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.

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Chapter 4

Zed watched Kanna skip into the darkness. “Bitch,” he muttered under his breath whilst pulling his ripped shirt from the dirt and putting it over his head.
“You’re going to have to excuse my baby sister. She’s been through a lot.” Eli shot him his signature closed eye smile. A very genuine smile.
Zed scoffed, “We all have. She’s no exception.” He sat in the dirt leaning on the rock as he observed the fire.
“So what has a young boy like yourself seen?”
“None of your business.”
“You remind me of someone.”
“That’s nice but I’d prefer if you didn’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, 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.
“Don’t compare me to you.”
“Okay, Zed, let me tell you something nothing is as simple as it may seem.”
“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 then realised how royally fucked you are; so you just move, valuing your own life more than anything.”
“You want me to start from the top I will.”
“My parents were killed before my very eyes.”
He groaned to a story he expected.
“They were killed before the war. As a child I lashed out. Became a victim of the system. I had no one. Nothing. Just lived. Did drugs. Committed crimes. Squatted in other people’s houses. Pretty much did anything I could to survive. Then the war started and chaos spread. The dead bodies on the street, the shattered glass. I became intoxicated with it, I felt happy. People were suffering the pain i had been for years. I saw this as an opportunity. I could do whatever I really wanted with not even a risk of punishment.”
“So what did you do? Kill people. Did you shoot a man as he begged for his life, looking at the fear in his eyes as only more ammo as you pulled the trigger and watch yourself becoming a killer. And not hate it.”
Eli was not shaken by the oddly specific description that Zed had painted for him. In fact he chuckled. “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. I thought I was so bad, 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.”
“Then 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 because he was hallucinating. 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. Well, 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. The reliable older brother. We were on the second floor and I had managed to land as safe as possible. I urged him to jumped but he smiled and exploded with the house.”
“So you were the only survivor?”
“Me and Sarah. We survived. She was so fucking crazy. She would occasion trip out and do some crazy shit but most of the time she was clean. She did this crazy stuff 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?”
Eli laughed. “I completely forgot that’s why story time began. You’re awfully interested in her.”
“Only because that’s why you started it. Explaining why she’s such a bitch.”
“Well if you want to know maybe you should ask her.”
Kanna walked into the camp. “Ask who what?”
“Well, sis, Zed has a question for you.”
“Go on, bastard. Make sure you don’t piss me off.”
Zed cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable with the current situation. “So why are you such a bitch?”
Her blood boiled. “Wrong question.” Before he knew it a small fist came into an uppercut at his chin. “I’m not treating him again.”
Eli unfazed once again. “Nice hit but why hurt an already injured pup?”
“There’s a lake probably 500 km. Dump his body there or treat him. Your choice.”

