Blood projected for a single wound upon the neck. A man falls to the floor, trying to assert pressure onto the wound but he is too weak from blood loss. I run over to him and turn his body to face me. This isn’t him. This isn’t my father. The man is distorted and clutches at his throat where blood has painted his front. His eyes are white and he is pale blue in colour. This is the man who’s throat I slit. The man who’s life energy I poured out onto the floor of a charred supermarket stockroom. A sickening gargle escapes from his lips, accompanied by a waterfall of blood. He begins to claw at me, ripping at me. I try to run but my legs won’t work. He propels himself up with such force and launches at my neck, tearing a chunk out of it. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
I jolt up. It’s just a dream. A nightmare. The same nightmare I’ve had every day for the past four months. I feel a cold sweat soak my back like Niagara Falls. I can’t get the faces out of my mind. They have been scorched into my mind because I know both of those deaths were my fault. I killed that man in the supermarket. If I hadn’t of interfered, those undead bastards would not have got their hands on my father. Tore the flesh from his bones. I meant what I said. This means war. On the up side, none of them can blame me as much as I blame myself. There is very little I don’t blame myself for these days. Not that they’d know. I am becoming efficient in maintaining a mask of sanity and humanity. If only I’d stayed where I belonged. Marcus may have had another few years; looking for a daughter he thought was dead but he wouldn’t be a mound of rotting flesh. It’s no use. Regretting everything because you know what I can do about it? Sod all. I’m not going to bring Marcus back to life. I’m not going to get my answers. I’m never going to be free from the knowledge I possess and...I’m never going back.
Jason stirs. He does that a lot I’ve noticed. He should not have been forced to be lumbered with me; he’s too good for me, if only he could see that. He volunteered to go with me, the first one. I single-handedly tore that group apart. I wanted to find the central hive of disease activity and decimate it. Destroy those bastards. I mean if you can find the hive, why would you not destroy it when you have the opportunity? That’s why the group split. Those who thought it was too dangerous versus those who were suicidal enough to even attempt it. Guess which group I was in. Jason, stupid enough to volunteer to die for me.
I throw my legs over the side of the table. I take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. I feel disgusting. I feel slimy. I yawn, stretching to return the blood flow to my arms. I stand up; I feel off balance but I keep walking until I reach the door. I look back. They won’t even know that I’m gone. I just need some air. I take caution when I push the door handle and step outside.
The cool air relieves the stagnant sweat staining my skin. The sun is only just rising. Dawn. I take another deep breath and allow the fresh air to revitalise me. The light shines on the water and reflects to form a mirage. It’s gorgeous. The great expanse of water and the sun rising on the horizon; this is what true beauty is. This view almost makes me forget that half the world is dead. My entire family is dead. Mum and dad. This natural phenomenon reaffirms my faith in nature. I love vast bodies of water that seem to go on, even to the end of all things. I walk down the rotten wood stairs and sit down on the pebbles that engulf the landscape. The pebbles are wet. I’m going to have a wet arse when I get up but oh well. I lay back and look at the sky. It’s been a while since I last did this, too long. I know I have to be strong. I know that. It’s just so...difficult sometimes. Being strong for the three of us. The weight is crushing but I did ask for it.
Clouds paint the sky, masking the Sun’s light. Shades of red and orange seem to collide and merge into a single palette. I hear the door open and the sound of footsteps crashing on pebbles. I sit up and turn around. It’s Jason. S**t, he must have noticed that I’d gone. He plops himself down next to me and yawns.
“I can see why you come out here every morning. What a view!” He places his arm around my shoulders. I don’t think he gets the hint after all of this time but I don’t rebuff his advances. The sweat has dried on my back to be replaced with the freezing cold sea water. I’m getting cold now; I’m sure my temperature receptors have been messed up.
“How do you know I come out here every morning?” I enquire, looking forward.
“You are not as quiet as you think you are,” he states. I can see him smiling out of the corner of my eye. He thinks he is insightful, as if he understands what is going through my mind, but I don’t think he’d want to. There’s a lot of messed up stuff going on up there. There is a moment of silence. Not the typical awkward silence that demands to be filled but a moment of silence to appreciate our surroundings. After a small period of time, seconds or minutes it’s difficult to tell, he turns to face me completely,
“You are still worrying about the hive, aren’t you? We will find it again eventually, we just need time to re-evaluate our options. I promise you, we will find it and decimate them for Marcus okay?” He thinks that is the only thing I can think about. That bloody hive. I mean it is there, poking at the inside of my brain, but there are other things that take my brain power. I mean everything from the Blackheath group to insignificant things like what I am going to do today. I live for the day but it’s difficult not to plan ahead when you have so many things to do with such little time. Nothing is permanent but I don’t feel like I can do anything until those undead bastards die and stay dead. I have a purpose which is always a positive thing. I have a reason to exist which I have needed confirmation of for years.
I can only think of one response,
I am too tired to be defensive. This group is all we have, we can’t divide now. Again. I rest my head against his shoulder. He smells of coffee and smoke, a weird combination but not entirely unpleasant I must admit.
It’s moments like this that make me think of Roman. Are we both looking at the same sunrise? Is he even thinking of me anymore? How stupid does that sound? I have this gorgeous man who thinks the world of me, is willing to die for me, and I am thinking of someone who probably hates my guts or wouldn’t give me the time of day. I am so stupid sometimes, I swear. It will always be a disadvantage unless I pull my head out of my arse and accept things as they really are and I do.
