Friday, 2 October 2015

No Turning Back | Short Story

"The problem with trust is that it can either save you or get you killed, and much like desperation, it makes you weak and vulnerable."
A fictional short story written and created by me - STEPHEX.


They both walked along the desolate sand on tired, weary legs; the humidity of the sun caused them to sweat profusely. Stranded and hiking for days on end with very little food and water available to them, they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep going for much longer. Survival was the only chance they needed to live, but it was the only choice they had.

    “I…I can’t,” Audrey cries and collapses to her knees.

    Panting, Peter stops—his hands on his hips. “We…have to keep going. We’ll die out here if we don’t find safety before nightfall.”

    Audrey’s salty tears run down her dry cheeks, hydrating her cracked lips. Peter looks down. With only half a mouthful of water left, Peter retrieves the bottle from his backpack and selflessly hands it over to Audrey. She looks up at him.

    “But…what about you?” she says, wiping her cheeks.

    “I’ll be fine,” he says with a forced smile. 

    Hesitant, she takes the bottle. “Thank you.”

    Peter nods and watches as she drinks the last bit of water they have left. He couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit of guilt as his dry throat needed that water too, if not more.  He clears his throat and swallows down his thirst.

    “Come on, there has to be something out here,” he says.

    Audrey nods and stands to her unbalanced feet. Together, they grip onto the straps of their almost empty backpacks and push forward into the unknown and to the uncertain.

    After what felt like hours, Peter and Audrey both stop in their tracks. The heat burned their skin, the sand in their shoes itched and their mouth and throat continued to dry up. Neither one of them could continue on.

    “How did we get here?” Audrey asks, pain in her voice. 

    Peter remains silent.

    “All we ever do now is run, it’s our life now.” She pauses and looks down. “They promised a cure and it turned into a nightmare, not salvation.”

    “There’s nothing we can do but survive.”

    She looks up at him, the sun above his brown hair almost blinding her.

    “What’s the point of surviving if there’s nothing to live for?”

    Peter’s heart lowers inside his chest. He knows Audrey better than anyone, and for her to say to say those words, it almost gave him no hope. 

    “You can’t afford to think negative, we have to keep going,” Peter tries to reassure her.

    She half smiles, half laughs. “Look around you, Pete, there’s nothing here. Nothing!”

    A gunshot from the distance causes them to jump. From where they stand they see the figure of a man holding a rifle approaching them. They turn to each other—the look of hope returning to their eyes. 

    “Should we trust him?” Audrey asks. Although she is relieved to see someone else alive, her fear of meeting strangers comes back to haunt her.

    “We don’t have a choice,” Peter says. “Besides, it’s like you said, there’s nothing out here. He could have food, water and even shelter. We have more of a chance of surviving with him than surviving by ourselves.”

    “I don’t know. We trusted the last group and—”

    “This time will be different,” Peter interrupts her. “I’ll make sure that never happens again.”

    Audrey tries to believe and trust his word, but her anxiety doesn’t ease.

    “Are you guys out here alone?” the man shouts, drawing closer.

    “Yeah, we are!” Peter shouts back. 

    Step after step, the stranger finally meets with them face to face—his clean shaven face an indication that he is well off. He looks both of them up and down for any sign of infection. 

    “How long have you both been out here?” he asks.

    “Days,” Peter says. “We have barely any food and no water left. We could really do with some help.”

    The man stands there, unsure if he should take them back to his camp. 

    “How much do both of you weigh?” he asks.

    “What?” Audrey says, not believing he asked that.

    “Sorry? What does that have to do with anything?” Peter asks, confused.

    “It’s precaution. We check to see each person’s weight and height and go by how much food we need and how much we give to each person, that’s all.”

    Audrey turns to Peter, unsure about this.

   “Uh…roughly eighty kilos,” Peter says.

    The man nods. “And you, ma’am?” 

    Although she doesn’t like the idea of this, Audrey decides to trust Peter again. They need food and water after all.

    “Sixty…kilos,” she answers.

    “Great. Well, we have food, water and shelter if you want to follow along? The name’s Desmond by the way,” he says.

    A large smile fills Peter’s face, all he can think about is how good the cold water would feel going through his sand dry throat.
    “We’d be more than happy to. Thank you!” he says, almost crying out of happiness.

    “Now, again, out of precaution, I’m going to have to put cable tie cuffs around your wrists. We want to be sure none of you are infected and that you are not a threat or a danger to our group.”

    “All we want is food and water and we’ll be out of your way. This is unnecessary,” Audrey argues.

    “Look, I believe you, but my group ain’t the type to just let strangers in, in case they’re lying and steal our supplies.”

    “It’s fine,” Peter says, cutting Audrey a sharp glare. “We’re going.”

    Audrey shakes her head. “I don’t like this one bit.”

    “Well, would you rather die out here from starvation and thirst then?”

    “No, but—”

    “Then there’s your answer,” Peter snaps, interrupting her yet again.

    “You don’t have to come along if you don’t want to, but other survivors are always welcome in our community,” Desmond says, trying to break the tension.

    “Tie our wrists, we’re coming back with you,” Peter says with no hesitation.

    Desmond ties Peter’s wrists tightly then does the same to Audrey’s. 

    “Trust me,” Peter’s words replay through her mind. She trusted him the first time they met the group they once joined, but it turned into a disaster, a disaster that Audrey can never forget: one that got her little sister killed. 

    “Alright, well, follow me and we’ll get you fed and all cleaned up,” Desmond says with a smile.

