Estimated reading time — 31 minutes
The end was nothing like what scientists had predicted. There were no explosions, no destructive meteors, nor did we parish in a great war between countries; it was as if humanity awoke one day and life as we had known it, was over. My name is Hanit; I am currently 17. I used to consider myself a rather attractive girl. My skin glowed with youth, my hair was long, shiny, golden-brown, my blue eyes stood out best with my black eyeliner, and my outfit was always pristine. These days, I look more like a vile homeless person that just crawled out from under a dumpster. I had to cut my hair ridiculously short, and if you think there’s even a second to spend on makeup and clothing, you’re sorely mistaken. No, this world has become pure chaos and I have no idea how long I have before I too become one of the beasts play things.
The end came about when a new strain of rabies rapidly took over the animal population. It was in the air, the water, the food. There was no escape. Humans used to keep animals within their homes as pets. This factor caused the end to happen much faster than it should have. A great number of scientist who could have created a cure for the destructive nature of this rabid disease, had perished long before humans could even understand it. The animals had become wild with rage, killing anything they came into contact with. The animals who survived infection began attacking other creatures, and it wasn’t long before the earth was covered in red. A cure has never been created.
The strain of rabies originated from a drug user who gave a sick pet methamphetamine. I hate to admit, but I was there when it happened. I was such a stupid teenager, and hung around with older guys because I thought I was cool. I never touched the drugs though, and the guys were always entertaining and I was envied by everyone who knew me because I had much older friends. His name was Dave; we’d been hanging out together for about a year and for a drug user, he was actually pretty kept together. I had brought my cat by his house one day as he was very knowledgeable in animal behavior and Ginger had been acting very strange lately. She was aggressive at times, and then incredibly shy, then extremely hyper, But her once calm demeanor was completely gone.
Dave said that she might have rabies, which was rather shocking to me as she was an indoor cat. He joked about giving her pot, saying it would “chill her out” but there was no way I was going to let him drug Ginger! Eventually he gave up trying to convince me that drugging my cat would help her and asked if he could put her in the pet carrier in the other room so we could hang out without a crazy animal running around. I agreed and handed Ginger over, big mistake. Dave did indeed put Ginger into a carrier, but not before injecting methamphetamine into her. When he returned, he told me he had done it but I laughed; I didn’t believe him. I should have been more careful. After all, I’d been around Dave a while and although he was pretty kept together, he was still very unpredictable.
After about half an hour I left Dave to his drug-daydreams. I took Ginger home in the carrier as she was even more crazed then she’d been when I first brought her. I let Ginger out of the carrier when I got home, locking her in my room until she calmed down again. At first she wouldn’t even leave the carrier, but once she realized where she was, she bolted under my bed. She stayed there all day, making low growling noises and hissing at nothing. Little did I know, this was the very beginning of the end of humanity.
Gingers behavior became even stranger, but she was a cat after all, and cats have always been known to be a bit of an odd creature. She would race around the house wildly, chasing dust and shadows. She’d hide in dark places waiting for anything to pass by close enough to claw and bite into. Her fur had become dull, as though she’d been living outside forever, although she’d never actually gone outside. One morning she’d been sitting on the kitchen counter just staring at my younger brother as he did his homework. My brother complained periodically about the cat never blinking, her still almost lifeless body never moving. Eventually he had enough of the weird behavior and had gotten up to continue his studies in his room when the cat sprang to life. She jumped from the counter in a swift fluid motion leaping to the kitchen table and was at his throat in seconds. She sunk her teeth deep into his neck; latching her claws to his checks so he couldn’t shake her off. She kicked her back legs into his collar bone, seemingly attempting to decapitate him. My brother tried to pull her off however each time he pulled a paw free from his face, our cat would twist about in his grasp until she positioned herself for another attack. My father was still at work and my mother was in the shower leaving only myself to help my brother.
For a few terribly frightening moments I was frozen with shock; the scene was unheard of, our cat had always been docile. About the third time my brother pulled the cat from his face I snapped back to reality and reach for the cat, hoping my touch would calm her. I lay a hand on her back and for a moment both she and my brother stopped their struggles. A low toned growl came from my cat not a second after I placed my hand on her. She still had a good chunk of neck skin firmly in her mouth; my brother was desperately trying to stay still. The cat only needed a few more kicks to his neck to sever an artery. I moved my hand to the back of her neck and squeezed tightly to no avail. She let out another angry growl and adjusted herself to finish off my brother. I could feel as she released her grip on his throat slightly so I seized that moment to squeeze the back of her neck harder and pulled quickly, taking a large piece of my brothers’ neck with her.
