Thursday, May 1, 2014


            Hungry.  Just so hungry.
            I’ve wandered around for months, fighting to survive, foraging for the smallest scrap to keep starvation at bay.  Ever since the plague came upon us, life has been hell.
           There is no one on the street.  A barren, desolate wind blows through the buildings and rattles what’s left of the shattered glass.  Noxious fog replaces electricity at night and is so thick that you can feel it soaking through your shirt, penetrating your lungs as if by osmosis.  It also obscures the view, but there’s nothing left to see anyway.
            I lumber through the city and marvel at what it has become.  It might have never been what you call pleasant to live in, with screaming and angry people dashing about like ants, but there was at least some semblance of order.  However, when the plague really took hold, that order devolved quickly into the inevitable chaos, and then into desolation.  Burnt out wrecks lay scattered across the road, left by those fleeing to imagined safety as the virus spread.
            Digging through a rubbish pile, I search in vain for some small morsel of nourishment.  There’s nothing – anything worth eating was scavenged long ago.  I never liked killing, even if it was for food, but I knew it was going to come to that.
            A shuffling, a clattering, a noise somewhere close by.
            I glance over at the alley.  My vision was never very good to begin with, but the plague made it worse.  I had but one good eye left when I recovered.  Maybe I should count myself as lucky to have survived the sickness that killed so many, but wandering this wasteland made me wonder if the sweet embrace of death would be welcome respite.
            Around the corner, it looks like there’s definitely a shadow nearby.  Whoever it is quickly turns to me.  “Who’s there?” they demand.
            “A friend,” I say.  My words are slowed, but so are his(another wonderful side effect for those who survived).  “I heard a noise and thought it might be an animal or something.”
            “Yeah,” my new acquaintance mutters.  “Or something.”
            There was an unspoken understanding between us.  Ever since the plague, there have been creatures of some kind making their way through the aftermath.  They’re hard to see, possessing lightning fast reflexes and strength rivaling that of Hercules.
            And they’re vicious.  So very vicious.
            “Relax,” I say.  “I haven’t seen one in a few days.  Seems they might’ve moved on.”
            He turns to face me, the effects of the plague visible even in this ashy night.  If it’s one thing the plague did, it left marks.  I’ve not met many survivors, but those I have met are unmistakable.  It took a great deal of stamina just to live through the illness, but the virus never left you untouched.  Slurring speech was present in everyone I encountered, and most had muscle damage and some loss of motor skills.  Still, we’d made it through, and if there was to be a world after this one, we had to shrug off our infirmities and carry on.
            “I hope so,” he slurs.  “I barely managed to escape the last pack I came across.  All I want to do is find some food and try to hole up for the night.”
            “Good luck,” I reply.  I’m about to offer further words of comfort when a change in the wind brings a new smell to me.
            My new friend picks up on it too.  The plague seems to have heightened our sense of smell even as it deadened other senses and reflexes.  Or maybe it’s just that the bland smell of everything else lets the few good ones stand out.
            We both start the trek towards the nearby convenience store, nostrils in the air.  The sensation of fresh food floods me with warmth.  The inside of the store is wrecked, but in the middle of the first aisle is a piece of food that somehow escaped.
            “It’s like manna from heaven,” my friend says.
            “Be careful,” I say as I look around the store.  “It could be a trap.  Those creatures out there are pretty smart – they’ve left stuff out before to lure a survivor into their arms.”  But like him, I began to stare longingly at what lay before us.
            “We can’t leave it here,” he says.  “It’ll spoil and then be useless to anyone.  I’d rather eat it fast and be gone.  You know, take our chances.”
            “You gonna share?” I ask.
            “Looks like plenty for both of us, and even as hungry as I am, I know I can’t eat the whole stash.”
            There’s another pregnant pause before we both fall ravenously on the food.  We barely bother taking the wrapping off before devouring it.  The sweet nourishment runs down my throat and filled me with energy once more.
            I look at my friend and see some of it running down his shirt.  “You’re making a mess,” I say.
            “Who cares?” he mumbles.  “I haven’t eaten in a week.  Table manners were never my strong suit, and I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m a slob right now.”  He grins, showing me stained teeth between bites.
            I simply shrug and continue downing what I can.  However, as I’m finishing, another noise catches my ear.
            “Quiet,” I hiss.  “There’s something outside.”