    As Desmond leads the way to his camp with his rifle in hand, bounded Audrey and Peter walk behind like cattle to the farmer. 

    “You better be right about this,” Audrey says, the tone in her voice, serious.

    Peter looks down at his tied wrists, hoping he, too, made the right choice.


Moments later, they arrive at the gates of a deserted warehouse. A woman—also with a rifle—opens the gates, letting them in. She, along with other members of the community, look them up and down. 

    “Wow, we haven’t seen this many people for a while now,” Peter says, finally feeling hopeful.

    “We get a number of survivors stopping by here for shelter every now and then, but they unfortunately couldn’t stay with us due to lack of food,” Desmond explains.

    Two children run past Audrey and Peter, giggling as they play tag.

    “You’ve got children here, too?” Audrey asks, reminding her of her younger sister Jane.

    “Yep, which is why we’re more cautious here, they need their food too.”

    “Especially since their still growing,” Peter states.

    Desmond turns to him, a smile crossing his lips. “Exactly.”

    The doors to the warehouse open and they are then greeted with a few more survivors of mixed ages, nationality and gender. Overwhelmed, Peter and Audrey smile at each other, finally feeling like this could be their second chance: a new life.

    “Well, Desmond, who do we have here?” a tall middle aged man says, smiling at both of them. 

    “Just two lost survivors.”

    “Two lost survivors who could do with some help,” he says. “I’m Anderson, it’s nice to meet new faces around here.”

    Peter smiles politely. “We could really do with some help. All we ask for is food, water and a place to rest for one night and we’ll be gone. We don’t want any trouble.”

    “Neither do we,” Anderson says. Without a word, he nods to the two women close by, both holding a bottle of water. 

    They unseal the lid and hand them to Audrey and Peter whose wrists are still tied.  Their faces light up with joy and relief, happy to finally conquer their thirst. 

    “Thank you, thank you so much!” Peter says.

    Together, they scull half of the bottle, appreciating every single drop of it. As they do, the two women attach cable tie cuffs tightly around their ankles. They instantly stop drinking.

    “What the hell is this?” Peter asks, his anxiety now starting to show.

    “Relax, it’s just precaution,” Anderson assures. “If you’re infected, we don’t want to put our community at risk.”

    “Look, we’re not infected. We would have shown signs and symptoms by now,” Peter states.

    “Like I said, it’s just precaution.”

    Audrey’s heart starts beating faster than usual. Paranoid, she looks around, noticing the survivors near her continue to look her up and down with their heads slightly to the side. She swallows.

     The two children they saw at the entry gate place one pillow and one light candle in front of both Audrey and Peter.

     “These pillows are the only comfort we can provide for you,” Anderson says.

     As they look at the soft pillow beneath them, all the days of walking and running come back to them. Restless, they fall to their knees—the softness of the pillow easing the pressure in their sore muscles.

     The two children, again, bring more lit candles, placing each around Peter and Audrey creating a circle. 

    “What’s with the candles?” Audrey asks, her suspicion rising once again.

    “The sun is setting and it will be nightfall before we know it. Since we don’t have power here, we only have these candles. Not only does it allow light, but also heat,” Anderson says calmly.

    The sound of the entry doors closing forces them both to turn their heads. Everyone from outside is now in the same room, chaining the doors shut with locks. Peter and Audrey freeze.

    “Look, we just want food and water and we’ll leave,” Peter says, fear in his voice. “There’s no need to tie us up and lock us in like this!”

    Anderson smiles and shakes his head. Desmond, along with the other survivors, surround them in a circular fashion — their eyes on their new guests. 

    “The thing with our community,” Anderson begins to say, taking a step closer toward them, “is that once you’re in it, there’s no getting out.”

    Audrey’s skin turns cold. Instantly, she tries to free her wrists, but the cable ties are too tight. Panic overtakes them.

    “Please,” Peter pleads. “Just tell us what we can do, how we can help you!”

    “You already are helping us. We enjoy seeing new faces,” he says in that same hypnotic voice.

    Peter kneels there, fazed. Audrey, on the other hand, continues to look around the large open dim room in hopes of finding some sort of escape if things turn sour, she won’t let it happen again. 

    The sound of a metal door opening alarms her, forcing her to turn in its direction. It’s a lighted white room with meat hooks, chains and a large dirty counter with machetes and saws hanging above it. A cold shiver runs along her spine; her body turning numb. Before the door to the room closes, she notices one last thing hanging near the door: a large blackboard. On it are three columns drawn with white chalk: the first stating ‘Survivor 1’, the second their height, and the third their weight. It goes on for rows.

    Audrey turns to Anderson, his blank eyes looking back in hers. With her heart pounding inside her chest, she looks above his head seeing the large ‘Country Bulls’ poster. On it are tally marks, roughly counting eighty. The lump in Audrey’s throat becomes tighter, turning into sickness.

   “Please, we just want food and to be let go, that’s all we want,” Peter pleads. “Where is our food?”

   Tears fall from Audrey’s trembling chin as she comes to accept her fate. It’s all here in this room and where it all ends. She turns to Peter with sad eyes. “Trust me”. And she did, but it was too late to change that, it’s too late to go back. The problem with trust is that it can either save you or get you killed, and much like desperation, it makes you weak and vulnerable: a target. Peter knew that, too.

   Anderson’s smirk sharpens, the coldness in his eyes giving away the inevitable. “We’re looking at it.”

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