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Running For Dawn (Prelude, and Chapter 1)

by Conlan Nielsen 3 months ago in monster
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The beginning of a novel By Conlan Nielsen

Running For Dawn (Prelude, and Chapter 1)
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash


I yelled out, as Daniel dropped to the ground. His wounds from that gnawer were much more severe than we thought. I ran over to him, dropping my make-shift machete, clanging to the ground and tightly gripped his shoulders. My mind had gone to the worst situation possible before he could muster the strength to even get a word out.

“No no no” I quickly repeated. “You’re coming back! We’re gettin’ you back!” I cried out to him, “you’re family!” tears streamed down my face as my voice only just started to shake.

“Nah..not this time..” He grunted as he tried to speak, clutching the side of his gut in pain. The tattered gauze was starting to be bled through, blood pooled on the pavement below. “Listen, to me-rgh” he scolded my rambling as he coughed up little spots of blood. He leaned his head back looking at the accelerating Gnawers coming toward us before looking back at me. “I’m your best friend, so I’m gonna stop this before it happens.”

Then, in the haze of my sorrow, he kicked me off of him with all his strength while swiping the small russian pistol from its holster on my thigh. I fell back onto my hands, seeing the next few moments in what felt like a lifetime. He scooted himself around to face the horde as they started to run, night was falling and they were getting faster. He looked back at me while yelling for me to get out of there. Everything was muffled, I knew I needed to go but I was in shock and dissociating. Until I heard the scraping sound of sheet metal against the ground, I was snapped back to reality. He had slid my make-shift machete toward me and yelled one last time while he emptied the magazine.

"Get the hell out of here!"

I shut my eyes as tight as I could, grabbed the weapon, tears now flooding my eyes, and I ran as quickly as I could down the street back toward the safe house.

Chapter 1: Saccharine Sorrow

The death of a childhood best friend really breaks a man. No matter how valiant, how cool, how sad, or how quick someone goes out, it always plunges a knife through your resolve. I stayed put in my fourth floor apartment in the Safe House. That's what we called it, it was a small but heavily fortified hotel building in Phoenix Arizona. Kind of like a base of operations and refugee camp for any survivors. There were two kinds of boots-on-the-ground survivors that lived here alongside everyone else. Civilians that wanted to fight back and keep everyone alive, Day-Traders, and Stalkers. Day-Traders went out during the day, scouting, scavenging, and securing new areas we could use as temporary safe zones. Stalkers were like Day-Traders, but they went out at night. They were more advanced and a hell of a lot more brave. They were somewhat like our special forces, doing things like securing enemy territories, specific missions we called NightOps, crafted most of the make-shift weapons we had, and were very skilled on their feet to keep ahead of the hordes at night. Nighttime was a living hell, the stumbling slow-walk zombies we called Gnawers could start running, and worse, more mutated things came out, though none I had ever seen before. Daniel was one of our best Stalkers, but I was Day-Trader.

The days following the recent night, I stayed there. Talked to no one, didnt even change out of my dirty and torn clothes for about a week or so. Finally, when I had a familiar face come to the door, I realized I hadn't told Daniel´s wife, Irelynd about his sacrifice. I hadn't told anyone. I quickly got up, figuring I needed to tell everyone close what had happened. Slowly opening the door I observed the concerned look on her face.

"Where is he?" She asked as she cocked an eyebrow "What happened out there?" Clearly she knew something was wrong. Everyone did, since I hadn't answered the door prior to this. In response, all I could think of was the vivid memories of what had happened, then, what little composure I had begun to break. I frowned and my lip subtly quivered, all I could do was slowly shake my head in response. She was a smart woman, putting two and two together- she knew what happened. In a burst of aggressive sadness, she yelled. Scolding me for how I could've let this happen. I didn't say anything, trying to explain things would make me seem like I was making excuses. I thought in hindsight, I could have easily held them for a bit and slumped him over my shoulder, but I didn't. He told me to run, so I did. I ran for my own life in tears as a coward. Not a hero.

She then stormed off in rage and agony and I simply shut my door sliding down the back of it into a sitting position, wallowing in grief for a few hours. Crying until I physically couldn't anymore, I got up and decided that I needed to at least try and keep going. I changed into fresh clothes before heading down the stairs to the small gear room that was in the lobby. Grabbing a satchel, utility belt, a small backpack, a pair of boots, and some fingerless gloves for a bit of style. I headed back up to my apartment and put the bare essentials in the bag while donning the gear. Something about it gave me a burst of adrenaline and inspiration, to carry on Daniel´s legacy as one of our best Stalkers.

As soon as I slung the satchel over my shoulder and the backpack over my back, there was another knock at the door. I opened it this time with confidence and my composure kept, it was Irelynd and she took a deep breath with a sigh.

"Listen, I would like you to tell me exactly what happened that night he didn't come home" She demanded politely, but shakingly.

