It's taken four days of cat and mouse, but I've found him. He's on high alert, probably because he lost track of me the day I found Nicole and took off. I figured he would have the surrounding woods mapped out or even booby trapped, so I made a beeline for the main drag through town and booked it East.
No sign of Valerie.
It's been one year. One year since the world went off the fucking rails and everything changed forever. One year ago I was drinking to forget my stupid job and my girlfriend troubles. Today I'm stalking another human being with every intent of murdering him in cold blood before he can kill me.
And I have to do it without alerting the hundreds of undead corpses milling around looking to eat me alive.
Starting to figure out his schedule: he’s out every morning to clear out any biters that have stumbled near the house he’s camped out in. Then, if he’s got food, he eats. Last two days he apparently hasn’t had anything, though. At first he would spend most of each day spiraling out from his little base, and I think he was looking for me. Lately though he’s been heading directly for specific houses and looting them.
He’s back every night before dark. He’s always very alert, looking around, stopping at the smallest sound. No doubt he’s got a way to see out the windows without giving himself away. This is going to be tough.
I’ve been trying to ration out my supplies so I can eat regularly and keep my strength up, but I’m running out of options and I’m down to a can of refried beans and a can of corned beef hash.
Not exactly what I’d pick for what might be my last meal, but I’ll make do.
Tonight I’m going after James. I’ve worked this out in my head a thousand times, and every time I’ve delivered some sort of dramatic indictment of all his crimes before finishing him off.
But I can’t be dramatic. I have to find him and kill him. Quickly. Before he can kill me.
I feel like I should write some sort of last will and testament. If you are reading this and have found my journal, it’s likely I’m dead. Hopefully I’m not chasing after you trying to eat you. If I am, you have my blessing to end my suffering with a bullet to the brain.
I don’t know what else to say, except that I hope you understand that I’m doing what I’m doing because there is a man out there who is a danger to everyone he encounters, and he’s cunning, armed, and more dangerous than any of the monsters walking the streets. He’s killed my friends. He’s tried to kill me.
In fact, if you’re reading this and I’m dead, you should be on the lookout for him.
I am a murderer.
I killed a man. A man who deserved to die for his actions, but I killed him. I’ve killed so many monsters, watched people I’ve cared for die horribly and in pain, but now I have killed a living, breathing human being in cold blood.
I couldn’t risk trying to break in; even with James most likely asleep I figured any noise might wake him up and I didn’t want to risk a firefight with him so heavily armed. I decided to take a page out of James’ book: I took the boom box and batteries I’d scraped together, made sure they worked, and brought them along with a rifle. I was worried to bring Buddy along in case he couldn’t be quiet, but I didn’t want to leave him penned in either.
At about 2 am I made my move to the house. The approach was agonizingly slow; with each step I would pause, listen, and hope to god I wasn’t in James’ sights from some unseen sniper nest in the house. Eventually I made my way to the front porch. The house had a flat awning covering the entryway; I cranked the volume knob to max, turned on the FM function and threw the thing on the roof of the awning, wincing as the static from the radio spiked in my ears.
I scrambled out of the yard and behind a garden shed in the neighbor’s yard. It didn’t take long for the woods to come to life with screams and groans from all the shambling monsters suddenly tuned in to the sound from the house. I stayed low and quiet, willing my breath to come in slow, steady, and quiet sighs. Buddy was tense at my feet, the hair on his back standing straight up and low, rumbling growls coming from his belly.
My position allowed me to see the entire front yard as well as the driveway where James had parked a car I’d seen him use before. My plan was to catch him off guard, get him to panic, and pick him off when he came out. The front door flew open. In the dark I could just barely make out his silhouette as he strained to reach the boom box on the roof. I looked down the rifle sight, exhaled slowly and aimed for center of mass.
The shot exploded in the blackness. He collapsed on the porch. An eater that had been closing in on him from the street suddenly turned, zeroing in on the sound of my rifle. I could hear James screaming over the ringing in my ears from the gunshot. He was screaming Valerie’s name.
