Day 167

Now that we had found the children, our concentration turned to locating any remaining survivors before the crawlers got to them. We had to find a safe place to stash all of the children and to set up a headquarters of sorts until we could clear the settlement completely. We decided on one of the  many empty warehouses close to a well-stocked communal kitchen. The warehouse is big and open in concept and luckily in an area that we could clear of crawlers very easily.

Having located a safe place to stay and access to a food source, some of the survivors found by Lt. Lafferty’s team decided they would be better served helping with the children and making meals. The population of the warehouse grew and the children were relieved to see that more of the adults had survived. A number of them had no idea if other members of their families had survived; it was apparent though that having more people around them helped them to relax and gave them a sense of hope. There is nothing worse that staring at the faces of despondent children when they should be filled with joy. It was hard to keep joy in their faces given the fact that the world was in such a state of chaos but for the most part, you saw it as long as they felt safe.

A great number of the living adults went back out in the settlement to help clean up the streets. They were also looking for any survivors that we had yet to discover. It was a gruelling task; the crawlers had moved far and wide through the settlement. They weren’t terribly hard to kill again. One hard hit to the head was usually enough and they were easy enough to track; their slimy trails leading the way.

The only time it got difficult was if you happened along a fairly sizable group. You had to be careful in those instances because you wanted to ensure that each one was dead before you moved onto the next. Otherwise, you’d end up like Juan.

Juan was among the survivors that Lt. Lafferty had encountered and one of the first volunteers to go back out into the streets. He was a large man, both tall and wide, with a very soft demeanour. It was obvious that the events that brought about the end of our world weighed heavily on him; you could see it each and every time you looked into his face. What you also saw was the determination to reclaim what once belonged to humanity.

One might think that we would all be as careful as possible. Especially with the warnings given to us by others. From the story that was relayed to me, Juan was working through the throng of crawlers on one of the streets, taking one side while his partner Cillian handled the other. He was making great headway and had gotten a little bit in front of Cillian and into an area where the crawlers were a little closer together. To Cillian it appeared as if one of the crawlers managed to survive the blow that Juan dealt it. Once he moved on, the crawler followed slowly but methodically after him.

When Juan stopped for a moment to catch his breath, its bony hand reached out to take hold of his leg. The fear of the moment released a scream from Juan and caused him to stumble in his haste to extricate himself. He went down and into the fray of a number of crawlers who were on him before he could get back up again. They started to devour him and as Cillian responded to Juan’s screams, they stopped as suddenly as they started. As Cillian watched in horror, Juan got back up; only it wasn’t Juan that started in his direction.

Cillian will be the first to admit that it had been a very long time since he had seen one of the walking Undead but the sight chilled him to the bone. Juan was a big guy and he had no idea how he was ever going to be able to drop the giant coming toward him with a single baseball bat. As Undead Juan bore down on him, Cillian got ready to release the swing of his life. Forgotten was the horde of crawlers around him, his eyes were firmly planted on the walker.

With a strong swing of the bat, Cillian was able to propel Undead Juan backward and off the curb. The change in plane was enough to knock him back to the ground and as he slapped the asphalt of the road, Cillian heard an unnatural snap. Watching Undead Juan try to flip over without the use of his legs, he knew that something had actually gone his way. He was able to approach the corpse and used his bat to pulverize the cranium of what was once his friend.

With that done, Cillian decided that he needed to get back to the warehouse and report what had happened. He also needed a new partner to clear the streets with. We found him in the back of the warehouse, staring at the wall blankly. His story was sad but we all know the inherent dangers of our new world. He’ll get over it in time.

Lt. Lafferty, Julie and I decided that it was time we got back to the Police Station. There were a number of supplies in the station that would be of great use to us if we could readily get to them. We knew that it was going to be hard work clearing the station, especially with the room full of the Undead.

When we got to the doors of the conference room, we found that they were still closed. It was a good sign in a way; it meant that all of the Undead we’d encountered were still behind them. Once we opened the door, ready to start killing, we found the sight a little strange; they were all still in the same pile, it’s writhing like that of a pile of snakes you might see in a pet store.

