I crawl on my hands and knees, my face close to the hot ground as I try to remain hidden from view. The shuffling of feet around me has my stomach churning in knots. I can't take a full breath as I am petrified of them hearing me. My ears are pricked, and I pull myself forwards, remaining as low as I can go. Crawling towards my destination, I sneak a peak up at the mass of dead, wandering bodies that are around me. The turn of my head has me sniffing involuntary at my scent and my throat gags at the putrid, rotting smell. To enable myself to go undetected, I have spread the insides of one of those undead creatures all over me. The act itself had had me spewing my guts up, but I knew that this was the only way that I was going to make my way through the city.
The upturned car ahead that I am heading for gets closer as I drag myself further forward. As I reach it, I pull myself up onto my knees and shuffle quickly behind it, before letting myself sit down briefly, resting my head against the cold hard metal casing of the vehicle. My breath is still caught, and I try to slow down my racing heart. The shuffling continues around me as the walkers aimlessly wander around. I peek out around the corner of my barricade and see that there are possibly more than twenty undead within touching distance of where I sit. My eyes take in my surroundings; the high buildings, the devastation that has been left behind following the outbreak, the empty abandoned vehicles, the littered streets; I am trapped here in Atlanta, trying desperately to escape, trying desperately to survive. I laugh briefly, remembering how much I wanted to come here. I had disobeyed my parents and I had set out to make my own life here. I had hoped that I could make it as a singer, get recognised, become famous. But in all honesty, the six months that I was here prior to the outbreak were the loneliest. I had alienated myself from my family, gone behind their backs and set out to prove them all wrong. And in fact, I had proved how immature I had been. I close my eyes as I try to control the tears that threaten to come. I let my family down so badly. I was selfish and thought that they were stopping me from being who I wanted to be. My Fathers final words still ring in my ears, 'If you leave this house, you will always be on your own. If you leave now, don't you ever come back.' He had wanted me to continue with my medical school degree, but I had other ideas. I had only done one year, but I knew that it wasn't what I wanted.
Tears spill from my eyes and down my cheeks, I wish I could take it all back. The past few months since the outbreak have been so difficult and I am amazed that I am still standing. In the beginning when the outbreak started, I managed to get through the crazed crowds and found refuge in the local hospital. As people ran to escape the city, I chose to stay walled in with enough medical supplies and food to survive. I had hoped that the epidemic would be over in no time and figured it was safer to stay where I was, hopeful that I would be found by the authorities who would come in to save the day. Of course, I had had to fight the undead as they rose from their hospital beds.
Fighting off creatures that want to chew your flesh was a new experience, but I learnt quickly how to kill them. Bit by bit, I eliminated the walkers from the ward I stayed on. There were only two living people in that hospital, me and a guy who was in a coma whose name was Rick.
I hunted through the hospital for food and drink and stored up as much as I could. When I had got enough for a few months' rations, I blocked up all other doors around the ward that Rick was on. I hoped that in time someone would come and save us. I knew from my short time at medical school how to change catheters and drips, so I continued to look after Rick. I talked to him as though he was talking back and for a while, I really believed that we would be saved. Months went by and I was putting the last drip into Rick's arm when I realised how fucked I was. I knew that nobody was coming, I had run out of food and I knew that at some point I would have to venture out into the scary new world that had been cruelly created. I wrestled with my conscious for so long, knowing that by leaving I was condemning Rick to death, but I knew I had no choice but to put me first.
A noise behind me snaps me out of my light doze and I listen as walkers slam into the other side of the car. I peek again around at them and see that they are trying to get past the barricade. They don't appear to be looking in my direction, but something has got them hyped up. I slink down onto my back, roll over onto my front and look around for my next spot to head to. I shuffle forward as I spot a car about fifty feet ahead of me that has its passenger door open. Keeping my head low, but my ears open I shuffle quickly across the ground. With each move forward, I expect to have a walker on my back, but none seem to notice me as I move. Closer I get to the opened vehicle and I smile as my hand reaches the seat inside the door. I pull myself up, quickly surveying the area around me and sit inside the car before pulling the door closed quietly behind me. I breathe deeply, letting out all the air that I have been holding onto for the past ten minutes.
It has been a few days since I left the hospital, a few days of me fighting to survive. I have camped under abandoned caravans, caught snippets of sleep inside garbage bins and I have eaten whatever I could get my hands on, which hasn't been much of anything, really. My body aches, my eyes are tired, and I feel the pull of sleep as for a moment I feel safe. I look around the interior of the vehicle I am in, pulling an old blanket around me for warmth and comfort. I open the glove compartment and almost cry in happiness as my hands reach in and pull out a full packet of chocolate raisins. I open the packaging greedily and shake the contents into my mouth, relishing the sweet, chocolatey taste. My mouth waters at the surprise taste sensation and I look deeper into the car to see if there is anything else to consume. I spy a half empty bottle of soda in the driver doorway and empty that in one quick swig. Feeling temporarily satisfied I allow myself to relax for a moment, my mind wandering back to Rick. I feel the pull of guilt as I think about how I left him behind. Until the very last minute, I had watched him intently, hoping that there would be sign that he was waking up. But despite the taps I made to his face, and even though I had shamelessly tipped water over him hoping to jolt him out of his coma, he had remained sleeping. As strange as it sounds, Rick had stopped the loneliness that I had been feeling before the outbreak. Looking after him and caring for him had given me a purpose. And I had realised with agonising clarity that my Father had been right all along about the path I should have taken. I should have been a doctor like him. My eyes are tearing up as I think of my Father, the only man in my life who has ever kept me safe. I allow myself to cry, hot tears stream down my cheeks and I feel sadness at how disappointed I had made my Dad. I hope with everything that I have that he and my family are okay.
