It’s funny, how fragile the world is. Things can fall apart so easily, so fast, and all it takes is a few unfortunate events. I guess it really puts things into perspective on how unstable society had been.
I look up at the sky. The sun burns my face; it’s so much closer now than it used to be, and the UV Rays did a lot of damage. Almost nothing can grow now. The entire world looks like the Sahara, only full of the ruins of what once was.
Sometimes I think to myself about what life was like before. It seems like forever ago that I had talked to someone, anyone. It’s been so long that I forgot what it was like to not have to worry about surviving another day, or having to ravage every place that I see in search of some kind of food.
It’s been almost just as long since I haven’t had to kill everyone I’ve run into. That’s what odd; sometimes I think people would have preferred a zombie apocalypse. At least then they could tell themselves that the people they were killing couldn’t think or feel, that they weren’t human anymore. Maybe some of them told themselves that in the beginning, but now it’s a kill to survive situation. There’s no choice but to kill the others. With them alive, they pose a threat of exposing you, passing diseases, consuming your supplies.
Before society fell apart, I used to think that if there ever was an apocalypse, we’d all be okay. There were so many video games and movies that depicted almost every possible scenario of the world ending, and they always had happy endings. The world was always reclaimed by the strong, and the meek had perished along with the old ways.
Zombies were always a large part of them; everyone had thought that a virus mutation would be the cause of the world ending. Everyone figured that they would have what it took to overcome the viruses and the vermin, that they could triumph over the monsters. Because if you can shoot a gun on a video game, how hard could it be in real life? If you can have the highest kill combo on Halo and Black-Ops, then surely you must know your shit.
I wonder how life would be different if it were like that. Maybe things would feel a little less guilt-ridden; then we wouldn’t have to carry around the weight on our shoulders, knowing that we’re all serial killers. Maybe then the human race wouldn’t be at such a risk of dying off. Sure, you have to kill the infected, and it’s likely that there would be millions of them, but at least then the survivors could band together.
Maybe some of them do, I don’t know. It’s been a couple days since I’ve seen anyone, and even then I narrowly escaped. I shiver at the thought of it; I was so lucky, but even then, what’s to live for now?
I observe the area quickly, and make sure my gun is in my belt loop. There’s no place that’s officially safe; even out here in the middle of nowhere, I can’t be too sure. Someone could be surviving, and if they’re out of food, you could always be next.
Yes, that’s right. We’re in the twenty-first century and some people are relying on cannibalism. I haven’t gotten to that point, yet, but I can’t be sure on how much longer it’s going to be until I have to. The further I go, the less and less food I’m finding. And by god, I swear I’m not going to die of something so pathetic as starvation. Not when I’ve survived everything else.
Seeing no one, I move quickly out into the open space, running as fast as I can. Get to the buildings, get to the buildings, I chant in my head. Sometimes repetition is all I have left.
I think of old memories as I run into the overcast shadows of the building on the cracked pavement. My first kill runs through my head as I scan the area once more. You never get used to the idea of killing other living, breathing, feeling people.
No one ever really thinks that their friends and family are going to turn on them in this situation. I had thought that everything was going to be okay after a while, that we were going to remain strong and faithful throughout all of what was going on. After all, people always used to say that blood was thicker than water. But oddly enough, that’s what had come between us.
My brother and my father were one of the first to die. Maybe it was because we lived right in the middle of sunny Arizona, and neither of them ever had much of a tolerance towards getting sunburned. But sure enough, once the earth moved just a hair closer to the sun, they died.
It was awful to watch. Any little bit of sunlight would hurt them, and eventually my father developed serious skin cancer. But he wasn’t the only one, and they said he was too far sick to do anything for him. We had to slowly watch him die.
My brother, on the other hand, died of his own stupidity. We had told him, over and over again, to stay inside in the dark. We didn’t want to risk him dying, either; he was just nine years old. He was still a little boy. But he never listened to what we had to say.
I remember coming home from school that day and no one could find him. We searched every possible place in the house, but he wasn’t there. A few days later, I went out to the family well to get some water. He was only a few feet away, but he was long gone. The smell of rotting flesh in that heat still haunts me sometimes. Even thinking about the image is enough to make me want to puke.