It took us a while to make sure that all of the crawlers in that pile were truly dead. We had decided to lure them away from the pile and in doing that, not need to worry too much about being overrun. There was just no way that we could have handled them all as a pile; no way at all.

As the pile started to disperse, you could see that there was something at its bottom; up against the wall there was something that looked like a stout wooden cabinet.

It took us a while to kill them all but once we had, we gingerly stepped over the corpses to the blood smeared cabinet against the wall.

Opening it, ready to deal with anything that might happen to come out, we were surprised to see a contorted person on the inside.

It was Marcus and at first glance, he wasn’t looking too well. Dead even.

Julie reached out to touch him.

Just as she was about to make contact with the spot on his wrist where his radial pulse should be, he sputtered into consciousness; the look on his face one of abject terror.

Getting him out of the cabinet was difficult; he’d really wedged himself inside. All of his muscles were agonizingly taut and cramped and in the 25 minutes it took for us to pry him out of the cabinet, he swore like a sailor. Getting his cramped and contorted muscles to straighten was painful I’m sure but it needed to be done. We had to get Marcus back to the warehouse and there was no way we could carry him the distance. After about an hour, Marcus was able to stand, painful as the action was and we started to slowly backtrack our way to the warehouse.

The walk back was long and excruciating. Every step seemed to cause a great deal of pain but looking on the bright side, he was alive at least. A number of the others hadn’t been that lucky.

Back at the warehouse, we discovered that one of the teams had managed to get the power grid back online. It was great news as the dark was starting to unnerve quite a few of the children.

Just as the three of us were about to go out again, we got a call from the team at the hospital. After finding a way in, they had painstakingly scoured each floor of the ten storey building during the daylight hours. What they found was complete pandemonium; overturned beds, some small arms fire but very little blood.

As they cleared each floor, they didn’t find a lot of crawlers. They could see from the state of the place that the Undead rodents had managed to get inside but the amount of blood they saw did not add up to a massacre. As they wound their way downward into the bowels of the hospital, they wondered if the patients and staff had managed to get out the day of the breach, before the building was overrun.

In the basement, they found their answer.

The doors to the morgue had been fortified; barricaded against the menace the Undead rodents represented.

They called out through the doors, seeing no other way of getting through them. In response, there were the sounds of scraping making them unsure of what might be contained on the other side of the double doors.

The doors opened, revealing one hundred and twenty people, all alive and jammed into the expansive room. It was a moment of joy as everyone realized that they were a little less alone in a world full of the Undead.

As of this moment, two hundred and forty three survivors remain. Our hope is that the number only increases.

The Next Day

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Day 166

After finding the pink hoodie, none of us wanted to stop. But the darkness was fast approaching and we knew that we didn’t have the means to continue searching. We found a nearby store and spent the night; tensely I might add. Unfortunately it had been inventoried and emptied for the settlement a long time ago. All of us were getting ravenous; it had been days since any of us had eaten anything. We would need to find something to eat soon. If we didn’t, we ran the risk of not being able to continue the search for the children and other survivors.

Knowing that we had to find something to eat, Julie let us know there was a warehouse for the communal kitchens not too far away. We left at first light, making the decision to check out the warehouse as we began our search for the day. The truth of the matter was that we would need some form of nourishment in the event that we found the children. It would have been days since any of them had likely eaten as well.

Hunger can really affect a person negatively. The last thing that we wanted was for the children to go searching for food, only to be caught unaware by some of the crawlers. It was a worrisome point in that we had no idea in what state we would find them. We prayed they would be okay but the truth was that they could be delirious or even unconscious. They wouldn’t be able to communicate with us if they were passed out from dehydration or malnourishment. We could wander the streets for days calling out to them only to have passed them many times, their small bodies lying lifeless behind the walls, unable to call out for help. It was something we didn’t want to think about but we had to prepare ourselves for how we might eventually find them.

We did try to keep those frantic thoughts at bay. It wasn’t going to help us find them any faster if we panicked. Making our way to the warehouse in search of food was the first course of action that we had to take. Food was essential; it was a priority especially after considering all of the options.

