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by Emily Kathryn 11 months ago in Short Story
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A dystopian story

The frozen, dried leaves that still clung to the sparse set of trees rattled as a symphony of death when a blast of winter wind rolled through the flat plains. Somewhere, something metal slammed onto the pavement of the nearby abandoned highway. Lana flattened herself against the ground and buried the exposed skin of her face into the crook of her arm to protect her eyes from unintentionally watering, counting each second, all while holding the rifle steady. A long gold chain bit uncomfortably into the tender skin of the back of her neck as a heart shaped locket wedged itself between her breasts. Lana shifted to relieve the pressure, adjusting the locket to a higher position on her chest, and aligned her gaze with the scope once more. Her breath came in short pants of frozen air, as she stared through the scope into empty space. The current guard should be switching in less than five minutes.

Lana’s heart pounded frantically in her ear, a storm of static anxiety bloomed rapidly through her chest. Fear had dominated in the last year of this hellscape after the meteor struck the plains of Oklahoma, and subsequently catapulted Earth into doomsday. She’d watch countless die at the hands of brutal murderers, killing for nothing more than the last bite of a meal as everyone fought for one more day. Lana and her troupe had spent the better part of the year struggling to keep each other alive as they travelled to find a piece of land to cultivate and defend. They’d fought and bargained with those who had meant them harm on their travels. Fear had kept them restless, alert, and alive. But this fear was different. This time, she wasn’t the spectator, the savior, or the last clear face of one on the verge of death. She was the one who would pull the trigger. She was the murderer.

Three more minutes, then the changing of the guard should happen. She shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on her elbows. If only Allyson could see her now, utterly prepared to take the lives of as many as it took to extract vengeance. Careless of her own life and wellbeing. Lana felt the ghost of a smile dance across her lips, Allyson would be beside herself with worry and anger. Her clothes were caked in mud and shit. Her once long dark hair was hacked short and pulled back in matted knots. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d bathed, or even eaten a full meal in the last two months.

Unwittingly, that last peaceful night flashed like a movie across the dark expanse of her mind. Lana had felt sick as she watched Nick on the other side of the fire skin gut rabbits before he threw them into the pot of boiling water between them for that night’s stew. After eight months of surviving in the desolate wasteland, the fact that she still was unable to kill anything was laughable.

“Lana, if you make that face again, I’m going to throw an intestine at you.” Nick teased while he slashed the soft underbelly of the final rabbit, letting the insides splash noisily into the bucket at his feet. There was a sprinkle of laughter from the others who surrounded the fire, Lana’s stomach contents rolled in protest.

“You wouldn’t dare.” She fired back, shifting further from the roaring flames and into the darkness where he would find it harder to aim. “Try it and I’ll stick that knife in your eye.” Lana experienced a small jolt of pleasure when she saw a shocked expression flit across the man’s face, then he snorted in disbelief and went back to cleaning the final rabbit, completely ignoring her threat and effectively denting her bolstered ego.

Familiar footsteps crunched behind her before a warm body settled down next to her in front of the fire, and Allyson’s arm came up around her shoulders. Lana instinctively snuggled into the embrace and she felt herself being pulled deeper into Allyson’s side. Her girlfriend turned her head and planted a kiss on Lana’s temple.

“Why are you blinding the best cook here?” Allyson asked, her lips still pressed against Lana, and she could feel a smile forming against her skin. Lana pulled away and turned to face the other woman.

“Because he was threatening malicious intent.” She reached up to brush a wayward lock of short brown hair from Allyson’s face. “I was simply defending myself.”

“Pretty sure chucking a rabbit’s intestines at you doesn't constitute bodily harm.” Nick shot out as he stirred some roots into the pot. Lana felt Allyson vibrate with laughter.

“Who’s the lawyer here?” She snapped back, half-heartedly glaring, but also pleased about the verbal sparring. She shifted and wrapped her arms around Allyson’s waist.

“Ooooo” came another voice, probably Lynn, from the other side of the fire. “She got you.” But as usual, Nick didn’t miss a beat.

“No one, because a meteor effectively kicked you out of law school.” At this Allyson snorted, and Lana turned her glare to the then snickering brunette. The rest of the circle burst into laughter.

“Traitor.” Lana said as she tried to pull away. Allyson’s response was simply to pull her closer and press her lips against Lana’s, which effectively silenced the next complaint. She reached up with one hand and caressed the side of Allyson’s face, completely content. A second later Allyson abruptly broke their kiss and flipped her head around to search the darkness. Lana grabbed her arm. A swarm of fear instantly roiled up through her stomach.

