Alright so right now, I’m wondering why my old self from about a year ago did not make anymore in this little gimmick series that I started revolving around the idea that there could be a single concept but more than a single way to experience or explain it. My first Two Realities entry was about a summer day, and at the time I edit/write this final Two Realities entry is about Death (As you can tell from the title) I really don’t know why I didn’t make any more entries in this series, I should really add more, I feel like I can do more with it, and honestly this series was big enough for me to put it in a folder called “Personalized Short Story” rather than my general “Short story” folder. So yeah, maybe I’ll add more entries in the future, I really should. Anyway without further ado, my second entry in Two Realities, here you go.
“Are you kidding me? We’re not ‘fine’!”.
It was on a weekend, I woke up from my new bed. The sleepiness faded away from my eyes, and from my body. I yawned and stretched. As I got up my feet made slight creaks on the floorboards. I looked at the time. Just before lunchtime. Not bad, considering I usually sleep in pretty bad during weekends. As I got closer to the door, it was suddenly pushed open. My aunt stood in the doorway, her eyes solemn, but as she traced my body a sense of horror came upon her. If only for a second, I caught it, and I wasn’t surprised. I couldn’t blame her. She spoke in a calming manner.
“You should get ready, a couple of relatives are coming over.”
“Yeah, just give me a sec.”
She nodded her head, turned around and went back down stairs. I stepped out of my room, there was bustling downstairs. It was busy, people coming and going. Chatter filled the house. My dad came out of his room nearby with my uncle. My uncle nodded at me and said in a calming tone.
I nodded. He walked past me, my dad followed him and patted my head as he walked past me. If only for a second, I saw tears welling up in his eyes. He struggled to keep it in. I walked to the washroom and opened the door. I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face. I then looked at the mirror.
It all made sense and I couldn’t help it. Tears started forming around my eyes. I started wiping them as hard as I could but they just kept falling. I lowered my head towards the sink, my hands just barely holding me up. I looked too much like my dead mother. And I hated it, all of those jokes that I looked like her, weren’t for nothing. Everyone was relapsing when they saw me. I felt like I was the source of their suffering. That if I was still around that they’ll only continue to remember her. Even if I knew it wasn’t my fault, I still kept those thoughts lingering. When I saw my face, I couldn’t help but hear her voice again. To remember all of the memories we shared. To remember all of the things she taught me. Mom, why did you have to be such a great person? Now that you’re gone, we can’t help but to act this way, and even I can’t hold my own. You told me to be strong, but now look at me. I fell to my knees, my hands covered my face as I wailed on the washroom floor. “Now look at me”.
I shot the last bullet in my magazine, the final body flopped to the ground. I took out the clip and let it fall to the ground. I checked my person, no more ammo. I holstered my gun and then turned to my partner.
“Got any left?”
“Alright well, at least we’re done here anyway.”
“Well let’s head back and report.”
We left the room, trying our best to avoid the stench of the corpses, and the corpses themselves. My partner took out a cigarette, he looked at me and held the box out in my direction.
“Nah, I’m good Noel.”
“Suit yourself Jen.”
After a long ride we soon arrived back at our base of operations. One of the officers called to us.
“Hey, how’d it go?”
“No problems,” I replied.
“Excellent, we’ll let you know if anything else comes up.”
He left the room. I took the time to on a couch in the middle of the room. This place served as a living room of sorts. There’s a large table in the center with couches around it. There was also a second level which had a food bar. Noel and I were the only ones on the job right now, but usually it’s packed. Noel noticed my notion, and pointed something out to me.
“We’re the only ones here, the only ones going to BE here.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Looking around and thinking isn’t going to bring anyone back.”
“I wasn’t doing that.”
“I miss them too but, it’s too late.”
“We were powerless, we were weak, we couldn’t do anything.”
“Why, why couldn’t we help them!? Why didn’t they let us? No, why did we listen to them!”
“It can’t be helped, especially not now, we had no choice.”
“We did have a choice, we were just too weak to accept it.”
“Moaning about it now isn’t going to solve anything.”
“They were our friends.”
“They were infected.”
“Noel, do you want all of us to be killed!?”
“Look, sorry for yelling at you, but–“
“No, I understand. It’s just–“
“It’s just you can’t wrap your head around it. Just don’t think too much about it.”
“If only I could.”
Tears started forming around Noels eyes. I looked down and closed my eyes. The silence was soon broken when one of the officers came rushing in. He started yelling at us in an urgent tone.
“Quickly, they’ve started breaking in!”
“Oh crap,” I replied.
Noel and I both got up, got our equipment and rushed out with the officer. We soon arrived at the roof area of this building and looked down upon a large fence. There were other officers here and a few other soldiers from a different branch. Behind us was a military helicopter. I took a nearby sniper rifle and looked down on the situation. This may look like murder. But it’s not really killing them, when they’re already dead.
