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David Taylor, 23 Jan '13

My feet crunched in the gravel as I hugged the side of the building, slowly sidling down its length as I glanced at the sun yet again. It was barely visible above the horizon now, just a brilliant strip of fire that cast a faint blush into the violescent sky above.

It would be night soon. And as darkness inevitably rolled across the landscape, they would inevitably ride in its wake. Demons some called them, though they aren't. There’s no such thing. They are human, or at least they were once: men who frowned and fought to rule, and woman who laughed and dreamt so big. But, as I remember hearing once: ‘humanity isn't a species, it’s a state of mind’, and they are far from human now. No human could scar their skin as they do. No human could take such savage delight in maim and murder. But that doesn't make them demons. It makes them lost.

I shuddered as the first scream sliced the serenity of the dusk and dropped into a crouch. Quickening my pace along the husked out building, I knock a shower of rusted flakes from the wall. They fall all around me, catching in my lank hair and sticking to the putrid sweat that glistens on my face.

I trip as I burst through a door, spraying a viscous black ichor from my mouth as I splutter and fit. Hastily wiping the blood down my coat, I turn to the door and sigh. It was metal and looked to have been stout once; easily thick and heavy enough to have kept them at bay, but now it was rotted through by rust and hung broken from its hinges.

Useless, I thought and began to creep through the warehouse as the shadows cast by crate denizens lengthened and grew in menace. My eyes probed each pool of darkness carefully, flitting straight to the next nook and cranny as soon as I was sure the last was empty.

I was alone, at least for the time being and breathed a long sigh of relief as I relaxed slightly. The breath caught in my throat however, when I realised I was wrong. There was a man behind me.

I spun round as fast as I could and yanked my battered hammer from its home beneath my belt.

“Drop it, mate,” the man said. He motioned to the floor with a few stiff jerks of his rifle and I dropped my hammer begrudgingly. I doubted he had any bullets in his gun. No-one had bullets now, but I couldn't be sure and the man must have killed people to have lasted this long. Life was harder now; simpler, but harder nonetheless.

“Easy now, pal,” I said, raising my hands. “I've got nothing of value. No food. No water. I’ll just be on my way.”

As soon as I spoke I knew that I had made a mistake. My voice was hoarse and my words were slightly slurred, and I saw his eyes widen as he recognised the symptoms. Then I watched his eyes flick the bandage wrapped tightly around my hand. It was stained black with matted blood and gangrenous flesh peeked out either side of it.

“Looks to me like you've been bit, mate.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but stopped as I saw the look on his face. It wasn't one of horror or anger like I expected, but one of remorse and pity. This man would kill me and he would grieve, which is more than most of us asked for now.

Closing my eyes, I nodded.

“Remember me in Heaven,” he said in a calm, steady voice, “and if you meet God, tell him I did you a mercy.”

I began to form a response in my mind, a hasty conglomeration of words, but the world suddenly dissolved around me. In its place was a brilliant white light that burnt away all of the horrors and hardship from my life, leaving embers that embraced the serenity of peace as they cooled. It was over. I was free.

Comments · 5

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  • David Taylor said...

    The quote I used in this burrst: 'humanity isn't a species, it’s a state of mind’, is from the BBC television series 'Being Human'.

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jonathan Stevens said...

    Good stuff! A familiar concept, but well executed. Having the protagonist already infected was a interesting twist.

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • David Taylor said...

    Thanks @Jonathan Stevens! I didn't actually plan for the character to be infected when I started writing this - it just happened as I wrote and I liked the idea so ran with it. My original concept was for him to sneak down the side of the building, hijack a truck and escape. I'm really enjoying how creative you can be with flash fiction!

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Welcome to Burrst @David Taylor. Never heard of the word 'violescent' before reading this! Well written with a nice moment of tension, only lessened by not really knowing the narrator, but then that's always going to be a potential issue with flash fiction. I suppose it means we're possibly as concerned for the stranger as much as the central character though, not knowing what either is capable of?!

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Shirley Golden said...

    Hi @David Taylor I Great burst! I like the fact that the character is infected and the extra significance this gives to your opening and sunset. Love your reference to 'Being Human'! A good rounded piece, which I enjoyed reading :)

    • Posted 6 years ago