This is my latest entry into Chuck Wendigs’ Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. I had to come up with a for the prompt The End Of A Long Journey and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!
Holbrook came home to die.
His quest was finished and his enemies bested. Now, maybe, he could be at peace.
Agatha was struggling to support his weight as she practically dragged him up the lonely hill, back to his shack where this had all started. She was trying to hold one arm around his waist whilst using her other hand to try and stop his other arm from slipping from her shoulders. If it did, she knew she would drop him and she didn’t think she had the strength to pick him back up.
Eventually, after stopping several times to adjust Holbrook’s weight, Agatha made it to the shack, kicking the frail, wooden door open and letting Holbrook slip from her shoulders onto the floor, where using what little strength he had left, he managed to crawl to the bedstead in the corner of the room. His breathing was heavy, shallow and ragged. The wounds on his back had reopened and wine stains of blood were seeping through his dirty yellowing shirt.
After taking a moment to stand with her hands on her knees and catch her breath, Agatha gingerly stepped into the shack turning her head left and right to take in her surroundings, anything to delay having to take another look at Holbrook’s withering, slowly dying body.
The shack was dark apart from where the door lay broken open on its hinges from the force of Agatha’s kick. There, golden late afternoon light made a cut through the darkness. Particles of dust and old age gently floated in the beam. Where the light stopped and rested on Holbrook’s meager possessions, there was a thick layer of pale dust. It was only now she realised how long they had been gone.
There was something else, though. Not everything had been undisturbed and as they had been left. On some of the shelfs and the work table, boxes and cans had been over turned or knocked to the floor. In the dust that carpeted the floor there was a broken trail, like something had been dragged through it. In these tracks there were dark stains and Agatha’s nose twitched at the unmistakeable, iron filled smell of blood.
Her eyes followed the tracks in dust to a pile of dead rats. On the top of the pile, there lay one, large, live one. Its body twitched and convulsed. In its neck were three puncture wounds and from these wounds trailed three greased stain wires. Now, Agatha’s head to turned to follow these wires to what she knew sat waiting in the far corner of the shack.
The cyborg was nearly dead. Its humanoid form sat slumped in the corner. Its head hung from a broken neck and where it settled, a sharp, broken, chin had pierced the thin metal of its chest that was now rusting and crumbling away to expose the circuitry underneath. Its claw handed arms were splayed out at its sides and each time the half dead rat twitched, so did the cyborg.
Without even really thinking about it, Agatha flicked the button on her holster, drew her gun an levelled it at the cyborg. Her finger was just tightening around the trigger when she heard Holbrook’s whispering, almost gone voice from behind her.
‘D-don’t,’ he said, ‘there’s been enough of this, don’t you think? It- it’s nearly gone anyway. Not m-much ju-juice from a rat.’
Agatha knew he was right. There had been enough killing, enough destruction. She holstered her weapon and carefully stepped towards the cyborg. She reached around the back of its neck, her fingers searching for the particular node that would shut it down. As her finger came to rest on it, she paused. With her other hand she lifted the cyborg’s head and looked into the barely glowing holes it had as a substitue for eyes.
“I wonder if you’re the last of them.” She said to nobody in particular.
The cyborg didn’t respond. It’s eyes glowed slightly brighter for a second. Agatha wondered if it was trying to smile then pushed the thought away and pressed the node, the light went out and the cyborg stopped twitching.
Agatha sat there for a moment, hoping that this was indeed the last one. There had been so many along the way. They had been people once, downloaded into mechanical bodies to extend their life, only for that fucking virus to come along and turn them into killers. How many lives had actually been cut short because of the virus? Agatha felt herself physically shudder at the thought. It hadn’t even been that many for her. Even with how far they had gone, how many she herself had taken out. Compared to Holbrook, it was barely a handful. For him, it had been his entire life.
She looked now to where he lay on the rickety bed. He was on his side, propped up on his elbow. His whole body shook as he hacked up a cough and was rewarded with bloody spittle. Agatha’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at his thin, frail, frame fighting to get control of himself. ‘He was always fighting,’ she thought as we went to him and took his hand in hers. His skin felt like old paper, brittle and thin. He wouldn’t have to fight much longer. The Hero of the Hub would soon be able to rest.
She let her hand rest on his feverish forehead for moment before slowly brushing it backwards, letting his own sweat slick back the hair from his eyes, and gave him her most gentle smile.
“Its done?” he asked, voice barely audible.
Agatha nodded. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she did. “All done.” She said.
Holbrook nodded. His eyelids drooping. Not long now. “A-am I, am I a good man?”
Again Agatha nodded, she tried to reply but no words would come. They stuck in her throat and she thought for a moment that she might choke on them. She looked away from Holbrook, not wanting him to see the dismay on her face. His whole life, his whole damned life he’d fought them, wracking himself with guilt, convinced he was some kind of murderer because of what they were before the virus. THEY WEREN’T HUMAN! she wanted to scream at him, THEY WERE FREAKS TO START WITH!
Instead she took a deep swallow and wiped the tears from her face with the heel of her hand and looked back to him.
“Yes,” she whispered to him. “You are a good man. You’re probably the best of us.” And with that she leant down and kissed him on his cheek. It was cold. She leaned back with a gasp, his eyes were glazed over and staring into nothingness. He was gone.
The sun was starting to set when Agatha patted the last of the soil down with the back of the shovel. She placed it upright and leant against it whilst she caught her breath after the physical exertion of burying Holbrook.
Whilst she waited for her breath to slow and the trickle of sweat to find its cool way down her spine, she looked out to the west. On the horizon she could see the lights of the city starting to come on; little yellow pinpricks that seem to flicker into existence in a programmed sequence. In front of that, she could see the fields that Holbrook had been tilling before they had left. Their long journey had meant that the fields had become overgrown and neglected. It also looked as though something had been digging in there. Moles most likely.
Agatha stood back and stretched, pushing the base of her back with her hands. She then took the shovel and headed back to the tool shed. As she leant it against the wall and closed the shed door, she looked back to the city on the horizon, back to the neglected fields and thought to herself, ‘I can carry this on. I can resow the fields and make a go of this place.’
Even though the act of burying her best friend had been a sorrowful one, the work of the digging had been good for her. She felt tired but alive, and ready to keep living. She owed it to all those who had been lost as a result of the virus. She owed it to Holbrook.
The sun had now all but disappeared behind the horizon, a thin orange line was all that was left to prove it had ever been there and now the city lights cast a vivid glow into the ink blue sky. Agatha couldn’t help but smile.
‘In that city, the human race is starting again and if they can,’ she thought as she placed a hand on her stomach, feeling a wave of joy at the movement of the new life inside her. ‘So can I’.
Thanks for reading,