At World’s End: Chapter 3

Prologue 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

“Fucking bitch,” Zed muttered under his breath as he pulled his tattered shirt from the dirt and putting it over his head.

Eli ignored the insult. “She wants you to chase her.” He dropped the firewood on the ground and proceeded to start a fire.

“What?”

“She’s,” Eli paused, scrambling for the right words, “playing.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“She had a complicated childhood. It is nice that she can retain some childlike wonder.”

“But she is not a child.”

“Does that matter? She has been through a lot and now she is happy.” Eli looked in the distance as smiled. 

It was clear that Zed wanted the conversation to end but Eli persevered. “So what has a young boy like yourself seen?”

“None of your business.”

Eli chuckled once again, “you know you remind me of someone.”

“Lovely tidbit but I’d prefer that you don’t compare to a pathetic friend of yours in a past life.”

A small snigger came from Eli’s mouth. “Ouch. You’re mean. An old man is just trying to warn you. That pathetic friend did alright. In fact, look for yourself,” he said as he gestured to himself.

Zed observed him, and as much as he did not want to admit it, he was doing alright. His build was thin and slender upon first impressions but the way he had pinned him, Zed realised that he was a lot stronger than he had seemed. He did not look old. But above all, he was alive, alive and happy. A mix that is seldom seen.

“Is this the future I should look forward to?”

“Alright, Zed — if that’s still the name you want to be referred to as — ”

“It’s my name.”

“Sure, ‘Zed’ , if you learn anything from me let it be this: nothing is as simple as it may seem. Remember that when you’re judging people.”

“You and your sister travelling together seems simple enough. What is it? The cliché ‘parents died in front of your very eyes and you devote yourself to avenge them’ but before you can, you realise how royally fucked you are; so you just move, valuing your own life more than anything.”

“If you want me to start from the top then I will.”

“Anything is better than you making me guess.” Zed stretched out his arms before sinking closer to the ground. He looked as if he was waiting for a bedtime story.

Eli cleared his throat. “My parents were killed before my very eyes.”

Zed groaned loudly to a story he expected.

“They were killed years before the war and as a child I lashed out. Became a ‘victim’ of the system. I hated that term but I guess it was true. I had no one in the world. I had nothing. I lived and did anything to feel alive. Drugs, crime, who knows what else. Even when I turned eighteen and was forced out, I continued that life, slept rough and squatted when I was lucky. 

“Then the war started and chaos spread. Dead bodies littered the street, the ringing of an explosion. I became intoxicated with havoc, I felt happy. People were suffering the pain I had been suffering for years. I saw this as an opportunity. I could do whatever I really wanted and with absolutely no consequences.”

Zed had no snarky comeback for Eli, the person he was describing did not sound like the person who had been so forgiving of him.“So what did you do? Kill people. Did you shoot a man as he begged for his life, seeing the fear in his eyes but using it as ammo when you pulled the trigger. Watching yourself becoming a killer and not hate it.”

Eli was not shaken by the oddly specific description that Zed had painted for him. “I’m thankful I was never that far gone. I did the same shit I always did. I tripped on acid, got high with the same people but just in a bigger playground. Met some people who only fueled my self-destructive tendencies. I thought I was so hard, I thought I was living how I wanted. I thought that what I did was a big ‘fuck’ you to everyone who did me wrong. These things that were taboo, but I had been doing it so easily. It’s because there was no one left to tell us, no punishment, no crime, no boredom. In reality, we were just teenagers squatting in someone’s house that didn’t care while other people were dying. I didn’t care because in that moment, I was immortal. The feeling of immortality is only heightened when you see more people die. I felt superior.”

“There was an abrupt end to that feeling. One day when we were all tripping, a group of kids our age had bigger plans of saying fuck you. They were the killers you described. They came into our home, our barrier to the shit that was happening outside. They lit it on fire and tried shooting at us from the windows. My best friend Sawyer got shot right in the eye and burst out laughing, all the drugs dulled him out and the hallucinations must have been hilarious. He was enjoying the pain and didn’t even feel his life slip away, not from the first, second or even third bullet. Some people got an idea of what happened and ran. They tried at least, however the fire spread and their alcohol soaked shirts determined their fate. I didn’t flee I just sat there completely unable to move. One friend pulled me out and threw me out the window, he saved my life. We were on the second floor and my landing was not graceful, in fact my leg never recovered properly from that. I urged my friend to jump with me but he smiled and exploded with the house.”

