Denise falls to the ground, burying her head in her hands. She has just killed a little boy. An innocent, little boy who, only hours ago, had been a perfectly normal human being.
“Denise! What happened? What’s going on?” Her mother comes racing outside. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” She kneels on the ground beside her.
“I-I’ve just shot him! An innocent, little boy!” Denise cries. “I don’t understand. He was just fine not that long ago.” She’s trembling, absolutely traumatized by her actions. Her hands shake and tears fill her eyes. “He was just a little boy, Mom!” He was just a happy, innocent, little boy.
“Shh, it’s okay. Don’t cry,” Casey tells her, gently rubbing her back in hopes of comforting her daughter. “You did the right thing. If you hadn’t killed him, he would have ended us.”
“Your mother is right. You did the right thing, Denise,” her father says, crouching down beside the pair. “Come on, let’s go elsewhere to talk. We can have some privacy and you can tell us what happened.”
George and Casey assist Denise in getting to an isolated spot, with some crates of supplies to sit on. Denise is still shaking, sobbing.
“What happened, Denise? What happened to him?” Her mother asks. “What did he do?” If she didn’t know better, Denise would have thought she was mad.
“He was…Tina came running back, and he was chasing her. She was terrified. He was infected again, Mom. He was going to kill…he was going to kill Tina! Why was he infected? I thought we c-cured him.” Denise wraps her arms tighter around herself. She can still hear the bang, the thump as the child fell to the ground. She feels like she is going to be sick.
“The plasma only had a temporary effect,” Casey says. “It didn’t last forever.” She continues mumbling things to herself, thinking. She gets up and begins to pace. Whatever she’s saying sounds smart and scientific.
Denise’s father remains seated, holding his child. She’s scarred by this event. He had a life before this. An innocent life, playing with friends like any little boy should. Now he was gone, and it is because of Denise. His childhood was pulled to a halt when she pulled the trigger.
“You did the right thing,” George says. It’s as if he is a broken record. All he’s been saying is that she did the right thing, or to relax, that she saved them. Not to worry or freak out. “Don’t worry about it, alright?
Denise nods, but she is still worrying about it. She still feels like a murderer, like a villian. It doesn’t matter that he was infected. He was just a child.
“I’ve got a theory,” Casey finally announces. She faces her family, a serious look overtaking her sharp features. She’s rubbing her hands together, the gears in her mind clearly still turning. “What I’m thinking is that it may be necessary to supply someone indefinitely with plasma, in order for the effects to stay. Either that, or there’s a point where immunity is built up against the plasma, and it no longer works. Either way, it would be very difficult to make anyone remain in a human state. You had no choice, Denise. You had to kill him, or someone would have had to somewhere along the line. Don’t worry about this, okay?”
Denise gives her mother a single, strong nod. I had no choice. There was no other option. He would have died no matter what.
“Hey, you alright?” Rory approaches, seeing Denise in such a fragile state.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m fine, don’t worry.” She gives him what she hopes is a reassuring smile, though it is more for herself than it is for him. She did what she had to do, and it’s okay. She had no choice.
“Come on, let’s go get you something to drink. Try not to take this the wrong way, but you don’t look too great right now,” Rory says. He gives her a small smile that makes her stomach flip. It was as if everytime he smiled, an angel fell from Heaven. He grabs her hand and pulls her up off the crate. His hands are so warm and she never wants to let go of them.
As they walk towards Ferrah, who is helping Tina open a bottle of water, they spot a small group of people not too far out. There’s one man who is clearly the leader, with firey red hair, and two boys behind him in maybe their twenties, who are probably his sons. They all walk as if they have not slept in days.
“Who are they?” Rory wonders aloud.
“Please let them be human,” Denise mumbles. “I need a break from the undead right now.
“Well, they don’t seem to be dead of any sort, so I think we’re safe,” Rory tells her.
He gives her a small smile and wraps an arm around her, giving her a tight side hug. His touch is far more comforting than her father’s. It also gives her all those butterflies, which no one else’s ever does.
