Chapter 8. Shovel them
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"Apparently I am supposed to write my thoughts here, to accept them, to make me feel “better”. Bunch of bullshit if you ask me, but what can you do when that damned girl just wouldn’t leave me alone. She got that thought in her head, that she will be the one to “fix” me.. like I need any fixing. And so now I have to write this journal, I refuse to call it a diary, or the demon will keep bothering me even in school. Just like she did today. It doesn’t help that she probably found this idea on the internet..."

Leo chuckled at the journal’s first entry. He was a right prick back then, pushing everyone away even when Hales decided to take him in after Edward left. Leo was probably the reason for their first grey hairs and if Lily wasn’t her normal annoying self, he would have probably never accepted them.

Worse than a prick, Leo shook his head and returned to the journal, trying to decipher the scrawl he once called his handwriting.

"Anyway, my name is Leo Brown and no, it’s just Leo, nothing more. I’m almost fifteen years old and my parents are dead. My mother died in a car crash because some drunk bastard couldn’t stop at a red light. He killed her, destroying our family while only getting a few years in jail in return. How fucked up is that.

And then there is my father, the man who I needed the most when mom died. He promised, he fucking promised to never leave me and yet after a few months during which he refused to look at me, he just left. Without any goodbye, without saying a thing that would indicate him leaving. And now he might as well be dead to me."

Leo had no clue what came upon him back then. Ever since Edward left, he refused to even mention his mother and father, but when he sat before the empty journal, he just couldn’t stop himself. He wrote and wrote, spilling his heart on the piece of paper. Blunt as ever.

And when he finished? Well, the long lines crossing all of the writing, described Leo’s reaction quite well. As did his increased coldness towards everyone for at least two weeks. Even Lily stopped her attempts at “fixing” him at that time.

He really played the part of a broody teenager with daddy issues well...

Turning the journal to its next page, Leo retrieved the half-eaten candy bar and returned to reading. The journal didn’t inspire many positive feelings in him. Hell, Leo almost constantly had a grimace on his face when he read some interesting parts of the journal. But the book at least took his thoughts away from the looming apocalypse for some time.

Which in the end might not have been the best idea as Leo’s eyelids grew heavy and his head grew closer and closer to the desk. Probably not even an hour passed before Leo’s eyes closed and the darkness consumed his mind.

When Leo woke up sitting on one of the most uncomfortable chairs and still feeling better than ever, he couldn’t even be mad at himself for falling asleep. The soreness left his body, all of the wounds Leo received already scabbed or were gone altogether, leaving only a small angry scar behind.

Through the small hole in the curtains, a small ray of red sun entered Leo’s old room, and he smiled, thanking whoever was listening that now he at least had another day to plan and maybe move along with his goal.

The smile only lasted a few seconds as a moment later another notification appeared before his eyes.

You managed to survive the Night outside a safe zone. Zero Voidlings or survivors killed. Congratulations.

Leo didn’t know whether the System was complimenting or mocking him. And what the hell was a safe zone anyway? The previous notification only mentioned a secure shelter. Was it the same thing and Leo just failed to secure his home enough to be considered a safe zone?

No, that can’t be it.

Taking a deep breath, Leo released it and dismissed the message. It wasn’t important now and thinking about something he didn’t understand only gave him a headache. Though it still gave Leo a thought about his hiding spots during the nights.

He had no way to confirm if his place was secure and now he also had to worry about sleeping without dying once his eyes closed. The problems just kept on piling upon each other with every hour.

Leo sighed, and just like that, the good mood disappeared into the wind.

For now, he had to use empty buildings like this one to hide during the night. Make them as secure as possible and then hope that none of the Nightmares had a reason to enter a seemingly empty house. And in case they did?

Well, Leo planned to at least try to escape, but as he once heard. No plan survives contact with the enemy and the Nightmare might as well kill him before Leo even moved. He really had no clue how large was the disparity in power between F and E+ rank…

Yeah, let’s not think about that now. I really don’t need the images of being torn to shreds in my head. Leo grimaced, pushing those thoughts away.

