Winter in the spring

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In one elegant swoop, Will decapitates two Infected at the front of the horde. He quickly pushes the headless bodies into the oncoming crowd, sending several Infected stumbling backwards. Joe spears another through the mouth and slices through the top of its head. He quickly shoves the lifeless body to one side and instantly pushes ahead with Will flanked at his side.

Taking a deep breath, I meet my first Infected. Grabbing it by the neck forcefully, I thrust my sword upwards through its head and pull it away with ease.

Without a moment's rest, another one staggers out from behind a tree, but none of my previous training could have prepared me for this. At the sight of her, a gasp escapes from my lips, making my grip weaken on my sword.

A little girl probably no older than six years old sways next to the tree. She's wearing a blood-stained night gown with the remains of a teddy bear dangling from her tiny hand. Her long, matted hair hangs limply, partially masking the black veins scattered on her snarling face. At the sight of me, a growl rumbles deep inside her chest as the teddy finally drops to the forest floor. With her arms outstretched, she takes a step forwards, revealing a nasty bite wound on her wrist.

As she approaches, my eyes slowly fill with tears, instantly blurring my vision. Taking in a shuddery breath, I shakily raise my sword as the little girl closes the distance between us. In that moment of pure vulnerability, I feel as though I have been hit by a train.

A sharp pain radiates in my side, knocking the breath out of my lungs. My head begins to swim when I realise that I am actually falling. My sword flies out of my clasps and clangs to the floor out of reach as the forest begins to spin uncontrollably. As I struggle to breathe, an Infected man the size of a grizzly bear pins me to the ground, crushing me underneath.

My hand shoots out in front of me and grabs the thing by the throat as I attempt to reach for my sword. Pushing with all my strength, the gigantic man dribbles black putrid goo all over my chest. Gritting my teeth, I cry out as its gnashing mouth edges closer and closer to my exposed neck. The little girl is now at my feet and begins to grab at my boots. I kick out furiously in response as tears continue to streak down my face.

Adjusting my grip, I quickly fumble for the gun tucked in my belt loop as the man inches closer to my jugular. Gripping it tightly, I press the muzzle of the gun underneath his chin and scream out in one last show of strength. I pull the trigger, and his head whips backwards, showering me in blood and gore. The man slumps on top of me, trapping me underneath; the stench is almost too much to bear as I try to roll the thing off me.

Struggling for breath, I lie on my back gasping for air, and my ears ring from the deafening sound of the gun shot. My side throbs in pain as a feeling of nausea thickens my throat. What if I've been bitten? Taking a deep breath, I quickly lift up my shirt to reveal a purplish bruise spreading across my ribs; I have never been so pleased to crack a rib in my life.

As I try to steady myself and take in my surroundings, I finally notice that the little girl is lying face down on the forest floor with my dagger nestled in the back of her head. Tommy stares at me in complete shock with tears streaming down his face.

Swallowing back my own horror, I crawl forward and rigidly retrieve the dagger, desperately resisting the urge to vomit. I hold the dagger out for him once more, and he stares at it momentarily, before shaking his head and refusing to take it from me.

Barely above a whisper I plead, "You did what you had to do."

As I climb to my feet, out the corner of my eye, I see a flash of something white rushing through the trees just as more Infected round the corner. Will races through the crowd coming to my aid. He's covered in congealed blood and chunks of flesh.

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