Don't Die, Will
"Hi, dad. I've turned 17 today." Julia gave a smile, "How have you been?"
"It's my birthday, so Will told me that he would teach me how to ride a horse."
"I know, right? I was surprised too when I heard that he could ride a horse. He learnt it from Olivia. Olivia, you know her, don't you?"
"Yes, it's that girl we met before coming to Rust. She seemed to really getting along with Will. I wonder if they are in a relation-" She stopped in the middle of her sentence, "Ahh, don't tell Will that I was telling you about this. You heard nothing. Okay?"
"You'd be surprised to learn that I now know how to shoot a gun. Yeah, a real gun. Emma taught me. She is really nice and friendly. I really like her. I hope she will teach me how to hunt and other stuff she knows. I am really looking forward to it."
"No, you don't know her. She told me that she was Will's classmate. Though Will never said anything about her. He never mentioned her even once. Well, he never mentioned anyone. The other day I got to know that Nolan, Manny, Arthur, Ruby were also from his class. Basically everyone. There are more people too about his age. He seem to get along with everyone except Arthur. I don't know why though. Well, I can't blame him. This Arthur guy is always in a bad mood. He tries to boss around everyone. But it looks like nobody actually cares about him. He's always alone by himself. Now that I am thinking about it, I kinda feel bad about that guy."
"Also there is this one guy named Ethan. I don't know what his problem is but he always gives me the creeps."
"You don't have to worry about that. I can handle myself."
"Yeah sorry, I am talking too much."
"Aww, thanks. That's why I love you so much dad. No matter what I say, it never bothers you."
"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about him." Julia recalled, "He didn't change a bit in these 2 years. He usually stays in his room all alone all day. Doesn't really like to interact with people that much. You know Lucas. He's always been like this, a little kid."
"Yes he does. He only talks to me and Will. I am actually worried about him a little bit. Who knows what he'll gonna do when Will and I are not around."
"Yeah, you're right. I am just overthinking it. He'll be fine." Julia looked at her father.
"Okay okay. I will leave you alone now. I know this is the time for your nap. It's my birthday so you don't get to make any excuses. I will be leaving now."
"Huh? Jack? Yes he does. He always visits you now and then. Actually, he visits you more than me and Will. Hmm, I am actually kinda amazed by that. Is there anything going between you two?" She tried to joke a little.
"Mom wouldn't be happy about it though."
"Yeah, I miss mom too. I want to see her again. Well, I do get to see her now and then. In the sky I mean. She has turned into a star. She often comes to visit me at night."
"No! I am not crazy! You're crazy!"
"All right, I am leaving, I am leaving. You don't have to send me away. I can walk on my own." She kissed her father on his forehead.
"These are the things that happened since the day you were in coma, 2 years...time flies, huh. I'll visit you more often from now on. I promise. Hope you'll get better soon. We are waiting."
Julia left the patients' room.
"¿Puedo entrar, doctor?" Will asked for Juan's permission.
"Oh, Will. Come in, come in." Juan said, "Your Spanish is getting good."
"No, no doctor. You don't need to praise me. I just learnt a bit."
"Hey, Will." Ruby waved her hand.
"Hi Ruby. What are you doing here?"
"I asked doctor to teach me about medical stuff. So he's helping me."
"She is very stubborn. I don't like to teach. But she wouldn't leave me alone so I had no choice."
Ruby smiled like she did something wrong.
"Oh I totally forgot. You came to see your father, right?"
"No. I was just checking in."
"Oh, then come here. I was just giving Ruby a lesson. You should join too."
"Lesson? about what?"
"Take a look at this first."
Will walked to Juan. He looked down at the stretcher.
One of the deads.
"Where the hell did you get this thing."
"I requested Rodriguez to bring me one but that's not the issue here. Listen," He asked, "Do you know how to kill a man eater?"
"Everybody knows. Aim for the head."
"Right, that's where the brain is. So, our common sense will tell us to attack the brain. But..." He pointed out, "There's another way to kill them."
"Yes. And that is the behind of it's neck. Right here."
"Let me ask you another question." He asked, "How does a person get infected by them?"
"From getting bitten."
"You're correct. That's not the only case." He looked at Will's eyes, "If they scratch you, you're as good as dead. But the chances are you might survive if you cut off your bitten or scratched limb."
"But what if...it's something you can't cut off? Like, ahh...your face, stomach, chest or neck?"
"Then I am afraid, the person won't have any choice but to die."
"I know, but that's how it is." He exhaled, "by the way Will, do you know the symptoms of getting infected?"
"There are symptoms?" He never heard of any.
"Of course there are." He added, "But it depends on the person. Some people turn in 24 hours after getting infected. On the other hand, some people catch high fever, cough blood and get weak."