…I wake abruptly from my sleep to a tapping noise. My mind is awash with flashes of the dream I was just having; My Father smiling at me, my sisters welcoming me home…. all changing to their disappointed faces and My Mothers tears as I get further and further away from her. Another tapping noise has me blinking back to reality and I freeze to the spot, wandering where that sound is coming from.
I turn my head quickly towards the voice and my body jumps in shock as I see a face looking in from the outside on the driver's side. The face belongs to a young man who is wearing a baseball cap. My mind is reeling, I can't breathe. This is the first person I have seen for months and I am unsure whether it is someone who I can trust.
'Let me in, please?'
I stare at him unmoving; I hear the words, but I can't figure out whether I should do as he asks or bolt through the passenger door. My eyes roam around the area and I see the mass of walkers have dispersed and now only a few stragglers remain. My eyes come back around and meet the eyes of the guy standing outside the car. Everything in me wants to trust him, I have spent way too much time on my own and I want to not do this on my own anymore, but another part of me is frightened of what might happen if he turns out to be 'untrustworthy'.
As though he is hearing my thoughts, he takes his cap off showing off an unruly crop of short dark hair. His eyes meet mine and then he smiles. In that moment, I know I can trust him. There is something in his face that tells me that he is a good guy. I reach over and unlock the drivers side door and watch as he places his hat back on his head, before climbing in next to me.
'Thankyou, it's kind of crazy out there, eh?'
His nose must pick up the scent of my walkers' guts and insides dipped clothing, because he rankles a little; his hand going up instinctively to his mouth and nose.
I smile nervously back at him and nod, not really trusting myself to speak. I have spent so long on my own, I am suddenly feeling pretty emotional at seeing another person and I feel like I could lose my shit very easily. I don't think he would appreciate me being a blubbering mess.
'Are you okay?' His hand remains over his mouth and nose, he doesn't trust himself to take another sniff.
I realise I must speak at some point, unless I want him to think that I am a mute.
'Yeah, I am fine…I'm sorry, it's been so long since I saw anyone else around here. Anyone not dead, anyway.'
'I'm Glenn…I was on a supply run and I saw you sleeping here in the car. I thought you were another undead dude at first, but as I got closer, I realised you were very much alive.'
I stare at him, still feeling shocked that another living, breathing, human is sitting talking to me.
'I climbed in for a few moments, I have been crawling along this road for hours and I needed a break…I wasn't intending to fall asleep. I am so tired, I haven't slept properly in days. The lack of food, the heat; its all worn me down.'
Glenn's eyes wander over my blood covered clothing and I see his brow furrowing in confusion.
'You're wondering why I look like this, aren't you?'
Glenn looks up at me and nods. Now, it is his turn to look nervous.
'I find I can pass through the walkers undeterred if I mask my scent. If I smell like them, they don't bother me, if I pass though carefully. It wasn't easy doing this, I had to cut open a walker and rub the insides all over me….it was so disgusting, but so far it seems to have worked.'
Glenn laughs and nods approvingly.
'Well, if it works then fair dos…. but my god, do you honk!'
Now it is my turn to laugh and as I do, I feel some of the tension crumble away.
A beeping sound from with the car makes me jump again, and I watch as Glenn pulls a walkie talkie from his belt pocket.
His face remains impassive as he waits for a response and I stare on in amazement; there are more people out there.
'Boy, are you deliberately pissing about?'
The voice that comes out is gruff and angry and I wonder at the other people who wait for Glenn to return.
Glenn rolls his eyes, looking at me briefly.
'No Merle, I am picking up supplies, like we agreed. I will be back soon.'
The car remains silent as Glenn waits for a response. This is broken by a crackle from the walkie talkie.
'Just hurry the fuck up, before we all starve to death up here. Come on boy, deliver the food…that's what you are good for isn't it?'
The owner of the voice laughs a deep, cruel laugh.
'I will be back soon'.
Glenn ends the call and returns the walkie to his belt. His eyes search the area and I can see him weighing up his options. Do they include me?
'I want to take you back with me, not all of the group are arseholes like Merle. I am not sure how he will react to me bringing you back with me, but I don't want to leave you here on your own. We are hoping to head out of the city in time; first we need to gather supplies.'
I look across at Glenn and see the worry etched on his face.
'How did you get together with these people?'
Looking back at me, he smiles widely.
'Just lucky, I guess!'
Glenn laughs again, tugging at his cap.
'I was separated from my family; this whole shitty outbreak has taken so much from me and for a while I was like you, I rattled around this city hoping to find other people. I met up with T-Dog first, then Merle, unfortunately, before we met up with the others. Merle likes to think he is the leader of us all, but he is an arsehole.'
'He sounds it…I am not afraid if guys like him.'
I sound more confident than I feel.
Glenn looks around him again, surveying the area.
'If you are up for it, then you could come with me. I need to head over and get more supplies but then we could go back to everyone else. Are you up for that?'
I look at his friendly face and find myself smiling deeply at him. There is not one part of me that doubts the sincerity of this guy.
'You mean instead of sitting here in this hot car with no food, whilst I smell of dead flesh? Yeah, I think I could be up for that.'
We both laugh briefly, I feel like I want to embrace him. That is how grateful I am that he has found me.
Glenn opens his door and gives me a side glance.
'Are you ready?'