I find myself standing on a beach. It is so dark that the moonlight can only make splotches of dark stand out from the rest. As my eyes adjust I notice an obelisk set against the starry sky. A lighthouse. I feel my way towards the building hoping to find something useful there. A light switch for starters. But after climbing the rusty ladder and exploring the building’s shallow alcoves I discover nothing. Only what I already knew. I am alone, in the dark on a beach.
From atop the tower I see the shore stretch in both directions. I can see the shapes of civilization. The boxy silhouettes of buildings against the starry panorama. I do note that not a single bulb burns in either place. Windows are all dim. And that ubiquitous orange glow of street lights is absent. The lifeline of electricity has been severed and that fact is enough to set me on edge.
Further ashore there’s a rail line that runs perpendicular to the sea connecting the two villages. Beyond is a steep, treelined hill that stretches far in both directions. I feel my way through the short grass and cross the tracks to find a paved, two-lane road outlining the bottom of the hill. I pick a direction with nothing other than my gut to inform me – Right. I start walking.
I am approaching a small nest of farms and cottages when I spot my first walker. The figure shuffles aimlessly through a field of knee-high uncut grass. If I were a more empathetic person I might have rushed towards them. That slow shuffle is surely a sign a distress, of a person in trouble. But I know better. I steer clear of the shambling thing, moving closer inland.
I hope that I can find a safe approach to the clusters of buildings between me and the creature. But as I near I see more of them. Another stands in the road next to a vehicle stopped akimbo the roadside. Others lurk near fences. They are slow-moving. With care I could thread the needle, but what if the unpredictable things close in around me? I don’t yet know what they’re capable of, but I have my suspicions.
When I have the presence of mind I open my backpack to survey my supplies. There’s not much: a couple of bandages, a flashlight. I’ve grown so used to the dark that I leave the torch in the bag and push inland, up a road that cuts a much gentler path along the incline.
The woods begin to fill in the spaces alongside the road. And I begin to worry that one of those things might lurk behind a dense cluster of trees and catch me by surprise. With every step I become more bold and less concerned. They seem to congregate around buildings.
There’s a small, one-story building along the left side of the road. The night muddies the horizon and the gauzy haze around the stars makes a faint light swim on the bleeding edge between land and sky. The tops of trees seem to dance. I can’t tell if the swaying figures at the top of the hill are a mob of those lost people wandering in the night or just the treetops animated by a trick of the light.
More and more I trade caution for curiosity, so I push forward.
I pray that the small house will offer shelter, but the door is locked. That’s when I hear the inhuman grunting of one of those things. Just across the road I see the creature, bent into a squat, slowly dragging itself in my direction. I drop to the ground, hoping to conceal myself from the beast. Luckily he moves on. But I hear the sounds of others like him around me. If I’m not careful they will surround me. It begins to rain.
I’m running through the woods, my breath loud and ragged in my ears. The flashlight swings long, slicing arcs in the night illuminating the sheets of water that pour down from the sky. Every so often I stop under a tree large enough to cut an umbrella of shelter in the wall of rain. I search the base of the tree for anything useful. Something to eat or drink or shoot or save. But there’s nothing there. So I move on feeling increasingly desperate.
The creature caught me on the back and I am bleeding. I am drenched and cold but my throat is still parched. I have no canteen. No way to collect water. I had edged too close to the village, hoping to pry an axe from a log I had spied from the treeline. But the thing wouldn’t budge. That’s when he saw me. I ran, but he followed, clawing bloody stripes into my back. In desperation I dropped to the floor and somehow the damned thing lost my trail. Wandered off. I patch myself up with a bandage, but my vision still pulses red and the blur deepens.
I scramble on the floor of the train station, picking up shells for the gun I wish I had. I shove more bandages into my bag, using another immediately to staunch my re-opened wounds. There are a half dozen monsters lurking nearby. One of them gave me these wounds. Another, one of the skittering, low-to-the-ground bastards, comes much too close. I find a tin of anchovies and wolf them down, hoping they’ll clear my vision, but they don’t. I have to keep moving. Find something that will save me.
I’m bleeding again. Running heedless through backyards, I circle around worksheds and garages looking for any place to hide. One of them is on my tail. More will probably catch my scent. I can barely make out my surroundings, but when I see an opening I duck into it and fall into the shadows praying to find a shotgun or painkillers or a bottle of water. I discover only empty aluminum cans.
There are no bandages left. Blood fills my eyes and I can see no where to run. I try for the road but a tall chain link fence blocks my way. I turn a corner to find another one of them right in front of me. It’s no use.
I curl into a ball on the ground. The zombie kicks and claws at me, scraping the last shreds of life from my weary body. He’s wearing the clothes of a farmer, but his face. It is surely the face of the devil.
I never fought back, never really had a chance. My eyes close, my life ebbs from my body and I wonder. If I’d found another human, another person like me, would things have been any different?
I die there in the dirt and I feel relieved.
About the Author:
Gus Mastrapa is a freelance writer from Apple Valley, CA. He doesn't believe in zombies.
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