“What was your friend’s name?”

“I wish I could tell you. I must have called him something but my memory of that time is a little bit shaky. The man saved my life and I can’t remember his name. Even if the name he told me was fake, many of us did that. There was a Snake and Blaze in the group but for the life of me I can’t put a name on him.” Guilt was eating away at Eli. 

“So you were the only survivor?”

“Me and Sarah. We both survived. She was so fucking crazy. She would occasionally trip out and do some crazy shit but most of the time she was clean. She did these insane things like jumping from bridges, completely in her right mind. She was fearless.” His eyes lit up talking about her, which urged Zed to ask, “you loved her?”

“Completely. I thought if I lived by jumping out of a house on fire then I could survive if she rejected me. I was more taken aback when she actually said she liked me too. We already travelled and lived together for a year and a half. But now it was different. Now we were together.”

“So where does Kanna come into this story?”

“I completely forgot that’s why story time began. You’re awfully interested in her.”Eli probed.

“You haven’t explained why she’s such a bitch.”

“If you want to know, maybe you should ask her directly.”

“I’d rather not endure any more pain from her.”

“She is a feisty one but she isn’t a bad person.” Eli’s carefree attitude had dissipated, he wore a stoic look which did not suit him. “Zed, this is an odd request but if something were to happen, I would like you to take care of Kanna.”

“I can’t promise that. I don’t even expect to see you again after tomorrow.”

“You’re welcome to stay. It is easier to be in groups and I know you’re not a bad kid either.”

“Why don’t we finish the story before I start making lifelong promises?”

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At World’s End: Chapter 2

Prologue 

Chapter 1 

There was a rustle from the forest — the slightest sound of a stealthy hunter.

“Let’s talk about this over dinner,” Eli said.

The figure of a small girl clutching a knife in one hand emerged from between the trees. Her hands were covered in blood as the other hand held the bitter remains of a rabbit.

Eli smiled. “Hello, Kanna. Say hello to our new friend.” 

She glared at the stranger, not once breaking eye contact with him even when she walked past her brother, dropping the rabbit in front of him in the process. She stood before Zed, he towered over her, yet this unfazed her. She extended her arm, holding the blood stained knife to his neck. The knife was freshly sharpened, already drawing blood from his neck — one wrong move would result in fatal damage. 

“What do what want?” She asked, her voice did not shake, nor show any emotion. It was almost a monotonous tone. 

“Kill me, I dare you,” Zed laughed. “Put me out of my perpetual misery.”

“Kanna, you brought a lovely meal. Now, let’s sit and eat.” 

There was a moment where the Earth stood still, no one spoke, no breeze passed them, not even an animal stirred, as both Kanna and Zed stared at each other. 

“Children,” Eli said. His voice was soft but it was enough to make Kanna finally withdraw her knife from Zed’s throat. 

She spun around to face Eli exposing a sweet smile. “Would I ever kill a defenceless animal?” she asked while picking up the rabbit. 

Much like his feelings towards Eli, Kanna also made Zed feel uneasy. She showed no emotion to him, yet changed that in an instant when she spoke to Eli. He knew that she was not only capable of killing him but she was ready to. There would be no tears if he died in that moment and certainly not from her. 

Zed felt sweat trickle down on his back, he let out a shaky breath. As he glanced over to Kanna, he saw that she did not share the same sentiment on the event. She leaned back on a tree skinning the rabbit whilst humming a jaunty tune. 

“Zed,” Eli called out, “take a seat.” He was so polite, plastering a grin on his face as if Zed was an ordinary dinner guest.

“No.”

A small knife coming from Kanna’s direction passed Zed, landing on a tree behind him. 

What’s her problem? He thought, however before he could voice his qualms she spoke: “before you get pissy, I don’t miss a shot. So maybe next time I won’t be so nice. If you wanna avoid testing that then I suggest you start listening.”

Zed obeyed sitting on a rock near the camp.

