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Emma and I sat on the edge of the building, our feet hanging over the edge with the crumbled city before us.
She leaned over and spit playfully. Five stories down the wet glob smacked the head of one of the undead below which then let out a weak moan.
“10 points,” she said smiling towards me
“I guess that makes us about even, ya?” I asked half-jokingly
“Yaaaa-no, I think that makes me the winner.” She stood up and walked back towards the apartments roof air-conditioner, hopped onto it and laid back with her face towards the now darkening sky. I stood up as well and walked over to her slowly, her mood was heavier than before.
“…and you’re sure all the batteries are dead?” she asked with a sort of desperate accusation.
“Emma…” I pleaded.
“Fine…fine…” She hopped up again unable to sit still knowing what was to come. She walked about 10 feet until she was just before the edge of the roof and turned back to me.
“We could just jump off? End it now. Save ourselves…..from whatever is coming.”
The horde below moaned a bit louder, or maybe they just seemed louder…as if they knew the subject of fresh meat had just come up. The streets below were stained with blood and dotted with entrails from the survivors long dead. I wondered how much blood had lined the street, how ancient this city really was, how much death fell through the cracks and filled the cistern below the city….was this even really a city?
“Really is that how you want this to go? After everything we’ve done, everything we’ve been through to just…give up like that? And what would even happen? Where would we go….”
“What do you want to fucking do then?” She shot back at me
I stood there dumbfounded, there was nothing we could do, this time there was no out and she knew it. I had no idea what existed beyond the short distance I’ve travelled outside the city, even if we managed to escape this nightfall, I had no idea where to go…this wasn’t a sprawling world to be explored, this was an arena of death.
“Thought so” she quipped
I looked down at my feet almost ashamed that I couldn’t save us. Emma looked at me and her expression immediately changed to one of compassion.
“I’m sorry, I know I’m not being fair.” She sighed as she walked over to me, “I just feel like my hands are tied and it’s frustrating and depressing all at the same time.”
“I know,” I said understandingly, “I get it, I feel the same way, we still have a few flares…”
“That will keep them off for what? an Hour?” she asked
“Maybe, maybe less.”
I sat down and set my head in my hands hoping for some miracle solution that we hadn’t thought of. Emma walked over, sat down beside me and kissed my forehead.
“Alright, let’s just sit here together.” She said softly
The horde began to stir and move around, the noises sounding less and less of this world. ‘What world was this, anyway?’ I thought, ‘Was this just for us, or was this the same for everyone regardless of what they did.’ Below the grumble of the creatures began to grow louder in anticipation for their transformation come nightfall.
“Sounds like the kids are getting antsy…” Emma said jokingly
We sat there watching the sun set for a long while.
“What happens when you die in Hell?” I asked
Emma sat with me looking out over the darkening sky. Surrounding the sprawling destroyed city before us were pits of fire & brimstone, molten metal filled the air with the faint scent of iron. The crimson clouds of hell dotted the sky, filling us with a constant sense of dread, waiting for the next time they drenched us in acid rain.
We had been trapped in Hell since our deaths and though neither of us wanted to admit it, we both knew we deserved to spend our afterlife here. I only then realized that this was the first time I said the name “hell” out loud, and even saying it made me shake my head a bit.
She thought on my question for a short time before answering.
“I don’t know…maybe all this starts over again? Maybe we go back to when we first died and have to start the game all over again…I remember two months ago waking up here I thought it was a bad dream….”
“Same. If that’s true do you think we’ll remember each other?” I asked hopefully
“Maybe this isn’t the first time we’ve been here.” She said half-joking.
I looked down at the horde of monsters that filled the crumbled streets below us. The soulless undead were the ever expanding army of Hell as each and every soul sent down here broke over and over again. When the mind breaks completely, all that’s left is the husk of what was once human, now hungry for flesh and always in anticipation of the night when they could transform, allowing them to spread their wings and hunt.
Then a dark thought dawned on us, maybe we’ve been here before. Maybe our hell was to fight the creatures, live in fear & hide…forever in an endless loop as the “ultimate prey”, justly so for what we did when we were alive. We looked at each other with concern and Emma stood up quickly.
“Well if we’re doomed to repeat this again let’s make a note, here, on this roof so that we can find it again and maybe work together faster…or try harder…or…” Emma trailed off trying to come up with some reason that made sense, tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes.
I stood up as well and put my hand on her shoulder to stop her from pacing back and forth. I handed her a small piece of chalk.
“You’re right, lets write a message,” I said with a pained smile
She looked at me smiling with tears in her eyes and took the piece of chalk from my hand, she wiped her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Okay, so where should we write the message?” She asked with forced excitement.
On the roof was a door leading into the building, it protruded from the roof and had three cement walls enclosing it.
“How about there?” I gestured to the door, “we can write it on one of the walls and maybe we’ll see it there next time…”
Emma smiled and began walking over, I turned to see the sun just about to go down.
“We better make it quick the suns about to set…” I said turning towards Emma who was facing the wall
Her face was white as if all the colour had drained from it in an instant.
“What’s wrong?” I asked walking over
I stopped and stood next to her looking at the cement wall she was to write our message on…..there, written in Emma’s own hand, was the heading, “EMMA & DAN – DAYS SURVIVED” Underneath were hundreds of separate numbers, 5, 11,145, 341, 2, 66…all signifying the number of days we had survived in the past.
Emma turned to me, in the dying light I could see the tears were back in her eyes & starting to roll down her cheeks. I leaned in and kissed her softly, then I took the piece of chalk from her hand and turned to the wall.
In large white letters I wrote our number, 43, and dropped the chalk on the floor by our feet which was riddled with other pieces of broken chalk. Below the horde turned to the now set sun and bits of flesh and sinew began falling to the floor as their transformation began.
“See you tomorrow.” I said weakly with a smile as tears started to form in my eyes
She just laughed and hugged me tight as hundreds of bloodcurdling screeches echoed out over the night. The creatures took to the sky filling the night with the sounds of their trashing wings & hunting calls which they cried out through broken teeth.
We may be in the darkest place in the world, but we are each others light.