Diary of Descent - January

I wrote this thing over there. Now I'll write it over here.


January 1

I was going to write "Happy New Year," but then I realized I'm not 100% sure I've even got my days straight. I haven't exactly kept a calendar over the last few months while the whole world went to shit. 

It's so weird to think about. I mean, with all the stuff that's happened since July, with people turning into monsters and killing each other and having to escape my city...the stuff that freaks me out the most are little things like that. Is anyone still keeping time?

January 5
We've got to get moving. We've lost too many days to bickering. James says there's no way the Air Force Base is still an option; he wants the seven of us to fortify this fucking double-wide trailer and "start rebuilding." I've tried talking to him about it, and explaining how easily shit goes South when you're trapped in one spot like I was when my apartment caught fire, but he's adamant.

Worse, he seems to have Val on board. She's sick of running, I get it, but staying here isn't safe. I'm heading out with Donovan to try and find some food while the rest try to fortify the trailer. I honestly don't know what would excite me more: a steak dinner or a fresh pair of socks.

January 6

Can't sleep. I took Ashley's turn at watch, I figure if someone else can get some shut-eye I might as well let 'em. I took a chance and mentioned to Donovan I feel like we'd be better off getting out of here. He agreed. We have to figure out a way to convince James and the others, delicately, that we should keep heading for the Air Force Base.

Valerie is getting more and more distant. It's not like she's hostile, but I feel like she treats me like just a regular person, not her boyfriend of six years. I wish I could figu

January 8
A huge herd of those things showed up the other night. I told James they might come after he spent the day hammering boards over the windows; these people seem to follow sound.

Now we're all stuck here, clinging to the ground so they don't see us through the windows. They're not attacking the doors or windows, but they're just milling around outside and there are dozens of them. Everyone's terrified of making a sound or being seen through a window.

We've got to make some kind of move.

January 8
This is it. We're going to try and sneak out under cover of darkness. Everyone is pretty nervous, and we all still remember what happened last time. Donovan and Matt are the fastest among us, they volunteered to distract the group while the others sneak out the back through a window. Strangely, James suggested I go with them. I tried to say I'd rather stay by Val's side, but she said we should "stick to the plan." 

So now the "plan" is to climb out the bedroom window of the trailer, get into the surrounding woods, and make some noise so the others can escape. Then we're supposed to elude these things while we circle around and head for a gas station Donovan's raided for supplies before. If we're able to lose these things, we should have a few hours to regroup with the others and hopefully snag a road map to plan our next move.

I really hate this plan.

January 9
Made it. Took forever to lose those things in the woods; they seem to be able to smell us or hear the slightest sound. Luckily they don't seem to pay attention to our footprints in the snow. Matt was already waiting; now we just have to wait for Donovan and the others to make their way here while we hope none of those things shows up.

January 10
Must've fallen asleep for a few hours. Donovan was on watch when I woke up; he said he showed up not long ago and Matt decided to catch some sleep.

No sign of the others yet. I'm worried, but how can you not worry at a time like this?

January 10
Looks like the sun won't be coming out today. Been too long since we split up. I'm worried about Val. I'm worried about all of them. I'm going to make my way back to the trailer and see if I can find them.

Matt's coming with me; I tried to talk him out of it but he won't take no for an answer. Donovan's going to stay behind in case they do make their way here; the idea is he's fast enough to get away if more of those things show up. Matt's got a baseball bat, at least.

January 10
We're getting better at evading them, but it's adding a lot of time to our trip. We're holed up in a thicket of bushes waiting for a small group of those things to pass. Not the best shelter but they don't seem to notice us and huddling together in the brush is slightly warmer than standing out in the snow.

Matt keeps calling me various authors, hoping one sticks as a nickname. Right now he's stuck on "R.L. Stine."

January 11
No sign of them. 

We've been waiting here all through the night and today in case they came back. I was scared we'd get here and see they never made it out, but there's no sign of a struggle. No blood or anything I can see. It's been snowing for days now, and all those things trampled the ground pretty thoroughly, so there aren't really footprints we can try to follow.

Matt keeps saying they're probably at the gas station by now. I really want to believe it, but I just don't know. I don't know what I'd do without Val.

January 12
We traveled through the night, partially to stay hidden but also because I couldn't wait any longer to get back here. Donovan never saw anyone come or go. So somewhere in between the trailer and the gas station, four people just disappeared. No blood, no screams, no gunshots, nothing.

They've got to be hiding out somewhere. Maybe they're surrounded? Got to find them. Donovan insists I need to sleep, and he found some Tylenol PM along with a few stale Honey Buns from a vending machine to help knock me out, but we can't waste any time. They could be in trouble. They could be losing hope. We need to find them.

