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Too Keep Him Safe

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“Can we eat these?” little Willy asked as he held up a small branch of red berries. 11-year-old Mitch broke his gaze from the shrub he was looking at to face the young boy. He took the mystery berries from his small hands to observe them more carefully.

The two boys were rummaging through the forest trying to find any edible plants they could bring back to the school. They didn’t have too much luck in their usually spot, so they decided to wander off the path a little bit and ended up finding a whole assortment of plants they had never seen.

“Uhhh…” Mitch mumbled as he scratched his head in thought. “I think so. They kinda look like raspberries.” he gave them back to Willy.

 “I wouldn’t eat them just yet, though. Have Ms. Martin or Ruby look at them first. We don’t want a repeat of what happened last time, right?” he questioned the young boy.

The 6-year-old cringed slightly and shook his head.

“Yeah…you’re right,” he agreed. “Being sick sucked.” He declared.

Mitch nodded in agreement as he thought back to a couple months ago, when Willy ate a handful of berries without getting them checked out first, and they turned out to be poisonous. Luckily, the boy didn’t get anything worse than an upset stomach. Mitch held back a snicker as he remembered the look on Aasim’s face when Willy puked on him. As hilarious as it was, he still remembered how hard it was to see Willy confined to his bed with a wastebasket in close range and a ghostly paleness painting his face.

“But being sick wasn’t all that bad though.” Will continued, interrupting his thoughts. Mitch looked at him with teasing confusion.

“Oh really? Puking your guts out wasn’t all that bad?” he asked jokingly earning a giggle from the younger boy.

“No, that part sucked, but spending time with you was fun.” He said as he looked up at the older boy.  Mitch looked down at him with surprise before giving him a warm smile.

He had offered to stay by Willy’s side the whole time. He told him stories, jokes, and pretty much anything he could think of to distract little Willy from his sickness, even for just a second and to see him smile again.

Mitch ruffled his hair and replied. “We can spend time together when your healthy, dummy.”

Willy giggled again and playfully swatted his hand away. “I know, I know. I guess I mean that you made being sick better.”

Mitch’s smile widened. “Well I’m glad I could help ya out.”

He looked up at the sky, taking note of the orange, golden hue it was presenting.

“C’mon, let’s head home. It’s getting late.” He looked into the small satchel he used to hold the mixed assortment of berries. “I’m not too sure about most of these berries we found. Hope we can eat ‘em.”

“Yeah, me too.” Willy agreed, wishing there was more he could do as the two began to make their way back home.

~

Willy trailed behind Mitch as his eyes wandered around the forest, taking in the scene. “I really like the evenings. The sky and everything else looks so pretty.” He thought with a smile.  After letting his eyes wander for a little longer, he eventually spotted a small shrub full of familiar looking berries.

“Ooh!” he said to himself. He decided to stop and look them over by himself. He’s a big boy, he could handle it. Besides it wouldn’t take too long.

He ran over to the small bush to get a closer look at the berries. After observing them for a while, he concluded that they were blueberries. He picked all the ones he could find and placed them in his small bag.

“Hope this helps feed the others. Can’t wait to show Mitch!” he turned excitedly ready to walk along the path when a low growl cut through the air.

Willy froze.

A rustling noise sprung from behind him. He turned slowly and saw the walking, rotting corpse. What remained of its clothes and skin hung off its body. A small breeze drifted throught, wafting the awful stench of death of its body in Willy’s direction. The smell nearly making him gag.

As Willy took a step back, a branch snapped loudly from underneath his foot.

The two locked eyes, and Wily felt his stomach drop.

The walker stared into his soul with its lifeless eyes before suddenly limping towards him.

 

Run. His brain told him, but his body didn’t comply. He couldn’t move.

It got closer

RUN.

Closer.

RUN!

Closer…

“WILLY!!”

A new voice arose from behind him causing him to jump. He turned and saw Mitch running faster than he’s ever seen. He was then shoved back by the older boy, the force causing him to fall to the ground. He looked up and saw Mitch kick the walker in the leg causing it to fall over on its back. He then pulled out his knife and thrusted it through the walkers decaying skull, killing it for a second time, but this time it wouldn’t be coming back.

Mitch breathed heavily as his adrenaline wore off and he was able to process what happened.

“That walker…I…it almost…wait... Willy!”

Willy!” Mitch shouted as he turned around. The boy was still on the ground staring up at Mitch, his mind still buzzing from what just happened. Mitch immediately knelt down in front of him and began to check him over.

“Are you okay?! It didn’t get you did it?” he asked in a panic.

“No no! I’m okay.” He assured sitting up a little straighter.

Mitch breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God.” He whispered. He stood up and offered Willy a hand to help him up. Willy grabbed his hand and was hoisted to his feet. He dusted the dirt off of himself and looked past Mitch to see the walker’s body.

“Wow,” he said unable to take his eyes off of it. “You- “

 

SMACK!

“OW!” Willy shouted as Mitch’s hand made contact with the side of his head.

He rubbed the now sore spot on his head. “Why’d you-!”

"What is wrong with you?!” Mitch yelled.

 

Willy was quiet. He didn’t know what to say. Mitch never yelled at him before.

“Do you know what could’ve happened if I didn’t come back when I did?!” His fear and adrenaline had worn off, both now replaced with anger over the young boy’s actions.  

“Do you know what that thing could’ve done to you?!”

Willy felt tears sting his eyes. “I…I don’t- “

“It would’ve turned you into one of them! You would’ve been dead! You could’ve died William!” Just the thought about finding Willy lying on the ground bleeding and dying was enough to send chills down his spine.

Willy remained quiet. He can’t even remember the last time Mitch used his full name.

He’s really mad. He thought. he kept his gaze focused on the ground.

“Is that what you want?! To become one of them?!”

Willy shook his head as tears started to cloud his vision. “No..” he whispered.

“Then why would you just stand there staring at it as it came towards you?!” Mitch questioned.

“I…I was…I just…” Willy struggled to respond.

“Answer me Willy!” Mitch demanded.

“I was scared!” the boy exclaimed as his tears broke loose. “I was really scared! I know I should’ve ran, but I…I just couldn’t move! I was so scared and I couldn’t do anything!” Willy cried as he wiped the tears off his cheeks. “I’m sorry Mitch. I just…I- “

 

Willy was cut off once again when Mitch pulled him into a tight hug.

 

“Please...don’t ever scare me like that again.” He replied, his voice trembling.

Willy’s eyes widened as more tears fell from them. He wrapped his arms around the older boy as much as he could before replying.

“I won’t...I promise. I’m sorry.”