My glasses are dirty. It sucks. They are almost always dirty. I hate looking through dirty glasses. It seems that within a few moments of cleaning them they are dirty again. I dry them off and set them on my face again but try not to open my eyes for a while. I don’t want to see anything of the world around me. I hold my breath for a moment trying to remember what the air used to smell like, but I can’t remember. My sense of smell cannot replace what is with a memory. I wish it could. I wish that when I open my eyes again and inhale my next breath everything would be different. I know that when I do nothing will have changed.
Daylight is fading and I know that I must find shelter soon. The nights are cold and filled with … things. I cannot stay out in the streets for long. If I do stay out I might as well ring a bell. Those things would be on me faster than I could even think of running. Whatever they are, they are fast. I have given them a name. I call them hunters. I know the name is not original but there are not too many people around anymore to give me other names to call them. I call them hunters because that is what they do; they hunt. They hunt in the dark hours of night. They creep along the shadows in the day and are held there by the tainted sun. But at night they are free to stalk prey once again. I think they were once people, but I am not entirely sure. They scratch at the walls and shatter the windows. They try to break their way inside but they are not strong enough. They cannot break through the boards that I have nailed in place. May God help us if they learn to work together as a team. I do not think anything could stop them then. They are flesh eaters.
I watch them from behind the wooden planks set in the windows. They know that I am here. They sniff and rage because they cannot get to me. They shamble and creep about in the darkness. I hold my shotgun to my shoulder but do not fire. I wait. They are not entirely brain dead. I know this because sometimes they come to the door and knock as if they were just arriving at a friend’s house. Some have stood outside in view of the house and waved at me. They greet me with a wave of the hand and smile hoping that I will come out to greet them in return. I do not. I never will. I do not know exactly what they are but I know they are no longer human. They may be human in body or at least most of them anyway, but not in the way they think or hunt.
I have heard children scream as the hunters catch them and rip their flesh from their bones. I am tormented by the screams and I want to save them or put them out of their misery, but in the end I know that I am helpless to do so. Inside my home I weep and rant because I know that there is nothing that I can do. I find the shotgun pointing at my own head and my finger on the trigger but I have not given in to that idea yet. I do not know for sure if there is a God, but if there is I do not want to kill myself. I do not know if there is a literal hell, but if there is, I do not want to go there. As much as I think that this world has become a hell I still do not want to chance it. It’s funny, or maybe it is not funny. I want to live but am afraid of the dark or rather I am afraid of what stalks the darkness. I am afraid to die. I am afraid to live. I am always afraid in this new world.
I look for the morning but it does not come as soon as I would like for it to. I hear clicking outside. It is like someone cutting their nails. I do not really know what it is but that is how it sounds. It seems that it has been going on for hours. It will not stop. It is grating on my nerves but there is nothing that I can do about it. I look out through the slats and see the source of the clicking. There are two hunters outside breaking the fingers of a dead man. They have something in their hands that they are using to do it. I do not know, nor do I wish to know what it is that they are using. All I can think about for the next few hours is the fact that some of the hunters are learning to use tools in order to go about their grizzly tasks.
I fall into a restless sleep somewhere about three in the morning. I fall asleep with the shotgun in my hand. I do not remember falling asleep. I never really do. I know that they cannot get in, but still I find no comfort in that. I know that if they are learning to use tools maybe they will learn to work together. If they do learn to work together I know they will find a way in. I am preparing for this. I dream of crawling slithering things in the shadows. They watch me as I walk down the street. I know that they are there and that the sun is setting. I am afraid. They are stalking me. If they were wild dogs I know that I would already be running, for they would already be after me not caring about the vengeful sun. The things stalking me cannot come into the light of day. But I look back anyway. They are there in the shadows.
The sun is setting and the shadows are getting longer. They hiss and growl as they exit the buildings. They can smell me. They can hear me. They can almost taste me. They writhe in anticipation. I begin to run. I find that I cannot move. I am unable to breathe. I am panicking. I am shaking. I am staring into the eyes of the dead and they are staring back at me, into my very soul. I am running but am going nowhere.
I roll off of the couch and fall to the floor. The shotgun tumbles from my arms and smashes into the coffee table. It falls over and dumps the old books and letters that I have saved onto the floor. My heart is beating so hard and fast that it is hard to calm down. My head hurts.
The sunrise is giving birth to a new day. The sunlight is leaking through the slats on my windows. It is good to feel the warmth on my skin. I stand up on shaky legs and walk through the living room, into the kitchen. All thought of the hunters goes to the back of my mind. Daylight is here and I am safe again. I make my way outside and make my way to the generator. It kicks to life with a pop and a growl and then a steady thrum. I go back inside and set about making coffee. It will be black and strong.
