Thursday, May 9, 2019

#056: A CHOICE




ADAM’S SCREAM WAS ALMOST inhuman.

Still behind the counter, Tracey could only watch as the creature bit down on Adam’s arm. She saw the blood at once. So much of it. She shouted her friend’s name and nearly passed out. She wanted to help, but her feet felt permanently affixed to the cheap tile of the floor.

Dan and Luke added their voices to the din, their shouts like panicked children running from a barking dog.

The sound of a gunshot cut through it all, ending the horrific cacophony like pulling the needle from a record. When it happened, when the deafening noise brought a moment of silence, Tracey had been watching the thing gnaw at the flesh of Adam’s arm—it wasn’t human, it couldn’t be. When the shot rang out, the creature’s head jerked to the side and it let go of Adam, falling off of him.

“Pull him in!” Norman called out. He crouched there next to Adam in a shooter’s stance. One knee down, arms extended and holding a pistol. He fired three more times and the monsters outside dropped.

Dan rushed forward and pulled Adam free as Luke held the door.

“Lock the damn door!” Norman barked. “Now!”

Before she even realized that she was moving, Tracey was there, taking the keys from Adam. She quickly selected the correct one and slid the key home, locking the doors. Then she knelt next to Adam who was moaning, eyes shut like clenched fists, and holding his arm. Norman was already there beside him.

“Just hold on,” Norman said, then his eyes met hers. “You have first aid supplies?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Behind the counter.”

“Grab them,” he said.

“Okay,” she said sniffing.

There was something wet on her cheeks. She swiped at them as she rushed to the counter. Tears. She was crying. Well, why wouldn’t she be?

She returned with the first aid kit and Norman started going through it. There wasn’t much there. Some ibuprofen, a small packet of burn cream, and a variety of adhesive bandages, the kind you put on minor cut and scrapes.

“No, this is no good,” he said. “We need something to wrap his arm.”

“We have bandages on Aisle Three,” she said. “There isn’t much.”

“Is everything okay out here?” It was the old man. She could see his bald head sticking out from the doorway to the office.

“Don’t come in here,” Norman said. “Keep that child back there, she doesn’t need to see this.”

She watched as the man’s face went from scared, to curious, to concerned. But he didn’t ask any questions and soon his head disappeared back inside the office.

“In fact,” Norman said, looking up. Luke and Dan where standing over them, watching the bloody scene with frightened faces. “Everyone back up. Give us some room here.”

“Where did you get the gun?” Luke asked. Neither he, nor his friend, had moved.

“It’s mine,” Adam said through gritted teeth. “Taking an officer’s side arm is against the law, you know. I could arrest you.”

Tracey could see that Adam wasn’t serious, though his attempt at a smile was more grimace than anything.

“If we get out of this alive, I’ll turn myself in,” Norman said, sliding Adam’s gun back into the holster at Adam’s side. Then, turning to her he said: “Take him back to the bathroom and wash out that wound. I’ll get some of those bandages back to you.”

She said nothing as she helped Norman pull Adam to his feet. The tears continued to fall.

“We can carry you,” Luke said, stepping up.

“I can walk,” Adam replied, a look of annoyance cutting through the pain.

“I’ll help you,” Tracey said, putting his good arm around her shoulder.

Together they hobbled back past that office and into the men’s restroom. Adam sat on the domed trash can next to the sink as she turned on the tap and waited for the water to warm.

“Tracey,” Adam said. His voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “I need you to do something for me. Before it’s too late.”

“How about we just wash this out,” she said.

She didn’t want to look at his arm. She’d never been squeamish before, movies full of gore never bothered her. But this, now, it was all too real.

“Look,” Adam said. “He’s going to be in here with those bandages soon. We don’t have time.”

“Time for what?” She asked. The water had gone from cold to lukewarm.

“I need you to take my gun,” Adam said. “End me before I turn?”

“End you?” She asked. “Just stick your arm in the water, it should be okay now.”

“Dammit, Tracey. You know what those things are just as much as I do.”

He stood and pulled his side arm, holding it out to her.

“What are you asking?” Tracey said.

“I was bitten,” he said. “By an honest to goodness zombie. It’s only a matter of time before I turn.”

“Turn?” She wasn’t thinking straight.

“Into one of them,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen. I want you to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

He was still holding the gun out to her. She looked from the gun and then into his eyes. She could see the pain there, it was as obvious as the letters on a stop sign. But underneath was a different sort of pain. Not physical. That too was all to clear.

But still, there was more.

Underneath the physical pain, beyond the emotional, she could see acceptance. Then it dawned on her just what he was asking.

“You want me to kill you?”

It had come out of her like a laugh. And once she’d said it out loud, now that it was out, hanging there between them, the laugh increased. It just sounded so ridiculous.

“I’ve been bitten by a zombie, Tracey.”

That only made her laugh harder.

“You know as well as I do that that’s it. There’s nothing more to be said. I’m going to turn into one of them, and then I’m going to try and kill you, and everyone out there in the store.”

She nearly fell over. She’d never laughed so hard in her life. She couldn’t help it. She knew it wasn’t funny. There was no humor to be found in this situation. But somewhere inside her, locked deep in the rational part of her brain, she knew that he was right.

In that split second between understanding and acceptance, she could see herself taking the gun from him. It all played out in her head like a movie. She watched herself take the gun out of Adam’s hand. Watched as she pressed the barrel of the gun to Adam’s temple. He mouthed the words ‘thank you’ and they both cried. Then she pulled the trigger.

It had all happened in her head. Yet still, she couldn’t help but jump as the imaginary gun went off, thinking in that moment that fear had become reality.

But Adam was still there. A boy, standing before a girl, his eyes pleading with her to shoot him in the head.

The thought only brought out more laughter.

“Tracey,” his voice cracked again. “Please. Don’t let me turn into one of them.”

He was right. She knew he was. She felt that were she in the same situation, she would ask Adam to do the same for her.

So, without a word, just like how she’d seen it in her head, she stepped forward and took the gun from his hand.

“Thank you,” Adam said, his voice nothing more than a whisper.

She couldn’t speak. All she could do was cry as she put the gun to his head.






Are you caught up on Volume One? Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook, paperback, or both?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One now.

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