Alone, Part Three

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Ed. Note – if you’ve missed Parts One and Two of this story, catch up here:

Part One

Part Two

Alone, Part Three

 

Helicopters don’t fly fast enough, Harry thought. Of course, that was ridiculous, as the helicopters he had been in during his service had gotten to around 200 miles per hour.

However, when the helicopter was your salvation after 21 years of living a nightmare, it was going to feel like an eternity.

Harry scanned the London skyline. Despite the fact that he was on a building, which he figured was around 15 stories tall, he could not yet see the helicopter. There were taller buildings around, but they didn’t obstruct his vision enough to be blocking it if it was close.

“Another ten minutes!” came a voice from the radio on a table behind Harry. The voice had a heavy British accent, and had been calling out repeatedly for survivors. Half an hour previous, Harry had told the man on the other end where he was, and the man had told Harry that he was a pilot, had a helicopter, and lived in a safe colony several kilometers offshore. “You just hang in there!”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Harry called back.

A cry broke out from the stairwell, and Harry spun to it. An Infected ran from the door, right at Harry.

It was a skinny thing, probably hadn’t eaten in years. Male, with pale grey skin, white hair, and long-dried blood on its hands and around its mouth. It wore white jeans and a blue polo shirt.

Harry shot it with his M16 assault rifle without a second thought. When this nightmare had first began, he felt guilty; he wondered about those he killed, their lives before the Infection. If they had spouses, kids, what they did for a living, what they did in their free time.

But not anymore. No time for things that will slow you down.

No time for human thoughts? the voice in Harry’s head inquired. Isn’t it normal for humans to feel empathy?

“I’m not much of a human anymore.” Harry muttered, shooting another Infected. Its face ripped in half from the hail of three bullets. Blood and grey matter plastered the wall behind where it had been standing, and itt was now sprawled on the ground, the eye of the destroyed side of its face hanging loosely from the nerves that once allowed it to see.

To a normal person, this gruesome sight would have churned his or her stomach, maybe make them vomit and catch their breath.

For Harry, however, he dismissed it and raised his rifle back to eye level.

No time for things that will slow you down.

Harry dispatched two more Infected, one male and the other female, before he heard the rhythmic “pat-pat-pat” of a far-off helicopter.

He turned, not allowing his hopes to get up in case he was imagining it. But there, still far away but getting closer, was a tiny helicopter. The color scheme of yellow and baby blue was faded and ugly,  and it was a blocky, four-rotor thing.

Harry thought it was beautiful.

But it was still on its way, and Harry wasn’t about to get careless and let himself be overtaken by these monstrosities when escape was in view.

He moved towards the table that was set up a few feet away. Harry shot at another Infected, but it stumbled over the corpse of one of the others right as Harry pulled the trigger, and the bullets missed. He went to fire again, but the gun clicked; the magazine was empty.

He dropped the rifle on the table and drew his M1911 pistol. He fired two rounds into the Infected’s center mass, and it fell.

Harry set his sidearm on the table and picked up a roll of duct tape. He unrolled a few feet of it, then started rolling it around an air horn. He pushed the button on the horn, and a piercing shriek exploded from it. Grimacing, Harry taped the button down, then tossed it off the roof. He did the same with another.

The Infected were attracted to high-pitched noises, so they’d be distracted by the horns long enough to allow Harry to escape.

The helicopter flew overhead, kicking up dust and small pieces of gore from the dead Infected. The chopper lowered, then landed gracefully. A door slid open, revealing a small cabin. It wasn’t big, not enough room for more than two people, but Harry didn’t need room.

“Come on!” the pilot yelled in a thick British accent. “They know what’s going on! We don’t have much time!”

Harry looked once more at the stairwell to be sure it was clear. However, as he turned away, movement caught his eye.

He looked back, pulling up his rifle, already loading a half-full magazine into it.

Harry didn’t fire, however, as he wasn’t looking at Infected.

He was looking at a family. A human family.

A father, mother, son, and daughter. The parents looked to be in their mid-to-late 40’s. The children couldn’t have been more than twelve.

They were covered in blood and gore, but it wasn’t their own. They had ripped open Infected and spread the blood on themselves, and hung pieces of organ and guts on strings around their necks and bodies.

Camouflage, Harry thought. Genius.

The Infected operated primarily on sound and smell. Cover your smell and stay quiet and out of sight, and the Infected would have no reason to think something was off.

