I wake up to a slight fall of rain. I feel like I am soaked and the leather in my jacket feels to be dragging me down. My god, I feel weak. I think I’ve pushed myself too far. Emotionally and physically. I did exactly what I intended; I cut all ties. I have lost everything for my pursuit of my own personal truth. I have made my bed now I have to lie in it.
I roll over onto my side. My bullet wound still stings whenever I lie on my side but pain is good. Pain means that I am alive. I pull my shirt up and examine my wound. I can see the reminisce of the stitches; on the upside, the red lines that seemed to stretching out from it, like the branches of a septic tree, have vanished. I examine my wound further. I am lucky to be alive. That bullet should have been my murderer but I conquered. Does that mean that I have, indirectly admittedly, conquered death? I thought that to conquer death is to die but are there other ways?
I’ve always thought I was special, that there was something...different about me. All of the opportunities I’ve had to die and I never have. There is a fighter instinct within me that doesn’t want to let go.
There’s something else. Something that has been perplexing me. I practically dived at my victim, my infected victim, and I didn’t pick it up. One of the reasons the virus allowed an epidemic to unfurl was its hyper-infectivity. You just had to be within several meters of an infected and you were marked for death. I was practically on top of him and I got out of it with just a bullet wound.
I should be infected.
You understand what I mean about something different about me. But there is an alternative. An alternative I had not considered. Maybe he wasn’t infected. I mean the symptoms can prevail in other diseases like tuberculosis or lung cancer. Did I kill an innocent man? Did I just kill in self-defence? Would I have killed him if I had known that he wasn’t infected?
The answer to all of them is yes. He would have killed me and wouldn’t have thought twice; I mean he ripped a hole in me and didn’t even shudder. That’s what this world does; it makes monsters out of us all. The young, the old. The indifferent. No one is safe to the effects of this world.
It’s bloody freezing.
It can’t be later than dawn so morning dew begins to colour the endless fields, being chased by an omnipresent mist. I need to start another fire. Either that or I need to get moving. I have a few hours of darkness still on my side, I could probably find something.
Then something catches my eye. A horse. Among the cows. Disguised like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’ll get further with a horse; it looks quite small which makes it just the right height for me. I have no foot stool to get me onto the animal. But if I want to get on the horse, I have to brave...the cows. They creep me the hell out. The way they just stand there, lowing at you, rancid liquid pouring out of their arses. The horror, the horror.
There is no fencing between us so it’s just a matter of plucking up the courage to walk through them. Do cows charge?
So this is nature. Wide open spaces and the stench of cow shit in the nostrils, what a wonderful region.
I get onto my feet and sling my backpack over my shoulder. It takes me a moment to reclaim my balance. I walk, cautiously, towards the horse; it seems to be grazing among the cows. As soon as I get 10 meters away from the cluster of animals, they all turn. Staring at me with their demonic little eyes. All of them, just gazing. I haven’t been this unnerved in a while, it’s like having demonic livestock glaring into my soul. Oh damn. They’re going to charge. Damn. I’m about to be shish kebabed by livestock. What a way to go, huh?
But they just remain, staring at me.
I continue to walk towards the horse, who seems to be breaking away from the crowd. I can cut around them. I finally reach the horse but it seems almost tame. He bows his head to me, yes he is most definitely a boy, and I stroke his head. Aw, he’s not too bad. Most feral animals would have bit my hand off but he seems affectionate, almost. I put my hands on his back and push myself up onto his back. Oh yes, I’ve still got it.
I have to set off now. I just kick his side gently and we’re off. Yet again, the wind rushing through my hair, nice sensation. He’s such a nice horse. Aw look at that, I gone made a new friend. The speed at which I am travelling is immense. This is freedom. I should be able to travel a few miles before midday and then I can stop and get something to drink. My appetite is returning which is not a good thing. When I get hungry, I get irritable and my judgement becomes clouded.
Civilisation. Or a lack thereof but it’s still a small town. Or used to be from what I can tell. Quite a few of the houses are nothing more than smouldering ash. Recent. So until recently, people were living here. Fire is a sign of life. Unless you consider wildfires but the conditions are never right for that kind of thing in England. Not warm or dry enough. People tend to burn their accommodation when they leave to cover their tracks, which makes no sense.
Unless you consider the last outbreak at the camp. A boy got infected and it spread like wildfire. We had to burn the place down; a way to potentially kill the virus before it could claim any more people. As I said, so many times I could have been infected and I never have been.
I felt sorry for the kid. He was sweet; never hurt anybody, thought he could survive his entire life without raising his hand to anyone. I mean, he was a little git but he was a pacifistic little git and I have to respect that, to an extent. Well, I don’t because he’s dead but I want to. We used to be a group of over 30, separated between two buildings. Fifteen people died in the space of three days. Not all because of the disease.
You have to understand. Everyone is that building was a threat. Every single one of them was marked for death and I know it seems extreme but they had to be ‘disposed’ of. Rita was the one to do it. To light the flame. No wonder she is messed up. I should give her more credit and I would if she wasn’t, you know, a complete bitch.
I can still hear them scream.
Piercing. The sound of agony was clear as a bell. There were older members of the group and kids. The oldest to die was 23 and the youngest was 8. It had to be done but sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do. Doing the right thing should not be easy otherwise it isn’t right. The right thing should not benefit you but torture you. Consume you with false justification. An old friend taught me that and if I could remember them, I would be in a better place.