Then gunfire erupted from the second story of the house. Whoever was up there had a semi-automatic rifle and knew exactly where I was. I screamed and threw myself onto Buddy as wood splintered and rounds cracked all around us. The barrage stopped as the shooter reloaded and I could hear James scream: “Valerie are you okay?!”
I can’t write any more right now.
Been hard to focus. I have to keep moving to stay ahead of the swarm and it’s tough to find food. This area seems to have been picked over pretty thoroughly, which is weird since we’re out in the sticks. I thought there’d be more preppers or something out here.
I’m just avoiding writing about that night. I feel like I have to write it down, though. To have some sort of record of my sins or something. Maybe just to get whatever the fuck this is out of my head.
I heard James scream to Valerie and my mind shattered. I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears, a driving backbeat to the ringing pulsing through my skull from the gunfire. Slowly the moaning from the freaks faded into my awareness on top of it all, but there was one voice in the mix that stood out. It was human. And it was female.
It was Val. I shot her.
She was lying on the ground. I could make out her arms as she reached skyward, and I could hear her moaning and gurgling. One of the monsters was closing in on her. I took aim with my rifle, but before I could pull the trigger its chest exploded and it collapsed in a heap, still struggling but unable to move much beyond clawing at the grass. Val cried for help, but her voice was weak. I scanned the woods with the rifle, waiting to shoot anything that tried to get to Val.
Seconds ticked by, but they felt like hours. The groans and howls of runners and crawlers homing in on the sound of the gunshots echoed off the trees and houses. James spilled out of the door. I could see the shape of his rifle slung over his shoulder. He leaned over Val. I could hear them speaking to each other, and crying. Both of them. I drew the rifle onto James. He was oblivious; he was trying to lift Val off the ground but she was too hurt and he seemed too weak. He almost missed three dead walking in through the gate in the fence; he had to stop and fumbled with his rifle before he was able to draw it from his shoulder and drop them.
I held my aim, exhaled, and pulled the trigger.
I don’t know if it was out of ammunition or just jammed. I didn’t have time to check. James was distracted with the creeps filtering in from the trees. I sprinted out from behind the shed, angling my path to stay behind him. I pulled the knife from my hip and held it downward, ready to strike, visualizing the attack in my head when Buddy sprinted past me, snarling. James turned at the sound but Buddy was on him; his jaws clamped down on James’ arm and he jerked his head viciously from side to side. James shrieked and moved to fight off the dog, dropping his gun.
I threw myself into him, knocking him to the ground. He tried to fight back, but I was surprised at how weak he was. He could barely raise his hands to fight me off, but I plunged the knife into his chest. I felt it slice through muscle and catch on his ribs for a split second before it continued its course deep into his chest.
He sighed. All the air went out of him at once. I wish I could say I told him how he deserved it. I wanted to tell him that this was for Nicole. For Hank. And Michael. And for Valerie. But I couldn’t. I didn’t say anything. I stared into his eyes and watched the life ebb out of them like the blood seeping from his chest and coating us both with each weakened heartbeat. I stared at him, and he stared at me, his ragged breathing turned into one soft exhalation and I watched his eyes lose focus. He was no longer staring at me, he was staring through me. He was dead.
I picked myself up, remembering to grab the knife and James’ rifle, and went to Val. She was looking at the sky when I approached, and her eyes slowly followed my movement. Tears welled in her eyes. She couldn’t feel her legs. She couldn’t feel anything below her chest. The bullet must’ve hit her spine. She was already having trouble focusing her eyes. Her mouth moved, but no words came. I leaned down and held her hand. I wanted to tell her I was sorry. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful and wonderful and never deserved to see the whole world end like this. I wanted to tell her she’d be okay.
Instead I just held her hand and cried. Then I took the rifle and I ended her suffering.
I’m headed East. I can make the military base in a week or so on foot if I keep moving.
According to the Triple A map I lifted from a gas station, I’m three miles from the base. I can hear those monsters howling.
Flickr photo Borderline Biennale 2011 - Les Cavaliers de l'Apocalypse, thierry Ehrmann & Lukas Zpira acting performance IMGP6769 by thierry ehrmann used under a Creative Commons License.