I open my eyes to see the canopy of the trees swaying overhead. The sun has nearly set behind them now as the cool forest floor begins to chill my bones. Blinking hard, I try to clear my clouded mind. Am I alive? Is Tommy dead? In the distance, I can faintly hear voices laughing and joking. Feeling anxious, I try to prop myself up, but my head starts to throb with every movement. Reaching up, I touch my forehead to find a wet, cold sock glued to my face, feeling completely grossed out, I hope that it's clean.
Footsteps quickly make their way over to me as I wince in pain. Will's head pops into view, as I steadily lay back down on the forest floor.
"Hey, sleepy head! You've been out cold for a while." Looking over his shoulder, he grins at someone out of view. "Someone's here to see you!"
More footsteps hurriedly make their way over to me as I try to steady my breathing. Tommy suddenly leans over and smiles at me, grinning from ear to ear. His light chocolate eyes twinkle in the dim evening hue.
"Thanks for not shooting me, sis!"
In shock, I sit up, ignoring the throbbing pain in my head and grab his face, studying it. "How is this possible? You were dead, I saw you die...and the scratch! You were Infected! This can't be true. I must be dreaming, right? Or am I dead? But if I'm dead, why is Will here?"
Tommy's laugh is like music to my ears as he looks over to Will. "Honestly, Ally, I don't know what happened! One minute I felt the most sick I have ever felt in my life. Then I fell asleep, but it felt different from normal sleep. Then I woke up feeling amazing and saw you lying face down on the ground! Thankfully Will stopped you from shooting me, but you hit your head pretty hard and passed out... Oh, and the sock on your face was Will's idea."
My mind whirls as I try to understand everything. "But how can you go from being supposedly Infected one second to completely cured the next?"
He shrugs his shoulders. "I have no idea. I really don't."
My head begins to thump even more, making me feel a little nauseated. I peel the sock off my forehead and inspect it. "I'm not even going to ask if this thing is clean!"
Grinning at me, Tommy leans in and quickly pulls me into a hug. He whispers in my ear, "Thanks for believing in me, Ally. You brought me back from the dead."
Releasing me from his strong grip, he kisses me on the cheek and smiles. In awe, I reach up and touch Tommy's soft cheek; his skin is utterly flawless, and his usually flat, listless hair is now lustrous and glossy. In that moment, I realised he looks strikingly beautiful, more than he ever did before he became sick. The stark contrast from his deathly appearance barely an hour ago, to this, is so astounding that I find it difficult to process.
With my mind spinning, I turn to Will to find out what I missed. "You must have seen something, Will? Tommy died! His chest wasn't moving...or at least I thought it wasn't. The last thing I remember is hearing your muffled voice?"
Shaking his head and speaking quickly, he answers, "Didn't you hear me speak to you? You raised your arm as he started to do this weird morphing thing. I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I did know that he wasn't turning. It just happened so quickly, and before I knew it, you were aiming the gun at his head, and you couldn't hear anything that I was saying to you. So the only thing I could do was take you down... Sorry about that."
Closing my eyes in disbelief, it seems too crazy to be true, but then again, we live in a world where the dead come back to life. I guess anything is possible.
Trying to reassure myself that this isn't some crazy dream I ask, "So how do you feel, Tommy?"
Barely able to contain his smile, he says, "I feel awesome! Frikkin awesome! The scratches on my back have pretty much gone, and I feel almost electric, like I never need to sleep."
Tommy lifts his shirt up to expose his back. The scratches that were oozing pus have almost disappeared. The only evidence of any wound is five silver lines that are paler than his milky skin tone. Just as I open my mouth to question Tommy on how he got those damn scratches in the first place, he suddenly stands up and points his face into the wind.
With a look of confusion on his face, he mutters, "I think Joe's coming?"
I instantly stand up and stare into the distance, desperately hoping that he isn't hurt. When I realise that he is nowhere to be seen, I furrow my brow at Tommy. "Hang-on, you said you think he's coming?"
Pointing ahead, he says, "I know it sounds weird, but I can hear footsteps and can kind of smell him."
Slack-jawed, I wonder if Tommy is some kind of monster. "How can you possibly know that?"
Tommy opens his mouth to respond, but I hold my hand up to stifle his response. Completely exacerbated, I start to pace back and forth. "Okay, so let me get this straight. One minute you're Infected and you're going to turn, next minute you're alive, looking amazing and are able to hear when someone is coming...oh, and you can smell them too? Okay, that's totally normal!"
Tommy's eyes instantly widen at my outburst as the gravity of the situation begins to dawn on him. Dropping his gaze, he stares at his hands and turns them from side to side, studying them as his bottom lip begins to tremble. He suddenly crosses his arms over his chest defensively and stares at the ground, trying to avoid eye contact.
Feeling as though I have stepped too far, I open my arms and pull Tommy in for another protective embrace and try to ignore the sense of dread gnawing in the pit of my stomach. "Tommy, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to frighten you. When I told you that everything would be okay, I meant it! You're alive. Nothing else matters right now. We'll figure out what this all means later."
He buries his head into the hollow of my neck and squeezes me so tightly that he cracks my back. I quickly realise that the muscles in his chest are rock hard, not like his soft pre-teen former self.
I try to push away from the painful hug. "Tommy, you're kinda hurting me!"
A little embarrassed, he quickly lets go, looking at me sheepishly. "Sorry, I guess I don't know my own strength."
As I stare at Tommy with his perfect porcelain skin and long, glossy, brown hair, my mind is a whirlwind of emotions; a part of me still can't believe this is happening. Maybe miracles do exist, or maybe Tommy is the cure for Infection. The very thought sends a chill down my spine.
All those people that have died, potentially murdered, who could have been saved. I try to push away these dark thoughts and focus on the here and now. I have my little brother back, my prayers have been answered. With our future so uncertain, I have to live in the moment and enjoy it while it lasts because something tells me that our journey is far from over.
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Kill or Cure (Extract)Horror
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