She flailed around in my grasped fiercely attempting to latch onto me. She had apparently swallowed the chunk of my brothers’ neck and was snapping her head left and right trying to get a hold of my hand. My brother was in shock; his hands around his neck now gushing blood onto the floor. I urged him to get our mother, to get away from the beast that had once been our loving pet. His eyes where filled with tears as he stared at the scene before him. He had several punctures to his esophagus which caused rasping, blood filled words from his weak voice. He back out of our kitchen mumbling ‘no’ over and over. A moment later I heard my mother scream, not the scream I’d expected from seeing my brother but a scream like that of my brother as he’d been attacked. Between the wailing of the cat, my brothers mumbling, and my mothers’ screams, there was something else; a bewildering, out of pitch whine.
I held out my arm with the cat still twitching about and made my way to the stairs to check on my mother. I grabbed my cell as I passed the living room table to call for help realizing the house was suddenly quieter. Mother had stopped screaming, my brother hunched in the corner of the living room, hands still clamped to his neck but no longer mumbling. The cat still made her terrible wailing; then there was this odd whine that carried through the house. If you could imagine the noise a dog would make when it’s hit by a car and slowly dying, that’s about what this sounded like.
I know I should have checked my brother, to see if there was anything I could have done to help him. I should have run up those stairs to find out why mother had been screaming. I should have called for help. I should have done a lot in that moment but the thing I saw on the top of the stairs made my blood run cold. There was nothing I could have done. Nothing could have made what I saw right. A knarred mess of a large sized dog appeared at the top of the stair case. It was the stray my brother had snuck in for a while and was hiding in his room. The dog was coated in my mother’s blood, its skin hung lose on its body. There where patches of fur and bare skin scattered across its figure. Open sores dripped a brown red colored blood from the thing. Its jaw hung strangely, as though broken in places. In that moment I did the only thing that made sense; I through my cat at the thing on the stairs and ran for the front door. As I reached for the handle, I could hear a mess of a fight happening behind me; my once beloved cat screaming and wailing at the deformed dog that let out its own terrible screams. I couldn’t help but to hope my cat would win that fight.
I flung open my front door, bolted through the front gate and down the street never looking back. I couldn’t make sense of anything I had just seen. My brother was probably dead, being torn to pieces right now by the victor of the fight on the stairs. My mother was defiantly dead and my dad was going to be so upset. I had tried to call him as I ran down the street but he never answered calls at work. I left several voicemails between winded breaths pleading for him not to go home. About a mile down the road I was too exhausted to go any further. I collapsed to the sidewalk, chest heaving in pain, sweet dripped to the ground and still completely lost in images playing through my mind. Dave’s house was close by, only a few more blocks. I wanted to punch him in the face. This whole event was his fault! My mother and brother are dead because of him!
I staggered to my feet, setting my goal for Dave’s house. All I could think about was sticking that needle in his neck and watching him gasp for air like my brother had. I was going to kill him for this. I made it to the corner when I heard more screams from behind me. The hairs on my whole body stood on end. I could imagine the distorted image of that demon dog hurling down the road after me, attacking any one standing outside as it went. I dared not even look behind me, focusing all my energy on getting to Dave’s house. Looking back now, had I called animal control at that moment, maybe, I could have prevented the spread of the disease.
I finally made it to Dave’s house; the screaming followed me all the way to his front door. I didn’t even bother to knock, just flung open the door and glairing around the room. He didn’t notice me until after I slammed the door shut, making him jump for his fire arm. He let out a sigh of relief only briefly as he noticed the anger on my face. He put up his hands in a peaceful manor and approached me very slowly, asking if I was ok. The only words I could manage where, “you killed them….my mother…my brother….you did it….you killed them” A look of confusion that quickly turned to anger flashed across his face. Before he could respond, we both heard a low pitched growl from his kitchen. That growl chased away my vengeance instantly. I felt a slight joy, knowing that growl was Ginger and she had bested that mangy mutt back at the house, but fear quickly overcame me as I replayed the images of my brother being attacked.
Dave, giving me a puzzled look, went for his gun. “Did you hear that, Hanit?” he questioned almost sarcastically. I shook my head and backed up towards the door. This idiot was so far gone he hadn’t heard the commotion outside. “Dave, please …“ I attempted, but Dave rolled his eyes, “Damn feral cats always commin’ in through the window.” he said with a smirk, as he walked into the kitchen. That was Dave, so far gone all the time nothing scared him. He’d killed plenty of stray animals that wondered through open doors and windows, but he had no idea what awaited him on the kitchen window seal. “What the . . .” Dave began screaming, shots were fired, and Ginger wailed wildly. I could hear dishes falling and breaking, a struggle was happening. I held my breath; hopping Dave would put an end to the beast that crawled out of my cat. I opened the front door, ready to bolt if I needed to. When the noises of struggle finally quieted down, a new sound floated out of the kitchen; a strange noise like hundreds of crawling worms and odd cracks and clicks.
