopped – in a bid to contain the virus. A lot of the trains were missing, leaving empty tracks, but there were still a few there when people thought the city might have been a haven. Others, perhaps smarter, took the train away from here ignoring the government orders not to spread infection outside, trying to find respite elsewhere. Amelia wondered if they had.

She shoved the door open and slid the switch on the side of her arm, pushing the blade out fully. She burst out of the alley and immediately ran into an infected who had been rummaging through an overflowing trashcan of rotting food and garbage.

The man, thin and wiry with blue eyes and dark hair that had grown past his ears was young-looking, around Amelia’s own age, she guessed as she slashed at him with her knife when he lunged toward her, his lips pulled back, exposing his teeth in a guttural snarl.

She jabbed towards him, her knife slicing easily through his stained shirt, what had once been a nice, probably expensive, button-down, and cut him across the chest and stomach. His pale blue shirt blossomed red and he howled in pain. He reacted by reaching towards her, trying to claw and scratch.

She jumped backward and stumbled when her fake leg hit the ground awkwardly.

The man moved toward her again, almost oblivious to the blood that was pouring from the gash across him.

A shot rang out, so close by that Amelia screamed, but the man jerked as the bullet hit him, and then fell to the ground in a heap.

Amelia turned to see Jessica sprinting towards her, just before Jessica grabbed her by the elbow. “Come on!” she encouraged, pulling Amelia along until she found her stride again.

The gun had given away their location. Jessica shot their way through the ones coming towards them in the direction they were headed, clearing a path and Amelia went for others as they got close enough.

Chapter 4 – Temporary Refuge

It felt like they had been running for hours when they finally reached the train station.

Amelia ran for the large passenger train on the third set of tracks. It was the one they’d determined was most secure.

She could see Sam moving about in the cab of the train. And saw movement in one of the first passenger cars – Jeremy.

Amelia reached the sealed door of the carriage first and banged on the thick window with her plastic arm.

Jeremy looked up from one of the passenger car dining tables and saw them. She gestured wildly and a moment later Jeremy appeared and unlocked the door, pulling it open.

The two women climbed aboard and Jessica threw the heavy metal latch lock over, sealing them safely inside a tin can.

“Are the rest of the cars secured?” Jessica asked, turning blue eyes on Jeremy.

He nodded. “First thing we did was lock them all once we were in.”

The car juddered and Amelia had to steady herself, bracing against a narrow wall that separated spaces within cars. She heard Sam shout something from upfront, but couldn’t make it out clearly.

And then the train began to move forward. “What?” Amelia stuttered, trying to make sense of what was happening.

“He got it going!” Jeremy shouted.

“How? Where?” Amelia fought to find the right words in her shock. “Where are we going? What are we doing?”

“We’re leaving the city!” Jeremy and Jessica said simultaneously, Jessica clapping her hands with excitement.

“What?” Amelia’s voice rose in a shocked screech. “Where are we going?”

“Who cares?” Jessica said. “Isn’t it just good enough that we’re getting away from here?”

As the train station slid further away from them, Amelia could see the ocean along one side. She spotted a group of infected huddled around something they had killed, hunched down and reaching and grasping towards something she turned her gaze from. Beyond them, the ocean was a sliver of silver, lit by the sun. And then it began to disappear as the train changed direction, turning away from the water and heading inland.

She sighed and made her way to the cab where Sam was sitting in the engineer’s seat.

“Since when did you know how to drive a train?” she asked sharply.

Sam glanced at her with his green eyes, flashing a brief smile. “I used to take them a lot when I went to races. I preferred to see the country this way. It’s relaxing. Like driving but you don’t have to do anything. One time I entered a contest where you could spend a day up here in the cab being shown how to operate a diesel train.” He shrugged. “I never would’ve thought that would ever be useful...” he trailed off, looking out of the slanted window in front of them. The landscape flew towards and past them. Buildings clustered together in the downtown core, many irreparably damaged by the military when they had turned on the cities, trying to flush the savage, untamed people out, to save the rest began to thin out, becoming shorter shopping plazas, and long, low industrial warehouses. The warehouses eventually turned into houses. First large, grand mansions, and eventually shrinking to small, rundown residences. Amelia noticed that most windows and doors were boarded up. And that applied to all, from large to small.

