Image Prompt Photo done by TetaMaonja on DeviantArt
What we had could never last. It was irresponsible to think otherwise. We used resources like it was going out of style. The seas rose with the temperature. We put trash in the ocean and smog into the air. We passed our debts onto our children, and then there children. It was a world on fire. We lived irresponsibly never thinking about the world we were creating. Then the great fall happened. The world had finally caught up to us and it was too late to repent. We had made our beds and now we had to sleep in them.
For decades leading scientists warned us about super bugs and the danger surrounding antibiotics, but we didn’t listen. Huge corporations sprayed pesticides on all their crops. Government leaders denied that our climate was changing. Celebrities with megaphones told crowds that vaccines were poison and that natural rocks would cure them from their toxins. We didn’t listen. We chose to ignore the pleas of the people who study this for a living.
What started as the bird flu in China quickly spread across Asia into the rest of the world. Global trade brought the disease to all corners of the globe. Then people got really sick. We’re talking the kind of sick you read about in the Bible or history books. It quickly turned from sickness to plague to world wide epidemic. Governments collapsed and society fell with it. People fought tooth and nail over the last bottle of Tylenol or a can of cat food. We tore each other a part.
My story of survival starts a year and a half after the last message. One last message sent out by the US Government. Telling everyone that there was no help coming. Everyone was by themselves. Maybe one day the government would come back. But I seriously doubt it. I don’t even know that there are enough people left to form a government.
A few lucky few like myself made it out. I got sick, but managed to recover. I don’t know why I’m not dead like the rest of them. Even after the world died off, I had half of mind of putting the end of the riffle in my mouth. I mean what’s the point of living in this wasteland? But I couldn’t do it. I decided to pack up some things, set fire to my house and farm, and walked away leaving my old life behind. Then I walked across the country. I had my riffle over one shoulder and my pack over the other.
In a weird way I was free to travel. That’s not a leisure I had when I was running the family farm. Always had responsibilities. Animals. Crops. Whatever it was, it kept me from exploring the world. But now in the last year and a half, I’ve been all over the place. I’m a scavenger now. So it’s not all luxury, but all I have to worry about is myself. No government breathing down my neck. No celebrities with megaphones. Just me and the wilderness.
Every now and then I’ll stumble onto other people’s paths. Most of these go well and no harm is done. I met individuals in similar situations to me. Just scavengers trying to survive. Once I met an entire family. Husband, wife, and young child, maybe four or five. That was quite odd for me. It had been over a year since I saw a child, especially someone that young. It was almost like seeing an alien species or something. A relic of a time so long ago. I didn’t stay with them long. I didn’t have the heart for it. But I hope they are well.
My latest excursion brought me into what was a small town. Lots of brick buildings. There was an empty riverbed running through the center of town. Some rundown bridges covered in vines, ferns, and other plant life. The plants grew on everything covering the red brick and black asphalt. Kind of beautiful if you didn’t think about what it used to be. All the people that once inhabited it.
I walked through the dried up riverbed holding the riffle in my hands. I used the tip of the gun to look under discarded trash and other litter. Every now and then I find something to add to my collection. Stuff that might not be useful like food or medical supplies, but stuff that reminded me of the time before. Unfortunately most of the stuff at the bottom of the riverbed was just discarded trash. Some tires. Tin cans. Clothes. Plastic water bottle. The normal junk.
Further up ahead I saw some collapsed stonework and an abandoned car. I walked up to it being as quiet as possible. I studied it. The front was smashed into the stone wall and was barely recognizable. There was scattered glass everywhere. In the driver seat was a human skeleton twisted up in the metal of the car. The individual must have driven off the road and crashed into the river, smashing their car into the stone wall. I checked the back of the car and I saw a bag sitting in the backseat.
I pulled a hammer from my bag and smashed the window (never use the butt of a gun as a club). Then I carefully reached in and pulled the bag from the car. I knelt down and opened the bag to study its contents.
First-Aid kit. A radio and extra batteries. Rope. Pocket Knife. Pistol Ammo.
No food, but that’s ok. This probably happened early on when people thought there would be enough food at the camps. Our government promised they would take care of us.
I thought about each item as I transferred them into my backpack. The pistol ammo stuck out to me. No gun in the bag. But he had ammo. That means he probably has the gun on him.
I stood up and broke what was left of the driving side window. It took me a while to reach over the whithered man, but there on his right hip was a gun holster. I managed to free the pistol and his holster from the skeleton and pulled my arm free. With a little adjusting I had a handgun strapped to my side with my riffle in hands.
Then I gave a quick look around. You could never be too careful. The vast majority of people and animals died from the disease, but the ones that were left were craftier. More hungry. More willing to attack.
Nothing was behind me, but I noticed something up in front of me. Not too far from the car was a makeshift bridge made from the wreckage of a toppled, brick building. It was some kind of brick tower that had fallen over and smashed into the opposite wall forming a type of unstable bridge. I wouldn’t trust walking on it, but it looked like it was just stable enough to serve as a temporary shelter. I could hide in this riverbed or I could seek out some other place to stay. Many empty brick buildings around.
Just then there was a snapping sound I turned around raising my riffle at the sound.
I didn’t see anything, but I definitely heard the snapping of a twig.
“Come out, whoever you are,” I yelled out. “I know you’re there. I have a gun. Come out slowly.”
I thought about dropping my bag to the ground so I wasn’t so heavy, but at the same time I knew that I might have to turn tail and run at a moments notice. I didn’t want to leave behind all my resources for some scavenger.
“I don’t want to shoot you. Just come out so I can see you,” I yelled again.
I heard the crunching sound of metal and a person stepped out from around the corner of the riverbed. Before they were obscured by the curvature of the stone wall, but now I saw them.
It was a female. A little younger than me, but still in her adulthood. She had a short, bob of brown hair. Her clothes looked rugged and torn. Blood plastered the right side of her face and hair. Her right eye was bruised and could barely open. This woman was a mess. A bloody, dirt-covered mess.
“Please, help me,” She cried out. “I won’t survive out here. I need your help.”
I stood there with my rifle raised at her.
She was obviously in trouble, but could I trust her? Was I obligated to help her? Was this some sort of trap?
This is the world now. And in this world, things always boil down to the hardest of decisions.
Header Photo Credit to TetaMonja’s DeviantArt Page