Harry hadn’t thought of it, but he never had needed to. He could fight and run. The only weapon he saw between the family was a crowbar held loosely by the father. A group like that wouldn’t have been able to escape Infected easily.

How long have they been here? that voice in Harry’s head asked. There are tons of weapons up on this roof. Why didn’t they grab any?

No idea, Harry thought. They were probably holed up in the kitchen or something, too afraid to leave.

The father yelled in a light Irish accent, “Can we come? Please, I’m begging you!”

Harry nodded and turned back to the helicopter. He took a few steps before the pilot yelled “I can’t take all of ya!”

Harry stopped when realization hit like a truck: the chopper was too small. It didn’t matter before when it was just him, but now they were talking about five people when the chopper could fit one in the co-pilot seat and barely three people in the back.

Harry turned to the family. They had heard the pilot, and were looking fearfully at one another.

Harry felt his right arm twitch. Without realizing it, he had begun to raise his rifle.

Wait, the voice in his head said. Maybe the dad will stay behind? Or the mom?

No, Harry thought. They won’t.

Nor would we really want to break them all up, I guess.

Harry didn’t reply.

*

In the early days of the Infection, before the world was a nightmare and when people still had hope, looting and general immorality was rampant.

Stores were broken into, innocent people were shot and killed, women and children were raped.

People only cared about themselves.

And that was their flaw.

In disasters, humans have to stick together while there are still humans to stick with. Caring for only yourself leaves you vulnerable, and the people who cared for no one else were the people the Infected killed first, cornering them and tearing them apart. This was easy for the Infected, since no one was there to watch the survivor’s back.

Now, Harry wished he was a little more like those people. A little less compassionate, a little more ruthless, because he wasn’t going to break up this family.

And neither was he going to raise his rifle and threaten to shoot them if they moved towards the helicopter. And even though he knew and recognized how evil of a thought thing that would be, he wished with every fiber of his being that he could do it.

Maybe you are human, after all? said the voice.

Monsters can do good things, Harry growled back. At the end of the day, they’re still monsters.

Harry dropped his rifle to his side, right hand flicking the safety and staying off the trigger.

“Go,” Harry said softly, but loud enough to be heard over the chopper.

The family, still worrying about who would stay and who would go, didn’t seem to register what Harry had said.

“GO!” Harry yelled, motioning with his head.

They understood this, and ran forward. The father looked fearfully at Harry and began to open his mouth, but Harry cut him off.

“You don’t have time. Go.”

Whether the man was going to say thank you, or I’m sorry, or something else, Harry would never know.

The family piled into the helicopter, the father taking the co-pilot’s seat. The mother strapped the son into a seat, then took the daughter onto her own lap. They looked cramped already.

The pilot turned back to Harry. “I can’t come back!” he yelled.

“I know,” Harry tried to say, but no sound came out. However, the pilot had understood what he had tried to say, and said “You’re a good man.”

Harry didn’t reply.

The pilot flicked several switches, pressed a button, and then slid the door shut.  A moment later, the chopper began to rise, and another moment after that, it was flying away.

Harry watched it, a sickness growing in the pit of his stomach.

That was my one-in-a-million chance, he thought. That’s it for me.

You can still reach safety! the voice said. Follow the flight path of the helicopter, maybe find a boat? Sail to where he-

Will you just shut the fuck up and let me die in peace?

The voice quieted and never spoke again.

The helicopter flew towards the setting sun. Had Harry bothered to guess, he may said the time was 5 PM. But he didn’t care.

No time for things that will slow you down.

Before long, the chopper was gone, and with it went any sliver of hope Harry had left.

*

Harry walked to the table, unloading the half-empty magazine from his rifle he had hastily loaded, and put in a full one.

He slung the rifle on his shoulder, then went to reach for his Remington 700 sniper rifle in the sheath on his back, but stopped. He instead took out his knife and cut the strap that ran across his chest that held the sheath up. It fell, and he did the same to the small, triangular bag that held his backup supply of ammo.

Harry saw the red Coca-Cola bag that Abigail had gotten him on his 21st birthday fall to the ground.

“If you’re not gonna have whiskey, at least drink something bad for you!” she had said, laughing, when he unwrapped it.

Harry then took off his messenger bag and set it on the ground. It had his food, water, medicine, and spare clothes.

He wouldn’t need it anymore.

