I found this notebook at the bottom of my bag this morning. I was looking for my last can of tuna. There’s not much in here, a to do list from a few months ago: groceries, gas, dentist appointment. I wish I had used the space for another can of beans. I think I’ll try to write in it every day. There’s nothing else to do.
It’s gotten real cold; it must be well into January. I did the best I could but am finding that I’m not prepared for winter. My boots are sturdy but not meant for the cold. I haven’t been able to find any good shelter for a few days and I’m afraid to take them off. I fear several toes have gotten frostbite. Food is running short. I have been rationing it but will run out in the next couple of days. The last few houses I have come across have already been picked clean. Not so much as a crumb left. Game is scarce, not that I could kill anything having lost my rifle last month. My luck has to change.
I slept in a ditch last night to stay out of the wind. The sun woke me early in the morning. I had a crushed pop tart for breakfast and took the time to start a fire and melt some snow for water. The sky is unusually clear today; perhaps it will warm up a few degrees.
I have been unfair in regards to the weather, I may be on the verge of hypothermia, but I have not seen one of those creatures in weeks. Thank God for small mercies.
I am surprised to find I can still use words the way I used to. My handwriting has become atrocious. I haven’t talked to anyone or even used my voice for that matter in a very long time. They say it is a bad sign when you start talking to yourself; it must be a very bad sign when you stop.
Ellen always wanted me to start a journal. She said it would do me good. I sometimes roll over at night and expect to feel her hand and when I don’t there is the smallest of moments when I think that she must have just gotten up to get a drink of water from our bathroom or check to see if the front door is locked. Then I feel the frost on my face and hear the wind whipping by.
I miss her.
I have walked for hours today. I still do not have a destination. There are only two alternatives and neither one is appealing. If I make my way south or west I will grow closer and closer to what I can only imagine to be hordes of the dead. If I set out to the north or east every step I take brings me farther away from supplies I desperately need and my only hope of rescue; if there is anyone left to rescue me. I will have to make my choice soon and learn to live with it, but for now I have left that to another day.
I decided to get off the road and find shelter in the woods for the night. I walked thirty or forty yards into the tree line where I found a likely spot to build a shelter and settle in for the night. I gathered as much dry tinder as I could find and ate the last morsel of food from my pack. Food will be the main order of the day tomorrow.
With this on my mind I began to dig a pit in the snow to help insulate me from the wind when I uncovered a hand. The fingers were broken and blue and frozen solid. The rest of the body was in a similar state after I had uncovered it all. I looked it over as best I could, given the stiffness of the frame and couldn’t discern the cause of death. I sat back in the snow and watched him for a few moments. I decided to take no chances.
I pulled out my hatchet and hacked off his head. The flesh was not cut or chopped by the falling axe head; he was too frozen for that. It splintered.
I must find a new place to spend the night.
I have not written here in a few days. Hunger has a way of reordering your priorities. My progress has been slow. I must stop to rest frequently and I feel as though my pace has been getting slower by the hour. To make matters worse the cold seems more biting when your stomach is empty.
The pain is becoming intolerable and makes it hard to move about, although I find that writing here is as good a distraction as I am likely to get. It is this that woke me this morning before the sun rose. I decided to make the most of it, returned to the road in the dark and started walking.
The day was gloomy and overcast. It was scarcely brighter at noon than when I had started out. Shortly after midday I came across the bunt out frame of an old barn. Its beams were blackened and leaning precariously; I didn’t bother to search it. Beyond it I spotted a knot of crows.
The cow they had been feeding on was thin and desiccated. Its loose hide stuck to its ribs and its abdomen had been ripped open by what must have been wild dogs. There wasn’t much left of it and it must have been dead for a long while before I came along. It was partially frozen and had probably starved to death so there wasn’t much meat left, but I scraped as much out of the carcass as I could with my knife.
I built a fire and cooked the stringy bits of meat I was able to salvage. It was dry and tough, but I was starving and it was food. It looked suspect but I wolfed it down anyway. I had hoped the cold kept the meat from going rancid, I was wrong.
A few miles more down the road and I was heaving up what little food I had had. It was mostly water. When I was done I rolled over onto my back in worse shape than I was in this morning.
I need a miracle, a godsend.
Today I found a police car. I could tell from a hundred yards away that I was too late. The windshield had been smashed, the tires blown out on the left side, and there was no gas in the tank. Everything of any value was already taken; no weapons, ammo, batteries, or tools of any use. The cop was missing, however.
Further down the road I found him, what was left anyway. His torso was gone. It must have been dogs…or something worse. I’ll have to be more careful now. I checked his belt. Again I was too late. Someone had already taken his service weapon. I did however retrieve a lighter from his pocket.
I was about to move on when I decided to check his ankle and was rewarded with a snub nosed revolver for my efforts. There are six bullets. My luck may be changing; now let’s see about some food.
