Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Another street carpeted in things once considered essential. I wait. Nothing moves. Picking up a can of beans, I swing my arm back, then stop. Put the beans in my backpack. Spotting a can of prunes, I throw that instead.
It lands hard and skids into a discarded suitcase. The collision makes a good, loud noise. I wait. Still nothing moving. Probably safe to head on in.
Looks like this way’s been scoured hard already. Whoever dropped the cans must have been a latecomer. Dried blood and personal items reveal stories of families fighting for their integrity in the face of situations they never thought would happen to them.
A teddy bear sits upright against a parked car like someone tenderly set it down. It’s grey, but the eyes are clear blue. In what little light remains, they stand out. Like someone’s abandoned pet, watching without comprehension, waiting for someone to console it.
I pick it up and tuck it under one of the straps on my backpack.
“You got my six, grey bear?”
With a grin, I take a step, then stop. Now I can see there’s a small body under a blanket on the rear seat of the car.
I put the bear back down.
“Sorry, buddy. Didn’t spot you were already on duty.”
Fleeing people quickly discover just how far they’ll go to live a little longer. Morals and civilisation mean nothing when there’s eight people after one bottle of water. The winner might shed a tear or two, but they’ll survive regardless.
Not being one for people since I got out of the service, the end of civilisation stalked in with me watching in disbelief. The sentinels online, the worthy causes, the petitions, the speeches – dear gods, the speeches. Mum would have called it purple prose.
When it all went down, despite the years of warnings, ninety percent of the world got caught with their collective knickers down.
The first week was all sirens, alarms, screeching tyres, screaming, and running battles. I didn’t bother to check the sides involved. People desperate enough to fight? I’ll be off to the side, in cover, and waiting for the ones like me. Only met five so far. Got three from concealment with a pellet crossbow, took one down with a brick, and had a right ruck with the fifth, but he only cut me shallow. I left his guts on the ground. Got good gear from all of them.
Second week was quieter. Towards the end of it, the remaining holdouts quit because of the smell. A city full of rotting corpses reeks. I went through a pot of vapour rub that week.
Back to the water thing: only one group I’ve come across shared their last bottle: they used it to down cocktails from the pharmacy they’d just looted. I found them sprawled in a circle about a fire. They’d clearly made a party of it, then passed a bowl full of poisons around along with the bottle.
I can understand the reasoning, but reject the acceptance. If the end wants me, it’ll have to come and take me.
A crossroads. Well, now. I look back towards the car with the grey bear. He’d been looking south before I disturbed him. Question is: hopefully or warily?
No matter. I don’t think echoes of intuition coloured with emotion can really help. I was heading west. I’ll keep going. That said, I give the bear a salute before I go. Good luck to both of us, buddy.