"What?” Sam asked, turning to her.

Amelia shook her head. “Nothing.” She looked out the small side window and started, a gasp escaping.

Sam followed her gaze. “Wolves!” he shouted. A trail of infected were running alongside the train.

Amelia ran back to the passenger car where Jessica and Jeremy were. They had already pushed open a couple of windows and were shooting at the men and women as they tried to surge toward the train.

Amelia removed her bag from her back.

Most of the people were falling back with the gunshots, but Amelia watched, her eyes widening in horror, as one woman in torn, stained jeans and similarly destroyed blouse, leapt at the train, and managed to grab on, her fingers crusted and stiff with dried blood, gripping the thin rims of the windows and pulling herself along. Jeremy was closest to her and was too focused on aiming his rifle.

Before Amelia could even open her mouth to warn him, the woman, with a wild, crazed look on her face and in her eyes, tore the weapon from his hands and tossed it away, at the same time grabbing onto his arm, and bringing her head down.

The woman bit him, her jaws clamping down on his forearm, and Jeremy screamed, trying to pull his arm from her mouth. Amelia felt sick at the blood that spilled from him, dripping onto the fake leather chairs next to the window. Jeremy managed to yank his arm away but left a hunk of himself with the woman, and a gaping hole in his arm.

The woman reached into the open window, trying to pull herself in. Amelia blindly reached into her bag and pulled something out. It was one of her running legs, with a thin curved piece of flexible material. It wasn’t ideal but it would have to do. She whacked at the woman with the running foot as hard as she could, swinging it down on its side like a blade.

She lifted it and swung again and again until the dirty fingers lost their grip on the window sill and fell away.

Her heart pounded in her chest and ears, so loudly that it took a few moments for Jeremy’s cries to penetrate the noise of her heart that filled her head.

She turned and ran to Jeremy’s side. She was about to open her mouth to ask if he was okay when she shut it again. Of course he isn’t, she thought angrily, shaking her head at the stupid question.

Jeremy was collapsed in one of the many passenger seats in the carriage, grouped in rows of three, separated by an aisle down the middle. Sweat ran down his face, mingling with tears on his cheeks. He muttered something too quiet for Amelia to hear.

“What?” she asked, quietly, fearfully.

Jeremy thrashed in his chair, his eyes screwed shut tightly. “Do it,” he said, so softly that Amelia wondered if she’d imagined it. She was about to question him again when his eyes flew open. He stared not at her, but through her with eyes that had begun to turn cloudy. “Do it!” he screamed.

She jumped backward, almost bumping into Jessica.

She rummaged in her bag at her hip, looking for her pistol. Her hands were shaking, her fingers fumbling.

Jeremy tried to launch himself up from the chair, still holding tight to his bleeding arm. Amelia shrieked with fright, falling backward, her prosthetic leg twisting at an awkward angle under her.

Before she realized what was happening, the car was filled with the too-loud sound of a gunshot. Amelia put her good hand up to her ear and tried to press her other arm to her other ear to block out the noise, but it was too late. Her ears rang and buzzed, a loud high-pitched whine like an alarm going off.

Jeremy’s body fell onto the floor in front of her. He wasn’t a heavy man, but the weight of his body falling shook the ground beneath her. She closed her eyes tight against the vision of his body sprawling out in a jumble of arms and legs and the blood that was creeping its way slowly across the floor.

Jeremy was dead. Amelia didn’t want to open her eyes again and see him lying there. Even though she knew it was the only thing to do. People who were bit turned into one of the infected. If they survived that was. Just like a zombie.

Even though Amelia kept her eyes shut, she could feel the tears trying to squeeze out of the corners. She took a deep breath and opened them, and unsteadily climbed to her feet.

