Dark Winter – Part 20


I’m gonna use you and abuse you
I’m gonna know what’s inside
Gonna use you and abuse you
I’m gonna know what’s inside you
– Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams”

Katie was starting to regret having trained Jon Petersen how to shoot a gun, and sincerely wishing she’d taught him more. With the barrel of her own gun aimed at her head, Katie saw that he kept his finger on the trigger. Either he’d forgotten the rule about trigger discipline or he meant to shoot her, right then. She swallowed and slowly, very slowly, raised her hands, palms out.

“Jon? What are you doing?” Lindsay said, her voice nearly a shriek. It made Katie jump and she feared Jon would flinch and pull the trigger. He shifted his aim to Lindsay, his eyes wild and scared, but no shot went off. Katie’s heart beat very heavily in her chest.

She thought quickly, trying to remember some lesson her dad gave about a situation like this. They’d talked about survivalists confronting them, about what they might do if they were caught off guard. Escape. Evade. Regroup. That was a fine plan when you didn’t have a gun pointed at you, but didn’t apply here.

“Jon…” Katie said, keeping her voice low and calm. She’d seen that work on TV and documentaries with negotiators so maybe they were onto something.

“Shut up!” Jon said and swung the rifle back aground to point at her. His hands were shaking, the barrel wavering wildly in front of her. She made herself look at his face and not the rifle. She considered launching herself at him when he was distracted but that only worked in action films. In real life, she’d probably just get shot.

Fear crept into her, an icy chill growing in her gut and that began to creep into her limbs. It rooted her feet and froze her hands. Her heart beat so rapidly that it hurt. She’d fought Infected without thought, fired her weapon into their screaming faces, but this was different. She was powerless and couldn’t simply act on instinct. She had to think.

“Now… now your dad, he had medicine stored here, right? I want you to get it and we’re going to make my mom better. Hear me?”

“Jon. This isn’t the way.” The voice was Jon’s father. He was behind her and to the right. She could almost feel his presence behind her.

“It’s the only way we got, dad! I saw her, when she looked at mom, okay! She saw. She was going to kill her, just like the soldiers were!”

“What soldiers?” Katie said, hoping to get him talking about something other than shooting her.

“I said, we’re getting the medicine!”

“Jon, stop this!” his father said.

“No, we’re helping mom! Right now, let’s go!”

“Okay,” Katie said, trying very hard to think of what she could do. The supply room had a pistol in it. Could she get it without him noticing? It wasn’t near the first aid area, but he didn’t know that. Yes, she could go to the back, get some water and grab the pistol. It wasn’t loaded and inside a secondary Bug Out bag but she might be able to obtain it. That would be something.

But can I kill him?

Jon thrust the rifle forward and then to his right, urging her to move. Katie took a single step forward, and then another, slowly. When she was in the door way, she turned her back on him. Doing so made her inwardly scream, but she had to do it.

Her hand was on the doorknob when she heard Lindsay shout and then a loud smack like plastic on flesh and bone. Jon let out a loud grunt. Then the rifle barked. Katie spun to see Jon reeling, one hand on the back of his head. Lindsay stood in the doorway, the first aid box in her hands. Her eyes were wide, staring down at the widening red wound in her side.

The fear was gone, replaced by a red rage. Katie slammed her shoulder into Jon, and they both went down. She landed on his right arm and felt something twist and snap. He let out a screech of pain and Katie reached out, snatching the rifle where it lay beside them. Rolling up to her knees, she brought the weapon to bare on him.

Jon lay clutching his arm, his eyes shut, moaning quietly. Her eyes moved, looking at Lindsay. Her friend dropped the first aid box and then slid to her knees, her hands on the hallway door frame.

“Kat…” she whispered. “I’m hurt…”

Then Jon’s father was in the doorway. Katie brought the rifle up, standing quickly. She aimed at him, keeping her finger on the trigger guard but preparing to slide it to the trigger in an instant. Her rage was boiling, urging her to lash out at these idiots who had hurt her best friend, her only friend.

