Chapter Eight

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The sun beat down upon Max's face as sweat soaked his dark hair. It was a hot summer's day in England, something that was extremely rare this year. Max was outside his childhood home, playing ball with his ten year old brother and two children from across the street. His brother was only a few years younger than him, and they got on well. Max was only twelve but he had always been protective over the younger sibling. He loved him.

The four young boys were playing their own invented game, a vibrant cross between baseball and football. A young John stepped up to the crease, brushing his floppy hair out of his eyes and readying himself for the oncoming pitch. As the ball approached, he swung the newly engraved bat with as much force as his skinny arms could muster, barely connecting with the ball at all.

"Nice try John! That was so close bro!" Max shouted towards his brother.

He tried to encourage him whenever he could. He was younger than the other three boys and found it hard to keep up sometimes. Luckily, Max was big for his age so they more often than not won the games; he liked to pretend that John was their star player though.

John grinned under the shower of praise from his older brother, who he idolised, stepping up to the mark for another try. The ball came in fast again and John repeated his swing, this time missing the ball completely and spinning full circle before falling to the ground.

The ten year old grazed his knee and tears welled up in his eyes as the two other boys doubled over, laughing at him. Max immediately jogged over and crouched down next to his brother.

"C'mon Johnny, up you get," he said, extending a helping hand.

A sharp white flash blinded Max and as his vision came back, John was still on the ground, but had aged years. He was a grown man now, on the floor of Max's apartment, bleeding.

"C'mon get up John!" Max shouted to his dying brother.

Max didn't want to relive this moment of his life but could only sit back and watch as he witnessed his brother slipping away from him all over again. The look of idolisation was wiped from Johns face, replaced with a clear look of pity. John hadn't looked up to Max in years; there was nothing about his life to admire. He had failed his brother. He was meant to be the one who looked after him, but where had he been for the last few years? Selfishly sinking into his own depression whilst John went about his life none the wiser. Where was Max when John had to kill his own wife? Hell, he had even been there when the clicker had attacked John and he was still no use. As John's eyes shut slowly, it was Max who was truly dying inside.

A blinding white flash again filled Max's eyes, and when his sight returned, he found himself lying on the floor. He was surrounded by pitch blackness, blinking to find some kind of sight through the dark. As he pushed himself up with his hands, a figure leaped through the black and pinned him down.

Max was unable to move, the sound of clicking drilling through his skull. He tried to push the man off but he seemed to be infinitely stronger. Max looked up at the attacker's face and let out a gut wrenching scream, as his brothers rotten face with lifeless red eyes stared back at him. It cut through his heart like a knife. He had done this. He had let this happen to that little kid with floppy hair.

"John, I'm sorry," Max whispered through the tears to his brother.

"I'm sorry," he said louder.

"I'm sorry, John!" he bawled through the sobs, as John's teeth opened and clamped down on Max's face.

Max jolted upright, petrified, covered in sweat and screamed at the top of his voice... "JOHN!"

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