I’ve already told this story a hundred times. I was nine. Abby was six. The plague had reanimated the dead and from there, was spread through bites, scratches, and consumption of infected blood. I didn’t know at the time why I was so protective of her. She wasn’t even related to me, but now it’s not hard to guess. But rather than go in depth with my situation, I’ll leave you with this: I made a promise to her brother, all those years ago, that I would find Abby and rescue her from the remainder of Rokai’s minions. I told Gary that I would cut down anyone and anything that gets in my way. If Edgar and Nathan taught me anything, it’s that you can’t be weak. If you give up, they win. If you give up… the world wins.
“So how’d ya get the metal hand?” The old man sat there in front of the campfire, limbless from the explosion, and surrounded by dead men.
“I was bit.” David polished the jagged blade extending out from the top of his mechanical hand. “Nathan installed it. Gave me the confidence I needed to kill ghouls too.” He stood and drew a black magnum revolver from a holster strapped to one of the men on the ground.
“Well, boy, gifts are given to those deserving.” The old man smiled as David put the gun to his head. He looked into David’s eyes. “Go save that girl, David. And don’t let the world stop you.”
“Giving up would never have crossed my mind.” He cocked the gun. “It was nice talking to you, Jimmy.”
“Likewise, boy. Oh, and try not to step on any land mines.”
David smiled. “I guess I’ll see you in Hell when this is all over.” He pulled the trigger and Jimmy fell back and hit the ground. He dropped the revolver in the grass next to his dead friend. “Rest in peace, old man.”
The sun was setting as David grabbed his backpack and headed for the woods. His mechanical hand was worn down and in need of repair. He passed through the deteriorating forest, impaling two ghouls along the way. It had been days since he’d last slept. He wished it would snow and keep him awake long enough to find a place to sleep. It was winter, but it doesn’t snow here anymore.
David had become deaf to the sound of danger. Nine years had passed since he last saw Abby. Nine years since he had anyone real to talk to. He wasn’t even sure if Jimmy had really existed, or if the revolver he had used to kill Jimmy was ever in his hand at all. He even wondered if the hill he was climbing was real.
All of these thoughts vanished when he saw what was over the top of the hill. A pile of rotting corpses partially blocked his view of a familiar sight. A raven’s head was painted on the outer wall of the old mansion. A sign. The sign of someone he knew.
David whispered to himself. “Nathan…” He climbed over the hill and walked to the gate. The bars were rusty and crusted with blood. A line of dead ghouls surrounded the gate’s perimeter. David pushed the gate open and ambled along the walkway to the front door.
“Who are you?”
David knew this voice. He turned his head to see Nathan facing him, armed with his signature weapon: a jagged-edged dagger with a raven’s head crafted from the pommel. David smiled. “Hey, Nathan.”
Nathan raised a brow. “Do I know you?” His eyes grew wide as David turned, making his mechanical hand visible. “…David?”
David held his metal hand up to Nathan. “I need you to fix it.”
Nathan took a closer look at the hand he had made nine years ago. He turned it to its side and opened a small panel. “Sure, I guess I can fix it.” He squeezed two wires within the panel. “This may hurt a bit.”
David clenched his teeth as Nathan pulled the wires from their ports, detaching his mechanical hand from his arm. He ringed his wrist above where the hand was severed. “How long do you think it’ll take?”
Nathan opened the door to the mansion. “Not too long. Got my tools inside.” He and David walked inside.
As soon as he took his first step into the old mansion, looking around the lobby, he was taken back to when he was nine. When Edgar and Gary led him and Stacey to this place on their first mission to find little Abby. This is where his sister was raped. This is where he was trapped in the basement, where he was bitten and where Gary brutally murdered the old man who trapped him there. It was where Gary cut off David’s infected hand with his katana. There were no good memories here.
David’s flashback from this Hell was interrupted by another familiar voice.
“David?” David turned to see a beautiful woman walking down the spiral stairs to the lobby. She was holding a rifle and a glass of soda.
Nathan took a brief glance at her as he walked through the lobby. “Sonya, I have to help David. I’ll be out in about two hours.” He led David down the hall and through the kitchen. He opened the door to the basement and walked down the steps.
David followed him down the steps and into the basement. He stopped at the sight of his rotting mangled hand on the floor next to the headless body of Howard, the old man from when David was nine. Howard’s severed arms laid at each side of his corpse. David bent down and clutched his stomach.
Nathan looked back to David, who was now on his knees in the corner. “David, are you alright?” He placed the mechanical hand on a desk at the other end of the room and cautiously stepped toward David.
“I’m okay. It’s just,” David wiped tears from his eyes. “It’s just, seeing my hand here just rotting… it’s repulsive.”
“Uh, what are you talking about?” Nathan crouched down next to David and turned his eyes to the floor where he was staring. “What are you looking at?”
David turned his head to Nathan. “You mean you don’t see it?”
“See what? What’s wrong?”
“My hand.” David looked back at his hand on the floor. “Don’t you see it?”
Nathan put his hand on David’s shoulder. “David, there’s nothing there. I cleared every corpse out of here.”
David looked at Nathan and then back to the floor. It was gone. “I… don’t understand.”
“Listen David, everything’s going to be okay.”
David put his hands over his face. “Just hurry up and fix it. I’ll just wait here until it’s ready.” He cried until he fell asleep.
“David. David wake up.” David opened his eyes to see Sonya leaning over him.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. “I see you’re still wearing that tribal gear. I would think after the Luminory tried to kill you, you would stop with all the cannibal stuff.”
“David, I’m not a cannibal. I did stop, it’s just that I feel more comfortable wearing this.” She handed a bottle of water to David and smiled. “Besides, Nathan thinks it’s hot.”
David smiled. “I guess that makes sense, as long as you’re not trying to eat him.”
Nathan walked up to David and handed him a repaired mechanical hand. “There ya go. A perfect robotic hand, equipped with a new blade.”
David admired the new jagged blade as he reinstalled it to his wrist. He turned his repaired metal hand to the side and saw a symbol carved into it. “What’s this?”
“It’s a raven. For luck.” Nathan turned around and grabbed a soda from a cooler. “And to remind you who fixed it up when you save Abby.”
David stood and shook Nathan’s hand. “Thank you so much. I promise I’ll stain this blade with the blood of anyone there that’s hurt Abby.”
Nathan smiled. “I guess that’s the best way to show your appreciation. Good luck.”
David went upstairs and walked through the kitchen, passed through the lobby, and walked out the front door. The sun was setting again when he got back to the hill. He saw a single rose in the grass, the wind bending it forward. He crouched down and pulled it from the ground, thorns piercing his flesh. When he stood, he watched as the wind blew the petals off the stem. He looked back to the mansion, wondering if these memories would replace the bad ones. The petals drifted toward the sun and out of David’s sight. “I’m on my way, Abby.”
Jeffersonville High School, 2019