I take a deep breath in and try to shake the memories from my mind. But my mother’s face keeps popping up, no matter what I try to think about.
Since it was getting so hot, our well was drying up. My mother was acting strange, like she was almost plotting something. I had told myself it was just because of the grief of the deaths, but eventually I figured out why. She was planning to take over the ranch completely to herself, even if she was the sole survivor. And she had gotten it in her head that the only way she could survive no matter what is if she was the only one alive.
It was late at night that she had snuck into my room, when I was sleeping. I had heard the door creak as she opened it, and that’s what woke me up. If not for the creaking, I would have died.
She was caught off guard by the sound and jumped a little, which was just enough time for me to get up. I saw the gun in her hand, pointed right at me.
“Mom?” I shrieked, unsure of how I was supposed to respond to waking up like that.
She stammered. Her tough face faltered. “You don’t understand. Kat, but it’s for the best!”
She put her finger on the trigger and aimed at my head. But her hand was unsteady, and she shot the wall behind me instead. All of my thought processes shut down, and my body went into instant fight or flight mode. There was no place to run to; she was blocking the door, and my room was in the basement of our house. So there was really only one choice.
It seemed like I had to do very little to pin her on the ground. The details of what all I are foggy to me, even now. I just know that eventually I came to, with the gun still clenched in my hand and my mother’s blood all over me.
I shudder but try to block it out of my head. Now was no time to try to relive the memories that I wanted to lock away. Especially when I was in an unfamiliar area.
Right now, I needed to find food. My supplies were low and night was coming. The idea of being out in the open when nightfall came was a little horrifying; that was when it was like a bloodbath, no matter where you were. If you could make it through a night without having to kill someone, then you were lucky.
I placed the gun in my right hand and took off running. My backpack thumped along with me, and my shoes made an unsavory sound on the pavement. They echoed off the building and I had to move quickly to make sure there was little chance of anyone catching me.
In the distance, I could see a giant fortress of sorts. It looked like a large, abandoned prison. I knew that going there would be a big risk; there was a chance that there were tons of people camped out in there, or maybe even some psycho residing in the cells, waiting for someone. But it was either that or try to find a building in what once was a city; that idea wasn’t all so appealing, either. There were definite signs of living people here. I could see recent trash and rotting bodies everywhere, and the kills were relatively fresh.
The choice was made there. It was all or nothing. I took off running, full speed, again. Even though I was getting tired, I was used to the strenuous physical activity.
Behind me, I could hear people coming out of their hiding spots. Gun shots were fired. I didn’t stop long enough to figure out if they were directed towards me or at others; maybe there was a bit of a turf war going on. I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know. Curiosity killed the cat…. Or in my case. Kat.
A little while later, I found myself roaming the barren corridors of a prison. It was nerve-wrecking for me; I hated the feeling this place gave me. It was like there were ghosts coming out of the walls, and what’s worse was that some of them were my own.
I walked up to the top floor; it was an open cell-block layout, so that all of the cells faced one large open space. I made sure to check for possible emergency exits; there were stairs on both ends of the hallways. It wasn’t the best escape plan, but it was what I had to work with.
After a short amount of time, I grew restless. I was tired of treading the same area over and over again, and I was getting hungry. It had been almost a day and a half since I had last eaten, and I figured it was high time that I did. I could search for more rations tomorrow; this might actually be a good place to hide out in for a while, I thought to myself.
Sometime later I had fallen asleep on one of the cots in a cell on the highest level. I woke up to the sound of clanking metal and heavy footsteps.
Jolting up, I held up my gun. “Who’s there?”
I heard a bitter laugh and a large man came into my view. Before I had time to pull the trigger, he darted at me. The odor of a long build up of sweat hit me full force as he barreled into me. We fell onto the floor and he knocked the gun from my hand.
“You ain’t goin’ anywhere, girl.”
He gripped my neck with one hand. I squirmed to get free, but he was too heavy. His entire weight was pressed against me, and there was no point in wasting the energy trying to fight him off. I had never done much of hand-to-hand combat, and I knew there was nothing that I could do at this point that would maim him enough to get him off of me.