In that moment I realized either Dave was breaking Ginger, or Ginger was eating Dave! I wanted to know if Dave was dead, but I couldn’t bear to look. I dare not make a sound out of fear Ginger would come for me next. I slowly made my way out of the house, mouthing “I’m sorry” as I slowly pulled the door shut behind me. I jumped from the patio and ran to the fence, looking back only once I was on the street. Ginger sat on the kitchen window seal, licking a dangling front arm. Dave had hit her with a bullet, but she didn’t even care. Her eyes met with mine for a moment before she jumped into the bushes beneath the window. That was two years ago now and I’ve been running from this madness ever since.
I have to travel great distances each day to stay alive. Something terrible had been created from Ginger, a beast. I don’t think anyone else has lived to see the next sunrise after the beast found them. Over the last two years the beast has followed me. Sometimes too close for comfort, and other times at a far distance.
When the madness first started, the people who got infected didn’t change in appearance but they seemed to lose their mind. Their eyes would become cloudy, like they had cataracts. They’d just sit completely still until something disturbed them. At that point it was always one of two reactions. Either the person would grab the sides of their head and begin screaming or they would attempt to attack anyone else around them. The disease didn’t take to well to the human host though; after a week the person’s body would be so badly damaged they would just collapse. If I had to guess, it was due to some kind of trigger between whatever Dave injected Ginger with and some form of animal madness. A human infected with this would go completely mad, running themselves to death. This was always the result. The biggest problem is the disease would simply travel from one person to the next and you were either immune or you weren’t. The animals that would be affected, their bodies seemed to last a bit longer but eventually, they too, would collapse.
The strangest thing about any animal that has lived to be infected is the mutations. The muscles of the animals become overgrown and end up splitting through the skin. The bodies seem to engulf other rotting matter they come into contact with, making them a terrible mutation of rotting animal carcasses. It happens so quickly, an infected animal only needs to brush against a dead or dying body. The skin of the infected animal latches onto the other body and it is dragged onto the rest of the body. Veins sprawl out across the new mass like a vine growing far too quickly. Sometimes a new corpse is dismembered by the veins and carried to parts of the host’s body that are weak or missing. It’s a gruesome event I’ve had the displeasure of seeing more than I can count.
However, none of the animals are quite as large as the beast. The head of The Beast is a knarred tangle of muscle, skin stretched and split over what had once been a normal sized cat. Its teeth had grown much too large forcing the creature to leave its fierce mouth agape; its saliva so hot steam actually comes off it as it drips to the ground. This beast has kept its dark eyes on me for the last two years. Only once has it ever got close enough that I thought my life was over. I had been scavenging for food and looking for a way out of my city. Cars littered the street blocking off many exits and there was no way in Hell I was leaving on foot with the beast on my tail. As I scoped my surroundings in the dim morning light, the beast caught my eye.
The Beast is a giant ten foot cat on steroids. Its muscles to large, twisted out of place and the entire body twitched constantly. It didn’t move properly, even for an infected beast, its movement was much more glitched; as if it was fading in and out of normal time. It was like a sadistic hologram poorly projected into the crowded street. I was not about to wait for the thing to spot me, and had already begun to survey the abandoned cars around me for one I could get into and hide. I spotted a deasil truck; decided the back of the trailer might be my best bet as I hoped that thing would not be able to tear through the metal. I kept low, attempting to look under cars for the beasts legs so I knew it had not found me.
I had made the mistake of crawling between an opening of cars while I thought the thing had its back turned. I was so horribly wrong. I can’t explain how it knew, but the moment I crawled into the clearing between the cars, the thing snapped it head 180 degrees around, glaring at me with dark, hot eyes. I was frozen, petrified by the things unnatural movement. It placed a huge, almost car sized paw towards me, crushing a small vehicle under it. My stomach turned, my mind scrambled to understand what I was seeing. The Beast let out a very low, almost tiger like growl. It clicked into pitches before it let out a nightmarish scream, to which forced me into motion towards the trailer. It was only then I realized I wasn’t even sure the back of the trailer would be unlocked; and even if it was, I may not have time to get in and shut the door before the damn thing caught me.
