Ok so before I post the first chapter here, I'd like to say that this is a work in progress.
I started this story last November as it was snowing in my City and I'd just returned from an almost deathly quiet walk around. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm obsessed with Post Apocalyptic things, and so I decided to just write up something which has grown so far, to 7 chapters in length. I have had to edit out the name of where I live for security/Personal Info reasons, but I can assure you, it's all geographically and therefore real life correct.
So, let's get on with the first installment.
It was always at night that I would explore the City.
Let me bring you up to speed.
November the 10th. 2 weeks ago the State of Emergency was declared. Marshal law was enforced as an infection spread through the population. At first it was like the typical Winter cold, but soon enough those affected would begin to cough up blood and strike out at those within a close proximity. News reports, as per usual, thought the few original, isolated cases were due to a new "legal high" drug. What set these people apart though, was how they recklessly attacked the NHS staff who were there to help them, and expressed no form of regret with a twinkle of automation in their eye.
Soon enough, those News reports which once seemed a world away were on my doorstep. It was common for me to look at the TV and see soldiers in Afghanistan or in the DMZ between North and South Korea - knowing they were nowhere near me. I was safe in my little world. But no more.
So there I was, going out at night, behind the lines drawn through my City by the Army and Government. I am a University student, well was, before the infection broke out. Lecture halls are no longer full, rather just a group of Students foolhardy enough to risk infection, hell bent on finishing their degree. I was always disillusioned with the University way of life, convinced that it was only full of Upper-Class individuals who cared about only themselves. I was wrong, to an extent, and seeing as they were the first to leave, everything has thus been turned on its head.
I always walked down through the graveyard to get my supplies. It was right next to my University Campus and was never a place that people would go. Even after 2 weeks of open infection, it gained no popularity.
The snow slashed against my tender skin. My supplies had run low since I last ventured and risked my life in the wasteland that was my City pre-infection.
Graves were on either side of me, dating back to the 17th century. Humanity was at a comparitively comfortable stage then.
"Where did it all go wrong?" I whispered to myself, keeping my volume low, as well as the snow underfoot crunching to a minimum.
It wasn't working.
My feet were still crunching the compacted snow wherever I went. The training I was taught when shooting and hunting as a Child needed to become second nature. I squatted down and took stock of the situation. Behind me were the City limits. Hills that stretched to the other side of the Country, and in front of me was the hill which I lived on. University housing was evacuated, but soon after, I returned as I befriended Security over my 2 years there and managed to snatch a key. There was no need for anyone to return, or so the University thought.
I continued down the side of the graveyard, spotting a sillhouette towards the top of the hill. I froze. Squatting still, and trying not to roll back on my rear foot. My hand scraped against the wall, but soon enough the person moved. It could have been military, but it could have been scavengers. It was 8pm, the sun was firmly down, so as long as I avoided the dim lights from fires in the adjoining field, I was safe. The stench of blistering flesh hit me and a nauseating head rush almost caused me to fall over as I slowly stood up. My hand moved off of my respirator satchel, as I was soon on the move, out of the immediate stench of burning corpses. This combined with my need to reach my target was starting to take its toll. I, your humble story-teller have a medical condition I need supplies for which were not as easily accessible as the old days where you saw a Doctor as there were none. Instead I had to rely on contacts made over the years I lived here.
I kept my hand on the icy, sharp stoned wall and moved through the graveyard, keeping my eye on the crest of the hill where the sillhouette was not 5 minutes ago. The gate towards the City wasteland was straight ahead, and I managed to sneak out. I was now unprotected, exploring the Wasteland after hours. I need to survive.
I crossed the road which once flowed with cars, not having to wait for a break in the traffic. Turning right I crossed over the old railway line, which now serves to ferry the dead towards the nearest Port where the City has now become a huge crematoria. The ashes washed to the sea, forming a grey tide stretching for miles.
Houses now surrounded me. Cars still in the driveways, nothing out of the ordinary until one looks inside. Naturally I had to stay close to the shadows to avoid being seen, which often resulted in me peering through a window and seeing a corpse not a foot from my face. Their pale, rubbery skin longing for the kiss of life, but retired to the fact it will never come. Sometimes they just stare into nothingness. I wonder what is on the other side. Psychological wellbeing is paramount in this new world.