After talking to some of my relatives, we all got in our cars and started driving. It was almost time for the funeral, we didn’t want to be late. Rather, we couldn’t be late. We drove along the highway, the bitter air in the car made me sick. But what made me more sick was that my father looked to the seat next to him by habit whenever I talked to him. Instead of looking at the mirror at me, he looked at the seat next to him. I didn’t know which was more sad. But either way, it was a silent car drive to the funeral after that point.
When we arrived there I noticed that all of my relatives collectively wore black colored clothing. My dad and a few other adults were confirming arrangements. After everything was taken care of, we were soon escorted into another room. There were rows of chairs, and flower wreath decorations on the walls. In the center of the room was my dead mother’s casket. It was open. After a few words from each one of my relatives, we soon took turns going up.
My relatives were already breaking down, but as they went down the row, it just seemed like it would never stop. Soon it was down to my father and me. We got up and went in line. My father was already on the verge of tears. I never saw him cry much, he was strong. Much stronger than me. Looking at my dead mothers corpse did put me to tears, but I think the biggest thing that fazed me, was that none of my relatives bothered to look at me. When I got up to talk, when I was walking around the funeral house, when we were sitting down. They all avoided me. They all purposely avoided me. I understood their sentiments, but it only made me feel more depressed. It made me feel isolated, lonely. Even more so than the notion of my mother dying. I felt as if for the first time in my life, I was alienated.
After the last shot was fired, I leaned back on the roof and sighed. The soldiers started cheering and packing up. They told me I could keep the sniper rifle and gave us a few magazines. They went in their helicopter and flew off. I peered off the side of the roof again. Cleaning up those corpses is going to be hell. One of the officers whistled and said while looking down the roof.
“Clean up duty is going to be crazy.”
“Better get started,” I replied.
After we finished cleaning up the rotting corpses we decided to go on a night raid. Usually starting missions at nighttime is really dangerous, but according to the soldiers who came to help us, the danger levels should be considerably thinned. The mission officers told us to be careful and to grab as much as we can but not to overdo it. Noel and I grabbed our gear, which usually consisted of a flashlight, a pistol with a few clips and a knife. We put on our bags and ventured outside of our fence. It was pitch black tonight, and I could tell that the quiet sound of our footsteps made Noel nervous. I told him.
“Loosen up, we’ll get this done in a flash”.
“I hope so.”
“You’ve always been like this since we first started. I respect that.”
“I have my reasons, I just don’t bode well with eternal darkness like this.”
“Yeah, well don’t go waving that flashlight around if a squirrel knocks over a trash can.”
“I’ll whip out my pistol if that happens.”
“That’s the spirit!”
We continued creeping about in the darkness, until our night vision kicked up. At this point, it was more than developed. I could see clearly now, without the aid of any external light source. I told Noel.
“Is it better now?”
He gave me no response, I simply gave a small chuckle and a grin. Eventually we made our way to a small plaza. There were a couple of stores. We decided to approach it quietly. We weren’t worried about Shamblers. The soldiers were right, there were very few when we got here. We were more worried about other people. It doesn’t surprise me how much people shoot on sight without question. But it would suck if we would get shot for nothing when we could potentially direct them to a more safe place than one of these run down stores. We scouted the area quietly and made our way to a pharmacy store. We could very well grow and manufacture most of our equipment. But medicine was another story. But of course with the recent ordeals, our supplies haven suddenly increased. No surprise there really. We searched the perimeters of the pharmacy. Looks like it was broken into. But who knows, maybe they left one or two bottles. I went over to the door and nudged on the knob. It was open. I slowly pushed the door open, making sure not to make too much noise.
As we slowly made our way to the gravesite, with my mother’s coffin lagging behind us, I felt the air stiffen. I glanced both ways to my relatives. Their eyes were redden with tears and they could hardly keep themselves together. Their heads were tilted to the sides, tissues in hand. But it was obvious what they were doing. And I couldn’t help but cry with them. Albeit different reasons, I still cried. I logged behind and made my way to the back with my mother. It was my father, and my uncle who was carrying the coffin. My father looked at me, he wasn’t crying, and only gave off a weak grin. My uncle stared at the soil beneath me. I wished to spit on that soil, but I chose not to. I walked with my head up to look at the black figures in front of me. They were trudging towards a grey stone, that would be filled with remorse, sadness, and anger. The only feelings of anger, would most likely be mine. I felt angry that my mother had left me. I wanted to scream and scold her. Tell her that she was selfish, tell her that she shouldn’t have done this to us. But what good will that do?
We arrived at the burial site. My father and uncle propped the coffin inside of the hole. They then began re-sealing the hole with dirt. With each shovel full of dirt, it seemed that my realities became more and more sad. I heard wailing, sniffles, and most importantly, the sound of fists clenching. That was from me as well. I grew more and more tense with each shovel full. I’m not sure if my relativities noticed, they were probably too busy crying and looking away from the spitting image of such an incredible woman. But my father noticed. I’m sure he had noticed since he saw me that morning. Or even when news of my mother’s death came about. He’s my father after all, how can he not notice. But he didn’t make much out of it, that was his own way of telling me, to deal with it myself. What a horrible father, not even comforting me or asking me what was wrong. I raised my head up to the mourning full blue sky, tears started streaming down my face, and with one arm across my face, I began to think. And as I thought, a bitter laugh erupted from me, a very soft bitter laugh.
