1st Place – Tristan Hammit

MASTER OF MY DESTINY

By Tristan Hammit

Today is graduation day. We will fight to the death with a sparring partner. The winner will graduate from survival school. We also get to choose the weapon we use. I will use my broad sword and throwing knives. It combines melee attack with range. I hope I don’t die.

As I walk through camp, I notice how everyone is on edge. We all know someone will die today. Only I know it won’t be me.

“I need to get going,” I think. I’m on a mission. I need to see who I will fight today so that I can study my opponent. The paper that says who I will fight is in the middle of the camp. To get there you have to go through a zombie pit. It’s a trick to keep the younger students out.

When I reach the zombie pit, I think about how humans went from using iPhones to using baseball bats to bash a zombie’s head in. The zombie apocalypse has made life much more about the survival of our race rather than making money. For the last seven years I’ve trained at this survival school and honestly it has served me well. I’m trained to stay alive.

Getting through zombies is easy. Everyone at the school is equipped wit leather armor, but it isn’t very strong. It turns out nobody reads anymore, except me, so I’m the only one who found out that boiling leather hardens and strengthens it. The zombies can’t touch me with the armor on.

Finally I get to the middle of the camp and find the piece of paper that tells me who I will fight. The paper says Toren vs. Brock. Brock, that’s who they paired me with. Brock if the most vicious and headstrong guy I know. Well, at least I’ve got one thing over him. I’m not dumb. I strategize and try to outthink my opponent. Brock just charges and swings at you.

“Okay, the matches start at 12:00, so I need to get my weapons and head to the battle ring,” I say to myself as I walk back towards the zombie pit.

When I get to the barracks I find my locker and start putting on my gear. I put on my soft under armor. Then I start to put on my boiled leather armor. Finally, I get my weapons out. Starting with my throwing knives, then my dagger (I strap it to my right forearm), and lastly my pride and joy, Excalibur. Excalibur is my heavy broadsword that I spent all of my camp credits on to get it custom made. Camp credits are earned from silencing zombies. There are also bounties for certain people who died that friends or family don’t want to have walking around with their guts hanging out.

You get one credit per zombie and sometimes more if it’s a bounty. My sword was 2,500 credits. Yeah, that’s a lot of zombies. Eventually I get to the battle ring. As it always is during a graduation ceremony the place was packed. Younger students rushed around, coaches and teachers bought snacks, shopkeepers sold weapons and armor. The activity was extreme.

I made my way over to the part of the stands reserved for the Graduation group. Everyone was there. I was the last one.

“Finally, everyone is here. Now we can begin,” exclaimed our leading student, Joseph.

“Well, excuse me for being 30 minutes early!” I reply.

Everyone is tense. We’re all worried about whether or not we will survive.

“Ok, listen up. Since everyone if here we are going to go ahead and start,” announced the head weapons coach. “First up we have…Toren and Brock!”

Great. I have to be first. What luck! I think as I walk into the ring. The crowd cheers as we walk to our sides. I look around and see all of the unfamiliar young faces around me. I haven’t really gotten to know anybody very well, even in my classes. It’s discouraged to have friends because in the end you might have to kill them. I took the teacher’s advice. “Am I going to die friendless?” I ask myself.

“You will not die,” a voice inside my head argues.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” one of the coaches yells. “I welcome you to the 6th annual graduation ceremony from survival school.”

The crowd roared.

When they had settled down he started again. “As many of you know, in order to graduate, you must be another in combat. This match is a battle of instincts, strength, and wit. The winner graduates if the loser is left lifeless. There is only one rule. There are no rules! Now, our first match…Toren vs. Brock!” he finished.

That was the cue. Now we started to fight. I looked at Brock. He was already running toward me. I took our one of my knives and threw one at him. It was close but it didn’t hit. Now he knew of the threat, too. He slowed a little. Stupid choice. My next one hit him in the leg. He winced and pulled it out.

Now it was my turn to rush. I unsheathed my sword and ran at him. He blocked my first hit. I swung at him again. He dodged it and hit me in the shoulder. His iron spiked club pierced my armor and sunk into my shoulder. The pain was bearable.

I swung at him again and again to tire him out. He kept blocking or dodging. This was going to be hard.

After a while he started attacking. It wasn’t had to block with my sword but it did take a lot of energy. We took turns attacking. He attacked, then I attacked. I needed to think smarter.

Finally I managed to hit him, although I was covered in piercings from his spiked club. But now I had an idea which was worth it. I needed to get a good shot at his chest. So I started trying to hit him in the head. Every time he blocked, I had an open shot at his chest. “Whack!” There. “Thud!” Again, “Clang!” Next one, “Bam!”

Now! I took out my dagger and stuck it in his chest in one fluid motion. He never saw it coming. Brock stumbled backwards. Then he fell to the ground. I walked over to him. It was over. All I had to do was finish him. I looked into Brock’s eyes. He had his hand inside his shirt. Brock was struggling to get a weapon. I needed to finish him, now. I took a two-handed grip on my sword and plunged it right into where his heart should be.