It was only a matter of seconds before I reached the trailer, but the beast was already on me! I backed against the side of the trailer, praying if I remained still it would leave me alone. It inhaled deeply, enjoying the scent of fresh meat, still seeming to have a cats’ playful need to play with food as it used a great paw to bat me to the ground. I quickly crawled backwards, never taking my eyes of the beast. What I had though originally to be over exaggerated muscle that had been twisted out of shape, turned out to be a mass amount of dead bodies mutated together; all twitching wildly as if trying to escape the body of the beast. The skin of this thing was hardly able to contain the over grown muscles, it split over the unnatural body exposing blood vessels and bones. The damn thing was a beast that had crawled straight out of hell.
It’s eyes completely black, yet somehow, when it stared at you, it burned. I was lucky to have moved in the right direction just as the sun had come up, a glare had reflected from a nearby car mirror straight into the things eyes. It groaned and clawed at its face, rearing back twitching in pain. I got to my feet and shot around the back of the truck, it was unlocked! I quickly slid under the door, and shut it the best I could. Normal sunlight didn’t seem to bother the beast, but that direct hit of sun rays affected it just long enough for me to get away. I could still hear it groaning in pain, but it was moving again, searching for me. I moved to the very back of the trailer, climbing on top the air condition unit. A small strip of sunlight came through the slit under the door which I watched intently, waiting for the things’ shadow to pass by and move on.
Most of the rabid animals seem to become confused easily, often giving up a search for you in a matter of seconds, but that thing stayed nearly 12 hours searching for me. Several times, its’ shadow blocked out the glint of sunlight from under the door and my heart raced as I was sure it would rip off the door and stick its vile face in to retrieve my shivering body….but it never did. It LET me go so it could chase me! Like a cat waiting outside a mouse hole, it waited for me to come out of the trailer and when I didn’t it left, but only far enough to watch me. It was already very dark out when I finally dare come out of the trailer. The big deasil was parked sideways, blocking the entrance to the highway that could take me out of the city. The beast was nowhere to be seen, not that I could actually see very far.
Majority of the street lights had been taken out when the chaos first began and people were trying to leave the city. I had found a few cars and motorcycles during the last year that still had keys in them. With those, I was able to teach myself how to drive most vehicles, but until now I wasn’t lucky enough to find a possible escape. Even so the likelihood of me finding keys in the deasil, and a good amount of gas was slim. Making it out of the back of the trailer and into the cabin was a serious risk in the darkness and even if I did, big trucks make big noise.
I took a deep breath before inching the back of the trailer open. I paused holding my breath and listen for any noise. When nothing seemed to stir, I slid out of the truck and slinked to the ground attempting to see anything from underneath the vehicles. I remained very still for several moments, listening for any noise that was to be heard. The city had a terrible smell that even after two years burned my nose. Rotting flesh is something you can never get used to. Certain parts of the city that people had tried to block the infection in had so many rotting bodies that it would burn your eyes when you got to close. I hadn’t wondered into the inner parts of the city for quite some time due to this. I was running out of options, out of food, out of places to search on the outskirts of the city. If I am going to make it out alive, this is my chance.
My head throbbed with the sound of my own heart desperately trying to escape my chest. One step at a time, pausing between each step to listen, I made my way to the cabin of the truck. When I reached the point where the trailer was attached to the cabin I debated momentarily about disconnecting it for an easier escape. I decided against it, partly because of any noise it could create, and partly because the trailer was the part blocking off the highway. I was only a few steps from the cabin door now so I made a dash for it. I pulled the handle of the door hard, and it flung open! In a matter of seconds I was inside the cab, door shut and locked.
I stayed hunched below the windows listening for any sound, watching for shadows, holding my breath. It felt like I was motionless for hours. Finally I allowed myself a deep inhale through my nose, I could feel a rush in my brain as the fresh oxygen made its way through my body. I was exhausted. I’d been awake for well over twelve hours, it’s been a few days since I had anything close to a decent meal, and although it was still dark out, the warm dry air of the city had drained me. The adrenaline that had kept me awake through the early hours of the night while I hid from the beast was finally releasing me from its grasp. My body was heavy, my eyes no longer wanted to focus. I knew I was passing out, and all the fear in me at that moment wouldn’t be able to keep me awake any longer.
I can’t be sure how long I had passed out for, the sun had not come up yet, but the sky was already showing signs that it would be out soon. I had passed out on the floor of the cab, not a very comfortable position considering the gigantic hump between the driver and passenger side floor. I pulled my sore body to the seat of the cab and cracked my back by stretching backwards, my hands forcing my mid back outward. It was eerily quiet outside, no movement, no signs that anything had been around for a while.