“What the hell am I thinking?” I thought with my bitter chuckle. The tears streaming down from my face grew more and more intense. My anger soon subsided into sadness. And then back to anger. It looped, my thoughts were out of control. I couldn’t think anymore, the only action I could do was to cry. And cry, and cry. I fell to my knees, and with my two hands implanted into the dirt, I cried.
Lucky for us, whoever came here last left us a little gift. There were a few bottles to grab, not much, but better than nothing. We soon made our way out of the pharmacy, and decided to hit up the rest of the plaza. Not much to take, almost everything was looted, at least we didn’t have to deal with any Shamblers. We soon began making our way back to the base.
I looked over at Noel, he seemed a lot more calm now. I asked him.
“Hey, do you want to go somewhere?”
“Are you coming onto me?”
“Hah, you wish! I just thought, that after what happened, you would want to get out of here for awhile.”
“I do, trust me, I do. But you know they’ll have it in for us, especially now.”
“Screw them then, it’s our decision, we’re not their dogs.”
“Even so, you know what will happen if we leave now.”
“They can just bring in the boys over at the other base.”
Noel sighed, he looked at his pistol, rotated it in his hands and just stared at the barrel. I said to him again, in a comforting manner.
“Look, after what happened and even after what we’ve accomplished, I think we deserve some kind of break.”
“I just can’t abandon.”
‘It’s not abandoning, there’s hundreds of branches, and hundreds of others.”
“And besides, what happened to all that talk you gave me back at base? You seemed like a man back then.”
“But you’re right, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to get away some time.”
“There we go! Don’t worry I can handle the details back at base.”
“Thank you.” I looked over at Noel, he had tears streaming down his face, and a gun pointed at his head. He had a grin on his face, he looked happy. He asked me a question with a jagged smile and a bitter laugh.
“Hey Jen, about all the stuff last week, I hope we can be fine about that. I mean I would hate for us to linger over that for too long.”
“Noel, what the hell do you think you doing!”
“I hope that you can move on, for them, and for me.” He answered me with a smile of revelation on his face. He had a look that said he was ready. I was petrified, all I could was stand there and yell at him. I couldn’t bear to stand and see another person die in front of me. Even more so, another friend die in front me, but I couldn’t move. I was mad at my body, why wasn’t it moving!? I just stood there, and I couldn’t do a thing. I was hopeless, helpless, and useless, just like this morning. Just like when I had to kill all of my friends. Just like when I had to annihilate them, and stand and watch them fall to the floor. They called them infected, but what I called them was targets for genocide. And I didn’t want to hit those targets. But I was forced to. And just like Noel, it nullified me. But I could bear it, I’ve been bearing it for years on this line of work. This was Noel’s first. And it would be his last.
I cried on that dry soil, and my tears soaked up into the ground. Once I came to, I stood up and my mother had been fully buried. I knelt down on her tombstone to read it. The grey words would forever be engrained inside of me, I will never forget her. For the rest of my life, I will never forget my mother, and a stream of tears came about me again. I couldn’t help myself, and neither could my relatives. But this time, they were not avoiding me. They were facing me, they were sympathizing with me, they cared about me. I wiped away my tears, and looked at my father. He had a tear on his eye too, and gave me a wide grin, I took it, and returned it with my own. It was a tired grin, but we had understood each other with just that notion. We were ready to move on, at least me and my father were. He was only waiting for me to be ready, and he kept the burden of my true feelings locked inside of him. And I unlocked that with my first tear, and that key, would set him and myself free. I think it was about time to move on from remorse, and live on the way she would have wanted us to. I think it’s just about time, that we get moving, there was no use living within this vortex of depression.
By the time we had all began to go back a thought came inside of me. It was my mother’s voice, and she said to me and everyone else.
“Is everyone fine now?”
I only smiled back at the notion, this time, I could give her a concise and proud answer. But instead, I gave her a more sarcastic remark. I laughed off the dark thoughts inside of me, and saw the bright path that my mother would instead pave for me.
“Noel!” I screamed at him, I didn’t care about the Shamblers at this point, or Bandits. But the only thing he gave me was a faint smile and tear filled eyes. His hands became more tense. And he told me his last words.
“Thank you, Jen. I love you. Everything will be fine now.” He pulled the trigger and a bullet pierced through his head. My body came to, and the only thing I could do was to drop to my knees. The distant sound of waking Shamblers and Crawlers came to my ears. But I didn’t care, and the only thing I could do was stay on my knees with tears welling up from my eyes. The tears streamed down my face and all I could do was stare at his corpse.
I answered my mother’s question.
I whispered softly to myself, and to the now dead Noel.
“Are you kidding me? We’re not ‘fine’!”