My eyes had closed, but just for a moment, the chaos of a pitched battle, yelps of pain, beasts locked in combat, pulled me back. I heard two slathering, growling creatures, blows pounding, rending flesh from bone. Twisting, flushed with relief the abomination was not at my throat, I looked down to make sure my entails were not on view through an open belly.
I was intact.
Leaning to the left, I cursed bruised ribs and saw the tangled battle. A dark, crazed hound was at the throat of the creature I’d stared down. The creature who’d tattered my plans. My aim leaving me when I needed it the most. I rolled, finding the gun underneath me, swearing as it dug into my crushed chest. I rotated back, pulling it up from my side, its weight more substantial than it should have been. Still leaning, I pulled the trigger, repeating twice more. The body of the creature rocked, blow after blow crushing into its head. The shadowy hound flinched with each round, but still it ripped at the throat, locking on for one final rend of flesh before it released, coughing up what it hadn’t meant to swallow. A sensible creature.
I could feel myself passing out under my weight. Closed my eyes, but knew I had to stay awake or be at this rabid creature’s mercy. I was on my back, looking up at the clear blue sky, the gun still pointed across the ground. I could feel the animal walking slowing, stalking forward, its paws light on the short grass.
Letting the pain calm, I rolled to my side, outstretching the gun. The first I saw was the still body of the beast that had terrified me as it pounced. Its head a pulp. I’d hit with all three. Its neck wide open, muscle, tissue and veins out for all to see, thick, dark blood crept out like treacle. The slow step of the hound flinched my eyes from the body. As I caught its shape, it took another step forward, head bowed, eyes on mine, its long teeth bared, sticky blood mixed with foam white saliva dripped along it lips to the grass.
The gun was still out and I straightened its weight. It was heavier than ever, but I knew the opposite should be true. The dog, a pet before today, had saved my life, but it looked like it had done so it could take me for itself. I’d had animals as a child, dogs, hamsters, no cats, but not while I’d been an adult, convincing myself I didn’t need a companion. My heart sank as I thought of the rabid, demonic animals joining the list of things we would have to fight, would have to compete with if we were going to survive the next few days. They weren’t spared the same fate as their owners, no immunity from this horrific disease making us fight for our lives to get out of the South West.
I locked eyes with the animal and stared as it inched forward. I knew what I had to do. So many lives had been lost and it was dead after all, but pulling that trigger was one of the hardest things I’d done. I closed my eyes and nothing but a hollow click came. The gun was empty. The world had made its choice. I had no fight left, a melancholy weight fell over me, but somehow a brush of wind blew it away. I had to go on, there were people depending on my survival.
Dropping the gun drop, I took up on my elbows, edging at a snail’s pace towards the tree-line, pain radiating from my chest, sending stars across my vision with each tiny movement.
The soft footsteps were close. I knew it was waiting for me to drop, but there was nowhere to run, even if I had the energy. I was on my last calorie when my left elbow slipped, back dropping to the ground, eyes falling closed. I let the breath push out from my lungs and hoped it would be quick, grateful for the end of the worst twenty four hours of my life.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One