20 Tales of Terror – Day 4: Loyalty

  
The end had come sooner than anyone expected. A minor infection mutated into a worldwide pandemic in no time at all. As the number of infected increased, they were herded into ‘quarantine camps’ to be kept in isolation until a cure could be found. Really, the idea was to let them die off without infecting anyone else. It didn’t work, of course. The virus still spread, and the world died a slow, painful death. Only a handful of survivors remained, wandering through the wasteland that was once civilization, hoping to live long enough to see another sunrise.

Barry was one of those survivors. He had managed to escape the chaos that took over his neighborhood, spreading death and disease. The same people he had spoken with every day were coughing up blood and trying to hold onto what little life they had left. He couldn’t do anything to save them. All he could do was survive. Him and his trusty dog Skipper.

Skipper had roused Barry from a nap, alert to the fact that things weren’t right. It was with Skipper’s guidance that Barry had managed to escape the house, which was teeming with dying neighbors seeking medical aid that would be of no use to them. He had jumped into his car, Skipper in the back seat, and driven off without looking back. In a state of panic, he drove until he ran out of fuel, somewhere along the highway. The first few nights had been frightful, as he kept a lookout for any infected. But nobody came. Seemingly safe, Barry and Skipper had set off on foot.

The both of them had been roaming through the countryside for weeks, trying to find other survivors in nearby towns. So far, all they had found were corpses. It was becoming hopeless. The both of them had foraged for food in empty houses, taking what they could from pantries and refrigerators. But supplies were starting to run low.

They were in yet another deserted town, with no sign of life around them. Barry was walking along the main street, deep in thought, while Skipper ran ahead. None of the food they had come across here was edible anymore. What they had would only last another day or two. After that, he had no idea. He couldn’t possibly sustain the both of them, and he knew Skipper wouldn’t leave his side. But Barry couldn’t let him suffer. He had been grappling with his decision for a few days, but it was time. He had to do what was right for the both of them.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, they took shelter in an auto repair shop. Barry decided to act. He put a leash around Skipper, like he used to do before the world fell to madness, and tied him to a hook protruding from one wall. He was tempted to walk away, but he knew Skipper would start barking, and he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from turning back. There was only one thing to do. He found a shard of broken glass on the floor. This was it.

He looked down at Skipper, who seemed oblivious to what was about to happen. Barry looked away. It wouldn’t be easy, but it had to be done. He knelt down and wrapped Skipper in a tight hug. He still couldn’t bring himself to do it. And he wouldn’t have to.

Barry gasped as he felt Skipper’s teeth sink into his neck. He tried to pull away, but Skipper’s grip was too strong. He tried to use the glass shard, but Skipper bit down hard, causing him to drop it. Barry fell to the floor, blood gushing from his throat. Skipper gnawed through the leash that was holding him and advanced on Barry. Perhaps he hadn’t been so oblivious after all. And he didn’t take very kindly to betrayal.

Barry’s screams rang through the still air and eventually died down. Skipper licked his face. He had been a good friend once. With a soft whimper, Skipper walked out into the afternoon sun.

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