Harry now only had the camera bag that held his primary ammo, his M16 on his back, his knife, and his M1911 on his right hip.

The camera bag had three M16 magazines,

90 rounds plus 30 in the rifle

        four M1911 magazines,

28 rounds plus 7 in the pistol

        and three Remington magazines. Harry removed the Remington mags, then closed the bag.

On the table was an M1014 semi-automatic shotgun. Harry took this up, checked to see that it was fully loaded with eight shells, and moved towards the stairs.

As he crossed the threshold, the air horns stopped, and the howling of the Infected began again.

*

I’m not going to die waiting on salvation.

        They’re not children anymore.

        I don’t remember what going to work is like.

My one-in-a-million chance.

        I like killing.

        It feels like winning

*

           

Harry walked into a room. The walls were white, and in the corner were two couches perpendicular to each other. The couches were white with gold paisley-pattern trimming, and the room smelled faintly of roses.

On one couch was Abigail. She wore a white sundress and roman sandals, and her sandy blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She smiled as Harry walked in. The window behind Abigail allowed rays of twilight to creep in between the curtains, and gave her a heavenly glow.

Harry looked at himself. His dirty, torn black jeans were now clean, and his navy blue button-up shirt was cleaned and pressed. Feeling his head, he could tell his brown hair was cut to about medium length, and his beard was trimmed short and washed. He felt fresh.

Abigail silently motioned for Harry to sit down. He walked forward and sat on the couch perpendicular from her. He rested his right hand on the armrest, and Abigail placed her hands on his.

At the touch of her hands, Harry pulled the trigger of his shotgun. The white room was blasted away, and Harry again stood in the stairway of the building he had almost been saved from. He looked down and saw an Infected corpse lying on the ground, half of its face missing. Blood stained the wall in front of Harry, and an eyeball, undamaged, sat on the ground. Harry lowered his weapon. He closed his eyes, and felt his muscles relax.

And there he was once more, sitting on the couch, looking at his wife he had loved so much, and lost so long ago.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, Abigail,” Harry said quietly.

Abigail’s face crinkled in annoyance at her full name, just like Harry knew it would, but she smiled warmly and said, “It’s okay, Harry. You were there every other time I needed you. Besides, you were just trying to keep me safe.”

Harry looked down, still feeling guilty, and saw that her hands weren’t in his. Carefully, he took hers, and the room stayed.

He looked up, and Abigail was looking at him with her blue eyes. She said, “Harry, why have you fought for so long? Don’t you want to move on, and find me in whatever there may be after?”

“You know I do. I’m just…”

“Scared?”

“Yeah. You know I was never much of a believer. I was just worried that, when I pass, there won’t be anything. I guess I’d rather experience this nightmare than nothing at all.”

They both were quiet. After a moment, Abigail lightly squeezed Harry’s hands, and when he looked up, he felt tears on his cheeks.

“Harry… Don’t give up. There’s more for you yet.” She smiled slightly, but had love in her face; she cared about him more than she could put into words.  “Don’t forget what you are, Harry. Who you are.”

“I don’t… I’m not human anymore, Abigail.”

“Oh, hush, Harry. You’re as human now as you were when we first met, or when we got married.”

“No, it’s… When I was in Afghanistan, I killed two people. I never told you that, did I?”

“No, you didn’t.”

“When I did… I felt guilty. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about… if they had kids, or… I just felt guilty.”

“Killing isn’t an easy thing.”

“That’s exactly it. I’m killing the Infected without a second thought, Abigail. I’m a monster. I kill without remorse now. I’m not much of a human anymore.”

Abigail looked at him sadly.

“But what does it matter? I’m made for the world I live in now. I’ve… adapted. Evolved. The world can’t be the same.”

He paused.

I can’t be the same.”

“Harry…”

“Abigail… I like killing. It feels like winning. If that doesn’t make me a monster…”

Abigail looked down, staying silent. After a moment, Harry spoke again.

“Abigail… Is this… Are you really here? Is this real, or-”

“This is just a figment of your imagination, Harry. I’m not coming to you from Heaven.”

“Oh…”

“There is no Heaven, Harry. Only Hell.”

“Only Hell…” Harry muttered, looking down in thought

“Just… Not what you’re thinking. This, the world you’re living in… This is Hell.”