My feet crunched in the newly laying snow, forming a layer on top of the ice from yesterdays flurries of the white stuff. I was concious of leaving footprints, but as new snow began to intermittently fall, I took my chances and continued along the street. Every corner was widely taken, and this was no exception. Up ahead was a patrol of 2 scouts, illuminated by one of the few emergency streetlights running from the central generator. Each had their Recon sacks, radios, chemlights, maps and HK MP5 submachine gun.
I held my breath and positioned myself behind a shrub. My dark clothes not going well with the snow, but the cover of darkness shrouded me to almost being invisible. I always chose either dark blue or grey to go out in. Another trick I learnt when I would partake in Urban Exploration of the City before everything turned to crap. I'd often find myself wandering round at night and I had perfected the art of blending in, running and getting a nagging objective done as my source of motivation.
I kept my eye on the 2 Scouts.
"Keep going....keeeep going" I whispered to myself, peering further onto their position as I needed to get past them without being seen.
The 2 scouts stopped and discussed something, pointing to the hill where I just came from. Their radios began to transmit chatter and they were soon on their way again, disappearing into the darkness, only their green radio LED light visible.
Stepping tentatively out from behind the bush, I trod into their footprints to eliminate a 3rd pair of tracks, and the snow was already compacted, so minimising noise and my own mark. It was difficult in the dark, but the slight ambient light from the emergency ones set up every so often along paths helped to identify where to tread.
As I left the estate of houses behind, crossing another abandoned road, I slipped into a back alley. Piles of rubbish bags as tall as me, and at 6ft, that was admirable. Shame the smell wasn't. Every so often the squeal of a rodent, or the scurry of one in front of you would make your heart skip a beat, mostly as you hope their noise wouldn't attract any attention. I slid my bug out bag off my back and rummaged through it, mentally noting what I saw and felt but looking for my torch. It had fallen towards the bottom of the bag, but I grabbed it, checked each end of the alley and turned it on, inspecting a few bags of rubbish for anything of value.
As my hand brushed off the snow, some of the bags were warm.
"certainly not opening those ones" I whispered to myself. Who knows what could be in them?
I grabbed a bag from the top of a pile as I doubt they would contain anything heavy or nasty. Reaching into my pocket I found my knife, bringing it up to perforate and cut down the bag to get inside with a minimum of noise. Snow fell off of it, and out tumbled maggots and rotting food all over my boots and the virgin snow. The stench suddenly overtook that of the burning human flesh from the field I passed. Stuffing my torch into my overcoat pocket and wiping, then putting away my knife, I moved on. This wasn't what I was here for anyway and I didn't fancy leaving a pile of vomit on the snow as a further mark of my necessary night excursion.
Approaching the end of any alleyway is dangerous, not least when scout teams can pass, or an armoured vehicle is sitting just out of sight to the side with a machine gun trained on the exit of the alley.
I kept low and hugged the wall. I could see in front of me but what about behind? After watching "Saving Private Ryan" as part of my History course the idea to use a mirror hit me.
I reached into my pocket for my knife, then taking the gum from my mouth and attaching my trusty signal mirror to the knife blade I could see behind me with as little of me exposed.
I ran into the grounds of the Cathedral, knowing now I was near my contact. This was a very familiar area and strictly out of bounds due to the infection and the preservation laws passed in order to stop damage to national treasures during riots.
Looking across the grounds gave me a great vantage point. Lights were along the paths and grounds, and nobody that I could see. I just had to transverse this area and I was almost home free.
Once again sticking to the walls I pulled out my homemade silenced pistol just in case trouble were to arise, as I knew I was certainly not the only scavenger out tonight.
"Thank you, Internet" I muttered as I kept the barrel pointed on where I was headed. I had a lot of free time at University and a homemade silencer on a scavenged firearm was very handy. Who knows, maybe next, a proper silencer? I just had to keep my eye open for abandoned Scout posts.
I made sure the awkwardly placed safety was off and I gripped the polymer handgrip on the Glock 17.
Sticking once again to the shadows, I headed to the walls surrounding the Cathedral. Gravestones casting long shadows almost up to my feet.
