The Lake at the Edge of the World
The utility van rumbled on, though we were on fumes. The blasted trees in the median stood stark against the slate-colored sky made possible by the perpetual burning of our own monolithic metropolises. Every horizon we sought was stained with ash as if a hateful deity sprinkled the remnants of a burning cigarette upon our tired world.There wasn't any ammunition left, though all three of us had become proficient with well-sharpened, edged weapons. Civilization's complete surrender haunted our never-ending escape. No matter how much time passed, the relentless dead remained uncountable and undeterred.My two female companions were professional survivors. They wouldn't risk their lives for any man; men had made women scarce in the midst of our society's dissolution. I was their captive. Raven-haired Selena, our driver, provided the perfect balance with the pleasant and always-smiling Fiona, the natural blonde who stayed with me in the back of the van.We arrived at the harbor, where a thick fog hovered over the black, oily water. As Selena had envisioned, a narrow riverboat with oars waited, as if we'd arrived at the end of a sprawling dreamscape. We knew how to run, and here we were, at the edge of our nightmare.There wasn't enough room in the boat for all of us. Selena and Fiona argued over my fate; I would likely turn on them and become a sexual predator like the others. I was a man, after all.I knew they were going to leave me behind; Selena always won. When they filed into the boat, I watched them with my hands behind my back. I was very excited when one of the living dead emerged out of the black water. Clumps of wet hair clung to its face like seaweed, and long fingernails curled over its fingers like horrendous talons. The wrinkled flesh on its face seemed more of a rubber mask pulled tightly over a child's face. Sexless and terrible, it could have belonged to an alien race.I leapt into the water as the girls grabbed for their weapons. I tipped their boat while more shapes emerged in the fog.The girls should have known there was no escape. We'd been running for so long…Fiona scrambled back to the shore, while their machetes floated in the water. I grabbed Selena from behind and whispered sweet words into her ear.When the creature bit down into her throat, warm blood splashed my face. She didn't scream. The dead beast reared back with a chunk of her flesh in its mouth. Selena's legs kicked in the shallow water. I shoved her into the creature, delivering her unto the embrace of the painful death that had been inevitable all along. Months (years?) of running had terminated at this point.Selena reached back to claw at my face. The monstrous corpse leaned in and bit down into her chest, filling the disturbed water with inky crimson.I let her go, and found that Fiona had extended her hand to me. I pulled her into the water. We wrestled for a floating machete. Selena screamed while more corpses causally joined the feast. Violent splashes disturbed the apocalyptic silence, but soon it would be all over, and the land's newly-ordered peace would be restored.I pulled Fiona close and joined my lips to hers. Her dry, cracked lips were still soft, and the blade in my hand entered her stomach easily, and it reminded me of cutting into warm butter. Her blood filled the water. I let her go. She grabbed the blade in her stomach and looked at me with wide, blue eyes. A clawed hand reached over the top of her head and pulled her backward into the embrace of the damned. Lovely, blonde-haired Fiona didn't scream.I waded in the water for a moment as the silent, purposeful dead filled the lake with their red-rimmed eyes and sagging jowls. A stray eyeball floated in the bloody miasma.At any moment, I would awaken.