I know, zombies are out of fashion (or so some say) but I do not mind. Here is a short story that maybe, I think, or not, include zombies. It’s less scary (to a degree) and more self-reflective (I hope).
It did not take long for most of the western world to collapse on itself when the outbreak occurred. “Zombies!” everybody cried, starting a global panic. Within days of the first recorded cases of infected being announced banditry became a common occurrence. Stores were ransacked, houses plundered. Random citizen militias and survivor groups sprung up, claiming anything from single houses to small towns. Martial War was declared, the army called back from overseas. Some countries fared better than others, but law and order was under siege.
But in all this chaos, destruction and brewing civil war, it was not so much the handful of zombies and the infection that caused the downfall of society. It was the people themselves.
That is my point of view, at least. My name is David Anderson, and I was kidnapped by a group of citizen militia under the pretext of “Finding a cure”. The hospital I worked in was besieged and all personnel carted away. Anything of remote value also loaded on trucks and driven off. In all this lawlessness I did not even know who exactly abducted me.
Very soon I found myself, with the rest of the staff, in an old disaster shelter that was claimed by this particular group. It all felt like a bad joke, prisoners in the hands of our own countrymen, with police unable to respond because, simply put, order was collapsing.
That was a few weeks ago. Now, everybody in the shelter either died or fled. And what led to it was an even more bizarre set of circumstances that the outbreak itself. The militia began arguing with itself about what they should do next. Many radical and far ranging ideas were offered, and the only thing that kept these madmen together were the “Zombies”. But, as it soon turned out, after daily and careful patrols, not a single one could be found. Paranoia set in. Everybody accused one another of being infected, even though none even saw one of these so called “Zombies”. Soon instead of just accusing each other our captors splintered off into their own little groups within the shelter, some of the hospital staff losing their minds and taking part in this local “civil war”. Until, eventually, only I was left. The “winners” of the war were so panicked by what they have done that they took what little supplies there were still left and abandoned the shelter, leaving me behind.
Or rather, I chose to stay. While everybody was looking for ghosts, I tried to make the best of a bad situation.
While supplies, such as food and water, were largely gone, the shelter itself came equipped with a long-range radio transmitter, and a still working television set.
Unfortunately, as I soon found out, merely days after regaining my freedom, there were no functioning television stations to speak of. Many Radio Stations changed hands from one fanatical group to another, preaching to one god or another, with the occasional group of “survivors” trying to settle down, only to be pushed out by another fanatical, radical or better armed group.
This cycle continued until, eventually, the radio too fell silent.
Did I try to contact anybody? No. Out of fear for my own life I did not want to invite any of these people to the shelter. For all I knew they would kill me as soon as they saw me.
But entertaining myself with the downfall of society was not the greatest of my interests. I was trying to piece together what was actually happening with the infection. Where were these “Zombies” so many feared? Was there, in fact, anything to be afraid of? Every single voice I could catch on the radio pointed more to raiders, fighting or outright war between people, rather than any zombie attack, or even presence.
The longer I waited and gathered these facts the faster I came to realize that humanity seemed to bring about its own downfall, and the zombies were merely a pretext for doing so. Perhaps the ultimate excuse. Although, now that I think about it, how much of it was planned, and how much of it was the result of sheer chaos and anarchy that sprung up in too much force, leading to the untimely end of our civilization?
If I wanted to ultimately find an answer I would have to survive for longer. While supplies in the shelter were limited I managed to plan out my meals, rationing water and, just in case, closing down any and all entrances to the shelter that were redundant for my own use. After all, I did not want a random group of bandits or survivors moving in here and surprising me in my sleep. And, on just an off chance that the zombies were real, I did not want them to enter the shelter with ease.
Power was another issue I had to deal with. The powerlines were either damaged or cut in all of the fighting, so the only thing that kept the lights on was the single generator that had to be fed fuel. There was a small stock of it, but it would not last long at all. So here again, I attempted to switch off or disconnect anything and everything that was not necessary for my immediate survival.
The inevitable did come around however, and I had to go out and scavenge for much needed supplies. With the militia leaving behind some of their cars I collected a map and observed my surroundings. There were some petrol stations, smaller towns and villages, all around the area. Naturally, lone homesteads were also present.
What I decided to check first was the nearest petrol station, both for the fuel the generator might need, and any other supplies that could be useful.
Sadly, along my way I found many of the roads ruined due to fighting, littered by burned out car wrecks, corpses and fallen over trees or power lines. And still, not a single zombie.
One would had thought that this was a scene out of some war movie, especially when you saw what remained of the national guard checkpoints that refused to surrender to bandits.
It was all deserted, empty. Not a single living soul. You would had thought that with so many people alive and with the worst of the chaos dying down the world, as a whole, would “reset”. That people would go back to their normal lives, or as normal as they could get them, and the world would continue to turn, as it always had. But seeing nobody on the roads, just the dead, made me wonder how many people were still left alive.
Then I considered another possibility, that maybe only my region was so badly hit by the anarchy. Perhaps in other areas of the country order, as such, was restored.
That was my hope, but the dead radio and lack of power reminded me that the situation was much worse than it should have any right to be.
