I hate everyone. Living or dead, I don’t really give a damn to be quite honest. In my travels, everyone either openly wants to use you for their own good, or secretly wants to use you for their own good. At least the first group is honest about their intentions.
Survival is the game. I have been alive for seventeen years on this miserable planet, three years of which were during the zombie apocalypse or whatever the hell you want to call this, and two of those have been spent completely alone outside the odd interaction. The first year I had family. Then all of the sudden I didn’t anymore. Pardon me if I don’t go into detail.
The collapse of society has made me a cynical bastard, and in my mind quite mature for my age. Among my other faults are moderate to severe narcissism and apathy. In other words, I don’t give two shits about anyone else. Whatever they want to do they can do, and whatever happens because of it is their own damn fault.
I live mostly alone, with only the local wildlife and the sporadic zombie to accompany me. I probably haven’t seen a live person in two weeks. But that’s not really a problem. I live in the desert in the American southwest. Not sure exactly what state I am in anymore, but it doesn’t really matter anyways.
The desert here isn’t like the Sahara, there’s plenty of wildlife if you know where to look, and water too. I personally ‘live’ right next to a river, and upstream a little bit you get into a patch of mountains where goats and a few other decent sized animals live. I’m not short on food or water. Hell, I’m not really short on anything. I have what I need.
I pick up my pair of binoculars and scan the region. I’m not really expecting much, and I’m not disappointed. I am next to an abandoned highway. A few people have walked down it, and the last time I saw a car in motion must have been a year and a half ago. A lone zombie aimlessly wanders around the highway, coming from the west. Most of them come from that direction. He isn’t a threat to me, chances are he won’t even notice me as I am a little over a half mile away from the road. I don’t know why, but they seem to keep to the roads unless they see something. Maybe it’s part of their genetics or whatever the hell the virus changed about them, but I don’t dwell on it.
I continue my scan. I see the aptly named Lonely Cactus motel on the side of the road. It looks the exact same as it has the other thousand times I have looked at it, so I continue looking. Nothing but the scrubland after that.
I put away the binoculars and stretch out. I will admit, being alone does leave a lot of time for being bored. People are entertaining, although that almost never makes up for their other faults. The sun is rising overhead, and the temperature rises with it. I strip down to my boxers and lay down. I have a tent set up but it will be an oven at this time of day. I instead set up a tarp overhead to block the sun. I set it up in a way that won’t be noticeable from the road if someone does happen to come along. Maybe once a month a survivor or a group will come down the highway. I’m not sure why, one hellhole is as bad as another and I doubt either end of the road has anything particularly good on it. But if they want to delude themselves they can go ahead. As long as they don’t bug me it’s none of my concern.
When I wake up the sun has gone down a lot. I think I probably slept about seven hours, give or take. I have the uneasy feeling that something subconsciously woke me up, though. I can sleep all day and night if I want to. I look around; maybe my zombie friend left the road and is nearby. I don’t see him, however. I grab my binoculars and look at the road. I soon see what woke me up. There is a band of people on the road coming from the east, and they just shot the zombie who was puttering around. The gunshot must have woken me up.
I lay close to the ground on a crest of a little bump, not quite large enough to be called a hill. They shouldn’t be able to see me unless they are looking for me, and even then they would have a hard time of it. I quickly collapse my tent and my tarp too just in case.
The group is a decent size, about six people. It looks like a family and a spare. Two men, a teenage boy about my age, a woman, and two girls. One girl around seven or eight I would guess, and the other around fifteen or sixteen. I guess that the woman, a man, and the minors are a family, and the other guy is just a random guy. Maybe an uncle or something, I don’t know.
It’s kinda a surprise seeing this large of a group out here, and I wonder why they are going through the desert. It’s not the easiest trek, especially with the kid. The river I am at runs parallel to the road for a long time, so I guess water isn’t a problem, but even then walking in the desert isn’t a walk in the park. What could they think would be on the other side that would make it worth it?
