They walk the streets, flesh hanging loose from long dead bones, faces slack and emotionless. Once they hunted, ran down whatever prey they could catch and feed upon, but there’s little prey left nowadays, so now they simply walk. Sleeplessly, endlessly walk, with neither destination nor any real notion of time as it passes.
There was a time they would’ve hunted me, chased me down, but now their eyes slide over me as though I was nothing more than part of the landscape. I’m beyond their notice. Beneath it.
This is useful.
As little as two weeks ago there would’ve been no way I could make my way down this street, crowded as it is with animate corpses, without having my entrails torn from my body and spread across the walls of the nearby buildings. As things stand, however, I’m walking unmolested, carrying with me several boxes, a load heavier than I could once have ever hoped to carry unaided.
Due to the fact that I have a trolley. It’s the trolley that allows me to carry the boxes so easily. I ought to be clear, I’m no stronger than I once was, whatever else about me has changed.
I could have mentioned that sooner.
It just gets hard sometimes.
Hard to focus.
Okay, so down the street I walk, pushing my trolley, carrying several hundred pounds of emergency military rations I found in the now abandoned military compound a few miles from the fortified warehouse in which my encampment is holed up. I pass dozens, maybe hundreds of the dead as I go, but none of them spare me a moment’s attention as they shuffle aimlessly back and forth. I’m invisible to them, or irrelevant, and it’s because of this that I’m sent on supply runs like this. Why I’m sent by myself.
It’s lonely, but I’m doing it for the good of the group back at the Warehouse. I have an opportunity, however briefly, to help them survive a little longer, and I’ll pursue it for as long as I’m able.
I don’t approach the Warehouse from the front, that would draw too much attention to it and nobody wants that. Instead I go around to the back entrance, where an improvised sling and pulley system has been built and lowered from an open window twenty feet above the ground. I load the supplies onto the sling, bang on the door twice with a fist that moves slower than it did even as early as this morning, and wait.
I don’t know how long I wait.
Time doesn’t occupy my mind in the same way it used to. I know it should, but it doesn’t.
Eventually, a man whose name I no longer remember pokes his head out the window and, seeing me, signals to somebody back inside. The sling begins to rise into the air toward the Warehouse’s window, bringing the treasures I’ve found to the people who need them most.
I realize, as it rises, that I can’t remember specifically how the pulley system works. I think I might have designed it, I ought to know how it works, but I can’t focus enough to recall...
“Thank you, Alec,” the stranger above me calls down once the supplies are unloaded, “I hope you understand how much what you’re doing means to us, we wouldn’t have a hope in hell of survival if it wasn’t for you.”
I try to form words, but all that comes out is a moan. Yesterday I formed words. Not many, and it was uncomfortably difficult, but a few. I wish I could form words, I have so much I want to say.
I want to tell them to keep her safe. She’s beautiful and bright, and she’s only six. She can’t take care of herself. I want to tell them to bring her to the window, so I can tell her daddy loves her. I want to tell her she’s my whole world, and that I’d do anything, will continue doing everything I can, to keep her safe and fed and breathing.
It’s probably for the best that I can no longer speak. I wouldn’t really want them to bring her to the window. I don’t want her to see me like this.
I do wish I could remember her name, though…
So I moan, then turn, trolley in tow, and start making my way back through the alley and around to the front of the warehouse. I think I can make it back to the military compound for one more load before the rest of what I once referred to as my “self” slips away. I hope I can. It’s too important not to.
I hope I can remember where the compound is.
I hope I can remember how to tell the difference between the boxes of supplies, and get the ones that might be of some use.
I hope that by the time I return I’m not so far gone that I forget to go around back.
And they say things nowadays are hopeless?
I shuffle out into the street, still moaning, and the dead moan a greeting back at me. It would be so easy to lose myself in what’s happened to me in the days since I was bitten and join them.
But I can’t.
I still have work to do.