"For how long?"
"The second one takes a while. Between 24 to 48 hours."
"Jesus, you know a lot, doctor." Ruby praised.
"I've been researching on the man eaters for the past few years. This is all I could learn though. Not much." He said, "But someday, I will find the cure and revive the humankind."
Everyone got quiet. Juan was lost in the moment.
"Huh? Oh oh, sorry." He laughed, "I got caught in the moment, ha ha."
"Will, I've been thinking about your father the other day."
"What were you thinking?"
"He's a tough son of a bitch. It's a miracle that he's still alive."
"Yeah." Will smiled, "And thank you for that. You're the reason he's still alive."
"Don't thank me. He's fighting on his own. Hm...maybe I am a bit responsible for him being alive." He laughed, "But the last fight is his. He gotta do it alone."
"Will, what are you doing here?"
"Ethan? What are you doing here?"
"I've been searching for you all over the places."
"Why? What's wrong?"
"We are having a meeting. Jack's calling you."
"Go with him. Your lesson here is over." Juan said.
"I brought him."
Will entered the discussion room. People were standing surrounding the table. Grace, Rodriguez, Nolan, Arthur, Olivia, Emma, Katie, Synthia were present.
He came close to the table. A map was spread on the table.
"Winter is coming." Jack began to talk, "It will get hard to find food and to hunt. So we have to be prepared for it." He looked at everyone, "Now, look at the map."
Everyone looked at the map. It had some specific places marked with circle and each circle marked places were named with alphabets in order. Some places were marked with question mark and exclamatory sign.
"The plan is simple. You guys will split into teams and search this places." He pointed at the circle ones.
"What about the signs with question marked?" Synthia asked.
"Those places are yet to be explored. It's up to you whether you want to go see what's there or not."
"I am assuming that we should avoid the places with exclamatory signs."
"Correct, Katie. Last time we checked those places, they were overrun."
"When are we going?" asked Will.
"Tomorrow. By then, decide and split in to a team of two. We have many places to search so we can't use too many people for each places."
"If you have any questions then feel free to ask."
Everyone looked at each other.
"No? Okay. This meeting is over here." Said Jack, "If any of you want farther information, I will be here."
Everyone left the room.
"So you heard what Jack said right?" Will looked at Olivia while smiling.
"What did he say?"
"He said a team of two." He was still smiling.
"So what? And why are you smiling like that?" Olivia started to smile too.
"No it's nothing. I was thinking about you and me, a team. We do make a good team, you know."
"Oh shit." He frowned.
"What? You lost interest?"
"No no, not about that. I promised Julia something."
"I told that I would teach her how to ride a horse as a birthday gift."
"When is her birthday?"
"It's 7th September."
"Ahh...today is 7th September."
"No shit. Are you serious?!"
"She's gonna kill me. I still haven't wished her. She's really sensitive when it's come to stuff like this."
"I can teach her horse riding if you don't want to. I mean, I taught you."
"I hate to break it down to you. But y-your not that good when it comes to teaching."
"What!" She was surprised, "Take that back now."
"I wish I could."
"I taught you, you learnt fast. What about that?"
"That's because I am a fast learner."
"So what about when I taught you how to use a gun properly?"
"Well, I was struggling at first, don't you think?"
"You're such a liar."
"All right, all right, forgive me. I was just trying to tease you a little."
"Yeah yeah whatever." She said, "Now go wish Julia and teach her horse riding."
"But you forgave me right?"
"Yeah yeah I forgive you. Now, go."
"I'll see you later." He headed for Julia.
Will and Olivia didn't notice that Arthur was looking at that from a bit far away. While looking at them talking, he clenched his jaw and made a fist with his right hand.
"Emma, what are you doing here?" Will peeked at Julia's room.
She was sitting next to Julia on her bed.
"Nothing. I was just asking if she wants to join me for the mission."
"Won't it be great!" She was really excited about this.
"No no no no. Never." Will refused immediately.
"You're not ready. I mean, you've never left this place. You don't know what's out there."
"I know what's out there. And I never left this place 'cause you won't let me to."
"I am just trying to protect you."
I am not a kid anymore! I can protect myself."
"Oh really? Can you shoot a gun?"
"Yes, I can."
"Yeah? Who taught you?"
"She did." Julia pointed at Emma.
Emma shrugged her shoulders, "Girl gotta protect herself. It's a basic to know how to shoot a gun. You are just being over-protective."
"But what if she hurt herself?"
"Will." Emma looked him straight in the eyes, "She's not a kid anymore. Let her do it."
"Yes! Just let me do what I want! Jeez!"
Will breathed out deeply and rubbed his forehead for a moment.