I continue to watch them. I have nothing better to do and I really am interested. They move down the road slowly. They don’t seem to be in any hurry, or maybe the little kid is slowing them down. They give the dead zombie a wide berth even though it isn’t moving. Smart, but overcautious. Those things don’t get back up once you get ‘em in the head.
The group heads to the abandoned motel. It isn’t dark yet, but it will be in maybe an hour or so. And I guess this place is probably the first thing they have seen for a while. This highway is a lonely one. I guess they are going to spend the night there.
I am glad that I got a nice long nap, because I don’t think I will get sleep for a while now. I don’t trust people, and there is no way I am going to go to sleep when these people are around. I don’t care how friendly and harmless they look, I don’t trust them. When the group enters the motel I get my things together. I dig a hole in the dirt, throw my things in there, and cover it with brambles and a very thin layer of dirt. I keep the binoculars and a knife out. Just in case, I tell myself. I bring out a canister of water and a little bit of food too on a second thought.
I realize that if they go to get water in the morning then I am in the way. I curse silently to myself and move a little bit. I don’t want to get too far from my stuff and I’m too lazy to move it. Chances are that nothing will happen anyways. I’m just being jumpy as usual. Normally people just pass by and don’t stop at the motel. I think a few people have, but long ago. Most people just keep walking.
I lay down on my stomach. The sand is tolerable at this time of day. Around midday it can burn your bare skin, but it gets cooler after that. Before I had a thick little blanket between me and the sand, and even then I could feel the heat through the blanket. Heat doesn’t bug me though, at least not most of the times, unless it is extreme.
To pass the time, I make names for each of the members of the group. I have nothing else to do. I nickname the little kid Rosy. She did have rather a reddish complexion about her. Not burned red, not quite feverish red either. Maybe her face is naturally blushed. She has light brown hair if I remember correctly, which I almost certainly do. I revise my guess on her age, I think she could be as old as ten. I continue my naming process. Whereas Rosy is naturally red, the other girl, the teenager, seems to be naturally pale. Maybe they aren’t related. She has platinum blonde hair, bleached by hours in the sun, but her skin remains pale as if she had stayed inside for most of her life. She is skinny as hell too. I nickname her Ivory, after her skin tone.
I then continue the naming process with the teenage boy. He is around my age I think, maybe a little older. He is tanned, making him the only one of the three I have named to react normally to the sun. Well good for him. He has jet black hair, buzzed. His face has an uneasy look plastered to it semi-permanently from what I saw, as if the world throws more surprises at him than a pitcher throws fastballs. A little caution never hurts, but he is an early heart attack just waiting to happen. I decide to name him Twitch, due to his jumpy nature.
The woman really didn’t have any defining features. She seemed about middle age, brown hair, nothing really distinctive. I decide to call her the Matriarch. I move on to the two men. One man seems to be in his thirties, short brown hair, but not buzzed. He was the one carrying the pistol who shot the zombie, although I would put money down that there are others in the group with firearms. His face gives me the distinct impression of a bird of prey, a more detailed description I am not sure I can provide. He has hollow cheekbones and a gaunt sort of look, with piercing eyes that make me think of a hawk. Thus, I unimaginatively name him Hawk. Getting bored of my little game, I name the other man the Patriarch, to match the Matriarch. He is in his late forties too, so it would make more sense that he was the father of the children than the other person. That is, assuming this is a family at all, which I am probably wrong about.
It doesn’t matter to me though, really, and I go over the names. Rosy and Ivory, Twitch, Hawk, the Matriarch and the Patriarch. Satisfied, I stop playing my name game and look back at the motel. Nothing happens though, and I end up lying still for a while longer looking for something to entertain me.
I go back to thinking of what I will do if they go to get water. If they are staying the night, that is almost a certainty. There really isn’t any good cover within a mile, but a strange combination of interest and paranoia keep me here. Interest obviously, I wonder why they are here, where they are going, et cetera. Paranoia is harder to explain. Half of my mind tells me to get away from the area and hide, but the other half wants me to keep them firmly in my line of site. And besides, I don’t want to leave my personal items alone, and moving them would attract too much attention.
