Disclaimer: The usual.
A/N: Because I really liked the characters of the long walk and didn't want any of them to die. Also, because I think - like McVries said - if that promise that never happened then they could've probably taken on the soldiers.
When I was writing this, I intended to make it a continuing story, but that will only happen if I get positive feedback on it. So read and review, please?
A child can escape the shadows.
One of the soldiers had fallen off and lay staring up at the sky with empty, expressionless eyes. There was a neat blue hole surrounded by a corona of powder burns in the center of his forehead.
"Goddam bastards!" Parker was screaming. The other soldiers had jumped from the halftrack. Parker looked out over the stunned Walkers. "Come on, you guys! Come on! We can!"
All of the eighteen walkers still grounded on the path were staring at Collie Parker - some expressionless, some with fear, and some with a smile. Crowd, the large faceless monster that usually tormented the walkers, stirred with hushed whispers. The soldiers, on the other hand, were far from stunned, quickly readying their rifles for ticketing.
One of the eighteen broke from the path.
Garraty watched with quiet horror when he saw that it was McVries. Of course it had to be McVries; Peter McVries the hero – Peter McVries who had saved his own ass when he was seconds away from dying in front of the ones he loved. Peter McVries who he still owed his life to, a fact he would never forget.
He felt his two feet move under him before he fully understood why. He ran behind one of the unsuspecting soldiers, still readying his gun for Parker, and tackled him to the ground. Garraty grabbed the gun on the ground and waved the handle around crazily. When the turned around, he realized that he wasn't alone – Art Baker, looking the worse for wear with a long bloody scratch on his thin chin, was clutching another rifle.
Without thinking, Garraty fired at the soldier to his left and found that his shot hit its target at the man's heart. The realization that he had killed a man froze him temporarily in his steps, before he was interrupted by Stebbins's cry. "GODDAMIT, GARRATY, BEHIND YOU." Garraty swung his gun around and shot blindly, then saw the handsome blond soldier he had often thought of killing quickly slump to the ground in a dark pool.
Collie Parker was standing on the half track, gripping his rifle so hard that his knuckles seemed white with pain. "COME ON, GUYS. LET'S GO." This time, there was a large reaction from the walkers. Many of them came to join, though not all. Among the deserters, Garraty saw, were number 84 – Bobby Sledge, Abraham, and Stebbins. Stebbins, Garraty mused for an instant, was smiling.
They ran. It was no difficult task, now that the nearby soldiers were eliminated. The backups would be there soon, advised Stebbins, so they would need to forget about pacing themselves and focus all their energy into getting over the metal gate. Garraty felt dryness in his throat when they reached the stands where Crowd was awaiting, but surprisingly the creature that tormented them so distressingly while they were walking only watched, frozen, as they ran. They were uncomprehending, having never seen anything like this happen, and were unsure of what to do. Some of the children in the mob were even backing away, expecting the dead soldiers to revive and shoot towards the boys.
"SO LONG BASTARDS," McVries shouted as he nimbly jumped over the fence. All the fatigue seemed to have drained out of his features as he landed with graceful ease. In fact, Garraty himself felt a rush of adrenaline that seemed so foreign to him. He did not land on the ground as gracefully as McVries had, but quickly picked himself up anyways and sprinted like he never had before. Minutes later he felt the need to look behind him and saw that the road was so far away.
"Let this'n be known as the first time the walkers darn ran away without gittin killed," grinned Baker. "Let's stop before some of y'all collapse."
As if by magic, they saw the silhouette of a fishing craft appear in the horizon, within an otherwise empty forest. New Hampshire used to have the largest shipping industries, thought Garraty, before the Act of '57. What did they export? He tried to rack his brain for that forgotten detail but failed to remember. In the meantime, he followed the other boys into the bottom of the boat.
The inside was dark, illuminated only by the light of the hole from which they crawled inside. Garraty was reminded of the Egyptian crypts he had read about in history class, and winced at the irony. After all, he supposed, all of them were technically supposed to be dead.
"Garraty, over here," he heard McVries whisper from his left. He walked over to McVries and sat down. His muscles groaned, as if unused to the motion, having been deprived of it for so long. So tired… he thought to himself. For the first time in several days, Garraty leaned back and fell asleep.