Accompanied By A Shadow

Writing Prompt: “You didn’t really like the newest survivor in your group, he never accepts food, and when he didn’t know you were looking, you noticed how he doesn’t even breathe! You gave him a gun for an expedition, and when he returned he claimed to have shot it at bandits he robbed, we never put ammo in it.”

“Found some stuff,” Ben said as he dropped a large duffle bag in the center of the makeshift camp.

“Wow. Great job,” Camila said as she walked over to the bag and started pulling out supplies. “Ammo. Medicine. Canned goods.”

“Where did you get all of that?” I asked Ben.

He looked over at me, dark permanent circles under his eyes seemed to hide his emotion.

“Bandits on the other end of town. They collected the stuff. I just shot at them and they ran. Left this behind,” Ben said. “Found these too.”

He pulled out a box of cigarettes and lit the end of one with a metal lighter. Ben lifted the cigarette to his lips, taking in a deep breath before exhaling a cloud of thick smoke.

“You shot them? With that gun?” I pointed at the revolver on Ben’s hip.

“Yup,” Ben said with a nod.

“I didn’t hear any gunshots,” I said.

“Alex. Hey, don’t berate the guy. He found this stuff,” My husband Wilson said as he grabbed my hand.

“Yeah Alex, give Ben a break for once. I’m thankful for this stuff,’ Camila said.

“Going to go do a perimeter watch. Be back in an hour,” Ben said, taking another hit of the cigarette before turning around.

He dipped out of the worn down building we were currently camping in and disappeared into the darkness.

I sat down next to Wilson and let out a huff.

“Doesn’t make any sense,” I said.

Camila rolled her eyes and continued to look through the stuff Ben brought back.

Wilson squeezed my hand.

“Why can’t you and Ben just get along?” Wilson asked.

“I gave him a gun with no bullets,” I said.

“What?” Wilson and Camila asked at the same time.

“The gun I gave Ben didn’t have any bullets in it. He just lied to us and told us that he shot at bandits. That’s not possible,” I said.

“Are you trying to get Ben killed? Why didn’t you give him any bullets?” Camila asked.

“He doesn’t need it! He doesn’t need a gun or bullets. The man doesn’t even breathe.”

Wilson let out a sigh.

“Not this again,” He said.

“I’m serious. Have you ever watched him? He doesn’t breathe. He doesn’t eat.”

“He eats,” Wilson said.

“Really? Have you seen him eat in the three weeks he’s been with us?” I asked.

Camila and Wilson both grew silent for a moment.

“He is a danger to us and I’m not sure why you two are so trusting of him,” I said.

“Alex, honey,” Wilson said. “Ben has been very helpful.”

“We were fine without him!”

“We were barely surviving before he showed up,” Camila said. “He’s the one who showed us the way to this place and he’s the one who just showed up with a bag full of much needed supplies.”

“And what does he want from us?” I asked.

“He’s just like us. He wants to survive,” Camila said.

“No. No. I’m sorry, but that man is… he might not even be a man for all we know. He just finds supplies like these out of nowhere. It’s unnatural.”

“Alex, are you sleeping alright?” Wilson asked. “I know that this whole situation is stressful but -”

“You aren’t listening,” I said as I stood up, shaking Wilson’s hand from mine. “That man is not right.”

“You’re not right,” Camila said as she sat down beside the dwindling fire.

“I’ll prove it. I’ll prove that he’s not what he seems to be.”

I began to leave as Wilson called out to me.

“Alex, honey! Come back! It’s not safe out there by yourself.”

“Don’t do anything stupid!” Camila shouted to me.

I did not turn back to talk to them. I just stomped loudly, moving through the destroyed building and out into the darkness. 

“Ben! Ben!” I shouted out into the darkness. “If that’s even your name.”

Doing a quick walk through this abandoned town, I saw a small spark of light in the darkness. I walked toward it and there was Ben, leaning up against a stone pillar which was once part of a wall. The cigarette was the only source of light, but I could still make out the details of the heavy poncho he wore and the cowboy hat that shielded his eyes.

“You’re lucky,” He said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You’re lucky there’s no more bandits around or they would have heard all your yelling. Could have gotten your friends killed,” Ben said plainly.

“Don’t pretend you care about them,” I said.

“I don’t. You do. You’re the one yelling,” Ben said as he lifted the cigarette to his lips.

I stopped for a moment, clenching my fist.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked.

“Keeping watch.”

“What are you really doing out here?” I asked again.

Ben took another hit off the lit cigarette and didn’t say anything.

“Look I know about you,” I said. “I know that you didn’t shoot at any bandits.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, because the gun I gave you had no bullets in it. Want to explain that one?”

Ben shrugged.

“Want to explain why you handed me an empty gun?” He asked.

“You don’t eat. You don’t breathe. You don’t need bullets to find supplies. I don’t know why you are with us,” I said changing the subject.

“You want me to leave?” Ben asked.

“I…I don’t trust you,” I said.

“I’m not sure what you want from me, Alex,” Ben said. “I protect your husband. I protect the nurse. I protect you. I bring supplies. I keep bandits off our trail. Is that not enough for you?”

“Uh..I…”

“Does it really matter who I am or why I’m here if I provide that service for you?” Ben asked.

He flicked the small bit of burning cigarette and stamped it out with his boot, diminishing all the light in the area.

As I looked from his boots to his face, I saw his eyes. Beneath the brim of his hat I saw small beads of red that seemed to glow in the dark.

“Think long and hard before you get rid of me,” He said as he took a step forward.

I stood there, almost frozen as he grabbed the gun from his hip and pressed it into my hands.

“Think long and hard,” He repeated as he walked past me, leaving the gun in my hands.

As I held it in my hands, I gave it a small shake and I heard the sound of bullets resting within the chambers.

I turned around but Ben had already started his walk back to the camp.


Header Photo Credit to Pexels.com
https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-knit-cap-and-brown-jacket-standing-on-wooden-bridge-4874511/

Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Red580
https://old.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/nj3oct/wp_you_didnt_really_like_the_newest_survivor_in/

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