Denial and Survival: My Experience of World War Z Preface The end of the world is such a strange thing. At first, nobody accepts the problem. They deny, and detract, and deface. But however hard these people try to resist and argue, all they do is add to the problem. Firestorms rage in Arizona, it's just a normal part of the natural cycle. Riots and gang violence in Los Angeles, whatever, that's their problem. Homicide and looting worldwide, dissaperances, reports of new diseases, all the signs of an apocolypse are totally ignored. As they decry the menace of a new Plague, it spreads worldwide, slowly destroying nations, slowly eliminating those who are not prepared. On the other hand, there are those who can see the epidemic coming. They have previous knowlege, or are just xenophobic and are looking for an excuse to shut themselves off from the world. There are those who have been waiting their whole lives for something disastrous to happen, and they would thrive in this new world. They have their weapons, their "vacation home", and their survival guide. They have trained, year after year, for something that was extremely unlikely to happen. They had a fourteen percent survival rate. The average citizen faired no better, and almost always worse. Everyone thought that at first, it would all blow over soon. The news companies treated it like the flu, once the vaccine was released. All that remained was talk on internet fourums, and a few U.S citizens abroad, sending dire letters back home. The government was silent, with no statements, no speeches, and no worry. When Israel closed their borders, all the newspapers and talk shows said it was expected. "They were bound to do it,", they said. "They have too many enemies, they hate their neighbors", on and on, until nobody could deny it any longer. There was something seriously wrong with the rest of the world. America being itself, of course, was not concerned until the Plague came to it's own borders. In the year 2023, our nation has a population of one-hundred thirty-two million. We are, once again, bitter enemies with Russia. Everything has changed. Nothing is normal. The only thing spared from the war is the immortal, implacable fortress of humanity. We were chased to the edge of death, the very brink of civilization, and we came back. If nothing else, the Plague taught us that we, as humans, can and will survive anything. Even if it means sacrificing everything. And we did. The Beginning 1 "Benny, can you come downstairs please?" as yells my mother everytime time she needs to tell me something important. My mother has a thing with the word, "important", however. To her, important is every little worry or concern which crosses her mind. Every article about how teenage drug use is on the rise, how anti-social teens are unhealthy, "Is your son a psycho?", et cetera. Really, next to nothing she has to say to me is important. Always some chore or reminder to, "Do your homework!" "Go outside more!", or her favorite, "You should hang out with your friends more! Every damn time her voice reaches through the floorboards into my room, I get just a little more agitated. She seems to believe that I don't have enough stress in my life, so she is generous enough to give me some more. I really shouldn't be so harsh, though. I guess it's not her fault, really. She has stress too, things that gnaw at her mind day after day. I just sometimes wish she wouldn't add her own troubles to mine. Take school, for example. Yes, I know how cliched it is to talk about school as a troubled teen. I don't care. School is shit, and it doesn't care for anyone who isn't the perfect little cookie-cutter preppy asshole they want. School wants students who will sit down, memorize things, and write them down. It doesn't want students who are creative. It doesn't want students who can't memorize facts like a machine. It doesn't want people with real intelligence. It doesn't want anyone but quiet slaves, and muscular slaves. It teaches no useful information, no helpful, worldy skills. It tells kids how to be obedient and nothing more. I guess school is like that because real life is, too. I couldn't say how many horror stories I have read about office life, factory life, the economy, job security, hospital bills, and other issues adults have to face. In the Real World, you are expected to go to work on time, take orders from stupid people, complete tasks that you don't want to do, and go home to prepare for another day of this. That is what the People in Charge want, and that's what they expect to get. The only way to escape your fate is to give up and become an artist. Artistry is not an option for me. I am a detail-oriented, socialy awkward, and apparently despicably intelligent teen with social anxiety, some sort of type-a personality, and I could not possibly do something artistic to save my life. Trust me, I have tried too many times to not grasp the fact that art is beyond my reach. Feeling are not my strongest feature, and to pour them out of myself is downright disturbing to me. Letting other people know how I am, what I think? Scary beyond belief. I swear, if someone were to ever read this, I would flip a shit. So, with all hope, no one ever will. The most pride-inducing thing I have created in my life is a complete survial plan for apocalyptic scenarios. It covers the more likely prospects of economic collapse, national breakdown, and nuclear warfare. Just for kicks, however, I included an appendix for some sort of zombie apocalypse. Nothing much, just a few key points, a basic outline for survival, techniques for killing a zombie. I intended for it to be a sort of dark humor, in case I actually was in a "real" survival situation. I never thought I would ever have to use my plans at all. I suppose I'm just the kind of guy who looks into things like that. It's not like I'm at all likely to survive a world-ending scenario. Boredom just took hold, and bam. Survival plans. Is that how everything important is made? Boredom? It seems like it. Some lazy guy in his basement decides he wants to make something, and eventually it's there, ready for mass marketing. Instant millionare, just add innovation. Recipies, technology, stories, they all seem to come from procrastination or something. Hell, how would I know. I've never really created anything of worth. Even my survival plans are kind of ridiculous. All my stratagies probably won't amount to shit when I get killed by some random jerk who goes a little crazy with his handgun. Or get crushed by a falling building. Or slaughtered by an invading army. Or any number of unavoidable deaths, that I have no power to prevent or change. I hear that some people don't worry abou these things. I know, impossible, they must be insane not to worry, but it's true. They just live their lives as they come, floating along the gentle stream of life, not even considering the possiblility that at any hour, someone could just up and kill you for no reason at all. Or there could be a massive drought, and you could starve to death. Or you could be one of twenty other unlucky bastards when the suicide bomber destroys the bus you're traveling on. They just let whatever happens, happen. I despise those people for having such simple lives. My crazy jealousy will take over, and I just sit and fume in the corner while they live happily and carefree. But it can't last forever. Someday, I know it, it will all come down. And even if I do die because of it, I know they will probably die with me, and then we will finally be equal. There is no success in death, and no failure either. When society collapses, those who die might be considered the lucky ones. Those who die will consider the living the luckiest ones. That is why I spend my time making these stupid plans. Because, no matter how worthless my life is, I can't bear to give it up. I will try my hardest to survive, even if it isn't possible, because I am damn scared of death. . . . 