She stopped running for a moment and leaned against a tree gasping for breath. She’d been running for most of the night. She knew that once they saw you they never quit coming, never gave up. It was about an hour until dawn and unless she found somewhere to hide soon she knew she was going to die. If you could hide they’d eventually forget they saw you and move on and she couldn’t keep running like this for much longer. She certainly couldn’t fight them all, not with just her axe, there were far too many of them. Hearing them stumbling through the woods behind her she took a gulp of air and started running again.
A few minutes later she shot out of the woods into a dirt parking lot in front of a small country church. Hoping against all hope she headed for the front doors of the building. Taking the wooden steps two at a time she ran up to the heavy wooden doors and tried opening them. Just her luck, locked. Glancing over her shoulder she saw some of them stumble from the tree line and start making their way towards the church. Using the axe head as a lever she tried to pry the doors open, praying there were none of them inside. With a crunch of wood the old lock gave way and the doors swung open.
Rushing inside she slammed the doors shut behind her and looked around frantically for something to bar them with. In the hall of the church were two heavy oak coat racks, one on either side of the narrow hall. She grabbed them and forced them in front of the doors, jamming them in place against the walls and each other, hoping they would hold. She quickly turned and gave her full attention to the rest of the building, knowing she was very lucky there hadn’t been any of them inside the door when she opened it and rushed in. She stood still and listened carefully for a good three minutes before moving forward. This gave her time to hear if there was anything else in the building, gave her eyes time to adjust to the dim interior and she could now smell that something was not quite right here.
Walking cautiously forward, axe in hand, she took in the rest of the small church’s interior. On either side of her in the entrance hall was a smaller hallway. Going down the left-hand side she discovered the bathrooms, both of which were clear. She’d have to remember to fill her water bottle from one of the toilet tanks before she left. Down the right-hand side hall were two more doors. Behind one was a small kitchen unfortunately bare of food, and the other led to what was obviously the pastor’s office. She knew this because he was sitting in the chair behind the desk, dead. He was seated comfortably in the chair, one hand on his lap and one on his desk. She’d see a lot of dead bodies since this all started and something about him didn’t sit right with her but she couldn’t put her finger on it at first. Then it dawned on her – he had no signs of any trauma. Every single body she’d seen so far had some sort of damage, either from being attacked by them or from being shot or something. But not this one. She looked around the room, didn’t see anything of use, and left.
The entrance hall ended at two glass doors which opened into the church proper. Slowly opening one she was met with a musty moldy smell that made her gag. She stopped and tied a handkerchief over her face and continued slowly forward. There was a central isle leading to the altar, like every church she’d ever been in, with pews on either side. As she made her way cautiously up the isle she started to see what the smell was from. She gaped in horror. Each pew was filled with bodies. They were all like the pastor, undamaged. All sitting comfortably. She saw families sitting together, mothers holding babies, fathers with their arms around toddlers. There had to be at least a hundred people in the church. As she stepped up to the altar she noticed that it had been set for communion and that’s when everything fell into place. These people had killed themselves.
She shook her head in disbelief. What a waste of precious life. Here she was running, fighting to stay alive just one more day at any cost and these people gave up before it even got bad. They didn’t even give their kids a chance. Emotions swirled through her as she stood there looking down at them – sadness, fear, anger, envy, hatred. How could they do it? And here of all places? If there was one absolute in this world it was that you never give up! Never! No matter how bad it seems or what the odds are. A loud thumping from the front doors of the church brought her thoughts back to the present. They were trying to get in.
She quickly walked out of the church itself and back into the entrance hall, closing the glass doors behind her. The thumping on the front doors was increasing. The coat racks were holding but just barely. If they got in she knew she had nowhere to hide. She was contemplating opening just one of the front doors and letting them in one by one so she could fight them on her terms when she heard the sounds of fighting from outside. After a few minutes the sounds stopped and there was a banging on the door.
“Hey Renita! You in there or did they get you?” called a familiar voice.
She pulled the coat racks out of the way and opened the doors.
“Boy am I glad to see you guys!”
“I bet! Anything good in there?”
“No. Nothing good at all. Let’s go.”
Note: Some time ago when one of my Creative Writing classes ended and I still wished to continue writing I decided to ask for people’s help by asking the following:
“I need two things from you please! Just two words! An item and, well, a word. I will, if the muses are so kind, use them in a short story – and give you the credit.”
For this story I used Kim Glennie’s suggestions: Item: axe, Word: absolute