Coward or Hero

3 min read

The question of the story, are you a Coward or Hero?

“I can’t let them die. I can’t.”  A school resource officer is supposed to keep children safe. Officer Jose Jimenez was trained to stop a school shooter, not to deal with this.

“C’mon think motherfucker! Think!” Luckily, he was only thinking, he knew enough not to voice his frustrations audibly. The children he managed to get to the roof were in shock, showing even the slightest amount of fear would send them into a panic. He needed them quiet while he tried to figure out a way to save them.

“Officer J…” The little girl covered in blood , tears streaming down her face, began hyperventilating as she pointed to her second grade classmate Jimmy.

Jose didn’t need the terrified child to say a word. Jimmy had been bitten in the arm, his eyes filled with tears. “Please help me! Don’t let it…”

The gunshot from Jose’s sidearm exploded the blue eyed blond hair boy’s head like a balloon filled with tomato paste.

The children on the roof screamed as pieces of the infected child’s head splattered across the remainder of Mrs.’ Wilson’s 2nd grade class.

The horde of approximately 600 zombies surrounding the school along with the hundreds that were now roaming the hallways beneath the roof screamed in reaction. The sound of the gunshot and the children’s hysterics renewing their undead  frenzy.

The sound the dead made travelled up Jose’s spine as if it were an electric shock.  The zombies of reality differed in two ways from the dead on television; First they were loud. The screeching hideous wail they emitted made fingernails on a blackboard sound like a Mozart concerto in comparison. Second the stench that came off of them was akin to a chemical weapon. When they attacked the school, most of the children were choking on the stench so hard they were effectively paralyzed. Jose was lucky to have gotten the few children he did, to the relative safety of the roof.

Now here he sat staring at the headless corpse of a second grader. There were now just 5 people on the roof, 4 second graders and himself. His radio was either dead ,or everyone at the police station was. There was no help coming.

“How do I get out of this?” Jose knew the answer, he wasn’t getting out of this. His life would end here on a elementary school roof. Either the undead would eventually break through the door leading to the roof, or he was going to be stuck here until starving to death.

“You could eat the gun.” The little voice in his head proposing his suicide made sense. The entire world was in it’s death throws.  Yesterday this insanity was confined news stories coming out of Japan and India, stories no one believed. Today it exploded in this small New England town. This was the end, not just of Jose’s life but of his world.

“Why  let yourself suffer?” The voice had a point. Eat the gun this ends. Try to fight and you could wind up one of those things mindlessly pursuing the living in hopes of a meal.

Three bullets, 5 people. “So Jose,” he asked himself. “what’s it going to be?”  This was the moment that mattered, “Save the kids? Save yourself? You can’t do both, probably won’t be able to do either.” This was the crucial moment of Jose’s life, the moment that would decide in his mind what sort of a person he was. A coward or a hero.

A hero would figure a way out. A hero would save the children no matter the cost.

A coward would eat the gun. Leave the kids to their fate, an inevitable and horrifying death.

Jose closed his eyes , took a deep breath of the death soaked air and decided who he was.

Jose understood the reality of who he truly was… a hero.

“We are getting out of here!” His voice was confident, reassuring, and determined. “I need you to all get up and get in the corner of the roof.” Pointing to the corner of the building closest to the road.

The children didn’t move, they stared at him two still sobbing, two so far in shock they  were borderline catatonic.

“There’s help on the way. The army is sending a helicopter for us but we have to get over there in the corner so it has room to land.” The children moved quickly to the corner of the flat roofed school. The sight of them renewing the corpses screaming frenzy.

“Single file line” Jose had barked that out to kids for years, usually for fire drills or in the cafeteria. The children followed his orders with Pavlovian precision. Four little children in a single file line stood in front of him. “Now everyone turn around the helicopter is coming from that way.” Jose pointed and all the children in line turned to look. Jose took out his sidearm, the children’s head were all in a single file line facing away from Officer J as he shot. Three children’s heads exploding like piñatas as the first round travelled from shattered skull to shattered skull, the final child’s head disappeared in a pink mist of cerebellum remnants as Jose finished the job.

Standing over four headless child cadavers Jose raised the gun to his head, “I saved them…I saved them.”

Jose pulled the trigger thinking he was truly a hero.

48 hours later the military  gained control of the nightmare. Defeating the dead and restoring the rule of the living.

Jose’s body along with the children he ‘saved’  crackled on the funeral pyre built by the military and the town’s survivors.

Written by Marcus Travis

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