Time slows down… Or does it… Does it speed up for me and slow down for him. He’s moving slowly and everything is crisp. He’s not really moving slowly. Time seems like that though. Time is strange, he’s about to be out of time.
He rushes into my hide out, I see him swinging his pistol towards me, so slowly, but I’ve got the advantage, my body is already aligned with him and he’s turning and suddenly I’m firing and little metal pieces of death impact on him, I’m holding the trigger, ammo count doesn’t matter so long as he goes down, what use is full clips on a dead man, he’s slumping sideways into the ground, his hands losing grip on the pistol, limp, his central nervous system is down.
Blood beings to flow, pooling on the tiled floor, clean tiled floor, how does a clean tiled floor still exist in all of this…
I killed him. I fucking killed him. I’d never killed anyone before and my body was shaking. You’d think this would be easy, after all the zombies, all the real dead. But it’s different when bullets are flying at you, suddenly it’s not the devoid, it’s a real person, a person like you, who probably just wants to survive.…
Regret… remorse… A wish to have not taken that life… In moments… In other moments, a gladness to be alive, a realisation he pulled the gun on me first, shot at me first… Self defence… Except it fucks you up, it really does. It’s not like some kids fight where people throw hay makers at each other, it’s real, brutal, over so fast and when the rush of the hunt fades it’s left with nothing but a little bit of emptiness and a slow come down, the endorphins fade and sadness hits and fuuuuuuuuuuck why do I feel so alone… Nothing out there… And no-one to trust… If all the other survivors are like him, then that’s the end of us all.
The thing is… the really stupid thing is, there’s still enough food to get by, enough water. Maybe by next winter it’ll all be gone and we’ll be foraging, but for now, what’s he wasting ammo for…
I start looting his corpse on autopilot, he may have goods worth having, things that will help me survive. I wonder, will I ever find other friends, or will they all be like him.
The first I knew of him, gunshots, loud, a hunting rifle? Not fully automatic, they impact near me as I duck for cover. By hide out, I mean literally where I was hiding. I ran from the shots, hiding behind solid objects; a car engine block will stop most bullets, a brick wall will slowly get shredded but it’s better than nothing. Obscure myself from the enemy, I am but weak flesh and those are high velocity rifle rounds manufactured to kill, I cannot allow myself to be hit.
I think he emptied his rifle, I find it discarded outside. Time isn’t always linear. We put pieces together, the moments that matter. Evidence statements, things from the old days, one event happening after another. It’s not like that now, it’s confused, it’s a series of flashbacks, trying to remember what’s important, in what order did things happen. I know he shot first, so there’s that order. And there’s my prime directive, my order, stay alive, that’s what matters.
Action movies. Do you ever see Rambo cry over the dead Russian soldiers in Rambo II? Arnold Schwarzenegger wonder if pulling the trigger was the right thing after he ended a strangers life? That feeling of sickness, of oh my fucking God I want to fucking puke I feel sick at what I did, and shit, that person that I’m feeling that sickness for, they wanted to do worse to me, that makes it okay doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? There’s no counselor around to tell me, “It’s okay, you did what you needed to do to stay alive,” so I say it to myself, and it feels fake and a life this lonely… Is it even worth staying alive…
Blood. Metal iron red water smell. When mars attacks. The war of the worlds. The smell of blood, red weed. Strange things to connect. Our blood, we are all connected my hippy friends used to say, all aspects of the same cosmic being. I never felt that, I’m me, they are them, it made it easier to kill. An ideological difference. When they connected with the rapist, with the murderer, the thief, felt empathy and pity for, I never felt that then.
But now, this corpse, slowly growing cold, twitched for a while. We were so alike, five fingers on each hand, two eyes, now those eyes were open and glassy, glazed over. I’d seen death before, I knew the smell and the rigor mortis was a day or two away. And then the pestilence.
Practical realities. Bodies need to be disposed of. Bodies cannot rot in the streets, in the houses, unless one wants rats, carrion, disease, cholera, all the old diseases come back when sanitation and bodies fail. Food poisoning and worse. I’m still shaking from it, even now. But I’m trying to get my mind together.
Fuck, what if he had friends. What if he’s a part of a team, a kill squad, clear this area and move on. Then I’m proper fucked. I’m going to die. It’s only a matter of time no matter how smart I am, no matter how stealthily I move, something will kill me.