The problem of sleep was another matter altogether. Even with those new superpowers, he had to rest and for now Leo just couldn’t find a good time to sleep.

Last night he was lucky that nothing decided to check his house and make a snack out of him. Besides if it wasn't for the journal, his own fear would never let Leo close his eyes after seeing the Collector carrying out the body of Mrs. Gibson.

So the night is out. At least until I find something more secure.

Then again sleeping during the day had its own problems as it was the only time Leo wasn’t scared shitless to leave the house. With light provided by the Sun and no Nightmares wandering around the city, he felt at least a bit safer. Also who said that normal Voidlings couldn’t try to kill him during the day.

“This is hopeless,” Leo murmured, head in his hand, “In the end, it will depend on luck and the safety of the place I can find. Nothing more. Just great.”

Out of nowhere, his stomach grumbled. Leo scowled and reached into his backpack, removing some dried meat and a bottle of water. Leo always thought better with some food in his stomach so why not kill two birds with one stone.

As he ate, his mind drifted, searching for ideas to solve at least one of his problems. Without much success. Everything was too risky, wasted too much time, or seemed impossible.

No good way to go around it. Risk is always involved so might as well just wing it and try to sleep during the night while hiding in a barricaded bathroom. Most of those don’t have windows so why not.

Leo sighed. Maybe not the best idea, but he had no better ones.

He stood up, put the leftovers back into his bag, and approached the window. Might as well see what had happened when he slept.

The curtains parted and Leo for the third time since he woke up gaped at the sight before him.

The Sun and transformed plants remained the same, still bathing the world in crimson. What surprised Leo were the branches and pieces of roof tiles scattered around the neighborhood. To add to the absolute chaos outside the window, Leo already noticed two Cursed Humans walking around mindlessly, their red eyes scanning the area.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Leo really wanted to bang his head against the window, “Where did you even come from.”

No one answered him and Leo walked away, scowl permanently painted on his face. He made his way downstairs and when he entered the living room, his body froze as a loud crunch reached his ears.

Looking down, Leo lifted his leg, eyes widening when he noticed the crushed window glass.

He jumped back, dagger held right in front of his face as he scanned the almost dark room, searching for any other sign that someone was inside. All of the furniture in sight was in the same position Leo left it in and while he noticed a few more glass shards glinting in the light of his arm, nothing more seemed out of place.

Dagger never lowering, Leo approached one of the windows and slowly pulled apart the curtains.

Rays of sun flew inside the room, bathing it in dim light. Leo once again sent his gaze across the room and finally noticed a large pile of glass under another window. He frowned.

There is no way that the wind destroyed it, right?

He really hoped that was the case. The thought of a Collector or any other Voidling walking inside the house when he slept, didn’t fill Leo with much joy.

Gripping the dagger in his hand even tighter, Leo decided to check the entire house. Just in case something wanted to surprise him when he moved on to looting the building.

For once luck shined upon Leo and he found no unrequited guest inside the house. As such he moved to the final task, looting his adoptive parents' house. Something which Leo promised to keep to himself when he finally found the rest of his family. They didn’t need to know who trashed their house.

Honestly, not much was left to be looted as Leo’s parents left almost no food before their trip and he had enough clothes for now. Only the first aid kit — which Leo almost dismissed after his recovery in the span of one night — and his dad’s gun interested him.

Leo found the black handgun — a Glock if he remembered correctly — inside a small box within his parents' bedroom. The box was locked, but not too big of a problem for Leo’s new claws.

Along with the weapon, he took its holster, which he attached to his belt, and a box of ammunition.

Leo wanted to check if the weapon even worked after the Outbreak, but he didn’t want a horde of Voidlings spilling into the neighborhood. And so he just settled on Identify which assured Leo that the weapon indeed still worked and was in pretty good condition with its common rarity.

Happy with his find, Leo retreated downstairs and unbarricaded the backdoor, groaning under the weight of the wardrobe.

