Short But Sweet

“We’re leaving tonight,” Landon announced at the dinner table and flicked his hazel eyes directly at Samuel, preparing for backlash. His best friend Aspen sat across from him and she used her dark brown hair to cover her face and slumped down in her chair.
“Oh, you are, are you?” Samuel replied, his tone deep and stern like fathers do.
“You haven’t been able to get a radio signal for at least three days and we haven’t had fresh air in weeks. It’s time to move on,” Landon said as cooly as he could. Samuel let his fork drop to the wood table, making Landon slightly jump. “And I hope you mean ‘we’ and in ‘me, myself and I’.”
To much of Landon’s relief, Aspen finally jumped in. “I’m sorry dad, but we can’t keep living like this.” She sat up straight in her chair, her dark eyes soft but narrow.
“Like what?” his voice raised. “Alive? You’re tired of being alive? ‘Cause I can damn well assure you as soon as you step out of this bunker you’ll both be good as dead.”

Landon stood up, flinging his chair back, “this isn’t living! I’d rather take my chances out there than be stuck down here for another minute. It’s been three weeks since the world ended, but we’re still here. We haven’t ended. And maybe other people are out there, too, but we’ll never know if we stay here.” A flash of Omar’s face appeared in his mind. Butterflies invade his stomach as he thought of the last time he saw him. It was right before Homecoming and he couldn’t gain enough courage to ask him. Little to his best friends’ knowledge, Omar was mainly why Landon wanted to leave.

Samuel stood up as well and challenged him. “You want to be ripped apart by monsters, that’s fine by me. But in no way is my daughter going with you.”
“I’m going with Landon whether you let me go or not, dad. He’s right, this isn’t living! I love you and don’t want to leave you but this is way worse than we ever thought. We could be down here for months, maybe years! It’s no way for anyone to live.
Her dad’s eyes softened at her words and the vein in his forehead disappeared. “Your mother and sister were taken from me far too soon, I can’t have you suffer the same fate.”

Aspen took her father’s hands. “Come with us, then. You don’t deserve this life either.” Landon’s jaw tightened and he pushed his fingers through his red hair with frustration. That wasn’t the plan, but he couldn’t separate Aspen from the only family she had left. Landon let out a heavy sigh. “Yeah, you should come with us, too…” Landon said, barely above a whisper.
Samuel dropped his head and took a deep sigh. “We could always come back, right?”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Aspen. She was the most excited Landon had seen in weeks. Samuel released a smile that Landon never saw before and it weirded him out a little.
“Alright. Yeah, okay. We could be stuck down here for…a while. The world is ending anyway, why not make the most of it, right?”
“There you go!” Aspen cheered and hugged her dad. Landon rolled his eyes but stopped when Aspen caught him.

The three packed up everything they possibly could and headed out to the new world. Landon was the first to go up the ladder and push the bunker door open. A wave of fresh air hit his face and he almost coughed with the amount of oxygen. He took his first step out onto the grass and used his hand as a shield from the sun. He expected things to look bad but not buildings completely flattened to the earth. As Aspen’s eyes adjusted and she looked at her surroundings, the house closest to the bunker was theirs and it was pulverized.

“Oh my god…” she gasped. Samuel had barely left the bunker before Aspen threw her arms around him. Her cries muffled into his flannel shirt. Not a soul was in sight, not even the beings who no longer had a soul. The neighborhood Landon knew so well was like a scene from a movie; destroyed cars, blood splattered on the road and grass, houses burnt to ash. It was a nightmare, but worse because there was no waking up. The horrible realization hit him and tears began to well, but then his eyes soon wandered to a house across the street. It still stood the same, aside from some broken windows and the front door hanging off the hinges. Aspen stopped crying to see what Landon was looking at and she spoke.

“Omar’s house.”

The sound of his name made something inside Landon tingle. The light at the end of the tunnel. It only felt like yesterday that he saw his face in the hallway, giving him a look that he still holds onto. A look that told him he might have a chance. Landon blinked tears away and his feet made their way across the street. Aspen followed, sniffing but held right a large knife for protection. Samuel stayed close behind, asking Aspen who Omar wasand just said he was a friend of theirs. Landon held a pistol in his left hand and took caution with every step. He heard a few birds chirping here and there but nothing like before. As they approached the yard, unfamiliar noises echoed around. Groaning from the undead who he imagined were in an intense amount of pain. Landon thought of his parents, the day they died and then came back. He couldn’t imagine how much pain they were in and hated that he couldn’t help them relieve it.

They headed inside the house and Landon felt butterflies in his stomach. Even though the house was in ruin, it was still where Omar lived. Pictures of the family hung on the walls and Omars smile made Landon grin. Aspen and her father walked past Landon as they explored the house on their
own. Landon soon ventured to the kitchen to see if he could take any food left behind. He zipped up his bag after fitting some canned goods inside when Aspen yelled down to him.

“Landon! You might want to come see this!”
He furrowed his brows and ran upstairs. He turned the corner to a bedroom at the end of the hall. “You probably shouldn’t be yell–”
“Look, it’s his journal!” she said, holding up a notebook and a huge grin
His stomach twisted into knots. “Uh, isn’t that an invasion of privacy?”
Aspen rolled her eyes and flipped a page. “You’re not even a little curious what goes on inside his head?”
Landon blushed and shrugged his boney shoulders. “Did he say anything about me?”