At least I’m trying to. That’s what they all say, is it not? Of course we’re both looking at the same sunrise. We aren’t on different planets. We are separated by miles of road and countryside. He never liked the sunrise. He said it was something to do with him associating it with the time he had to wake up to go on runs. Fair enough, I guess. Haha, I guess that’s why I have always adored the dawn. The birth of a new day; the ultimate confirmation of the continuance of life. The cyclic nature of life and nature. Ugh, back to reality. I had started to dribble when I jolted myself back to the same state of semi-consciousness that I had endured beforehand. Nice.
I pull myself onto my knees and push myself up. I instinctively wipe the dust from my bum and realise that, as predicted, the water has soaked through to the back of my thighs. It probably looks as if I have wet myself but, you know what, screw it. I have no dignity left and there is no use pretending that I do.
“Where are you going? Wait a moment,” he pulls himself to his feet and dusts himself down too, “alright? I am going to see what is going on with David; there was something up with him last night. We can’t afford animosities anymore.” I swear he is just like a little puppy. Always trying to catch my attention and...what, receive praise or recognition? I think deep down he knows I can’t give him what he desires but he is still eager and willing to catch the metaphorical grenade for me. That’s what I am, on reflection. A grenade. Everyone around me is decimated just by my presence. I have the power over life and death, at least I have thus far, and I am not ready to relinquish my claim on this power just yet. I look back at him, “No, we can’t. I have some things to take care of first and then I will be back.”
“Why do you always have things to take care of? Anyway, I will see you when you have taken care of those ‘things’,” he winks at me and walks inside.
He poses a very good question; why do I always have things to take care of? I guess it is because I need the distraction of multiple deliberations at one point. I need things to occupy my mind, unlike other people I can mention. I walk further towards the lake. It may not be as vast as the ocean but it is more intense. To think where it started its life, deep within the mountainous regions and it travels down an uncertain, yet familiar path until it reaches the vast unknown. It spends its whole life travelling down just one course, undeterred and obedient, but it never questions anything. I mean, I know water can’t speak but it makes you think, what if it could? If something that is not alive could question its own purpose? Maybe it does but I guess it can never be known, or understand by the human mind. Our own purpose and philosophies give the mind a complex existential renewal but how would it apply to those without a mouth to articulate? I am over thinking this far too much. I pick up a pebble from the ground, running my fingers over it. It has a few calluses upon it but it is primarily rather smooth and imperfection free. I throw it into the water. It skims across the surface, taking advantage of the body of water’s current. The ripples it leaves reach out and expand with every ring. Vibrations on the water. I have never been in such close proximity to lakes or rivers for such a lengthy period of time. I could get used to this. There is something therapeutic about chucking a stone at water.
I walk around to the front of the shack, at least that’s what I think it was. I take as much caution as I can not to make as much noise while my feet crush pebbles left, right and centre. The street has been victim to Mother Nature over the years with pollution contaminated rain eroding the marble features and the wood of the shack has faced the effects of wood rot. I have no idea where I’m headed. I’ll recognise it when I see it, I think. I guess I am wandering aimlessly which I do far too often these days.
There’s this little old café on the corner of what used to be the high street. A subsection of normality in this vast expanse of death. Looking at it makes it possible to imagine what it was like before. It has been invaded by nature, like the regiment of spite that it is on occasion, but the exterior seems normal. It is possible to imagine old women sitting outside, looking out onto the street, drinking cups of tea, in porcelain, that are slightly too sweet. I can see them bragging about the ventures of their children and grandchildren while taking dainty sips from the heart attack in a cup. John always said that the silence was a comfort. It was preferable to the way things were before, in his world. He was lying like he was lying about everything. I thought solitude protected me; he convinced me of that.
I yearn for an end to the perpetual silence. Whether that means finding other people or suicide, I don’t know. I don’t know about anything anymore.
I sit down on one of the rusted chairs that sits outside. Nature. People so often underestimate it which is their big mistake. Infection is the biggest killer out there. It effectively and cleanly wipes out the majority of the evolutionary Petri dish. It is difficult to see something so simplistic as superior to the complexity of the human race, with our machines and our bigotry. Nature doesn’t lie. Nature doesn’t feel pain. Nature doesn’t relent. I notice a figure, gliding towards me from behind the trees. Before, I may have leapt to a defensive stance or hid, anticipating attack. Now, let the bastards come at me. I relish in the one truth; no one can hurt me more than I can hurt myself. No one can hate me as much as I hate myself and that is the simple truth. Maybe getting others to hate me as much as I hate myself is the key to not allowing those I care anything for to die before me.
David. Why have they sent him to acquire me? They usually send Jason and ignore me for the rest of the time. They have sent the literal Calvary. Why can’t they accept that I want space? That I need to be by myself?
“How did I know you’d be here? Don’t be so predictable next time. Jason is being a sod about it,” he coughs, “I will punch him one the next time he doesn’t keep his bird in check.” David is relatively young. He must have been 19 or younger when everything went to crap. He still has his looks, ruggedly good looks and a cheeky cockney charm few possess. It’s shame he’s such a misogynist who thinks that all women are property. You can imagine how he reacted to Linda claiming leadership, then that leadership being passed to me as Marcus’ daughter. He’s been through a lot but that does not condone his sexist views. Why did they send him to find me?
“I am not his bird,” I mutter. “Speak up dear, we ain’t all got perfect ’earing. Well, he’s got a bone for you the size of the bloody Lake District. Come on, group meeting,” he begins walking off, expecting me to follow him like the little puppy he thinks the youth are. I’m twenty years old. I don’t need to be patronised by a forty-something-year-old man.