Playground Games: Alternate Ending

Good job, pixel hunter! Although if you like happy endings, you’re not going to like this little surprise. One day, as I was reading over the story again long after writing it, my inner pessimist was all “that’s some cheesy-ass bullshit. There’s no way that would ever end so well in a real apocalypse. You should write a more realistic ending!”

That ending is below. I’d say “enjoy”, but…well…yeah.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

“Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic,” she told herself, aloud this time, trying to make the words sink in. But staring at the seemingly endless throng of moaning, swaying bodies that she had to pass through was too much. She felt like some invisible force was sucking the air out of her lungs. Her brain was spinning, and her fingers and toes were tingling.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

They weren’t even her words. They were the words of someone she had hardly known. Someone who had coached her, someone who had told her that the key to success, even in the most stressful situations, is to take pause and make sure you’re thinking and acting with a clear mind. But back when things were normal, when life was cushy and safe, when success was virtually guaranteed for most people, she had thought such advice was cheesy as all hell and, for the most part, taken it for granted.

But when things stopped being normal, she began to have second thoughts.

After months of desperately fleeing from location to location, she eventually found an abandoned warehouse with a conveniently isolated second floor. But then one night some inconsiderate fucking corpse bumped the wrong vehicle. Apparently, the car alarm inside still had some fight in it, and was desperate to proudly scream this fact to the high heavens.

That car was parked right below her new bedroom window. The mob didn’t take long to swarm. And it didn’t take long for her rations to run out, either.

She was on her first day without food when the survivors across the street saw her and signaled her with a flashlight. She signaled them back the next morning with a piece of broken glass and some generously cooperative sunlight. Eventually, the message became clear: “red rover, red rover, send this girl right over”.

The problem, however, was that they were on the opposite side of a six-lane road broader than most highways. And there were a thousand hungry corpses between her and salvation.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

She took a short leap from her window ledge into the rotten stench of the dumpster garbage below. It was kind enough to soften her fall, but inconsiderately loud enough to ring the dinner bell for the surrounding horde.

They were waiting for her when she climbed out of the dumpster. The first couple of rows were harder to shove through, but once she broke free into the more sparsely populated crowd, they were much easier to avoid. Then, she began to run.

Her legs burned. Her arms pumped at a furious pace. The crowd finally became aware of her, and every one of them within a five block radius turned toward her in slow, perfect unison, like a carefully choreographed ballet.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

Her tongue felt like sandpaper rubbing against the back of her throat. Their rotten hands and deafening moans were starting to close in on her.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

One of them managed to reach out and rip a chunk of hair from her scalp, sending blood spilling down the back of her neck.

Stop. Breathe. Don’t panic.

And then, somehow, she was there.

She heard a loud noise from somewhere above – a signal – and the heavy EMERGENCY EXIT door she had been sprinting towards flew open. A survivor with a plaid shirt and a thick beard was beckoning her wildly. He was also saying something – screaming something – something she couldn’t hear. Her ears were ringing.

The lumberjack pulled her inside and slammed the door. Thankfully, it was heavy enough to sever one of the monster’s arms and seal itself shut before the thing could slither its body inside.

She was escorted upstairs to meet the rest of the group. Once there, she saw that they had plenty of food and drinkable water. She felt so happy, she could cry.

“Welcome home, little lady,” one of the survivors greeted her. He had a withered face and hollow cheeks. “We were afraid you might not make it for a second.”

“You mean…I’m safe?” she stammered, tears somehow welling in her parched eyes.

“Oh, yeah, we’ll keep you safe all right,” their leader told her, walking up to her. The top few buttons of his shirt were undone and his yellow teeth smelled like cheap whiskey. “We haven’t come across any live women in at least four months. And you sure are a pretty young thing,” he sneered, his eyes dancing up and down her emaciated frame like he was staring at a delicious piece of meat. He reached out with a dirty hand and stroked her face with his rough, calloused fingers.

Before she could protest, her exhausted body floated to the floor and her vision faded to black.

Click here if you like what you just read (and want to throw a little something in my virtual busker hat)