After the outbreak of an unknown disease which causes human mutation, our protagonist Nolan Baker travels the vast expanse of the US, searching for a purpose in life following the death of his daughter, whilst also trying to survive against the mutated hoards.

Dragging a rusting, malodorous, dumpster towards the white brick wall of the car park he had been calling home for the previous two nights, Nolan Baker achingly vaulted up onto the rectangular trash bin and down into the yard below. The place was deserted but for an oxidized crimson Sedan and a bodiless arm clinging onto the door handle. Inspecting the arm for any trace of the stray body, Baker noticed a thin, bloody trail of red heading towards the cafe on the opposite side of the road, where the windows suggested further signs of violence.
In two minds as to whether to inspect the situation further, Baker checked his aging watch, given to him before the outbreak, some twenty years ago. The watch doubled as a locket, and as Baker drew his flagging eyes away from the ticking clock, he caught a glimpse of what his life had been before. A worn picture of a beautiful brown haired girl, of about thirteen years of age appeared as the clock slung forward revealing the inner workings of the watch.  Brushing the thought aside and closing the watch, Baker, angered and sore, decided to venture inside of the decaying cafe.
Flipping the switch on his metallic silver flashlight, attached to his shoulder, Baker simultaneously drew his seasoned pistol from its stitched holster and began to cautiously creep into what had long ago been the kitchen of the antiquated bistro. Placing his invaluable pistol on a rotting cabinet and taking an opportunity to scavenge for scarce supplies, Baker had noticed that the grisly, gory trail had stopped dead in its tracks. The blood had simply vanished, yet the permeating, rancid smell still lingered.
The situation felt all too familiar and with the sense of similarity, came an uneasy, heart-lurching tone of danger. Unintentionally, Nolan Baker had walked into one of their lairs. No one really knew how the outbreak had occurred or why it really came to be, all people knew was that once infected, there was no cure, there was no hope. The infected have many names, but Baker had always called them Stalkers, hunting, luring and devouring their prey with such precision, and attention to detail, that once you were marked for death, trying to evade them would be futile.
And there he was, standing alone, petrified and most likely outnumbered, against what would be in all likelihood his death. He would be no match for the overwhelming and numerous beasts that awaited his blood. Baker knew that he must leave the cafe at once and abandon his inquest into finding the missing body. Silently reaching for his placed pistol, Baker clumsily, tripped and fell against the coloured cabinet, causing the commode to fall and along with it, Baker’s pistol which crashed against the granite floor, echoing a shot into the half darkness.
 “God damn it” whispered Baker under his breath. “It’s time to leave”.
Rapidly retrieving his smoking pistol from the granite tiles below, Baker bolted, hearing the reverberating sounds of the Stalkers in the cellar below crashing up towards him. Making for the door from which he had originally entered, Baker halted, paralysed with fear. Under the glow of the crescent moon he could make out grotesque, partially limbless figures galloping towards him. More Stalkers! Sliding on his heels and turning to face the opposite direction, Nolan Baker instinctively headed for the upstairs seating area, tumbling up the damp steps as he did so.
Reaching the upper level of the building and barricading the stairs with as many tables and chairs as his adrenaline fuelled might would allow him, Nolan Baker stood there alone, isolated and hopeless. Deep down he knew he would not be leaving the place alive, but even in the times of absolute despair, Nolan Baker of all people, would tell you that no matter how hard you try, your body, your mind, your soul just does not want to die.
For what he believed to be the last time, Nolan Baker checked his dear watch, this time purposefully opening the back in order to have one last moment alone with his only source of faith and light. Staring back at him was hope in abundance, a rare glow of a smile that you may see just twice or three times in a lifetime. His daughter’s eyes looked deep into his and told him that despite his dire situation, everything would be okay.
Delicately closing the watch, and taking one final deep breath, Nolan Baker readied himself for the task ahead. Bombarding up towards him were the Stalkers, crying at a pitch so high that the windows that remained, began to crack and fall, splintering into a thousand shards. Checking his loaded gun and counting eleven bullets, Baker began to fire.
The initial bullet cracked the head of the first Stalker in two, causing a fountain of grey blood to spurt from its head and Baker continued to pull his tiring trigger. Two more hit the floor, lifeless before they touched the ground and another soon followed after a barrage of shots. Baker had six bullets left to survive and just three Stalkers remaining. Distracted, Baker had not noticed a Stalker charging at him from the left, and as it tackled him, another shot rang out from Baker’s gun, leaving it dead.
Winded on the ground, Baker, shot two more bullets out into the air, missing the remaining two beasts. Focusing his aim and steadying his arm, the trigger was pulled three more times, enough to kill the penultimate monster. Manically pulling his trigger again and aiming at the final Stalker, a horrifying clicking noise resounded in the air. Baker had no more ammunition left and the misshapen figure of the last Stalker was bounding towards him. Clutching at a shard of glass, Baker, with all his remaining strength, plunged the sharp triangle into the beast’s neck, resulting in more liquid to spill from the creature’s jugular.
Baker lay there motionless, expressionless and exhausted. After eventually bringing himself to his feet, he left the upper room, as if nothing had occurred and using the early morning sun to see, checked his watch. His daughter’s beauty peered back at him as he raised his arm to see his watch.
Suddenly, Baker felt a pain that he had only felt one other time in his life before. A gunshot rippled through the air as Baker fell to the floor. A man with one arm, burning pistol in his remaining hand, had fired the shot.
Gasping for breath, Nolan Baker lay on the ground, asking himself the questions you only ask yourself on death’s door, looking hopelessly into the eyes of his precious little girl.

Submitted: July 12, 2014

© Copyright 2023 Alex Decker. All rights reserved.

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