An incredibly long short story...
The Concept Of Breathing
Something cheesy I wrote up for my English Language coursework
Dylan laid down the flowers. The misty ambiance of the graveyard wrapped its arms around him. He closed his eyes and spoke an unvoiced prayer. It was getting late. “I must hurry Rosaline” said Dylan. It was nearly night time as the last few gleaming orange rays of the sun buried deeper into the horizon. Dylan did not want to wait for the moonlight to show her visage. He might fall victim to an ambush.
He said his final farewell, engraved R.A onto the little grave he had dug with a final message and walked away. He could not bear to think about her anymore. It was what he would lay to rest deep into his thoughts.
Holding onto the little crystal necklace, his only remembrance of Rosaline, he carried on, tears dripping down his cheek onto the moist ground. He desired the world of the past to come back. He hoped this was all just a big nightmare that he was yet to be pulled out of.
Over the next couple of days, as he headed south, all he could think about was Rosaline. He couldn’t believe she was gone. The very thing that gave him the soul to continue living in this wasteland that he used to call home. They were headed southwards towards “The Sanctuary”. A place where resources were provided and they would be given a place to live. It was over all the broadcasts they could pick up. But what point was there now? Rosaline, his beloved little sister, was no more. The bitter, freezing sub-zero night conditions had swept her away from him. No more would he show compassion, no more would he show weakness and no more would he show sympathy. It was his fault Rosaline was gone. He hadn’t been strong enough to protect her. He hadn’t been tough enough to keep her going.
The moon had begun to surface and it was time for him to get shelter. Harsh, cold wind blew across his body, so violent that it was like getting thousands of cuts from miniscule razors. Soon, he ventured into a cave he had found nearby. Slowly, he checked around. He eyed each corner carefully. The Others were extremely sly. They would veil themselves in places where you least expected it.
Dylan set up camp. He travelled light and carried with him a sleeping bag, his jacket, any food he could find and precious pure water. Water, a resource that was greatly limited. If Dylan ran out, he would resort to squeezing fresh mud to obtain any water stored within or try sucking on the leaves of trees. Tired and weary after the day’s journey, Dylan quickly fell asleep. He was tormented by thoughts of his sister, plagued by the reflection of breaking the promise he had made to their parents. Emotions flooded in, there was simply too much to think of. The feeling of being alone, the feeling of paranoia every time he was travelling. It was the same every night.
Dylan woke up with a start, sweat dripping down his face, his face warm. Something had woken him from his sleep. He could hear his heart pounding a fast steady beat. There was nothing to be heard but dreary silence. It was accompanied by the sound of water dripping from the moist roof of the cave. At the very moment, he heard faint voices. Voices coming from all over. He was surrounded. The Others were out searching for food. Dylan laid low in the shadows praying they wouldn’t find him. He tried to avoid conflict whenever possible since it seemed that he was always outnumbered in a fight. Not to mention, most of them were all large brutes that would kill you in an instant. Their instinct for survival had taken over their sanity leaving them similar to little less then animals that would not reason.
The voices sounded closer. Harsh, deep guttural sounds being snarled. They sounded livid. They must not have had fresh meat for a while. It was only a matter of seconds until they’d be closing onto him and he would be cornered and helpless. Crawling on his belly, he eased in towards a corner trying to get as far away as possible. More voices, more rustling, even closer this time. Out of the corner of his eye, Dylan could see rays of the day’s first sunlight easing in. There was an opening in the cavern! Little by little he crawled out, making as quiet a noise as possible.
He was out. The dark night had left over remains of mist that flooded over his body. He quickly put on his jacket, shuddering as he did so. Dylan sprinted on, continuing towards the south and only stopped in doing so once he was convinced he wasn’t being followed. It had been a narrow escape.
He carried on for days. The whole while, trying to make sense of it. It had happened one average summer day. The global catastrophe that had wiped out most of the human population. It was a bug that had taken out most of the world’s population. No-one knew where it had come from, how it affected people and what it did to them. People were instantly taken over. The virus would take over the human mind and cause them to commit suicide without a second thought. It seemed to take over brain cells; multiplying rapidly until eventually the mind was no longer in control. Dylan had seen people walking off buildings, stabbing themselves, road accidents and other terrible things. The first time he had seen it occur, he hadn’t even known whether the person was affected. It had been his best friend, back at work. The sheer terror had rendered him helpless. He hadn’t even tried to stop him. Soon after, most of the others at work started doing the same. However, there seemed to be a small amount of humans who were deemed to be immune. Dylan and his sister, part of this small percentage. He cursed the heavens. If only it had finished him off as well.
Leading on from that, he started thinking about The Others. Who were they? They were all normal humans. The small bit that had survived. Unfortunately, they were not of sane mind. Most cannibals were part of interconnected families that had agreed to peace treaties with other groups of cannibals. They stuck to their designated hunting areas. Groups of cannibals set borders all around cities and forests. Anyone caught trespassing was fair game. Anyone they found outside was also fair game. Either way, you were either with the cannibals or you were as good as dead. It was only a matter of time until they got to him. He couldn’t survive forever.
Now, for the other question, why had they resorted to such demeaning means? The answer to this was simple yet he was skeptical to how they had been led to believe so. The survivors had figured out they were immune. Countries over the world had designated meeting points where there were meetings of groups. Within these groups, people had ideas. Some believed it was the will of god and they set off, leading the life of saints and hermits, never to be seen again. Some decided they would not mingle with the others and would lead their own paths as had Dylan and Rosaline. Some decided to finish themselves off, not wanting to live in a world so obscene and alienated. The rest however, had other thoughts. They believed that the immunity only lasted as long as they had an ongoing source of that resistance. They believed that to survive, they would have to feed on the flesh of other immune creatures, or other humans. These ideas weren’t tried out in substance until a couple of weeks after people had disbanded.