January 12
We spent all damn day looking, and we couldn't find anything. After talking it over, we decided against calling out for them. Donovan's right: they seem to come after any noise they hear. We must've checked every house within three miles of the trailer, but couldn't find any sign of people.

Managed to pick up some kind of machete looking thing in someone's garage. Not super sharp but it's nice to have something. Donovan hit the jackpot, though: found a handgun. Only eight bullets, but that's better than none.

January 15
Still no sign of them. Even if something terrible happened, we'd have seen them by now. We've been using the gas station as a base since we can't rule out they might show up, but Donovan and Matt are making the case we should head out.

I know it makes sense, but I can't bring myself to leave Val out there. We're starting to gather some attention here, though; a group of those things came pretty close today, but stuck to the road. Then an hour or so later some more showed up, but they were...different. They moved much more slowly, and they seemed to be not as alert. 

Might as well start trying to figure out what is wrong with these people, or at least learn how to avoid them.

January 16
We're heading out. I'm leaving a note for Val, just in case. Plan is to keep following the interstate until we get through the mountains, then we'll have to take smaller roads towards the base. We debated taking a car, but the highway's impassable in spots due to abandoned cars and wrecks. None of us know how to hot-wire anything either, so unless we find one with the keys in it I think we're walking. Bikes wouldn't be a bad idea, but there's enough snow on the ground to make it all but impossible.

I wish I knew a place to get horses.

January 19
Slow going. The weather has been awful; when it's not snow it's freezing rain or sleet. We're all soaked through and miserable. Donovan's starting to get a pretty bad cough. We checked out the road map and there's a decent-sized town three miles South that should probably have a department store or a Wal-Mart or something. We took a vote on making a detour to pick up some clothes and hopefully food. It was unanimous.

We've encountered a few more of those things on our way, and they seem to be affected by the cold, too. I could swear I've seen a few of them shivering, although Matt swears that's just my eyes shaking from being so damn cold and wet.

This time last year I was wishing for new Xbox games. Now I'd sell my soul for a sweater and a slicker.

January 21
Finally here. We made awful time, but Donovan's really slowed down because he's so sick. We also had to take a detour from our detour when we found a group of those things swarming around a pick-up truck that still had its alarm going off.

I'm confident there are definitely two types of these...people. One type is fast, and very aggressive. They seem to attack anything that moves, and they tend to try and pummel it with their fists and feet. They are much more alert than the other type, and I've seen them actively track down and kill a cat. They often sometimes just vomit for no reason. It's always a blackish-red, viscous goo. 

The other type are slower, but much more disgusting. They smell awful. They don't seem to see very well, but they hear almost everything. They're also very dumb, and I've seen one walk out of a second story window after a bird only to fall to the ground and continue on, crawling. 

January 22
We're in luck, we found some sort of outdoor outfitter store! People didn't really seem to tear the place up much, not like the bigger department stores anyway. Most of the ammunition is gone, but we did score two shotguns with a few shells. Now each of us have weapons, even if none of us really know how to use a gun. I suppose I played enough shooters to know it's basically point and click. Just hope they don't jam or something, because they we're screwed. I think I'll be sticking with the machete unless I absolutely have to.

Now the guys are debating how much more stuff we can carry on our backs. I'm heading out to find a pharmacy and see if we can get some cold medicine for Donovan.

January 22
Found the pharmacy and started scouting for Tylenol, Ibuprofen, TheraFlu, and other usual suspects for colds. I was stuffing the backpack I took from the outdoor outfitter with cold medicine when something caught my eye. I made my way down the aisle, hung a left, and stood staring. Soda. It was warm, but it was soda. I cracked open a Cherry Coke and drank it so fast the carbonation burned my lips and I choked. Tears welled in my eyes, but I didn't know if it was from the choking or just the simple pleasure of drinking a soda. I decided a little sugar rush might be a boost for the guys so I pocketed a few bottles to bring back with me. 

Food items were down to the usual stuff left behind: chips, pretzels, and candy bars. I did find some old off-brand muffins, but they were moldy beyond salvage. I made my way to the pharmacy counter to see if there was anything of use. I don't know enough about antibiotics to guess what might help Donovan, but I figured I might recognize a name or something. 

The door to get behind the counter was locked, and I was worried about setting off an alarm, so I climbed over the counter. It was one of those old timey setups, with no glass but a counter like five feet high, so I had to get two hands over the edge and kind of heave myself over. I fell flat on my back and felt a shot of pain run from my lower back down my left leg. I let out a yell that echoed off the walls.