Then the most unlikely thing happened. He pulled a black thing out that looked like a mini crossbow without limbs or a string. Then Brock said, “Now, we both die.” He squeezed the trigger and….

“BOOM!!!” I felt a burning in my chest. Warm hot red stuff flowed down my body. What was that called? Bloo…blahd…”Oomph.” I had fallen down. I felt sleepy. My eyes started to black out. I looked down at Brock. His eyes were glazed over. Why was that? I looked up at the sky. I saw the clouds, the trees, the sunshine, and then nothing.

I felt cold. Something was making my chest hurt. My head was throbbing. Where was I? I tried to open my eyes. They seemed stuck together. I noticed something was dried on my face and all over my body. Something in the distance howled. Finally, I wrenched my eyes open. It was dark. As my eyes adjusted, I heard movement behind me. I looked around, nothing.

 I was on top of a pile of dead bodies. Why was I here? Suddenly, it all came back to me. The survival school, the fight, the mysterious weapon. This must be where they dump the dead bodies. I knew the bodies of the dead were dumped somewhere and left to become zombies, but I didn’t know where. This must be miles away from the town. I need to sleep before trying to find my way back. I crawled up a nearby tree so zombies couldn’t get me. I fell asleep with the feeling of tree bark at my back.

    “Groan.” “Bleh.” I woke to the sound of the zombies. They shuffled around the tree like dogs waiting for a cat to come down. Of course, I had forgotten that by morning the bodies would become zombies. Now I would have to fight my way through them.

    Using throwing knives wouldn’t do anything but anger the zombies so I have to go down there and fight. As I crawled down the tree I was reminded of my wounds. After this I would need to clean and dress them. Finally, I got far enough down so if the zombies could jump they would pull me down. I unsheath my sword and….

    “Wham!” I jumped off the tree and hit the nearest zombie in the head with the pommel of my blade. I started with a spin move that cut anything in my blade’s reach. I slashed and stabbed until there was space in between me and the zombies. Then they started to attack. As they surrounded me I noticed that I was outnumbered at least 25 to 1. Thankfully I liked these odds. Once again I started my slashing and bashing. I’d turn one way and cut a zombie’s head off. Then I’d turn the other way and split a zombie in half from bottom to top. I do have to say it’s dirty business being a zombie hunter.

When I got down to the last ten zombies they started to swarm me. They all tackled me and fell over me trying to get a taste of living flesh. I fought as hard as I could. I threw a punch here and stabbed there. Suddenly I felt a stinging pain in my right hand. I had been bitten. I was infected with the zombie virus. In one desperate attempt to escape I used another spin move. This ended up doing two things. One, it knocked all the zombies back. Two, it mortally injured each zombie and gave me a chance to run. I ran and I ran and I ran. Finally I dropped to the ground. “I’m infected with the zombie virus,” I exclaimed. This was bad.

The only way to cure the zombie virus is special antibiotics. I, of course, being stuck all the way out here, didn’t have any. I have to find the nearest town before it takes over my body. First it will take my arms, making them numb. Then it will take my mind and kill me. Already the skin around the bite felt numb. “I need to get moving!” I exclaimed. “The longer I stay here the less time I have.” I got up and started to look around. There were more towns to the east so I went that way.

I walked and walked. I saw no towns day and night. It had been two days when I noticed how I did not feel hunger or thirst. In fact, I couldn’t feel my entire right arm. I never felt tired and as the disease grew a new hunger arose. I could smell fresh meat from miles away. I couldn’t afford to stop.

At five days in, I started to battle a voice in my head. It said, “Look, meat. Go eat it.” It was a constant distraction. I started to see different images that weren’t there. Once it was my dead mother. Another time, my lost brother. I even once saw what looked like my great uncle.

As days went by, the voice or voices go stronger. The illusions told me to just give up. They said that dying would fix everything. It would stop my growing hunger for flesh and bring back my emotional and physical feeling.

“No!” I would always respond. “This life is all I have ever known and truly owned. I am the master of my destiny, therefore I refuse to die.” My hunger grew and my feeling dulled.

About the tenth day, I saw a town.

I ran toward it hoping for life.

The guards at the walls of the town shouted, “Zombie, zombie approaching!”

“NO! I AM NOT A ZOMBIE!!!” I scream back.

“It’s a person!” one of the guards said.

Oomph. Thud. I tripped and landed on my face. Then I fell asleep, collapsed on the ground.

EPILOGUE

Toren was then taken to the nearest med building and given the antibiotics. The doctors were amazed at how long he survived the zombie virus. According to when he had ‘died’ and what he told them, he traveled 11 days and 10 nights to get back. Toren, after 2 weeks, made a full recovery.

Although he never forgot the illusions that doubted him. He was given the position of honorary graduate from the survival school and became a professional zombie hunter. He enjoyed survival school so much that he started his own (a less brutal one) and called it Life Training.

He was one of the only people to recover from the zombie virus. He got lucky, or as he always said, “I mastered my destiny. I refused to die.”