Abbey and Brian

“How far are we going to go?” Abbey follows close behind Brian, the last thing she wants is to get lost out here in the woods.
“As far as we can before nightfall.”
“I hate being out here…” she lifts her backpack a little higher, “It always gives me the creeps.”
“Well those things don’t come out during the day so we should be fine.”
“But still, it’s so dark and crowded here.”
“There might be something we can use out here, or better yet something we can eat.”
She nods and continues behind him.
Everything has changed so much since those things showed up. The worlds gone to hell, people are dying of illnesses they’ve never seen before, food has become scarce, and everything is a struggle. They were lucky to have each other when it first happened, Brian practically living with Abbey at that point, but now that they’ve found the others things seem to be changing.
They continue along. Abbey starts to lag behind as she thinks about what to tell him. She doesn’t want to stay with the group but fears that he may not come with her. They pick a few berries from the bushes along their path and place them in the backpack.
Abbey can hear the gurgle of water running over rocks up ahead, “Holy shit, is that a stream?”
Brian has a huge smile on his face, “I think it is!”
Neither of them thinks before running straight through to the sound. It isn’t long before they make it to the shore and see the clean free flowing stream. Brian lets out ane excited yell and tosses his backpack and guns aside before splashing into the water.
Abbey watches him throw handfuls of water in the air and playfully bounce around. They haven’t seen much fresh water, and when they do they have to save it for drinking. It’s been a long time since either of them has had a decent bath.
He’s finally loosening up and she can’t help but smile while watching him.
“What are you waiting for, Abbey? It feels amazing in here!”
“Alright, keep it down.” She grabs his discarded things and places them neatly against a nearby tree alongside her own backpack.
She takes off her shoes and slowly wades into the water. It’s so cold and refreshing against her skin. She can’t even remember the last time she felt this good.
Brian wraps an arm around her waist and pulls her closer to him.
“This feels like old times.” She can’t seem to stop smiling.
“It really does.”
She laces her hands behind his neck and lays her head on his shoulder, “I really wanted to talk to you about the group…”
“You don’t like being with them.”
“How’d you know?”
He sighs, “You don’t hide it well.”
“We’re not the same with them.”
“But we’re safe.”
“Are we?”
“What do you mean?”
“How long before they decide we’re just two more mouths to feed?”
“We’re also two able bodied adults who can help them.”
She starts to respond when a loud screeching starts up from deep inside the woods.
“Shit!” Brian grabs her hand and they get out of the water as fast as they can.
Brian is already halfway back into the woods with their backpacks. Abbey fumbles with her shoes and just barely gets them on, when one of the things bursts out of the trees on the other side of the stream. She stares at it, the elongated arms and legs that carry it, the blistered face that was once human, it’s breathing hard and baring its teeth.
“Abbey!” Brian is standing a few feet from her with a pistol raised at the thing, “Lets go! We need to get back to the camp!”
“It’s not coming at us…”
“Abbey!” he pulls the trigger and the thing lets out a pained shriek.
“Shit…” she turns and follows behind Brian as he runs back the way they came.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck—”
“What the hell was it doing out here in the middle of the day?”
“How should I know?”
They can hear it trampling through the woods behind them. Abbey swears she can hear words in its garbled yells. Something about it was different than the other things she had seen, something about its eyes gave off the impression of consciousness where as all the others seemed completely blank, their eyes never quite making contact with their victims.
Abbey stops running.
“Come on, it’s gaining on us!” Brian grabs her arm but she shakes him off, “Abbey, what the fuck are you doing?”
“It’s new. That has to be it, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“When all this shit happened, when the world went to hell, people were sick. But they didn’t become those, until they had been sick for a long, long time. What if it’s new?”
He shakes his head, “So what? What difference does it make?”
“What if it..” she swallows back the sudden hard spot in her throat and shifts her feet, “What if it wants to die?”
“Come on, Abbey—”
“I’m serious! Wouldn’t you want to? Would you really want to slowly lose yourself and become that?”
He crosses his arms and looks around nervously, “What the hell do you want us to do?”
“Kill it.”
“When that thing comes charging toward us, it’s not going to stop.”
“Yes it will.”
He throws his arms up, “I swear to god—”
“Listen to me, Brian. Please, just do this. It wasn’t the same as the ones we’ve seen. I could still see some human in it.”
Just as he’s about to open his mouth the thing comes crawling out from behind a tree toward them. Brian lifts his gun but Abbey motions for him to put it down.
A nasty gurgling sound comes from deep down in the things throat, “Hellllllp…” it’s barely recognizable but they hear it speak.
“Fuck…” Brian covers his face with his hands, “Fucking shit…what is happening.”
“We can help.” Abbey digs through Brians backpack and grabs the other gun they brought with them.
“Plllllleassse…”
“Alright. Just…think of whatever you can from your old life, your real life.” She touches the barrel to the side of its head.
The little black specs that have become its eyes close and it lets out a slow breath.
“I am so sorry…” she turns her head away from it and pulls the trigger.
The sound carries through the woods for what feels like forever. Brian takes her by the shoulders and leads her out of the forest and back towards the camp.
“Look, maybe we should leave the group.” He takes the gun from her and laces his fingers with hers.
“Why?”
“Well, I kind of started to forget that those things were human once…and I haven’t really been myself.”
She scoffs.
“Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not secret, but I haven’t felt this close to you since joining up with the others.”
“I know, me neither. If I turn into that I want you to put me out of my misery.”
“Ditto. We need to keep each other from that…” he kisses her cheek and smiles.
“What are we going to say when we get back?”
“I’ll talk to Ben and see what supplies he can give us. We’ll stay the night then leave as soon as the sun rises so we’ve got all day to find someplace we can be safe.”
“Alright.”
He can see that she is shaken, “Hey, you did a really good thing.”
Her smile is so much more beautiful than he remembers. They will be better off on their own.

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