As I mentioned, the beast seems to toy with its food, or at very least toy with me. Part of me believes my beloved Ginger is still in there someplace, and she simply wants to play. I know better though, and my common sense outweighs that passing hope. After a few moments of watching for any sign that I wasn’t alone, I began to inspect the inside of the cabin. I pulled open the glove compartment, nothing but papers, two mildly crumpled cigarettes, and a piece of gum. “A lot of good cigarettes do without a lighter”, I thought to myself. Upon first glance, there was nothing of use and I felt my heart sink as once again my escape from this damned city was prevented. I sighed, hanging my head a bit, and that’s when I noticed the compartment between the seats.
I pulled the top off the compartment and there they sat, a set of keys; my life savers. I could hardly believe it! Nothing in the last two years had actually gone right, and finally a break! I quickly grabbed the keys and noticed a cassette tape underneath them with the word “congratulations” written on it. I stared at it briefly wondering if I was being set up by some survivors who had God knows what planned for someone stupid enough to attempt to take the deasil. I shook the idea from my mind. I haven’t seen any evidence of human life in this city for six months. Even if it was a trap I was sure whoever left it was long gone.
I studied the keys for a moment and picked out one of the three that looked like it was right. I stuck it into the ignition and hesitated, wondering briefly if maybe someone had set a trap for the engine to explode once the key was turned over. Looking out at the city before me, I decided dying from an explosion would be a better way to go that being ripped apart by the veins of the beast. I pushed in the clutch and turned the key and the engine roared to life! I realized I had been holding my breath in anticipation and I let out a joyful laugh! I was going to get out of here!
I fiddled with the shifter a few times until I figured out which position was reverse and floored it. If I lost the trailer now it wouldn’t matter as long as I could get onto that highway. I cranked the wheel as far as I could to get the truck to turn and back up far enough to allow me to pull onto the road. When I felt I had enough space I fiddled with the shifter again into first gear and took off. My heart was pounding fiercely and I was crying with joy! I couldn’t help but laugh at my unforeseen stroke of luck! Into second gear, into third, faster and faster until I was making distance between myself and that God damned city and most of all, the beast! I didn’t bother looking back, I didn’t care. If I had, I would have seen it. The mass of knarred bodies shifting into existence far behind me now. Spilling onto the highway and following after me as I made my way far from the city. The beast would not let its toy escape so easily.
I must have driven for a few miles before thinking about how much gas I actually had. I glanced down at the gage, the line indicated half full. Enough gas to get me a good distance from what I’ll now call The City of Death. Childish I know, but being able to escape and give such a place a name like this felt almost victorious. I imagined finding others who also survived and telling them my story of escaping The City of Death. This made me laugh loudly and my eyes began to tear. For the first time in two years, I was free. I could laugh, I could scream, I could breath. The beast would not come now, I could actually survive this.
It was here I remembered the old cassette tape in the center consol. “Congratulations” I ran my fingers over the letters curiously. I smiled to myself; whoever had left this must have done so to help anyone left in the city. I was so happy in that moment, after two years; can you imagine how good real happiness would feel? The tiniest amount of hope had brought me to tears. I wiped away the last of the salty drops from my face as I tested the radio. I smiled as static came to life; working radio. I pressed the cassette tape into the slot and waited for it to begin.
“Ah..is it workin’?” A whiny hick voice asked from the tape. “Good, ok. Howdy stranger and congratulations. Ya’ll must be wonderin’ why this here truck was left the way it was, well stranger that’s simple. To help ya’ll. Me and my brothers been looking fer any survivors so we traveled to any city we could gets to and left one of these here trucks at a clear exit. I hope ya’ll drove straight outta that city and kept goin’. I ain’t ganna promise me an’ my brothers still ‘round cus I aint gots an idea how long it’s been with that there truck sittin there. What I can tell ya is if we’re still ‘round you just gatta keep going straight. We made sure them trucks had full tanks a gas before leaven em. If ya’ll drive straight from the way that there truck was blockin, you’d be sure to run into a sign a where we are. Well, guess I done said all I need to but, before we end this, I have a warnin for ya’ll. We done left behind five trucks, wondered the cities each got left in for a couple hours, then came back to leave these here 5 tapes. I need ya’ll to look up right now, do ya’ll see a word above yer head? If not then yer the lucky ones. Only one of them trucks is ganna have a word, should say East. If that’s you, if yer in that truck listen right now still sittin in that city ya’ll need to get a gittin now. I don’t know what kinda Hell gates been open in that city or how anyone would still be alive there but theres somethin’ wicked in that place. God done gave a blessin to the other places after seein how bad that place was tore up. We had to wait almost a month before goin back to put this tape there on account of that Hell creature postin up waitin for us. If your listen to this now, ima tellin ya go now and go fast. That there thing aint nothin to take lightly to. If ya’ll got otta that place that things a commin for ya’ll. If ya’ll aint got that word above yer head, whatever ya’ll do, don’t go to that east city. That place there is Hell. Aint nothin in that place for ya’ll but death. If yer are the one sittin in that truck right now, ya’ll aint shaked that thing yet. Like I says it posted up fer us a whole dang month. We almost didn’t go back fer this here tape but, my brother said it aint ganna be right not leaving a message for a person that might gets lucky to get outta there. Well stranger good luck. Maybe we might be meetin soon if we’re still round.”