2 I woke up feeling my heart beat in my chest. There was a layer of sweat on my skin, and my mind was freaking out. All because of that dream. This is the third night in a row that I've had this dream, and it is constantly haunting me. Shuddering hordes surrounding me, all moaning, grasping at the air. The shambling corspes form in front of me, and behind me there are more. Walls on either side block my escape, and I feel their powerful hands grasp at me. I struggle and scream, trying to knock them down and run, but I am overcome by the mass of decayed flesh. And then, I wake up, and the cold darkness around me fills into my mind. I have to stop having these dreams. My dream journal is already filled with some screwed up shit, but nothing really hits me like these nightmares. Dread invades me at the worst moments during the day, and my mind forces me to relive the feelings of absolute fear and doom. At school, at home, at work, anywhere really. I can't escape the mounds of burning bodies, the outstreched hands, the cold teeth... I'm going to expand on my survival plans. I know that my dreams probably mean nothing. I never believed in that new-age garbage. But I feel like that's the only way I can dispell whatever daemon that's taken lodge in my brain, controlling my thoughts and feelings. If it works, and the dreams go away, then great. I'll be able to function as normal, and life will continue. I'll have my expanded zombie survival plans, and I can move on. If it doesn't work, then I just don't know. Maybe I'll see a psychologist. Or maybe not. Who needs psychologists anyways? I'm not crazy. Nope. Just because I'm not totally normal doesn't mean I'm crazy. But I'm not too happy with these goddamn nightmares. So I'll write more for that zombie appendix. See where it takes me. Maybe even do some research (this is the part where people will usually snigger and giggle). I can only hope that makes everything go back to normal. I see the clock. 7:30. Shit. Time to go to my daily pennance ritual known as school. Taking a quick shower has a different meaning for me than it does for other people. For most folks, it would involve soap, and shampoo, and a washcloth, and last about five minutes. Not me. Showers are absolutely sacred for me. A nice, long, steaming river of cleanlines and scrubbing for a good twenty minutes or more is expected. The very bare minimum. Yes, life never seems so bad when you take a shower. Maybe everything will work out for the best, despite the world's best efforts to force life sideways. A good shower is the best damn part of my day. At school, just after a fresh wash, I usually feel pretty good. This feeling will last for about fifteen or so minutes. Once that time is up, I go back to my usual unconfident self. I mope around, just wishing someone would talk to me. When someone actually does talk to me, I wish to high heaven that they would stop. This is the curse of the introvert with expectations and hopes beyond their reach. I always crave to have a normal social life, but whenever I move towards it one step, I bring myself back two more. I once had a friend or two, way back in elementary school. And another in middle school. And that was about it. I suppose that it's actually better that way. Despite what society has lead me to believe, having few to no friends might actually be better for me. Social interaction gets downright painful for me sometimes, and when it isn't, I usually won't have anything to say. So why bother? I have plenty of life to live on my own. I have reading. I have writing. I have music. Hell, I have exercise, sometimes. When I'm not too tired, that is. Or feeling bad. Or have a cold. . . . 3 After school today, I come home and see the TV on. How many times has my mom told me to turn the TV off when I'm not using it, and electric bills, and - "There you are, Benny! I've been worried sick!" This surprises me a little. "Why are you worried? I was just at school," I reply. She looks me dead in the eye, and says"I just saw on the news that there's this new disease, and I thought you might have caught it at school, and I've just..." She rambles on like this for a while. Every damn time she hears about anything, she nags, and worries, and unduly bothers me about it. "Mom, you don't have to worry. I'm not sick, and the disease is probably just some sort of flu, anyways." I try to say calmly. My temper usually starts to fail a few minutes in to this nonsense, but I had a bad day today. "No, it isn't! I heard on ANN that there is some sort of rabies going around. People get bit, and go crazy!" Damn it. Stop it, damn it, it's not like in your dreams, it's just rabies. But I can't force my mind to shut up. "Come on, mom. Stop worrying about every new thing that comes around. You're going to go crazy some day!" I quip, trying to focus to just getting away and going to my room. But she won't stop talking. "It's true! They say it originated in Africa, they're calling it Africanized Rabies or something like that. It's extremely contaigous, I heard. One bite, just one nip from an infected person, and there's no return! You go totally insane, no going back!" I just run up the stairs, swing around the corner, run through the threshold, and slam my door shut. If I heard one more word, I might have gone crazy and started biting people myself. Shit. Shit shit shit, damn... crap. My dreams aren't true. My dreams aren't true, and this is just a coincidence, so stop it. Stop it stop it stop it. I open up my laptop and open up my browser. I go to the ANN website, and there it is: "New Rabies From Africa; No Fatalities" I don't brave to click on the link. My nightmare returns to my mind. The shambling corpses,the rotten flesh, the cold fingers... I return to reality shaken. No sleep for me tonight, I guess. If I fall asleep, who knows what will happen. Maybe I'll dream something worse. I look at my bed with loathing. The red bedspread looks like it was doused in blood, and the posts made of limbs. I feel like my grip on reality is fading. I REALLY need to see a psychologist now. 4 The nightmares. Coming back. I didn't follow my vow to not fall asleep. I really should have. Really really should have. I think back to yesterday. Was it real? Is there actually a new rabies? I can't tell if it was true, or just a facet of the dream. Oh god. It must be real. My dreams. Are they a sign? Damn it, snap out of it! If I keep on like this, I WILL go crazy. I just know it! I can hear my mother downstairs, singing as she prepares breakfast. She can be maddening sometimes, but maybe she will bring me back to reality. I won't dare mention the dreams, but maybe she can help. Maybe. As I walk down the oak stairs, I smell the saltiness of bacon and eggs being fried. The sound of boiling grease is high in the air, bubbling and stirring. By all means, today actually seems like a normal day. As if. Today is the furthest from normal I have ever felt. The panic I feel about the rabies has settled down in my mind, reaching out into every neuron, destroying any possible sense of normalcy. Not that my life has ever been "normal" in the slightest sense, from today back to my very conception. But now isn't the time to go into that crazy can of worms. "Hey... mom?" I tenatively ask. "Yes, dear? What is it?" "You know that, um... that new rabies, thing?" Oh god. I can hear my voice start to quiver. I can tell she knows what's wrong. "Well, yes, dear. They say it's spread into Europe!" She sounds like she usually does when gossiping. Brittish people have such odd gossiping habits. I've noticed that with a few other people, but my mother is the worst about it. it's like she never runs out of things to talk about. "Yeah, about it, um... what else have you heard?" She almost seems shocked that I want to hear more. After years of shooting her down, I guess that me being interested in her stories is scary or something. "Well, ahh, let's see. They say that it originated with the normal rabies virus, and that some poor child in south Africa was bitten by a crazed wildebeast or something! It spreads like normal rabies, except it makes you focus only of biting people! They say that it's incurable, but a pharmacutical company is working on a vaccine! I asked the girl at Walgreens, she said that they will be giving it out like they do flu shots! That's just wonderful, isn't it? Oh, son, the world is such a terrible place sometimes. I just don't know what to do!" Well, this is weird. Yesterday, it was supposed to be some terrible, awful new disease that would kill us all, and today, they're making a vaccine. While that sets my mind at ease for now, I'm still not quite sure about it. Something seems fishy. When swine flu was big, it was made out to be the worst possible thing that could happen to humanity since the black plague. Same for A.I.D.S. But this? A vaccine announced on day two. It seems... anticlimactic. Like the author just decided to finish his great life-work halfway through. Oh well. At least I don't have to worry anymore. Right? Right. I just try to put my mind to rest. Hell, you know how the media always blows things out of proportion. Nothing new is happing here. THis is a totally normal occurence. New diseases happen all the time, you know. Just the