Chapter 4

I was tired. Hadn't slept, ran for miles. I don't know why I'm still alive.

Maybe it's my group. They'd been there to share my struggles. Save me from death...

Death. I don't know why it hasn't taken me yet. I don't know how many times it's tried. I've lost count.

I can't die now. Not with four people to carry.

Down on food, energy, hope... somehow, I can relate to the ruins I stand on. It must've been majestic in its day; towers of stone, holding people inside. People who lived in luxury. Towers, for the royalty. This boneyard lost its light; it's covered in darkness now.

The ruins. We could barely see our way.

I tried my best to look for some form of light. I was lucky; the first time I set my hand on the ground, I felt a long piece of wood. It was a stick, with the tip covered in cloth. I took out my handgun, placed the muzzle right next to the cloth, and pulled the trigger. The spark lit the cloth, as I'd expected.

Everybody looked as I held our only source of light. "Finally... I thought I had to wait 'till morning to see light," exclaimed Eve. She seemed to be the most uneasy one.

We continued to trek the ruins. The air was somehow covered in darkness; our path was fogged, every step of the way. The stench was mixed with the smell of gunpowder, blood, and dead bodies. Hiding was too much of my concern; I never knew this place was a trap.

"We're turning back. This isn't fit to be a shelter."

Eve shook her head sideways. "What did I tell you? C'mon. I'm starting to miss the dust already."

We reversed our path. We walked, hoping to get out of these ruins. But after fifteen steps, something I'd never expect happened.

A huge hunk of rocks fell on our path, completely blocking our way. This kind of trapping only occurs in caves.

The rubble wasn't too tall; it was climbable. But something kept us from moving.

"Did you see that?" asked Tristan all of a sudden. "Something glowing. It passed by one of the buildings... to my left."

I pointed the torch to the building she was talking about. Nothing.

Eve tapped me on my shoulder. "Demetrius..." I turned to her. She was pointing to my right. I turned.

The sight made me clutch my handgun. Yellow dots, floating from the ground. Crawling, or walking; I couldn't tell.

"Your guns. Take out your guns!"

The sound of everybody pulling out their weapons echoed throughout the surrounding area. The eyes flinched for a second. What the hell are they?

"I'll light the back. We shoot our way through. Our guns will light the way."

We stood there for a moment, frozen. Shocked. Scared. I thought the shadowmen were a myth...

Mark couldn't take it. He took the first shot from his rifle. A groaning noise came from the crowd of shadowmen. For a split-second, I saw them; as thin as ghouls, with dark spots. Ashes, perhaps. Their mouths were dripping.

"Keep shooting!"

The four in front of me pummeled the way with bullets, as we slowly moved forward. I was spotting our surroundings, and it didn't look good; more glowing eyes popped up all around us. "Move!! Push them away if you have to!" I shouted.

Eventually, the rest of the shadowmen blocking our way got scared of all the firing sounds and lights we've created. We were able to keep moving; I stayed right in the middle of them, lighting the way.

"Wherever there's road, keep running!"

We ran, like it was two days ago. Ran as fast as possible. Ran like nothing was going to stop us. But something did.

The thick fog that covered our way shielded a car that covered the whole road. We all made contact, hitting the car hard. We were pushed back, forced into the ground. I was the first to get up, after three seconds.

"Up! C'mon, up! Climb over the car!"

I jumped up the car; shortly after, Eve, then Tristan, then Decker followed. Mark has become increasingly slow; he was bleeding more than before. I was right in the middle of the car, and the group. I rushed toward the car to check on Mark. At least eight of them were close; I couldn't count the rest behind them.

Mark finally managed to climb over the car. I ran a distance from him, lighting ahead of his path. He was in terrible shape. His skin was pale, and he was sweating. His wounds were practically dripping blood.

I know he was going to catch up. I ran, looking ahead of my path. I ignored Mark.

