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

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