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It had only been a week since the zombies started attacking the farm, climbing up the walls and trying to bring them down to reach us. At first, it was easy to take them out, but as time passed and more zombies came in we struggled to keep them out, barely protecting ourselves.  

We were outnumbered but nevertheless had to split up into groups and assign shifts to keep the zombies at bay.  Each of us had eight-hour shifts every day; Mom, Tina, and Ferrah started at dawn, Dad and I took over eight hours later and Rory and Uncle Bob took over at the end of our shift. Rory and I spent less time with each other each day, exhausted after hours of battle. Instead we rested and ate at any time possible, as did the rest of the household.

It was difficult to fall asleep in the ruckus; the sound of shots, explosions, screams, and cries of pain would never end.  Each night I struggled to fall asleep because I knew the next sound could come from the inside of the farm; it could be a cry of pain, a cry for help, a shot aimed at one of our own… With each sound, I saw the image of someone dying, or begging to be saved.

When I closed my eyes and slept, it was no different. This time the nightmares haunted me; I saw Mia shouting at me, screaming that it was my fault she had become one of them. I see Donny once more attacking us and this time Ferrah or Tina dying at his hands, in extreme pain, as I watch. I see Joseph and Randle, and the many I killed trying to protect my friends and family, zombies and humans.

I became distant. I slept less each day, ate less and talked less. I was like a drone, only lived to protect those around me keeping to my schedule; eat, sleep and fight. It wasn’t long before they noticed, but no one knew how to help. Rory tried to get me to talk, to show emotion on a daily basis but it didn’t work.

Until one night, he woke me up from a nightmare. I was thrashing around uncontrollably. He woke me up and took me into his arms. I still shook, still deeply affected by the dream. The shots and screams in the background were too real, no matter how much I tried to break free of the nightmare, of how it affected me, I couldn’t. Because whether I was awake or asleep it was a nightmare. I couldn’t focus on anything else, as it’d get me and everyone else killed.

“Are you alright?” Asked Rory, his voice was full of worry. I still couldn’t break free; I was trapped in my nightmares. 

“Focus on my voice and my voice only Denise. There’s nothing else around, just us. You’re safe; we all are because we are together. You don’t have to do this alone; you have your family with you. Just listen to me, my voice, and my heartbeat. Block the rest out.”  He spoke calmly, his voice soothing me and calming me down slowly. He continued murmuring in my ear and I felt the first tear come down my eye.

“I never should’ve skipped school,” I whispered as the second tear fell on my shirt. Rory stopped murmuring and looked at me. “I could’ve saved her, or we could’ve died together. I let my best friend turn. ” At this point, I couldn’t control the tears.  I sobbed into Rory’s shoulder and he held me. I could feel his fingers slowly gliding over my spine and his other hand tightly holding on to me.

“It wasn’t your fault; you couldn’t have prevented it. All you can do now is to accept that and move on. ” He whispered in my ear.

I lifted my head up from his shoulder and looked up at him. “That’s the thing, I have moved on,” I said, angry with myself. “Everything happened so quickly. I didn’t even mourn her, I just moved on. I forgot about her. My best friend, the one I shared everything with, the one I loved dearly turned and I just forgot.  She and many others around me died, I watched some die, and some kill themselves! I even killed a few and I didn’t even look back to say goodbye, to say I’m sorry or to grieve their deaths or feel emotion.  I just ran!” I broke down, only now feeling the gravity of the situation.

“It’s the rule of survival, to run and never look back. If you do, if you look back and feel guilty and remorseful, you’ll weaken. You’ll start your decision and yourself and your body will give up. You’ll weaken and you’ll hesitate. You’ll make a mistake and it’ll be your last. I don’t know what I’d do then.”  His voice shook at the end. He placed a kiss on my head and continued. “She’d understand. They all would.  We have no choice but to mourn until it’s all over but when it is we will. ” He promised. I held him tighter.

