Alone, Part Two

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Alone, Part Two

 

“Don’t slow down!” was all Harry could think. His legs screamed at him to stop but, when he looked back and saw the huge swarm of Infected chasing him, his brain screamed at him to go faster.

He rounded a corner onto another street only to find it filled with Infected, who all looked up at him.

“Oh, shhhhit!” Harry shouted, turning into an alley. Immediately, he saw it was a dead end: the alley continued, then stopped with a brick wall rising up, higher than he could climb. Harry turned back to the mouth of the alley, ready to fight to the death.

However, as he turned, something above him caught his eye. A fire escape, seven feet off the ground. Harry sighed gratefully, then ran towards the wall opposite the fire escape. He ran up the wall a foot or two and, just before he began to fall back to the ground, Harry pushed off and turned, and managed to grab onto the cold, black metal of the fire escape.

As he was pulling himself up, the first of the Infected entered the alley. When he got onto the first landing, he felt something on his leg, so he looked down. An Infected, which Harry referred to as Tongues, had shot out its super-long tongue and wrapped it around his ankle. The tongue was covered in spikes and pouches full of a poison, and one spike had pierced his ankle, opening a shallow cut.

As Harry tried to shake it off, a poison sack popped, and a thick, purple liquid seeped into the wound. It stung immediately, and Harry screamed.

He drew his M1911 pistol, then followed the tongue with his gaze. Finding the Tongue that grabbed him, Harry fired three times at it, ripping its face apart. The tongue fell away, and Harry began limping up the fire escape. He could feel the cold poison flowing through his blood.

It wouldn’t kill him. He’d been stuck with it before, but it would cause him to pass out for several hours, so he had to be somewhere safe when he did. Otherwise, he’d be at the mercy of the Infected.

Harry reached the top of the building, and found a roof access door. “Don’t be locked, you son of a bitch…” Harry muttered, weak. He’d be out soon. Trying the door, the knob didn’t budge so, with all the strength he could muster, he smashed the knob with the butt of his M1911.

It broke off, and Harry kicked the door open. Darkness was starting to fill the corners of his vision. He limped into the stairwell, and immediately saw a door off to the side. He tried the knob, and it was unlocked.

He struggled to open the door, and found it was a small janitorial closet, with a mop and cleaning supplies. Harry collapsed inside, closed the door, and closed his eyes.

*

Harry awoke a while later. His throat was dry, he had a headache, and his ankle was slightly swollen and sore, but he had been untouched while he was unconscious, and that’s what mattered.

He looked at his watch, which read 9:37 PM, about five hours after he passed out. He sighed, rubbed his eyes, then left the building. He figured out which way he had to go to get home, then began that way.

*

“I’m sorry, Abigail. I just… I can’t stay here,” Harry said. He stood in front of Abigail’s grave that he had dug in a small park just outside his apartment building. “The city is too full of these… things. There’s so many of them. It’s too dangerous.”

As Harry cried lightly and silently, it began to drizzle. Absentmindedly, he pulled up the hood of his grey sweatshirt.

“I’m leaving. I’ve been here, living through this, for three years, and it’s time to go. Food was scarce to begin with, now it’s basically gone. There’s a lot more to find out there, probably less Infected in one place if I stay away from… you know, Chicago, LA.”

“And… Well, it’s hard to stay here because of you, Abigail. Every time I come home, I see you here, and I just… I don’t know, it’s weird. But I can’t take it anymore.”

Harry glanced around and saw, far down the street, an Infected wander into view. By itself, it just stumbled off behind another building. He wasn’t afraid of the Infected anymore, but Harry shivered.

“I love you, Abigail. I always will.”

*

Harry stood high on the support tower for one of the bridges that connected New York City to mainland New York. The bridges had been blown shortly after martial law was declared, and one of the early actions of the military was to throw a chemical in the rivers that would cause anyone who touched it to break out in boils and die, not allowing anyone to leave. They hoped to stop the spread of the Imperium virus. But, from what Harry had heard before the news channels went out, the virus had reached as far as Iowa, and showed no signs of slowing down.

Harry had two duffel bags by his feet, his messenger bag on his back, and in his hands, he held a harpoon gun that he had picked up from a water sports rental shop the day before. He had fitted it with an extremely long nylon rope that was supposed to hold several hundred pounds at a time.

He was about to find out if that was true.

