We left a few hours after that night. Been traveling for a few days. Today. Damn path’s been treacherous as it promised, but my mates are making the best of it. “So, Demetrius….. got anybody waitin’ for ya when you come back?”
Kramer was looking exhausted, so it’s good for him to start this. “Nobody.” Kramer rolled his head lazily, gasping for air. “Really, now? You must have somebody. I have a whole damn tab back there waitin’ for me… and a lady. A few, to be exact.” Few chuckles were exchanged around the caravan, mostly coming from the guards. “My lady’s been waiting for me for far too long. She’s been expecting me…” Diaz catches some air. The sun was scorching. “… to move out of the streets, and into… a place. I mean, w-we don’t even have kids yet.” Diaz wipes his forehead. Was a few moments of silence until Eve spoke. “My boy… he’s waiting for me. I don’t know if his aunt’s treating him well.” A boy. Wonder if my girl would’ve been as old as her by then…
“My son. My wife. Don’t know if they’re worried about me.”
The silent man speaks again. He seems to be packing the most out of everybody out here.
“Always out, so far… haven’t even held my son for months.”
I heard patting on leather.
“So glad this is my last run. My contract’s done.”
The rest of the crew exchanged words that I couldn’t make out.
Family talk. I can’t bear to hear much. I could be talking to them… relating… but I can’t. Not anymore. Not after what happened. The path. Was longer than I expected.
We continued to walk tirelessly, out in the scorching sun. Everybody seemed to have gone through it, since they all had each other. Each other to talk. To comfort. Hell, two of them didn’t even seem that close, but they were still like family. I don’t know if I should’ve felt calm, or angry.
We kept on walking. The path out of that town… it had practically nothing. Dust flying, the ground thirsty, the trees hopeless. Just as it all seemed so bad to me… something stopped us in our path. “I-is that thing… growling at us?” uttered Tristan, the youngest in our group. It was humongous. It looked at us, those yellow eyes… it looked at us for the longest minute.
The thing was bigger than any Legion mongrel than I’ve ever seen. If it were a straggler, I wouldn’t be surprised. Sharp teeth. Stalky feet. It was made to hunt. “Stay still,” I warned. “Looks like a straggler. It’s all alone, lookin’ for food. When it jumps at ya, shoot it.” But it didn’t. It turned, yielded a way for us. We continued to walk. I didn’t look at its eyes. I motioned them not to. We continued our path.
We were walking, already going through a big ration of our water. The rest of the crew seemed phased by that dog. “What did it want…?” asked Diaz. “I swear, if there’s a pack out here…” added Kramer. A pack was the last thing we hoped for. What did we do that made that thing angry? A true monster. I looked at them sternly. Told them in my mind to keep on walking. We did.
Sun was going down faster than I’d hoped. But it stopped; cold, and red. I’d forgotten about sunset. The winds didn’t feel too hot anymore, but we were already worn out.
Just as I’d experienced, the path was unforgiving. For miles, we saw nothing but colossal bumps on the ground, covered by a thick layer of dust. Though the sunset made everything a bit easier, it wasn’t enough to change the scenery. Everybody looked to the pack with interest, though Diaz and his stares kept them at bay. We were running out of food sooner than we thought.
I couldn’t take it. The thought of them dying. The thought of taking countless lives. I felt something I haven’t felt since they went. Should I have felt relieved, or worried? I couldn’t tell. I just minded the road I walked again.
Decker, the oldest, took the only seat in the house; the back of the brahmin. He hasn’t been looking promising a few hours now. We continued to march, no rest, slowly absorbed by darkness. I saw something I didn’t want to see. “Diaz. Give me your rifle.” He looked me a bit alarmed as he handed his only weapon to me. I scoped a far distance north east of us. It was the demon, its eyes glowing in the night. It was staring at us. I had enough.
“I’m getting tired of this.” I pulled the trigger, aiming right for the mongrel. The shot echoed throughout the dark field, as it was followed by a loud cry. “The hell did you shoot?” asked Diaz. I continued to look at the thing to see if it died. I was focused on it. It was struggling, trying to stand back up. After a few moments, the sharpest cries I’ve heard pierced through my heart.
The mongrel, the creature, it had a whole pack waiting for us. They howled. Trying to scare us. We couldn’t see them other than the glowing eyes. I continued to look at the dying thing, hoping that one bullet kills it. I looked for far too long.
After that shot, we started moving slower than usual. I forgot about the pack. At least two of them jumped over our Brahmin, and lunged at whoever it got close to. Just as I was turning to them, I caught the dying thing stand back up at the corner of my eye.
“Shoot it! Shoot these things!!” Diaz had pulled out his pistol, as I was still clutching his rifle. Kramer pulled out his two-barreled shotgun and started aiming for the two mongrels. They moved faster than I thought.
“Fuckers… move too damn fast!” Kramer was frustrated; every shot of his missed. I tried to join the firefight, but was blocked by Diaz. “Haul that thing as far away as possible! Those wolves can’t have the pack. Hurry!” Diaz took his rifle from me as he was patting my back to leave. Man really cared about his job, like no other. I can’t leave him alone. Not them. I rushed toward them as I motioned the caravan to distance themselves. I clutched my shotgun, ready to fight, but no. Diaz rushed toward me, ignoring the mongrels, clutching my collar. “The caravan needs you. They’re nothing without you. I want you to take care of them; see this through the end.” He pushed me toward the caravan, which was moving far too slow. Man was stubborn. Stupid. He can’t even aim right. How the hell is he going to live?
The caravan attracted two pairs of those mongrels. I motioned for them to move faster as I ran toward them. I shot my pistol at the beasts, hoping to catch one; at least, I scared them off. We ran fast; far away from Kramer and Diaz. Kramer. He was down on the ground, bit in the neck. Knees down, trying to piece his life. Diaz looked as if he just glimpsed his life, minding the wolves. The rest of the pack left us, as they started circling them. I couldn’t see much after a while.
We set up camp miles away from the pack. Miles away from where they were left. I was stupid. Stupid for following orders. I should’ve defied them then and there. Instead, I let them die. Just like I’ve let the others die. Everyone was silent. Eve just looked at the fire. “I’ve known those two for years. Looked after them like my brothers.” Mark was silent, yet I could see the worry in his eyes. “You know those two. We’ll get some rest, go back there tomorrow.” Decker looked at him alarmed, as he clutched his daughter close to him. “Are you kidding? We’ll be live bait for those damn things. Coming back there is like coming to their den… I’m sure they’ve—“ His daughter interrupted him by covering his mouth. And yet, Eve remained to look at the fire. But after a few moments, she looked at all of us. “Diaz wanted us to finish this run. For the sake of him… for the sake of Kramer, let’s finish their last run. Our last run.” She looked at me.
“We can’t keep resting like this. That pack out there… there may be more of them. And they will never stop until they get all the food they’ve eaten. That big one… the first we ever saw; it told us that it was hungry for our Brahmin. Now that we’ve ignored it, it wants all the damn food.” I looked at them, though a few barely looked back. “We keep on moving. We finish this route. Those things, they’ll be comin’ at us at any moment. When it gets close enough to bite you… to weaken you, you shoot all the bullets you have. You give it everything you’ve got, so long as you kill it.”