Set during a zombie apocalypse. It is up to the remaining to survive
I'm unaware as to how long we've been out here, or as to when this all started. I don't know what day it is, or what time it is. I could hazard a guess to the year, maybe 2014/2015, although none of us know for sure. In brutal honesty, I'm not sure any of us want to know.
As a child I always believed that time was a notion created to force individuals into decision making and adulthood, it compelled us to ripen and cultivate. I wanted to be like Peter Pan himself, be the girl who never grew up. In my mind, time was never something palpable or justified, and now at the tender age of seventeen I believe that more than ever. Time was nothing but a man made abstraction, and who better to destroy that abstraction than man himself.
A sharp chill saturates the air. The bitter kind that causes the creases of your skin to jade and split, that causes your bones to throb in burning agony. And still we push on. What began as a quest for refuge and security has slowly morphed into a faction of mournful beings. No objectives, no destination. We just amble aimlessly, waiting for it to end.
Exhausted from the unbroken moving and drained by the glaciation of the world around us, our feet drag along the floor. Underfoot, the crisp sound of snowy leaves crunching echoes around us. We're immediately aware of this and conscious not to be making too much noise, we slow our pace, not wanting to draw attention. The cold slows the walkers down but it doesn't stop them and glancing around the sullen group, it's painfully obvious to see that none of us are up to the challenge of an attack from a herd. Slowing down is our only viable option for survival. That is the only thing we know how to do anymore.
This is the new world now. We don't live, we survive.
Baby, if you're listening, don't leave the house. Do you hear me sweetheart?' a familiar voice cries through the answering machine. 'we love you so much Hazel'
I quickly snap out of my daydream and notice Elijah standing in front of me. 'Sorry', I mutter, completely unaware as to how long he's been stood there. His shaggy hair falls just above his shoulders and there's a forest casually permeating across his face that once could have been termed a beard. His muscular physique is defined by the glare of the setting sun, and I can just about see the warm smile i've grown quite fond of peeking out at me from behind his untamed face fuzz. Elijah and I have become somewhat close over the passing months. If these were ordinary times Elijah and I would not be more than passing aquaintances, the age gap between the two of us would have proven far too creepy for us to have been friends, him being in his early 30s and me not even out of my teen years. But this wasn't the ordinary world and this was no ordinary friendship.
Elijah joined our group maybe six or seven months ago, we picked him up on a run into town for supplies. There had been a struggle where Katherine was caught unawares by a walker in one of the old rundown pharmacy's, she'd volunteered to go forward alone. Before she had time to react she was pinned to the floor, this decayed carcass baring down on her, it took every ounce of strength in her body to hold off the walker, to stop it's teeth tearing into her flesh. Her yells for help alerted the rest of us and we dropped what we were doing and hastily made a run for her, but by the time we'd made our way over, the walker was already thrust up against a wall and Elijah was pulling his blade from its head. He was alone and to express our gratitude for saving Katherine's life we offered him a place among us. We didn't have anything extravagant to offer, merely companionship, but that seemed to be enough for him.
'You doing okay?' he asks softly
'As good as I can be' I smile, he offers me his hand and I take it, pulling myself up from the ground.
'That's my girl' he grins, 'everyones heading inside, the sun is setting and the dead will soon be out to play, go catch up with them. I'm on first watch tonight'
'The dead are always out to play my dear friend' I scoff mockingly, 'I think I'd have a lot more fun out here with you anyhow'
'Well then Hazel Ripley, by all means, keep me company on this here frosty evening, but don't be too distracting. I have a very important assignment. Mankind is relying on my exceptional eyesight tonight'
'If mankind itself is relying on you alone, i'm afraid we're all done for'
'Wow Hazel, and here I was thinking you had bequeathed your faith onto me'
'My faith is not so easily bequeathed old man'. He chuckles, his laugh is infectious and we're soon giggling away.
We begin to make our way over to the watch post. Currently we are residing in an abandoned warehouse a few miles off a main road. It's been relatively quiet here since we arrived but that was only a few days ago. We make a habit of not staying in one place for too long as it makes us easy targets for bandits. It still amazes me that we fight for our lives on a daily basis and it is still the living we must be most cautious of. Back when this all began, I people took the opportunity to live a life with no laws. I witnessed people I had grown up with stealing and beating each-other senseless just because they could. It didn't take long for the noise of the rioting to attract the attention of a herd and within hours my small town had been turned into dead mans land. It was a miracle I had made it out alive, at only fourteen I was making it on my own out in this big world.
Elijah hoists himself up onto the watch post, it's old wooden frame surprisingly sturdy. The post had already been there when we'd arrived. Whether it had been built by previous survivors or was something to do with the warehouse itself we didn't really know. It was a handy lookout to have. High enough to see the close surroundings and spot oncoming attackers but not too high that it's difficult to escape from if there were an attack. Elijah turns and offers me his hand once again, taking it, he hoistes me up onto the platform and we set up our post for the next few hours. I don't mind staying out on watch, I don't sleep much anymore and I'm happy for the conversation.