I calmly obliged. "You know we were sent out that day, to go and secure the warehouse that Chief Ray told us to before the Butchers could." Chief Ray was kind of like the man in charge around here, probably the most wise too. He was quite a bit older than me and most others here and the Butchers were a bigger group of survivors that had the idea that if you weren't with them then you were an enemy. "We were doing routine stuff, yknow, safety checks, durability of the foundation and walls and such. Makin’ sure it was safe to secure." I continued to list things until I got to the point where things went south. "There were a few shipment crates there and we figured that there could be supplies inside. So, we each opened one and were blindsided by two hordes of Gnawers. Looking back I realize that the Butchers had gotten there before us and booby-trapped it. I was able to get away from the ones in the crate I opened but was only able to get them off Daniel after they got into his side." I explained further as my voice started to quiver, I swallowed my grief and continued the story. "I tore my shirt and used the rest of the gauze in his bag to tie up the nasty gash, then we darted out of there. After a bit we slowed down when we thought we got far enough away since the sun was still up, we had thought we were safe for at least a minute or two. I had us stop. I had us stop so he could catch his breath but once we heard the wails and groans of the zombies- we panicked and kept running..they started to get faster, with each minute the sun inched further behind the horizon."

I was able to keep my composure but my voice continued to shake, tears slowly dripped from my eyes at this point. "That's when we were just a street away from here. I had his arm around my shoulder but he dropped, his wound was getting the best of him and he couldn't stand anymore. I tried to convince him to let me try and get him back, but he told me not to. I tried to grab him but he kicked me off" I said, slamming the door frame now full of anger and sadness. I was angry at myself, sad that he was gone. "He took my pistol to hold them off for me to run.."

She was clearly in some state of shock mixed with different emotions that I couldn't decipher. Consolingly, she explained that it wasn't my fault, she also apologized for snapping at me, before I interjected with my own apology that I didn't save him. I knew I listened because I was scared, scared that I´d die. But at the same time I didn't want him to see that, and maybe that was my self-centered excuse for being a coward. Finally, at the end of the conversation she patted my shoulder and wiped my eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. She noticed the gear I had on, putting two and two together again, and told me one last thing.

"You do what you gotta do" Smiling with grief over her before she left. I took a deep breath before planning my next move in my head. Alright, gotta talk to Ray. I need to get payback, redeem myself, something. Just gotta get out of here and clear my head. As I left my apartment, shutting the door behind me, I had originally planned in my thoughts to just ask him to let me go out for a while. Even just talking to him, but as I had everything I wanted to say ready when I stepped in- he spoke before I could get a word in edgewise.

"Mrs.Vidlak told me what happened, Conlan. She's right, it wasn't your fault. So, I think I might know why you're here to see me." I got chills as he said that last sentence, because I had a feeling he actually did. Iyrland must’ve stopped by. "You wanna go back there and secure the warehouse." He rhetorically asked, leaning on the table with the map of Phoenix. I simply responded with a determined "Yeah" and stepped the rest of the way into the room. Closing the door behind me, he showed me the updated map and explained how Butcher forces were moving in since that incident. He gave me a short, sweet, and simple game plan: "Get in, throw the party, get out. They'll never even know we were there- well, until they do" He shrugged, setting a black military grade duffle bag on the table making a deep thud.

"What's this?" I asked, gesturing to the bag with my head. I was silently surprised at how we’d gotten one of these. "My latest prototype!" He exclaimed, he was always working on projects new and projects old. In the eight years since he was my teacher- he´d become a renown inventor in Phoenix. "I call em´ R-Charges, with an incindeary blast radius thats thirty-six percent stronger than dynamite, you'll only need about two or three, but what's a party without a few extra fireworks hm?" He jokingly asked with a big smile and a shrug. I lightly chuckled as I cautiously slumped the bag over my shoulder, and leaned off the table before he grabbed my shoulder. "One more thing Conlan" he exclaimed before walking over to a neatly organized whiteboard of physics equations and a ton of crap I didn't pay attention to in school enough to understand. He grabbed a make-shift ax made out of barbed wire, a steel pipe, and a cut up road sign with some electronics that I was pretty sure weren't just for looks off the table in front of it. Walking back over with a bit of excitement in his step, he presented it to me like a king would present a sacred blade to a knight. “This is something I’ve been ‘perfecting’ for a while now. I call it the Electroblade. This is mark 4” He explained as I carefully took it from his hands and clipped it by a hole in the handle to the back of the utility belt. “That's pretty sick, I'd ask why it's got electronics but I'm pretty sure I have an idea of what they're for. Does it pack quite a punch?” In response to my question, he simply smiled and said “You'll see.”

I shrugged with a nod and walked out as he raised his voice down the hall “I’ll have the Safe House watching the show!” So, I stopped, nodded, and waved as I continued down the hall. Something was filling me with determination, to a point where I felt almost invincible. Heading all the way to the lobby, out the gates, and into the hell on earth we lived in now. With a devious smile, I stepped into the fray and that was the last time I smelled the warm heat of the lobby for what would be my first night outside the Safe House.


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Conlan Nielsen

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