I’ll be posting my novel in short increments; please enjoy!
The clock read 5:00. I couldn’t tell if it was it was morning or night. Just another beauty of living out of a whiskey bottle in the dead of winter in Duluth. Saying I was hitting rock bottom wasn’t near the truth. I had hit bottom a year and half ago, and had been crawling ever since; lost in a sea of cigarette butts and empty bottles. I heard another groan from outside the window. Hell, how I wished it was the sounds of that yuppie couple that used to live next door to my new york apartment, fucking every chance they got. Larry and Sandra, that was their names. I feigned a laugh that at least those “urbanites” probably weren’t around any longer. No, the grunts I was hearing wasn’t from Sandra, oblivious that her husband had been screwing the landlords daughter just two hours earlier in that bed. Those moans were from the living dead, clawing to take down the one guy left in the city. The guy who didn’t even care if they did get him.
“What the hell”, I thought to myself. “If I’m up, I may as well have a cigarette”, celebrating another day left to sit in my stupor and pretend I wanted to make it to another. I pulled the sweat-stained sheet from my body and stretched out my legs. As I stood, my eyes immediately darted to that same piece of paper, tacked to the door. I scanned it again, even though I knew the words by heart. “Mr. Roberts, we regret to inform you that your services in the Dane County Infected Resistance Battalion is no longer required. After demonstrating repeated signs of disregard for your lives and the lives of other servicemen…” Unbelievable, when the government first mobilized against them, they were pulling every man and woman with two legs out of their houses, slapped a rifle in their hands, and said “aim for the brain”. But now, I can’t do the only thing on earth that I’m good at. Jennings said that if I would’ve done my patrols without my flask, they would have kept me. No way, one more killed wasn’t worth it for me if I had a splitting headache and couldn’t relax at the end of the day. They used to love the way I worked, in those first year. Yeah, I was angry at them. Officers used to say that was very important. “You shouldn’t view them as former human beings”. That was no problem for me, probably because I wasn’t even a human being anymore. Just an angry husk of a lug, pissed at mother nature for taking someone away, someone so close. That anger was my drive.
I would wake up every morning, excited to get rid of this infestation, to show that Marcy’s death could be avenged. Over the years though, that began to fade. I started to realize; these zombies, they weren’t some weird fluctuation of nature. They were nature. Just as humanity was a virus that spread throughout the world, now a virus was spreading throughout humanity. Fuck it. I was holed up in this place good and tight. When I received my discharge papers, I was already aching to go. I hitchhiked as far north as I could get that summer, and found the dead remains of Duluth.
It seemed empty at first. I knew the states only had three safe zones: Vegas, Chicago, and Florida. But I figured the zombies would have cleared out of an empty city. Whats the point of sticking around, when theres nothing left to eat. I suppose they were just waiting for someone to come back. As I took my steps from the highway, I held my gun close. I suppose my training hadn’t worn off quite yet. There was no trouble at all until I started heading down one of the main roads, trekking as fast as I could, looking for a supermarket. I had met some guys who holed themselves up in rooms for years, and remembered what they said they had. Those survival suggestions, of course, were second in my mind to the fact that I could finally have some decent booze and ciggs. I didn’t have to deal with the IRB rules about “looting” and having to smoke shitty wartime cigarettes made from what must have been cardboard. No, when i found a store, I ran in and dove right into the tobacco counter. Sweet sweet nicotine. As I reached up to grab a carton, I heard the door chime and glanced up. Duluth sure as shit wasn’t empty.
I dealt with my fellow shoppers as politely as I could. By then, I no longer felt the giddiness of taking them out that I used to. I just wanted to find a place where I could sit by and let myself waste away. I loaded up a shopping cart with a few industrial size boxes of meal replacement bars, four cartons of cigarettes, and as much liquor the cart could handle. I wandered around town, looking for a place where I could live my final years in peace. I finally came upon a cabin at the edge of a lake. It looked like it had served its last resident well; until, of course, he tried to make a run for it and got caught on his fence on the way out. Or, I assumed, based on the headless decayed body with its legs stuck in the barbs.
After taking my cart inside and finding the futon with the much too firm mattress. I was ready for the long haul. Good thing the running water still worked. I could spend my time here, with nothing to do but miss the old days with Marcy and drink until I felt enough hope to try to fix the old radio that the previous tenant left behind. Well, 18 months later, and I was still sitting in this shithole. Only differences was that I was running out of smokes, and I finally got that radio to work. Damn thing only picked up static though.