Incident on the pale.

“Ugh. Guard duty is such a drag.” Jessie hocked up some spit and aimed it at the aluminum can someone had tossed over the ramparts since she was last on duty. The result was an impressive twunk of wet on metal. Max was impressed, though he knew she’d learned from one of the best. He father was legendary for his llama-like skill at hitting a target with his spit.

The things you perfected in confinement…

“I don’t mind. I just wish we could go out and, y’know…

Jessie snorted. She knew. Confinement had put a definitely damper on their budding romance. They could find ways — teenagers always did — but the thrill of the possibility of getting caught only went so far before it became more a drag than a thrill. Besides, Jessie was getting bored with it all.

“I mean, absolutely nothing happens on guard duty,” Jessie said. She wanted to change the subject. She had decided she was getting tired of Max’s preoccupation with this single extra-curricular activity and was debating on how she could let him down gently. She’d decided she needed a break from his amorous attentions — those attentions had started suffocating her.

The sudden growl made them both jump.

They peered over the edge. Down in the two-by-four carved into spikes and pointing out like porcupine needles, a reaver had managed to impale himself near the bespat pop can. Apparently the sound outside the walls of the commune’s space had attracted the victim of the plague that had ravaged the country.

Reavers weren’t zombies, though plenty of folks had already drawing similarities. Like zombies, they roamed around and attacked any living thing that wasn’t a reaver. Sometimes, being a reaver didn’t stop them from attacking. Unlike zombies, they weren’t motivated to eat the flesh of their victims (although some did) and they could die by the same things that killed most people. They didn’t have much in the way of brains anymore, but that didn’t stop them from a herd-like mentality focused on aggression. The virus that caused their condition had been largely overcome, Jessie was happy to know.

“We should put him out of his misery. That looks like a pretty fatal skewering.” Max brought the rifle up to his eye and took aim.

“Dad said we should eliminate them quietly. That’s why we’re supposed to get an adult,” Jessie reminded Max. “They’ll send someone out to retire him and clean him off the spikes quietly so they can scout for others. We’re just supposed to use the rifles in emergencies.” The adult preferred to not call it ‘killing’. ‘Retiring a reaver’ was ever so much more palatable.

Max, knowing Jessie was slipping from his grasp decided an act of manliness might renew her interests.

“Listen, I’m almost 18. I’ll take care of the reaver. Just watch and make sure he doesn’t have more life than I think he has.”

“I don’t know –” Jessie wasn’t much for rules, but her dad might yell at her for letting Max breach protocol.

However, Max had already decided he was going to do this and had jumped off the wall, landing next to the reaver and had pulled out his hunting knife. He took a deep breath, never having retired a reaver…

“Easy peasy, lemon –“

His landing, or maybe his gloating, had found some ears behind a cluster of spikes to the west. Before Jessie could say anything, another reaver had attacked Max from behind and started ripping at his throat and face while the first reaver tried to join in the fray, but was stuck fast on the spike and far too weak from blood loss to shift itself off the confining pole.

It was mere moments by the time the second reaver’s frenzy had succeeded in opening up Max’s throat, though not before Max had stabbed it several times in the chest. Both were laying in a growing pool of blood as the first reaver waved with ever-increasing weakness in their direction, hoping to inflict it’s own damage to one or both of them. Jessie watched as it, too, expired.

Jessie only had two thoughts as she stared in shock.

First, she had to tell an adult about the corpses.

Second, she was relieved to not have to find a way to get away from Max’s claustrophobic-inducing attentions.

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