“What do you want from me?” I hissed through gritted teeth.
He gave me a nasty, toothy smile. “Well girl, it’s been a long while since I had that nice little feminine touch. Won’t you treat me right?”
Horror flooded through me body. I wanted to yell out at him, but I knew there would be no point. While I would rather be killed, there wasn’t much I could do.
But then I blacked out. It’s like my body and my mind just shut down on me, and I didn’t know what was going on anymore. I could feel the occasional pain in the stomach region, and the smell was enough to wake the dead. But all I could see was the cement block wall in front of me.
I’m not sure when I finally came to again, but it was long enough that I could feel the real effects of laying on the cement floor for a long period of time. Any little movement hurt, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. There wasn’t exactly any kind of day-after pill in the apocalypse.
Slowly getting up, I tried not to move all too much; the pain was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and there were bruises in various places. Cringing, I shuffled onto my feet and slung my bag over my shoulder; there was only a small can of tomato soup left. The bastard had raided through my supplies before he left. Apparently he needed to satisfy all of his needs.
My stomach growled but I knew I couldn’t risk using up the last bit of food that I had without having something else to back myself up on. It was too much of a risk, and I had only narrowly escaped death this time. I needed to be more logical, I knew.
This wouldn’t have happened if you wouldn’t have been so stupid. You were just asking for it. the thoughts kept running through my head, and I felt like I was drowning in my own guilt and self-hatred. I hated the world as it was now, and I hated how everything had changed me so much. I hated that I had killed my mother, and so many others. I hated that I lost contact with my sister; I didn’t even know if she was still alive.
Running out of the prison, I didn’t even bother to check around me. Being shot would be a miracle, and there would still be a little more dignity in it than me killing myself. That was one thing I just couldn’t do, no matter what. I had come so far, and for me to throw that away and be ungrateful for the life I had when so many others were dead….. I couldn’t even fathom the idea.
I didn’t run towards the city. I needed to find somewhere else to go. That one wasn’t safe; I hadn’t been sure in the beginning, but now I definitely was. It was full of other murderers and rapists, just like me and just like the other guy. Funny. I was running from some of the people that were just like me. It made me wonder for a moment if he was running from people like him, too. It would be karma for him to get shot; the idea of revenge was tempting, but stupid. I ignored it and kept going.
After I was far enough outside of the city, I kept ambling on. I had slowed down into a steady pace of walking, because there didn’t seem like there would be too many people out here. I needed to save my energy for something unexpected; I refused to let my guard down enough again to let something else happen to me.
As I kept going, I wished I had stopped to get water. It was hard to find some that hadn’t dried up or was contaminated. I remember the big blow-up over people dumping chemicals into local water supplies. That had killed a lot of people, too, and it was incredibly stupid in the end. No one was able to use the water after the idiots did that.
The sun was so hot overhead, it was becoming unbearable. I couldn’t stand the heat on my back; I was wearing all black, because that had been all I could find a few months ago when I was miles and miles away from here. At least in that place there had been tons of buildings to cover up the sun a little bit.
Here it was barren. There was no grass, no pavement, nothing. Just dry, cracked ground. The dust kicked up any time I took a step, and eventually it started getting into my lungs. I tried not to cough to hard; it was so deserted out here that any little sound could attract someone from miles away.
I kept going, but sweat was dripping down my forehead and down my back. I could imagine how awful I must have smelled, but I didn’t really care too much about that. I wondered how long I had been going for. Minutes? Hours? Almost a day?
After a little while, my limbs began to feel weak. My stomach felt like it was filling itself with acid, just so it could feel even remotely full. Not too long later, the acidic bile made its’ way up my throat and on the parched ground. It took everything I had not to collapse on the ground.
I tried to look around me, but there was nothing. All I could see was barren land, for miles and miles and miles. And the sun, high overhead, was like an iron fist that kept pounding me down. I could feel my skin start to burn and sizzle from the heat. I had run out of sunscreen a long time ago, but never bothered to check anywhere for more. There was never enough time.
So this is it, I thought to myself. I’ve come so far just to die out here, where there’s nothing. I don’t even have the comfort of someone else being the cause of my death. Just my own idiocy.
