End of a Reality

Part 1

The sky was cloudy and thick with soot and pollution. In the distance the remains of some once great city lay shattered, destroyed by time and war, plague and scavengers. Johnathon paused, looking up at the city, trying to imagine what it looked like before. He shook his head and took a route that bypassed the city, as too many things tended to inhabit such ruins.

He was in his mid twenties, covered from head to toe in black, wrapped in remnants of different types of clothes he had foraged for. Across his shoulders was a bear pelt he came across in a destroyed house. He had a backpack on, and moved with the strides of a person accustomed to walking and dire times.

He scanned the sky, trying to determine how much scant light was left. Most days were shrouded in a dull haze, the sun nothing more then a dim glow in the sky. Nightfall was completely dark. No stars, moon, or lights of any sort to illuminate. Of course, there were also things in the night. Animals mutated by the toxins in the air and water, humans driven mad, and other things with no basis in reality.

Glancing over the horizon, he spied an old rusted trailer flipped on its side. Cautiously he approached, noticing it was mostly intact, and the door had an old lock on it. Pulling a knife out of his pocket he pried the rusted lock off, and slowly opened the door. From the dim light of the setting sun, he realized he uncovered a literal gold mine. It had apparently belonged to a relief organization, and was packed with all manner of supplies. Blankets, medicines, dried foods, and most importantly, water. Staring in shock, he tried to remember the last time so many usable supplies were in the same area, and figured it must have happened towards the end, when rumors of biological terrors first began appearing.

He quickly shut the door behind him, and tied it off with some scraps of clothes keeping it secure. Roaming wild men and gangs of traders would kill without hesitation for this stash. He removed a torch from his pocket, and struck a flame with a piece of flint and his knife, brightening the interior of the trailer. He slowly moved some boxes out of the way, and made a place large enough for him to sleep, and to stack the choicest supplies he would take. He rummaged through the boxes and began to pile up some food and water, medicines, blankets, and in the last box a hand crank flashlight, that still worked! He had heard his uncle talk about these, and had at one time seen one in use. Quickly he cranked the handle, illuminating the entire trailer. Grinning, he turned it back out, afraid the light could filter out of the cracks and alert predators. Eating the best meal in years, he scarfed down a package of sealed food, and drank several bottles of water, savoring the clean flavor, relishing the fact he didn't have to use tablets or boil the water first. A full belly for the first time in forever, he rolled over to sleep.

He awoke in the morning, packed what he could carry and cautiously opened the door. A cold frigid wind blew, but with his new clothes, he barely felt it. The sun was over the horizon, and he frowned, having slept longer then he intended. Rumors had reached him of a remote settlement not far from here, but perhaps another two days walking. He looked around for some brush and dirt, and worked for an hour camouflaging the trailer into another ravaged looking husk. If this settlement was real, he could bargain for entrance with the location of the trailer.

Squaring his shoulders and orienting himself, he began to walk towards the sun. Across the horizon the ghost of buildings long since destroyed still stood, tattered and defiant unto the end. The ground was baked hard from lack of rain, blackened from pollution, and smelled awful from the toxins. The wars had been devastating, with all the countries involved. Chemical and biological, but thankfully not a lot of nukes. Some people who had lived through it didn't understand, but Jonathon theorized one side wanted liveable land left.

Shortly after midday, he started to search for a location to rest for the evening. He learned a long time ago that you found a place before dark that was as safe as possible and defensible. He identified a large fallen tree as a prospect, and moved closer to investigate. Before he got too close, he noticed a horrid smell. A recognizable smell. They called them deathrunners. Humans that had been mutated beyond most mutants. They had speed, savagery, and power on their side. The only thing keeping them from being the apex predator was the odor. Their bodies were constantly excreting toxins into the air, making their presence known. Frozen in place, his eyes scanned the area around him, and he slowly began to creep away. It was whispered in his youth that if you smelled one, it would be the last thing you smelled.

Having retraced his steps enough, he turned to walk away, and slipped on a pile of remnant ooze, falling hard. Horror flooded through him. Ooze puddles were becoming more common as the ground choked up overflowing toxins. Worse then the original poison, the puddles were combinations of multiple biological and chemical weapons, mutated and changed in the dangerous world. Rapidly he began to strip the clothes off, throwing them to the ground. Opening one of his precious bottles of water he tried to wash the small area off that touched he pants, but realized he was too late. A burning sensation began to set in, radiating out from a spot no larger then his thumbnail. He dropped his bag in a panic, going through the medicines he had found. Knowing nothing about medicines, in fact having barely ever seen any, he had no clue what to look for. He found some bottle that was labeled for infections, and took a couple of those, took some for pain, and took some for swelling. He tied off a strip of cloth above the highest burning sensation in his leg, hoping to slow it down. If he could make it to the settlement, maybe they could help.

He pulled on a spare pair of pants and shoes from his stash, and rose unsteadily to his feet. Pain rippled through his body, and his stomach was forcing hm to double over in pain. Re-orienting himself, he began to move at as fast a pace as he could manage towards his destination.

After several hours of walking, he noticed that instead of getting darker, it was getting brighter. Confused he looked to the sky, and a chill went through his body. The sun was no where in sight, there was no light, he was changing. Looking around he could see better in the dark then he could during the day. He could see red glows of creatures body heat. He could hear twigs snapping from miles away, he could smell everything. With a sigh and a whimper, he realized he was changing. Pondering his options he concluded that instead of staying and continue changing, he would push on. Even if he died, or was killed by the people in the settlement, they would find the medicine and food in his bag, and perhaps backtrack to the location, saving others. Grimly he adjusted his bag and began to run. Moving faster and faster, losing himself in the new power he felt. A dark furry creature lunged at him, and he paused, kicking it in the head, ripping its head from its shoulders.

With a shout of glee he fell on the headless corpse, ripping it open and bathing in the ferocity, the blood. Some small part of him shivered with fear, recognizing the creature as a furwolf, a mutated canine that was known for its savagery and speed. And he killed it with nary a pause. Heart beating rapidly, he began to draw deep breaths in and out. Trying desperately to regain a hold on his humanity. Looking around he noticed a dull glow in the distance, it appeared to be a settlement. Prey. Food. Defenseless people to slaughter. With a shrieking laugh he sped towards the glow, faster and faster. The thought of all that flesh drove him to a faster pace then ever thought possible. Closer he ran, all primal savagery and no humanity left. Traces of concentrated humanity stench surrounded the walled settlement, indications of potential traps.surrounding the perimeter.

Faster and faster he ran, dodging the scents as nimbly as anything possible. A shout from the wall alerted the residents of his presence, fueling his desire. Panic. Pumping blood. Sweet smell of fear. Leaping into the air, he landed near the sentry, savagely ripping the throat out and bathing in the blood of his prey. Slight disturbances in the air triggered primal instincts, and he swiftly dodged the incoming spears. Moving faster then thought he tore through another five defenders in as many seconds.

Blood spurted from his back in several areas, but it only fueled his passion. Roaring like a beast he spun around hands blurring, ripping another head from shoulders. Another prick in his leg, then another in his arm slowed him down. Fighting through the rage he decided to come back another time. Blurring towards the wall, he leaped over the pointed tips. With a sudden jerk, his leg was pulled back, a sharp piercing pain filled his chest. Pain filled his body, but his mind cleared briefly.

"Food, medicine, supplies. Two days west. Trailer. Poison ponds" He gasped out as loud as possible. His vision darkened, then brightened, resolving into the form of his uncle. A last gasp, a sigh, and his journey was at an end.

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