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“Never let me go” were the last words I heard before I woke.
Never Let Go
I opened my eyes to stare at the ceiling. I knew whose voice spoke the words and that was why my heart felt so hollow. It had been mere months since her death and each day it became harder to carry on. I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the town and each night was rewarded with painful memories. The painful part being that they reminded me that I could never see her again. My eyes began to water and I blinked several times, fighting back the tears. In this new world, crying was a sign of weakness.
I threw off the dusty old blanket and sat up. My back was cold and stiff from lying on the concrete all night, but it didn’t bother me—nothing ever did these days. I brushed my hands over my face and shook off the fatigue. Then I stood up, picked up my machete, clipped it to my belt, and headed out. I looked back at the blanket and just stared at it. For some reason, I had the feeling I wouldn’t need it after today.
After that moment of indecision, I left the bar out the back door and headed out into the streets. Outside, the sun was almost blinding, and I had to shield my eyes while they adjusted to the radiance. Once they did, I headed to the Family Dollar down the street and snagged a pack of Oreos. I munched on them as I made my way to the burial site. The cookies were a little stale, but food was food. If it killed me, then so be it. Seemed a better fate than turning into the very things that killed her. Then again, nowadays it didn’t matter if you were infected or not. Dying meant turning unless you died right. On that thought, I threw the pack of cookies away angrily and spit out what was still in my mouth.
I made my way to her grave and found that two of the creatures had wandered into the enclosed space I had set up. One was hanging on a wooden spike sticking out of the ground, the other was walking around aimlessly, growling and moaning. I walked up behind the one walking around and unclipped my machete. I buried the blade into the man’s skull and he became silent. The soft, decaying tissue and bone crumbled easily beneath the sharp edge of the metal. The creature collapsed on the ground and I moved to the next one. It saw me and growled at me, arms outstretched and jaw snapping. I sliced the head clean off and kicked the body off the piece of wood that had impaled him, then I crushed the still moving skull under my boot and walked to her grave.
I stood over her and felt a wave of remorse. All she had done for me and I had done nothing to save her. I kept telling myself there was nothing I could have done, but I knew the truth; it was my own fear that got her killed. I thought about this every time I came to visit her resting place. I’d stare at the wooden cross and just miss her. From time to time, I would break down and just cry uncontrollably.
Today I felt different. I felt tired. Tired of living while she was dead. Dead and buried and it was all my fault. I squatted in front of the cross and placed my left hand on the top of it. The image of her smile flashed in my mind and I blinked back a tear. I was tired. Tired of the sadness that racked my body every night and tortured my mind every day. I looked at the cross with her name carved into it and sighed.
“I never let go baby,” I said a tear running down my face. “Not ever.”
Then I pulled out a small handgun and pressed the barrel against the side of my head. I closed my eyes, pictured her face, and pulled the trigger.