The wanderer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This short story is the first I'll publish on this site. It is the first one of a series I wish to complete during this year. This is just the story of a simple man in a world where horror is an
everyday reality.

To live and let live had been a quasi-motto for him over the past few years, but sometimes, just sometimes, he felt like he could actually help someone else.

Since the Incident, he had mostly been walking around, looking for food and weapons. Sure, with his unexpected ability to crush heads and cut necks, he had taken a good part in cleansing most areas he passed through, but it wasn’t about helping others. He simply hated these dead guys, with their fool smell and grunting sounds. Moreover, in order to sleep at night, he needed perfect silence, which meant none of them around. While walking East and West between the two coasts, he must have sent a few hundreds of thousands of them back to their graves. Now in Florida, he was part of the few people who did not avoid the cities standing in their path.

Walking alone, talking to no-one, would have been awfully boring if he wasn’t reading books. Tons and tons of them, found on the road, covering fields going from forging to romantic poetry from the 18th century. When he woke up in the morning, be it in a comfy bed or on the plain ground, he would choose a book out of his bag then walk around in a random direction, focused on it. He’d only lower it in case of danger, which fatally occurred just a few hours later when leaving his safe area. Still walking, he’d check out for houses containing food, books, ammunition or weapons he could make use of. A little before night, he’d eat most of what he found during the day, choose a place to sleep and lay down his stuff. Then, whistling joyfully, he’d go half a mile away, make as much noise as possible and kill whatever would come his way. Before going to sleep, he’d carefully clean himself and his material.

That day, he was reading a very interesting book about apple trees’ breeding. Slightly hard to understand but very descriptive. It was late afternoon and, as soon as he would have been done reading, he would have settled down. However, as he was learning the different techniques used to protect the branches during winter, he heard a soft weep. Not that sad weeping of dogs, more like as if someone was trying to stop crying. He could have walked forward and forget about this, but he wondered whether for once he couldn’t go and help whoever did this noise. After all, it was a place like any other to install his nice pile of bodies before night.

He must have startled the kid when he jumped through the window, and she tried to scream in fear. It wasn’t that strange considering he looked like a giant coated in a blood-stained cape. The kid must have learnt to shut her mouth, as the scream was muffled by her own hands. Some of the walking corpses in the room seemed to be fresher than the others, probably coming from the same group. He cleansed them all before turning toward her. “Up” rang in a crackled voice. He caught her by the arm and raised her to her feet.

He had been avoiding the living since the beginning. Of course, along the road, he had saved a few, but he always left as quickly as possible. He had seen colonies led by tyrants, cannibals, people who killed for food or just for pleasure and others who simply fell in an eternal spiral of fear, unable to move until death caught up on them. The Incident allowed the living to show their own true faces, and they looked no better than the deads'. So now, facing this kid who’d surely die if he did nothing, he didn’t know what to do. If he let her here, she’d survive a few days at most, but if he took her with him, she’d probably end up stabbing him in the back some day. She was 10, maybe 12. Looking up at him, she resembled a lost dog who’d have found his master.

Last time he had faced a similar situation, it was a pregnant woman in front of him. He had decided to help her and stood by her side for an entire month, tending to her needs and protecting her. When the baby was born, his screams were those of life, and for a second, he had thought that maybe there was still hope. A few days later, they were caught in a huge pack, there was no way to save everyone, they couldn’t run fast enough. So, she had simply thrown the baby behind her, without even looking back. He wasn’t ready to ever face again this kind of ugliness. He gave her some food and left the town.

She followed him for days. When he dropped his stuff, she settled less than a hundred yards away and waited for him to come back. She woke up when he did and ate at the same time. He started to let some food in the houses he visited, where she could reach it with her small size. When he walked, he still never looked back, but he knew she was always close enough to follow his track before the dead closed the open path. When they met a group of living, he expected her to go with them, but she was still there the next morning. They didn’t talk, they stayed away one from each other. He gave her what she needed, safety, without having to change his way of life.

Days turned to months. A cold winter started. He found her some boots, a nice coat and a clean sleeping bag. Sometimes, when the wind was too strong for him to hear the crackling of the snow under her feet, he ‘d turn his head over his shoulder, checking she didn’t fall to far behind. When she slowed down, he did too. If her pace became too heavy, he stopped walking earlier and let her rest longer. She fell ill once so he didn’t walk this day. When the snow melted, she had grown much stronger.

As the birds began again to sing all day and the flowers to bloom, the dead started to regain their vigor and mobility. His slaughters implied more and more of them, until he realized that he probably wouldn’t be able to take that much again the following day. It was time for him to rest, as he had done almost each year at the same period. He found a nice and clean house, reinforced its doors, windows and fragile walls and settled down. She chose another house, not so far from his. As he regularly cleansed the road, she was still able to find food in other houses. When there was no food left in the area, it was time for him to start moving. His bags were packed in just a few minutes, and he started again his long walk. After a few miles, he understood his own unease. He had forgotten something. Something that, after all, was quite important. He went back and knocked on her door. “Time to move”. As he left, her footsteps caught up on him, but like always, just close enough not to lose his track.

Submitted: February 09, 2018

© Copyright 2022 E. Lascawosc. All rights reserved.

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