My knees buckled and I landed in a heap on the ground. I’m not sure how long I was laying there. All I knew is that I wanted to die. But my memories wouldn’t let me off easy.
Flashed jumped around in my head. I remembered how after I killed my mother, I had raided the ranch and ran as far away as possible. I never even bothered to check on my sister, Elizabeth. She was only fourteen at the time being.
I had gone so far away that no one recognized me. But that didn’t matter, because I killed everyone I saw. They would aim their guns at me, but be too slow. Target lessons and hunting with my father when I was little had obviously paid off, but not for the reasons that anyone would have thought back then.
One time I had stumbled upon this little family. Their daughter was dying; she was about four years old. The mother held the little girl in her arms and was crying. The father was trying to comfort her, but it seemed to be no use.
I had raised my gun at them. The mother didn’t know what was going on; she was too wrapped up in her grieving to notice the outside world around her. But the father knew. He looked at me, right in the eyes. And he nodded.
I shot the little girl in the head. She didn’t have time to flutter her eyes or take a last breath before she was dead. The mother looked up at me, tears falling faster down her face. She might have done something, if it weren’t for me shooting her, too. Next came the father.
His was the worst, though. The other two were helpless, and they didn’t know what was going on. But he knew. And he watched me with cold eyes as I pointed the barrel at his head and pulled.
Maybe the worst thing about that experience is that I killed someone for no reason other than to kill. The daughter was going to die anyways, so in that matter, I put her out of her misery. But the other two could have survived, they could have escaped. I had no reason to kill them, and yet I did.
Even though it was unbearably hot, I was shivering. If I did die out here, where was I going to go? Was there really such a thing as heaven or hell? And if there was, was I surely going to Hell?
The other ghosts of my past swirled around in my mind, to the point where I couldn’t tell if I was conscious or not. Nothing seemed lucid either way, so it didn’t really matter. All I could feel was unbearable heat, pain, and fear. Guilt clawed it’s way into every beat of my heart, every breath. If I’d had the energy, I’m sure I would have finally given into the idea of suicide. Fuck pride, fuck dignity, fuck every ounce of integrity I had left. Most of it was gone long ago anyways.
The call seemed so far in the distance, but it was hollow. I couldn’t tell if it was a dream, or if it was just a memory of when I was younger and in trouble. That was the only time anyone ever called me by my whole name. The rest of the time I was just Kat.
“Kat, is that you?”
Alright, I’m going crazy, I thought to myself. There couldn’t have been anyone out here, and if there was, they wouldn’t know me. They would think I was just some other rotting corpse out in the desert, as I very likely would be soon. The heat must have gotten to my brain.
But within minutes of the calls, I could feel cold water being splashed on my face. Maybe it wasn’t cold, but it was a hell of a lot cooler than the sun and the ground around me. I gasped for air and fought to get a couple drops of water on my tongue.
“Kat, it’s you! You’re alive!”
I opened my eyes a little, enough to see who was hovering over me. There were a couple strangers, people I had never seen before in my life. But then there was one person that I knew, one person I thought I had lost forever.
“Liza?” I choked out.
She shrieked with joy, or maybe out of shock that I was still alive. Before I knew it, she had pulled me up off the ground and the two strangers were carrying me.
“There are survivors, Kat. We don’t have to kill anyone. Peace is alive in the apocalypse, I promise.” Elizabeth said, holding my hand. “I don’t know what kind of hell you’ve been through, but I think it could be fate that brought us back.”
I rolled my eyes with what little strength I could muster. “Fate…. In a world like this?”
The two strangers chuckled. One of them spoke up. “Your sister here has some interesting theories about all of this,”
“We ain’t gotta believe her, and we don’t most of the time, but it’s enough to know that hope isn’t dead yet.”
As we approached some large fortress amidst the vast nothing, I wondered how I hadn’t seen this in the distance. And though the sun burned high over head, I could tell that they were right. Hope wasn’t dead.
Because if in an inferno like this, if hope can survive that long, couldn’t we all?
© Copyright 2016 Coralie. All rights reserved.
Book / Fantasy
Poem / Horror
Poem / Other
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