After I reached the petrol station my optimism was no greater than before. It seemed like the site of at least a few battles. None of its windows remained in place. Different symbols and graffiti painted on each and every wall. It was also hard to ignore all of the bodies that were either hanging or lying all around the station. While at first I thought that maybe somebody was still staying here the moment I looked within the station I knew this place was deserted for some time. Anything that could not be carried off was broken. No drinks, no food, nothing.
The only thing I found of some interest were messages left by previous survivors. Questions about lost ones, questions about zombie sightings, obituaries and different political slogans.
A sense of sadness went over me; would these hieroglyphs and the ruins around me be all that humanity will leave behind? Will those who actually survive this ordeal only find this, as a reminder of the world that was? Or perhaps will rescue arrive, and all the men and women present to witness this tragedy only shake their heads?
Everything that I have came to know was gone, as well as the people who once shared it with me. The more I tried to find any signs of life the lonelier I found myself in this new world. Everywhere was ruin. After none of the petrol stations proved fruitful I began to visit smaller villages and towns. Changing from one car to the next, using up my dwindling supply of fuel and food.
I stopped caring for survival, and instead focused on trying to find another living human being, somewhere, anywhere.
But what I found is exactly what I should had expected. Communities, that walled themselves off, using cars, fences, anything they could get their hands on. But behind those walls only more desolation. Bodies everywhere, old and decomposing. Burnt out buildings, rotten or destroyed supplies.
The more I saw of the same the more my anger built up. How could we had allowed this to happen? Why were we so foolish as to drop to the level of wild animals, ripping ourselves apart? I still did not see a single zombie, a single undead. If they even existed, if this virus was even real, it did not seem to bring back all of the dead around me.
It was all nonsense. Utter and complete madness. But I knew what had to be done.
There was a city nearby, large urban area. There, right there, somebody had to remain alive. It’s impossible that we would had succeeded in eradicating our species so thoroughly that nobody was left.
And so I departed, with hope, faith, and expectations of success. It sounded so plain and simple to my own mind. Certainly, people outside of the cities might had killed themselves off in all of the panic, but surely, SURELY, the cities faired better. The government would not had allowed such a total and utter collapse. If something was bound to endure through this end of the world it would had found its safe haven within the urban sprawl.
Of that I was absolutely certain.
As I was driving toward the city the car’s radio, suddenly, came to life. I do not think I ever turned it off, the static, somewhat, occupying my thoughts. It sounded like somebody talking, and although I knew the man was speaking English it sounded broken somewhat. As if it was somebody from abroad, or somebody with a serious speech impairment. After a while of listening I began to understand one thing, the “speech” was completely disjointed. Random words were being bunched up, almost making some bare, minimum sense. I believe it was meant to be a weather report. I tried checking other radio stations but this seemed to be the only broadcasting station. The closer I got to the city the more I also realised that the incoherent weather report was not stopping. It lasted for hours.
I was certain of a few things, that this was a live announcement, and that something was clearly wrong. In the background, from time to time, I could hear other people mumbling, objects falling over and, on occasion, single coherent words.
This made the skin on the back of my neck crawl. Did I come in contact with one of the so called zombies?
Then a sense of horror came over me. If the radio suddenly came alive as I was approaching the city, and I could hear the zombies through it, did it mean the whole city was crawling with them?
Paranoia and fear got the better of me, I admit. I turned the car around and headed straight for my home, the shelter. My thoughts came to the conclusion that I must not be found, that I must survive, set traps and prepare for the worst. Prepare for the zombies.
Once I returned I got straight to work, the haunting of the radio still bothering me even days after hearing it.
The shelter’s defences were reinforced, every tid-bit of food that still remained planned out to last me a meagre seven days at best. And then I had the glorious idea of preparing traps. The notion of course being that if lone zombies began travelling anywhere near my shelter they would never reach it, and it would help me monitor when they were coming closer to my safehouse.
Sadly, I was a doctor, not a trapper or skilled survivalist. I found a bear trap that I wanted to hide in the tall grass that now surrounded my shelter. As I was pulling it apart however it snapped closed and, due to my own clumsyness and the strength of its metal jaws it caught my arm.
I struggled desperately to remove the trap off my arm, but that only made the wound worse. I lack the foresight and clarity of mind to realise whether there was any safety latch or anything of the sort. I wanted to call for help, but fear of the zombies told me not to do so. If they heard me they would come to the shelter and devour me alive.
Back to the shelter I ran, looking for any tool that could help me pry the trap off my arm, but the more I struggled with crowbars and metal bars, hammers and screwdrivers the more blood I lost.
I do not know how long I lay in the shelter’s workshop, nearing my final breath, but in my delirium, just as I was about to expire, I heard a shuffle of feat just outside my room. As I raised my head and watched the doorway with what little strength I have left a woman entered my sight.
At a glance she looked normal, but the somewhat dull look in her eyes, and lack of full control over her limbs made me realise she was one of the zombies. At that very point I already came to terms with my death and I waited for her to kill me with her claws and teeth.
I closed my eyes and waited.
“D-do you need help?” I heard her ask, through her still, somewhat, functioning lungs and bare enough intelligence to see a stranger bleed out before her. A stranger who did this to himself, out of fear of what she was.
It was somewhat tragic, and ironic. I could not answer her, for it was already too late for me. I barely made a grunt and a mumble as a final thought crossed my mind.
We deserve this fate.