same, I feel like I should tell my mom about my fears. "Um, mom?" "What is is, dear?" "I've been having dreams about... well, zombies, lately. I was just wondering if anything you've heard..." She almost looks amused. "Oh dear, don't worry about it! You're only having those dreams because you've heard about the new disease! Well, don't worry about it. They say that it's going nowhere, it's practically going to die out once the vaccine is distributed. Everything is okay, dear!" If only I had known how horribly wrong she woudld turn out to be. The Great Panic 1 Well, damn it. Looks like the whole world is gone to crap. This supposed "rabies" have infiltrated and infected every city, every nation. The vaccine was fake. Made-up. Bullshit. It was a placebo. It didn't cure anything. What the hell were they thinking? Phalanx, the vaccine for rabies that already exists! We didn't need another goddamn rabies vaccine, we needed a zombie vaccine! Oh well. Too late to kill the bastards who did this to us. They flew off to Antarctica, where there isn't a snowball's chance a zombie will ever come after them. Damn it. My mother blew three hundred dollars on that bullshit! Three hundred dollars that could have been used for survival. Well, hell. I guess there isn't much we can do now. I have my plan, my little zombie survival guide, and that's all that will keep us alive for these upcoming years. I just hope it's enough. All the news stations, every radio DJ, talk show hosts, everyone says to go north. DON'T GO NORTH. They say zombies freeze in the cold weather. They say that it will be safe, we can wait them out, and the government will take care of them in the meantime. If you go north, I can tell you with all certainty that you will die. Every person going north to the border states and Canada is another toll to the ecosystem, one already strained by overhunting. Unless you have stockpiles, and stockpiles on top of them. AND are prepared to defend them to the death, it is FAR safer to just stay in your house, board up the windows, and destroy the first few steps of your staircase. Going to Canada is almost certainly a death sentence. That is one of the main points in my survival plan. Since this started as a joke - a damn lark - I based my hypothetical zombie on a "Civillian Zombie Defence" guide I had read. It turns out that the author of that "fictional survival guide" was right. He was right about everything. He knew that zombies died with a blow to the brain. He knew that they froze solid in cold weather. He knew that they walk about one step every 1.5 seeconds. And he knew that survival in the northern parts of the world is absolutely the hardest thing a human can do, even with today's resouces. I seem to be the only person in the United States who even took heed of this man, who had incredible foresight. Did nobody else plan like I did? Even the government seems surprised. How could they not have done anything? There's been about zero millitary support anywhere in the US, and nobody knows how they're going to survive. Except, of course, "going north". God, I wish I could just tell them that it's futile. Abolutely a waste of time and life. Even if they don't become zombies, millions of people will die from exposure and starvation! Death in the millions, and the media won't do a thing about it. Oh well. People want succinct advice, they got it, and soon the woods will "get" them. I don't want to sound callow, but maybe we'd be better off without those idiots killing more people here. There have been twenty shootings in my town. All commited on innocent people. That's just in my neigborhood. What has gotten into people's heads? Is it just the terror of a zombie apocalypse coming true? Or is it just sick people carrying out what they've always wanted to do? Massive looting, hundreds of idiots boarding themselves into a mall. Do they just not understand? Zombies movies are ENTERTAINMENT. Not for information, not for inspiration. For fun. Follow their advice, and you're another statistic. This just shows that zombies might not be the real threat; otehr people are. No reported zombie infections in my town so far, or even my state, but that can't last long. When they come for us, both the zombies and the immigrants, we will have no choice. My mom is at the gun store right now, buying a carbine. Just like I told her. A carbine, and three hundred bullets. I hope she doesn't have too much trouble. Seems like everyone will be trying to buy a gun today. But we have an advantage: while the sheep go and buy a twelve-gauge, or a massive handgun, we want the low-cost, low power .22 that wouldn't kill a buck. Because we don't want to kill a buck. Just a zombie. People's minds have been infected such that they believe they can take on the menace of a zombie apocalypse with nothing more than a big gun and a few catchphrases. Stupid stupid stupid stupid STUPID. Why is it that nobody ever understands? Zombies are not human. They are not scared by your idiotic attempts at heroism and bravery. Stay inside. Stay alive. That's my motto. I swear by it, and nothing will change my mind. Not unless some nice amry men and women decide to sweep through my town and eliminate all the zombies for me. Killing them myself is a waste of time. It will do nothing to help me survive. The news says New York is overrun. All of new york, and New Jersey too. Most of New England, to be honest. The midwest is okay, for now, but who knows what will happen. The author of the survival guide said something about there being potential hordes of over a million zombies on the Great Plains. Shit. I'm well above the snow line, but I don't know how usefull that will be. New York was above the snow line two, but New York is gone now. As is Miami. And Mexico. They say that China is completely taken overr. Who knows. Israel still has closed borders, but it turns out they invited anyone of Jewish ancestry into the country before totally shutting it down. We don't even know what happened to North Korea. There hasn't been any satilite activity whatsoever. Are they planning something? Have they been taken over? Border guardsmen have dissapeared. The demillitarized zone really is demillitarized, because there's no more North Korean millitary. All we can do is guess. Just remember. DON'T GO NORTH. 2 Bad news. Looks like the military finally got their shit together. In the worst way possible. All the news stations have footage of a so-called "Battle of Yonkers". A fucking travesty, it turned out to be. How did they get everything so very, very wrong? This is the United States, aren't we supposed to be the best at killing? Well crap, we sure proved otherwise yesterday. The millitary had gathered forces in some stupid little suburb of NYC to try to "reclaim" it. And how did they do that? Ground troops. Ground troops in heavy chemical warfare gear. Why on earth would they need chemical warfare gear? Are the zombies going to drop mustard gas on us? We know what zombies are capable of, and it's definitely not that. But just wait, it gets much, much worse. How? Tanks with next-to-no ammo. Machine guns. Artillery. And, to top it off no snipers. Snipers, which are the one thing we needed to kill off the horde, and there were NO SNIPERS. Has there been a time warp? Are we back in operation shock and awe or something? Because if we are, I think I may just kill myself. If this is what the military thinks is a good idea, than we have some serious fucking issues. Goddamn idiots in charge. They say that the tanks had three shots each. Three shots. Three goddamn shells of some sort of buckshot. What did they hope to accomplish with that? They say the whole battle was supposed to be a "moreale-booster". Bullshit. This one thing has killed my faith in the United States government more than anything else they have ever done. What will they do when zombies overrun the whole Midwest? Probably just try a "Battle of Minneapolis", get their asses whooped like today, and end up with that many fewer troops and that many more enemies. What is there to do? If the military refuses to give reasonable support, then we are all on our own. For how long, who the hell knows. If this is how the military is going to operate, I'm not sure I even want their help. I'd probably end up getting killed accidentally in a crossfire or something. Can't worry about that now, though. I've been stocking up food since about a year ago, so I know we can survive on our own for at least three months here. But when the winter comes, and the gas is turned off, I'm not quite sure what we'll do for heat. We have blankets, and candles, and evensome hand-warmers. Not enough to last us forever, though. We don't have a generator, but we do have some gasoline. If we can get through the awful traffic and crowds of screaming poeple, maybe we can get to a machine shop of something and aquire one. It seems unlikely though. Everyone else will be doing the same thing. Hell, I don't even know if my mom will be able to safely get a gun. Damn it. I wasn't nearly prepared enough. I didn't prepare enough, and now we're going to die, and it's all my fault. Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it. Yonkers must be some sort of omen. If that was supposed to be the bright moment in a time of panic and danger, then who knows how much worse it will get. Maybe Daleks and Cybermen will come from space to destroys us. We sure would be easy pickings, and we wouldn't hava a Doctor to save us. We don't have anyone to save us. The most important rule from now on is to not trust anyone. Everyone will let you down and betray you. This is the end of the world. Everyone wants to survive, but only the best will. If I ever manage to survive, that's just better for me. "Dakkadakkadakkdadakkda!" I hear the distinctive sound of an automatic pistol shooting down the street, and duck for cover beneath my desk. Oh god. My mom. She won't be safe on the streets. If she dies because I asked her to go out... Damn it. Can't let myself think like this. Do something. Do something to calm down. I mentally take stock of my defence inventory: Two months worth of dry food One month worth of canned food One and a half month of water bottles Pots and pans for water storage Three Signal flares One sharpened machete One pair of night vision goggles Fifty pounds of barricade making materials One rusty katana ... That's it. Is that what I'm supposed to survive on? That;s nothing! I laugh under my breath. I can't belive myself. Did I really plan myself into a corner like this? Well crap. Now I know I'm going to have to break my own rule. Once this city is overrun, and I know it will be, I'll need to go outside. Shit. 3 Overrun. Just thinkink about that word, I have to shiver. Overrun. Run out of town. Abandoned. Left to the dogs. It's happening. There is a front of zombies heading northwestward, following the panicking refugees. Soon they'll reach here, and... It'll all be gone Everything I know. Everyone I care about. Although, there aren't many people I care about. That might not be so bad. But I'll be alone. Compleltely alone. More so than I was before the virus. That damn virus, destroying humanity from inside out. That goddamn virus, turning people into monstrosities. Canniballistic freaks, who will never quit, never stop attacking, never stop trying to kill you. That is my enemy. My enemy. Humanity's enemy, but mostly mine. Can I survive it? That can only be answered with time. My mind is wandering as I hammer the nails into the wooden boards on my windows. With any luck, this is the last time I'll need to go outside for a while. If I'm not lucky, than I'll be dead. So, I can just hope for luck. The whole "boards on windows" things is an old zombie cliche, but it's damn effective against a few zeds. Zeds. That's what people are calling them in Europe. It's not catching on as well here in the US as it has in Europe, but I like it. It's catchy. Zeds. Zedheads. Kind of makes them seem silly, almost. Some of my neighbors have been calling them Zacks. It just doesn't quite fit. Zed rolls off the tounge much more easily. Zed. Zed. Zed. That one word will be on my mind continusouly for the next few months, if not years. Zed. Not zack. Damn it. The news stations are still broadcasting. Still telling people to go north. Don't they get it? Winter is coming. Going north means death. Frozen Death. Man-sicle. The highways going to Canada are already clogged, with people going north on both sides. Damn fools, I say. How do they expect to survive, anyways? Are they going to forage? Do they expect the Canadians to give them their food? Like hell they will. Every man is trying to survive, and helping others will only detract from that. Stupid big business news corporations, they're trying to kill us all to make a quick buck. What good will money be in three months? In a year? Will it ever have worth again? I doubt it. Unless the US government makes some shocking rout in this new war, we don't stand a chance to recover. Nails into boards. One after another. Is this all just futile? Are zombies meant to be the next dominant race? Will we ever manage to come back, or will we go extinct without a fight? There are some people I know who would kill just to eat human flesh in a worse case scenario. And I also know people who would be killed by those guys. Maybe all the planning in the world won't help me. Maybe I should just give up. The zed are approaching. Slowly, but surely, they are coming for us. The government failed us, and the enemy approaches unabridged. Is there a way to survive at all? Death seems only inevitable. Death has always beem inevitable, but like this? This is the worst death. Sitting, waiting for some insane undead eldritch monsters to break into my home and tear me apart with broken teeth. I shiver at the prospect. Or maybe I just shiver at the air. It is nearly winter, after all. Maybe I should put a jacket on. These coming winter months will be hard. So hard. I go out to the garage, to check on my supplies. I look around at the piles of equipment and food. Looking at the big I start stacking heavy boxes full of accumulated junk against the garage door. My garage is connected directly to my house, with a staircase leading to the second floor. Considering how much trouble it would be to transport all these supplies up the stairs, it seems far more reasonable to just totally block off the entrance. I pick up a heavy wooden crate, and beneath it I see something great I hadn't remembered. A wood axe. Not some wimpy hatchet, but a full on axe. I think about the old wood stove on the first floor of the house. Damn it, we won't be able to access it. Unless... I have an idea. I can use the chimney as a chute to drop logs down. If we can manage to get outside safely this winter... I have to consider the risks, though. Will it even be worth it to go outside for wood? Could we just burn furniture? What if we run out, and die from exposure? Jesus christ, I am not prepared for this. All my planning... it amounts to nothing. I'm just going to end up dead. Or worse, reanimated. That's really the worst part about this whole thing. If you get bitten, then you die. When you die, you come back. When you come back, you try and kill your friends. And then your friends have to kill you. There really isn't anything quite like it, is there? Just about the worst fate I can imagine... Fawkes Storyline thingy The Fawkes: I heard gunshots, a few miles away at least. Not unusual these days. Two weeks after the Great Panic started, everything has been generally going to shit. This is just one symptom of that. But then I hear more. Usually, it's just a stray zombie, or some poor sap getting killed in a gang fight. But this is different. The shots sound different. They're coming from different places. I take out my binoculars. This ought to be good. I wasn't dissapointed. Through my scopes, I can see at least three groups of three, made up of tall men in... Guy Fawkes masks. I can smell the neckbeard from here. They carry handguns and rifles, and they- oh no. They're shooting into houses. Oh shit. Oh fucking shit. New street gangs. This is bad. This is so bad. We're screwed. Totally screwed. These people will be killing everyone who moves. And everyone who doesn't, either. I knew this would happen. I knew it, but I couldn't figure out a good way to defeat them. No matter what you do to them, they'll just keep coming for you. Damn it. This is so very, very bad. I see them moving towards me through the binoculars. They're advancing methodically, shooting locks, bursting through doors, and killing people in their own homes. They can't possibly hope to gain anything from this, can they? These people don't have anything. They probably used up the last of their supplies a few days ago, most of them. These Guy Fawkes... guys, they aren't looking for stuff. They just want to kill. Why does the apocalypse always bring out the worst in people? If almost everyone is about to die, why waste your own time killing them before then? Did you really want to kill someone so bad before the Plague, that now that it's started, you can't restrain yourself? What pathetic people. They won't come within a half-mile of my home. I'll