Harry looked up in surprise, but he no longer saw Abigail. He was back in the concrete stairwell, with the blood and viscera from the Infected splattered in it. The white room that smelled of roses was gone, and it would never return.

Harry felt a knot in his throat. He almost allowed himself to break down and cry, but then he remembered where he was.

What he was.

“Fuck it,” Harry muttered. “You’re stronger than that.”

No time for things that will slow you down.

*

As Harry made his way down the stairwell, and as he was attacked again and again by the Infected, his and Abigail’s words echoed in his head.

Don’t give up.

Gunshot.

There’s more for you yet.

Gunshot.

Don’t forget what you are, Harry. Who you are.

Gunshot.

I’m not much of a human anymore.

Gunshot.

The world can’t be the same.

Gunshot.

I can’t be the same.

Gunshot.

I like killing.

Gunshot.

It feels like winning.

*

His shotgun empty, Harry had to hit an Infected in the face with the stock of his shotgun. He then crushed its head in with the gun, and tossed it aside.

Harry was on the ground floor now, having taken down several Infected, a few with each shell. He exhaled shakily as allowed his mind to say what he already knew.

He was going to die.

But he wasn’t going to lay down and let it happen.

A cry broke out to Harry’s left, and he saw a small crowd of Infected barreling down the hallway towards him. He estimated twenty or so.

Not yet.

Harry ran in the opposite direction, and found an emergency exit. He kicked it open, ran out, then spun around and shut it.

He was in an alley, and a dumpster stood right next to the door. Harry got behind it and, grunting, began to push it. It didn’t budge, so he kicked it with all the force he had. It moved a little, so he rammed into it with his left shoulder, then repeated the action. The dumpster had no wheels, and the metal screamed on the concrete, but it moved with every hit, and it was against the door in a matter of seconds. Harry smiled smugly at his strength.

“Let’s see a normal human do that,” Harry grunted.

A large crash sounded within as the Infected hit the door, but the dumpster didn’t budge.

“Bastards,” Harry muttered, then unslung his rifle. “You’ll get your turn.”

He exited the alley, but only took a few steps before he stopped, his breath catching in his throat.

At least two-hundred Infected had gathered around the airhorns. As Harry walked into the street, they all looked up at him simultaneously.

“Shit,” Harry muttered. No anger, no fear. Just exhaustion.

Some screeched, some snarled, some just looked on, malice, hunger, or nothing in their face. But not one moved.

Harry raised his rifle, his breathing getting heavier.

After a moment, one Infected in the crowd howled and began to run at Harry. It was very scrawny, without a shirt, and its eyes looked sunken and tired.

Harry moved his finger to the trigger, thumbing the fire mode to auto.

Before he had a clear shot, however, a roar came from a tall, muscular Infected next to where the scrawny Infected was about to be. As the scrawny one passed, the tall beast grabbed its head and crushed it.

Blood, bits of skull, and grey matter splattered the surrounding Infected.

Not one moved.

The tall Infected roared again, then began walking toward Harry slowly, intimidatingly. The other Infected stood still.

The tall Infected, who Harry guessed was the pack leader, reached the front of the crowd, which was maybe 30 yards from where Harry stood.

The leader, Harry thought.The Alpha. Sounds about right.

The Alpha roared again, then began sprinting at Harry. Harry had been aiming at its head, but lost his target when the Alpha started moving so unexpectedly fast, so he switched his aim to the center mass.

Harry let loose at least a dozen bullets, and while all of them struck the Alpha in the torso and arms, the hulking beast didn’t slow down.

The Infected leader swung both of its arms, so Harry ducked. The Alpha followed through, and  Harry dove, rolled, then turned around, resting on one knee. He fired at the Alpha, but missed.

The Alpha swiped at Harry as he rose and knocked the rifle from Harry’s hands. It landed several yards away.

Not too far, Harry thought. I can get it, but not while this asshole is still coming at me.

Harry instead drew his knife and M1911, holding the pistol in his right hand while his left clutched the knife upside down, and he rested his right wrist on the top of his left.

The Alpha rushed Harry, and Harry shot twice. The bullets did nothing, so he ducked, spun, and stabbed the Alpha in its left thigh.

The muscle was tougher to stab into than other Infected, but flesh was flesh. Grimacing tightly, Harry withdrew the knife, then stabbed the Alpha in its lower back, and twisted.