A few minutes into this solitary, almost infinite walk, I was across the grounds. No patrols there tonight for the time being. I memorised this in case of future need to come this way again.
The narrow cobbled streets clacked and tapped as I always tried to step lightly, but some inevitably rattled on the thin snow here.
Ahead was the low hum of a moving vehicle. I moved into the middle of the road and saw the rear lights and a 2-man patrol behind the now-identified Hummvee. My contact lived at 32.
I passed 10.
Sticking once again to the walls, sometimes dodging in and out of front yards. Untended to and home to rats.
20 came and went. The hum continued, but going the same speed meant I continued uninhibited.
Looking to my left I saw the door and the homemade doorbell so you don't have to knock and cause attention to be drawn to yourself.
I pushed it.
A shadow approached the door and opened slightly. Chains all along the door and a peering eye in the chain-allowed gap. White and piercing. A hard life was had by him. It showed.
Upon seeing my now uncovered and damp face in the dim light, he closed the door, scuffled the chains and opened the door once again.
In I stepped.
The door closed slowly but quickly behind me, almost enveloping me in wood. Keeping a low profile is paramount when the human form can be so recognisable.
"So how was the journey?" the man's hoarse voice projected around the damp, candle-lit flickering house.
"Oh, the usual", I replied. "A few patrols, one down this road -"
"Ah I heard that one, too" the man responded with. "A bit earlier than usual. Something must be going on"
I nodded in acknowledgement as we headed to the upstairs lounge. The Army patrols have a habit of shining high-intensity lights into ground floor windows to identify individuals with the aid of state of the art cameras. databases are slowly built on those seen in the lens. Innocent or not.
I sat back in the springless chair, almost sinking into it as it was starving after years of abuse. My legs were aching, and this was a sure welcome rest. The leather squeaking under my rubbing thumbs.
"So you here for the box?" the man said, carressing his old, wrinkled face. To think he fought in major conflicts and now to have this Military presence on his doorstep makes me wonder.
"Sure am" I replied optimistically. It usually contains narcotics, ammunition and forged food ration stamps. Sometimes important documents to pass on, or a few e-books from before the infection on an encrypted USB drive that we share, teaching me survival skills. Maybe even a film or 2. Blu-ray came a long way.
The man ducked under his desk and pulled out the black box. Wooden, crockering as he handed it to me. His age showing through his handling of the box.
I took the box in my hands, tracing and finding the lock, creaking it open and peering inside with the help of my maglite.He had given me some 9mm hollowpoint rounds, a bottle of morphine, a replacement needle, about 3.5g of Cannabis and a film called "The Holy Mountain". I was reccommended it was a total headfuck. My kinda film. In the wasteland, you need things to keep your mind occupied. Electricity was rationed to a few hours a day, so I could watch this film on my laptop. Charging the now numerous batteries I had scavenged was very useful in order to work outside of the rationed hours.
I handed over some paperwork to the old man, like I said we needed entertainment in this new World. TV shows were just repeats, or recorded broadcasts were the only entertainment for most. File sharing speeds were at a snails-pace as the local Internet was flooded with Military packets. Life was boring, but you daren't go outside.
"Thank you ever so much" he whispered, the paper almost transparent in his aged, freckled hands. Maybe it was just the candle flickering in the breeze through the old room. Much of this City is still Medieval, and this house was no exception. Luckily we were far enough from the window to avoid being detected by sentries. The papers were just News reports, excerpts from books and some observations of my own. Being a History Student, my interests ranged from Conflicts to modern Laws. I hated old History, I preferred gritty, controversial events - much like now.
I placed the rickety hardwood box into my pocket and moved around to check for noises. I took it out as this was not quiet enough to bypass the Sentries by the Graveyard.
"Do you have anything to..." I didn't finish, and making a motion like stuffing a turkey, the old man handed me some insulation. I pushed it into the box, closing the lid and repeated the process.
"Perfect" I said, smiling.
I hugged him, wished him well and opened the back door, keeping an upward tension on it to avoid any squeaking. As I turned round, the almost teary glint in his eyes locked onto mine. After checking and securing my pockets, coat and footwear, I was enveloped by the night.