make sure of that. I've gotten enough practice that I can easily shoot them down before they get within range from the ground. I hear more gunshots. I look through the noculars, and see two Fawkes leaving a house... running, one bleeding. Good job, stranger. One less for me to waste my ammo on. I scope out the other groups. Still at full strength, it seems. But for now, they're retreating. Just... loping back, without a care. One of them has his gun strung across his back, like he's carrying buckets of water of either end with it. Goddamn murderous bastards. Aren't the undead enough for you? I wake up to the sound of gunshots. Again. I jump out of bed, grab my rifle and binoculars, and run up to the attic. I can see them out again. The Fawkes. Not even sunrise, and they already are back on the prowl. But I can see through them. They look more cautious already. That loss yesterday must have hit them hard. Good. That means they aren't too strong a gang yet. Maybe I should investigate this. Perhaps one of my radio contacts knows something. "Hey, this is Niner-oh-sixer, checking in." "Copy that, Niner. This is Ducky." "Ducky, this is niner wondering if anything is known about men in Fawkes masks, copy." "Well sirry, nothing much on this end. No Fawkes masks, that is, uh, over." "Anything else, copy?" "Negatory, Niner. I repeat, that is negatory." "Thanks for the assist, Ducky. Talk later, over." "Not a problem, Niner. Over." Well, that didn't help much. But this does confirm that the Fawkes are a very local threat. Maybe the groups I've been seeing are all they have. Hopefully. I swear, if any of my neighbors decide to join them... I've decided to make a plan. I've watched them for a couple days now. I know what they're trying to do. They've been fighting through one of the nicer neighborhoods parallel to me. They're going for the state capitol building. They have a ways to go, though. We're at least three miles from there right now. I consult the local map. There's a bridge that leads right to the capitol, and it would fit that they would try to go that way. And I just happen to have these explosives lying around, so... It's obvious what to do. I know where they're going. And I know how to stop them. But still. Beneath those masks, they are real people. Real people who will really die when I blow them up. Or shoot them. Can I solve this diplomatically? I have to weigh my options. On the one hand, I REALLY would like to avoid killing any humans, if possible. It just doesn't seem right. If I plant the explosives, I can use my megaphone to try and talk with them from a safe distance. This would be optimal for my conscince. Not the best option, unfortunately, for my continued good health. On the other hand, I could just hit and run. I could kill them before the bridge, probably less risky that way. Hell, if I'm lucky, I could make some new friends in civilians. Or not. Probably just get killed. Thinking about it, I'd probably just get killed doing this whole thing anyway. That suggests a third option. What if I did nothing at all? I'm pretty sure they won't come my way, or even within three blocks of me, a good range for me. I could just avoid the confrontation altogether. But could I live with myself if I let that happen? Who knows what the Fawkes want with the capitol. Not only will they be murdering innocents (as innocent as one can be in these times), but what happens when they reach their goal? Do they take it over and use it as a op base? Or will they blow it up, like the real Guy Fawkes could have only dreamed of doing? I can't know for sure. But if they succeed, then they will certainly be doing something darstardly. And it would be my fault. I look at them through my nocks. Ten blocks away. Five blocks across, too. Probably not a good idea to take a shot at them now. I have time. Time to plan. Time to decide. But not much. I take a break from planning. Sometimes, it just gets to be too much, you know? I take a turn at the makeshift dynamo generator. I need to charge my chainsaw battery. Damn thing runs through power like a football coach with gatorade after a game. I can't even use it for killing zed. Could you imagine? Think of just three ghouls, staring you down as they stumble at you. You rev up your chainsaw, giving you a much-needed lift from the depressing gloom you've been stuck in for a few days now. As the leading zombie comes within range, you bring down the end of the saw on it's neck. It drops, but it's not dead yet. You didn't even cut through to the spinal cord. You bring it up again for another strike, this time aimed at the second in line. As you bring it through his skull, he drops suddenly, this one dead. As you struggle to pull your saw out, you feel the simotaneous grip of death as the two remaining zed wrap their grimy hands around your ankle and wrist. You get pulled in, and that's it. One day later (assuming you can even escape), you're one of them. Chainsaws are not good weapons. I just sit on the bike and think like this for a time, while I pedal at a good clip. I consider the stregthns and weaknesses of different weapons. Machete, good, but not perfect. Blade tends to dull. Katana: much better. Blade still requires matinence, but the cutting power more than makes up for it. Crowbar: effective under stress. No upkeep, long enough reach to stay somewhat safe of biting, and one hit kills through the eye. Awesome weapon, but can get heavy at times. Shotgun: shit against zed. It will kill them, with a headshot, but at what cost? Shells are far more expensive than bullets, and much heavier too. The gun has too much kick. Okay in a pinch, but not effective long-term. What else? Oh yes. The handgun. The American Dream Weapon. Get a Desert Eagle, kill bastards, what else could you possibly want? Oh, yeah. Something that will actually hit your enemy. That reminds me! I saw a Fawke carrying a DE. Such a good man, making himself so very easy to kill. That's it. I know what to do. These guys have no skill whatsoever, while I have found I have a quite unusual talent for sniping doodz from far, far away. Useful skill, I would say. And I do. I finish charging the chainsaw batteries. I head back up to the attic to check on the Fawkes again. Looking through the lens, I see a small campfire set up. Finally, I can see their faces. And... They're from my school. From my school, before the panic, of course. But still. I look again. Yup. I definitely recognize them. Two of them, at least. The third is new to me. Let's see... The biggest one is Greg. Greg Holtz. Big, jocky type. Never had the time of day for anyone but his asshole friends. Figures. The second one is just like him. Nathan Wrinnel, punting jerkface of the year. The football team at my school was so sadistic, I'm almost not surprised to see two of the members out devastating the neighborhood. The fact that they know about the Gunpowder Treason impresses me, though. They aren't the kind of guys to pay attention in History class. But that third guy. I can't see his face. He's turned towards the fire, and the sun's going down. Great. Now I couldn't see him if I stayed up all night. I put down the nocs, and roll out my bedroll. I have made my decision. Those assholes are going down tomorrow morning, at sunrise. I won't let them hurt any more innocent people. I won't let them hurt me. I will put an end to this Fawkes bullshit, and then get a well deserved break from the apocalypse for a day. Maybe mom will come back. I sleep in the attic tonight. I want to be able to check on the Fawkes first thing next morning. At sunrise, I wake to gunshots. Again. I quickly look down at the enemies and I see something shocking. Two bodies laying in sleeping, and... One man, running away. I heard two gunshots. I can see from here that the people laying down, who I assume must be dead, are the ones that I recognized last night. I quickly pan over to the third Fawke. He's still running down the street. He can run, but he can't hide. I pull out my rifle. This guy won't escape me. He has to die. He's running towards the Capitol now, I'm sure of it. Who knows how many helpless people are in there, waiting for the government to step in and help them. Idiots. Have they not learned from Yonkers? The government will never help us. They're useless. They have proven their failing ability to protect their people, and now the United States is at the mercy of people like this gang asshole. And, of course, the zed. I take careful aim. He's going to escape my range soon. I line up my scope perfectly... no wind... aim just a tiny bit ahead and take the shot. Go! Take