Prompt: Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?
The blade was swinging down at me in slow motion. My eyes tracked it as my arms raised to parry. The parry worked, in a way, as white hot pain coursed through my left leg. I used the opportunity to kick her chest, sending her away from me, leaving her sword firmly lodged in my leg. I gasped, starting to feel woozy as she surged back toward me. Blinking, I threw the machete, knowing this was my only chance, that I was dead if it didn’t connect.
But it did connect, sticking into her chest with a sickening thud. I stumbled backward and slid down a wall. My breath felt far away, eyes heavy, leg throbbing. A small nap wouldn’t hurt anything…
I woke to Jason’s face, his arms shaking me.
“Wake up, Chelsea, come on,” he said.
I felt hands on my leg, pressure around the bloated pain of the cut.
“Shit, Jason, this is a lot of blood. What the hell happened?”
That’s Chris’s voice. I tried to open my eyes, the lids made of lead. I managed a groan, lips parched, eyes scrunched and trying.
“She’s moving! Give me your water.”
Jason again. My eyes finally opened, fuzzy outlines forming in my line of sight.
“Here,” Jason said, placing the canteen on my lips.
I drank a couple small swallows, letting my vision slowly return to normal and adjust to the night.
“We thought we lost you,” Chris said, pushing my hair out of my face. “What happened? One minute you were telling us you’d investigate the house across the way, next minute we find you here bleeding out from a fucking sword with a dead chick next to you.”
“Let her catch her breath,” Jason said. “Go help Aly get the lock off this barn. We need to get inside before it gets any darker.”
I tried sitting up, vision swimming to darkness.
I was out for five minutes, according to Jason, slumped against the barn wall but still breathing. When I woke back up, the pain had lessened. My head cleared slowly. Jason was sitting next to me, waiting patiently. I could hear Chris and Aly sawing through a chain around the corner. Emily was in front of me, eyes like the sea after a storm, injecting something into my leg.
“That should help,” she said, smiling. “Last of our morphine, though. Chris patched you with healing gel, but you’ll be limping for at least a week.”
“Thank you,” I managed to croak out, accepting another drink of water from the canteen.
“What happened, Chelsea?” Jason asked quietly.
“I came around the barn and saw her hanging clothes. I tried to tell her we were a peaceful group, but she just charged me, swinging that.”
I gestured weakly to the sword, trying not to look at the girl I’d killed. Emily squeezed my shoulder, standing and heading toward Chris and Aly. Jason helped me stand, giving me a minute to adjust. Walking was painful, but I could do it. Jason carried my pack, my machete cleaned and strapped to the side. I picked up the sword that nearly took my life, letting it hang by my side as we came around the corner.
Aly nodded to me, pulling the chain off and pushing the door inward. Darkness stared back at us, looming and silent. I limped inside a few feet, gesturing behind me for a lantern. Chris flicked one on, passing it to me, and I raised it over my head. There was a scuffling of feet, all of us tensing, raising weapons, ready to fight back the undead.
A boy stepped out of the darkness. He couldn’t have been older than 12, his clothes covered in grime. I gestured for everyone to lower their weapons, taking a limping step forward. I didn’t see the second person until it was almost too late, a chair flying toward my head.
It was luck, mostly, that he missed, chair crashing into the wall. He charged, raising his fists to fight me, his eyes wild but human.
“Please don’t,” I said. “I already got stabbed today.”
He stopped, standing protectively in front of the young boy, eyes darting between us.
“Where is she?” he said finally. “Where’s that crazy bitch?”
“The one who lived here? I killed her. Who was she?”
“She promised my brother and me a safe house, then locked us in here. She was insane. She said we would be sacrifices and that with our death the illness beyond her fence would be cured.”
Chris swore behind me, a sentiment we all shared. Leave it to the apocalypse to bring the crazies out.
“We’re not going to hurt you,” I said, setting the sword down and slowly raising my hands. “We were looking for food and shelter.”
After a little convincing, the two followed us up to the house. Aly broke in, expertly picking the heavy lock. Jason and Chris scavenged for food while Emily got me sat on the couch, leg elevated. The pain was starting to come back as the little boy sat on the ground near me, eying me warily. I smiled wearily at him.
“I’m Chelsea,” I told him. “What’s your name?”
He didn’t say anything, big brown eyes locked on mine. I pulled my pack onto the couch next to me, rummaging for a minute before producing a tattered teddy bear.
“This is Mr. Bear,” I tell the boy. “My mom gave him to me when I was just a kid, younger than you. He has a secret power. Do you want to know what it is?”
He nodded, eyes flicking between the bear and me. His brother came and sat next to him, watching me. I smiled at him.
“When you’re holding Mr. Bear, nothing is scary. That’s his secret power.”
I gave the bear a hug, letting the happy memories of my childhood wash over me, smiling. I looked at the young boy, caked in dirt with scared eyes.
“Do you want to try?” I asked, holding the bear toward him.
He nodded, slowly taking the bear and hugging him. It took a moment, but in the end he smiled. I sighed, leaning back on the couch.
“I’ve got to sleep now, kid,” I tell him. “This wound is really taking it out of me. How about you hold onto Mr. Bear for me? Can you do that?”
He nodded, running off with the bear. His brother looked at me for a long moment, eyes hard. I met them for as long as I could, lids heavy as the painkiller finally wore off. He looked down, sighing and standing up.
“Thank you,” he said. “Kevin is a good kid.”
“I know,” I told him, smiling. “Only good kids like teddy bears.”
He laughed, some of the worry fading from his brow before offering me a hand.
“I’m James,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Chelsea,” I replied.
“Get some sleep, Chelsea. We’ll keep this house safe until you wake.”
I nodded, eyes already closing. Maybe we’d make it out of this city after all.