The story out of Hong Kong really shook us all to the core. To know that a group of people had survived for so long in a situation that while it wasn’t optimal it was still better than most likely had. It was just heartbreaking that it had to end the way that it did; with Paul locked in a closet with the Undead shambling around on the other side of it.
The only positive thing that has happened to us in the last 5 days is that we finally made it to Seattle. It was a long journey and one that was filled with many pitfalls. In the end, we walked the last 100 miles. That wasn’t the brightest of ideas but all we had left were our feet. The bus that we had been travelling in finally quit on us. It was already down a tire from having run over something that was in the roadway and the strain on the engine was just too much for it. We did try to make a few other vehicles serviceable but none of their batteries were interested in recharging.
We had to keep moving. Anytime that we stopped we ran the risk of attracting the Undead. There were already some following us. When you looked back you could see them on the horizon, moving toward us in a never-ending shuffle. While they were likely a long way back, it meant that we had to keep moving. To stop for any length of time would only give them the advantage; they don’t stop to recuperate like we needed to.
It took us 49 straight hours of walking to complete that 100 kilometres. By the end, we were all so exhausted and so utterly terrified from having to traverse the landscape in the complete darkness. Both of the nights that we had to stay on the move were overcast and there was no celestial illumination for us to see by.
There were moments of heart stopping terror every time we came upon a car or truck positioned haphazardly on the road. Each stumble or touch of the foot against something that was suspiciously soft and smelled terrible elicited a tiny scream. It was slow going and at any point in time, our movements could have attracted the Undead. We never would have known that they were there until we heard the whisper silent shuffling of their feet on the asphalt or the sound of them bumping into one of the many obstacles. Or perhaps the brushing of Undead finger tips across our faces and bodies. They could have come out of the dark at us at any moment and we would have been powerless to avoid them.
Having to walk under those conditions actually slowed us down more than quicken our step. It was the fear of the unknown that practically paralyzed us. There were many times that each of us stopped and declared that it would be better just to let the Undead claim us. To sit down and wait in the dark for undeath. And each time, the collective power of the group continued to propel us forward.
At one point, we came across a mother cat with a litter of kittens that were likely no more than a few days old. It happened to be in the dark (of course!) and as we got closer she let out the loudest growl that we had heard. In the dark, the sound was magnified tenfold. It instantly brought back memories of the pride of Undead lions that we had encountered at the gas station. If I’d have had any food in my stomach at that moment, I would have lost it.
There have been times where I’ve been scared, I will admit that. Many a time in Afghanistan; so very often in the world that we currently live in. But this was different, my heart and stomach actually relocated into my throat and the noise utterly paralyzed me. Once we figured out that it wasn’t a real threat, it took me long minutes before I was able to keep moving.
While there was a desire for us to try to save the mother cat and her kittens, to bring them with us, we knew that we couldn’t. She was going to have to sort out a life for herself and her offspring, just like we trying to do. I didn’t hold out much hope that she would survive. If the Undead happened to pass her and she let out a growl, her kittens and likely herself would make a tasty meal. It was good to see that the cycle of life was continuing unchecked however. Maybe, just maybe some part of the world could rebuild.
Dawn was just breaking this morning when we saw our destination. The walled city of Seattle. It looked just like it had when we had passed it so many days ago. We had made it to our Mecca; now we just had to figure out how to get inside. It wasn’t going to be easy. We knew from driving all of the way around it that there was no discernible door. And to make matters worse, you could just make out the rotting bodies of the Undead shuffling around the concrete barriers.
We were going to need to be crafty. With the Undead ahead of us and behind us, and surely to our sides as well, it was a hard decision on what direction to take. Forward was really our only option and we could only hope for the best.
Once we had gotten closer, almost within a kilometre of the Undead, a truck came around the side of the walled city and drove right by the Undead that were lingering there. The Undead, seeing something mobile, immediately started to follow the truck. Could luck actually be on our side?
Once the Undead were clear around the other side of the building, we moved slightly faster than we had been (we were exhausted and really could only move so fast). We knew that we had very little time to cover all of that ground and disappear around the side of city that the truck had come from. We were hoping that the truck was a good omen; that there was a door or something on that side.
We were met by another car and some men on foot. They made us stop and strip down to nothing. I knew it was necessary that they look for bites but it was dehumanizing all the same. This was what we had become; a new society where you didn’t take a chance in trusting anyone.
Once they had sufficiently checked all of us over, we were led to a door built into the wall. It was cleverly painted to look like the rest of the concrete. No wonder we didn’t notice it at the time. Being in a car and driving somewhat quickly would have made it impossible to distinguish.
We were led through the door and into a world that looked and felt like it had never stopped. People were cutting their lawns and going about their business as if the death on the outside of their wall didn’t even exist. The word utopia came to mind; that mythical place that was meant to be perfection…
The tears could not be stopped. Each of us, with the exception of the children, had ourselves a mini-breakdown. To know that life still existed was so hard to process. While we were thankful, it reminded us of all of the people we had loved and lost. Of the way the world used to be. Of the months staring into the face of undeath.
And here in this idyllic place, life went on. Practically undisturbed.
It’s going to take some getting used to; living again. We’ve spent so much time surviving, we’d forgotten to live our days as well. Such a pitiful existence but it was over. At least for the moment. You can never get too comfortable in an Undead world.