We were so close. A block away from the road out of the ruins. I never thought I'd be glad to see the wasteland again. It was a moment of relief I needed.

I looked toward Mark, hoping to see the same light in his eyes. He was limping. He was slow. One of the creatures leaped toward him, knocking him to the ground.


Everything went mute. The exit. Mark. The thing had taken a bite of his neck. Mark tried to crawl.

I dropped my torch. I took out my shotgun and shot the thing. I grabbed Mark's hand, and placed his hand over my shoulder. We ran, toward the exit.

At least, that's what I wanted to see. Instead, Mark was swarmed by three more shadowmen. I shot what I could, but there were just too many. I had to run away. Far from this. Far from death.

I eventually caught up to the group, who was at a considerable distance. They were trying to catch their breath.

Eve was the first to approach me when they saw me.

"Where's Mark?"

I shouldn't have led them to those ruins. To think, its walls would keep us safe. Instead, it trapped us, made us food for the shadowpeople. I'd run away from death again. Someone less deserving escapes it.

"Where's Mark!?"

Eve shoved me.

"He was eaten."

Eve looked down the ground, then shook her head.

"You. You're killing us. Leading us to.... all these places..."

Tears streamed down from her eyes. Her voice shook.

"You're killing us, Demetrius. Every single one of us. Your words of survival... t-they're death!"

I thought I'd escape death. I thought I'd leave it, now that I've found people. I thought I'd save them from it. But no. Everywhere I go, I bring death with me.

"Listen to me."

Eve turned my head to her's.

"You ... you turn left, and never look back. Tomorrow morning, you'll never see us again."

She pointed my direction.

I couldn't say a word. She was right. I turned to see where she pointed.

The wolves.

The moment I saw them, they started running for us. Eve, and then the rest, started shooting them. None of them went down.

Shortly afterward, the rest of the pack came into view.

We started running, once again, hoping to outrun the wolves. Hoping to outrun death.

Just as we were running, I heard a gunshot; it was from a distance. I heard something trip right behind me.


Eve was shot, right on her leg. She tripped, hands to the ground. She looked at us.


One wolf jumped right for her neck, forcing her to the ground. After that wolf, two more came.

She shouted for us to keep running. Covered in wolves, she shouted.

It should've been me.

I should've tripped, leaving me to the wolves. I should've looked back, stopped running, and leave myself open. I should've shot my own foot, so that they can catch up to me.

I should've died, a long time ago.

I should've died to let them all live.

And yet, here I stand, here to see my only friends die. Live, to see Decker and Tristan die. An old man and a young woman outliving me.

I took out my handgun. My old friend.

Tristan was shouting at me, tears falling down her cheeks. Shouting, telling me something.

Do it, coward. Pull the trigger. See yourself out.

But I couldn't. I couldn't. I lost the grip of my handgun.

Why can't I? Decker and Tristan are going to die, anyway. I'll live long to recall this memory. The day they left.

Then I remember something. The woman, and her children. The ones that I watched over, as they left my sight. The ones I saw live.

And everything came to focus again.

"They're coming! For goodness' sake, they're coming!"

Decker pulled me down to hide, right behind a giant boulder. We'd been hiding here all this time, hiding from something.

Two mercs, young ones, carrying rifles. One of them was whistling, as if motioning something.

I gripped my shotgun, and carefully pulled it out. I looked to Decker and Tristan; they were looking back at me, hoping for something.

I reached for my pack. Two cans left. I handed it to them.

"I'm going out there. You run, as fast as you could. I'll draw out the pack."

They looked at me. It took a while, but Decker finally nodded his head. He looked back to his daughter, whose eyes were red from crying.

"No noise."

I threw my shotgun to where the mercs could see it. Then I came out, hands on my head. The two had their backs turned, looking at something else. I whistled for their attention.

They were young, dirt in their faces as if they've been traveling for days....

Looking for me.

"Hey. Hey... it's time to stop lookin'. Y'found him."