Harry took careful aim and fired at the support tower across the river. He watched it sail across and down, and his heart fell. It wasn’t going to make it.

But it did. The harpoon buried itself about 11 feet from the ground on the other side of the river and, even though Harry pulled on it really hard, it didn’t budge. He then tied the rope on his side to a metal anchor on the tower.

Harry took up the first duffel bag by his feet, which was filled with all the food, water, and medicine he could scrounge up in a week. He clipped a carabiner to it, then connected it to the nylon rope. The bag was about 120 pounds lighter than Harry was, so while he was happy it made it across without causing the rope to collapse, it didn’t reassure him at all.

When the bag got to the other side, Harry clipped the second bag, which held several rifles, shotguns, and pistols, along with hundreds of rounds for them, and several close combat weapons, like hammers, machetes, axes, to the rope. He clipped this bag the same way as the first, and sent it down the rope.

When it got to the end, Harry took a deep breath, then took out another carabiner. He ran a small length of nylon cord through it, then ran it through his the belt loops on his jeans. Finally, he attached the carabiner to the harpoon rope. Harry then drew his axe from the sleeve on his back, and held it over the rope, resting the handle on top of the rope. That way, if the nylon on his belt broke, he’d still be supported by the axe.

Harry took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and pushed off. After a moment, he opened his eyes, and saw the tower rushing up to him. The rope was holding, and he was going to make it!

He got to the tower, and heard the rope creaking. He quickly unclipped the two bags, then, when he went to unclip himself, the rope snapped, and he fell.

Harry gritted his teeth and landed on his feet, his legs immediately screaming, and he realized he was right on the edge of the destroyed bridge, teetering over the edge of the river. He tried to gain his balance to stop himself from falling into the dangerous water 40 feet below.

Finally, after what seemed like hours to Harry, he stood up straight, then moved forward, away from the water. He collapsed and sat, fear running through his bones. That had been way too close.

Harry turned and looked back at the city, which he would never see again.

Before he could get nostalgic or upset, Harry collected his bags, slung them on his back, and limped away.

*

Harry limped farther into New Jersey, trying to put as much distance as he could from Manhattan before his body forced him to rest.

He found a highway and chose a car to rest in. He smashed the back window, unlocked the door, and crawled in. Harry then dropped his bags in the back seat, and sat in the driver’s seat. There were no keys to be found, so Harry just sighed and closed his eyes.

*

Harry awoke the next morning. His legs were still sore, but not as bad as they had been. Harry took a look at them, and while they were covered with brownish-colored bruises, they were otherwise ok.

He collected his bags from the car, then walked a short ways. Finally, he realized he wasn’t going to get far if he was carrying 180 or so pounds of equipment, so he stopped at the first pickup truck he found. Harry set the bags in the bed of the truck, then went through them. He filled his messenger bag with canned food, water bottles, bottles of ibuprofen, iodine, and shots of morphine.

Harry took out a rifle scabbard from the weapons bag and slung it on his back. He then drew a Remington 700 sniper rifle from the bag, and slid it into the scabbard. He returned his M16 assault rifle to his back, then took stock.

He had his M16, M1911, and Remington. He also had a knife on his left hip, and a hammer in the loop of his jeans. In his bag, he had a hatchet and a Glock 18. The small, triangular Coca-Cola bag he had high on his back was filled with magazines and loose rounds for each of the guns, and the camera bag at his side had additional ammo in it. Deciding this was enough, he scrounged around the stalled cars and eventually found a large piece of wood and some paint.

On the wood, he wrote “Supplies. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.” and stood it up in the bed of the truck, where the rest of his supplies sat.

Harry sighed, then continued on his way.

*

The Georgia sun beat down on Harry as he walked through a small town. It was warm for February, and he had taken off his leather jacket and grey hoodie, put them in his bag, and rolled up the sleeves of his navy blue button-up shirt.

He held his M16 in his hands, but loosely; he hadn’t seen a single Infected in a few days. The Imperium virus had a much higher chance of killing the host than turning it into a mindless monster, so in a small town like this, there was a good chance that no one would have survived to turn.

Harry entered a house, looking for water. He was burning through his supply quickly, and he needed to stock up on it quite frequently.

Immediately upon entering, Harry saw the body of a man wearing a backpack. Harry rifled through it, but found nothing of use. He began to stand and leave, but stopped. For a reason he wasn’t sure of, Harry reached into the body’s pocket and pulled out his wallet. He opened it and looked at the driver’s license.