“Jesus Christ,” he said, looking down at Lindsay. “She’s been shot.” He looked from Lindsay to Katie, swallowing. He held up his hands out like she’d done earlier.

“I can help,” he said. “Let me help.”

“Do it,” Katie hissed and backed further into the bedroom. She motioned with the rifle towards the bed. Mr Petersen nodded and knelt, one hand putting light pressure on Lindsay’s wound and then checking her back, still not moving her.

“Went straight through, so likely no spinal injury,” he muttered and then picked her up and carried her to the cot, where he lay her down. Faintly, Katie could hear Mrs Petersen coughing and gagging in the living next room.

“I need water, alcohol, bandages, anything,” Mr Petersen said and Katie nodded. She moved quickly, keeping her rifle at the ready, and moved around him and Jon into the supply room. She grabbed a first aid kit and one of her dad’s field surgical kits and rushed back inside. Jon still lay where he’d fallen, but his eyes were open, staring up at her as she passed. They were full of hate.

Worry about that later, she thought as she handed the items to Mr Petersen. He tore them open and took out coagulant, knife and bottles. With a flashlight he inspected the wound and pressed lightly around it. Lindsay cried out in pain.

“Do you have pain killers?” Mr Petersen said.


“She can have 800 mg of ibuprofen but no aspirin yet. If you have morphine, now is a good time, but don’t mix it with ibuprofen.”

Katie once more went into the supply closet and searched their stores quickly. She knew her dad kept some serious stuff in there, things he always told her to never touch. There was a separate lock on those medicines but she knew what it’d be. It opened on the first try.

Morphine was clearly labeled, as was oxycodone and other pain killers. She took a morphine sticker from the box and shut it again. Turning from the cabinet, she found Jon standing in the doorway. He held his right arm limply at his side, the left supporting it. Behind him, Lindsay screamed.

Katie raised her rifle but Jon never said a word and she slipped passed him without incident. She handed the medicine to Mr Petersen a moment later and he gave her the injection. The wound was cleaned and anticoagulant was slowing the bleeding.

Katie knelt and took her friend’s hand, kissing the back of them. She nearly lost it then, the tears springing thick and heavy into her eyes. Lindsay squeezed her hand, but it was weak and strained. Her friend’s beautiful green eyes were shut tight, her lip between her teeth.

“You’ll be okay,” Katie whispered. “You’ll be okay.”

“The wound missed her intestines,” Mr Petersen said. “And as far as I can tell it didn’t do any serious damage but without better equipment, I can’t know for sure.”

“Thank you,” Katie whispered, gripping Lindsay’s hand still tighter. I can’t lose you, she thought. Not you.

“Why, dad?” Jon said from behind her. She whirled but he was just leaning against the wall. His voice was gravelly, hoarse. “Whatever happened to doing what it took?”

“We asked for their help and they offered it,” Mr Petersen said. “What you did was stupid and brash and uncalled for and now,” he motioned to Lindsay. “Someone is hurt.”

“They’ll kill mom.”

“That’s enough, Jon.”

Mr Petersen turned to Katie, and suddenly looked so tired. His eyes had dark, deep rings beneath them. Blood was all over his shirt and his hands as he pressed the bandage to Lindsay’s side. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again, then shook his head.

It was eerily quiet then. The silence broken only by the sound of Lindsay’s groans. Katie realized that Mrs Petersen had stopped coughing.

Katie released her friend’s hand and rose, turning very slowly. Her hands went to her weapon and she inhaled deeply. If she was dead, this would have to be quick. The after-death effects of the virus could be sudden. Her dad’s files said there weren’t strict timetables.

“Mom?” Jon said, looking out through the doorway. “Mom, what is it? Mom?”

“Jon get—!”

Katie’s warning was too late.

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