Another Wednesday, another writing prompt. This week’s prompt again has come through Reedsy’s regular email list, which was a series of photos this time around. I’ve been wanting to play with a photo prompt since beginning this project, to be honest, so when this particular image grabbed my attention, I jumped on the chance.
Jaxxon glanced through the broken windows.
“Clear.” She whispered.
She darted across the opening toward the door on the other side. What remained of the door hung loosely from a single screw, doing everything it could to stay fixed in the rotting frame.
A body pressed against her from behind as she peered out of the building.
“What does it look like?” Rachel whispered.
“Overgrown.” Jaxxon fired back, “It’s going to be shit to get through there.”
“We don’t have much choice, Jaxx.”
“I know. Forward’s the only option.”
Jaxxon drew the machete from its sheath at her hip, holstering her pistol, and looked over her shoulder at the woman behind her.
“I’ll cut, you make sure nothing bites me,” She whispered.
Rachel nodded, and Jaxxon stepped out of the building. Around her, walls rose up to various heights, standing or crumbling in the decay. All of this had once been the domain of humanity, buildings rising high into the sky, concrete and glass testaments to the species’ power. Except that only a generation later, the earth itself had retaken that which had always belonged to it. The natural world had torn through the roads, uplifting the surfaces and breaking through walls of buildings, bringing them crumbling to the ground. It had been only thirty years, and the age of humans was already being wiped from the face of the planet.
At 21 years of age, Jaxxon and Rachel had known nothing of the dominance of their species. It had been long before either of them were born that the infections had broken out, and humanity had simply been unable to stop it. It had spread too rapidly, and those few who remained had been forced into a life of communal survival. Twins growing up together in a small tribe, Jaxxon and Rachel had lived their entire lives hearing stories from their parents and other older members of the tribe about the golden age of humans, and the easy lives that they had lived. Now, living was hard, but at least they were still there, and still together.
That had been until the infected had found their home. Neither Jaxxon or Rachel knew how many – if any – of the family they had grown up with had survived other than them. The only hope they could have was to reach the rendezvous point underneath the bridge, but that was still a good day’s journey away, if they didn’t stop.
“Imagine what this must have been like.” Jaxxon said as they stepped out into the daylight, “All these buildings towering over you, it must have been so dark.”
“Focus, Jaxx.” Rachel said behind her.
Jaxxon stepped out into the brush, and began pushing her way through the overgrowth. The freshly sharpened machete blade carved easily through the younger saplings and bushes that had begun to rise up and reclaim the world around them. The rush of leaves against one another, and the breaking of branches all rang out around them.
“I hope you’re keeping your eyes out.” Jaxxon said.
“Got your back, Sis.” Rachel replied.
Jaxxon tore through the mess of scrub and bushes until finally they broke free into an open space. Jaxxon, breathing heavily from the exertion, tried to get her bearings.
Jaxxon dropped to the ground, complete faith in her sister’s command. Her hands covered her ears, and sure enough, two shots rang out in quick succession. Jaxxon waited another moment, and then felt a gentle press against her hip from Rachel’s boot. She raised her head, and looked across the stone, where two corpses were collapsed on the ground 25 metres away.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Jaxxon said.
The roar of more of the Infected coming toward them mixed with movement through the brush and bushland around them. Jaxxon stood back up and took stock of where they were.
“The river’s over there.” She said, pointing. “If we can at least get to the water’s edge, it’ll make it easier to reach the bridge, right?”
“It’s the best plan that I can think of.” Rachel said.
Together, the girls ran through the square. This area, at least, wasn’t as overgrown as what they had just been walking through. Jaxxon sheathed the blade again and pulled the pistol from her hand, watching over her shoulder as three more Infected broke out of the bushes. It didn’t take long for them to spot the two women running, and they fell into pursuit.
This area of the former city was not quite as overgrown as it had been where they had just broken free from, which at least played into Jaxxon and Rachel’s favour. The ground passed by under their feet. Jaxxon looked over her shoulder, one of the pursuers had already broken off, apparently deciding that the chase was not worthwhile. One of them was gaining ground. It roared.
“That’s going to bring more of them.” Jaxxon said.
The water drew nearer, but not close enough. They weren’t going to make it.
“Don’t stop, Rach,” Jaxxon said.
Gun in one hand, Jaxxon drew the blade from her hip into her other. She continued to run, one eye on the destination ahead of them, and making sure Rachel was still running hard, the other was continually glancing over her shoulder, waiting for her moment.
With the timing that came from a lifetime of combating these things, Jaxxon suddenly halted her run, spinning, and slashing out at the throat of the creature as it reached out to take hold of her. Blood spattered from it’s neck and mouth, its momentum continuing to carry it forward, it tumbled over itself before coming to a halt. Jaxxon’s left hand raised the pistol, she exhaled, steadying herself, and pulled the trigger at the other one in pursuit. The force of the bullet’s strike threw its head backward as the body’s momentum continued forward, and it collapsed onto its back.
“Jaxx!” Rachel screamed from up ahead.
Jaxxon turned, her sister had charged straight into two more Infected. Rachel was trying to hold them at bay with the rifle as they scrambled to attack her. Jaxxon aimed the pistol again. Fired. One fell, and Rachel was able to push back against the other one enough to steady her stance. Another appeared out of the corner of Jaxxon’s eye, running in fast. She charged to meet it, ducking under its grasp, spinning around to position herself behind it, and sliced the blade through the back of its neck, severing the spinal column, it fell to the ground. She turned her attention back to Rachel, who was grappling with the Infected in front of her. It was strong. Jaxxon raised the pistol, dropped the blade and used both hands to steady her shot. Rachel stood between Jaxxon and the Infected. She couldn’t get a clean shot. It leaned in, mouth opened toward Rachel’s shoulder.
Jaxxon’s breath caught in her throat. An explosion in the Infected’s head said the shot fired true, and the creature fell to the ground. Jaxxon bent down, picked up the blade, and ran toward her sister.
“Let’s go.” Jaxxon said, “Are you okay?”
“No scratches or bites. I’m okay.” Rachel replied.
They kept running, reaching the water’s edge without further sign of the Infected. A collection of old docks and jetties stretched out into the water, offering some ability to create a secure zone in which they could rest and regain their breath.
“That was too close.” Jaxxon said, her eyes shifting to her sister as they leaned their backs against an old stone wall.
“It’s going to be like this until we can find that prison,” Rachel said.
“Let’s hope it’s as secure as Mum expected it to be.” Jaxxon said.
“And that we can get there.”
Jaxxon and Rachel both looked down the river toward the arced bridge that spanned the water. The only knowledge of refuge that they had, was the old prison their mother had told them about, across the river and through the hills. They weren’t sure how far the journey was going to be, or what stood between them and their destination, or if the destination was even there. Jaxxon closed her eyes. Reaching out, she took Rachel’s hand and felt it squeeze. She had to hope.