I have come to a fork in the road. There is a house in the distance on the right. Its windows are boarded up and I think I see a slight wisp of smoke issuing from the chimney. I may be deceiving myself, but I have decided to check it out. If there is someone home they may not be too keen on sharing. If so, I will have to go on my way. They must be well armed to have defended what they have for so long. I am tired and weak from hunger and have only a pistol and my knife. I don’t think I could win a fight.
Cleton is an enormous man. He is fat, even now, months after the outbreak. One of his eyes bulges and seems to wander without his consent. He is bowlegged and I don’t believe that he can move much faster than the awkward shuffle he uses to move about his home.
He greeted me with a shotgun. The door had opened just a crack and before I could say a word I was muzzle to muzzle with it. He studied me for a while and reached out and prodded me several times with one of his thick fingers before lowering his weapon. He stuck his head out of the door, quickly surveyed the fields around the farmhouse and beckoned me inside.
Once inside he barred the door with a heavy beam set into the wall with thick steel brackets. The house was very dim. The only light came from the narrow cracks where the plywood didn’t quite seal off the windows and a few old fashioned oil lamps. The smell was terrible. There were loud bangs and the rattling of metal coming from one of the back rooms.
Cleton introduced himself and stuck out his meaty hand.
I shook it and said, “I’ve been on the road for months now and haven’t had anything to eat in five or six days. ”
Cleton scratched at the stubble on his head and replied, “Sure, sure. Come on. The missus and I were just sittin’ down fer dinner. ”
He led me through the living room towards the kitchen saying, “It’s been a damn long time since we had any company. It’ll be good to have somebody else around to talk to for a while; you know women. ”
We turned the corner into the kitchen and I saw the source of the smell and the noise. There sitting at the table was one of the infected. It thrashed and moaned and the floor around its chair was covered in blood and filth. A chain was fastened around its neck and its arms and legs were bound to the chair with medical restraints. It was once a woman and still wore a floral print dress.
I stood dead in my tracks but Cleton shuffled towards the table and took a seat next to the writhing figure. He reached into the center of the table and began to ladle out three bowls of soup. He reached over the creature’s setting and unfolded a napkin and set it in her lap. Her mouth gaped wide and craned as far as it could towards his outstretched hand but was arrested by the chain which had little slack.
Cleton had picked up his spoon before saying to me, “I know her table manners ain’t the best, but that’s no reason to be rude yourself. ”
“She’s infected,” I replied.
Cleton pushed out a chair, “The vows say, ‘in sickness as in health. ’Now sit down ‘fore it gets cold. ”
I set down my pack and sat down without taking my eyes off of Mrs. Cleton. I kept the pistol in my lap and began to eat in silence. Every once in a while Cleton would stop eating to bring a spoonful to his wife’s mouth and feed it to her like a toddler who would not eat its vegetables. There was a large ragged hole in her throat and most of the soup dribbled out of this and soaked her soiled dress. Cleton failed to notice.
The rest of the meal proceeded similarly and when Cleton and I had eaten our fill and the “missus” had splattered her portion down her front and on the floor around her Cleton pushed himself back from the table. He went about and collected the dishes, which he brought to the sink, and returned to tighten the chain around his wife’s neck and dab away the bits of food at the corners of her mouth.
With this done Cleton secured a pole to the harness around the creature’s neck and unfastened its restraints saying, “All right, time to go back to your room Maribel. You need your rest. ”
He began to lead her back into the hall when the pole broke away from the collar. She lurched around before Cleton could grab the chain trailing behind and charged at me. I thumbed back the hammer of the revolver and fired. In my haste the first shot went wide and the second and third impacted uselessly in the torso. It grabbed me and we both fell backward off the rickety chair. I pressed the barrel against her head and pulled the trigger.
A handful of brains splattered against the wall and the thrashing body went limp. I rolled it off of me and backed up against the wall panting. Cleton, who had not moved from the doorway, rushed over to the body and, cradling it, began to weep.
That is how I left him. I grabbed my pack and ran through the house and out the front door. It was not until at least a mile down the road that I stopped running and noticed the bite on my right arm.
The pain woke me in the middle of the night. I was only able to roll over on my side before I began to vomit. I emptied my stomach, but was still dry heaving for what seemed like hours. The snow around me was pink with blood. My wound has not stopped bleeding and I have discovered that my nose, mouth, and ears as well as the skin around my fingernails are bleeding as well. I am afraid.
I tried to kill myself this morning. I put the gun to my head and pulled back the hammer. I couldn’t do it. I know what is in store for me, but I still could not pull the trigger.
I will put this notebook in my pocket so that maybe someone may tell my wife that I love her, if she is still alive. My Ellen…I cannot remember her face.
It is gone.
My name is…
My name is…
(The words beyond this point are in a different color ink and written in very different handwriting. )
In pace resquiscat.