As we travelled the relatively short distance to the warehouse, we noticed the trails of crawler slime ground into the asphalt. Our goal of searching for the children never wavered, we still called out to them as we walked to the warehouse, hoping that they were still close by. Perhaps we would locate them prior to reaching the warehouse. They could be hiding anywhere, in any of the vacant businesses. The trails of putrid slime seemed to point in the direction of the warehouse so we followed them. They were moving toward something, following something; perhaps the children.

Turning the last corner, bringing the warehouse into full view we could see that the crawlers had completely covered the front approach to it. They were so thick, like worms on the surface after the rain, writhing and rolling on top of each other.

Seeing the crawlers made each of us wonder if the children could be inside. While none of us tried to get our hopes up, the fact that the crawlers were there and for no apparent reason as of yet, made us believe that there was someone in the warehouse. We still had a field of crawlers to get through before we’d know for sure.

We put Liam into a vacant store around the corner, knowing there was no way that we could take him with us. He didn’t want to be left alone but in the end, he understood that he would be safer inside and alone while we cleared the crawlers from the front of the warehouse.

We took a moment to check in with the team that was still trying to get into the hospital. They had encountered quite a few obstacles once they got there and had yet to breach the building. From what they could tell, whoever was at the hospital when the Undead breach occurred had secured the doors as best as they could. I don’t blame them; I hadn’t wanted the Undead rodents inside with me either. The team couldn’t get anyone inside to respond to them either as they shouted from the perimeter; they had no idea if there were any survivors holed up inside. Each night they had to retreat to the safety of a vacant house they’d found nearby. Their update last night conveyed the message that they thought they’d finally found a way in.

The problem with just going through a window or some other constrained access point was the desirability for an easy egress. The hospital could very well be full of the Undead, either crawlers or walkers and none of them wanted to be trapped inside with them. The quick radio call revealed they had just gotten inside and were starting to search the different wards. They promised to let us know if they found anything just as we promised to let them know the outcome of our search for the day.

We made a second quick call to the other team searching for the children. They had nothing to share with us. They had no leads to where the children might be. The good news was that in the course of their search, they had discovered 47 other survivors hiding in buildings and vacant houses. They had started to clear some of the streets of the crawlers as they had the manpower to do it as well as look for the children. A group of them had even fragmented off on a mission to see if they could get the power grid back up. It was good news in some regards but the children were the most important thing to us at the moment. They consumed our every waking thought; none of us wanted them to think they had to survive without us, that all of the adults were dead.

We told them where they could find Liam, thinking it best just in case we couldn’t handle the crawlers. Or met something horrible in the warehouse that got the best of us. With that, we left Liam on his own and approached the cinder block facade.

We’d decided it would be better to call the crawlers to us, as opposed to trying to attack the mass of them. As we stood a fairly close distance to them and called, you could see their attention shifting from the building to us. They made a slow advance, allowing us to kill each of them quickly and efficiently. There was never a point where we found ourselves in the midst of being overrun. It was a perfect plan until the unexpected happened.

The door to the warehouse opened.

There were still quite a few crawlers that hadn’t turned their attention to us, intent solely on what was behind the red metal door.

Silhouetted in the doorway was one small figure. A little girl.

She must have heard our voices and recognized them.

Lily.

Standing in the doorway with crawlers only inches from her precious sneakered feet.

She started to come toward us, mistaking our shouts to get back inside as ones that directed her to come to us.

A frail arm, muscles almost completely eaten away, snaked up to take hold of her ankle.

A scream escaped her lips; surprise, fear, and revulsion all contained in a singular note.

I started to go to her immediately, not wanting anything to touch her. From the corner of my eye, I could see Julie making the same journey, quickly dispatching those crawlers in her way.

Alerted by the scream, an arm reached out the doorway and hauled Lily back, taking the arm of the crawler clear off of its body.

Jane.

The door slammed shut just as another crawler was about to close in.

Knowing the children were safe, we turned our attention back to the crawlers at our feet. We steadfastly put them all down in haste, wanted to get to the children as soon as possible.

