I haven’t seen another person in two days. Not living anyway. Just corpses all over the place, every one of them with that hideous sludge running down their mouths. I might be the only one left. I found this ledger in the library. It’s brand new and leather-bound. Kinda pretty and completely blank. I figured if I started writing things down then maybe I’d stop talking to myself- I’m starting to get on my nerves. Maybe my story will be worth something to other survivors. If there are any.
I don’t know why I came to the library. No where else to look. There’s no living body left at the hospitals or the police stations. The churches are packed with the faithfully departed- the stink must be reaching all the way to the pearly gates. The more the Bug spread to every corner of humanity, the more the churches filled. A few days back, a hacking newscaster called for God to have mercy on us.
I’m feeling fine. A little nauseous from the odor. Kind of numb, physically and emotionally. It took a couple days to get my strength back. The doctors didn’t stop drawing my blood until they themselves keeled over and fell into that nasty, twelve-hour spasm. I call it, “the grand finale.” I spent a day putting people out of their misery. Once the twitching started, there was only pain and death. Dead cops were everywhere, so guns were plentiful. I walked the streets with a bullhorn, calling for anyone and everyone. I didn’t hear a peep from one single healthy person. Only the groans of the sick. I’d sit with them until the grand finale started. Then I’d ease their suffering. Brutal. I never saw brains up close until I saw them in little bits.
I feel like I’m being watched. Every moment.
The rats are getting bold. No humans left to hassle them. They feast on the dead. I shoot them when I can. No flies though. It took me a while to notice. Millions of corpses in this one town, but I haven’t seen any flies. Bugs don’t like the Bug. Maybe the virus got to them. Maybe they died out before we did.
I’d never been to this library before. I can hear something downstairs. I’ve called out a dozen times. Whatever it is isn’t human or doesn’t speak English. Could be another rodent. Maybe several. I think it might be my cue to leave. I’m sure as hell not going down there. I’ve always been afraid of basements. Rachel used to poke fun of me over it.
So here is our plan. MY plan. Weird. Not only am I talking to myself, but I’ve started referring to myself in plural. Our, we, us. My plan is to head to Washington D.C. and look for what is left of our country. Our country. I have a backpack full of food and water. I have a motorcycle with an oversized storage bin behind the seat. I think I’ll stop by the hardware store for a multi-tool and some rat traps. I need some poison. They make this new kind that looks like green popcorn. Funky.
It took forever to get out of the city. The streets were clogged with cars. Thousands of cars knotted in a traffic jam that will last until they rust into oblivion. Thus the motorcycle. I used to hate the guys that would weave their way through traffic. Now I’m that guy. That guy is the only one left. It wasn’t just the traffic. I gave myself a chore on the way out of town.
When I stopped to pick up the traps and poison, I walked past the paint aisle. They make glow-in-the-dark spray paint! I decided to leave my mark on this city. I swung by every landmark I could reach in an afternoon and sprayed a message to anyone else who might come along. “Gone to D.C.” “Survived the Bug- headed to Washington.” Stuff like that. It was fun at first. Then I realized that I was probably never going to see any of these places again. The city was dead. It belonged to the rats now. Maybe it always did. It was dead to me now.
I wished I could put the city out of its misery. Blow its brains out so that it wouldn’t have to endure this slow crumble into rat shit and dust. Need a bigger gun. I told myself to turn the page. I loved this town. But it was gone. The same way Rachel was. And just as she was dead to me before the Bug, the city probably was too. Put it behind us, I said. Pluralizing again. Time for a fresh start. We’re out of here.
I grabbed a bottle of vodka to enjoy with dinner. Beef jerky and nachos. I made it all the way to the football stadium by nightfall. Looking at the skyline, you’d never know that anything was wrong. The power was still going. I wonder when that will stop? I slept at midfield. Right on the fifty-yard line. All the lights were on, and I was glad for that. I built rings of poison and glue boards around my little nest. The poison really does look like green popcorn. Stinks something fierce.
I traded the motorcycle for a moving truck. It’s nice to have free reign over the sprawl of suburbia along the highways. I didn’t want a moving truck, but I decided to load up on food before the rats picked over the supermarkets. I stopped the truck at overpasses and climbed on the roof to spray-paint more messages. Someone must be out there. Someone has to follow me. I’m still alone for now.
I keep thinking of Rachel. What if she’s out there? Maybe they both are. I still feel numb. Have for a while now…
Besides the food, I’ve been stocking up guns and ammo. I had no idea there were this many guns in America. I knew, but I didn’t really know. Y’know? I don’t know what I’m going to encounter down the road. Wild dogs. Polar bears. The wrong kind of humans.
It’s taking forever to wind down to Washington. Stretches of the highway are wide open.
And then there are places where the roads are full of cars. The dying had tried to make a run for it and had run into each other. I’d back up and work my way around. When I visualized it from above, it was like a bunch of one-way streets converged on a dead end. All these rotting. It made me think of a rat-king. Y’know, where a bunch of rats get their tails all tangled together? All these spent lives tied to one dead knot. Their last efforts entwined in hopelessness.
The power finally went out. I’ll have to grab some generators when I get where I’m going.
I’m camping out in the woods tonight. I have a nice bottle of Tennessee Whiskey. I think I’m in Delaware. I need to stay away from civilization if I’m going to get any fresh air. This place is really starting to stink.
D.C. is a bigger graveyard than Arlington National Cemetery. I wasn’t the only person who thought to come here looking for help. I was just the only one who was still breathing. The shit-green corpses were piled around every government building, like a still-shot from a zombie flick. It was so quiet. And too hot.
There’s nobody left. Unless they were in bunkers. They weren’t talking if they were. I walked right into the white house. Not a whisper of protest from anyone. The President was putrefying on the couch in the oval office with a compress on his nasty face. I remember his vows to remain in Washington to steer the country through this crisis. He had promised the country he wasn’t leaving. He kept his word.
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched. I am. The rats are everywhere.
There was a moment when I sat down on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I stared at the empty reflecting pool that leads to the Washington Monument- they drained it for some reason. I thought about heading further south. Somewhere around Charleston, or maybe Savannah. I could stake out a solitary beach house, close enough to a city I could raid for supplies. I could fish. Grow vegetables and raise chickens. Find a cow or something. I thought for a second about filling the van with books on cheese mongering.
I thought I should get as many books as I could before they were destroyed by Mother Nature. I imagined all these books exposed to harsh reality as the buildings began to crumble. Swelling like these stinky corpses and rotting away to nothing. There was so much knowledge that was slipping away. The internet was probably gone. Vanished in a cloud of thin, shit-green smoke as the lights on the world’s servers faded.
I started to feel rage. Rage at all the fat cats and bureacrats that let it come to this. Rage at the petty politics that would leave us vulnerable to a lousy germ. I suppose the numbness was wearing off. Could I let my country- my world- crumble to nothing? Sure, my life had been miserable. The last year especially. I lost my girl, my friends and my job in the blink of an eye. I was ready to check out for a stretch there. I suppose part of me was ready to watch everything slip into oblivion. Part of me felt compelled to act.
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Charlie has survived the plague. Alone, he makes his way to Washington D.C., hopeful to find more people. He begins the work of cleaning up what's left of civilization. As he attempts to start fresh, his past begins to haunt him. And then there are the rats...