With those last words, my small window of hope was closed. Once again leaving my soul caged in darkness and fear. A month? That beast waited for these people for a month? My heart was pounding so much it made my head hurt. I was afraid to look back, afraid I’d have to see that thing glaring at me from those black eyes. The guy from the tape said to keep going and that’s exactly what I did; I would put as much distance from The City of Death as I could. I dared a glance into the side mirror. My heart stopped. There was no way, it couldn’t be true. The beast had indeed followed. It was still following. After two years of slinking around that city with the fear that any moment I’d become a part of the rotting flesh that is the beast, I now was in open territory with a beast in my mirror.
Suddenly a song chirped to life from the radio causing me to scream. “Nowhere to run baby, nowhere to hide…” Perfect, I’m the beasts play thing and this song, of all the songs, is what would pop up. The hicks that left behind this tape must have some kind of twisted sense of humor. Regardless, at least I was in a vehicle that could take me further from that city. If the beast had waited for these guys for a month maybe it would eventually leave me alone. All I needed to do was keep going straight like the guy on the tape said.
The beast continued to remain in my mirror until I reached a stretch of winding road. I kept my speed as fast as I could, too afraid to slow and give that thing the chance to gain on me even one step. My hope had been momentarily lost but the fact that at least two other people had seen it and got away made me feel a little better. Perhaps my luck had not waivered just yet. Glancing down at the gas meter, I knew I didn’t have much longer until I would have to find more gas or abandon the truck all together.
It had been at least half an hour since the last time I caught site of the beast in my mirror. The Beast wasn’t fast enough to actually catch up with the trailer, even though it was never far behind me; it hasn’t caught up with me. I decided to take a chance to check out the map I’d seen when looking for the keys earlier. I’d keep the truck on in neutral so I could go at the first sign of the thing without hesitation. It took a few minutes to estimate exactly where I was on the map, but if I was correct on my position based on a few road signs I’d passed, I wasn’t too far from a small city. All I needed to do was keep going straight. I felt a small laugh rise in me. How could those hicks have given such basic direction and it remains true for this much distance?
Upon reaching the otter part of the city, I noticed a large sign with an arrow painted on it. I thought of the tape, remember the guy had said there would be signs of where they are. I didn’t think it would be so literal. I took a left onto the road the arrow pointed to and drove another five minutes. The road led me to a tiny one pump gas station. There was no way the pump still works, no way. Regardless I inched my way to the pump and stuck my head out of the window to survey my surroundings. The air here felt different, less heavy but there was a faint scent of death here too. It must have been carried over from The City of Death.
The sun was now getting ready to set and night would be on me soon. If I was getting out at all now is the only time. I shut my eyes tightly and held my breath to listen. Even in this place the silence was present; no bugs, no birds, no sounds. I inhaled deeply and opened the door slowly. I’d inspect the pump before shutting off the engine to be sure I could even use it first. When I looked at the pump I noticed a sandwich bag tapped to the handle. It looked as if it had been there for some time as a light film of dust had accumulated on it. Larger spots of dirt clung to it as well indicating it had rained here at least once. Perhaps it was an out of service note left before the chaos had started? I opened the bag and pulled out a slip of folded paper, a note left behind.
“Howdy again stranger hope you weren’t foolish enough to think this here pump was still ganna work now where you? I done made it a bit easy for you check inside. –Bob-“
Seriously? I thought to myself. His name is Bob. I shut my eyes and shook my head with a sigh. What is this, some kind of movie? A bad joke? Regardless, now I had a name for the voice on the tape. Alright, Bob, what did you leave for me then? I stuck the paper in my pocket as I turned back to face the building. The windows where covered in dust like the sandwich bag had been. I doubted the lights would work in this place and the daylight was almost gone too. I’d just stick my head in to see what I could see. If there was nothing then I’d just go back to the main road into the city for the night. Perhaps I could find another vehicle in the morning with some gas in it to get further away from The City of Death. Even though I knew I was miles away from that place now, the smell of death in the air made me feel like if I didn’t keep going that place would somehow catch up with me. I took the keys from the truck, pausing to listen to the silence that was now even more present without the deasil engine, and made my way to the small building.
