Marlow was the first to notice the faint outline of something moving across the open fields. He strained his eyes in an attempt to make out what was coming towards them. Marlow slowly sat the beartrap in his hands down on a patch of dry dirt before standing still. The shape of the thing in the distance was starting to become clearer, and Marlow was beginning to see more details. He could make out long, brown hair with a stained, white tank top that had something wrapped around the waist. His eyes seemed to stop on the object that was being held in the hand of the woman that was now fast approaching.
“Lucy!” Marlow called out to his wife who was playing with the children off near the back of the house.
“Yes honey?” Lucy shouted back to him after a few moments.
“Round up the kids and get them into the barn,” Marlow commanded as he watched the woman drawing ever closer.
Lucy turned her attention away from the kids and jogged over to the front of the barn where her husband was. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“Someone’s coming,” Marlow softly replied.
“Maybe they don’t mean us any harm,” Lucy posited with a bit of hope in her voice.
“I’m not taking that chance,” Marlow bluntly responded. He turned and looked Lucy directly in the eyes, “Now get the children into the barn. I’m going to setup the traps.”
Lucy silently nodded and hustled back for their kids. Marlow stood there for a second and readied himself for what needed to be done. He sprinted for the fence that lay only a few dozen feet in front of the barn. Marlow made it to the fence post that was directly proceeded by an empty space to its right. He reached down and picked up the length of barbed wire that was wrapped around the post. Marlow quickly unwrapped a good portion of the wire before making his way over to the nearest fence post on the right and securing the trap in place.
After a quick pause where he tried to think of what to do next, Marlow glanced over his shoulder to see Lucy ushering the kids into the barn. Marlow scrambled to his feet and moved forward to check the pit he had dug just a few feet in front of the fence. He made sure that the tarp covering the hole was hidden well enough that a quick glance wouldn’t give it away. After a few seconds of double checking, Marlow was satisfied and hustled back to his workbench. He took two of the bear traps off it and strategically placed them at crucial areas in front of the barn door. Marlow sprinted inside the barn and slammed the reinforced doors shut.
“What’s going on pa?” Jonah asked.
Marlow turned and looked his oldest in the eyes, “Someone is coming.” He swallowed hard before continuing, “They’re headed straight for us and they’re going to be here any minute.”
“How can I help?” Jonah eagerly inquired.
Marlow couldn’t help but smile at his son’s enthusiasm to chip in. “Stay down here and watch over your mom and sisters,” Marlow order as he moved towards the ladder up to the hayloft. He quickly looked back at Jonah and added, “Make sure that no matter what, you don’t let anyone in.”
“Yes sir!” Jonas replied with a furious head nod.
Marlow turned and quickly climbed up the ladder onto the loft. He made his way over to the open hatch looking down at the ground below. Marlow crouched down to the left side of the hatch and made sure that he was almost completely out of view. He put himself in a position to where he could easily keep an eye on the woman making her way across the fields. The stranger was close enough now, that Marlow could easily tell that she was slowly jogging in a manner that seemed to indicate she was out of energy but desperately running from something. The object she was cradling to her chest started to resemble the shape of an infant. This development caused Marlow to reconsider his actions for a moment, but ultimately, he decided to hold firm.
Marlow watched from his hiding spot as the woman neared the exit to his field that would bring her within spitting distance of the barn. He brought his attention to the barbed, trip wire that lay in wait. The woman was seconds away from exiting the field, but stopped for a brief moment. Marlow let out a gasp of surprise as the stranger stepped over the barbed wire before stumbling forward. The stranger moved forward and was in a direct path that would lead to her falling into the pit. Marlow bit his lip and waited to see what would happen next. The tiniest gust of wind blew by and managed to cause the one unsecured area of the tarp to barely flap. That was enough to draw the attention of the woman and she cautiously stepped towards the trap. Marlow watched the stranger bend down and examine the tarp before skirting around it.
At this point, Marlow realized that his traps had let him down. There was no way the stranger was going to walk into a beartrap if she had managed to avoid the other ones. He slowly stood to his feet and proceeded to move to where he was in view of the stranger. The woman maneuvered around the beartraps and stumbled to the front door of the barn. She stood still for a moment before taking one of her hands and lightly knocking on the door.
“Hello,” she weakly called out, “Is there anyone there?” After a few moments with no reply she called out again, and was met with no response.
Marlow watched as the stranger began to move in the direction of his house, which was something he would not allow. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” he shouted.
The woman whipped her head around and immediately spotted Marlow. She shuffled over to where she was directly in his line of view before shouting, “Oh thank god someone’s here!” The woman breathed a sigh of relief before yelling, “You’ve got to help me mister.”
Marlow shook his head, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” the woman desperately asked.
“I don’t know who you are,” Marlow answered. He shook his head, “You’re a stranger who just happened to wander onto my property. I’m not naïve enough to open my doors to someone I don’t know, especially after the outbreak.”
“Please!” she shouted. “I’m not infected,” she promised, “I swear I’m not. I’m completely healthy!”