Petrol. Petrol burns bodies. Keeps streets clean. But the burning, the smoke, it’s so visible. Burn down the house around him? What price for hygiene…
The smell of death. That smell on the living. Rotting flesh. Diseased skin. It hit’s me sometimes, healthy people and I know they are just skin and sinew and bone beneath it. None of us are anything more. And when they die, that smell will start. How do you forget that smell. When it was your loved ones. I don’t even know anymore.
I know survive. I know trust no-one. I know function. I know leave the grief and the sobbing til late at night in a place of safety. I know hide ones feelings, suppress, don’t let them impede getting the job done. I don’t know idle chit chat any more, I don’t know first world problems, I know sentences to fill the dead space because something has to lest the demons of memory come out. I know everyone’s been through this. But where is the grief, the pain, the anguish. Where is the room for it.
In the old days, hospitals, waiting rooms, clean mopped floors and lights that worked and doctor’s that smiled and worked hard to save patients, life so sacred simply being alive and maintaining life meant more than a persons will to live.
Suicide… When your old enough… I’m not old enough yet. I don’t know when “old enough” is. When the body is frail, when the mind is going, maybe. But it’s not the same world now.
Detail… The colour of his clothes… Camo clothing. A pattern I don’t recognise. He has no id on him, no writing, no pictures, nothing of sentimental value. It makes sense. I’ve heard of the bandits, the torture. Use anything on a person to threaten, cajole, make a picture of a person, torture, suffering, death. His gear, fuck, his gear.
I strip his vest off him, holes in the chest, soaked with blood, but it’s better than nothing. I don’t think he was diseased. If I’m not careful, dogs will smell the blood. Wild dogs, peoples pets gone feral without food and owners. Once loved, now nothing left where love was. Cold water washes out blood. Hot water is a true luxury these days, so I won’t have to worry about staining the blood in.
More weight. The more I carry, the slower I move. The slower I move, the higher the risk. Everything is a compromise. In practical reality land, a healthy human can carry 1.5 times their own weight. I’d like to see them walk 20km’s with it. Shelter, a tent, or sleep in a building. Fire… Be cold, or risk being seen at night… Water… Purification tabs or bottled water from a safe well… All these choices, all these base needs. And the wrong choice is death. Clean clothing so wounds don’t get infected. Warmth, food, shelter. Weapons for safety. So many needs. All of them add to the burden. I’m not a soldier, I haven’t trained to carry my own weight on my back long distance, it matters now. Really matters.
Will to live… Will to live… Will to live… They say that’s 95% of survival. The other 5%… The stay healthy, don’t get hurt, don’t get shot, don’t get diseased, don’t break a leg or an arm, don’t fall victim to unlucky chance, it’s not just will to live, it’s will to kill to stay alive… That seems pretty important too right now. But will to live. How do I maintain my will to live when suddenly I feel like there’s nothing to live for.
Have you seen your family die. Your friends die. Everyone you ever cared about, ever loved, dead. I don’t think you have. It won’t be the people now that read this, if anyone does. Maybe a generation from now, schools might restart, we might keep writing as a taught thing. For now, people are too busy living to read. Printing presses… So many inventions we’ve lost, so much to re-invent.
The rebuilding of society, of our entire world. They said it would be harder this time around, no easily accessible metal deposits. That’s a problem for the future, not one I face now.
Little things, socks… Maybe I should start going barefoot, toughen my feet, have to keep them healthy. That’s vitally important, if a persons feet fail, if they can’t move, gather food, hunt, and escape threats, they die.
All the little things we took for granted. Maybe in Africa the survivors are doing okay. Maybe that’s where civilisation will rise the fastest.
Little distractions. Little thoughts to stop myself from realising what I’ve done, taken life to continue mine. Divine judgment? What is this fate? This random chaos, that group of neurons connected to the everything stops, this one continues, those electrical pulses fade into the nothing and these ones keep flickering.
Dim candle light where once fires raged, civlisations can be measured by their energy usage, the kardashian scale. We’ve gone backwards. We are the embers in the fire in the darkest night slowly fading out. Will the sun shine ever again, or will these lights die out forever.