I settle on staying and watching them, most likely this will just turn out to be some mundane reconnaissance overnight and then they will depart in the morning. I guess I will improvise if they go get water.
The sun is down, and the desert starts to get cold. With no sign of movement from the motel, I go back to my stash of goods and get back my think blanket. Even though I won’t be in my tent as I regularly am, the blanket still helps a lot. I will need to stow it before the sun comes up, which is probably about the time the group will get back on the move. I take in the surroundings, glad of the moonlight. It is nearly a full moon, and I can see everything very clearly. The moon is a lot brighter than most people think it is. You just have to get away from all those blasted city lights. Not that that is a problem, strictly speaking, as cities no longer exist as far as I am aware.
I zone out for a while. It is like being asleep almost, but I am awake and alert. If anything were to change I would instantly be alert again. But nothing happens and I just lay there with a glazed-over expression on my eyes. I become alert at one in the morning by my estimates. I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A small pack of zombies was on the move, again from the west. There are about eight in the band, all jostling with one another and bumping into each other. Packs of zombies aren’t uncommon by any means, but it puts me off still. Most zombies that pass by me are solitary.
I sigh and shift positions. There really isn’t any way to explain it. I don’t believe in coincidences, but I have no way of linking the little group and the pack of zombies. Maybe for once it was just purely luck that this happened.
The pack of zombies will soon find the motel, and chances are they will be able to sense the group inside using whatever arcane sensory mechanisms they still possess. They will go through any gap they can, and give the people inside a merry dose of hell. I am content to watch the scuffle from my post. I don’t want to raise awareness about my presence, and to be quite honest they deserve anything they get. They could have posted sentries and fortified the motel at least a little bit, but they didn’t. They will just have to pay for their carelessness.
Thinking back on the timing of the pack, I think of another thing. Hawk killed a zombie here, and he used a gun. Maybe the gunshot alerted them. I am not sure how sensitive their hearing is, but it is always a possibility. In either case it’s a better explanation to me then a coincidence. I don’t believe in such things.
The pack reaches the motel, and, as predicted, they go in and make a commotion. I hear shouting, a few gunshots, a scream, and then silence. The silence is punctured soon after by a wailing noise. I guess someone has been infected. Hawk and the Patriarch file out, looking around for any other zombies. Satisfied with their search, they return inside. Soon after, Twitch, Hawk, and the Patriarch start to drag out corpses. All are in advanced stages as decomposition, so I don’t get to see who was infected. At least not yet. I am curious, albeit detached. Their plight interests me, almost as if I was watching a movie from the old days.
They finally drag all the bodies out. I notice something- Twitch has a bandage on his arm he didn’t have before. Well I guess that answers my question on who was infected. After they finish dragging the bodies out, Twitch alone remains outside. He knows what he must do, I assume, and they are leaving him alone to do it. To my surprise, however, Hawk and the Matriarch go outside and join him. I don’t see any wounds on Hawk. I do see one on the Matriarch though. I guess the zombies got to her too then. One third of the group died because of their stupidity. Good. Let the strong and wise survive, not these bumbling idiots who wouldn’t even post a guard outside.
I chastise myself on my burst of emotion. It was uncalled for, this wasn’t really their fault. And anyways, I sleep without a sentry every day, although I am a light sleeper and know the zombies’ habits very well. At least better then these people. Hawk talks to Twitch and the Matriarch in turn. I can’t make out what he is saying, probably some form of condolences. He takes out a pistol and shoots both of them in the head consecutively. He drags the bodies into the corpse heap.
He goes and sits on a rock some twenty feet from the corpse heap and breaks down crying. I can hear his sobs from all the way up here. He really must work on the noise, more zombies could be attracted to the sound of him weeping. At this point, however, sufficiently awake and with space to maneuver, he could probably eliminate them or give them the slip.
I start to wonder about the two girls and the Patriarch. They are still inside, doing who knows what. The Patriarch I have seen, when dragging out the bodies. I didn’t notice any sign of infection and assume he would have been executed similarly if he had been. Maybe he is inside comforting the two girls.
