~ Chapter Twenty-Eight ~

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The trees were spaced far enough apart from one another that Perri could see the commotion ahead even at a distance. But...

Too far. She was too far away to help. It was like a living nightmare. Only, when she would wake, the remnants of it didn't go away.

They were upon him.

The infected.

They attacked mercilessly and relentlessly as Elliot swung a short-handled axe to defend himself. They didn't even flinch when his swings would connect with their flesh.

They were unfeeling, killing machines with an insatiable hunger for anything with a heartbeat.

He flailed about with his weapon in one hand and clutched a small limp figure to his chest with the other.

What was once a peach coloured dress was now stained red. Two legs dangled out from beneath the hem of the ruined dress, all covered with dirt and blood.

Although rage kept her brother roaring and fighting, it was both grief and denial streaming down his cheeks onto the little face pressed to his collar.

Kelsie.

Elliot's daughter.

The light of his life.

That's what he used to call her.

But, now that light had gone out and it was only the beginning of Perri's life crumbling down around her.

Still, she pressed on. Running toward her family. Even if she could do nothing to help and would only be throwing herself into the flames along with them.

At the time though, in the heat of the moment, she didn't care.

Even now. Even though it was just a memory of events long since passed. That same feeling burned within her chest.

But, she could only keep watching as the infected brought Elliot to the ground. He didn't even scream when they tore into him.

He made no sound at all. Or at least that's what Perri thought. Maybe she just couldn't hear him over the blood pounding in her eardrums.

Perri made to shout her brother's name but was snatched mid stride by Wade. Though she fought against him, he pulled her to the side, away from the horror unfolding several meters ahead.

Wade gave a sharp whistle, hoping only Chopper would hear it and it stopped him just before reaching the infected. Chop immediately turned and ran to his master's side.

He was next to Perri in seconds and tried to reassure her by nuzzling at her leg, while Wade held her to his chest.

Wade had to drag her away, knowing it was the only way he'd get her to safety.

Chopper let out a guttural growl and a sharp bark from behind them.

Both Perri and Wade twisted to see the cause of Chop's protective display.

A few of the infected had spotted their retreat and were barreling toward them.

The only weapon Wade possessed was a cricket bat. There was no chance he couldn't take them all on with a blunt object.

The pair of them shared that same unspoken thought.

So, Perri called out to Chopper and the trio sprinted away from their voracious pursuers.

They headed back toward the encampment as fast as their legs would carry them.

But infected were quick. Too quick.

And out of the three of them, Perri was the slowest.

An infected caught up to her and lunged for her with its arms straight out in front of its body. It grabbed a hold of her shoulders and dragged her down with it.

She whirled to face it as they fell so she could push it off her but struggled against the weight of it as its yellow teeth gnashed and snapped at her face.

She could feel her arms trembling and the infected growing closer, so she moved a hand up to its jaw to turn its septic bite away from her.

Perri yelled trying to summon the strength she needed to fight the pain and strain on her limbs. Blood leaked down her hand making her grip slippery, which then sent a tingle through her palms and she could feel the sweat beginning to coat them.

A whimper escaped her lips as she turned her face away from the grinding teeth that continued to gain ground. Closer and closer to her skin.

Before she shut her eyes, she saw Wade more than a few meters away, batting off the infected that hounded his every attempt to approach her.

Suddenly, the weight and body pressing down on her was wrenched free from her grasp. Her eyes shot open and, at the time, she feared the worst but was soon overwhelmed by an odd sense of pride in what she saw.

Chopper had attacked the infected that was trying to devour his master, tearing out its gullet and nearly separating its head from its shoulders—thus, ending its miserable existence.

He then went on to fended off three more so that Wade could help Perri to her feet.

They ran again, barely making it to the gate of the encampment before many more infected had caught up to them.

But, the gate was slow to open.

The lookouts on the watchtowers had to open fire on the attackers.

Suddenly, it seemed like there were more and more infected pouring out from behind every tree in the forest.

When the gate was far enough apart, Wade urged Perri to squeeze through the gap first.

Then he followed while Chopper stayed behind to defend their escape.

Once they were safe inside, Chop whirled on his strong, hind legs and made for the gap.

Someone called out for the gate to be shut at that same moment, since it would take some seconds to get it to close just as it was painfully sluggish to open.

Just as Chopper got his shoulders through the gate, he let out a sharp yelp before being dragged back out.

Wide-eyed and tensed, Perri screamed, "No!"

But, it was too late. The gate had shut, and Chop was gone.

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