Summer in the city should have been an easier time to survive. For one thing, you could smell them at least a block away so it was a lot harder to be surprised by them in the summer. It was easier to get around in the summer too so scavenging wasn’t as difficult. But then again, in the summer, there were more of them. A lot more.
No one really knew why they were here or how they came to be. Oh sure, there were a lot of ideas and speculation those first days after the first of them showed up. Some said it was a virus, others blamed solar flares, and some extremists even blamed God. In the end, it really didn’t matter how they came to be. They were here, they were our enemy, and they were winning.
Frank was all alone now. The only one of his group left alive after the long cold winter. He’d been alone for two months now. It was tough on him, being alone. He was always a talker, always the clown in the crowd and now he had no one to talk to and only his bitter memories for company. He hated it, but what could he do? As far as he knew there were no other survivors in the city, at least none he had ever heard anyone else mention.
He was hungry and he was out of food and most importantly water. It was time to make another scavenging run. This time though he’d have to go farther than before, all the places that were close to his safe house were picked clean. He’d emptied them with the others over the winter and by himself over the last couple of months. He decided he’d have to try for something big this time. Rummaging around in empty houses sometimes got him food and water but took a lot of time to clear and make secure. It just wasn’t worth all the work doing it alone. He finally decided to see how picked over the Wal-Mart was.
Grabbing his backpack he headed for the door, double checking that his weapons were in place. He carried an assortment of bladed weapons, a military knife in each boot, a small hatchet on his left hip, a machete on his right hip, and he carried a fireman’s axe in his hands. Survivors learned early on that noise was not your friend when fighting them. Others would hear you and come, drawn by the sound of gunfire or whatever it was they heard.
As he moved along the middle of the road, Frank kept his eyes and ears open for any sign of movement. That was something else learned the hard way, stay in the open. Don’t get surrounded. Always have somewhere to run to. They may be slow, but if you have nowhere to go who cares how fast they are? The middle of the street was the safest place to be.
Turning a corner, he stopped short. Three of them stood in the road about twenty five feet away, swaying slightly. He cursed to himself under his breath. He hadn’t been paying enough attention to his environment. If he had, he would have noticed that the wind was blowing away from him. That’s why he didn’t smell them. If he was very lucky, they wouldn’t see him and he could back away. He had fought more than three at a time before, but why take chances of you don’t have to? He took and step backward and then another. Crunch! He stepped on some bit of broken glass. His eyes shot up to the three of them in the road. They were looking at him.
As one they turned and started toward him. He knew he had a few seconds to make a decision: fight or flee? But that was another problem with them, once they smelled you or saw you, they came after you and never gave up. Ever. He stood his ground and decided to fight.
One was slightly faster than the others and reached him first. Now that it was so close, Frank could smell it and it nearly made him gag. It was bloated and green. He could see how it had died – there was a large chunk of its throat missing, the hole dripping a black wet fluid down its chest. Its eyes were the same as of all of them – opaque white shot through with red veins, and empty of any humanity. As it reached for him with grasping decaying hands, Frank sidestepped and brought the fireman’s axe around in a sweeping arc, taking off its head in a spray of viscous black fluid. He spun around and faced the other two who were just feet from him now and quickly dispatched them.
As he stood there looking down at the three bodies he marveled at how little he felt inside. When all this first started he used to have trouble taking them down and he would feel ill for hours if not days afterwards. They used to be somebody, used to have a life, hopes and dreams, families, loved ones. And now, he felt virtually nothing. No remorse, no happiness at being alive. Nothing.
He wondered if this is how they were inside, feeling nothing. “No, they feel hunger, the need to feed. I kill and feel nothing at all. At least they feel something when they kill. I am worse than they are.”
This realization hit Frank hard. He sat heavily on the ground, dropping the fireman’s axe.
“Why go on? Why keep this up? This useless, lonely existence. I have lost everything I have loved. There’s nothing left. I have to fight almost daily just to survive and it’s made me no better than what I am fighting. Why bother? What would be the point? There were more than thirty of us last year, now it’s just me. Why me? I’m not special; I don’t have any skills that should be keeping me alive more than anyone else. Maybe I was just lucky. Huh. If this is luck, I don’t want it.”
Frank had no idea how long he sat there, lost in his morose thoughts, surrounded by stinking corpses. He’d given up. If any of them had come along, he didn’t know what he’d do. He wasn’t sure he’d even put up a fight anymore.
Then he heard it. Faint at first but it was there. Growing stronger. A rhythmic thumping. Louder by the second. He grabbed his axe and jumped up, looking for the source of the sound.
Then he saw it. It was an Army helicopter. Flying slow and steady to the west. He watched it until it was out of sight.
Straightening his backpack he shouldered his axe and headed west, following the helicopter.
“Now I have something inside me they don’t. Hope.”
Note: Every week we choose from four topics to write about. This week one of the topics was “Summer in the city” and I choose that.
Your comments and creative criticism are more than welcome.