The Last one Standing
“The Last one Standing” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Nikita Sunil Binu, Our Own English High School, Dubai, UAE.
The Last one Standing
“Quiet down, you’ll bring attention upon ourselves.”
She looked at me with utmost disgust, and lights the lamp she has been holding ever since she violently woke me up. I winced as my eyes try to adjust to the sudden emergence of light, brightening up every nook and corner you can find in the murky cave. I looked around to see a basket of a half-eaten loaf of stale bread, an almost empty water bottle and a wet cloak beside the basket. The thundering rain tried to drown out the ringing in my ears but failed to do so. My head throbbed even more as the young girl walked around the cave with her lamp, muttering something that I would never understand no matter how much I hear it from the people in that cursed town. I stared at the wet cloak wondering when this hell of a night will end.
“When can we move?”
I whispered at her, scared that she might stamp on my foot again. “Soon” she said without looking at me. My shoulders slumped forward, wishing for this tiresome night to end. I stared above, my eyes resting upon the roof of the cave, my mind blank, my feet numb from running from, god knows whom, and my bare arms bruised. I lost track of time, trying to determine how we will purge to our death in a matter of days, if not hours.
I blinked and when I open again, the lights are out. “They found us sooner than I thought.” I looked to my right and jumped when I see her fiery eyes boring down at mine. “Come on, it’s time to leave.”
I nodded, and I stand up, brushing the mud off my torn pants, and pocketing my pocketknife. It is time.
It all started when Uncle Tom, my guardian, forced me to sign up for volunteering week at a small town far away from home. I was being a bit too rash than usual, and as a way for reflecting back on my actions, I was sent away.
To be honest, I knew he didn’t give a damn about the troubles I would often land myself in. Rather, he was sick of me, and wanted an excuse to send me off somewhere far away, so that I wouldn’t barge in and annoy him with my mere presence. So, here I am, at this freakish town where the people seem to tread into everyone’s business.
The first day was okay; I, along with a bunch of other ‘volunteers’, was sent to the town’s park, or more accurately, an area laden with rusted slides and swings, overgrown bushes and weeds threatening to snuff the life out of the lower plants. We were supposed to weed out the said weeds, and make the park more appealing and clean by the end of the week.
Huh, I thought, only a week of playing around here, and I’m done!
Hmm, if the poor me were to think it was that simple. Wait until he heard about the part when the towns people started to tear down the inn where we stayed and almost tried to kill us, during the fourth night of our stay.
It was like any other night at the town; heavy rains with the occasional thunder, and lightning, and the snores of the others, all fast asleep. I shuffled around at my stiff bed, trying to get some shuteye, when I heard low whispers through the wooden walls.
Strange that I was able to hear it when the rain was blocking out all sorts of noise, yet there I was, wide-awake and completely freaked out over the strange words ‘they’ whispered.
Must kill. Must kill. Must kill.
Okay… not creepy at all. I stopped grumbling, and slowly, without making any noise, rose from my bed, and tried as quietly as I could, put on some clothes, and walked to the door.
I tried opening it to check what’s going on, but I couldn’t. It seems that the door was locked from the outside.
My mind was set on panic mode. I tried to connect the dots. From the moment I stepped in this town, I knew something was off. The people kept smiling at us and muttered amongst themselves in strange tongues. They kept offering us extra helpings of food at mealtimes, and made us work for long periods of time; like animals.
Like animals on the way to the slaughterhouse.
I fumbled for the handle; desperately trying to open it even though I knew it was of no use. All my sense of logical thinking was lost as the whispers grew louder and clearer. I must get out of here. Now.
I tried waking the others up, but they wouldn’t budge a bit. Chuck it, I thought, I never liked them anyway. I tried opening the windows, but they too were locked. All except one. The lock was loose, and I tried to dislodge it with my trusty old pocketknife. Just my luck; it was jammed shut with all the mud between the window and the rail.
With nowhere to escape, I hid under the bed, covered the sides with a thick blanket, and tried to steady down my breathing, and tried to get a grip on the pocketknife as much as I could with sweaty palms.
Suddenly, I heard a rattling noise outside the door. It sounded as if someone was struggling with the lock. My breaths grew louder with panic, and my hands started shivering.
The slaughterer walked across the room, with a creak announcing his each step; creaks which grew louder and louder to my hiding place.
Then, the blankets were thrown off from my left. I turned around, a guttural sound already making its way out of my mouth, when my eyes met that of his. Or should I say her.
She clamped her hands over my mouth, and whispered with a sense of urgency, “If you want to come out here alive, shut up and cooperate.” She then, grabbed my arms, and forced me to come out of my hiding place.
“What is going on?” I said, my voice cracking halfway.
With lightning speed, she stamped on my right foot, and before I could howl out in pain, she clamped her palms over my mouth again, and whispered furiously, “Shut up or I’ll leave you down here with your drugged friends.”
Drugged? What did she mean by drugged? Before I could ask her anything, she pulled me over to one of the wider windows, and muttered some words in a strange tongue; the same tongue used by them. As if by magic, the lock sprang open, the window now open with a click.
“Hurry!” she whispered, as she pushed me out of the window. With a yelp, I landed down at the backyard of the inn. I stood up, as she jumped from the window, and grabbed my arm, and started running, forcing me to run with her. “Who are you?” I screamed at her, so that my voice wouldn’t be drowned by the heavy storm, “Why should I trust you?”
She replied, without stopping, “I’m Shauna.” Then, she stopped, and turned around to face me, “You should, because you don’t have any other choice.”
“Ted, you’re the only one who has not been killed yet by them. Warn the people in the other town. This is your only chance of survival.”
Shauna looked around as if expecting an ambush to occur. We were at the bus stop. I cried and hugged her, thanked her for everything she had done until now. Shauna sounded annoyed as she pushed me off, and told me that it was not over, that I haven’t called the authorities yet.
I was about to board the bus when I looked behind to say goodbye, but she was long gone.