As soon as the crawlers lay unmoving around the building, we called to Jane, letting her know that it was safe to open the door again.

The door opened and one by one the children came outside, gingerly stepped over and around the corpses at their feet.

It was a beautiful sight. They were all still alive. We collected Liam and started to move back toward the hospital, taking the time to radio the other groups that we had found them, safe and sound. It was good day, a good day indeed.

The Next Day

Day 165

Trying to find a group of kids intent on hiding isn’t as easy as one would think. We radioed the other group to tell them what we had found. They were relieved to know that some of the children had survived. They had only just gotten to the hospital and promised to let us know what they found, if anything.

Wanting to cover as much ground as possible, our group of eight split into groups of four. We reasoned that they would likely have travelled into areas where there would have been less people, if they knew which those areas might be. But then children can be children and as their reasoning skills aren’t as highly developed as those of most adults, we felt it was best that we also send a search party in the direction that we least thought they would have picked. We didn’t bother backtracking toward the police station; we already knew they hadn’t gone that way.

Seeing no reason to waste any time, each group set off in opposite directions with our radios. We were quickly losing light and had no desire to test the theory that the hordes had left. Plus we didn’t want to come across any of the crawlers in the darkness. Even to have one of them grab a hold of an ankle in the dark would be sure to render us full of panic!

Our group had chosen to search the direction that we felt the children would have been least likely to go. Even though we had Liam with us, one option didn’t have any better chance at being less dangerous than the other when the factor of the unknown was weighed in.

There were quite a few skeletal corpses that reached out to us as we passed. Not wanting to waste any time in our search for the rest of the children, we didn’t stop to alleviate their suffering. Once we had found the children and the rest of the survivors, we would come back and clean up the city. It just wasn’t possible for us to focus on them at the moment. And as long as you moved during the day, it was easy to avoid the crawlers and as we had yet to come across anything other than that, I hoped that there were no walkers up and about.

As the sun went down, we found a vacant store to spend the night in. Everything had been cleaned out of it long ago and inventoried for the settlement’s use. Luckily there were a number of bottles in one of the backrooms and we used the latent pressure in the pipes to fill them. We had to have water; it was essential to our survival. The amount that we had would last us until we had to stop again. At least that was a positive.

The night passed uneventfully and once the light broke in the east, we were on the move again. As we left the vacant store, Julie noticed the trails of bloody slime smeared into the pavement of the road. Last night we hadn’t seen it in the disappearing light but it was a lead so we chose to track it. If the crawlers were after the children, we had to find them first.

The trail was easy to follow. It lead us down the road, across a parking lot and into an overgrown field. Once I saw the field, I was sure that we were going to lose them. But if you kept your head at just the right angle, with the sun behind you, you could make out the distinct path of at least 7 crawlers all headed in the same direction.

Part of each of us wanted to call the other team, to get them to come and help us search but the truth was, we had no way of knowing if all of the 59 children had stayed together. They could have split into smaller groups like we did, thinking that it was easier to hide in smaller numbers. Perhaps they had figured that they had a higher chance to running into an adult if there were more groups out there; provided of course there were living adults left to run into.

Just as we were about to exit the field, Kevin spotted something ahead of us. It was the group of crawlers that we had been following; we’d caught up to them before getting a good read on where the kids might be headed. Kevin wondered if we could just wait and continue to track them but at the rate they were moving, it could be days before they caught up to the kids or worse, got distracted by something else; likely us.

So we aimed in the direction that they had been heading and continued to search. We weren’t silent either. We didn’t fear the crawlers and figured that the chance of there being any walking Undead was slim to none. So far we hadn’t seen any and the hordes of Undead rodents had reduced the former survivors of the Herber Settlement to the aberrations leaving slimy trails along the ground.

So we walked all day, crisscrossing the former streets of Seattle, calling out to the children in the hopes that they would hear us. We skirted the crawlers as they reached frail arms toward us, and continued to search the city in a grid-like pattern; up one street for two blocks, across the street for a block and then back up the previous two blocks. It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed us to cover the most ground. We even had the foresight to keep track of where we had searched on a street map, just in case we had to come back for any reason.

