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.What could possibly change that?Nothing, really.Nothing at all.That evening Ed remained with Zach and Jeremy.It had been almost twenty four hours since Zach had been infected.Ed knew, as they all did, that he had at the most not even a day left.The virus was fast, too fast.Nobody made it past forty-eight hours before showing symptoms.Ed and the boys talked.They didn't mention the virus anymore; it was pointless.The spoke of the good old days, the days when they'd all been a family.The days when their mother was still alive, before the world as they knew it had ended.Trips to the art museum, grocery shopping, the zoo, the first day of school, birthdays, Halloween, and Christmas.All the things that made up their lives together, the strands of experience that connected them so much closer than genetics ever could.Ed continued to check the wound periodically; it seemed no worse than the prior day.He could see no excessive swelling or discharge, nothing to indicate bacterial infection.But the viral infection had no doubt found its way in all the same, he knew.It would only be a matter of a day or less and the signs would start to show.It started with fever.It got much, much worse from there.They napped sporadically.Ed held his son most of the day, as if their closeness would allow him to absorb the essence of his boy.He care nothing of infection anymore; what would be, would be.Jeremy sat with them, acting brave.He watched his father and emulated him.The thought of losing his brother, with whom he'd spent so much time and relied so heavily upon, was devastating.There was no guard duty for them.They didn't watch for carriers.Ed didn't care anymore; the virus had won.If its minions showed up to deliver it to the rest of his family then so be it.It was a fitting end.Later that night Ed awoke again, surrounded by his sons.He lifted his head to look around and saw Dave on guard duty, staring into the woods.The rest of the group lay on the ground, asleep.Ed looked at his two sons in the dim moonlight; two beautiful, broken creatures.They'd suffered enough, hadn't they? Hadn't they all? And where was their relief, their blessings from on high? Nowhere to be seen.They were on their own, and only Ed could bring an end to that suffering.He reached down and removed his pistol from the holster.He would make it quick; Zach would never know it was coming.He would handle Jeremy's grief after it was done.How, exactly, he would do that he didn't know.It was a bridge to cross later.Ed wasn't sure his younger son would ever be the same again.He moved slowly so as to not wake the children.He placed the barrel of the pistol near Zach's temple.The chamber was loaded; all it would take was a squeeze of the trigger.He flipped the safety off and placed his finger carefully on the trigger.One squeeze, one trivial little movement, and his son's suffering would never occur.He would go quickly and painlessly, without knowing the hell his mother had known before she died.He watched his son's chest rise and fall in the dim light from the sliver of moon high above.He thought about all the things Zach should have been allowed to experience.He thought about the man his son should have become.Ed remembered holding him right after he was born, and in that instant he saw his son's life pass before his eyes.None of that would come to pass now.It was just a ghostly vision, an imagined screenplay of a life that would be cut well before its end.Ed began to sweat, and his stomach seemed to twist into knots.His face became hot and flushed.Adrenaline poured into his bloodstream.Emotions he hadn't felt in years rushed in, reminding him of Sarah.Killing his infected wife was the hardest thing he had ever done.The time had come for Zach to die; did he have the fortitude to carry it out? Could he pull the trigger and kill his own flesh and blood?His finger squeezed the trigger slightly.He held it there for a moment, feeling the firing pin on the very edge of striking the cap of the shell.One click, then oblivion; a tiny scrap of lead to send him on his way.He had brought this human being into the world, now he would take him out of it.His finger tightened slightly, then relaxed.Had they spent all the time they could together? They still very likely had another twenty-four hours.The virus hadn't shown any signs yet, so time was still available.It would come of course, but there was still precious time left.How could he end his son's life if he still had just a bit more to squeeze out of it? Was that fair to Zach? Or to Jeremy?Ed released the trigger, and reapplied the safety.Not tonight.He placed the pistol back into its holster, then lay back down.Tears leaked from his eyes, his chest convulsing as the sobbing wracked his body.He held his doomed son closer.Jeremy stirred in his sleep, then reached out and hugged his father.After some time Ed fell asleep; his face still covered in tears.He slept through the rest of the night, sleeping the fitful yet dreamless sleep of the damned.Tammy awoke the following morning before the rest of the group.She opened her eyes and saw Dave, his back to her, finishing up the tail end of his guard duty.She closed her eyes again.Her best friend was still dead.That knowledge was like a dull ache, affecting every part of her mind and body.It was all meaningless; all their effort, all their struggle, all their successes and failures, they all amounted to nothing in the end.None of it mattered up until now, and none of it would matter going forward.Another day of pontification and consideration hadn't changed that.It never would.She was sick and she was tired.She saw only day after day of the same worthless grind, only to ultimately become food for the deadwalkers, or to catch a bullet from a sniper as Brenda had.She opened her eyes again, then sat up.Dave heard the movement behind him and turned around.“Morning,” he said.She grunted a response, too lethargic and apathetic to provide much more than that.She looked over and saw Ed sleeping with his two sons.It was only a matter of hours before the oldest one would start turning.And, after Zach was dead, how long could Ed expect to protect the younger one?She stood up, surveying the camp once more [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]