it! He's run behind a line of houses. Damn it, Benny! You fucking coward. You can't even kill this man, who is off to terrorize hundreds of people. He will kill them, or enslave them, or something, and you couldn't buck up the courage to just pull a trigger. I hate myself. I completely, totally, and fully loath my own inability to act in time. I just inderectly caused dozens of deaths. What the hell is wrong with me? I know what I have to do. I set up a rope ladder from the attic window. God, I am such an idiot. Such a goddamned fool. You're going to get yourself killed, Benny boy, and it won't be in some blaze of glory. I strap my rifle to my back. Damn it. Damn it, just stop yourself Benny. Stop it. I start climbing down the ladder. Don't you dare. Don't you goddamn dare touch the ground. I set my feet down. SHIT. I spot a zed coming around the side of my house. Great. Fucking great. Yup. How the hell did I not notice it? Better question: how did IT not notice ME? Obviously it was just hanging around, looking for prey, or it would be clawing at the windows. I take out my crowbar. I hold it tightly in my right hand. The ghoul takes a sullen step towards me. Come on Benny. This it it. The feat of stregnth you never could perform in school. Step. Just take your crowbar. Step. And jam it in the fucking zombie's head. Step. It's close enough now. I lunge at the ghoul, and stab with the back part of the crowbar. Straight into it's eye socket. Success. It goes limp, and I cleanly retreieve my tool from the husk. Covered in goo. I wipe it on the grass, and then on my pant leg. I start walking. I can easily outwalk any zed. They move so goddamn slow, it sure isn't hard. I don't know how anyone managed to get infected in the first place, because they are just such sloths. But I guess they make up for it in persistence. Nobody can beat a zed in an endurance run, if it's long enough. They can literally just... keep moving, until they fall apart. Disintergrate. You can outrun them temporarily. But if they are still detecting you, they WILL follow you. Forever. Never stopping. Just a persistant walk, a determined stumble forwards, until they can no longer follow. You can climb up a building, maybe they'll even lose your scent from that. But when you come down, there will be more. That's why I'm so scared to leave my house. I just know there will be one or two trailing me, far behind, moaning their lungs out. That's the worst part. The moan. It attracts them. As long as there is a zed in a mile or two, or even more depending on the wind, they will instantly zero in on the exact location of the howl. And then start it up themselves. I guess that a chain of zed could potentially spread across the whole country. If every person but me was infected, it wouldn't be too hard. There would have to be at least one zed in each square mile in the whole United States. Damn. That would suck. Three hundred ghouls, all surrounding you. Moaning. Groaning. Out for your blood. I wouldn't be able to take it. I stop and see where exactly I am. Funny, how much you can forget about your own city in just a month or two of chaos. There are burnt-out husks where there once were houses of people I knew. Well, "knew". The life of a loner, and all that. There are cars packing some of the major streets, and the side streets are abandoned completely. Except, of course, for the occasional zack. Ugh. I still don't like that word. It just feels wrong. Like I'm talking about someone from school. I guess I will be, in some cases. Oh well. Never really cared for them much, anyways. I follow up the avenue where the Fawke was going. He certainly didn't look too urgent, so I shouldn't have too much trouble catching up. There are some really nice houses down this way, so he probably stopped to loot at one or two of them. The damn jackass. He can't just leave people to their deaths. No, he has to go and kill them himself. He just plain sickens me. I might actually enjoy killing him at this point. It really will be all he deserves. No, it's better than what he deserves. He deserves that worst fate. Zombification. Damn. I am COLD. Too bad I can't just capture him. I could let him turn. Let him die, and convert, and then kill him right then. How did I get this vengefull? I've never been like this. Is it... my mother? No. No, don't even think about that right now. It couldn't possibly do you any good to worry about her. Leave that for a time when your aren't dealing with life-or-death consequences. Maybe there's some other reason I'm so mad. I mean, he's been killing innocent civilians, in their own homes for gods sake! Doesn't that piss me off? No, I answer myself. Not enough to justify this. I wasn't supposed to be a hero through the apocalypse. I was supposed to just plain survive. But now... I don't know. Maybe what this city needs is a hero. No! Damn it, snap out of oyur stupid fantasies! You will NOT be a hero! You are killing this horrid man because he represents a future threat to you, and NOT to be a legend. I can't let myself get into that mindset. If I do, who knows what I will do. I could do something idiotic. Like this whole mission. Ducky is going to be so damn pissed at me. I'm already pissed at myself. I stop moving, and drop to a knee. I heard a rustle. I slip my handgun out of it's holdster. If it's a zed, I can obviously take it. But I don't use my guns on zed, not when I'm out in the open. I'm fully expecting a masked man to pop out behind an abandoned car, or a picket fence, or... There! I hear the rustle again, and I turn around. There he is. The motherfucker who I've been searching for this whole time. I swing my gun up at him, and I find I am too late. He has his shotgun pointed straight at me. This is it. I really fucked up this time. I'm fucked. Shit. Wait a second... Right in front of me, with his shotgun stil staring me down, he takes off his mask. It's... shit. "Drop your gun." He demands. I don't want to comply, but I do. "Good. Now, I want you to listen to me. You left your house to kill me. I can understand why you would want to do that, but pay attention. I am not the one you want to kill. In fact, I might be your only hope. You seem like a strong kid, and even though you were trying to kill me, I can't help but like you. I want to ask you something. Who do you think I am?" I am speechless. This man. I recognized him immediatly, right when I saw his face. He's the bum. That is, "The Bum". This guy is apocalyptic legend. I've heard from others on the HAM. He travels from town to town, trying to find someplace that he can stay. But he never does. But that isn't the good part. The best part is that he is immune to the zombies. Immune. They don't even try to get him. He passes through them with impunity. An invaluble man, and no one has had the bravery to even TRY to kill him, because he might be the only one who can help us. No one, that is, until me. I'm surprised he hasn't killed me yet. He would be supported by his hundreds of allies in towns all over my state. This guy is like... he's like The Doctor. He travels across the universe in his TARDIS, and helps to save the innocent wherever he can. He is absolutely legend, and I'm kicking myself mentally for trying to shoot him earlier. "Cat's got your tounge, huh? That's alright, kid. Now, I'm going to lower my gun, and I want you to stay still. No grabbing for your little... gun, I guess. Heh. That's almost cute." He looks at the gun at my feet, amused at its size. "It's plenty good at killing zed, if that's what you're wondering." I say. He laughs. Damn, this is just the perfect movie moment. I guess now we're going to travel the country together, freeing people from siege in their personal fortresses. Well, I'm not buying it. I work alone, and I'm guessing he does too. Despite his status as a miracle, I wouldn't trust him more than I would trust anyone else. Which means I don't trust him at all. He WAS just pointing a shotgun at me, after all. Should I really believe him? It seems unlikely that he would actually betray me, but... "It's plenty good at killing zed, if that's what you're wondering." I say. He laughs. Damn, this is just the perfect movie moment. I guess now we're going to travel the country together, freeing people from siege in their personal fortresses. Well, I'm not buying it. I work alone, and I'm guessing he does too. Despite his status as a miracle, I wouldn't trust him more than I would trust anyone else. Which means I don't trust him at all. He WAS just pointing a shotgun at me, after all. Should I really believe him? It seems unlikely that he would actually