Then I heard it.

It was low, and rumbling. At first I thought it had to be a guard dog, but as the air rushed out of its lungs the moan turned into a wicked hiss punctuated by hacking coughs. A smell unlike anything on earth poured into my nostrils, like rot and shit and hot trash and old blood. I turned my head quickly to try and see where it was and caught my temple on the corner of a desk. Blood ran down my face and my vision went blurry. I was seeing stars, but through the stars I could make out a figure stumbling towards me. 

"STOP!" I yelled, but it kept coming. I panicked and grabbed the shotgun from the side of my pack. I fired. The thing staggered backwards and fell on its back. I tried to scramble to my feet, but I saw it was still moving. It started pushing itself up. I shot it in the chest and it was getting up without so much as bleeding. I put the barrel of the gun in its face and pulled the trigger: click. I had to pump the action to cycle in a new shell first. Again I pulled the trigger. This time the thing's head exploded in a cloud of miasma. My eyes stung and I could feel the splatter on my face. Instinctively I turned away. My stomach heaved and I wretched and puked all over the floor and sat there for awhile, crying and thinking of Valerie and how fucked up the world is now.

I snapped out of it when I heard glass breaking. I looked over the counter and saw three of them banging on the doors and howling bloody murder. Now I'm sitting here, hiding behind the counter of the pharmacy, while they try to fight through two doors that open outward.

January 23
These things are so loud. They've attracted more and more to the front doors; I can't even see out any more. I found an emergency exit in the back, but it doesn't do me much good if it sets off an alarm. I'm sure Matt and Donovan are wondering where the hell I went off to. There are too many to try and fight through. I fired two shells so that means I have three left.

January 23
They're starting to bend the metal frame of the door. Looks like it's the emergency exit for me. No time like the present.

January 26
I should update this. Made it back to the outdoor outfitter, but in leaving the pharmacy I set off a door alarm that had to wake up the whole goddamn town. I swear I could hear a howl sweep through the streets. Those things started coming from every building; it's a miracle they hadn't already caught me when I headed that way the first time. 

I was chased by three or four of them and I knew I couldn't bring them back here, so I tried to lose them in some backyards. They were a lot better at hopping fences than I seem to be, though. I knew I was caught, so I turned to face them with the machete in my hand since I didn't want the shotgun to bring more my way.

The first one was a young man, probably in his 20s, covered in blood. He was growling and screaming and super aggressive, so aggressive that he slipped climbing over the chain link fence and snagged the skin of his arm on it. He didn't seem to notice the pain, but he couldn't pull himself free either. He kept leaping and snapping but his flesh wouldn't give way. It was disturbing.

The second was an overweight woman in some kind of house dress. She looked older, maybe 50s. Her eyes were almost completely white and when she opened her mouth to scream I could see thick, glistening bands of black saliva strung between her lips. She looked completely inhuman, but it still took everything I had to defend myself and actually attack her with the machete. It was...horrible. I've never so much as gone hunting before. While I was tangled with her my third pursuer, an older man wearing coveralls that looked to be from an auto body repair shop, came roaring over the fence for me. I kicked the woman aside and brought the blade of my machete forward just as he leapt over the fence and buried it into his chest. 

He was the first one of them I've ever seen exhibit pain. These things...they're not people any more but they're still...alive. It doesn't make sense. I left my other "friend" on the fence and beelined back for the store.

So far it seems like I made it without being followed (the alarm still going off at the pharmacy helps). We're feeding Donovan a steady dose of cold medicine and resting up to hike out of town soon. 

I would kill for a shower.

January 28
Alarm finally turned off. We could hear it through the streets, but it wasn't half as bad as all the howls from those people trying to get in there. Hopefully they stay there for awhile. Plan is to leave in the next day or so.

January 30
Heading out. Clear sky for the first time in I don't know how long. Hope it's a good omen.



Mancho said...

Glad to see you continued with the story. Much appreciated.

Mark Scott said...

Seriously, you are wonderful for keeping at this! Do you still work for Woot? If not, I would publish this. It's very much in the vein of "Day By Day: Armagedon", but personally, I think it's better. Very captivating.

Can't wait to read February and March's respective stories.

Randall Cleveland said...

Thanks for the kind words! I am no longer with Woot, but I'll keep churning these out as long as I can come up with something. Hopefully they won't decide to be dicks and sue me or something.

electronaut said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I had been waiting and waiting for another installment to come out on that w site, and then someone pointed me here.


This is such a great story. I'd even be happy to pay for it like a novel!

javamatte said...

Just shambled across this today; I can't believe I missed it on the other site!

Nice work!