I tried to peer through the window first, but even after smearing away the dirt from the window I couldn’t make out very much; just a few empty shelfs, some boxes, and lots of shadows. No other way around it, guess I’m going in. I told myself. I pulled the handled of the door and it creaked open, the sudden sound startling me. I noticed a string hanging from somewhere above with a note attached to it.
“Theres a flashlight next to the cash box. – Eddy-“
So, Bob has a brother named Eddy? I had to laugh at this, to cliché. I could imagine them setting this up. Maybe they both had old scraggly beards, wore tattered overalls covered in dirt, carried those old style shot guns. They’d have reddened skin from working on a farm, missing teeth and they would chew tobacco. I smiled, the thought of this made me feel a little warm inside. A couple of simple minded rednecks somehow survived this Hell storm. Go figures. Here I am 19 and I’m going to be saved by rednecks. I thought when this sort of thing happened it was supposed to be some tall handsome guy that saves the chick. “Uhg!” I sighed out loud and shook away the thoughts. “Need to focus Hanit”, I told myself.
I stepped inside the building and took the flashlight from the counter, flicked it on aiming the light from one side of the small room to the other. The placed looked as if it had been picked clean. Nothing had been left on the shelves. “Some saviors” I said sarcastically rolling my eyes. I peered over the side of the register counter first, thinking if I was to leave something for someone it would be there. Nothing but another note tapped to the register.
“Why you looking for cash? We don’t need that anymore” –Bob-
I smirked, so they do have a twisted sense of humor. Guess at this point you would have to with everything that happened to the world in the last two years. I had to admit, I was becoming egger to meet these guys. The hope of meeting people again seemed very bleak until I came upon that truck. Now my head was swimming with hope and visions of what these two could possibly be like. I sighed again shaking away my thoughts. I turned to the boxes I’d seen from outside. They’d been tapped up and left in the center of the room. Next to them was a large gas can and of course, another note.
“Hey friend. Since the pump doesn’t work you will need this. Glad you made it this far but we could not stay here for you. This city isn’t as bad as the one to the East of here, but I warn you do not drive through this city. If you want to find us head north from here no matter how dark it is. Take the boxes and anything we might have left behind, throw it in that trailer and get out of here now. If you came from the city to the East, you’ve surely seen that creature. We think another one has been growing here. Take my advice friend, get out of here right now.” –Joe-
After reading this note I began to wonder to myself. “Another brother? I wonder if they are all inbreed with funny voices and weird body shapes. Maybe it’s just one guy pretending to be different people. I could understand someone becoming that crazy with the world the way it is. Even I’ve started talking to myself. Maybe it is a group of people…but, what if they are canables?” I had to shake away the thoughts again. “Focus Hanit. Now isn’t the time.”
I took the gas can out first, filled the tank and put the can in the back of the cab. I went back in to retrieve the boxes and put those in the passenger side climbing over the seat, pulling the door shut behind me. I ripped the tape off one of the boxes, inside was a few bags of chips, some protein bars, a water bottle which I took, opened, and drank immediately. I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was until I’d seen it. I drank the whole bottle in one gulp. After that I took on of the protein bars and basically inhaled it. I’d gone a few days without anything to eat and the whole drive here without anything to drink. If I get nothing else out of this at least I had a little bit of comfort in the boxes.
I pulled the tape off the second box to find the same supplies in it. Protein bars, chips, and water. They must have expected more than one person to travel this way maybe? The third box was a bit smaller, and inside were basic medical supplies; Alcohol, Band-Aids, aspirin, splint wraps and various other basic supplies. I sat for a moment wondering what to do from here. I wasn’t too sure if these people where even alive anymore; but for someone to set up something like this, they must still be alive. Even if it’s a crazy guy with some kind of personality disorder it was better than being completely alone. I looked toward the inner city wondering what was there that they did not want me to go to. Maybe it was a trick to keeping away anyone who was looking to steal things? Maybe there was a whole city in there that was alive and well and this was all an elaborate trick to keep bad people from taking away what they have left. It would be cleaver. Why would someone suspect such a nice gesture and warning to be a deceitful tactic? This is the thought that made me decide to go into the city.
