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The Before, During, and the After of a Survivor


The forest was thick with trees and various other forms of plant life which made it difficult, if not impossible to struggle through. It didn’t matter though; I was trudging through with no specific destination as I tried to breathe through the humidity in the air. There really wasn’t anywhere left for me to try and reach anyway, the harsh reality was unavoidable. The world is dead, if anyone has survived this long then good for them but hope was hard to find in this dead world.

The epidemic only took days to dig its claws into humanity and wipe it out. I can’t speak for what’s happening beyond the crashing waves of the sea but I can say that the majority of the United States is dead, or more accurately undead. The walking corpses have taken over for as far as the eye can see, and my eyes have seen pretty far. I’ve made my way through various states and it all looked the same, corpses swaying on unsteady feet carried only by their instinct to eat, signs here and there of possible survivors.

The major cities were the first to go with the way that everyone ran to them, all huddled together hoping to escape the dead. No such luck, the more bodies they had together the faster the pandemic spread, making its way like a frenzied fire in a dry forest. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they thought it was a good idea, one infected person in the crowd and they were all dead within the hour, most of them then getting back up and roaming until they ate another person.

When word had hit my little town I ran for the hills, there was no way I was heading into a crowd. Some people looked down on me; some even questioned my sanity, when I started thinking of what to do in a situation like this. I couldn’t help it, I was always thinking of the ‘what ifs’ and trying to plan for anything. I mean it wasn’t just thinking of ‘what if the world was overrun by flesh eating dead’ but also I had pondered on other mythical things but this was definitely the worst case scenario. I honestly wish I would have taken my planning more seriously and stocked a place up but at least I was a step ahead of most people.

Even with all my planning signs of the virus didn’t take long to rear its ugly head. Walkers, geeks, freaks, whatever you wanted to call them started to make an appearance in my life. Lifeless pale eyes and rotting flesh, tatter clothes revealing leathery skin stretched over protruding bones, most of them were missing chunks of skin but they no longer bled. Altogether it was a putrid sight but at least you could distinctly tell them from the living.

A blow to the head is all it took to put the dead down permanently, they were once human and everyone knows the human body won’t move without its head. Destroy the brain and the body ceases to move, simple enough right?

Leaving my hometown was probably one of the hardest things to do when shit hit the fan. For once I was happy for my solitude; it meant that I had no one to worry about and nobody to leave behind. I packed my car with all the food I could, a few pairs of clothes, and anything I could use as a weapon then got in and never looked back.

Life from there was constantly like guerrilla warfare, hide and attack when the enemy is least expecting it which was easy in this case because the enemy is slow, never really achieving a running speed, they were easy targets to take out. It made passing the time alone easier, constantly working on my close combat skills, and training in any sort of weapon I could find, determined to be an expert.

It might sound bad but it made me feel better about myself, the more I learned the stronger I became. Before the outbreak I was a weak person, a lazy hermit was what my mother called me till the day she died a few months before the end.

Family had been a foreign concept in my life; it had just been my mother and I from the beginning. My father was dead before I was born and my mom was an only child whose parents both passed before I was even a thought in her life.

Friends came and went but none really stayed in my life, at the time I was so full of self doubt I guess it made it difficult to get to know me, and I never really met someone willing to try. Now with the end of the world and nothing to hold me down a fire burned through my soul. Surviving meant that it was my job to clear the way for anyone else who survived, it’s the job of the living to pave the way for a new society to be erected.

With that in mind I made it my goal to kill any and every walking corpse I could, why run just to be chased when you can turn and kill the thing chasing you?

I wasn't suicidal about it though, avoiding large herds and trying to keep my back to walls and taking on only a few at a time. After a while it became second nature, honestly sometimes it felt so surreal that I felt like a ninja. I know it sounds bad but I couldn’t let myself take this life too seriously, its reality but if I spend my time mourning the past my future would cease to exist. I threw myself into this life and made it mine because it was the best choice I had, either die fighting or die mourning what I wouldn’t live long enough to see again anyway.

I was determined and strong after a year of surviving the end of the world. I made sure to keep a journal so that if society rose again they would have some documentation of what had happened. I made sure to write about how things had been, how things had changed, and how I survived. The journal was also a nice way to keep track of the days, even if I couldn’t write all the time I made sure that I kept track of how many days had passed, so far I was on day 387.

By day 400 though things changed, it had been a normal day when I saw them. They were bruised and battered, torn clothes and stern faces but they were alive. A group of survivors, men, women, and children all coexisting and actually making a life from what the world has thrust upon their shoulders.

That was the day that I was truly filled with hope, but that was also the day that had sealed my fate. I didn’t know it at the time, didn’t know that by finding this group I had signed my own death certificate. Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have wanted to die for any other group of people.