The Alpha roared and swung an arm at Harry, connecting with Harry’s chest. He went flying, but managed to recover and roll onto his feet several yards away.

Coming up on one knee, Harry looked at his left hand. The bloody knife was still clutched with white knuckles.

Good, Harry thought. Time for something drastic.

He flipped the knife, so he was holding it by the blade, then threw it at the Alpha’s head.

Harry had never been good with throwing knives, especially not when he was using his left hand, so he wasn’t surprised when it went whizzing past the Infected.

The beast needed only to slightly move its head to avoid the blade. Its head turned to follow the knife as it went past, into the crowd, never to be held by Harry again.

The Alpha turned back to Harry and roared triumphantly…

…Which made it hold its head still enough for Harry to fire three rounds with his pistol into its glaring face. It crumpled, the roar dying on its lips.

Harry returned his sidearm to the holster on his right hip, and wasted no time in getting to his M16; the other Infected were already looking ready to attack.

And they did. No sooner had Harry raised his rifle did they swarm him.

Harry emptied the rest of his magazine, then kicked an Infected in the chest as he reloaded.

He had to fire irregular bursts of two or four or even five rounds to cover all angles, so he found it difficult to keep track of when he had to reload.

26, Harry though uncertainly. That was 26 right there.

However, when he went to fire again, the rifle spat out a single bullet, then clicked.

Shit.

Harry hit the mag release, not bothering trying to catch it. His hand was already in his bag, scrambling for a new magazine.

As he pulled one out, however, an Infected hit his left arm. Not a bad hit, it’d maybe leave a light bruise, but it did cause Harry’s hand to open in surprise, causing the magazine to fall to the ground.

In response, Harry punched the Infected in the face, and it stumbled away, kicking the magazine out of reach.

Harry put all his force into his right leg and kicked an Infected in the chest. Then, moving his left hand back to his rifle, he swung with all the strength he could muster. The stock of the rifle hit an Infected’s face, crushing the skull in, and killed it instantly.

Not allowing himself to be impressed by his strength, Harry reloaded his rifle and began shooting again.

The couple Infected he had hit had knocked a few of the other beasts away, so Harry had a little more breathing room. But not for long, as they converged again once Harry had fired the last round he had with his M16.

Harry swung the rifle again, this time letting go of it at the apex of the swing. It struck an Infected in the solar plexus, causing it to lose the air in its lungs and collapse.

Harry again drew his pistol and finished the magazine. He discarded the empty one and reloaded.

He did this again and again. He was scratched, hit, and bitten several times. But each time, he shot back, kicked back, or crushed a skull with his boot.

“Come on!” Harry yelled. “I’ll take down all of you! I’ve got nothing left! Don’t you assholes know what that means?”

He loaded a new magazine, then ran his hands through his bag.

Empty.

Finally.

Harry killed a female Infected in a pink dress.

1.

A male in a green button-up shirt.

2.

A male in a black suit.

3.

A female in a black tank top and shorts.

4.

A male in overalls.

5.

A child in pink footie pajamas.

6.

Nothing else immediate. Harry searched, but the crowd was ten yards away.

Then, things seemed to slow. Lines became blurred, and sound faded away.

“What?” Harry growled, but no sound came out.

There were so many Infected, so many shades of people who had once had a life just like Harry’s.

“I don’t care! They’re not humans anymore!”

Harry tried to pull the trigger, but his finger wouldn’t move.

“Come on!”

No.

Harry felt a tug in his gut, and he heard glass shatter. Or, maybe, thought he did. It took him a moment to realize what that was.

He felt the pull that tethered him to this mortal plain snap.

For so long, Harry had wanted to die, and for so long, he wasn’t strong enough to put the gun to his head and pull the trigger, nor would his self-preservation allow him to let the Infected overtake him.

But that was gone now.

He no longer felt the need to fight when he knew nothing could save him. He no longer felt the desire to walk endlessly and see gruesome horrors just to feel the satisfaction of being able to still walk and see.

He was able to stop this nightmare.

He was able to give into the dark.

He was able to let go.

Harry looked down at his M1911. Subconsciously, he had saved a single bullet.

“I’m coming, Abigail,” Harry said quietly, a faint smile creeping to his lips as they formed her name.

Harry raised the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger.

With that, Harry Conrad left this world, and he was no longer afraid. He was no longer the last man. He was no longer what he hated… feared, most:

Alone.

 

Andy Conrad