Aspen scrunched her nose up with a smile and searched the pages for a mention of his name. Just then, Samuel entered the bedroom and Landon became less excited for her to read anything aloud.
“Ooh, here we go!” she cleared her throat. “Todays the day. I’m gonna ask Landon to the dance. I’ve never asked a guy out before. How do I do that? What if people see us? I mean, they’ll see us at the dance, but I’m not even sure if he’s into guys. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should wait until high school is over, the people here suck. And if I get turned down and people hear about it, they will know I’m gay and I also got turned down by the first guy I asked out. Alight, decision made, I’ll just take Tiffany. She’s pretty, I like her hair. Once all this highschool bullshit is over, then I’ll come
out. Then I can stop pretending…”

The butterflies disappeared from Landons stomach and were replaced by wasps. “He was gonna ask me?”
“Well I didn’t see that coming…” Aspen said and closed the journal. “I’m so sorry, Lan.”
“I should have said something sooner…” Landon said softly.
“Wait,” Samuel spoke up. “You’re… not dating my daughter?”
“Ew dad, no!” she said and stuck her tongue out at Landon.
“Ouch,” Landon responded, slightly offended.
“No offence, Lan,” she quipped.
Samuel laughed. “That’s the best news I’ve heard in months!”

Landon didn’t know how to respond to that so he took the journal from Aspen while they had a good ol’ laugh. He admired that Omar kept something to write down his feelings; he didn’t even do that himself. Absentmindedly, he flipped through more pages and was curious what his last entry was. It was four weeks ago.

“Hey, listen to this… ‘Lots has happened since my last entry. The world as we all once knew it is gone. The school was attacked by students and teachers who weren’t themselves and trying to eat everyone. We were all in dresses and tuxes and I wanted to black the whole thing out, but I couldn’t. I was bitten by some chick who sat in the front of my math class. It was so bizarre, she even had braces on. Everyone I knew who wasn’t immediately eaten by a group of them eventually got sick. We were taken to the hospital that looked like a war zone and they patched us up. My date Tiffany was also bitten pretty bad but she started coughing and sweating like a pig. I sat next to her to comfort her but I never got that bad. I fell asleep in the hospital bed with her, but I was woken by her violently attacking me! She wouldn’t get off of me and tried biting me, so I did the only thing I could and I stabbed her with a scalpel. It didn’t seem to do anything even after I did it five times so I tried her temple and she went limp. That was the craziest shit I had ever done! I ran out of the hospital as fast as I could and came home. My parents weren’t home because they went on a date the night before. I fear they may never come home.

The bite on my arm should have turned me into one of those things but I’m still waiting. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Are there others like me? I need to find out. Consider this my last entry, journal. The last mundane thing I’ll probably ever do. If anyone reads this and you know what’s wrong with me, I’ll be staying at a house I know to be abandoned on 42nd Avenue by the railroad tracks.” Landon and Aspen exchanged wide eyes.

“I know where that is,” Samuel spoke up from the corner of the room. “Used to belong to misses Fairchild but then she died. She had no family left so it just sat there. If we take the train tracks north, I know exactly where to find it.” Landon raised his brows and smirked at him. “Thank you.”
Samuel nodded back respectively. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as Landon thought.

They wasted no time and headed towards the tracks. They came across a few sick people emerging from the woods. It was nothing like Landon expected. Nothing had prepared him for the fact he would have to kill people who already died. It was somehow more difficult than he thought. An elderly woman limped up to him with her mouth wide open and made horrible moaning noises. As if she or it, was starving. Aspen and Samuel were busy dealing with a couple of other infected people so he had no choice but to deal with the thing. He remembered what Omar said about the head and he lifted his small pistol, shut his eyes and pulled the trigger. His eyes flew back open and was surprised to see her on the ground, lifeless again. But with that echoing shot, a flock of birds took to the skies in an instant. A sinking feeling fell over him as it felt the sound travelled for miles. Life was a standstill and a noise like that was surely to be heard by other hungry undead.

“I bet that attracted them to us…” Aspen said with terror in her eyes.
“We should move then. Come on,” Samuel said and purposely put himself behind the teens as they moved away from the scene. Soon, more groans came within ear shot and Landon knew he made a grave mistake. He looked back and saw dozens of infected pouring out from the trees nearby. His heart beat so hard it was hard to see straight. Just as he was about to turn back around to fight, Samuel alerted them to the house ahead. Landon grabbed Aspen’s hand and they all ran up the stairs to the house. The door was locked so they began to pound.

With each pound Landon’s fist made on the wooden door, his heart matched it. Dead behind him and his crush only feet away, it was enough to make his head explode. Just then, the door swung open and Omar greeted them with the smile he loved so much. Aspen and Samuel moved inside instantly while Omar looked down the barrel of his shotgun at the horde behind them. Omar stood out on the porch and took the infected out one by one. Seeing the infected grow closer, Landon used his pistol to help him out the best he could. His shot wasn’t as good as Omar’s but once Omar realized Landon was standing by his side, he flashed him the sweetest look and nothing else mattered.

Once the infected were all dead, they returned to the safety of the house and Omar barricaded the door. As they all wandered around the entryway to catch their breath, Landon noticed the bite on Omars arm. “You’re really immune?”
“I see you read my journal,” Omar said with heavy breathing and a smile.
Landon returned it. “Yep.”
“That’s a total invasion of privacy, you know?”
Landon’s smile faded. “That’s what I told Aspen but she–”
“Landon, I’m joking!” he laughed and gently touched his arm.
He could feel his face turn red. “Sorry.” Landon swallowed a few times so his voice wouldn’t crack for his next question. “So, I know it’s a little late, but, Omar… Will you go to Homecoming with me?”
Omar smiled and grabbed Landon’s hands. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Aspen and her dad left the room while they danced around the living room with no music.

Their days may have been short, but they were oh so sweet.

*****

Laura Mae

This is a story I wrote for a contest, but sadly did not win. Which means you can all read it now! I had fun going outside of my comfort zone with not only writing a short story, but also a love story with two gentlemen. Let me know what you think!

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