Things had been tense when I first approached them but that hadn’t bothered me at all, with this new life came a whole new set of social skills. I had to prove myself to them, prove I wouldn’t be a burden, that I was harmless, and that I could help them. Once I proved to them that there was still some hope in mankind I became a part of the group, I gained a family.

For once I was happy, I had a huge family made up of very different people and together we all survived. Traveling through the country side by side we lived, we fought, and we remained strong. The dead were slowly thinning out; as we traveled we came across less and less until the largest groups had gone from hundreds at a time to only a dozen or so. Finally we were making progress.

It was then that I met my demise. We had stopped by a nice cluster of homes, nothing big but enough room for us and more. The plan was to slowly clean out the community house by house, until we could be sure that it was empty. If we could clear it and ensure that the fence would hold up against the dead, it would be the safest place since the chaos.

We started with one house; we secured it so we could spend the night, then in the morning we gathered together and slowly made our way through the neighboring houses, killing the dead a second time. I honestly thought it was a fool proof plan; clear all the homes, close the gates, then check again and kill anything that remained.

If the plan worked I couldn’t tell you for sure because I never saw the end of it. I had ventured into a house by myself, ignoring the warnings from the group and my own instincts. The entrance was clear, no sign that the dead had even touched this house but I still had to make sure. I started with the first floor, dining room, living room, kitchen and any closed doors were opened.

Approaching the last door I yanked it open with my machete in hand, ready to swing, but I was unprepared for what I found behind that closed door. If I had took the time to truly look around the house I would have noticed the signs that a large group had once lived here.

If I had the time to stop and count I bet I would have hit 20 before I was overwhelmed. There were so many that I instantly knew I was dead. The basements in these houses were huge, and this one just happened to be packed wall to wall with the walking dead. It was as if someone had herded them all in and locked the door, in reality this was probably chosen as the safe house with someone infected among the survivors, resulting in my demise.

With no hesitation I began to take off heads, feeling slightly hopeful that they could only get through the small door way two or so at a time. If I was going down I would at least thin out the herd, giving my family I fighting chance.

As noble as this was I knew that my stamina wouldn’t hold up through the whole herd. It was when my muscles burned and my breathing was heavy that I turned tail and ran. I ran faster than ever before because it wasn’t my life that depended on it, it was so much more than that.

The pain was blinding by the time I reached the front door, the dead were on me biting a tearing at my flesh. With the last bit of strength I tore away from the claws of death, through the front door and slammed it behind me. The door wouldn’t stop them but I would surely slow them down as I yelled my lungs out.

As soon as I knew I had been seen by someone I took off through the gates and into the forest, I refused to stay around and become a danger to the people I loved and I didn’t want them to have to see the end of me.

The only fault in my plan was the damage done to my body, I was going to end myself before the virus could corrupt me but I failed. I ran until my body collapsed but I lacked the time to pull the trigger before my conscious slipped away.

I couldn’t move and it was hot, unbearably hot but freezing at the same time. Briefly I wondered if this was what it felt like to die, was my body shutting down on me, and was this truly the feeling of ceasing to exist?

I didn’t have time to think about it as my thoughts began to slow, become simpler, until the hunger took hold. I could feel who I was slipping away, what made me who I was slowly being replace by hunger. I was agonizingly aware of my presence, my personality slipping into nothingness.

Then everything was over.

It was like I was watching from another set of eyes; I could see the world moving but there was nothing I could do. My body was wandering, nowhere to go, no sense of time, nothing left of the humanity that was once there.

Was I now the undead?

Then I screamed, and screamed, and screamed some more. Was I really screaming, probably not but I had become exactly what I hated, and I was going to eat anything that crossed my path. It was agonizing and all I could do was hate myself and observe.

It seemed like a lifetime of self loathing and darkness till things took a turn for the worse. My body found its way back to the community, and I internally prayed that someone would put a bullet through my skull. I longed for a true death, to no longer exist and fade away.

Things couldn’t be more different though, not only did I still exist, the only things I could seem to do were eat flesh and walk, plus now I was possibly going to eat the only people that mattered me, the kicker?

There wasn’t shit I could do about it. I had absolutely no control, locked inside my own mind, I couldn’t even scream and run this time. I could only hope someone hears the dragging of my feet or the groaning noise the seemed to escape me.

Then I thanked every higher being that I knew of that the right person seemed to spot me, the only person that I trusted to actually pull the trigger if this ever happened to me. I could feel the relief that spread to my very soul, he would kill me and ensure that I wouldn’t cause harm to anyone we cared for.

That hope gave me the strength to smile, to cry, and to be happy. I couldn’t honestly tell you if any of those emotions shone through but I like to think they did. The sparkly in his eyes was enough to know that everything would be fine; it was enough to put me at peace.

With the vision of his eyes burned into my memory I closed my eyes and for the first time ever, I felt truly content with all of my life choice. I knew that everything would be ok and that I did everything in my power to make sure of that.

This was the true ending…