betray me, but... He interrupts my thoughts. "I understand if you don't want to come with me," he said. "I know what you must be like. You're the kind of guy who survived from forethought, planning, and just plain will. You think anyone else you meet is a potential enemy. I get that. But you should just let me explain for a bit," he puts his shotgun away, on a shoulder strap. "before you outright deny my request. You know I've been running with some pretty bad guys just a few days ago. hell, yesterday. They've been going around, killing anyone they can. But I wasn't doing that. Okay? I was infiltrated. Undercover, you understand? That's what I do. I help people. I got in with the Fawkes," I silently congratulate myself for naming them right. "so I could take them out from the inside. Of course, I only do this to make myself feel better, but what the hell? I'm safe from zack, might as well do some good in this world." I am shocked. It's true. Or at least he says it is. Ghouls ignore him. I need to make sure. "So it's true? You don't get attacked by zombies? They just... leave you alone?" He responds, chuckling, "Yeah, I guess so. I don't pretend to understand why." He sits down on a road divider. "Maybe it's my curse. Who knows what will happen. Maybe I did something horrible that I can't remember, and I've been damned to wander the earth forever as the last human alive." I'm pretty sure I caught his drift. "Like the Wandering Jew! I doubt you'll be the only surviver, though." I say. "There's plenty of strong people out there, who can survive this thing." "Hell, what do you know? You're what, seventeen?" "Fifteen." I point out. "Damn. There's some amazing kids out there, I guess. Well, anyways, you're young. Idealistic. Hopeful. Live as long as me, live THROUGH as much stuff as me, and you won't be quite so eager to have hope in humanity." I see the creases in his face deepen. He looks horrible, like he's attending the school of hard knocks or something. I don't know my aphorisms very well. "What do you mean? We have a damn good chance to win this thing." He looks just a little amused. "Not a single chance, kid. Not one. I've seen the worst of humanity. The absolute worst, and let me tell you something. It doesn't hold a match to what's been going on recently. Wars, famine, drought, fucking genocide. Nothing. It's just... wait a second. I don't even know your name, kid. What the hell, I might as well ask." I answer before he does. "It's Benny. Benny Jay." "Benny Jay, huh? You can call me Petkoff. My grandparents were Bulgarian immigrants. Apparently I come from some sort of "rich family", but they must have fallen on hard times. Never knew my grandparents much, anyways. Most people refuse to call me Petkoff, though. Mostly they call me "The Bum," or "The Wanderer," or something of equal stupidity." I know I've heard that name somewhere. Some novel, or some script, or something. I ignore it for now. I have something far more important to ask "Petkoff" about. "So... What now? You never really told me what you wanted from me." "Ah, yes... that. I know you probably won't care for my offer, but... Would you like to join me? It gets lonely, going from place to place, just trying to survive. I just... I can see the disgust on your face. I know, you think that you can make it out here on your own. The thing is, you won't. The satalites are still transmitting. They say there's a horde coming. A real one. A hundred thousand, or more. They don't know why exactly it's coming here, but it is. I don't think you could outlast it. I'm sorry, but I've got to be frank. Come with me, and you can survive. We'll go to Sioux Falls. Get the hell out of Minnesota. Maybe even head over to Iowa." I can't believe it. This is... an incredible opportunity. One of the legends of the apocalypse, a goddamn miracle man. But still. He's a stranger. Untrustworthy. I can't go with him. He could be plotting my death right now. He could be a fraud. He could be trying to sell me into slavery or something. "I'm sorry, but... I can't. I have to stay here. I have to stay and wait for my mom, and, well..." "Heh. Don't worry. I understand. I'm a strange old man, one you just met. You can't trust me." He smiles sadly. "I'll be back in four or five months. If you change your mind, then you'll just have to wait. Thank you for considering it, at least." He stands up, and starts to walk. I move towards him suddenly. He turns towards me, expectantly. "Um... thank you, Petkoff. I'm sorry I can't join you. Good luck." He smiles, and turns away. He starts walking away, down the road out of town. And... he's gone. Just like that, I'm alone again. I start the lonely walk back home. I'm pretty sad, but... at the same time, I feel uplifted. Now I know that there really are good people out there. People who actually will go out of their way to help someone in need... they stick their neck out for those who need them. They fight those battles that no-one else will, out of fear, or selfishness, or something else. It was something in between those for me. I knew that I was being hard-line with my protocols, but that was just to survive. But now, I don't know. Should I try to be more like The Bum? Hell, what should I call him? I guess that's as good a name as any. He said that there's a huge horde approaching. How did he know? Does he have connections to the government- whatever remains of it, anyways? I consider what it means that a horde is coming. Will they filter through the city, and pass out just as soon... or stick around? How many exactly will there be? Will I survive? I have a safe enough house, but if my supplies run low, then I'm not sure what will happen. Will I be able to get outside safely enough to scavenge? Will zombies act differently in a group than individually? Maybe I should have gone with The Bum. He might have really known what he was talking about. And if it's true, the horde and everything... going with him might be my only hope of survival. Damn it. You can survive, Benny. You've been doing it perfectly well so far. Don't quit now, just because some old fartmuncher came into town with some dire words. You have a great little fort to live in. You have weapons and tools. You have everything you need to survive for, well, months, at least. At least. But what happens when those months are over? I just have no idea right now. But it's decided. I'm staying here. I'll die defending myself, rather than run away to what will probably be a quicker death anyways. Heroes don't last long in this fact, heroes didn't last too long before it all changed either. People supposedly respected them, but they never really gave a shit. It's like that now, but nobody actually cares. They'll shoot you either way, if you come too close. If there's anything wrong with this apocalypse, other than the ridiculous zombie plague, it's that people just aren't people anymore. Like me. I was going to kill the man who might be the savior of the entire human race, in the end. I was going to murder him in cold blood, just to satisfy my guilt. I really, REALLY hate myself right now. I just can't believe that I would do something so horrible... kill another person. I've done in several zed by now, but it's just not the same. Zombies are dead. Petkoff wasn't neither were the other Fawkes. But he had no qualms about killing them in their sleep. Maybe he's not as respectable and heroic as I thought. Or maybe I'm just being a naive idiot. This is the end of everything we knew, all civilization, and I'm concerned about killing a man. Screw my inner morality. Screw trying to help other people. Is that what I should learn from him? No. No, he wouldn't want me to do that. He deliberately does the opposite. He goes out of his way to help people, even IF it means violating his morality. I think I'm getting it now. But still... I'm not just going to drop everything to help people I don't know. Maybe there's a lesson in our talk, but it can't be so extreme as "Get yourself killed helping others." This may change what I do in the future, but I can't let it affect me until then. Selfishness is what will keep me alive. At least for now. Later, when I'm stronger, have more supplies, more skill, then I can help people. But not now. I get back to my house, undetected by ghouls. I pull down the rope ladder, and I climb up to the attic. Everything looks the same as it did before. Good. Still, I pull out my handgun. No need to take unnecessary risks. There might still be a squatter, or even an ambush. I don't know what enemies I might have, just from being seen talking to The Bum. I'm sure there are