“What is it?” Her voice was low, as the hair on the back of her neck rose. Something was wrong. Allyson didn’t answer for a couple of seconds, but clutched Lana a little tighter as she listened to the night. The others around them had frozen, waiting. Allyson jumped again, whipping around to search another opening into the clearing.

“Did you hear that?” Allyson’s question was barely above a whisper. Lana shook her head against her girlfriend’s chest instead of answering. Night was always dangerous, but the size of their group usually dissuaded bandits. Usually.

Silence stretched across camp like a blanket. Lana clutched Allyson close and strained to hear anything above their pounding hearts and the howling wind. Everything was going to be fine. It was just a deer or other animal-then the sound of rapid footsteps and clanging metal burst into the clearing.

“RUN!” someone screamed. Lana ripped out of Allyson’s arms and flew to her feet. The pot of stew crashed over, dousing some of the fire. A huge body filled her personal space. Instinctively, she grabbed a burning log and stabbed into something dense. There was a cry of pain that Lana barely registered as she scrambled away. The clearing they had made camp in was on fire as her family fought off the intruders. Lana frantically searched for Allyson. Panic mounting as more men burst through the trees. A gunshot cracked through the air.

“ALLYSON!” She screamed, her voice cracking above the roar of chaos. Guns meant the worst kind of bandits. These men were from Tyson.

Someone grabbed her arm and started to pull her away from the fighting. Immediately, Lana started to struggle. She wasn’t going to be taken. She couldn’t be taken.

“Lana! LANA IT’S ME.” Allyson’s voice cut through the haze, and immediately Lana stopped trying to pull away. Instead she frantically searched the dark, searching for Allyson’s dirty face but all she found was the back of the other woman’s head as they took off together out of the clearing.

“Allyson!” Her throat was burning as they breathed in smoke, “How-Where-Fuck-” They ran into the darkness, branches whipped and grabbed at Lana’s clothes as the two tore through the forest. Behind them, Lana could hear shouting as the Tyson men were instructed to spread out into the woods. The edges of Lana’s vision was blurry, her chest tight as she struggled to breath.

The two women burst into another clearing. They sprinted across to the other side, only to find an impossibly steep hill. Lana fought to fill her lungs with the clean, smokeless air. Her face felt wet, and she realized her vision was blurred because she was sobbing. She saw Allyson desperately look down the hillside.

“It’s too steep.” Lana tried to brush the tears from her face. “Do you hear me Allyson, it’s too steep, we have to go back.”

“We can’t go back.” Allyson snapped back, but Lana was past the point of listening. She whipped around, there had to be another way. Men burst through the entrance in the trees, immediately spotting the two women. Lana felt Allyson’s hands grasp her shoulders and turn her back around. Lana saw a flash of desperation, followed by a harsh kiss. Then Allyson pushed and Lana felt herself fall over the hillside. She grasped at her girlfriend, trying to hang on. Her hand caught the gold chain of the heart pendant Allyson wore. The chain snapped and fell away from the brunette’s neck, still clutched in Lana’s fist.

The last thing Lana saw was Allyson being dragged away from the edge of the hillside. Then her head smashed into the ground and everything went black.

One minute until the guard changes. Lana shook her head, trying to rid of the memories from the forefront of her mind. It had taken her two days to get back up the hill and into the campsite. What she had found was carnage. Their packs had been ransacked, non-valuables were strewn about, and Nick’s half cooked stew had been picked over by coyotes. However there had been no bodies.

That meant that Tyson had taken her family back to their fortress for a short life of slavery. In the time that it had taken Allyson to track them to this place, she presumed them to be dead. Slaves never survived more than a couple of weeks at Tyson. She’d been searching for two months.

Lana shifted again and stared through the scope. The dead leaves rustled again as another gust of wind tore through the plains. Any second now. What she wouldn’t give for a phone with a timer, or even a watch.

Suddenly, there was movement. The heavy metal door was opening. This was her opportunity. Lana trained the muzzle of the rifle at the widening gap. She pulled in a large breath and slowed her heartbeat. Vengeance. Finally. A head started to appear around the door. Lana shifted the muzzle down, just a little further out, then it would be a clear shot.

A woman’s face appeared, her medium length hair covered half of the face. Lana’s finger twitched on the trigger. She had been expecting a man. This was different. She looked like-no. Lana turned away from the scope and shook the thought from her mind. It didn’t matter. She would kill anyone who stood in her way. She turned back to the scope, and realigned, her finger now steady on the trigger. Ready.

The woman turned and Lana finally saw her face. A bolt of lightning flashed through her body. It couldn’t be. She was dead. She had to be dead.

Desperately, Lana adjusted the scope again and frantically searched through the scope.

It was. The necklace burned against the skin of her chest.


Short Story

About the author

Emily Kathryn

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