"Fine. You can go with Emma-"
"But!" He pointed his finger up, "I won't teach you how to ride a horse."
"Don't worry, I will learn it from Olivia." She ran out from the room and went outside, "I'll go tell her!"
Will looked at her little sister and smiled, "Such a kid."
"Thanks for that."
"For letting her go." Emma said, "She's been in this place for 2 years now. She needed it."
"Yeah, I know that. It's just..." He sat next to Emma, "It's just...after what happened to dad, I am kinda afraid. I mean, I am all she has now. What will I tell my dad if something happens to her?"
"Aww, so sweet." She put her hand on he's back, "You're such a caring brother."
"Shut up. Don't make me feel embarrassed now." He blushed a little.
"No! I really mean it." She smiled, "And don't worry, I will keep her safe."
He let a deep breath come out. He looked at her and smiled, "Thanks."
"You're a nice friend, you know that?"
"Umm, I know." She smiled back.
"Do we really have to do this?" Ethan was uninterested.
"It's not for me to decide. You know that." Nolan was slowly moving with his bow and arrow, "It's already become a tradition to have a gathering the night before going to the 'winter mission'."
"I know that, but why me?" He said, "You can do it on your own. You're an expert, right?"
"I am." He kept looking around, "But what if something happens and I get in danger. You gotta let others know. That's your job."
"I get that, but why me!"
"Would you keep quiet for a sec? I can't concentrate."
Nolan and Ethan went deeper into the forest in searching of a deer or few rabbits. As it was mentioned before, Nolan was a excellent hunter. As a result, he has given the job to hunt down animals for gathering party before they go searching for winter food.
"Would you used to do it even before I joined the community?"
"Who was your partner then?"
"Olivia and Emma used to join me now and then. But mostly no one." He crouched down and touched the ground, "I've always been alone."
Ethan tried to change the topic. He didn't like out of sorts conversations, "What are you looking at?"
"Where?" He crouched down too.
"Look." He pointed out, "It's a deer. Probably a male." Nolan stood up.
"The footprints are fresh."
"Keep your eyes sharp."
They followed those footprints. They led them to farther deep into the nature. The path got more difficult to walk on. Ethan never came this deep into the forest. So, it was all new for him. He was moving carefully stepping on Nolan's steps to avoid any trouble.
"Don't move." Nolan hid in a bush.
"You see something?" Ethan whispered.
"Look straight ahead. It's the deer." His eagle's eyes spotted the target easily.
Nolan slowly set his arrow to the target and stopped breathing. He took a moment and released it. The arrow hit the deer's head.
"Come on. Let's take it and go back."
They went close to the deer. Nolan picked his arrow and held his head. Ethan held the other side of the deer. It was really heavy. Ethan felt a bit happy about it. He would be able to eat something delicious after a long time.
"Get your hands off that deer." A guy came out of a bush near by. He had hunting rifle pointed at them.
They froze. Nolan and Ethan slowly backed away from the deer.
"We don't want any trouble." Nolan slowly put his hands on the air, "We just want the deer."
"The deer is mine." The stranger said.
"But we caught it." Ethan tried to talk back.
"It doesn't matter. When I said it's mine, then it's mine." He slowly approached the deer, "Now back off."
"Listen..." Nolan advanced a step towards him, "We don't have to do this. You can have a share if you want. Okay?"
"Try to think about the situation here." Nolan pointed out, "This is two against one. If you shoot me, he will kill you." Nolan pointed Ethan with his head, "And if you shoot him, I will have to take you down. No matter how you think, we have the advantage."
The stranger said nothing. He looked at Nolan and kept thinking about what he said. It was logical to go with the deal.
"Fine." He went with the deal in the end, "But I get to cut the meat."
"Okay, go ahead."
The guy with the hunting rifle slowly got closed to the deer and started to cut it's skin. Eventually, he got busy and let his guard down.
"Nolan." Ethan whispered, "It's our chance."
"No, Ethan. Don't screw this up."
"But he's not even looking at us. He's busy cutting the fucking meat."
"Ethan, keep quiet."
The stranger cut his half and slowly got away with it.
"Damn it, we could've take him down. That motherfucker."
Nolan got to the deer and looked. The stranger took away a bigger share.
"Ethan." He said while looking at their share.
"Let me tell you one thing."
He turned his face to Ethan, "Your life is more precious than this meat."
Ethan couldn't find anything to talk back. He just stood still and scratched his head.
"Now help me with this thing. We gotta head back before it's dark."
"Hey, Lucas. What are you doing?" His room's door was open.
"Oh Will." He seemed a bit happy to see him, "Come in."