I like the smell of smoke. You’d think that after having my nostrils filled the smell of burning fat and flesh would turn my stomach against it but it doesn’t. There’s something...warm about the smell. Well obviously but there is something comforting about it. I have convinced myself that someone close to me must have smelt of smoke but what do I know?
I walk up to a building, unaffected by the flames, that appeared to be an old theatre. At least, that’s what I can make out from the decrepit neon lights that remained. This place would have been a sight in the old days; with the neon lights, this sign would illuminate the dark. There was a little community theatre by our base and I would go there sometimes; to get away from everything and to focus on things. There was this chandelier, made of crystal, and it must have been there for decades. It looked so out of place with the antique surroundings and the roof that looked like it was caving in. Moss and damp seemed to own the walls and every visible surface but this bloody massive chandelier still looked like it had just been manufactured. A breath of life in a world of death. That was quite poetic. Go me.
I push against the doors. Jammed.
I place all of my weight against the door, trying to focus all of the pressure to my shoulder and into my core muscles. I will get this bloody door open. Shelter in some respect. My plan of pushing against the door is failing miserably so I try another approach. I stand back. I run at the door and...it falls in. I land right on my stomach. Ow. My chest. Ow.
I have to admit, I’ve had better ideas under the circumstances but oh well. You only live once, am I right? Not that you would know because if you knew, you would be dead so would have the capacity to agree with me or not. That would be unfortunate for all parties involve because you would be deceased and I would be a psychic which would suck.
Anyway, I compose myself and walk forward. This is going to sting in the morning but it stings now anyway so I guess I just have to accept this ‘turn of events’. Ha. I was asking for it I suppose. Oh if they could see me now. Reeking and looking half-crazed. I would imagine I am quite a sight. I am definitely not attractive in the slightest.
The wood has rotted. The air stinks of damp. Not unlike everywhere else in this country. It is amazing how all the building disintegrate within a matter of years when humans do not maintain. It’s like a larger scale version of the fall of the Roman Empire. The fall of the human empire, not because of implosion but because of a virus. Humans always pretended like they were at the top of the food chain like the Romans had the most powerful empire in human history. Both wiped out because of the stupidity and the ignorance to believe that they were invincible. Both got what they deserved in the end as is inevitable.
It is a rather fitting analogy when you really think about it. I am quite proud of myself for that...realization. Oh my god. I can see them. Gumballs! It has been years since I have seen them; John retrieved them on a hunt one time. There were like, hundreds of these little multicoloured spheres. Everyone went mental about them, eating their share on that day. I conserved mine for years. I loved just looking at them; not so crazy about the taste. It also seemed so...synthetic. But at this rate, I am so famished I am considering eating graze so take from that what you will.
I should probably try and find something else for Barnabus. My new friend. Who happens to be a stallion who was trying to get a bit overzealous with me. Men. They’re animals...quite literally. Even though I’m not overly fond of bestiality if I’m being honest.
This place, though. It is breathtaking even though time had eroded most of its beauty but it still survives to the edge of doom itself. I could stay here for the night, set off tomorrow at midday. I have few choices left but where I stay is one of them; one of the things I can dictate over.
I walk into A. A is an arrangement of stalls and a massive stage. Slight problem, it has no roof. It has no roof. It has no bloody roof. What happened? Did someone decide to go to the effort of climbing onto the roof and knocking it down? Why would you do that? Dick move right there. Dick move.
This must be one of the areas most affected by fire damage or human damage. Why would you disrupt a form of shelter that had some subtle beauty? I guess people can only think of themselves, not about the implications of their actions on the poor sods,like me, who run to survive. Why would they even care about anyone else? It’s not like we’re interdependent anymore; we tried being reliant on each other and look what became of that. Blood stained walls and the pavements corrupted by vomit and disguised by blood spatters.
Another reason in the encyclopedia of why everything sucks.
I open one of the fold up chairs in a section of the stand that still has a roof. I can feel the damp texture of the seat, tearing through my trousers, but I don’t move. There are worse sensations and I have not the energy to give a shit about things. I lean back and close my eyes. It’s too late to go back; I am too far gone as it were. Two days I’ve been gone. I wonder how they are. I mean, the kids annoy the crap out of me but I guess I do miss them. I pity them also. I got lucky because I had John find me and take me under his wing as it were. Others were not so lucky.
I wonder how Roman is. I know I shouldn’t because of the state of our relationship at the current time but that does not stop me. I do miss him. His melodramatic and, occasionally, snidey remarks. Then again, I don’t know if I miss him or human companionship which is saying something because I mindlessly dislike people because I have been screwed too many times.
Anyway, I have to focus on the issue at hand. The past is in the past. Roman and the group are in my past but this is my future. My chance to rediscover myself without being told who I am by someone who was enamoured with me.
I wake with a start. The door creaks open.
It could be a feral animal but it does not sound like it. They sound like human footsteps. I can hear the sound of weapon hitting someone’s hip as they walk.
Damn it. Please don’t come down here. I duck down. I should have thought of something else but I am panicking. They are getting too close. I can’t leg it out of here.
“Is that you?”
Yes, it’s me but, more to the point, who the hell are you?