I know that I cannot linger too long so I go about the business of preparation. While there is daylight I will look for survivors and food. I can find food easily enough. Survivors are harder to come by. It has been three years and so far I have not found anyone except the occasional wayward soul, broken and mentally unbalanced. How they manage to stay alive I do not know. I gather my small backpack and throw it over my shoulders then pick up my shotgun and load extra ammo into my jacket pocket. I hope that I will not need to use it. The gun is loud and will most definitely attract attention. Sometimes in the past when going into a home I encounter the hunters. They are not too hard to kill. It usually only takes one or two shots to separate a torso at close range. It only takes one shot to the head. Both are messy and blasts blood and body parts across the room.
I open the front door and step outside onto the concrete porch, look around and breathe in the cool morning air. It still reeks of death and ash but I have learned to deal with it.
The building was once a factory. I guess in a real sense it still is. The tools are still there and the cranes are still against the walls waiting to be activated once again. The windows are dirty as are the floors and walls. But without people to work the equipment the factory might as well be as dead as they are. I am hesitant to go inside. I can hear scratching against the doors and walls inside. I wonder how many of them are inside of the old building and if they know that I am just outside; just outside of their reach. I know that I will need to go inside at some point but I, for the life of me, cannot remember why. I know that I have come for something but what? I curse under my breath and shuffle away from the door. Whatever it is that I came for will have to wait. I will not risk my life for something that I cannot remember.
I think my mind is starting to fail me. I am worried. What would happen to me if one day I could not remember simple things like locking my door at night or nailing up boards that hold the hunters at bay and keep them from bursting through the windows while I sleep? What if I forget that they are out there hunting and I forget to take proper precautions. I am frightened at the thought. I wonder if somehow I am slowly becoming like them and if I am becoming like them what is there to save me but a bullet to the head? I am hungry but cannot remember what I have at home. There are homes on the next block. I will go and see if I can find anything.
Fear is a brutal thing. Fear strips the soul of its sanity and renders the heart to shreds. It robs a man of lucid thoughts and tortures the mind. I know all of this but I cannot shake the torment of fear. It is ever present and always seeking my demise. I step inside and look into the corners. They are empty save for the furniture and some garbage. The carpet has been drenched in blood. It is dry now and brown with age. The walls are broken and the halls are dark. I do not want to move through the whole house. All I need is in the kitchen. The windows have been shattered and the wind blows in. Dust is stirred up by my steps and the wind picks it up and swirls it about. I know there is nothing in the fridge so I do not even think about opening it. Whatever is in there will stay there. Whatever is in there …
I flash back to just after it happened. I was not alone when we entered a house looking for survivors. Three other men were with me. I cannot remember their names. I try to remember, but they are lost to me. The house was very much like the one I was in now. It was small. It was still very nice with pictures on the walls and nicely painted. The lights were not working though. Nothing was working. The family was not there so the house was empty. Someone walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Children had been stuffed into the freezer. Their skin was black and they had been ripped to pieces. The smell could not be described. It is one of the worst memories I have. After finding that we never opened a fridge again. It went unsaid. It was just a rule. Never open a fridge again in a home you are scavenging through.
Something crashes into a wall in the room beyond the kitchen. I have stopped remembering and I am standing with my shotgun at my shoulder. It is there in the darkness looking right at me. The sun is bright through the shattered kitchen window and its light forces the creature to stay away from me. It begins to howl and hiss as its desire to get at me drives it into frenzy. For what seems like an eternity we stare at each other, but I know the truth is seconds have passed by. I fire into the closet and am rewarded by the screeching wail of the wounded thing. Now wounded it charges. It bursts from the darkness of the closet and heeds not the brightness of the day. It screams as the sunlight covers it, but it does not stop. Its flesh is burning but it only has a single purpose… stay alive long enough to kill me. I rack the slide and fire again, the buckshot hammering into its head. The hunter falls to the floor kicking with only half a head. Blood bone and brain matter have been blasted throughout the kitchen. The creature dies.
My body is shaking with adrenaline and fear. I can barely stand. I look all around me and listen hard, but the only sounds that I can hear are the wind and my thrumming heart beating so fast and loudly that I can barely think. I know that I cannot stay here for too long, but I can barely even move. My muscles are stiff and my head is spinning. I inhale and let out the breath slowly as I try to regain my confidence. It is noon and the sun is up. The sunlight is upon me and it feels good. I gather my bags and step into the closet. Canned goods are stacked almost from the floor to the ceiling. It takes me three trips with full bags to empty the closet of its stores. Today the risk was worth the treasure. I can live on this for at least three weeks without having to venture out for too long. The van is filled by the time I make my way back to my house. I pour bleach on the stairs and close the door behind me. I lock it and hammer fresh wood across to sturdy it. The sun is setting and already I can hear them coming out. They are loud and hungry. They are hunting and I know that someday they will have me. Someday they will consume my flesh, but not today.