As it began to get dark on the second day of searching, we found a clue that we might be heading in the right direction. On the street ahead of us, in the offensive arms of a crawler, was a bright pink hoodie. It was too late for us to continue searching but it was a good sign. All of the crawlers in the general area were too large to be any of the children. Good sign indeed.

The Next Day

Day 163

It’s taken me a day to process the scene that we encountered at the school yesterday. It was worse than any of us had dared to imagine.

As we moved through the Herber Settlement, we stopped at the armoury in order to procure some weapons. One shotgun was not going to do us any good against a horde; especially one composed of chipmunks and other rodents in various stages of decomposition.

The street was littered with skeletal corpses; some of them still moving, others blessedly and completely dead. What a horrible death it must have been. The attack would have been swift but to feel all of those little mouths feeding off of your flesh would have been terrifying and so very, very painful. We took the time to bestow a final dignity to all of the former survivors of the Herber Settlement. There was no way that we could have determined who was laying (un)dead in the streets so we just kept moving forward.

It was really slow going once we got to those areas that had been more densely populated at the time of the breach. It reminded me of the photos I had once seen of a cemetery that had flooded. For some reason the flooding had caused the caskets of the inhabitants to rise to the surface. As a result of the age of the wood and it’s decomposition in the ground, some of the skeletons ended up exposed to the elements. To an individual who first saw the disturbance, perhaps it looked like the dead were rising. Perhaps they were aware that such a phenomenon could occur. Whatever the case, it must have been a creepy sight; I know the pictures certainly were.

As we were walking, it started to get dark and the street lights didn’t come on; the power grid must be offline. As a precaution for our own safety, we decided to stop for the night. It just wasn’t safe to move at night; we didn’t have any flashlights to light our way and we had no desire to get ambushed while traversing in the dark.

We chose one of the vacant houses fairly close to the school. Since it was vacant, it likely had not been breached by any unwanted visitors. Regardless of our logic, we were still extremely careful as we entered the house.

Once inside, we were greeted by a surprising sight; 9 other survivors had managed to escape the tide of undeath as it swept through the settlement. Among them was Lt. Lafferty. We were both surprised and elated to see her!

Lt. Lafferty told us that she had been working, doing rounds of the settlement as one of the peace officers when she happened to notice the commotion happening up the street. Not taking any chances, she had immediately thought to seek refuge indoors. Other like-minded individuals noticed what she was doing and followed along behind her. Her quick thinking has saved all of their lives that day.

Not that Lafferty thought of herself as a hero; far from it in fact. Privately she let us know that more people had followed them to the house. Unfortunately so had the furry harbingers of undeath. Having to choose between a horrible death and potential survival, she chose survival for herself and the eight people holed up with her. It was a hard decision and one I knew would weigh heavily on her mind. I had made a similar decision at the library and I haven’t yet told you about the cacophony of knocking and screaming that sounded off just beyond the threshold of the library’s oaken doors. The memory of those desperate, frantic pleas to open the door will haunt me for a very long time.

All of those ‘what if’ moments just collect in your subconscious until the moment you close your eyes. Then your mind does everything in its power to sabotage any effort at sleep you make. It certainly sucks, that’s for sure.

Our night passed uneventfully. Most of us tried to sleep but in the end, we found ourselves chasing away the ghosts of our friends. As each of us reached the point where we could no longer just lie there, we got up and gathered in the living room. We sat in silence, each of us likely thinking of those we had loved and lost. It was a sombre gathering somewhat akin to a funeral.

As the sun came up, we collectively gathered our stuff, carefully observing the outside world for any signs of the Undead. Everything appeared to be quiet so we opened the front door and congregated in the street.

