Another Friday, another short story! This one is a little different, and based on an idea that occurred to me a couple of days ago. I may revisit this at some point, but for now… enjoy.
When the dead had started returning from their graves, former army Sergeant Jim Fowler was prepared. Not only did he have a fully stocked weapons cabinet, but his Alsatian Brutus was also up to the task of taking down a zombie or two. Fowler had taught Brutus well, raising him from a pup to attack the undead. He would target their limbs first, disabling the zombie and limiting its movements. Then, Fowler would step in and finish off the corpse with a blow to the head. Brutus was capable of the same, using a combination of paw strikes and bites. These days Brutus was able to kill a zombie outright with no interference from Fowler. He had trained his dog well.
They were a team, Fowler and Brutus. They acted as one, more a partnership than a master and his pet.
Months passed with barely any contact with other survivors. Fowler was beginning to wonder if anybody else had made it through the apocalypse. Despite their best efforts, Fowler knew that, eventually, fate would play its hand. And so it did.
It was a routine scavenge for supplies, one that they had undertaken hundreds of times before. This one held a hidden surprise. A zombie, one that had lay dormant since the outbreak began, was awoken by Fowler’s search. Fowler decapitated the undead creature, but not before it had taken a bite out of his neck.
Fowler withdrew his hand and stared at the blood covering it. How could he have been so stupid! It was a rookie error, no two ways about it. He looked at Brutus who tilted his head sideways in response.
“I got bit, I’m sorry boy.” said Fowler, fussing the dog with his unbloodied hand. There wasn’t much else to do now except wait for the inevitable.
As the days passed he grew weaker and weaker until eventually he wasn’t even fit enough to take Brutus out every day on patrol. The dog was dedicated to him, yes, but as Fowler’s condition worsened Brutus became more distant. It was as if he could smell the disease working its way through Fowler’s veins. Fowler couldn’t blame him. The one time Brutus came close enough to be petted, Fowler patted him on the head and managed to say “good boy” before the coughing wracked his body and Brutus retreated to his corner.
After almost a week of illness, Fowler died. Throughout, Brutus watched him dispassionately. Brutus knew precisely what had happened to his master. No, former master. The bite had infected the man, and there was nothing Brutus could have done to either prevent it or help the dying man in his final hours. So he had watched, and waited. When the end had came, a few ragged breaths and then silence, Brutus had known exactly what needed to be done.
As Fowler’s resurrected corpse opened its eyes and looked at his former pet, there was a hint of recognition between them, just for a second.
Then Brutus did what he had been trained to do. He killed the zombie.
His jaw dripping with blood, Brutus made his way to the hole in the wall he had made months ago. He had managed to keep it secret from Fowler, although he was sure his former master would have understood Brutus’ reasons for doing so.
Pushing the plasterboard to one side with his snout, Brutus entered the tunnel and emerged into the daylight a few minutes later. He was sad about the man’s death, but life went on. On the breeze he caught a scent, that of another survivor. With nowhere else to go, he set off in that direction. Hopefully, they would prove to be at least half as competent as Fowler.