Will got into his room and closed the door. Lucas took over the room that he and David used shared when they first came here. He reorganized the stuff in there. It looked better than before. Will sat on Lucas's bed beside him.
"What were you reading?"
"Ah, It's a book I found under the bed." He showed the cover to him, It's called The Silence of the Lambs."
"Oh, I read this book."
"You did?" He was curious to know.
"Is it good? I've only read the start of it."
"Yes. It's good."
"I never knew you read books."
"Of course I read books. What do you mean? Don't I look like a guy who likes to read?"
"Well, I don't read now. I would say I don't have the time to." He looked at the floor.
"I feel bad for David." He hugged the book, "Sometimes, I think that this is all my fault. All that happened until now."
"Why...do you thing that?"
He tightened his arms, "If I hadn't gone insane in that car. Ruth would've been still alive and nothing of this would never happened."
"Hey, hey now." Will put his arm across Lucas's shoulder, "It's not your fault. Not at all. It's just...she had it coming, you see. You could do nothing to stop it. You don't have to blame yourself for that. You got it? It was never your fault."
"Nobody blames you. So you shouldn't blame yourself either."
"Thanks." Lucas smiled.
"Don't worry about it. By the way." He added, "We are having a get together party outside before we go on to the mission. You wanna join us?"
"Julia didn't mention you?"
He shook his head.
I can't blame her. She's been really excited all day. Maybe she forgot to tell.
"Some of us will be going out tomorrow to search for food for this winter. You know, like every year."
"Is Julia going too?"
"So...I will be all alone." He sadly smiled.
Will felt bad for him. He wasn't used to having a lot of people around him, so he was always alone. The only two he is opened with are Will and Julia. After all these years in Rust, he was still locked in his room reading books and doing other stuff. And now, Julia was leaving to new adventures and stuff. He was feeling left alone.
"Y-you can come too if you want to."
"I can?" He asked.
"Why not? Of course."
"But, I don't even know how to shoot a gun."
"What are you talking about? You do know how to shoot a rifle, don't you?"
"I did. But I don't know if I still do. I haven't held a rifle in a long time."
"I am sure you still do. You'll remember it all once you get you hand on one."
"So, are you in?"
"I am not...really ready for it."
"Oh." Will understood, "I see, o-okay. Then I won't bother you with this."
"But thank you for asking." He said, "I know I am just a burden. But you and Julia still look after me. Thank you."
"You're not a burden, Lucas."
Lucas kept quiet. It was a awkward moment for those two. They had nothing to talk about by then.
"I guess, I will head back." Will finally broke the silence, "I will bring your dinner."
"I am not hungry."
"You don't want to eat? Nolan caught a deer. It's fresh meat. You will love it."
"I'll pass for today."
"Oh." He said, "Let me know if you feel like eating, okay?"
Will left the room and closed the door. Lucas looked at the closed door for a while. Then he went back to the book reading.
"Look what I have found!" The guy named Brad exclaimed.
"A fucking deer?" The group leader James asked, "Where did you find it? And where is the other half?"
"A deer?! I haven't eaten in days. Fuck me." said James's girlfriend Nia.
"Hey Diana! Look! We'll have a fucking deer tonight!" Brad called out his wife, "Where is she?"
"She's taking a leak behind those bushes." James pointed out.
"Hey! Don't fucking point at my wife while she's pissing."
"Cool dude. But tell me where's the other half? A bear ate it or somethin'?"
"You won't believe me what I saw today." Brad was really excited, "Today, when I went for hunting, I saw two kids hunted down this deer. I threatened them to give half of it." He intentionally left out the truth, "Then when they were heading back, I carefully followed them to find out their hideout. But oh my fucking God, you won't believe me. I saw them entering a place surrounded by walls and people."
"Don't bullshit me."
"I'm fucking serious. It's about 45 minutes path straight to this direction." He pointed his finger.
"Nia, you believe this guy?"
"I just want to eat. I am hungry." She wasn't in the mood of talking.
"A deer!" Brad's wife exclaimed.
"You're wife is done pissing, Brad." James started to laugh.
"Shut the fuck up, James. Listen to me. I am serious. I bet they have foods. warm beds, clothes, rooms and shit. Think about it. Think!"
"All right. All right." James said, "Tomorrow morning, we'll take a look at this place."
"You think they will let us in?"
"Tch tch tch." James leaned forward to Brad, "If they don't, I'll just take over the goddamn place."
"I wanna sleep in warm bed." Nia was acting like she was drunk.
"Don't worry my girl." James kissed Nia, "I will make that place mine. And we'll be able to live in peace. After a really fucking long time."
"Are we gonna eat the deer or what?" Brad's wife Diana reminded everyone.
"Let's eat it. I am fucking starving." Nia started to make a fire.
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