            I watch it peer inside the convenience store window and know instinctively that it’s one of those beasts.  Not only from the careful way it’s prowling around outside, but by the stench of its glands.  I’m not sure why, but the odor put off by these things fills the air when they get close, which is strangely intoxicating.
            My friend and I move to the door and prepare for battle.  I have little doubt that a fight is coming – these things haven’t backed down.  When we get to the door, it comes through and looks right at us, light seemingly shining from its body.  I launch myself at it and feel a dull thump in my pelvis, but I keep going since I know that falling would be the last mistake I ever made.
            Blood trickles from my chest as I fight.  Whatever the thing is made of, it packs a punch.  There’s another dull thump on my foot as it struck me again, but my friend manages to get in a few good shots, even resorting to biting it when things get rough.  The creature stands and bolts off in the other direction, both of us in pursuit for a short time until we know it’s gone.
            “Let’s get out of here,” my friend says.  “There are probably more nearby.”
            “I agree.  Wish we could stick together, but we’ll draw too much attention.  Maybe if we had a larger group, but we don’t.  Best of luck.”
            He nods and I head back into the darkness, hoping fervently not to run into any more of those things.  Thank goodness that whatever they were, they weren’t too numerous.  I have no idea if they caused the plague, or if the plague allowed them to come out of the shadows, but I know it’s best to avoid them.
            For days I wander through the wreckage of the city, but I eventually make it to the outskirts.  I didn’t come across any more of the monsters, but I did manage to find more food stashed in an old church.  Some of it was rotting by the time I arrived, but as hunger was again gnawing at my spirit, I couldn’t turn away.  It sustains me for the moment, even though I had to eat it all on the spot, for taking it with me was impractical.
            Late on the sixth day, I spot smoke coming from over a nearby hill.  Dusk is quickly approaching and I need to find cover, but curiosity gets the best of me and I begin to wonder if the fire is coming from a group of survivors.  I didn’t necessarily want to go off with only one survivor, but a group of them might be able to offer better protection.
            The fire is further away than I’d figured – my eyesight has failed me again – but I make it to the site as the last threads of sunlight flitter off of the horizon.  There is activity near the fire, which is obviously not natural.  Hope rises within me as I approach.
            Blinded by the light, it’s hard to make out much more but figures by the flames.  However, as I get closer, I hear a strange new noise split the air.  I know instantly that these aren’t friends I’ve come to live with.
            It’s them.
            There must be a dozen or more.  Three of them advance on me, and smaller ones I can only assume are progeny scatter to the cover of the forest.  I know there’s no time to escape, and the speed of these demons will overtake me even if I wanted to run, so I do the only thing that occurs to me – I charge.
            Surprisingly, I knock the first one to the ground with little effort.  As it topples backward, I turn my attention to the one that has wrapped its arm around my neck.  My teeth left as my only remaining weapon, I clamp my jaws down on its arm and feel blood flowing from the wound.  I tear off a chunk of flesh before it releases me.  It howls in pain as its skin hangs from my mouth.  I then do what I know I instinctively must.
            I swallow.
            Its blood runs freely down its hand and spills onto the ground.  I lunge again and tear into its arm when I feel a dull thump against my back.  Turning, I can make out a weapon of some kind in the hand of a creature.  Something thumps my body again and I look down to see a wound opening in my abdomen, but there is no pain.  I ponder that for a second as something smashes into my knee.
            Although I must now hobble forward, there is no pain.  I try desperately to claw my way to this new beast when a feel a brief sensation on my forehead, and then nothing but paralysis.  Whatever they were shooting at me, it penetrated my brain stem.  It didn’t kill me, but I no longer have any movement or reflexes – to them, I will look very dead.

            Jimmy looked down at the zombie’s corpse and then over at Bill.  His friend was bleeding heavily from a pair of bites, and Jimmy knew what he had to do.
            Bill forced his eyes to meet Jimmy’s.  “Do it quickly, before Sara and the kids come back,” he pleaded.
            Jimmy nodded and then pointed his .38 at Bill’s head.  A quick pull of the trigger, and Bill had a gaping hole in the back of his head.  Jimmy swore viciously but knew it was better to end it like this than to let him become one of the undead.  Even dead, Jimmy knew Bill’s body would reanimate, so he drug his best friend, as well as the monster that came upon them, over to the fire for a quick cremation, just as he’d done with countless others.


            Waves of heat rush through my body, consuming it.  I know the end to this shell will come soon enough, but my essence will stay behind, hidden by the clouds.  The ashes from my body will race skyward and I’ll return someday as rain.

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