Last night we had decided to form two search parties instead of staying together. We had one 2 way radio, given to us by Lt. Lafferty. One of the groups would take it, the other planned on stopping by the police station to hopefully find another. At this point it was essential for us to split up in order to cover more ground. We had to find more survivors; there had to be more of us that had survived this. None of us wanted to lose contact with the other group though. The reason for that was twofold; the psychological effect of knowing that you’re not completely alone is a good one. And having that auditory lifeline could potentially save the lives that were left in the event of another unexpected breach. None of us wanted to die but in the end, we were going to do whatever we could to preserve the lives that were left.

Since the police station was on the way to the school, we opted to let the other group have the radio. They were going to head toward the hospital, hoping to find more people who had survived. We all said our goodbyes and watched for a moment as they walked away. They all had the determined but wary gait of people used to being on their guard. I hoped that we would see them again.

We turned to move in the opposite direction, heading toward the police station. It was only a short walk away, perhaps a few blocks. Along the way, we stopped to end the suffering any of the remnants of people who deserved some dignity and respect.

Once we got to the police station, we were dismayed to find the front doors open. Wide open. It was a little unnerving to be perfectly frank. What would we find in the confined spaces inside? It was decided that only 2 people would enter the station; Lt. Lafferty and myself. Lt. Lafferty was chosen because she actually knew where we would need to look for a radio. I was chosen because I was the best shot out of all of the other people in the group. I didn’t mind having to go inside. I wanted to find that radio as soon as possible and keep on moving toward school.

Lafferty and I carefully entered the station, all of our senses on high alert. We moved slowly, meticulously clearing each room and cubicle as we passed them. Knowing that the radios were kept in the back of the station, Lafferty lead us there. That was where we found them all.

The pile of skeletal corpses was horrifying and something I’m not likely to forget for years to come (if I live that long). And it was moving. It reminded me of a pot of boiling water; you only really see the disturbance on the surface but if you look closely into the water, you can see the bubbles travelling upward. As the corpses on the bottom of the pile moved, the outer layer responded. Why they were all still in a pile was beyond me. Maybe there was the assumption that underneath all of that bloody mess was a tasty morsel that was missed…

Knowing that we couldn’t have possibly handled them all on our own, we took the easy route out and just closed the door to the conference room. We will go back for them, I promise.

After that, we moved a little faster. We wanted to collect the radio and get the heck out of the station. We really needed to get to the school and see what state it was in. My eyes had prepared me for the worst, but my heart still contained some hope.

Collecting the radio, and adding a second for good measure, we radioed the other group to let them know they could actually reach us now. They were almost to the hospital, only a few more blocks to travel and they would be there. Lafferty spied an open gun cabinet and went to investigate; you can never have too many guns or ammunition during an apocalypse. We loaded up with what was there, unfortunately not a whole heck of a lot and backtracked our way out of the station.

Now it was onto the school and hopefully good news.

As we travelled down the street, there were less and less bodies on the road and on the sidewalks. It appeared to be a promising sign until we noticed the trails of slime on the pavement, all of them leading us in the direction of the school. Was there something alive at the school; someone calling out to them without even realizing it?

We quickly caught up to them, mainly due to the fact that they couldn’t move very fast. Each of us set to work, ending their lives as quickly as we could. None of us wanted them to get any closer to the school.

The schoolyard was worse that we could have ever imagined or prepared ourselves for. From the size of the bloody skeletal corpses on the tarmac, it was obvious that they belonged to children. It was a horrible sight, especially since many of them were moving, heading toward places unknown.

It was hard but we knew we had to help them all find solace. One by one we started to kill them. It was an emotionally painful process and with the first strike, we all had tears streaming down our faces. In the end they may have been the lucky ones; never having to grow up in the world we live in today.

The closer we got to the doors of the school, the more apparent it became that some of the children had managed to escape and get inside to safety. The doors had been chained from the inside but since they open inward, there was just enough space for tiny undead bodies to get in. We prayed that some of the children had managed to get behind an impenetrable door.

With the door chained we had to break in, hoping that the unavoidable noise wouldn’t bring a tiny horde down on our heads. We cautiously entered the hallway lined with grey metal lockers. Coats and backpacks were strewn across the tiled floor; a tiled floor that was so far free from any signs of blood or gore. The deeper that we moved into the school, the more ominously silent that it became. We checked each of the classrooms, opening the doors as we came to them. Nothing. No one was alive, no one was dead. Having cleared the first floor, we moved to the second. It was tense. Each door that we opened, we prepared ourselves to find a massacre. We didn’t find one though.