Eli had the same smile on his face, “now, isn’t this nice?”

“Fucking lovely,” Zed said.

“Do I need to get the firewood as well?” Kanna asked. 

“I don’t mind but then you need to keep our guest company. But we can’t expect him to do it.”

“Is the dog unable to do that?”

Eli’s expression changed. “Kanna, it’s manners. He has a name.”

“I’m bad with names. The name I gave him suits him perfectly.”

“Don’t be rude. I’m getting sick of your attitude.”

“People like him just want to hurt us.” She began to shake. “I can’t lose you.” It was like a quiet plea, so small like a child’s voice. 

“Some people need our help, Kanna. We can’t be like those other people. Kindness and compassion can be much harder but it will free us. I promise. Don’t hold onto fear and anger.”

Kanna wiped her face before walking to Zed. “I won’t apologise but I will offer to clean your neck.”

It was a small wound on his neck, compared to other injuries this was so minuscule that he forgot it was there. He knew it was a gesture rather than a necessity, but it still made him want to laugh. The idea of someone showing him a weakness to him, made him want to scream that he was the monster she thought he was. 

Instead he grumbled an agreement. Eli left for the firewood, leaving the two to simmer in a thick silence. Eli sat on the ground, looking upwards as Kanna dabbed a rag with alcohol over the cut. 

He hissed, “no need for that shit.”

“If I’m doing this then I’m doing it properly.”

He just grunted in response, he would much rather she left it but it was better to get this done quick. It did not take long, ensuring that someone does not die over something small was a basic need in dire times. 

“All done,” she exclaimed. “You took it like a trooper.” Kanna joked as she slapped his back while passing him.

He cringed from this force. She did not intend it to be hard but his back sore, some pain from his encounter with Eli but mainly scratches from before he arrived. 

Kanna noticed the discomfort. “Take off your shirt.” 

He remained still as he searched her expression to see if she was being serious. 

“Are you worried for a girl to see you naked? I guarantee you that I will be less than impressed.”

“Darling, I’m sure you can’t wait to see me naked. Would you like me to take off my trousers while I’m at it?”

She glanced down. “I’m not interested in anything so small. Shirt off is fine.”

Zed removed his shirt to reveal bruises along his back, splotches of black and purple painted his back. There were some scratches on his back, the blood from these were dried from these and thankfully, they were not deep. They would not scar like the many marks which trailed to his waistband.

Kanna once again cleaned these wounds and applied an ointment to his back as a thousand theories on how the torments he endured raced through her mind. 

“I fell. It’s not a big deal.” Referring to some of the bruises. 

“And the scratches?”

“I was hiding in some bushes, didn’t realise how prickly it was.”

“The scars?”

“Those are years in the making.”

“They hit you a lot.”

Kanna continued to apply the thick cream, tracing the lines of his scars, some ran to his torso which she followed. She stared at two large gashes on his chest. Eli looked away from Kanna, clearly embarrassed, he was not used to anyone staring at him like this for so long, especially a girl. As he mustered up the nerve to look at her, he noticed that she was not going to cry or feel pity for him, like he was used to. Instead she was filled with a rage directed at those responsible. 

Trying to extinguish that anger, even slightly, Zed muttered, “hey, my eyes are up here.” As he held his shirt to his chest. 

“Sorry for staring. That was tactless.” 

Zed was surprised about the apology, when he was ready to respond Eli came barrelling in. It was obvious to both of them that it was Eli as he was singing a pop song loudly and out of tune. “Seeing you to like that, makes it look like you’re a couple.”

Kanna’s face twisted. “Gross, bro. That’s not funny.”

The quickness of her response hurt Zed, not from any love harboured but from exposing so much of himself, only for people to still be disgusted by him. “What about me? I don’t like you much either.”

She poked his side.  “Wanna tell me what’s wrong with me, bastard? You’d be lucky to get a girl as sophisticated and loving as me.”

Zed did not want to pout or deal with them for any longer, he had his own reasons for travelling. His freedom required him to leave.

“Bitch,” Zed scoffed. 

Before Zed could start the dramatic exit he planned, Kanna ran past him into the forest but not before her hand hit his back. His back stung as he watched her disappear into the night.