people who hate him, and whom would just love to get their hands on someone he knows. I carefully sweep my house, looking in all the closets, and every nook, investigating every shadow. Nothing. All I saw was a little baby mouse. That's not a very good sign. I check my supplies stockpile. The food looks alright, no obvious rips or bite marks. Still, I put out a few mouse traps. Can't let my food go to the animals. I make a mental note to keep an eye out for more mice. If there ARE more, than I might have a real problem. Mice and rats might be carrying any number of diseases. Who knows what might have popped up in the unsanitary months that have passed? Viruses are ingenious. They will modify themselves with every passing second, every new host. It seems damn impossible to fight them, and sometimes it really is. These damn mice will be carrying new viruses on ticks and fleas, and I can't afford to get sick. With the zombie virus running around ("Solanum", the news stations called it), who knows what else there is out there, just waiting to turn your organs into mush, or necrotize your flesh, or some other horrible thing. I guess I'll just have to avoid rats, then. It's a shame too. I used to have a pet rat, when I was much younger. It was actually pretty cute, but it was also goddamn neurotic. It was paranoid to the point that, when I took it out of it's cage, it would freeze in place, paralyzed from fear and energy. My old drama teacher called that, "Energy State Seven". That's on a scale of zero, which is no energy whatsoever, to seven, which is so much energy you can't possibly release it. We used to run these exercises where we would skip from state to state, as a flexibility thing. Man, that guy was one of the better parts of my high school experience. Most of my whole school life in general was extremely crappy, but there was always a teacher or two, who would be completely dedicated to teaching. They would always try their hardest to include me. That was always nice, I guess. But it rarely made up for the isolation, and the bullying, and the general depressing atmosphere that public schools have. I lay some rat traps down around my supplies. That's probably where they'll be concentrated. I'll check on them later. Right now, I don't have much to do. The whole end-of-the-world thing kind of killed the entertainment industry. I have plenty of books, but I've read most of them several times already. I could work out. I was never very strong, but all this extra free time is the perfect opportunity to bulk up. I got some protein powder at the same place I got my weapons, and I've actually managed to put on five or ten pounds of muscle. I certainly don't have any fat to lose. I've always been the stick. It's not entirely my fault either. I've tried working out at the gym before. A month I tried that, maybe a month and a half. Nothing. But now I know why it didn't work: a distinct lack of good diet. I, being skinny, always understood it to mean that I could eat whatever I wanted. But that's exactly what has been holding me back. Cheetos and cereal won't help you put on muscle. It's protein that'll do that. Anyways, I've been using the workout-bike my mom has in her room (also known as the closet extender), and I even managed to hook it up to a generator. So now, my cardio workouts help me out twice. Once for the workout, and again because I can listen to the radio! Other than the HAM, there are still two stations broadcasting, somehow. They don't really have much news, but it's better than nothing. Really, though, I might be better off not listening. They're still desperatly telling people to "go north". Right. Because that EVER helped anyone. The sad part is, there is probably someone is still listening and still believing. They're preparing to go north this very minute. They might have a good thing going on wherever they are, but now, they're just fucked. It's their fault. If I start accepting blame for others idiocy, I'll go crazy. But damn, it's just ridiculous. Come winter, they'll learn their lesson. Cold, cold death. I just wish I could help them somehow. I start my routine. Squats, calf lifts, dead lifts, et cetera. I focus hard on the exercise. I can't let my mind wander. I continue like this for forty minutes. Then I hear something. I remember now. It's the HAM. I left it on when I started exercising. It's a few rooms over, but the fact that I didn't hear it until now is testament to my focus. I'm pretty proud of myself. I head over to my "radio room". It's just a spare closet, practically, but it works well for my listening needs. It's centrally located, so no noise will escape to be heard by passing zed (or people like the Fawkes). It's small enough that it doesn't really have much other use. It's just perfect. I tune in more precisely to the channel we decided on. I hear the fuzzy voices of several newbies. "This is Sixer, checking in, over." I say. "Welcome, brother. This is Cottonmouth, over." "Red rider here, over." "Hello to Cotton and Rider. Who are the new talkers? Over." I hear one of the newbies speak. His voice has more interference than the others. "This is Thespus, hello Sixer, over." "Hello there, Thespus. What is your situation, over?" "Well, uh, lets see. I'm comin' us from Texas, I finally decided to come on up north. I've been told by everyone on the radio and all, you know-" I interrupt him immediatly. "NO! Don't keep going north!. I'm telling you, Thespus: nothing lies for you in the north but death. Stop traveling. You're above the snowline now, that's enough." "What do you mean, Sixer? Everyone is going north." Damn, he's naive. "Look, man. That's exactly the point. Everyone is going up north. They're consuming every last resource they can get their hands on. Lumber, game, clean water, it's all dissapearing." "I don't believe you. How do you know that? All my friends went up. I just waited a little longer, over." I pause. I don't know if I can convince him to stay. "All I can offer you is this, Thespus. If you go north, you will almost certainly die. If you stay here, you might stand a chance. Over." Everyone is quiet. A minute passes, maybe two. Then, he speaks up. "Fine. I'll stay in town for a while. There's a truck stop up ahead. But in a few days, I'll be going further north. Over." "That's alright. It was good to talk to you, Thespus. Over." Well, that didn't go as well as I would have hoped. I was just thinking before about this. I thought I could be a hero. I guess not, though. I can't save anyone. The other folks on the radio keep talking. Maybe Cottonmouth will convice him to stay. He did seem to be a better talker than me. I'm just dissapointed in myself for failing so badly. That's just one more innocent life, that will end up lost in the frozen forests of Canada. Damn it. I can't stand this anymore. I disconnect the radio from it's battery. I need to take a nap. Today has just been too much. Just... too much. I'm just so exhausted, I can hardly crawl into bed. I quickly drift into sleep, but not before I hear rain start to hit the window, gentle pats and pitters on the glass... I wake up feeling wet. I hear rain pounding furiously on the roof. Damn. A leak. It's dripping slowly, down onto my blanket. I get out of bed, and retrieve a spare pot from my stockpile. If anything, this is an opportunity to get some clean water. I put my little "cistern" outside. It's really just a few pots, taped together, and attached to the end of a wooden plank. It's better than drinking ground water, though. Thank goodness, I thought to buy iodine tablets. Otherwise, I would be completely screwed. Dirty water, especially in this unsanitary environment, is just something I couldn't even consider drinking. Damn it, if I was ever at the point where I needed to drink mud just to survive... I would just give up. Departo. It's over. I would never recover from that kind of low point. I drape my wet blanket over two chairs. It should dry out by tonight. Outside, the rain is obscuring the night sky. But my internal clock is telling me that it's something like five or six o'clock in the morning. I guess that nap lasted longer than I would have liked. I guess I didn't have much else to do yesterday, though. I go through the events of yesterday in my head: I wake up to gunshots, I go outside to hunt the Fawke... I kill the ghoul. I get ambushed by The Bum. We talk. He walks down the road, leaving me alone. I come back, and... Thespus. Fuck that guy. He wants to die in the freezing wasteland? Let him. I can't save guys like him. If he refuses to be reasonable, that is just his problem. Damn it.