A post-apocalyptic tale of the disaster of eternal life
The smell of the salty air, the sounds of waves crashing, and the warmth of the sun; that is where Pietro’s mind drifted. . His little girl Evangeline and his darling wife Sarah running back and forth in tandem with the waves. Memories of watching the sunset disappear and watching the night sky rise before returning home. A vision of a time that seemed to have occurred a lifetime ago. Looking around now all he saw was the dark clouds that never gave way to that beautiful radiant light. He shifted in his position and grimaced at the pain from his wound. He hated that incessant howling that, at first, had curdled his blood, however now just annoyed him. He glanced around in the distance and saw them moving back and forth ever so quickly and cautiously. There was no need for them to be worried as he hurled his gun into the pile of other useless wooden pieces, but they didn’t know that. He questioned all the choices he had made that had led him to this moment. To die in this dingy old barn. He sighed deeply, watching the chill materialize his breath, and began to let his mind fade.
Pietro woke that morning to the smell of freshly ground coffee and the shuffling of feet in the snow. He crawled out from under his tent and took stock of his surroundings. He saw that Captain Vonzer was up, before everyone else and had set the pot. The captain had always taken it upon himself to rise early and be the last to sleep. It was one of the many traits Pietro admired about the man. Pietro also noticed the others were rousing from their sleep. The captain gave his usual greeting, “Glad to see the rest of you decided to join me in the land of the living.” He said this in a gruff tone with a hint of humor behind it. Pietro had spent enough time in Captain Vonzer’s company to know that this was his attempt to bring light to a dark situation. The rest of the troop: Lieutenant Lev, Gustaf, Ivan, and Anya all rose in their own time and began to huddle around the meager fire. Vonzer began to pass out cups and everyone eagerly grasped the metal chalice of heat. As soon as they all had been passed out Vonzer turned off the propane burner and the little light they had, faded. So there they all sat huddled together in the darkness of the Void.
The Void was created when mankind was at the height of the pinnacle of existence, or so they believed. From this sense of superiority, mankind attempted to spit in the face of God and prolong their existence; indefinitely. Through the toil of the world’s greatest scientists came the elixir of life. Just one drop stopped the aging process completely. Needless to say, this cure was sold to the highest bidder and left the masses to pass through time normally. There was however a side-effect unbeknownst to those that took this medicine. A single dose stopped natural death, but if the recipient of this medicine were to die an unnatural death, they became the hungering dead. A twisted amalgamation of flesh with endless hunger, emboldened abilities, and the ability to pass on this curse. It was not long before the overcrowded society began to crumble beneath this new threat. This outbreak drove the world to use their greatest arsenals in an attempt to stop the spread. These weapons seemed to succeed in dwindling the hungering dead at the dire cost of the living as well. It also blanketed the sky in darkness and rendered electronics useless in what came to be known as the Void. This place is where the remaining hungering dead gathered away from the public eye; left to their own devices. Walls were erected around this region and the world pooled its remaining resources in an attempt to stave off this new form of death. This hellish place is where Pietro and his companions now sat, huddled and cold with their cups of coffee.
Captain Vozner spoke up first, “About time to get moving, command is going to want those coordinates sooner rather than later.” The party started to pick up camp and set their makeshift home onto the wagon. They hitched up the horses and began to climb aboard. Lieutenant Lev took his spot as the handler for their convoy and began to usher the horses forward. They moved along in all but complete silence with a mild comment made here and there about the cold or how harsh the bumps on the trail were. They passed by the enormous and desolate structures where Pietro imagined there was once so much life. He shook his head and continued to scan the horizon. Now that they were deep into the Void they had to be wary of any stray hungering dead scouts. These abominations had grown some form of intelligence. A debrief given by command based on what scouts returned from the Void, pointed to some sort of zone that was protected ferociously. Captain Vozner and his party had been given the grim task; along with a few other such parties, to find out what was in this area and if important, to relay coordinates. Once it had been located they were to report the exact location using fire and smoke. Command could then use the smoke that would penetrate through the low clouds of the Void to target and hopefully destroy the threat once and for all.
