Josh shielded his eyes from the hot sun, and saw the same unremarkable view he had seen for about a week now; nothing but blue, rolling waves. He reached down and grabbed a half-full bottle of water, taking a sip. He sat back down onto the bow and let his head hang between his knees while the cruel rays of the summer sun beat on the back of his neck.
Josh Martinson had been a marginally successful lawyer before the outbreak happened, and the dead started walking. After having what he would call a good year, he had figured he would treat himself to a gift. He had decided that a cabin cruiser would do well for a present, and put a down payment on it just a few weeks before shit hit the fan. At the time he couldn’t wait to take it out on the water, and had no clue that it would serve both as his salvation and as his prison.
Although the days meshed together for him now, and had been since he’d been out here, it felt like just yesterday when he remembered the state of emergency being declared on the air. “The worst thing any of you can do is panic. We suggest packing lightly, taking only what you need. Head north to Santa Cruz, where we have secured a safe zone for all uninfected citizens.” Josh had seen enough horror movies to know that there probably was no safe zone, and this was just a way for the government to keep the potential infected rounded up; therefore more easily dealt with.
That had been a week ago, and while he originally thought of the ocean as safety; he now thought of it as slow death. He had ran out of fuel several days prior, and was now simply drifting on whichever pattern the waves took him on. His fishing pole, which he had thought of as pure genius at the time, was now rendered useless with no bait to put on it. His water supply was now down to just six bottles, and the cans of soup he brought with him were gone entirely. He hopped back down from the bow and staggered down to the cabin, collapsing into bed.
The impact of something big crashing into the boat woke Josh up, and sent him reeling to the floor. He scrambled to his feet and ran up to the deck, unable to see much in the darkness while struggling to maintain his balance with the boat rocking from side to side. The first thing he saw was a black, hulking form next to his boat and he felt a surge of panic rush through him. After a moment it dawned on him that it was an empty rowboat that must have drifted towards him.
He looked all around, for even the slightest bit of land or a dock from where it could have washed up from, and saw nothing but darkness. While the days were scorching and spent sick, hungry and hopeless; it was the night that terrified Josh the most. Surrounded by nothing but darkness he felt like he was in a void that rocked from side to side and lurched beneath his feet; unable to see anything around him.
Josh tried to shake off the chilling feelings about the night and focus on the task at hand; taking a couple of small steps towards the derelict rowboat, being careful not to slip overboard as he leaned over the railing and tried to get a look at what was in it.
At first he saw nothing, then something glistened a little in the dark. A can of tuna fish; either tuna fish or chicken from the looks of it. He leaned down, careful not to slip as he made a grab for it; nearly wrapping his fingers around it. He cursed under his breath and struggled a little more, being careful as he felt his cruiser lean a little under his weight. He took a deep breath and finally got a hold of it, pulling it back towards him with a sigh of relief…until he felt something sharp and bony encircle his wrist.
Josh panicked, and dropped the can as he felt a sharp pain dig into his wrist, causing him to cry out. He pulled back as hard as he could; falling backwards and feeling the breath knocked out of him as something heavy and slimy fell down on top of him.
The only thing he noticed in his moment of panic was a rancid smell filling his nose; like someone had left spoiled meat in a dumpster for a week during mid-summer. He brought his arm up, trying hard to push the slime covered form off of him as he butted against it with his knee. He heard it’s jaw snapping open and shut very close to his ear, and screamed in terror while he fought back with what little strength he had left.
The butterflies in his stomach were fluttering madly when he managed to shove the rotting corpse off of him, and brought his hands down against what he thought might be its face over and over again until it stopped moving. He saw a black, jelly-like substance decorating his hands, and he leaned down to rinse them off in the ocean water, doing it quickly because he didn’t trust the thing that just attacked him to stay dead; and also because he felt uncomfortable dipping his hands into the black void beneath him.
He sat hunched down for awhile, staring at the still lump in the darkness before he realized that the boat was moving again, drifting through the endless black sea that was the Pacific Ocean by day. He got up fast, realizing that the rowboat was far behind him now; he thought he eyed the small can of food, just out of sight and beyond reach. With a shrug and a sigh of exasperation he wandered back down to his cabin, mentally preparing for the scorching day that was sure to follow.
The corpse in the boat with him started smelling even worse while it cooked under the sun the next day. Josh vomited at one point in the afternoon, unsure if it was the smell in the boat or sickness overtaking him. He felt that he should push the rotting, weather-beaten corpse overboard but he didn’t dare bring himself near it; with it’s strangely seperated head and splitting flesh. He spent the remainder of the afternoon up on the bow once more, hoping that a gust of wind would be kind enough to send the smell away from him. Josh received no such mercy on this hot summer day.
The sweltering days that followed were especially unkind to Josh, and he felt constant, crippling hunger pains. His water supply was running low as well, with only a bottle or two remaining. He eyed his stinking passenger, and then shook his head; speaking to himself. “No, not yet.” He said in a pleading tone. He had taken to muttering to himself, whether this was a means as to keep whatever was left of his sanity or simply a reaction from so much time spent alone he was unsure. He spent most of the time in the darkness of his cabin now, as being outside was just too much for his peeling, burned skin.
It might have been days or hours, he wasn’t certain as dehydration had taken it’s toll on Josh. He crawled up to the deck, unable to make use of his legs anymore. All he felt was intense hunger; hunger and thirst. His red, tired eyes locked onto the rotting piece of meat sitting out on the deck and he crawled towards it, clawing out a chunk out of the thigh with his right hand. It came out easily, thanks to the advanced decomposition. He put it to his lips and began chewing, gagging while he gnashed the putrid human flesh in between his teeth.
A young man in fatigues stood on the deck of a US Coast Guard ship, spying a small cruiser through his binoculars. “We got a ship. I can’t tell if anyone’s on it. If there is, we’ll take ‘em to Santa Cruz long as they ain’t showin’ signs. Ain’t that the order?” He asked, turning to an older man standing next to him. “Yeah. So far we ain’t had a single Z show up in there. The boys been doin’ a hell of a job keepin’ that shit locked down and secure.” The young man’s mouth hung ajar for a moment, and his face took on a look of disgust. “I see somethin’, and ain’t no Santa Fe in this one’s future. Got a Z, just took a fuckin’ bite outta some dead dude.” He signaled to another man on board, who brought him a .308 rifle.
Josh sat knelt over his meal, sour tasting meat spilling down off of his lips and onto his shorts. He began vomiting, his stomach violently purging all of the rancid tissue the moment it went down his esophagus. He rolled back onto his back, choking on bile and tears streaming down his face. The tears suddenly gave way to a smile as he heard an engine nearby. He attempted to scramble to his feet and slipped on the old blood congealed on the deck, catching himself with one hand. He let out a gurgle, unable to speak due to the violent spasms he was still enduring from the putrid meat. He managed to raise his head just high enough to see something metallic glistening in the sunlight, something metallic and pointed in his direction while he raised a bloodied hand. Then came the bang.