Jessica was back at the window. Amelia noticed that the trail of infected had thinned and were falling back. Jessica could handle it on her own, Amelia thought, heading to the cab where Sam was.

“What happened back there?” Sam said, turning panicked eyes to her.

Amelia had to swallow to speak. “Jeremy was attacked.”

Sam’s already wide eyes widened further. “He-”

“Was bitten,” Amelia finished for him. “We had to do it.”

Sam closed his eyes briefly and nodded in understanding. He had lost people before, when the virus first started changing people.

“There was a group following the train,” Amelia continued. “But Jessica has kept them at bay now.” She looked ahead at the dry barren landscape that was coming towards and past them.

She was silent for a moment, debating whether or not to ask a question she wasn’t sure she really wanted an answer to.

She took a deep breath. “Where are we going? Do you even have a plan?”

Sam laughed bitterly. “Of course I have a plan! I’m not stupid.”

Amelia waited for him to continue, watching his jaw clench as he stared out at the tracks unfolding before them. He was silent for a lot longer than she thought was appropriate, so opened her mouth to ask what his plan was.

He cut her off, raising a hand and pointing ahead of them.

Amelia looked. She didn’t see what he was pointing at. There wasn’t anything out there, besides fields, and the odd ramshackle farmhouse. The sky was a pale, watered-down blue of high summer, and it was hazy out, but other than that…

She continued to look but didn’t see what he was still raising a pointed finger at. “What-” she began.

Sam did something to make the train slow slightly, the rhythmic sound of its wheels rolling on the tracks becoming more spaced out.

She stared at the haziness before them, and suddenly with a shock that made her gasp and take a step backward, realized it wasn’t a hazy sky in front of them at all, but a light coloured wall of some sort that stretched across the horizon for as far as they could see in either direction.

Chapter 5 – It is Written

Sam brought the train to a crawl as the wall grew steadily closer.

Amelia couldn’t do anything else but stare. The wall inched closer, almost glaringly bright. It seemed to be made of smooth stone, maybe marble.

Sam brought the train to a halt with the squealing of metal tires against tracks. It stopped a few meters in front of the wall.

Amelia felt Jessica’s presence like a ghost standing behind her. Since the accident, Amelia had become more sensitive to her personal space. And, she reasoned, it was probably also due to the existence of the infected people. If you weren’t aware of your surroundings, you didn’t last very long anymore.

The three of them stood, silent, collectively holding their breath. After what seemed like an eternity, Sam broke the silence. “Well, we better take a look.”

Jessica nodded in agreement and followed Sam out the nearest door, jumping down to the gravel that flanked both sides of the tracks, skidding to a stop.

Amelia clutched the door frame, nervous, not wanting to leave the relative safety of the train, even though she couldn’t see any wolves anywhere nearby. She watched Jessica march confidently along the wall, close enough to touch it, holding her rifle across her body defensively.

Amelia sighed and gingerly climbed down out of the train. She was glad she wore her trusty boots with the thick, heavy sole.

She glanced at Jessica who was already a good few yards away. She could hear the rustle of the long, dry grasses parting as Jessica and Sam moved through them. She decided to go to Sam. Jessica could take care of herself, she’d proven as much.

Amelia ran to catch up to Sam, her bag swinging across her back like a metronome. “Sam!” she called out as she neared him. She saw he had removed his long-bladed hunting knife from its sheath that he always wore around his left thigh.

Sam slowed, allowing her to catch up, but didn’t turn around.

“What are you doing?” Amelia asked keeping pace with him.

“What do you think?” Sam answered, a bit harshly. “Finding a way through.”

Amelia didn’t know what to say to that, so stayed quiet.

They walked in silence a moment until the silence was broken by Jessica. She was yelling something.

They stopped and turned. Amelia gripped her running foot which she was still holding, more tightly as she saw the fear on Jessica’s face. “Where are they?” she said, looking around them. She didn’t see anything or anyone nearby.