“Wayne Dunlap…” Harry muttered aloud, thoughtful. “Sorry this happened to you, Wayne. I really am.”

Harry set the wallet down next the Wayne’s lifeless hand, and then stood and left the house.

He found a corner store and entered. The refrigerators at the back of the store were stocked full of soda and juice, most of which had expired by now, but there was no water.

Harry glanced at his watch. 3:21 PM. February 18th, 2016. Long time since the world went to hell, and still, Harry stood.

He sighed, then checked behind the counter. He found a pistol that was obviously in bad shape, so Harry just took the magazine from it. He returned to the main area of the store, glanced around one more time, and put the magazine in his pocket.

He didn’t notice that his wallet fell out when he removed his hand.

Harry left the corner store and walked for many more years.

*

Harry walked down the street of a Nebraskan city. It seemed to be deserted, and he hadn’t seen a single Infected in his few days there.

He glanced in shop windows and up at the several-story high buildings. They were tall, but nothing compared to the skyscrapers in New York. He still wasn’t used to the wide open lands of Nebraska and Oklahoma, even though he’d been walking through them for months.

Harry glanced at a store window that had jewelry on display. He took a step forward and looked at a sapphire necklace that he thought Abigail would’ve loved. He smiled, but something felt off. Slowly, he realized he couldn’t remember what Abigail’s face looked like, or how her voice sounded.

Harry’s head filled with sadness, but that was thrown away when he heard a distant thud.

And another.

And another.

The window and the jewelry behind it shook and shuddered.

Harry turned, raising his rifle up. Whatever he was hearing, it was big. It had to be taller than the buildings he was standing among, but he couldn’t see anything past them.

The thuds continued for a few tense minutes. Harry was trying to control his breathing, like he had learned in the Marines, and trying not to let his fear overtake him.

He heard a roar, louder than a tank firing, and he spun toward it. Another roar sounded, and he realized it was echoing around, so he couldn’t locate the source of it.

Harry moved slowly, his eyes looking down the sights of his rifle, which he was holding tightly with white knuckles. Harry’s breathing was slow and shallow, but all his muscles were tense.

Finally, he heard the crack of pavement behind him, and he turned in time to see a huge chunk of a building fall to the ground. Bricks, plaster, and shards of glass scattered around the sidewalk and street. Another roar came from around the corner of that building, and then the maker of the noise came into view.

It was huge, easily five or six stories tall, and it was that huge even though it was hunched over. Its skin was a gory pink and red, and it had huge chunks of jagged bone jutting out of it. Its legs were large, but weak and scrawny-looking compared to the rest of its body. One arm was large and solid, like a shield, while the other was weak-looking, like its legs. It moved by slamming its shield arm on the ground and dragging itself along. Its head was a skull about as big as Harry’s whole body. It was warped, distorted, and caved in in places. Muscle and bloody flesh clung to it weakly.

Harry’s breath caught in his throat. There was no way he could fight this thing.

The gigantic Infected roared again, then slammed its shield arm down on the ground in front of it, facing Harry, and began pushing with its legs and bad arm, moving at a speed Harry wouldn’t have guessed it could. It ripped up the asphalt of the street, and tore off a few bricks and broke windows of the buildings on either side of it as it rushed towards Harry.

“Shit!” Harry screamed. He turned and ran as fast as he possibly could, faster than he ever had before. The muscles in his legs already burned with the strain that was being put on them. Looking back, however, he could tell the gigantic monster would catch him.

Harry’s hand dug into his pocket, and he pulled out a shot of adrenaline. It was a shot that people who were allergic to bees would inject into them if they were stung, and it was dangerous to use if one didn’t need it, as a huge level of adrenaline injected into one’s system suddenly could basically cause the heart to pop.

However, it was between a chance of dying by the adrenaline, or being killed for sure by the Infected, so Harry stabbed the shot into his leg.

Almost immediately, he could feel a huge addition of energy. The pain in his legs dulled a lot, and Harry forced them to move faster. He looked back, and saw he was pulling away from the monster. Harry estimated he was moving at around 24 miles per hour.

He turned a corner, and a few seconds later, the monster broke through the building Harry had just turned past. The debris crashing to earth shook the ground, and Harry stumbled. As he stood, he saw a manhole cover a few hundred feet ahead, and realized that was his only chance. He could run faster than the Infected, but not for long. Harry could already feel the adrenaline’s effects fading.

