Neil was thought of as weird by the other kids at his High School; he wasnt interested in going to parties or much about girls. He lived in a small town in Texas surrounded by wide desert scrub and narrow minds. Although he was always alone, he was never lonely he had his little friends. Neils friends werent the kind of friends most other kids his age had, his had far too many legs for one thing.
Neil was a scorpion enthusiast, and kept many of the eight legged critters in the abandoned gas station on the edge of town that he had specially converted and secured as his parents wouldnt allow him to keep his precious pets anywhere near the house and he was worried about jackasses from school harming them. Of all of them, one was his favorite. A fat eight inch male emperor scorpion. His glistening black chunky carapace, heavy looking stinger and huge claws made him look like the stuff of most peoples nightmares, but Neil could handle him with ease, rubbing his back gently as the big creature sat passively on his hand, docile as a kitten.
The War was declared suddenly, and panic swept the nation as reports of the enemy dropping dirty bombs full of a strange chemical compound which in a high enough concentrat seemed to wipe out peoples personalities and turn them on each other in violent frenzies that had them tearing each other apart with their bare hands and cannibalizing the remains. Those only injured would turn as well as the chemicals flooded their bloodstreams, and so the chemical disease would spread. A week later enough of the bombs had fallen for the chemicals to be airborne, and then there was no escape. The epidemic soon spread from the big cities and reached the small towns, more people started dying.
As the madness spread in the streets, Neil joined his family in trying to seal the house to stop the noxious fumes contaminating them, but whilst the seals may have held long enough to allow the short-lived chemicals to dissipate, they werent enough to keep out the humans who succumbed and were looking for flesh to eat.
As the hungering zombies tore through the front of the house Neils father pushed him out of one of the back windows and told him to run. He fled, but as he ducked through the streets he ran into a milling crowd of bloodied people and saw amongst them the group who had bullied him mercilessly at High School. He stumbled to hide behind a dumpster, but the bullies saw him and pulled away from the group to follow him.
Unlike zombies from the movies that Neil had laughed at with his dad, these mindless flesh eaters were fast and still had some base animal-like instincts with which they chased their prey. Neil ran through the alleys and ducked between abandoned vehicles, but they were relentless. His mind numb with grief and fear he ran blind and his fleeing feet carried him to the only place he always felt safe, out of town to the old gas station his pets lived in. Fear lending him wings, he gained a lead on his pursuers and fell over a body in the doorway of the station, scrambling back he saw the unmistakable bloodied white face of one of the frenzied, he tensed to leap and run again, but the body didnt move. He realized it was actually
Curiosity overcame terror and he moved close to it to see what could have taken down the super-strong mindless zombie, to his surprise he saw his big black scorpion sitting on the back of the zombies hand, and near it there was a patch of skin was red and slightly puckered where its sting had struck. Awed, Neil picked up his beloved pet and cradled him in his palm. So wrapped up in what had happened was he, he forgot his pursuers
but they hadnt forgotten him. Silent and fast they closed in on his refuge and because of the small doorway only one was able to throw itself at Neils back. He fell forward dropping his scorpion as he twisted, kicking the howling zombie wildly, broken fingernails ripped his skin as it grabbed at his neck and face, the others wailing outside as Neil fought for his life.
Suddenly zombie groaned and seemed to get confused as it fumbled at the boys face, no longer frenzied, its body slowly slumped on him and pinned him for a moment before he realized it was no longer moving and kicked it off him, scrambling for the door and slamming it shut before the others outside realized he was free. Looking down he saw his big black scorpion crawl up onto the zombies back, flexing its tail as if proud of its latest kill. Neil slumped down, back against the door as the zombies outside moaned and howled, beginning to beat on the door and walls. He looked at his trembling hands, covered in his own blood, glancing at a scorpion tank he saw in the reflection of the glass his own wild eyes and torn face, shreds of skin hanging from his shoulders were the zombie tore at him. He shuddered, adrenaline had dulled the pain but he realized that he was injured badly
and he had seen what happened to those injured by zombies.
He reached out and picked up his pet, stroking its smooth back with shaking fingers. He thought about the kids outside, even though they had tormented him so much he couldnt help but feel sorry for them, horrified at their fate. His parents, were they like those things? He felt tears prick his eyes; he couldnt end it like that. Taking a deep breath he made his decision, he would choose for his best friend to take him out before he turned. At least hed die with his own mind. But he didnt want to hurt the scorpion to make him sting, he lifted his hand till he was able to look into its eight eyes as best he could, Scorpy, I dont want to be one of those things, you gotta sting me
please. Tears mixed with the blood on his cheeks as he stared at the unmoving scorpion, the salt burning in his scratches, he felt foolish and closed his eyes.
The sharp moment of pain made him cry out in surprise and his eyes flew open to see the big scorpion flex its tail and stared at him impassively. Did you understand me? Neil mumbled as he dropped his hand gently to his lap, the scorpion cradled there, he felt a wonderful heaviness steal over him as he slipped further down till he lay on the dirt floor. He was astonished to feel the earth against his cheek was cool and soothing. It seemed to cradle him, and as his eyesight faded, he saw the black shine of his pets carapace as it walked slowly past his face toward the door. He was alone. Suddenly he realized he had always been alone, and that it was ok. Peaceful. His body was only a detached numbness as he let himself sink into the darkness of the cool earth, and the last breaths gurgled in his throat
The scorpion, which perhaps had been more aware of the loving care and attention his keeper had given him that Neil had realized, was quietly on a mission. The zombies outside the old gas station soon stopped their noise, and died.
When survivor government militia teams began to sweep through the area after the chemicals had decayed and the war was over, they found a pile of zombie remains by the station, and a large glistening black emperor scorpion sitting atop the pile, flicking his stinger proudly.