I really need another point in strength, especially with the bonus from the taint gone, Leo grumbled, taking a moment to catch his breath and activate stealth.

The barrier once again formed around Leo’s skin and he turned to the doors, opening them just enough to slip through.

Closing the door, Leo hugged the wall, slowly walking towards its end. He peeked around the corner and instantly snapped his head back when he noticed a Voidling standing right in Leo’s path. Scowling, he walked to the other side of the building and checked the situation there.

Empty. Leo sighed and followed the thin way between the fence and the wall. Only stopping when he reached the next corner. Leo once again leaned out, hoping that the Voidling from the other side of the house just remained there.

It didn’t.

This time the Cursed Human stood next to the front door, its nails scraping against the walls as if it was testing its durability.

Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. Can they feel my presence around here or is my luck just that shitty?

He could try to jump over the fence next to him and go behind the neighboring house, but Leo didn’t trust himself enough to not make noise during his climb. Besides he couldn’t see from here if nothing was on the other side.

And then a brilliant idea entered Leo’s mind. It was one of the most cliche tricks he knew. Something that always worked in movies, tv-series or the few games he played. Hell, the idea even seemed quite smart when Leo took the Cursed Human’s stupidity under consideration.

Grinning, Leo bent down, retrieved a small rock, and threw it on the road.

The Voidling screeched and Leo smirked when he noticed the beast turn and howled in the direction of the road. Then as if guided by a godly hand, the monster’s head snapped towards Leo’s corner.

Okay, that’s just bullshit. The beast screeched and Leo hid behind the corner, both of his hands gripping the shovel as he settled into position.

When the growls of the Voidling almost touched Leo’s ears, he swung with everything he got.


Leo threw away the slightly bent shaft of the shovel as the Voidiling collapsed to the ground with a thump. The monster twitched, trying to recover from having its head flattened.

Reaching for the dagger tucked in his waistline, Leo jumped forward. He straddled the creature as his dagger once again pushed against the thick skull while his claws dug into the monster's stomach.

The Voidling writhed under Leo, its arms trying to grab its assailant. It missed, still stunned after having an intimate meeting with a shovel.

With one last push, the skull cracked open as Leo’s claws drank the last bits of the monster Essence. Power filled his veins as the Tainted trait activated, giving Leo the much needed strength as another Voidling almost barreled into him.

Of course, you had to come, Leo cursed as he rolled away.

To prove that today just wasn’t Leo’s day, the monster recovered almost instantly when it fell to the ground after it stumbled upon its kin’s body.

Growling, Leo dashed to the side, only to jerk away from another mad charge. Fucker was relentless and even faster than the husk of Charles Gibson. No way they were the same level.

The bent shovel once again landed in Leo’s hands and he quickly used the tool to block the incoming fingernails with its shaft. They scratched against the metal, but the shovel didn’t give in.

“I love this shit,” Leo grinned as he pushed the creature, its back crashing against the wall of the house.

The Voidling momentarily lost its footing and Leo swung his shovel again when he noticed a silvery glow appear on its stomach area. The metal handle sailed true and the Voidling bent forward, a primal screech escaping its throat.

“Go to hell,” Leo murmured, the blunt side of the shovel sending the monster to the ground.

It tried to crawl towards Leo, but he quickly bonked the creature in the head again and positioned the blade of the shovel above its neck.

Like a guillotine, the shovel fell down with all of the strength Leo could muster.

The blade cut through its neck, spraying blood all around as an artery was severed. The shovel reached almost the end of the neck before it stopped, not enough force to continue.

Bile rose in Leo’s throat as the blood splayed on the ground. The natural reaction of his body almost won, only to be stopped by the twitching of the monster’s arm. Leo gulped, grimacing as his throat burned.

With a quick tug, he yanked the shovel out and brought it down again, the head of the Voidling rolling to the side.

With the bloody shovel still in hand, Leo turned away from the sight and collapsed against the fence, sliding down until his bottom hit the floor.