It was the early morning. The forest was covered in a thick treacherous mist. Arthur was certain he heard the tell tale grunts of the undead that were too close for comfort. It was a violent awakening that put a toll on his body, causing adrenaline to course through his blood, and that would cost him the energy he needed to stay awake for the rest of the day. He got up to his knees, pulled the bow out with an arrow ready in his hands, and waited in silence. Arthur wasn't exactly sure how these things kept finding them, but it seemed these things were usually blind. He could only assume they relied only on their other primitive senses, sound and scent, to find their prey.
Minutes passed, crickets chirped, the sun rose in the east in a golden glow, lifting the fog. Arthur's hands reached out to wake up Peter.
"Hmm not no-" Peter felt a hand smack his mouth silent. Arthur didn't intend to hit him so hard, but his reaction was impulsive and his eyes were wide with fear.
"Shh. Look I'm sorry you wake you abruptly, but it's best if we get moving." Arthur whispered.
Peter nodded his head as Arthur removed his hand. Peter slipped his arms into the loops of the large hiking backpack, carefully making sure not to jolt the contents inside too much so they wouldn't make any noise.
Arthur got up and stepped out from their natural shelter to make sure nothing was in the vicinity. He motioned for Peter to follow. Arthur rubbed his dry eyes, his feet sinking into the ground with each step, as if someone tied cinder blocks to them, his body slightly heaving from side to side as he walked. Sometimes out of the corners of his eyes, he spotted shadows hiding behind the trees, but when he gave them a good glance nothing was there.
Peter noticed his father's strange behavior. It looked like he would fall any second without warning, again. He watched him glance over their shoulders for the tenth time, to the exact same spot. There was no one there.
That's when they heard a snarl. And the snarling continued while they stood rooted to the ground like the trees around them. Arthur already had his bow ready. He went ahead, his legs tense to kick or to run. The sound was so close but nothing was in blurred line of sight.
Out of the bushes in front, a feral black dog jumped out and the next moment Arthur's eyes stared up into a hollow black abyss of it's mouth, the place where bits and pieces of him would end up and be digested. The gates of yellow sharp teeth were currently biting down on the bow, that Arthur used all his remaining strength to keep himself alive, away from the teeth and hopefully anything that could get him infected.
For only a moment he saw Peter standing still, blanched, his mind racing to fight, his hands just reaching out for a stone. He was crying tears, but not a sound escaped his mouth.
"Don't be a fool! I said RUN! RUN!" Arthur growled as he kicked the large mongrel off. He rolled around and got back on his feet, as an arrow flew and just barely grazed the beast. Arthur kicked all the attacks away as best he could, growled, bared his teeth. The dog circled around. Now that Arthur got a better look at it, it was just grotesque and disfigured. It's eye was milky white. Part of it's face was either eaten off or decayed to bits, and it snout and lips were coated brown with blood. But the blood on it's paws was fresh.
He blinked continuously. Arthur felt his knees suddenly cave in, they gave up holding his body. His face was tense, eyebrows knitted in anger and frustration as he tried to concentrate, to stay awake. The world went in and out, and that dog seemed to be in a different place each time he saw him. They were on the ground wrestling, next he knew the dog was gone, then he felt something hit his back. His hand felt slippery and moist as he lost his grip on the bow.
The last scene was like a photograph that engraved itself in his dying memory. Peter was not anywhere in it. Just a small glimmer of light against blurred blades of grass. And then his world went black.
"Hey, you're awake!"
"Hmm no I'd rather not. Five more minutes please?" Arthur glanced at a face that was tinted orange from the light. It cast black shadows on the other half of his face. The other's eyes stared back him, but Arthur was too tired to get a good look at them as he closed his eyes.
"Is Peter still alive?" Arthur murmured.
"Yeah he is. Tough kid you got there."
Arthur smiled and let out a heavy sigh, his worries slipping out of his mouth. Now his body was light and content. He was dead, he could now rest in peace.
"Watch over him for me. And tell him I love him with all my heart. And that his mother would be proud to know he's strong. He always has been..."
"Sure thing, but I'm you could just-" A loud snore interrupted him. The other could tell by now that Arthur had fallen back into a deep sleep. He could understand though, poor guy was running on his last legs from what he'd heard, protecting a kid, and without a single drop of caffeine. In Alfred's mind that was just something unbelievable, dangerous, and pretty heroic.
Arthur woke up immediately and took in a deep breath. He cursed himself for falling asleep again, but has he took a better look at his surroundings, he tried to process exactly what had happened. He died, he swore he did.
His left arm was bandaged, brown spots of blood bled through the white fibers. He tested his hand, it worked to his relief. He looked just below him. There was a brown coat with a fifty printed in big white numbers, was draped over his legs.
Peter. Where was Peter? Arthur jumped to his feet and bolted out the large messy tent, and out into the open wilderness. When the sun's glare stopped blinding him, he noticed and some strangers all gathered around a small fire pit. Amongst them was Peter, sitting on a lawn chair with a plate in his mouth.
"Hey dad." The boy said with a bright smile, kicking his feet. Arthur felt a wave of relief sweep over him.
"Hey, Artie you're awake!" A blond with a strange cowlick said. An American Arthur presumed, by the accent. His voice sounded oddly familiar.
"Hello..." He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, and you are?"
"Name's Alfred F. Jones. Call me Al." Alfred wiped his hand on his shirt before offering it to Arthur. Arthur tried to ignore the fact that Alfred's hands were covered in oil as they shook.
"That's my brother Matthew, over there." Alfred pointed towards a blond with soft wavy hair sitting beside Peter. The blond waved back for he had a pancake in his mouth.
"And that's my friend, Kiku."
"Pleasure to meet you, Arthur-san." Kiku bowed his head.
"I see. Pleasure to meet you all as well." Arthur tried his best to acclimate to his new situation as he sat down with the rest for lunch. Alfred and Peter explained how they found each other and managed to rescue Arthur before the "hell hound", as Alfred calls them, would've eaten him up and maybe turned him into a zombie. It was a close call, for no one was sure if the cut on Arthur's arm was infected, but it seemed he was lucky and did not get the virus inside him.
Arthur felt a lot of things well up inside him as they talked. He kept observing the three survivors carefully, judging by their hospitality and demeanor they meant well but Arthur wasn't too sure if he should trust them yet. On the one hand it was a good thing they stumbled upon them, Arthur would finally get some sleep and be able to get his bearings. However Arthur weighed the risks of facing the dying world alone, already proved to be stressful and deadly, or to face it with strangers. He didn't have much of a choice. He just hoped these strangers didn't plan on killing them. He hoped for a lot of things, sometimes feeling they were empty cries. But clearly someone must've heard them for now he and Peter were safe.