This threat was smart and throughout the way forward they spotted several scouts. These even quicker versions of the hungering dead, based on intel, would retreat and return with a host of undead. The party was able to kill them relatively easily and quickly. Then it happened, one got away as they neared the center, and that spelled disaster. They chased after it for what seemed like an eternity before finally, the wagon wheels shattered under the stress. So they continued on foot leaving behind anything not light enough to be carried. They set the horses who were too terrified to move forward, loose. The horses would know their way home. Pietro secretly wished he could go with them. The group ran forward as long as their legs would carry them, but their prey had escaped. Captain Vonzer turned to his men with the darkest expression they had ever seen on the man and spoke, “You all know what losing that freak means; we are on a timer now, and a short one at that. Vonzer looked at each member of the company directly before speaking again.“ We must complete the mission at all costs, failure is not an option.” Each member of the company was a volunteer for this mission having either so much to protect or nothing left except the thirst for vengeance. Anya spoke up first, “We chose this path and we are with you to the end.” Pietro along with the rest of the motley crew nodded and agreed. The captain then stood and straightened himself and said, “For the living then and for the living always!” Everyone chorused with him and Pietro felt a sense of purpose surge through him.
The company trudged along with this newfound purpose and made its’ way deeper into the Void. Along the way, they were accosted on all sides expending bullet after bullet, and with each of these resources dwindling, so too did their hope of survival. They continued until by some stroke of luck or a miracle, they had found it. The nest, a bulbous mass of what appeared to be writhing muscle and peeled skin. They were forced to hole up as the dead came at them in droves. Captain chose the building that would eventually be their final stand. An old abandoned barn that compared to other buildings stood resolute. They ran inside and barricaded every opening with what was available and climbed to the second story. This scramble inside wasn’t without its cost, as Anya became the first of them to suffer a devastating wound. She spoke to the Captain about how she would miss her husband Victor and her children Erik and Hope. She sobbed uncontrollably as she spent her final moments saying their names before Vonzer laid her to rest. With each wave of the hungering dead that hit, more and more resources were spent as well as blood. Captain took the grim task of laying each of his courageous members to rest. Lev took this the hardest and he attempted to fight back against the Captain shouting that he wouldn’t turn. This fight cost them even more bits of hope and lead to the Captain being scratched by Lev before he departed. There were but two people left Pietro and Vonzer. Vonzer knew what the scratch meant. He spent his final moments talking about his beloved wife, her beauty, her grace, and the way that she danced. He wistfully said, “ When she danced the whole room would stop and stare at my beloved dorogoy.” He turned to Pietro and told him to complete the mission. “Set the biggest fire you can young one and then run as fast as your feet can carry you” he commanded. With these final words, Pietro expended the last of their bullets to extinguish the Captain before he turned. Pietro then began dousing building after building in napalm including that old barn. This fire would be the signal for command to launch what bombs they had left.
Pietro snapped back into reality as the snarling grew closer. He growled back and spit out into the dark in hopelessness. It would not be long now before the virus did its job. He did not need to take a look at the wound he acquired while dousing the buildings. He knew what it meant. He knew there was no hope of returning, not that he wanted to. He sat up next to the window of that barn and thought to himself it was not such a bad place to die. He spared one glance back at the bodies of his fallen comrades. He hoped that they had found some semblance of peace. Pietro did not know why he wasted so much time just sitting there in the bitter cold, staring at the most hideous sight he had ever seen. Perhaps it brought him some comfort to know that soon the world would be free of this nightmare. Maybe it could be that he was too scared to die. He took the lighter from his pocket and shouted out at this colony of horror, “ They will know soon enough and your kind will cease to exist!” He dropped it into the pile of wood and watched the flames spread. He laughed despite the fear and the pain. At least he would not be cold in his final moments or in the dark. He began to sing a lullaby Sarah had sung so often to Evangeline to help put her to sleep if she woke from a nightmare. “I will see you both soon,” he whispered as his vision was swallowed by flames and smoke.