“Mark, what are you doing?” I asked my younger brother as he poked an infected we shot earlier with a stick.
“Making sure it’s dead. Don’t worry, bro, I’ll be fine. I shot it in the head at least three times, this bitch is as dead as it gets. I remember what Max told me about “safety around infected” well enough, so quit your bitching.”
I rolled my eyes and came to stand behind him as continued poking it. The corpse didn’t move a centimetre and Mark shot a satisfied grin my way. I simply huffed and turned around, “Come on, Sergeant Kozlovi told us to be back before sundown.”
“Alright, alright, Lord Buzzkill, let’s get a move on. Did you get all the food from the supermarket? I think I have everything from the police station, although it could have been an orphanage for all I know. Stupid Russian letters.”
I simply sighed, “No, I took all I could fit in my backpack, but we’re gonna have to come back tomorrow for the rest.”
“Fine by me, the camp is getting a little too crowded for my tastes. When do you think we’ll continue on?” Mark asked as we carefully crossed the road, on the lookout for any infected that might have heard my brother’s shots. The suppressor was still in pretty good shape, but it can’t block out all the sound.
“You sure it isn’t because Svetlana denied your “friend request”?” I whispered, smiling under my facemask.
“Her name is not Svetlana, you cunt. And I don’t like her!” he whispered angrily. I could almost fell him glaring at the back of my head.
“Please, bro, I’m a detective. You can’t hide things like that from me.”
“Whatever, let’s just keep going.” He said as he walked past me and around the corner, only to shout in pain two seconds afterwards. I rushed after him, only to see my him standing there motionlessly, his pistol in his hands and looking down at his bleeding arm unbelievingly.
An infected was twitching on the ground with three bullet holes in its head, its body not quite accepting it was dead. “Mark, Mark!” he didn’t respond when I touched his shoulder. “Snap out of it!” this time I slapped him in the face and he broke out of his stupor.
He quickly covered his arm to stop the bleeding, tears started to form in his eyes. “Fuck! No, nononono! Lars, I don’t want to die!” I had never seen my little brother so desperate since he was seven, it was disturbing.
“C’mon, Marc, we have to get back to camp quickly!” I almost shouted as I tried to grab his good arm.
He quickly pulled away, “Fuck that! They’ll shoot me as soon as they see the bite! No, no, let’s go to our stash, there’s some medicine there we can use. I’m not giving up yet, Lars.”
That last part was said so matter-of-factly that I could do nothing else but believe him.
One week later
“Mark, it’s me, don’t shoot.” I said as I entered the clearing. There were two tents set up around an old, burnt out camp fire. A few barrels and boxes were hidden under a camouflage net and there were a few fuel canisters filled with clean water strewn around the place.
I got an answer in the form of a groan from my right, where I saw my brother’s sweaty, sickly pale face contorted in pain. “I- I can’t feel my legs anymore, Lars, is that bad?” he tried to make a joke, but I didn’t fall for it. I knew what was going on and how it was most likely going to end. “I don’t want to die, bro, not before seeing mom and dad again.”
“You won’t Mark, I won’t let you die! You’re gonna get better and we’ll head back to camp together and then we’ll find our way back home. Together.” I tried to sound reassuring, but my shaking voice betrayed me and my brother just sent me a wry smile.
“I- I just-“ His eyes closed and he slumped forward, falling on the leaf covered grass. He stopped moving.
“Mark, Mark! Wake up! Come on, bro, don’t leave me here!” I tried shaking his shoulder, but he remained motionless. I couldn’t believe it, no, no, he couldn’t go yet. It wasn’t his time, it wasn’t his time, for fuck sake!
My head shot back up again as I heard him groan. It sounded forced, painful, like someone was strangling him. I shook his shoulder again as a smile danced on my lips. He wouldn’t leave me just yet, we’d get back home together. “Mark, bro, are you ok? Do want me to get you some painkillers or something?” I asked in a worried tone as I went to my backpack to grab the first aid kit, increasing the distance between us.
I heard some rustling from behind me as I finally managed to find the bright red satchel in between all my other stuff and looked at my brother’s previous position, only to see him standing up, looking at me with blank, soulless eyes that radiated only hunger and death. I should have known it was too late at that point, but it was my little brother standing there. The hope that he was fine overshadowed every ounce of common sense I had, That was the reason it took so long for me to act.
My pistol, a trusty CR75 with a suppressor and a flashlight attached to it, was in my hands as soon as I heard the inhuman growl and hiss coming from his throat. At that point I knew it was too late. I knew, but I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t accept that in the place of my little brother was now a mindless animal, unable of rational thought and morals. He always was so full of energy, ready for life and everything that came with it… but this wasn’t my brother anymore.
So I pulled the trigger.