Close to Salvation. Short Story.

Larry gazed up at the sun above him, he licked his dry, cracked lips with his thick, heavy tongue. It had been so long since he had last had a drink, almost two days now at this point. Yesterday he had come across an old dirty bucket that had been filled with rain water, he had been tempted but the algae that covered the surface and the tiny wriggling things had put him off. Now he would give anything for a single sip of that water. He had been foolish to think he could survive out here, what did he know about the wilderness? The closest he had ever been to nature had been sitting out in his parents back garden on a nice day. Hell he hadn’t even been to the beach in years. He had been safe where he was, he’d still have water and food, though that would have run out in other few days anyway. In the distance he could hear the rev of an engine, his heart beat faster and he quickly broke into a shuffling run, he needed to get somewhere safe, some kind of shelter, before they spotted him. Even at full strength he wouldn’t be able to take them. He didn’t know exactly who they were but he didn’t need to, he had already seen what their kind did. The strong survive, the weak perish, that was their motto. He’d seen them run down an old man, he watched from his apartment balcony as the old man had struggled to get away, watched as they gave him a head start, then all took after him at once. The old man made it another five, maybe ten feet before they caught up with him. He didn’t want to see what happened next but he couldn’t look away and as he watched they beat the old man to death before tearing him limb from limb. At least Larry hoped he was dead at that point.

He had always thought that at the core of it people were good, that if there was any kind of mass disaster people would group together, try to help one another out. He was wrong. Or maybe the sickness just took all the decent people. He had watched as they broke into stores, sometimes they didn’t even take anything, they just broke the windows because the whim had struck them. He had seen them going into apartment buildings, making their way up through the floors. Sometimes they’d come out with someone, sometimes kicking and screaming, other times unconscious. He knew it was only a matter of time until they did a sweep of his building and if that happened where could he hide? His apartment was small and minimalistic in decoration, white floors, white walls, smooth clean lines everywhere. The day he saw the old man was the day he left. He packed a bag for himself, stuffed it with food and bottled water, then at night he snuck out, moving through the city slowly, listening to every sound and praying it wasn’t one of the gangs. He had made it out easily enough and then he’d just kept going, he didn’t have any place in mind or any real plan. It seemed like an adventure and, like all adventures, it was just supposed to work out for him. He was supposed to come across lakes and rivers as he needed them, perhaps a friendly farm house or two that had managed to survive or avoid the sickness. Perhaps he’d find a small town, a group of people trying to claw their way back from the apocalypse, people who wanted civilisation, peace.

He was going to die out here, in the middle of nowhere, all alone. His throat was dry and felt as though it was sticking to itself, what little saliva he could gather was thick, more like mucous than spit. He had stopped sweating sometime ago, he knew that was a bad sign but he couldn’t remember why. His brain was slow and fuzzy and the only thing he could really focus on was the constant, screaming thirst.

Larry lay on the ground, he couldn’t go any further, he had collapsed a few minutes before, ahead of him he could see the shimmer of a lake, could hear the waves lapping against the shore. Slowly, painfully he reached out and grabbed a handful of grass and he began to crawl. The progress was slow and each movement took more and more out of him. He had kept his head down and just focused on moving forward, he looked up again and saw that the lake appeared no closer, he let out a low moan, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t go any further. He was going to die here, alone and so tantalisingly close to his salvation. No. He wouldn’t die here, he couldn’t. This wasn’t going to be the end of him. He started moving forward again.

Larry lay on the warm ground, his breathing came in low, laboured gasps. The water was so close, maybe a fifty feet, but he had nothing left to give. He reached out and tried to pull himself forward, he didn’t move. He reached out again, trying to adjust his grip. He tried to pull again but he felt the clump of grass sliding through his fingers. There was a sick, steady throb in the back of his head. The water of the lake gently lapped against the shore, a cloud rolled across the sun sending cooling shadows across the land, somewhere a bird called out, Larry let out one last gasp, then he lay still

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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