The idea itself was sickening, but soon, they grew accustomed to it. No longer did they feed to survive; they did so because it gave them pleasure. The notion of not having people to look up to, not having any rules, no law to follow, nothing to question crime and hardly any socialization, made them crazy. They lost their senses, undergoing major mental changes. They had stripped themselves of any humanity and had become what man had started off as.
Every time Dylan thought about all of this, he grew weary. As he went along the path, he could hear the sound of moving water nearby. The thought excited him. It had been ages since he’d had a nice wash. He hurried along, following the sound until finally he reached a small waterfall covered by lots of short shrubs and trees. He took of his top and walked in. The cold water made him shiver and made his skin tingle but it felt good. He took his time. His mind was rushing through as many thoughts as it could process. He yearned to just stay here forever, like a candy store a little kid would never want to leave. He desired for the water absorb him in some way, so he could become one with it. He wished for all the anxiety to leave. Dylan laid down near the shallow end of the pool and closed his eyes.
“Fsk” An arrow whizzed inches away from Dylan and lodged itself into a tree. His eyes opened in an instant “WHO’S THERE?” yelled Dylan. No reply. He was in trouble. “Fsk” Another arrow speeded by. He was being ambushed! Dylan quickly got out, picked his shirt and backpack up. He galloped back in the direction he had come from. Numerous arrows whizzed by. Horns were blown. The cannibals were alert now. He would be surrounded once again, this time, with no escape. Dylan kept running on and on praying they would lose him. Alas! They were onto him like a pack of wolves. He could hear short breaths, panting, following him. He ran sideways, took turns, ran through bushes and tried everything. He just had to lose them. They were not going to let him go.
Dylan ran on and on until unexpectedly, he met a dead end. His eyes darted left and right searching for any route for escape. There were none. Strong, large hands tied his legs and hands. He was thrown onto his back. Dylan thrashed about. He was stopped by a blow from his assailant. His attacker’s face wore a mask of triumph. It was apparent he had gone without human meat for an extended period. He let out a large roar and chuckled sadistically. Blood was filling his eyes. He muffled Dylan’s mouth with his massive hand. By now, several others had gathered. They were smiling, visibly content. The aggressor drew a long, razor-sharp axe. Chants procured. Several Others let out blood curdling howls. They lay on the ground and banged their heads. Dylan closed his eyes one last time. He prayed to God. He was finally going to be at peace.
The head-splitting blow never came. His eyes closed, Dylan could hear nothing but serene silence. His muffled breath in rhythm with the gasps of air being taken in by the horrendous beasts. Slowly, he opened his eyes, shivering and trembling. What was happening? Why was he still alive? With one strong, rough arm, the brute picked him up throwing him back onto his feet. What sort strange ritual was this?
All of a sudden, an ear splitting horn blew. Trees shook as the birds took flight. The circle Dylan was standing in parted, forming a clear path. What was this? Were they letting him go? The horn blew once again. Dylan strived to cover his ears but too tired. His eyes were blurry, his head hurt and his body ached. A huge malformed shape appeared, slowly making its way towards him. Dylan narrowed his eyes trying to figure out what it was.
As it got closer, The Others, surrounding him started waving their heads, humming a deep melancholy, tune. The shape, Dylan could now make out. It was similar to The Others, except larger, way larger. The man stood over 2 feet tall, his body tattooed with thousands of scars, a few running off the sides of his neck, a few on his chest and others on his wrist. He was missing an ear, and his right eye. The humming dramatically stopped.
Dylan’s previous aggressor now stood straight, his axe hanging on a makeshift belt and his head held up high apparently a sign of reverence. Dylan’s body trembled as the massive man came close. He looked Dylan straight in the eye with a scowl so fearsome, that it would scare off even the bravest man if his size did not. This was no ordinary Other. He seemed different. The Others seemed to hold great respect for him.
Dylan’s brain hurt, plagued by confusion of the situation. He dropped down, his knees too tired to support him.
A few seconds passed.
“Rise" growled an animalistic voice. Dylan looked up, trying not to tear his gaze away from the fearful sight. Slowly, he got up, shaking with the effort. The monstrous man held out a hand. One of The Others ran up close, a sack dripping with red liquid, squeezed tight in his palm. He placed it in the gigantic man’s palm. He ripped apart the sack, and the smell of rotting flesh instantly spread, clinging to the air.
The man held the meat out, undoubtedly human meat. What was it that he wanted Dylan to do? Did he want Dylan to eat it? Dylan shook his head, he couldn’t do it. He backed away and instantly, The Others started to growl and the sound of axes being unsheathed could be heard.
What inhumane behavior was this? What was he to do? Dylan reached out, his dirt smeared fingers slowly grasping the warm fleshy meat. He brought it close to his mouth. As he brought it closer, the giant man chuckled, almost as if he was enjoying watching. What was Dylan doing? This was completely wrong. This was everything he went against; this was what made him different. How could he so readily accept what they offered?
“Join us” snarled the voice, this time louder. The Others were getting impatient now, Dylan could see them shuffling about waiting for his move. He was surprised at how long they had been patient for. He seemed to have stood there for an eternity.
“So what will it be?” continued on the rumbling voice.
Dylan honestly did not know anymore. What WOULD it be? Spending perhaps a lifetime, as part of these inhumane creatures or die as the last possibly sane human alive.