Chapter Three

There was a rustle from the forest, the slightest sound of a stealthy yet careful hunter.
“Let’s talk about this over dinner then.”
The small figure of a human clutching a dead animal in their hands. It was covered in blood and already ripped into but it seemed to resemble the bitter remains of a rabbit.
“Hello, Kanna. Say hello to our new friend.” She dropped the rabbit and made her way over her brother. She passed him and sped up towards this stranger. Her knife stained with blood already was to the strangers neck. Her arm extended up to reach him, as he was much taller and she just about could reach him but there was no doubt that one wrong move and he would take fatal damage. “You hurt him.” Her voice did not shake but there was an uneasiness in it.
“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.” She stood unmoving.
“Kanna. Sit.” Eli said more sternly.
She obeyed dropping the knife. “Would I ever kill a defenseless animal?” She picked up the rabbit dripping with blood.
Zed saw the look in her eyes, completely still. No emotion shown towards him, she would’ve killed him and not regretted it. This truly was the look of a predator not the prey like her stature indicates.
“Zed. Take a seat too,” he said politely with a smile on his face as if Zed was a dinner guest.
“No.”
A dart flew out of nowhere into his right shoulder. He looked in the direction which lead to where Kanna was sitting. “Not far off from your heart, right? Not damaging any vital vessels. I don’t miss a shot. Maybe next time I won’t be so nice. Wanna test it? Now sit, dog,” she smirked
Zed obeyed sitting on a rock near the camp.
Eli still had the same smile on his face, “now, isn’t this nice?”
“Fucking lovely,” Zed said.
Kanna dropped firewood in front of Zed, “Start a fire, monster.”
Eli’s smile vaguely changed, her words clearly struck a chord. “Kanna, he has a name.”
“I’m bad with names. The name I gave him suits him perfectly. Rugged, animal like, muscles, vaguely resembles a human. Yeah, he’s a monster.”
“Don’t be mean. I’m getting sick of your attitude.”
“He hurt you. I’m not gonna just act like he didn’t.” She was now shaking. Not with rage but with fear. “I can’t lose you.” It was like a quiet plea, so small like a child’s voice. 
“I know but I sorted it. He was a wounded dog before you came look at him.”
He had blood gushing where Eli had defended himself, the dart sticking from his shoulder and a small wound from where Kanna was close to slitting his throat.
This was the first time she saw him.
“I won’t apologise but I will offer to clean your wounds.”
Zed laughed. It turned into a maniacal laugh, it was unsteady and unsettling. “I’m a monster. Remember? You got me the first time. I’m a monster. I’ve been through much worse. You think you you can kill me with just this. You’re crazier than me!” Kanna splashed alcohol on his back. He flinched from the burning. “Shut up, monster.”
“Sit on the floor and take off your shirt.” He looked at her to see if she was serious. “You worried for a girl to see you naked, you’re more like a dog than a monster.”
“Darling, I’m sure you can’t wait to see me naked. Should I take my pants off too?”
“I’m not interested in anything so small. Shirt off is fine.”
Kanna sat on the rock while Zed sat in the floor in front of her.
It was quiet. However, every now and then Zed would mumble under his breath to deal with the pain. Kanna giggled every time. That’s when Zed realised she was doing this for her own enjoyment. She had so much power of him, putting him in more pain from the rubbing alcohol and the fact he needed her to do this. He could feel her smug aura transcending to him.
Eli still sitting on the log, was skinning the rabbit. He couldn’t resist. “Seeing you to like that, makes it look like you’re a couple.”
Kanna’s face twisted in disgust. “Gross, brother. That’s not funny.”
“Do you really think I’ll like her? I mean look at her.”
Kanna touched one of his wounds, “wanna tell me what’s wrong with me, bastard? You’d be lucky to get a girl as sophisticated and loving as me.”
He scoffed. Kanna put pressure in his cut. The agony was clear on his face. “I’m done. time to get firewood.”
Kanna skipped off to the forest, humming what seemed like a nursery rhyme.

Chapter One

A young man stood tall over the mountain side, dripping with sweat from his trek. The light clothing could not help him with the unforgiving sun beating down. The only thing he had was the tattered clothes on his back and the bag slung over his shoulder. Not to mention the small girl running behind him shouting. The strange thing about this pair was not that they were travelling together nor was it the vast age gap. It was the fact that even though they were both exhausted, looking almost dead, they had lacked food and water, and they had not bathed in a week, despite all this they still smiled. “Brother,” the small girl laughed. “We are here.” The man messed up his sisters hair, “we did it, kid.” They looked over a small village just by the river. “Brother we can make it today if we hurry. Let’s run.”
The girl carrying a small bag, not knowing the burden on her brothers body from carrying most of their things. “Stop being a child. You’re 18 now. We can continue in the morning.”
Just as she was getting ready to complain, she saw her brothers exhausted face and the toll that the day had on his body. “You’re a dumbass. Like you said I’m 18, I can carry my share.” She took their things and helped her brother walk. With his arm round her shoulder for support he couldn’t help but laugh. “I did this for you not long ago.”
“My brother is a dumbass.”
They walked silently together until they reached a place to set camp for the night. As she didn’t want him to walk that much she stopped before the sun went down, in fact they still had hours before the sun set. The summer was not kind during the day but helped them at night. She quickly unpacked a sleeping bag for her brother and set him down on it. “Now sleep.”
“Kanna”, he shouted, “thank you.”
“All I did was carry you. You’ve been carrying me everyday for 11 years.”
“It’s not just that. You’ve done more for me than you know.”
“You and Reya have done too much for me. You miss her of course.”
He scoffed, “that crazy girl. I don’t think about her everyday or anything.” He glanced down at his wedding ring, “Damn I miss her.”
“I miss sister too.”
Kanna left. He never cried in front of her and he never wanted her to see him cry so it became a habit that when he looked like he was about to cry she would leave.
She saw a rabbit and started to chase it like a child.