“Just step the fuck down!” Jack demanded, handgun pointed at the figures chest. He couldn’t make out any details of the individual, their face obscured by a medical mask and goggles. He assumed they were male based on their build, but that didn’t count for much in the end times. Since the world had been brought to its knees by a disease a few years prior, any survivors tended to look the same. Short, cropped hair – easier to care for. Pale skin – it wasn’t safe to venture out after all. A sculpted and toned body – the result of doing nothing but surviving. Plus, any body shape was often lost beneath the gear they all carried. No one on supply run would be caught dead without a gun, some form of melee weapon, a backpack, and a few other things for good measure.
It didn’t take long before the stockpiling started. People buying more than they would ever need, leaving nothing for others – leaving nothing for the nurses, doctors, policemen and anyone else who kept the world running. Leaving nothing for the vulnerable and infirm. Jack knew it was the beginning of the end when even the sanctioned hours for the elderly and keyworkers were ignored as the stores surged with the healthy and well-heeled filling their carts beyond their needs. It was only natural that the elderly were the first to die. Some from disease, but most from starvation. A few even took their own lives, through fear – or to lessen the burden they felt they were putting on others. The weakest of society was left with nothing and they paid for the sins of greedy as a result. Some tried to call it natural selection, or culling of the herd. But Jack knew what it was – it was a world gone insane.
When the deaths began and the bodies started piling up, it wasn’t just the elderly anymore. No one was spared. Old or young, gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor – the great equaliser. Then there were those who hoarded supplies, dragons guarding their treasures. Their corpses stayed among their hoard, watching over their hand-sanitiser and pasta like an ethereal wraith trapped beyond the void. It was almost a shame that they didn’t get to use them. However, their loss was every survivor's gain. When the world ripped itself apart – no, that wasn’t right – when the selfishness of humanity tore the world apart and emptied the stores and warehouses, these hidden troves in peoples homes became a goldmine. The survivors knew they wouldn’t find what they needed in places of commerce any more. Some turned to looting and raiding those who were still alive. People like Jack chose the homes of the deceased, and so did the intruder apparently.
“Look, I just want a couple of things and I’ll be on my way,” the other person said, revealing herself to be female. She hadn’t drawn her weapon – not yet anyway.
“There a hundred other houses on every street, this one is mine,” Jack spat, his gun held steady and unwavering. “You need to go somewhere else.”
“There’s enough here for both of us,” the woman protested, still clutching the item she’d laid claim to. That would be a problem because it was the reason Jack was there.
“I have been through a hundred houses already, this one included, and it is the only with what you got in your hands,” Jack snarled. “I haven’t come all this way to leave empty-handed.”
“It’s just–” she began but was cut off.
“Don’t tell me what it is. It isn’t just this or that. It is what I needed and I’ve already claimed this property as mine. Survivors rights,” Jack snapped back, fingering squeezing the trigger ever so slightly, a hairbreadth from firing.
Jack didn’t want to shoot her, he never wanted to shoot anyone – but that didn’t stop him before. Things were desperate in a dying world, and it ultimately came down to them or him. He’d promised himself that he would never be the one left behind. Promised his dying husband that he would do whatever it took to survive. He meant it too. Seeing the light leave the eyes of his loved one, leaving nothing but a milky hollowness where the sparkle had been, broke him.
“I’m just going to take this and–” she started, but was cut off by Jack again. Except it wasn’t by his words this time but muted cough of silenced handgun that punctuated his reply. The first shot hit her square in the chest, her eyes going wide with … disbelief? Shock? Pain? He didn’t know, and he never would. She couldn’t voice a reply. She gurgled and choked as her lungs swam with the blood that filled them. Her blood. Jack watched the growing patch of red on her chest with a cold detachment before he was ripped back to reality. He wasn’t a cruel man, at least he didn’t think so. He wasn’t going to let her suffer.
Jack stood over the dying woman, who reached out to him with a pale and clammy hand. He then put one more bullet in her head to end the writhing. He looked down, watching her eyes empty of life the same way his husbands did, before he reached down and claimed what had caused so much trouble.
“Goddamn it,” he sighed as he realised some of her blood had soaked into several layers of the toilet roll. He unravelled it to the point it was mostly white and fresh, discarding the ruined sheets before putting it in his pack.