At World’s End: Chapter 1

A man stood over the tall sand dunes, famished and dripping with sweat from his trek. Not even the light clothing could help as the unforgiving sun beat down on him. He travelled with only the tattered clothes on his back and the bag slung over his shoulder. In addition to this, a younger woman who was running circles around him.
The strange thing about this pair was not that they were travelling in a pair, nor was it the odd age gap. It was that — despite the fact that they were exhausted, lacked food and were dehydrated — they still smiled.
“Eli,” the small girl laughed. “We’re here.”
He tousled her hair, “we did it, kid.”
They looked at the divide of the desert to a forest area. The girl could not conceal her smile and she enthusiastically said, “we can make it today if we hurry. Let’s hurry.”
The girl carried a smaller bag, not knowing the burden Eli’s body from carrying most of their things, he had always insisted that he was fine. Only recently did she become pushy enough to carry a larger share.
He tried to match her enthusiasm by teasing her. “You’re eighteen now, Kanna, but you still run around like a kid.”
Her argumentative spirit dampened when she looked upon his expression. He was exhausted, breathing heavy, it was clear even to Kanna who looked up to Eli as an unwavering invisible presence — that the toll of travelling had caught up with him.
“You’re a dumbass.” She rolled her eyes. “Like you said I’m 18 and I can carry my share.” She smiled as she took their things from him and draped his arm around her shoulders.
As they walked, Eli could not subdue a chuckle. “I did this for you not long ago.”
“And how fast they grow,” she mocked, knowing that is what he would comment.
They walked at a slower pace than before, to a home past the desert, where the land would provide them the necessary resources. The quiet lifestyle they had craved was now in their grasp. A small river was not far and the only other people much further away. They had completed their journey and all that was left was to set up camp. They wandered into the forest, as trees surrounded them making the months of travelling seem so far. A tranquillity they had never felt took over them.
The summer was not kind during the day but gave them the long days they needed but the night was before them. Kanna quickly unpacked a sleeping bag for her brother and set him down on it. “Now, rest.”
“Kanna,” he sat up, “thank you.”
“All I did was support you for a few minutes. You’ve been supporting me everyday for 11 years.”
“It’s not just that. You’ve done more for me than you could ever know.”
“Don’t get sentimental on me, Bro. You and Reya have done too much for me.” She looked to her feet, it has been a while since she said her name out loud. Reya.
He scoffed, “that crazy girl. I don’t think about her everyday or anything.” He glanced down at his wedding ring and muttered, “Fuck, I miss her.”
“She was the best big sister ever.” Kanna looked at Eli, they both were on the brink of tears. He never cried in front of her and never wanted her to see him cry, therefore this formed an unhealthy habit of Kanna leaving whenever it seemed he would cry.
She excused herself when she saw a rabbit and chased it into the shroud of night.
Whilst in the campsite, Eli lay with his back on the sleeping bag. Tears fell from his eyes as he covered them with his arms. In the darkness, he could only picture his late wife’s face. Not much time passed since Kanna left but he heard footsteps approach him.
He wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “Kid, aren’t you meant to be going for a walk?” he called out.
A large silhouette walked toward him. A man who was well built with short hair approached him. “Sorry, I’m not a kid.”
Eli sat unfazed, he blinked at the stranger as he shifted toward his belongings and clutched an object from his bag. “Then, who might you be little boy?” He asked, knowing that would agitate him.
“I’m not little,” he said in a low tone. The man was muscular man and much larger, however there was no doubt that he was younger.
“Okay, boy. My name is Eli.” The tone was used clearly to belittle him.
“Old man Eli.”
As Eli leaned in for a handshake, the man lunged at him. Eli dodged the man, using the larger man’s weight against him as his balance was slightly off, he pushed him to the ground emitting a tremendous crash. He held a knife at the intruders neck. “You’re still a kid.”
The intruder’s eyes did not change as he continued his hostile glare. “So, little boy, what’s your name?”
There was only silence, leading Eli to speak again. “You can tell me your name or I will call you boy. And we both know how much you enjoy that.”
Finally, he hesitantly replied, “Zed”.
“That’s an interesting name.”
Eli released him from his grip. “You’re not going to kill me?”
