“I only have three months left. You know I can’t make it,” he said, glancing at her after cycling for hours. Both their legs were burning from escaping from half a dozen of zombies, and they sat down in relief under a redwood tree in the woods. The smell of greens greeted them as they finally found peace.
Nature was the only one they could trust, the only thing that remained the same even after everything went havoc.
She shrugged, seeming indifferent. “Cool. Want some Oreos?” she asked him.
They survived two years of the zombie apocalypse together. Still, being the idiot he is, he got bitten at the very last moment-- just a week short of reaching their Mu-Variant Zombie Virus vaccinations. The pair managed to get away before the zombies took out another good chunk of him, but he still was infected with the virus. That was already three months ago, and they were patiently waiting for the antidotes.
Simon’s clothes were already too tight for his abnormally long limbs, and his hair was slowly losing the color of its sandy brown. His skin seemed like an ancient parchment--- it looked like it could tear apart if you were to touch it accidentally.
“I mean, sure, but you have to leave me at one point. You know that, right? Zoe?” he said, reaching for the bag of Oreos. “It’s better for both of us.”
The room went silent, save for the crunching of the Oreos.
“You know, I’ve always preferred the cookie part of Oreos over the cream,” Zoe remarked, breaking the silence as she pulled the cookies apart.
“You are an abomination to the society. Really. Then what’s the point of eating them?” The boy asked as he wrinkled his nose. But even then, there was a slight twinkle of fascination in his eyes.
“Simon, the cookies-”
“The cookies taste exactly like any other cookie. Please. The cream is the reason why Oreos even became Oreos.”
“I beg to differ-”
“Shut thy mouth thou worthless mewling shit-mouthed pair of wet socks,” Simon said, deadpan.
The duo locked eyes with each other, each of them with an expression of dismay pasted on their faces. A moment passed before Zoe broke out with laughter.
“You are insufferable.”
“Well, you are an idiot who prefers Oreo cookies over Oreo cream,” Simon replied jokingly.
“I love you too,” she replied lazily, winking as she did so.
The pair fell silent once again as they continued to munch on Oreos. “We’re going to make it, all right? Stop whining,” Zoe muttered, primarily to herself.
They didn’t believe it.
They met another group of survivors a few weeks later. Due to international laws, all survivors were supposed to help each other in any way, starting from providing resources to fighting zombies together. They were a group of 3, each of them lost someone dear to them in one way or the other. There was Adeline, Hendery, and Ezio. The trio was sympathetic to the pair, providing them with essential tools and survival food, but didn’t offer Zoe and Simon to travel with them. Understandable. Their heart wasn’t healed enough to be shared with someone on death row.
Adeline approached Zoe as quietly as the wind while the three men, Hendery, Ezio, and Simon, gathered some firewood. The breeze was too warm for jackets yet too cold not to wear anything. The weather was playing jokes on them also. At least the lake in front of them remained unchanging, reed still swayed peacefully, and nevertheless, time painted the sky pastel pinks and oranges. It was almost picture-perfect.
“Adeline. I get it. I’m going to leave Simon anyways. He’s always been a pain in the ass,” Zoe whispered to Adeline, who looked at her with concern.
“That’s what I was supposed to do --- except I didn’t, and I had to… I had to kill Violette myself and,” Adeline trailed off.
Adeline’s voice trembled at the last part. Her uneven eyes grew slightly moist as she bit her lips. She looked only 25 at most. What did it feel like to have to kill your sister with your own hands? Adeline took a breath or two.
“Zoe, I know that you two spent the last two years together. Depending on each other. You might think that you’ll be able to turn him back human. There’s no way. Leaving him now is more merciful for both of you guys,” Adeline croaked.
“Adeline. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Have a cookie,” Zoe said soothingly. Zoe pulled out the leftover Oreos from the other night out of the basket of her bicycle. They were soggy from not being sealed properly, but there were worse things that Zoe had eaten, which included live cockroaches and grasshoppers.
They munched the Oreos in silence.
It was the end for Simon. It happened as if prophesied. There was no mistake --- precisely six months from the day he was bitten. 182 days. 4368 hours. 262080 minutes.
The two years of survival went to waste. They shouldn’t be disappointed. Most people only went a month. But still, Zoe couldn’t help but feel like he should’ve had more time.
Zoe took a final look at the chains that Simon chained around himself a week ago, stolen from a long-abandoned warehouse they came across while their search for food, connected to his wrists and ankles. His arms and legs were too long to be called human-- it could pass as limbs of a human-sized spider. His hair became a sickly shade of green from the virus. The only hint that Simon was still there was in his once brown, now white eyes, showing signs of regret, sorrow, anger, and bloodlust.
Zoe slowly raised her handgun in defense as Simon twitched in pain. She was supposed to leave him at this moment, at the edge of this wild forest. Who knows what could be there? Wolves? Wild boars? His zombified cousins?
Zoe’s legs were frozen.
Come on; you have to go, she thought in panic as she accidentally dropped her gun. Her hands were too shaky and sweaty. Really, she was thinking of her sweaty hands at this moment?
Simon glared at her with molten eyes.
Simon was already heavier than Zoe, even with the weight loss due to the infection, and the added weight of the chains helped him easily overpower Zoe. Zoe screamed in frustration and terror as she pushed Simon- no, the zombie off of her. She tried reaching for her gun, but it seemed as if the weapon was slipping out of her grip purposefully. So Zoe did the most rational thing that anyone would do.
Zoe bit Simon.
For a few moments, Simon kept squirming like a wild animal; his skin ripped open because of the chains around his wrists and the bite. But then he blinked as if he recognized her.
They stared at each other.