The sun is barely peaking over the mountains in the east. If I remember correctly only one is technically a mountain, the others I guess are just foothills, although they are big enough for me to count it as one mountain range. I start to hear a steady hum, coming again from the west. The hum is very disconcerting. I haven’t heard anything like that, at least not for years…
It sounds like an engine. I guess maybe some people did find gasoline somehow to last this long. And whoever they are, they are about to meet the shabby remnants of this group. That is either extremely good or extremely bad for this group. I feel myself almost rooting for them.
I guess the noise from their battle in the night attracted even more attention. This all goes to show how good melee weapons are. No noise. Even suppressed weapons are very loud. They might not damage hearing or anything like that, but they definitely can attract the wrong kind of attention.
A minute or so passes before Hawk hears the hum. He isn’t sobbing loudly any more, he gave that up after about half an hour. He instead sat there with his head in his hands gently crying to himself, at least as far as I can tell. It took him about fifteen seconds from the moment he sat up when he heard the noise to when he was inside the motel. He is fast, I will give him that. He emerges with the Patriarch in tow. They both have pistols. It’s a shame; they really want rifles in this situation. More power and range, and if the vehicle turns out to be hostile they would be a lot more effective.
The ‘vehicle’ turns out to be two dirty old jeeps, both filled to the brim with nasty looking men. The odds for Hawk and the Patriarch go to about zero in my mind. One of the men in the vehicle opens fire, inaccurately, with a fully automatic gun. The bouncing of the vehicle makes it almost impossible for him to aim straight, but he gets lucky and clips the Patriarch on a shoulder. I guess enough bullets makes up for inaccuracy. The Patriarch switches his pistol to his other hand and opens fire. Hawk too opens fire. They don’t seem to hit anything important though. I see a bullet glance off the side of the jeep but for the most part they don’t even hit it. I guess stress and fear have got to them, maybe that is why they are being so inaccurate. Or maybe they were just bad marksmen in the first place. Either way it is a moot point, as more of the nasty looking men open fire on them, and they are killed. By some luck or miracle, it looks like Hawk’s last bullet managed to lodge itself in one of the assailants’ heads. At least they didn’t die with nothing to their name then, they at least got one.
The rough looking men disembark and go into the motel to search. I had almost completely forgotten about Rosy and Ivory until a side door bursts open and they make a run for it. One of the men brought his firearm up to bear, but another stopped him. This one was evidently the leader. He motioned towards the fleeing girls and gave some form of verbal command I couldn’t hear, and three men broke off to chase them down.
By some malfeasance of luck they ended up being on a course running almost directly to me. Damn it all, I had remained unnoticed for so long, and of all the times to be noticed now wasn’t the best one. Luck seemed to finally go onto my side, though, when Ivory tripped and fell on a loose stone. Luckily for me, they weren’t far enough out to notice me. Unluckily for her, she was about to be subjected to whatever tender mercies the men pursuing her had. Rosy froze for a second, unsure of what to do. It was her undoing. She started running again, but the men easily caught up with her because she had lost her momentum. It looked like both Ivory and Rosy were done for now.
One of the men went back for Ivory, while two stayed with Rosy. The two men pushed Rosy into the sand and started throwing knives at her, pleased at her screams. I guess their orders had been to eliminate as they saw fit- not to take alive. They were making sport of the poor child. When they ran out of knives (as far as I saw Rosy didn’t get a single cut), they started picking up rocks and anything in the area that looked possibly deadly, and pelted her with it. There seemed to be very few hits if any, but the trauma of the experience also made her scream. It was a shrill scream which split the air and echoed around. Very unpleasant to listen to.