“Nah, I like a challenge.” Eli extended his hand again, Zed took it this time as he got up.
“Don’t screw with me.”
“You can either leave, but if you’re gonna stay then you gotta fetch me dinner.”
“You really don’t think I’ll try to kill you?”
“You might but as it stands, that will be too predictable and you don’t come off as a predictable guy. More of a loose cannon.”
Zed was used to his arrival making people feel uneasy, in fact, he thrived off this. However, Eli had made him nervous. Zed’s strong fight instinct screamed at him to try again.
“Feel free to try again,” Eli said, almost reading his mind. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a good scrap.”
Zed shuffled on the spot. “We’re in the middle of a war, it is eat or be eaten.”
“Ah, yes. The apparent war. I highly doubt it even existed. Let alone has gone on for this many years.”
“What kind of conspiracy bullshit are you spouting? Of course, there’s a war, look around. The world’s population has plummeted, people are being killed or becoming killers.”
“There’s a difference between war and what we’re going through, boy. We have all suffered but you can’t remain ignorant.”
“If it isn’t a war, then what is it?” Zed’s tone changed, his anger dissipated as his curiosity spiked.
“It’s the end.”
“You’re gonna have to be more specific than that.”
“Well, you were born in this state of affairs so I can’t expect you to know of a time before. But before, we weren’t much better. There were too many people with too many different opinions. Too many opposing teams, which did result in actual wars. Greed fuelled and funded these conflicts. We survived as a species for over 2000 years with plenty of resources and now if you look around — poof — nothing.”
“What happened to everything?”
“Taking what you think you can, pillaging the land and destroying it. Along with whoever gets in the way. But like I said before it stemmed from greed. A sense of entitlement. The need for power.”
“So a corrupt system?”
“Ding, ding. You got it. If you want to cut a short story down. Then think of this as a very extreme survival of the fittest.”
“Survival of the fittest implies some sort of advancement. That isn’t happening, the survivors are broken. The people left are either completely dominated by fear or strike fear into others. Some people kill for sport now.” He paused, his hands clenched, fingernails digging into his palm.
Eli edged closer to him, his instincts as a big brother was to comfort him but stopped when Zed asked: “is that evolution?”
“No, it’s not. It is the opposite. As humans, we pride ourselves on not being animals. Segregating ourselves from them but when the time, we went back to our primal instincts mixed with a thirst for power. Living in communities gave us humanity so when those collapsed and people broke off, we lost that as well.”
“You’re gonna get yourself killed one day for saying things like that.”
“That is too noble a death for a man like me.”
Zed examined him. The friendly attitude, weaker stature combined with proud atmosphere, Eli was not like many others he had met before. “A man like you can’t possibly be travelling alone.”
“Ah, sharp and a smart mouth. Those would be the things that kill you.”
“I’m not going to die.”
“A man that thinks he’s a god. This is priceless.” Eli laughed.
He finally looked at the younger man’s face and realised it wasn’t a joke.
“I died a long time ago and they need me.”
Eli knew that the Zed’s heart was still beating and the certainty in his voice shook Eli. This was the first time that this strange man was sincere.

At World’s End: Prologue

In a time of complete turmoil, when the Earth is in distress, the thought of living became menacing. 

Many died. Whether it be in poverty, in riots or by the hands of their fellow man, there was never a time to mourn. 

Those people left behind — the “lucky” few — roamed the land, looking for a way to survive. Living off scraps, alone in their sadness. To be left alive was considered luck but to live was not lucky. 

They had seen their families die before their very eyes. Watched the devolution of humankind and eventually the death of humanity. There was no solace. Surviving for the sake of simply not dying, with no hope was cruel. But some could not justify the alternative — choosing to die on their own terms when the darkness became too much. 

The battle of the land had long finished but the war never ended. In this desolate place, life is often forgotten and death is far kinder.

However, human nature dictates that a fighting instinct remains until the very end. Even in a lifeless expanse of sand as far as the eye can see with the blistering heat beating down, there was finally a sign of life. The sound of laughter from a young woman as she ran across the land with a slightly older man trailing behind. Two mismatched people seeking survival.