Jessica was sprinting, the action made Amelia’s heart race. There was only one thing that made you run: wolves.

Amelia glanced around her again, and again all that met her gaze was miles of brown dry grasses. “What is it?” she asked, panic in her own voice as Jessica reached them. She raised her prosthetic defensively.

“Haven’t you seen it?” Jessica said, her voice rising, stricken.

“Seen what?” Amelia and Sam echoed.

“Look!” Jessica said, pointing at the wall. Amelia saw a smudge of red on the wall, and further down made out black, standing out starkly against the pale stone. She took a step away from the wall to get a better look. It looked like words.

Another step, and then another, and another. And then…

She felt the blood drain from her face and her knees went weak. She had to put her running leg into the ground to lean on for support or she would have collapsed.

She looked down the wall in the direction Jessica had come from and could just barely make the message scrawled across it. Turn Back! It read. And: Behind The Wall has fallen.

Fallen. Overrun by infected. Amelia read the message in front of her in, what she hoped was red paint. Do Not Enter. This land behind this wall is forsaken. The wall stretched across the dry land as far as any of them could see, cutting the continent in two.

Sam and Jessica joined her. They could see writing all down the wall, most of it mostly faded away with just a few letters here and there and the odd whole word.

“Are we all that-” Jessica began.

“No!” Amelia shouted, knowing exactly what she was going to say. She hated that phrase. They looked at her, shocked by the outburst. “No,” she repeated, this time more softly. “We can’t be. We can’t think like that. We can’t be all that remain.” She shook her head hard as if trying to convince herself. “We just can’t.”

Chapter 6 - To Rise Again

She began pushing her way through the tall grass, walking parallel to the wall. She opened her back and took out a prosthetic with a long, blade that curved like a scythe that could be folded up on itself for safe storage.

This time it was Jessica and Sam who ran to catch up to her.

“What are you doing?” Jessica asked, her voice uneven with worry.

“Where are you going?” Sam asked, clutching his knife at his side, and removing a pistol that sat at his hip.

“We can’t be it,” Amelia said, her voice hard, determined. “We have to keep going.”

“But-,” Jessica began, jogging awkwardly holding the rifle in front of her. “The wall-” She stopped at Amelia’s look.

“Haven’t you ever heard you can’t believe everything you read?” Amelia said, realizing her voice was becoming scarily high-pitched. She ignored it. “We can’t give up.”

She stopped suddenly and Jessica and Sam almost walked into her. She stuck her leg out, the plastic bottom of the missing part of her limb glinting in the sun. “I didn’t give up,” she said. She could feel her throat start to tighten as tears threatened behind her eyes. She couldn’t cry. That wouldn’t be much of a rallying speech, she thought. “After the accident.”

She saw Sam and Jessica look away, uncomfortable. Amelia wasn’t going to go into what happened to her. She hadn’t when she’d met each of them, because they never asked. She was just looked at as the warrior girl that was part human part Werewolf-slaying weapon.

She swallowed and blinked back tears that tried to escape. “I didn’t give up. And we haven’t given up, all this time. Even when the whole world was…” She tried to think of the right word. Destroyed? Ruined? Damaged? Those were words she could use to describe herself, she thought with a suddenness that tightened her chest sharply. But instead, she said the word that she had always thought now described the new her. Changed. “The whole world was changed by the virus.” She continued. “But we’re still here. We can’t let a wall stop us, make us throw the towel in and just give up.”

She looked at Sam, trying not to make it seem like she was glaring at him, then turned to Jessica. She hoped it was an encouraging look and followed it up with a small smile.

They gave her weak smiles in return, and in silence they continued, walking until the setting sun began to turn the sky a dusky purple.

The wall continued, seemingly never-ending, but Amelia Brown never gave up and plowed onwards, flanked by two people who had been strangers but were now the only people in the world she had left that she could call friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Check out another fiction story from me below!

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Caitlin McColl

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