“The boy’s right.” Came a voice from the other side of the room. We both turned, only to see uncle Bob awake and watching us with a sad smile on his face. “The minute you look back, you’re dead.  If you let the PTSD get to you before the trauma is over, you lose. After that, it’ll always remind of those who you’ve lost, those you’ve killed whether you like it or not. You just learn to appreciate what you have, no matter how long you live, and every minute after that seems like a second chance. And every reminder of the hell you’ve been through is a wakeup call. Now, you just gotta take care of yourself and fight.” He said. I could see the pain in his eyes, from the memories of battle and the many comrades he had lost. Even after all these years he remembered and mourned. And he was right; I would too if I survived.

“Thank you, uncle,” I whispered.

“Now go to sleep kids, we’ve got zombies to shoot tomorrow.” With that he was out, exhausted from the battle and the demons of his past. 

That night I had a good night’s sleep. When I woke up, ate and finally got to the wall with my weapons I felt transformed. I barely blinked after I took the kill shot. My shots were a lot quicker and accurate. After a few hours, Uncle Bob came in with more powerful weapons and set them up in case of a larger attack. He taught me how to use them and I continued my shift with the new weapons. As they were also more effective, it gave me and dad time to take a breath and relax between attacks, only a few minutes, but it was enough.

He also set up a communication line in the house, so in case of a larger attack, we could ask for backup from the house. A few days went by, and we were very close to surviving our second week of zombie attacks. But no matter how many upgrades we got from Uncle Bob or how much easier it got to fight and kill, a week and five days after the first wave of zombies, the inevitable happened.

“Uncle Bob! Uncle Bob, can you hear me?” Came my mom’s panicked voice through the communication system, waking us all up.

“Uncle Bob! George! Is anybody there?” With that, we all rushed to the receiver. Dad quickly grabbed it to answer.

“Casey! What’s going on?” He shouted into the mic.

“I can’t explain. You have to come and see.” She answered. A few shots and loud animalistic sounds came through the receiver then quit. All we could hear was static.

We all grabbed our weapons and ran out, Uncle Bob and dad up front.  When we reached Mom and the others, she pointed to a group of zombies behind the others. They were like the mutants we had faced before, only they were different. Their bones were visible, swollen veins and muscles woven around them, their skin stretched so far it was clear as glass, displaying every other layer beneath the surface. And some others amongst them had gone back on the evolutionary line, resembling the apes we had evolved from only larger and wilder like they could take down an army. 

Even if we could deflect the first wave of “normal” zombies, the others would be a challenge as we were not sure how to kill them.  Uncle Bob, like the military man he is, quickly came up with a strategy.

“Denise, Tina, and Ferrah take care of the zombies near the wall. George, Casey, and Rory shoot the newer ones and try to figure out how to kill them. I’ll bring out the big guns for you; we have to find the right way to kill them before they get here!” He ordered and ran off to get the bigger weapons. 

We started firing bullet after bullet killing off the zombies close to us. The others, the mutants, seemed unfazed by the shots fired. They faltered, sometimes stopped but still kept on moving towards the wall. Uncle Bob fired cannons, bazookas and many other weapons but it was of no use. They kept on coming closer. My hands shook as I reloaded my gun, the fear and the adrenaline getting to me. I felt dizzy, the beat of my heart was loud in my ears, almost deafening. I felt dizzy. My vision blurred and I had a hard time keeping myself together. I finally reloaded and fired, but was thrown back the first time I pulled the trigger.  I hit my head but still managed to get back on my feet. I could barely hear everyone screaming my name. 

They all hesitated, thinking of my safety.  With that, the already close mutants advanced and started pushing the wall. We fired simultaneously, trying to force them back but it was of no use. They hit the wall, not giving up and it finally gave out.

Rubble and dust went everywhere, making it hard to see but we could still hear the zombies advance. They were still coming and we were still in danger. We were face to face with death itself.

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