Harry slid a few feet away from the manhole and came to a stop right next to it, drawing his knife. He jammed his knife under the lid and pried it off with all his might. He looked towards the gigantic monster bearing down on him, and when it was only 50 feet away, Harry got the cover off. When it was 20 feet away, Harry jumped through.

He fell down into the sewers just as the giant monster tore over it. It roared and roared, deafening Harry as he picked himself up from the damp concrete floor. He raised his rifle, clicked on the flashlight that was ziptied to the barrel of the gun, and began forward.

Harry got only a few hundred steps before the flashlight flickered and died. He didn’t have a spare, and the batteries were deep in his messenger bag, which he would never be able to find in the dark.

Harry took a deep breath, shrugged, and moved on in the dark.

*

The lone wanderer walked in blindness for several days. Above, but getting farther away, he could hear the roar of the giant Infected. However, after a while, he could no longer hear it.

“What the hell was that?” Harry muttered to himself. “How in the world does a virus make something like that?” He kept walking, having no answer. No other disease in history had caused a mutation that drastic.

“What can I call it?” Harry whispered after a while, smiling slightly. “Giant?” He chuckled, then shook his head. No, too boring. Hm… Goliath… Yeah, Goliath works. Big fucking thing like that, Goliath fits it.”

Harry chuckled to himself as he walked on and on.

*

After a long time in the sewers, Harry walked into a ladder. He decided he had to be far enough away for it to be safe, so he climbed up and removed the cover.

The sunlight blinded him the moment he surfaced, and all he could see was white. Harry shielded his eyes, already feeling a headache coming on. Eyes shut, he pulled himself the rest of the way out of the hole and sat on the ground. Gradually, his vision cleared, and he stood shakily.

As his vision cleared, Harry noticed everything had a bluish tint, which he knew would go away soon enough.

He found himself in a small, run-down neighborhood. He made straight for a house nearby and went inside. Harry moved through the house quickly, finding a single, “normal” Infected inside, which he killed quickly.

On the kitchen table, Harry found a magazine entitled “The South Dakota Weekly.”

“South Dakota, huh?” he muttered. “Must’ve covered a long distance down there…”

Harry proceeded to scavenge the neighborhood, but there was something on his mind the whole time. He tried and tried, but for the life of him, Harry couldn’t remember what his late wife’s face looked like.

It bothered him, it tugged at his gut. He remembered, however, that he had a picture of Abigail in his wallet. He reached into his pocket, but found it empty. Harry checked his messenger bag, then rifled through all of his other belongings. He realized with dismay that he must’ve dropped it somewhere before. Whether it was in the sewers, or when he was being chased by the Goliath, or somewhere before that, he didn’t know.

What he did know was that he couldn’t remember Abigail’s face, and he would never see it again.

Feeling a knot in his throat, Harry picked up his bags and walked.

*

“Why is Wyoming so empty?” Harry muttered to himself, taking step after step down a seemingly endless highway. On either side of him was endless fields, as it had been for miles. When Harry had first passed the “Welcome to Wyoming!” sign, he began to count how many steps it would take to reach a town. He lost count after thirty-thousand.

The air was slightly cold, but Harry didn’t mind. He was distracted by the earbuds in his ears, playing the music of Elbow’s album Leaders of the Free World. He had his hood up, and fingerless gloves on his hands. He could feel his nose starting to run, but it didn’t bother him much. He fell into a steady rhythm of sniffling, but gave it no more thought.

Harry had had time to think about his wife, but still couldn’t remember what she looked like. It had been eight months since he realized his wallet was gone, and he had spent every waking moment trying his hardest to think of what Abigail looked like, her expression when Harry called her by her full name, what her laugh sounded like, or what the last thing she said to him was.

But all that remained were hazy images and static.

Harry realized that he had been staring at the ground and cursed himself. With the music in his ears and his eyes on the ground, it wouldn’t have been hard for an Infected to sneak up on him. However, he got lucky, and there were still no Infected nearby.

Harry raised his eyes, and immediately caught sight of what looked like a small town in the distance. He could make out a gas station, a barn, and several small buildings. The barn seemed to be the tallest structure in town.

