As witnessed by Jenna Pitman
Four years ago I lived alone, nestled away on the peripherals of a tiny mining town with two dogs and heaps of moldering machinery. I was a mechanic, eking out a living and arguing with cheapskate foremen attempting to swindle me out of my cut after repairs time and time again. In short, life was good.
.....Then the dead came back.
I still don't know where they came from, no one does. Not that it matters; they're here now. Oh there were theories and I'm sure there still are, but no one I know cares. None of the theorists I knew survived. While you're fighting to hold onto life you're not exactly at liberty to postulate the origins of your death's harbinger. Not unless that's the way you want to go.
I don't really know what I was doing all those years ago, it's all a faded blur of fear and panic. I can tell you that the first day it was just stories, tiny articles in hidden columns of newspapers, brief clips tucked away in remote corners of news sites. They didn't impact me; they hardly affected anyone. But then the stories got bigger, and they got bigger fast. When the radio and television stations started covering them I'd already had my first encounter. By the end of that day all broadcasts were off the air. That was less than three days following the first reports. Within those seventy-two hours the dead had infiltrated anywhere with a notable gathering of people.
Most people managed to endure the first week, many even managed to skid through the following seven days. Then the immediate hysteria and general human nature took their toll. Both are fearsome collectors. The stupid and weak were the first to fall. Children, the old, the diseased, druggies, religious nuts; those sorts. Only the smartest and the strongest and only in that combination can come out of that. In less than six months there were more teaming with the dead than running with the living and those who failed to come back or fell twice out-numbered us both.
.....That was four years ago.
The dead, the Walkers, are still here. And so are we. In a manner of speaking. We're confined to fortified cities tucked away from the skeletons of our old metropolises, far apart from even each other. But it's the only way to live. You can't grow all the food you need on your own. Not if you want to keep up an effective vigil, keep the dead from getting you. Venturing out there is suicide. The Walkers are simply too great a threat.
I haven't been outside the thick walls of Haven in three years. For three years I've lived side by side with other Thinkers, working together with them and even developing bonds that make me care for them. It's not at all what I was accustomed to but I suppose survival is about adaptation.
The past month has gotten harder. There was an epidemic that hit Haven last winter and our medical supplies are limited. Haven suffered significant causalities. We stopped burning the bodies, opting to dispose of them outside of our perimeter instead. I don't know why we stopped, but at some point we decided it was somehow better that way.
Since then the numbers of the Walkers have increased again. I guess that means there's more Thinkers out there somewhere. There have to be more, the only way the dead can bolster their numbers is when one of us dies. That's why we'd been cremating the bodies of our fallen comrades all these years, that why our undead attackers haven't simply rotted away to nothing. It's how we know that we're not the only bastion of civilization (if you can call it that) left in our corner of the world.
I think that's why we started setting our dead out to resurrect rather than ending the nightmare we all fear before it even begins. We told ourselves it would let the others know we're still here though I do wonder if we just did it to give ourselves something to do. But now, every time you set your scope on the skull of some one who used to laugh with you over the nightly Haven bonfire your stomach sinks and as you send a bullet through their brain you find yourself wondering how long before you're mindlessly trying to claw your way back into the last home you knew. Before your only desire is the flesh of those who used to stand by your side and protect you against this very fate.
A lot can change in four years; it seems the entire world can. I'm not really sure what I think anymore, I'm not really sure it matters. This is status quo, this is how the world is. It's a reality you have to learn to live with. It's either that or the un-life that awaits you when it's done.
Model: LUX - MUA: Tom Richards
photo: Donald Holman