I put the keys back in the truck without a second thought and headed back towards the road that would lead me into the center of the city. Everything would be ok as long as I didn’t stop or get out of the truck. If the city was lost like mine I’d just turn around and go north like the note said. I should have just done that in the first place though. Hindsight can be a real jerk sometimes. It wasn’t until I got to what I assumed was the center of the city that I knew I made a mistake. A few yards ahead of me there appeared to be some sort of crater and the air here smelt just as bad as the inner part of my city. Maybe this city had a beast too. Maybe it wasn’t my Ginger that was the cause, maybe it’s just something that happened and nothing could have prevented it. With the way the disease passed between people it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think it didn’t start as an isolated incident at my house of all places. Thinking back on it, that dog on my stair case couldn’t have gotten like it did because of Ginger, right? The more I thought about this the more it made my head hurt. It wouldn’t be so bad to take a short nap here. If I just turned everything off and laid down in the back, nothing would even know I was alive in here. Even though the day had not been very eventful since the last sight of the beast so, I decided to rest my eyes, just for a short while. It was dark already anyway and I was curious if this city had anything I could scavenge. I’d already come this far, minds well not leave empty handed.
When I opened my eyes again, a dreary light was filtering between the buildings. It was morning already. I opened the second bottle of water and drank about a quarter of it and ate another protein bar. This one had little pieces of chocolate in it. A taste I thought I’d never savor again. I smiled, this was the best start to a day I’ve had in the last two years. I decided to spend most of the morning searching for any supplies I could find. I’d gathered more snacks, found a bottle of wine, a few packs of smokes, some seeds, clothing, and more medical supplies. Feeling satisfied with what I had found, I decided it was time to check out this hole in the center of the city.
It was as if the center of the city had just sunk into the Earth; cracked cement and broken road hung over the edges surrounding the pit. My curiosity got the best of me even though my instincts told me to just get in the truck and go. I rationalized that if there was something growing in this hole, it meant whoever had left those notes was at least truthful about that; meaning I could believe in them a bit more. I slowly made my way to the edge of the crater and looked over the edge. A putrid smell engulfed the surrounding area, probably from whatever animals and people had fallen into the pit and died. There was a terrible noise coming out of the hole too, as if someone was mixing a giant bowl of spaghetti in there.
Inside the hole was a massive swarm of rotting flesh. It twitched unnaturally just as the beast had, and there was something about the rotting bodies, something rhythmic….it expanded and contracted as a mass…..like a giant lunge breathing…. and it was in that instant I realized exactly what I was looking at….the beast was inside the pit!; gnawing at decomposing bodies, growing larger and more unholy. Its eyes where fixed on me, even as it chewed into the decomposing bodies its gaze never left me. I slowing backed up; I had to get out of here. When I had backed away from the pit far enough to dare put my back to it, I bolted towards the truck! I was inside the cab and only glanced over as I turned the key in the ignition. The beasts’ head was just slightly protruding over the edge of the pit, eyes still fixed one me. It had been behind me on the road entering the city. It had never caught up to me, yet here it was, bathing itself in rotting flesh watching me…waiting to go on the chase once again.
I turned the truck back towards the road I’d taken into the city, the note Bob left said to go North so that’s what I’d do. Every few minutes I checked the rear view mirror. The Beast didn’t climb from the pit and chase me down as I thought it would. Instead, it pulled itself from the hole and sat cleaning itself as a cat would; licking its huge paws and wiping the decay from its face and repeating. It didn’t seem to care that I was putting distance between us again. Maybe it was a territorial beast? If there had been another creature in that pit growing, the beast had consumed it.
I past the little gas stationed and turned onto what appeared to be a less traveled old back road. It was a bit harder to drive down this area and I started to wonder if I was being lead into a trap. There was no way I could drive at a high speed without tipping and if the beast decided it wanted to catch me, I would basically be a sitting duck. Damn it, I thought, I should have left last night. I ponded my fist against the steering wheel; I decided then that any further direction from Bob and his brothers was not to be taken lightly. They must have some kind of plan, and if they escaped the beast, than I should follow directions.
I continued to check my mirrors every so often for the beast, I’d catch a glimpse of it off to the side of the road or a flick of a tail, and occasionally meet its dark eyes; but never did it get too close nor did it seem able to actually catch the truck. For now at least I felt safe. Eventually the back road leveled out onto a paved road and I was able to pick up my speed.
It seemed silly following spray painted markers along the road to different pit stops and each time I’d get another few boxes of water and protein bars along with some gas to extend my trip. With each stop I was warned of the beast and each time I dare to think I’d made enough distance to be rid of the thing, I was proven wrong.
How many times had it been right behind me as I was searching for supplies? How many times had it had the ability to catch me and didn’t? How many times had it let me get away!? The fucking creature is still after me, I can feel it. I traveled for weeks after seeing that damn thing in that fucking pit, only stopping for gas. After a while it didn’t chase me down the road anymore, but it’s still out there. One day it will come for me again and when it does, there will be no escape.
CREDIT : Morbid Mary
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