In the last classroom on the second floor, we found our first clue that perhaps some of them survived the siege. On the blackboard was a list of names. And a message.

“We’ve gone to find a better place to hide.”

No date, no hint. Just the message and all of the names. The names of the children that had survived. Julie and I greedily devoured the names and by the end of the list we had our answer. It was bittersweet. Jane and Lily were on that list. Liam was not. He must have been one of the poor souls out in the playground. Sweet little Liam reduced to a pile of bloody bones.

Realizing that we would have to find the 59 children that had survived, we started to make our way out of the school. It was a joyous moment but one tinged with the ultimate sadness. None of us were really paying attention, most of us lost in our own thoughts. A door to a janitor’s closet opened behind us, the sound alerting me to the presence of someone or something. I turned quickly, bringing up my firearm preparing to take aim. Seeing my reaction, the rest of the group followed suit.

It was at that moment that Liam fainted. It could have been from exhaustion, dehydration, or perhaps the excitement and terror of the ordeal he had lived through. I personally think it was the 8 guns that almost simultaneously trained themselves on him. Fear can do funny things to a body sometimes. The good news is that he is alive and not one of the corpses in the schoolyard. Now it’s just time to find the rest of children.

The Next Day

Day 160

At some point you all know that I was going to have to make a choice about what to do. Do I venture outside to see what is actually going on or do I find a less drastic method? In the end, for the purposes of self-preservation, I chose the less drastic method.

Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely petrified at the thought of having to venture outside in any capacity. I had no idea what was going on out there and if the screams of yesterday were any indication, the chances that I was going to find that the outside world was a dangerous one was high.

I have spent the last few days learning every inch of this library that I’ve been calling home. The windows haven’t been able to give us an accurate picture of what is beyond the walls because they are all clouded and opaque. It must have been a modification that was added to protect the books from sun damage. Great for the books, not so great for observing the possible presence of the Undead.

My companions haven’t been of any help either. All of them are just so scared of what could be beyond the thick oaken doors and red bricked walls that they are against any and all plans to learn what it going on outside. It’s not like we can stay locked up in here forever. We had absolutely no food and limited water. The taps still worked but we had no way of knowing how long the water would last. We didn’t know if anyone was still working at the power generator and as a result, we had no way of knowing how long the pumps would continue to function.

We haven’t been taking any chances with the lights either; and there were two reasons for that. The first was that we didn’t want any of the Undead, whether they were chipmunks, other rodents or former members of the Herber Settlement to be attracted by the contrast of the illumination on an otherwise dark facade. The other was that we didn’t want any other survivors that happened to venture out to unwittingly attract any undead things to us either in the event they were caught unaware and unprotected.

It has been hard to survive here, not knowing what is going on. I keep thinking about Lily, Liam and Jane. About Julie. About Ben. Had any of them managed to survive? I had a fairly good feeling that Julie was alive; it seemed that she could survive anything. There was also a very good chance that Ben had survived as well. The hospital was located on the opposite side of town from where the breach had occurred and there might have been enough time for a warning to have reached them. The only thing I couldn’t get out of my mind for more than a few seconds at a time was the possibility that Jane and the twins had been unprotected and vulnerable at the school.

Children are remarkably adaptable. Look at how Lily and Liam had managed to survive. And how Jane has eluded the Undead out in the open for so long and in the state that she had been in was absolutely amazing. I’ve done my best to not jump to the worst possible outcome but it’s getting more difficult as the hours pass… All I can do is pray and hope that they are okay.

I have to admit to you all that I was more than a little afraid as I climbed the stairs to the top floor of the library. On my reconnaissance missions, I had spotted the hatch that gave workers access to the roof. It was tucked away in the back of the library amongst the classics of literature. Bronte, Chaucer, Dante, Eyre, Melville, Salinger, Tolstoy; they were all there, collecting dust. It saddens me to know that many will never read the classics again and that many books will never get written. A whole facet of our culture lost to the unyielding cycle of death and undeath and the fight for survival.