He made it to the town in around twenty minutes. As he walked past the gas station he had seen from a distance, Harry glanced around and slowly unslung his rifle from his back. He put the stock to his shoulder, but held it down, ready to bring it up at a moment’s notice.

Harry made quick work of the houses closest to the gas station. To Harry’s satisfaction, there was not a single Infected to be found. However, there also wasn’t a single can of food, bottle of water, or bit of medicine.

Must’ve been scavenged to hell… Harry thought to himself. Probably shouldn’t even bother checking the rest of the houses.

Regardless, out of compulsion, Harry checked the remaining houses. After several hours of fruitless scavenging, he came upon a house that was stocked to the brim with supplies. He found water, a huge variety of canned food, penicillin, morphine, adrenaline, and every other medication that could benefit him. Soon, his bag was close to being full.

Harry was rummaging through a cabinet when he thought he heard a creak behind him. He turned, drawing his sidearm. He held it, leveled at the door, for about a minute. After nothing came into view, Harry slowly returned the M1911 to his holster, and after several more nervous seconds, he turned back to the cabinet. He was picking up a can of chili when he heard another creak behind him.

However, before he could turn around, something hit him in the back of the head, and he fell, hitting his face on the cabinet.

From behind him, Harry heard “Found ‘im!” through his ringing ears. Gritting his teeth, Harry turned, putting his back against the cabinet, and saw a man covered in tattoos and wearing a biker vest turning back towards him. He was clutching a wooden baseball bat, and began to raise it up as he walked towards Harry.

Harry, knowing a move to his sidearm would invite another slam from the baseball bat to the top of his head, kicked out with his right leg. His heel struck the man’s knee, and he fell on it.

“Oh, son of a bitch!” he shouted, grabbing for Harry’s collar. “You’re fuckin’ dead!”

Harry raised up his arm, blocking the incoming hand, and pushed it away, knocking the man off balance. Harry then punched with his left hand, hitting the man directly in the nose. Blood exploded from his nostrils like a faucet.

Dazed from the hit, Harry kicked again, this time hitting the man in his chest. As the man fell to his back, gasping for air, Harry stood and drew his pistol.

“What the hell is your problem?” Harry shouted, aiming at the man’s head.

“You’re fuckin’ stealin’ from us!” the man screamed, holding his nose. His hand slowly crept towards the baseball bat that he had dropped. It was clear he was trying to be discrete, but his movement was obvious. In response, Harry stomped as hard as he could on the man’s arm.

The man screamed, but used the moment to sweep Harry’s one grounded leg out from under him. When Harry landed, the wind was knocked out of him, and he dropped his pistol. The man quickly lunged at Harry, but Harry rolled away. The man, on his feet now, fell on Harry and landed a punch to Harry’s jaw.

Before he could land another hit, however, Harry jabbed his elbow into the man’s throat, then kicked the man up and over him. Harry rolled to his stomach, then got up and pushed himself towards the man. The man whipped his hand out, and slapped Harry in the face, causing Harry to fall to the side.

Harry recovered and rolled onto his stomach, but the man fell onto Harry’s back and began to strangle him from behind. Harry managed to get up on one knee, the man’s arm still around his neck in a choke hold. The corners of Harry’s vision began to darken, so he hit the man in his nose with the back of his head. The man let go, screaming in pain, and Harry turned to him.

As Harry began to draw his knife, however, he felt his arm restrained behind him. He could tell this new attacker’s other hand was going for his free arm, so Harry instead threw his free elbow into the attacker’s gut. He heard a female grunt, and then the attacker fell to the ground.

As he turned, Harry thought he saw another figure standing in the doorway, but he couldn’t worry about that now; the man was now rising to his feet.

Grunting, Harry kicked out, hitting the man square in the chest and sending him stumbling backwards, into the cabinets Harry had been rummaging through a minute before. Harry began to turn back to the other attacker when he felt a sharp pain in his left shin. He looked down to see a woman holding the hilt of a knife, the blade of which was buried in Harry’s leg. He could tell it was a small knife, but it would still leave a bad wound.

Harry fell to his knee, feigning great pain, and the woman withdrew the knife from his leg. As she brought it back to stab it back into Harry, he punched her in the side of the head, grabbed her hand that held the knife, and twisted her wrist back towards her. With Harry’s weight now pushing down against her, the woman fell onto her back.

Harry looked into the woman’s terrified eyes as he pushed the knife that she held towards her throat. She was pushing back with all her might, but the knife was slowly drawing closer to her throat.

Harry saw movement in the reflection of the woman’s eyes, so he quickly swung with a closed fist behind him, turning slightly, and made contact with the face of the man, who had gotten to his feet and advanced on Harry. He heard a sickening thunk as the man landed, and Harry knew the man would be dazed enough to not be a danger for a few minutes.

His mouth a thin line, Harry returned to putting the knife into the woman’s neck. Right before the knife made contact with her skin, the woman opened her mouth, possibly to beg for mercy. However, only a choked whimper came out before the knife pierced skin, and she immediately began to choke on blood. Harry pushed the whole blade into her throat, and held it there until she stopped struggling. When she was still, Harry slowly stood and turned.

The man lay on the ground, bleeding from his nose and the back of his head. His eyes were cloudy, but he was aware of what Harry had done. One hand was out defensively, trying to ward off Harry, and the other was blindly reaching for anything to grab to use against Harry.

“Please…” the man muttered, spitting blood. “Please, just – just go! Take what you want! We don’t-”

Right then, the man’s hand brushed against Harry’s pistol on the floor, and tried to grab a hold of it. Sighing internally, Harry let any chance of not needing to kill this man go, and he stepped towards the man. Realizing he had no time to take the rifle from his back, Harry gritted his teeth, raised his right foot up above the man’s head, and slammed his heel down with as much force as he could. The man’s face caved in with a sickening sound, and blood splattered up onto Harry.

Harry let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and, trying his best not to look at the bloody mess that used to be the man’s head, Harry crouched and picked up his pistol. As soon as he had it in his hand, he heard a creak behind him, and remembered the third figure in the door.

Harry spun, raising the gun, only to see that he was looking down the sights at a young boy. He was maybe 8 or 9, and he held a pistol loosely at his side. His face was a mixture of horror and sadness, and tears were streaming down his face.

“Drop that right now,” Harry said, mind calm, voice shaking. The boy did so immediately, the pistol clattering to the floor. The boy then turned to look at Harry.

You can’t kill him, came a voice in Harry’s head. He’s just a kid!

What do you want me to do? Harry snarled back at it.

Take him with you! Take care of him!

You can’t be fucking serious. He just saw me kill his parents! You really think he’s gonna go with me!

You can’t just leave him here! He’ll die from the Infected!

Harry’s finger, which had been off the trigger, slowly moved onto it. He’ll die either way. Shouldn’t I make it quick? It’s better than being torn apart or starving to death.

The voice was silent. It didn’t know which option was better.

The boy looked at Harry, nothing but emptiness in his eyes. All he had was gone, and he couldn’t quite register it.

Harry held the boy in his sights for several minutes, an internal battle raging inside him. He tried to think of what the right thing to do was. His hand shook slightly, and he almost thought his hand was lowering.

Whatever you do, do it quickly, the voice said quietly.

“I’m sorry,” Harry muttered quietly.

Gritting his teeth, Harry pulled the trigger.

*

One day, in Idaho, it was overcast and grey. Rain had just started to fall, and distant thunder rumbled. Harry Conrad sat in a small cottage, numb and unmoving. His stomach growled and his throat felt like a desert after having sat still for 32 hours, but he felt nothing.

For the first time, Harry wanted to die.

He had toyed with the idea of killing himself, but found he wasn’t able to bring the gun to his head, much less pull the trigger.

A shout of thunder sounded just overhead, and a flash of lightning left a scar in the grey sky. At the sound and the light, Harry looked up slowly, stood, and left the cottage.

He walked into the rain, which was now pouring quite heavily, and looked around. Harry was on a road that cut through a forest, so there was a dense covering of trees all around. At the sound of another growl of thunder, Harry screamed.

“Come on!” he shouted, turning his body around, hoping an Infected would hear him. “Kill me! Come on! End it!”

He turned slowly, looking for any sign of movement. “Come on, you motherfuckers! Kill me! COME ON!”

Harry stood in the pouring rain, looking around slowly for something, anything, that could kill him, tear him from his wretched existence. Reunite him with his wife, or at least end the nightmare he faced.

But, for better or for worse, nothing came to kill Harry, and he eventually went back into the cottage. He slept for several days before he set off again.

*

A deer moved slowly through the forest. It sniffed a leaf hanging on a low branch before gently taking it off the wood with its mouth. It chewed thoughtfully, then kept walking.

It came upon a clearing, where the sun shown down. The deer walked into the sunlight and relished the warmth of it, which was a nice change from the freezing snow that covered the trees. It shifted some of the snow from the ground, then ripped up a mouthful of grass and chewed.

The deer only became aware of the figure above it a second when it was too late. The deer’s back broke immediately, and then if felt something stab into the back of its neck. It died without a sound.

Harry stood up from the deer, pulling his knife from its brainstem. He looked up at the tree that he had been sitting in all day, waiting for game to walk by. He was lucky that this deer had been standing still, because he sprained his leg a few months back trying to drop on a moving elk.

Harry picked the deer up, hefting it on his left shoulder, and drew his hammer with his right hand. Infected were scarce in the woods of Alaska, but they were there.

He carried the dead deer for several miles before getting back to the cave he had been living in for a few months. Harry dropped the deer in the cave and dug through his long, thick beard to scratch his chin. Absentmindedly, he looked at his watch. 11:57 AM. November 19th, 2031. Harry had been moving about the forest for 6 years now, staying in different caves for few months at a time. He’d found a few shacks, ranger stations, and lodges, but he prefered staying outside.

He had absentmindedly dubbed this transformation “going tribal,” which entailed living outside and hunting instead of scavenging for food. He hadn’t consciously realized it, but he didn’t so much as remember the name of his long-dead wife.

Harry Conrad had changed. For the worse, he thought. In his years of surviving, he’d killed things that used to be men, women, and children, more than he could count. More than he cared to remember. He’d become merciless, killing without a second thought.

One day, Harry sat atop the tallest tree in the forest and watched the sun set. Orange, pink, and purple fingers stretched across the sky, slowly pulling the night into place.

Then, speaking for the first time in 14 years, Harry mused “What have I become? …Something less than human…” He sighed and scratched his head, then said “But… also something more.”

Harry finally decided on what he was several months later.

A monster.

That’s all he was now.

*

After several more months, Harry began to tire of the scenery. So, just as he dropped out of college and joined the Marines because he felt something inside him, compelling him to move onward, he left the forest and moved through Canada back into the United States. He worked his way south through Washington and Oregon, then began east and kept walking.

Harry moved on and on, never staying in the same place for too long. He fought Infected, he scavenged food, and he still saw himself as a monster.

All the while, he knew he wanted to die. He didn’t want to live in this nightmare anymore, he didn’t want to walk endlessly, knowing he was a monster.

But he couldn’t allow himself to die. His self-preservation was too strong to allow him to lay down and die, and he couldn’t bring himself to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger. Harry’s mind was filled only with darkness, but still, he walked.

*

One day, Harry found himself in Georgia, in a small town he had visited over a decade ago. He, of course, didn’t remember it, so he was somewhat surprised when he found the corner store devoid of any useful items.

As he was about to leave, something on the ground caught his eye.

A wallet.

It was once a hobby for him to check the wallets of bodies, just to see what their names had been. Harry had tried to hold onto his humanity this way. He had abandoned it, however, once he became a monster.

He opened the brown leather wallet and turned up a flap. The driver’s license had a familiar face, and it said “Harry Joel Conrad.”

“How in the world…” Harry muttered. He remembered that day, so long ago, that he had realized he dropped his wallet, but he had no idea that he had dropped it here. He stared at his picture a long time, then looked through the rest of the wallet.

Inside the pocket that had a few dollars in it, he found a picture. As Harry pulled it out, he felt his eyes begin to tear up.

It was of a woman, 26 years old when the picture was taken. Mid-back length sandy blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, blue eyes, a few freckles, and a smile that just radiated warmth and friendliness.

“Abigail,” Harry whispered, all of his memories of her flooding back to him. He sat down and cried silently for a long time.

*

Harry looked at himself in the mirror, rubbing his chin, which now only had a short beard. He had shaved the foot long hair off of it. As well, his hair was now much shorter and respectable looking. More like it was when he was a human.

He picked up his supplies and left the house that he had been staying in for a few weeks. Harry had decided a while ago that he wanted to leave the United States, see if the rest of the world was as bad as this country was. At least, nowhere could be worse. He thought Britain sounded good.

Harry walked north until he got to Maine. He found the coast and a boat that could last the voyage.

With a map and a compass in hand, Harry set out for what he hoped was a safer world.

Andy Conrad