AN:This story has been/is in the process of being revised. I suggest that if you're starting this story to only read the revised chapters and wait for my updates, which should be rather speedy. Thank you.

1: All Alone

There is about one minute, when I first wake up and I haven't opened my eyes just yet, when I forget everything that's happened. The nightmares are just dreams, and in that moment it could be any old day back at home. It could all just not be real.

But then I open my eyes.

Reality is bleak. I have spent every day except for one alone since the initial outbreak, and most of me prefers it that way. There is a small piece of me that whispers every now and then of loneliness, but life could be far worse. I even have a home, if you could call it that. I was lucky enough that some rich and eccentric Georgian happened to have a cabin at the end of one of the roads I turned down. It was high enough on the mountain that in the days since I arrived it was almost untouched by the outbreak. The owners must not have made it here after everything, and I can't help but be thankful for that. The property was fenced in, and the second I laid eyes on it I knew. I just knew. Some kind of peace floated over me that moment. Barbed wire and all, if I could have a home now this would be the best thing I could find, and it was. After I scanned the property I found that it was much more than I bargained for.

"Crazy environmentalists, God love 'em." I looked up at the solar panels and generator that I could never have afforded in my old life, and all I could do was smile. With all the things I lost I was beginning to think that the universe had something against me, but those glistening black panels on the roof were all the proof I needed. This was where I needed to be. It took me at least twenty trips to clear the town down the road from the house of everything valuable, but I did it. That's what I do. Sweep in and take everything that I can carry. Every book, every blanket, every can of food, everything I might need. I even took lots of stuff I might never need, just in case. I had space in the house that I needed to fill. The more stuff I had around the less the thought of being by myself scared me. I'd scavenge a hundred shitty romance novels before I let myself admit my fears, and I did.

A normal day is full. I wake up to that brief moment of happiness, and then get to work. I check the perimeter, and then have breakfast. I never knew a whole lot about gardening, or working land, because most pre-med seniors in Baton Rouge didn't have time for those things. I've had plenty of time since it happened. Nowadays most of the daylight is spent watering and harvesting. I take the buckets from the river that runs under through part of the chain link fence, and then I make the walk to the fields. I throw whatever I can into a compost pile at the corner of the field to use for the soil, and I'm embarrassed to admit that on more than a few occasions I would just take my bathroom breaks by the pile. I have to think like that now. Whatever time is left I spend on the roof with a book and the long-range rifle I picked up in some infested town on my way here, binoculars in hand.

I do a full scan every few pages. Up on the roof is the best vantage point. I can see everything in my little domain. It must be a solid couple of acres, I'd imagine, only I'm not exactly sure what an acre looks like to be honest. When I first got here there wasn't a day when I didn't have to climb down and grab the old baseball bat, then put another soul out of its misery, but now weeks go by nearly. I've been putting the bodies about ten yards from the fence, because a part of me hopes the smell will drive off the others, but it's just an idea I had that I can't seem to shake. A glimmering hope for protection. It brought some sort of order to the kills. In the evenings, as soon as I can't see past the fence I go inside and make dinner. I was never much of a cook until this all happened. I had always pictured my mom and I in a kitchen when I was older, maybe even married, cookbook open and her helping me do things the way she did them. That's the way it goes, I think. There is always time until it's gone. At this point in the day, depending on my mood I do one or two of a few things. Thanks to the electrical setup of this house's previous owner I might watch a DVD. I might even get in a good workout, or rearrange the furniture, but I mostly reserve anything strenuous for days before cleanings. I might practice the guitar, or keyboard. I might do yoga. I might relax while listening to music. I might read a novel. But almost every night I study from the med school textbooks I picked up, the ones I was supposed to get to study for real, back when the world was real. Finally, whenever my eyes start to get tired I turn the lights off and go upstairs to sleep. Every night I barricade the door of my room, just in case. The bat is never out of my arms' reach.

I have a few of those kinds of ingenious ideas, the ones that bring a bit of order to everything. Every Wednesday and Sunday I give myself a good cleaning in the river. Once every four weeks I even use shampoo, and I try to make those days special. I even will pour myself a glass from one of the many liquor bottles I have stored up from my various scavenges, each time toasting 'the little things,' toasting 'still being human,' toasting 'not dead yet.' Sometimes I don't have anything to toast, so I just say, 'to the future,' like it will somehow fix everything wrong that's happened to the world. Even though time had become pointless to me, I still have this need to keep track, to celebrate each passing month. It's how I keep from falling apart.

Or at least, it was.