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How did it come to this? What went wrong? I know most plans go awry upon first contact with the enemy, but I didn’t expect it to deviate this badly. It was the repositioned caltrops that triggered it all. Brett stepped on one and drew the infected’s attentions towards us. Was the smart infected expecting us to come this way? Infected won’t move caltrops around; they have no interest in things that aren’t living. Not only that, but it dug holes in the ground and covered them with plastic wrap with grass and dirt on top. Upon close inspection, they’re obvious. But why would there be close inspection in the first place? Vlad’s mobility was hampered by that spike.

“Wait, Vlad, there’s another trap.”

They really are obvious after seeing them once. There’s four stakes stuck in the ground, pinning the plastic wrap into place. The dirt and grass can’t hide the lumps. I’ll dig it out and hopefully save someone else from stumbling into this. It’s a very crude hole—two or three scoops with a shovel is enough to make it. But the wooden spike at the bottom…. It’s black.

“Vlad. How are you feeling?”

“The fuck are you asking me at a time like this?” Vlad avoided the hole in the ground while moving backwards. “There’s a fucking hole in my foot, and Nelson’s heavy as shit; my arms are killing me. I’ve never felt better.”

“Are you feeling … hungry?” When Mark was stabbed in the eye, he had turned into an infected extremely fast. If this wooden spike had infected blood on it, there’s a high possibility of Vlad being infected. But there’s also a chance that the blood isn’t infected. I don’t want to alarm Vlad; people start acting irrational when they’re suspected of being infected.

“Really?” Vlad stomped backwards, almost stepping on my foot. “Am I hungry? If I said yes, would you pull out a towel and a fancy little picnic basket? Have ourselves a tea party?”

Anger is a symptom of an early infection. The virus or bacteria or whatever it is messes with the brain. It has to or people wouldn’t be turning into brainless eating machines. But Vlad does have every right to feel anger right now. Two of his companions just died. And as he’s stated multiple times, there’s a hole in his foot. If he is infected, I hope it’s not obvious until after we make it back and he’s in quarantine.

“Perry, how are you holding up?”

“I’d like to say I’ve been through worse, but I’m having a real hard time thinking of a situation shittier than being shot by my own arrow. I guess I’m lucky it hit my hip and not my balls like Nelson over there.”

“Wait a minute. Why would the infected shoot you with your own arrow? It hit Nelson with wooden arrows. And after those, it started using yours, right?”

“Yeah? I guess? It’s been taking my arrows off the wall.”

Is the smart infected low on arrows? Even if it’s smart, I don’t think it can manufacture arrows. There’s more to fletching than finding a straight stick and sharpening it. Crude arrows don’t fly straight. “I think it doesn’t have its own arrows. Try baiting a shot. Step out from behind Vlad and point your bow at it.”

“And you don’t want me to shoot back?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah, no. How about you do it instead? I’d rather not have another arrow inside of me.”

Perry poked my back with the back of an arrow. I turned around and took the bow and arrow. I slipped the arrow into place and stepped out to the side. The infected pointed its bow at me, but it didn’t shoot. Was I too close to Vlad? I moved further away.

“Bern?”

“Hold on.” It still wasn’t shooting, so I moved even further.

Twang!

I dove to the right, and the arrow whizzed towards the left. If I had dodged towards Vlad, I would’ve gotten hit. I don’t think it would’ve hit me if I had stayed still, but that’s something I’d rather not leave up to chance.

“What the hell are you doing?” Vlad asked. He didn’t move to cover me, so I scrambled back behind him by myself.

“You said you couldn’t do much because the infected was pointing its bow at you, right? If it runs out of arrows, then there’ll be nothing holding you back. We don’t have to retreat just yet.”

“I retreated because it doesn’t look like your fence can hold for much longer.” Vlad took another step back. “Unlike you, I’m injured. If a hundred infected rush at me, I can’t run.”

“Once I make it waste all its arrows, we can kill the infected pushing against the fence. It’ll hold.” I readied my bow and stepped out from behind Vlad again. I checked the ground for any traps before making my way further.

Twang!

I dropped down, pressing my stomach against the ground. The arrow went over my body. That’s two. “How many arrows did you shoot at it, Perry?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know?”

“Don’t you know how many arrows you started with? Count and subtract.”

“Uh, I just put arrows in my quiver until I can’t fit anymore. Who actually counts that shit? I think I shot five or six or seven arrows?”

Well, I’ll just bait the arrows until they stop coming. It’s risky. I’m tempted to use my backpack as a shield, but then the infected won’t shoot at me. It’s not shooting at Vlad because it knows it can’t hurt him. If I block its arrows, it won’t shoot at me either. Luckily, it’s aim seems to be good. If I avoid where it’s pointing, I should be able to dodge everything.

Twang!

I jumped to the side, barely dodging another arrow. It passed right by my face. That was extremely close. If I had jumped a little further, it would’ve hit me. My heart’s racing, and my legs are shaking. I’ve seen videos of people running across the roofs of buildings, leaping across gaps that’ll kill them if they missed their jump. I wonder if this is what they feel when they do it. I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so stupid.

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Virlyce

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