He hands her a bottle of water after opening it. She’s suddenly very aware of the fact that she probably looks like she has just crawled from the depths of Hell, and wishes she had a place to hide. Rory, however, still looked like Heaven wrapped up in a single body.
“Hey!” A burly man calls out. “Mind letting us in?” Now that he’s closer, Denise can make out an angry-looking, bearded face. The rest of the group looks angry and exhausted as well. The most unsettling part, however, is that they look heavily armed. She definitely wants a place to hide now.
“Sorry sir, but I don’t think I can,” George tells him, walking a bit closer towards the fence that seperates them. His movements are hesitant. He’s obviously aware of the weapons the strangers are holding. “We haven’t got the slightest clue as to who you are, and I’m afraid we can’t let absolute strangers in. I am terribly sorry, sir. I believe there’s another spot not too far, though.”
“Don’t you give me that crap!” The man shouts, raising the gun he’s holding. “Let us in, or I’ll shoot!”
The two boys look worried, as if they know he is not afraid to keep true to his word–as if this wouldn’t be the first time. Denise can also see now that their hands are shaking.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” George repeats. It’s clear he’s losing patience rather quickly.
“Dad, maybe you should let them in,” Denise says. “They look tired, and hungry.” And murderous.
“No, Denise. I can’t take risks, not if it puts you kids in danger!” George says. He turns back to the strangers. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, sir.”
“Last chance, old man!” The group’s leader snaps. “Let me in or I’ll blow your brains out!”
“Dad, let him in!” Denise cries.
“No!” George responds.
True to his word, the stranger shoots him, right in the shoulder. It would have killed him for sure if one of the sons hadn’t tried to hold him back.
“Dad!” Denise shrieks as her father falls to the ground.
“Let us in!” The man shouts, his aim now directed towards her. Denise’s eyes go wide, now knowing he is not afraid to end someone’s life over this.
“Don’t you dare point that gun at her!” Rory snaps. He grabs her hand and gives it a squeeze in hopes of comforting her.
There have been too many gunshots for one day, too many threats. She’s going to pass out any second now.
“Let us in and I won’t have to!” The man says. Fury lights his eyes, which are rimmed by bags. He needs rest and sleep, but Denise surely won’t allow for them to nap at that farm. Not when he’s shot her father. Who’s to say he won’t take the lives of the rest of them?
She glances back at him, and he’s clutching his upper arm in pain. Her mother is at his side.
“Please, sir. Leave,” Denise says. The man raises the gun, but does not shoot. He sees something behid her. Something that definitely sounds like a truck.
“Back off!” Someone else yells. Denise turns to see Uncle Bob in the bed of an armored truck, positioned behind a Gatling gun. “Back off now before I make you!” His voice is full of rage.
“Pa, let’s go,” one of the boys says. There’s panic evident in his voice. “It isn’t worth it for any of us to get shot.” He is tugging on his dad’s arm, pleading for him to leave. He wants to avoid trouble.
The man grumbles something to the rest of the group and they all trudge away. Denise practically falls into Rory’s arms, tears spilling from her eyes. This day has been far too long and has contained far too many incidents.
“Someone get blankets! Water! Hurry!” Casey cries. Denise removes her face from Rory’s chest, remembering her father, who is lying on the ground. His face is twisted in pain. His glasses have fallen from their perch on his nose, and his one hand is clenched into a fist.
“Dad! Dad, please be okay,” Denise breathes, falling to her knees. She takes her father’s hand and silently prays for him to be okay. Even though it was just a shot to the shoulder, there is not any hospital they can go to. Sure, her mother and father are nurses, but they work with modern equipment. Now, they are on a farm, with nothing to comfort him or disinfect his wound. A shoulder wound could be deadly out here.
“I’m alright, it’s okay,” George tells her. Denise doesn’t quite believe him, however. There is a hole in his shoulder and blood trickling out. His shirt is stained with the dark red liquid. He definitely is not alright.