“You sure don’t look like it,” Marlow said as he was referring to the disheveled appearance of the stranger.
“I’ve been running for over two hours from those things!” the stranger shouted in despair, “Of course I’m healthy. I couldn’t run if I wasn’t!”
Marlow closed his eyes for a moment before stating, “I still don’t know who you are.”
“My name is Amanda!” the stranger quickly spat out. She brought the infant she had been cradling away from her chest and held it up. “His name is Jonas. He’s my only son. Please, you have to help us. He’ll die if you don’t.”
A twinge of guilt hit Marlow in the gut, but it didn’t stop him from standing his ground. “I’m sorry,” he shouted down, “I just can’t let you in.”
“You’re going to kill me!” Amanda yelled as she shook her head in despair. She cradled her baby against her chest as she screamed, “Those things are going to get me! If you leave me out here, you’re no better than them!” In desperation Amanda asked, “Do you have a family?”
Marlow glared down at her and remained silent for a few moments. He cryptically replied, “I have loved ones.”
“What would they think about you doing this?” Amanda yelled out. “Would they be okay with you leaving a mother and her child to be slaughtered!”
Marlow had a sinking suspicion that her pleas were starting to work, but not on him. He moved away from the opening and peered over the side of the hayloft. Marlow spotted Jonah standing guard by the door while his two daughters were latched on tightly to Lucy. Amanda was screaming in panic outside and Lucy slowly brought her gaze up to meet Marlow’s. The two stared at each other, and without saying a word, Marlow knew that Lucy was having second thoughts. He simply shook his head before moving back towards the opening so Amanda could see him.
“What do they think?” she screamed at Marlow.
“What do you mean?” he lightly growled in response.
Amanda scoffed, “I’m not an idiot. I know your family is hiding inside the barn!” She hollered out, “I know you’re in there! Please help me! He’s going to leave me to die.”
Marlow snapped, “Don’t you dare try to speak to my family!” He roared, “I’m not letting you in and that’s the end of that!”
Amanda looked over her shoulder and saw something moving through the open field less than a mile from where they were. She called out, “They’re coming! They’ll be here in a few minutes and then they’ll kill me! Please just let me come inside!”
“I can’t!” Marlow screamed. He lowered his voice before saying, “I can’t do that. There’s too much risk.”
“What risk?” Amanda screamed, “I’m the one who’s going to die!”
“You might be contagious and you don’t even know it!” Marlow yelled. He looked down at Amanda and slowly shook his head. “I can’t take the risk of letting you in. You might very well be infected.”
“But I’m not!” Amanda wailed as tears formed in her eyes. She held Jonas up in the air, “Take him then.” Amanda pleaded, “If you can’t take us both, then at least take him.”
Marlow took in a deep breath before reluctantly replying, “No.”
“He’s just a baby!” Amanda cried out.
“The virus doesn’t care how old you are!” Marlow yelled. He stomped his foot in frustration as he paced in front of the opening. His ironclad will was starting to cave. Marlow didn’t want to leave a mother and her child to die, but he knew he needed to protect his family first and foremost.
“They’re coming!” Amanda screamed in terror.
Marlow looked out at the field and saw a group of figures moving at the pace of a fast walk. The growths that covered their blackened flesh was a truly nauseating sight to see. Marlow knew the creatures would reach the barn in just a few minutes. The danger growing ever closer gave Marlow the resolve to follow through on what needed to be done.
He looked down at Amanda one last time before saying, “I can’t let you in.”
“Open the damn door!” Amanda screamed in fear while pounding her free hand against the barn.
Marlow made his way to the ladder and started to climb down. As he approached the bottom, he noticed that Jonah was moving ever closer to the barndoor latch. He scrambled down the ladder and raced towards the barndoor. Marlow managed to grab ahold of Jonah’s shoulders before he started to raise the latch. He pulled his son back from the door while Amanda’s screaming could easily be heard on the other side.
“We have to help her!” Jonah cried.
Marlow turned Jonah so he could look him in the eyes. “We can’t son,” he took in a deep breath before explaining, “She might have something that will make us all very sick. That’s why we can’t let her in.”
“What if she doesn’t?” Jonah asked.
Marlow locked eyes with Lucy for a moment as he tried to think of the best response. He finally answered, “We can’t take that chance Jonah.”
“She’s going to die!” Jonah yelled.
“And if we let her in here we could all die,” Marlow countered. He hugged his son tightly and whispered, “I know it’s not easy son, but we have to do it.”
“They’re here!” Amanda screamed, “Open the damn door!”
Marlow could hear the awful grunting and wet gasping noises of the disgusting creatures as they drew ever closer. Amanda continued to pound against the door while her screams were still ignored. Marlow took Jonah over to the others and he embraced them all in a family hug. Amanda’s screams for help quickly turned into those of terror. Marlow couldn’t help but listen as he heard the creatures surround Amanda outside and start to tear into her. The noises of flesh being torn apart could easily be heard over the wet gasping sounds and Amanda’s dying screams.
Marlow hugged his family as tight as he could while whispering to himself, “I did the right thing. I did the right thing.”