Ivory was having her own problems about ten feet away. While Rosy was in fear for her life, Ivory had to fear for something quite different. What I didn’t mention before in my description was how inordinately beautiful she was. She looked like a supermodel before the world went to shit. And the man attacking her noticed that. Being surrounded by other men probably left him with few opportunities to relieve himself of his natural desires, and he was by no means going to let this opportunity pass. A touch of sadness came into my mind. I almost regretted was what about to happen to her, even though it wasn’t pertinent to me. She started to scream too, and the cacophony from her and Rosy ended up sounding almost musical as the shrill shouts for help intertwined.
I can’t really say what compelled me at this point. Maybe some last vestiges of empathy still rattled around my frame. Maybe the dysphonic chords of the screams compelled me. Either way, I was about to break my cardinal rule for stealth and staying out of others’ affairs. The rest of the gang of men by the trucks were distracted, loading up a few valuables and in general not paying attention to what was going on over where I was. I grabbed my knife and rushed to where the men were tormenting Rosy. A particularly nasty looking rock came down on her shin about that moment, crippling her, and she could no longer dodge the rocks she was being pelted with. The men, enthralled by their little game, didn’t notice me. I ran up and stabbed the hindmost one in the base of the neck. A fountain of blood gushed out, thankfully missing me by a few inches. He wasn’t going to get up any time soon. His shotgun was slung around his back, and I grabbed it and used it to shoot the other tormentor. I briefly glanced around. Rosy, in a state of shock, didn’t seem to be able to comprehend what had just happened. The men loading the trucks didn’t even spare a glance. Maybe they thought that the men had finished someone off, not the other way around. The man raping Ivory didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything else.
I took the shotgun and walked over to the man. Upon closer inspection I realized it wasn’t rape, it was just attempted. She was putting up a decent fight, but was being brutalized for it. I nudged the man, and he looked up. He had just enough time to look surprised before he lost half of his head at point blank range. I had needed to make sure I wouldn’t get Ivory in the blast, and his expression was merely a bonus.
Ivory looked up and gasped. With no time or desire for conversation, I grabbed her by the arm, pulled her up, and started to run. I didn’t want to be around when the group below realized that things weren’t well. Luckily for me and her, most of her bruises were superficial, and nothing seemed broken. She could run just fine, although I would guess she was in extreme pain. I mentally shrugged the thought off. If it wasn’t for me she would be in a lot worse pain, so she could deal with it.
We ran over to Rosy, dropped the shotgun to free my arms, grabbed her by her arms, and kept running. Her shin truly looked damaged. I doubted she could walk. Luckily for me eight to ten year olds are very light, and I ended up just picking her up and running. The adrenaline rush gave me all the strength I needed. As I was running, the full import of my actions hit me. I stupidly risked everything for these two girls I didn’t even know. Hell, I don’t even know their names. I mentally kick myself. My life is now on the line now because of my foolish actions.
As we make our run for the hills, quite literally, I spare occasional glances back. We aren’t being actively pursued, obviously a good thing. We have a large head start if they do decide to chase us, and I know paths in the foothills that would shake them off. Even goats would think twice about some of the places I will use if I need to. We finally reach the foothills, Ivory following my lead. I am still carrying Rosy, but I am starting to feel the strain of her weight. Even if she is only sixty pounds or whatever, that is still a good sized bit of weight to be running with.
When I have determined we are safe and out of range, I take one last glance back to make sure no one is coming. Thankfully, they seem to have let us go without a fight. I collapse onto the ground and Ivory does the same beside me. We are both exhausted and gasping for air, all of our energy spent.
In this semi-lucid state of oxygen deprivation, I start thinking of what caused this all. My decision to save Ivory and Rosy got me here, but that wasn’t the start. That wouldn’t have happened if the rugged group of men hadn’t shown up and tried to kill them. That in turn had been caused by the fight with the zombies in the dead of the night. If I was right, then that had been caused when the pack of zombies heard the bullet when the first and original zombie was killed. One damn bullet! This whole thing was started by a single pistol round! In the state I’m in, that is absolutely hilarious. I start to laugh, and I can’t stop myself. It isn’t loud; I have that much self control at least. I start to cry from laughing so much. It seems so surreal. One bullet! I am here in this situation because of that one damn thing!