“Sit,” she told the dog. It did so without hesitation, its cold, beady eyes matching hers. “I don’t appreciate that look.”
Whatever she expected from the dog, she did not receive. It continued to stare with what appeared to be a look of contempt. It was something that all dogs of that breed had in common. A slender form, complimenting its sense of superiority. Eyes that hid any emotion other than complete focus. Intimidating if your confidence couldn’t match it.
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Yet, what point was there in intimidation tactics in these times?
The monsters didn’t feel intimidated. Quite simply, the undead was no more than brainless drones. Decaying forms with the intelligence of lesser insects. Yet, with their size in number, they could easily be a death sentence to those underequipped or outnumbered.
Sarah was both.
A hunting rifle with a few bullets. Alone in a cabin in the wilderness. Her only company and source of entertainment was a dog with a tendency to give her attitude. It did little to raise her morale. She only wondered how many undead it could takedown before it was killed by the horde advancing up the mountain.
“Not much,” Sarah said aloud. “You can sit, so you have some basic training at least. I’m guessing two if you move fast and stay aware. You don’t look like a killer and a single scratch is all it takes, I hear.”
The dog was unfazed by her monologue and it remained that way when she voiced her conclusion on the dog.
“Trained or not, you are a liability,” Sarah sighed. “Stay.”
Sarah walked to the door and opened it. The sun was setting, the forest had become an ominous shadow against the orange sky, the thought of undead just beyond the trees continued to linger in her mind. Yet, despite all this, her eyes still drifted to the freshly filled grave to her left.
He was an old, foolish man, who thought Sarah was infected. He was ready to shoot her with the hunting rifle now slung over her shoulder, but it seemed the fear or the effort was too much for him to handle. The man clutched his heart and collapsed. He could only scream when Sarah knelt by his side, wanting to help, but not knowing what to do. The old man did get a shot off, no doubt attracting any dead to the area. Something that only worried Sarah now.
Sarah only blamed herself partly for sneaking up on the cabin but placed most of the guilt on the media. It stoked the fires of fear until it was forced off the air.
These bitter thoughts and the memory of the man had only caused her to pause at the doorway, the dog watching the back of her head. The sky was already purple, becoming a blue that preceded night. It was too late to go anywhere, so Sarah decided to stay, closing the door. She began moving furniture to block the windows.
The dog, now lying down where she told it to sit, closed its eyes. It wasn’t long before it was snoring. It wasn’t the old man’s dog, otherwise, it would have attacked her when she was burying him. Yet, this cabin was certainly its home. It knew it well, it appeared comfortable, it acted like it was safe.
Maybe the old man had found the place as Sarah did?
Soon after this thought crossed her mind, Sarah heard the first sounds of movement coming from outside. It was the collective shuffle of the undead. Not loud, not fast, but ever-present. A horde made a hum from the distance, but as they drew closer, you could hear the clomps of individual shoes, the hiss of air escaping their lungs, as they still breathed, but with a constant death rattle.
Twig snaps. The creatures were close, as close as the old man’s grave at least.
The lights were out, the dog could no longer be seen. All entrances and windows were blocked. If she remained quiet, Sarah might survive the night. The undead would move around the cabin, now an obstacle and not a destination. However, she was not so lucky.
There was a sound of clicking coming from one side of the room. Sarah quickly identified it as the click of the dog's nails as it padded towards one of the blocked windows. It stopped short, barely visible. Sarah knew it could hear the horde and horrible anxiety filled her.
If the dog thought it was a threat, then it would growl. It would bark. The dead would sense life and try to enter. With their numbers, they would succeed and the few bullets that Sarah had would not save her.
The dog barked.
Immediately, Sarah started loading the gun, making sure the safety was off. The shuffling stopped as all attention turned to the cabin. She could imagine the many heads twisting to focus on the windows and doors. The bullets were loaded, with two to spare. The dog continued to bark and for a moment Sarah considered putting it down. She didn’t have the heart.
“I should have thrown you outside,” Sarah whispered bitterly.
With her emotions voiced as loud as she dared, Sarah crawled along the floor towards a spare room, one that had a window she forgot to block. Fortunately, the undead had not found it and it provided an opportunity for her to escape. She didn’t hesitate, much like the dog when it was given an order.
The apocalypse had trained her well.
Sarah opened the window and launched through, not caring about the scratches or bruises she would receive from sticks and stones. Before she hit the ground, she heard the splintering of wood as the undead broke into the cabin. The dogs barking turned to yelps and Sarah started running.
Her eyes had adjusted enough to the dark for her to spot any nearby zombies, she felt confident she could keep out of their clutches at the cost of a night's rest. What she did not expect was her hesitation when the dog continued to yelp, bark and growl.
Looking back, Sarah saw the dog was outside, grabbing legs, pulling the dead down. Grabbing throats, breaking necks. It was vicious, far more than she expected of the dog. It had appeared to her no more than a pet, but then she understood. It had gone wild, it had changed with the times. That’s how it survived so long.
That’s how she survived so long.
Sarah whistled and called the dog. It didn’t hesitate to leave the fray and join her. The two ran through the forest, two sets of eyes, now looking out for each other and not just themselves.