The merc closest to me turned. "Shit... Doug, lookie this!"

Merc was wearing an aviator hat. He was calling his other hatless mate. "It's him, Doug.... fucker's given himself up!"

The hatless one narrowed his eyes to confirm it. "No fucking way..."

He took out a pistol. Aimed for me, and shot. The bullet went through the left side of my stomach. It forced me to kneel on one knee.

"Wait... don't shoot the fucker!"

The pilot merc forced his friend to holster his pistol, but he hesitated.

I turned to see if Decker and Tristan had left. They've moved a considerable distance, far from the rocks.

"Those things y'got out there.... those pups.... bet I can kill 'em, then you both."

The hatless merc wanted to shoot me again, but his friend pulled his hand down, more forceful this time.

"Call 'em. Call 'em all. I'll eat 'em right in front of you."

The hatless merc turned, and started whistling. He started walking back, so that he could whistle louder. Calling the whole pack.

The other merc walked up to me, clutching his rifle.

I wake up, finding myself on a dark room with one light. From the looks of the walls, it was a bunker.

My head was aching from the right side. Must've been butted and got knocked out.

Idiots. The way they tied me was too loose. They didn't even tie me to anything. They must've been in a hurry.

I forced the bindings off my hands. I rubbed against the walls, slowly slipping free. Didn't take too long to get it off.

I scanned for my knife. Idiots hadn't found it; under the chest of my leather armor. They've forgotten that I'm their hostage.

I took it out, gripped it with my right hand, and made for the exit. Then something started making static noises.

"Mercs. Let the convict inside the prison room escape. Shoot the shit out of him when you see him."

This bunker must've been there's. Somewhere underneath the wasteland.

I exited the small room, looking out for what he was talking about. One wolf was sitting out there, slowly turning to me as I approached it. The thing jumped; I blocked it with my arm.

It was gnawing on it for a good while, but not long enough. As I carried it, I stabbed it multiple times in its body. So much so that I shredded a hole into it. Eventually, the thing stopped biting. The noise stopped; I heard the sound of footsteps coming close in the next turn.

I turn right in the hallway, only to see a merc trying to catch me off-guard. He shot his SMG, mostly hitting the makeshift shield I made out of the wolf. I pushed him toward the wall; he was shouting over the wolf that was bleeding on him. I took the chance to stab him on the side, as much as I could.

I laid the wolf down, took his SMG, checked him for more clips, and left.

Didn't bother to check every room in the area; just the rest of the wolves. I never thought I would've found them in the next room.

The room had been made into a wolf trap for me; at least three of them were there, circling it. I rushed to close the room and have a wolf biting at me from the small opening. I closed it as hard as I could, snapping the thing's mouth.

I walked right back to the corpse, tapping for any explosives. Nothing.

I went right back to the wolf room, ready to shoot. As soon as I opened the door, I fired one whole clip. After wasting one clip, I come to look and reload. Looks like I've hit the mouthless one, and grazed the other two. The other one jumped up to me, aiming for my neck; I duck at the right time, finishing my reload. I unload the whole clip on the thing; so much so that there were holes on it. I reload my SMG with the last clip, then got ready for the last remaining one. This one was patient, waiting for the right moment. It just stood there, growling, looking at me. It didn't know that I was aiming my gun the whole time. I shoot the thing four times, disorienting it. Then I rush toward it, stabbing it as much as I could. It struggled, making the stabbing hard, but it eventually relaxed. Four down, four to go.

I progressed to the next room, with no threats overcoming me. Was the wrong time for me to feel my gunshot wound. It made my movement a tad slower, and my vision a bit blurry. But after a few seconds, it all came back.

I carefully approached an open room. As I was a few feet away from it, a wolf lunges forward, again trying to bite me on my neck. I managed to grab its neck with my left hand. I drop my gun, and started carrying it on the body. With all the strength I had, I tried to crush its throat. The thing put up a fight; its fangs were so close to my face, I could smell its breath. I gripped tighter, eventually transferring my other arm onto its neck; now both hands are on it. I gripped tighter, and tighter. Its body was thick. Even tighter now. I've laid it on the ground, trying to choke it, as it was getting heavy. Tighter. I gripped its throat with my right hand. I twisted its neck to the right. The thing stopped biting.

I rush to see if there was more in that room. Instead, I catch a glimpse of the two from earlier, and another one, aiming their guns. They opened fire when I least expected it. Surprising, but they were terribly inaccurate.

I managed to jump to a stack of crates to my left. I didn't want to see this.

They shot me; I could feel a hole on my left thigh. I'd been grazed about ten times, all over my body. I couldn't barely move.

And what's worse is that I left my SMG on the other room. Nothing but me, and my knife.

They sent a wolf to test me. I'd hear it ahead of time, as it was making running noise on some stairs. Those stairs must lead to where the mercs are standing. I prepared my knife, and myself.

The wolf didn't hesitate and leaped for me. Like the one earlier, I catch it by the neck. I stabbed its body multiple times, letting it suffer.

I jump up from the barricade, limping, using the wolf as a shield. Was big enough to withstand some bullets. One of them stopped shooting, though.

I rushed toward the stairs. My foolishness caused me to drop the heavy wolf corpse and trip up on the first few steps. The bullets inside me shook. I climbed for it for a while, then started stepping on it.

On the turn, I stop at the wall. I know they'll be expecting me. I listen for footsteps; I could hear one, though very light. I wait to prepare, but it wasn't moving fast enough.

I pretend to be rushing, making noises. The idiot fell for it; he rushed down the stairs, not expecting me on the turn. I surprise him with a stab to the throat. The merc coughed blood, staining both my hand and my knife. I pull it out, and grabbed his rifle.

I prepared for the worst in the next room. Just to make sure, I slowly crept up to the opened entrance and started blind-firing. No response.

I look to see who I shot; it was a wolf. Tried to ambush me, but instead I shot it. Enough times for it to be crying. I put the thing out of its misery.

I sneak into the next room. I heard gunshots, and talking.

"I told you! I told you these fucking mutts are outta control!!"

Sounded like the merc with the hat. After he talked, I heard more pistol shots.

All this sneaking and waiting focused me back to my wounds. My hip was bleeding badly. My leg was giving out. I lost focus again.

I fought myself to get back up, but no dice. I was reduced to crawling.

I drop violently, crawling towards the room where the gunshots came from. I crawled, then walked, then crawled.

I was exhausted.

Wake up. You're not done.

Wake up.

I didn't know how long I was down, but I woke up. I continue to crawl to the next room, trying to get back up to my feet.

There it was, on my feet. A dead wolf, its forehead bearing a bullet hole. I scanned the whole room for the current situation.

The hatless merc was against the wall, neck fully opened. All of his blood was smeared on the wall behind him. A wolf lied down his lap, with a knife stuck on its head. I didn't know where the other merc was.

I'm done.

I can't do this anymore.

I just wanted to sit. Breathe for a few moments.

I sat at a nearby wall. Thing felt like a bed. I wanted to just sleep.

And there it was. Something behind the dark corner of the room.

It was him. The first wolf I saw. The one that warned me.

He was chewing on the other merc. He just laid there, taking all of it.

These things... they were wild, after all.

I wonder if Tristan and Decker left. Wonder if I bought them enough time.

I'd been shot like this, numerous occasions. Lived through them.

My daughter would've been as old as Tristan. She could've been with me, traveling with me like they did.

I wouldn't have been welcoming of death then. I would've been scared of death. Running away, living life as much as I can.

I've lived it, as much as I could. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have killed all these wolves.

My knife... my good old friend.

The alpha wolf turned to me, his mouth dripping blood.

I clutched my knife as hard as I clutched my daughter, the first day she was born.