Looking out onto the horizon we watch as the final specks of sun stretch across the land and are replaced by the dull light of the moon, enveloping the thick forest ahead. The only source of light we have anymore are candles and our torches - there has been no electricity for a long time - but the moonlight is more than enough and we can see the entirety of the land around us and the entrance to the forest that stretched around the building.
It's unbearably cold, we can see our every breath leaving our body. I begin to dither as what little heat from the sun disperses. Elijah grabs a blanket and wraps it around the both of us as we sit peacefully, eyes pealed for anything suspicious.
'Do you miss it?' I ask, turning my head to face him
'Miss what, little one?' He smirks. I nudge my elbow into his side and smile.
'Alright oldy enough of that. Do you miss how it was? How things were before?'. His face grows more serious and I see his eyes glance down towards his wedding ring, his fingers gently rubbing it.
'We live with the hand we've been dealt, even if it's a shitty one. Besides I never would have met you little one, what kind of life would that be?' He's smiling again as his arm wraps around me and pulls me closer in to him. I close my eyes and nestle into the warmth of his chest which is heavenly, though the musty smell not so much.
'It would be a terrible one I suppose' I feel him laugh again and I smile as I begin to fall into a light sleep.
I can't have been dozing for more than an hour when I wake to find Elijah stood at the edge of the post, looking down at something, or someone. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and pull the blanket off me.
'Walker?' I ask
'Hey sleepy head. Just the one' he nods down towards a dirt road coming through the opening of the wooded area, 'must have stumbled in off the main road and headed inward towards us. Dumb shit doesn't know were here. Can't see any others, must have just separated from the herd'
'I'll sort it' I say 'you just keep watch' I can see the apprehension on his face instantly.
'Okay, be careful little one'
'Arent I always?' I smile, before turning to climb down from the post.
My feet hit the floor and I stay low. Crouched, I walk slowly into the thick grass. I see the walker right in front of me. It's limping forward gradually, the smell clawing its way into my nostrils is beyond rotten. It's obviously an oldie. I can see it's bones protruding through decomposing flesh. I look up toward Elijah, he has what looks like a rock in his hand, he nods at me and then throws the rock just behind the walker. It turns at the sudden noise and, moaning, heads toward it. I pick up my pace a little and am on it before it can utter another syllable. I jab my foot straight into the back of it's knee, it tumbles to the ground. I grab the switch blade from my boot, in one swift movement I thrust it straight into the walkers brain. It stops moving instantly.
I look up at Elijah and in a loud whisper ask, 'anymore?'
He takes another quick scout and shakes his head, 'no we're good, need any help?'
'I'm good. Stronger than I look' I flex my muscles jokingly. He smiles then turns back onto watch and I turn back to the walker.
I kneel down and rifle through it's pockets. At this stage I can barely tell if it's male or female. Oldies never usually have anything useful on them, but it's always worth a look. Fresh walkers are where you find the gold. They were survivors too.
I pull out an old dirty wallet, a picture I can barely make out sits in it, it looks like a wedding photo. Whoever the walker was, they were loved at some point. They weren't always this repugnant creature. I wonder if I'll ever experience that. Love. Lust. Happiness of any kind really. Highly doubtful in this shitty world.
I conclude that there is nothing of use and place the belongings back with the carcass. I grab the walkers arms and begin to drag. I can hear its bones cracking as I lug the carcass towards the warehouse. There's dead piled around the sides of the building, we've found that the smell keeps the walkers away. They're dumb as shit but I'm not complaining.
As I'm about to lift the body onto the pile Peter pokes his head out the door.
'Just the one?' He asks, nodding toward the remains.
'Just the one. Here help me with this' I say.
He steps out of the large metal door and grabs the legs, we hoist the body up onto the pile where it lands with a thud.
Peter is particularly quiet, he's been with us pretty much since the start. We've never really spoken much one on one but I do know a little about him. I know he was an English literature major and that he was the youngest of three brothers. I know that the three brothers were inseparable and I know that he and his brothers were together for a while after the outbreak but he ended up being separated from them. He has no idea whether they're alive or dead. If they are held up somewhere surviving or if they're walking the earth as the festering lifeless beings that we spend our newly futile existence running from. I'm uncertain if he's given up hope on finding them at all, but I know if it were me, I certainly would have by now.
'Thanks' I say with a nod of gratitude
'No problem' he replies dryly before heading back inside. He closes the large door behind him and I turn and head back to the post. As I'm heading back I overhear what sounds like twigs snapping towards the left of me. I turn my head towards the foliage and see what looks like a child's face, staring. They look no more than eleven or twelve. They spot me look at them and they duck quickly. They move too fast to be a walker, I know instantly that this is a survivor. What if the child is on their own?
'Hey!' I exclaim, I turn and head quickly towards the woods.
Elijah must have heard my yell as I see him in the corner of my eye turn and look in my direction.
'Hazel!' He yells.
But I'm already into the trees before I can turn and reply.