I stopped for a moment and picked up the leather-bound copy of Four Quartets by Eliot. As I opened the front cover, the smell of the leather and yellowing paper assaulted my senses. Turning to the first poem Burnt Norton, I started to read. The part that struck me as most poignant was:

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. [1]

It brought back memories of a life before the Undead but helped me to recognize that only this moment truly mattered. The past cannot be changed, and the future will always remain unknown. It affirmed that man, humankind, is capable of redemption. We will rise from these ashes, of that I am certain. It’s just up to all of us to decide how that’s going to happen.

My moment of reverie, melancholy and affirmation over, I started to climb the metal rungs of the ladder slightly recessed into the wall. I hoped that once I got to the top that the hatch would be easy to open. I hadn’t thought to look for a key until I was almost to the top but it wouldn’t have mattered, the hatch was designed to opnen on a spring system.

My heart was hammering in my chest. I could feel the drumming of the blood in my ears reminding me that these could very well be the last moments where my blood would signal my own existence. I hadn’t told the rest of the survivors in the library of my plan; I hadn’t wanted their fear to sway my decision. As I hung onto the rungs, high above the floor, my left hand on the latch of the hatch, I stopped to say a small prayer.

I prayed that the world outside would be less horrific than I was imagining it to be. I prayed that the roof was clear of any undead things. I prayed that my friends had all survived. I just prayed for the world and everyone still alive in it.

With the moment passed, I turned the latch and opened the hatch, my eyes squinting at the bright sunlight that assaulted me. I could hear nothing except the sounds of the wind rustling the leaves in the nearby trees and the faint birdsong from somewhere close by but also far away. There were no screams and no telltale scratching of tiny nails on masonry.

As I climbed out on the flat roof, I was petrified. Just because I couldn’t hear them didn’t mean that they were gone. I tentatively made my way over to the closest edge. Looking down, I was surprised by the cleanliness of the streets. There were almost no bodies and those that were left had been picked so clean that it was mainly just skeletons left. The horde had been voracious in their attack on us.

I caught sight of a lone figure walking down the road. From their gait and the fact that they were carrying a shotgun, I knew that they were alive. I watched and waited however; this would be the true test. If anything Undead was still left within the walls of the Herber Settlement, a confrontation would ensue.

The figure continued to stalk carefully down the street, eyes likely peeled for any sign of the Undead. It briefly stopped at each of the skeletons, pausing only to determine if they were in fact truly dead. It was hard to believe that a body so depleted could still move but I had heard of it happening before. There is still so much that we don’t know about the Undead and what allows them to function. From the way that the figure quickly got on its way, they all must have been dead.

In a moment that changed. As the figure was straightening back up to continue its journey down the street, a bony arm snaked out to grasp a fleshed ankle. The figure went down and the skeleton slowly tried to overtake it, its limbs moving but not in coordination with each other. The figure appeared to look back, its other foot coming up to deliver what was to be a fatal blow. The skeleton went completely slack and the figure took a moment to extricate itself from the bloody phalanges.

As it got up, the recognition of who it was flooded my brain. At least one of my friends had survived and the realization brought with it the hope that I would see them all again. My need and desire for caution in the face of the unknown was over. I climbed back down the ladder, making sure to tightly close the hatch and sprinted to the front doors. As I threw them open, Julie came into closer view, her shotgun up and pointed at me, likely alerted by the noise of the door.

Upon seeing me, her face broke into a smile. Two of us had survived. We were together again and now it was time to see who else had made it. We hugged briefly, knowing that we still needed to be on guard.

Having heard the front doors open from the recesses of the library, the 5 other survivors had ventured closer to see what had happened. It was time for us to leave the sanctity that we had found inside the walls and discover if there were more than 7 of us left alive. I stepped back inside only long enough to grab a laptop and then we all left together. Our first stop, the school. Hopefully the scene we find there is similar to the one that we lived in the library.

The Next Day

[1] from Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot