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It seemed like a small price to pay.
I can remember the bright sunlight that used to touch my skin as I walked through my old town. The soft echoing of children as they played. Those are a few cherished memories of what I have left before civilization was destroyed. Some people would call it Armageddon, doomsday, the end of the human race...I'm not sure what term to use, but I know a phrase that would fit perfectly. Hell on earth. The memories of that day come sometimes in bursts of pictures...I can remember my neighbors being dragged out of their homes by these hellish looking monsters and being torn to pieces or shackled like prisoners...something you would see in a horror films. It felt like a nightmare at first...the horrifying screams were the things that kept me running on that day. The only family I had left was my mother, who was at work at the time it happened. It took me a while to find her. By the time I had gotten to her body, it was already rotted to the bone. It was hard to identify her, but when I found her, I knew. After that, my only goal was...survival. When those monsters came from... wherever they came from, they stayed, and continued to torture and rule human kind. The survivors would call them demons... and they are commonly known throughout this now harsh world. What's left of the human race that survived have learned to adapt to this new world. However most of what's left of the human race are slaves, weird demonic test subjects, psychos, or cold blooded killers. Everything became survival...you had to be a killer to be a survivor. Stay away from cities, try to find small abandon towns for food and water...it was hard for me to adapt, and I was often caught by demons, only to barely escape with my life, and leaving with more than scares on my body. Sometimes being captive for months. I don't know how I've lived for so long without getting myself killed. It's been this way for so long, I'm not sure what year it is. I have scars all over my body that remind me of those experiences, made from psycho demons and others made from back stabbing team mates.
I had been chased by a group of demons who were called on me after I, again, stumbled onto another demon lair. They chased me into a forest full of fog. I kept running through the forest until I ran into a swamp. The swamps fog was too dense, that I was able to lose them in seconds, but I ended up getting lost in it as well. After a full day of running around I finally had a stroke of luck and I ended up stumbling upon a cave that was at the base of a small mountain. I was out of the swamp, but the fog was still dense enough to cover the sun. For the first couple of weeks of staying in the cave I couldn't tell if it was night or day, however as time went on I got the hang of it. I got used to the land and what surrounded the cave. I made a map of everything around it, adding what I found every day, which also grew every day. Anything that came my way I could easily lose in the fog. It was like this for a while.
I woke up in my cave after a night of complete silence. I charted some places that are untouched by the fog, but surrounded by it, on my map. For the few months I've been here, I've been able to get to know the area better so the map is almost complete. Just a couple more areas left. The nights were black sheets of cloth and the days where white sheets of paper. The air was always stiff and heavy, making it hard to breath and easier to get sick. I picked up my map and started packing some things for another day out. I pack light, so it's easier to maneuver around things on my outings. I carry a small, light, back pack, and put my layers of clothes on. I picked up some of my things when a small picture I had of my mother fell out of my pocket. I picked it up and tried not to think of the day the world ended...the day my world ended. I didn't make much conversation with my mother that morning. However, this was normal, I wasn’t a talkative kid. I was 17 at the time, and at home from school for being sick. My mother had to work all day. The painful memories made me flinch, and I shoved the picture back into my pocket.
I walked out of the cave, into the dense fog and looked closely at the map. I followed the color coded cloth hanging from each tree to the desired path. I followed until I got to some unmarked spots, where I then carefully continued forward, marking the trees with a knife as I go. The swamps dirt started to get harder as I got closer to what looked to be an opening. I carefully took a look around as I came out of the fog and into the small opening. This opening still had some fog, but not too dense. It was clear enough to see the two tall, burnt buildings still standing. The light of the sun barely shined through the clouds, hitting some parts of the two broken abandon houses that were sitting next to each other. Whatever became of this land, I will never know, for now it lies in ruin --like everything else-- and I'm just a scavenger. I sighed and carefully walked into one of the houses. I looked to see where the pantry would be, and surprisingly found some cans that weren't broken or bent. I shoved the good cans in my back pack, trying to be as silent as possible. That's 5 cans now...
A small voice in my head screamed at me. This isn’t right. I pillaged the remains of what used to be someone's home. I froze and looked at the can, turning it around in my hand to see if the brands name was still on it. The little faded words on the small can were almost too hard to read, but I could tell what it was from by the logo. Canned fruit, although I'm not sure what kind. I slowly put the last can in the bag and sit down on the floor, looking up at the burnt wall paper, the patterns still vaguely visible. I waited a bit before I got up and made my way through the house, stepping over pieces of dry wall and broken floor. I opened the half burnt fridge and held my breath, however that didn't help much, because I could still smell the awful stench of God only knows how many years old of spoiled food. I looked around to see if there were any water bottles, I slammed the door shut and started coughing. Forget it, if there's any in there, it's probably bad anyways... However, I'm really not in the position to be picky. I looked at the fridge and opened it again, trying not breath. I looked around the molded mounds, but couldn't see anything resembling a bottle. I shut it and sighed. I looked outside the windows, the sky was still light, but from how long it took, I knew I should start to head back, just so I don't get stranded out in this house... I walked right out and heard a loud shot that echoed through the fog. I couldn't tell where it came from, but I didn't want to stay long enough to find out. I'll come for the other house tomorrow.
I started running toward my cave, frantically looking at the trees, making sure I didn't get lost. I finally got home. I lit a small fire, making sure it didn't create too much smoke or too much flame. I sat down near it and opened my back pack, reaching for one of the cans. I dusted it off, and made sure it was safe before I decided to open it and see what it contained. It was pineapple's. I started to slowly eat them. Trying to make it last. At night's like this, the only sounds you normally hear is the howling of the tormented souls, as the sounds travel into the fog, and at night they begin to sing this horrible shrill of human pain. I let my fire slowly die out as the night went on. The horrible screams died off as I drifted to sleep. Even though the screams weren't the best music to my ears, it's way better than no sleep at all. Being on your toes all the time because you are being hunted or chased doesn't have the best sleep schedule.
I woke up the next morning, the air thicker than usual. I got up and did my usual routine. As I walked out I could feel the blaring heat and humidity in the air. I took my map out, hoping the paper wouldn't just tear up from the humidity. As I started to follow the path back to the two abandon house's, I ripped brown cloth and marked the trees I had cut before. It took some time but I finally got to the two burnt buildings and sighed. I slowly and carefully walked out into the open space, looking around. Something felt off, but I just hurried to the second burnt house. As if on cue I heard the sound of a pig snort and then some loud breaking in the second house. I ran behind the side of the house and looked into a window to see what caused the almost inhuman sound. I heard it's loud breathing as it tore through the house. I guess it's also scavenging for food. I leaned against the wall to listen and see if there was more of, whatever it was, but it seemed like this one was alone. The swift, hot, muggy wind blew through my hair as I shifted positions. It stopped digging and I heard it start to sniff the air. I held my breath and grabbed my knife, preparing for anything. I could hear it as it stumbled clumsily out of the building and started to snarl viciously. I still couldn't tell if it knew I was here or not. I peeked to see what it was. My eyes feel upon what I believed to be a human... or what was left of what a human. You could tell the parts left of this poor soul's skin had been experimented on. It had a pigs’ snout in place of a regular human nose, and its legs were deformed to the point where they looked like hooves, it's eyes were... gone but the wound looked like it had been well taken care of. You could tell this pig persons’ sanity was long gone.
It went on walking around. looking for me I couldn't move. Maybe I could out run it... I took my eyes away and took a deep, silent breath. I could hear it getting closer. I moved to the other side of the wall. The sound that came next I wasn't expecting. I heard the sound of a gun followed by horrified screeching. The screeching sounded just like a squealing pig. I heard another shot followed by silence. I could make a break for it back to where I came from, but there's a big chance I might get shot down, just like the pig human. I peeked from behind the building and saw the blood from the pig trickle around the side of the house. I took a deep breath. I then heard loud footsteps come closer and closer until the sound stopped in front of the house. My heart was beating too fast; I almost didn't hear the gunners’ loud voice as it called out to me.
"Hey, person?" his voice was scratchy, as if he needed water. "I know this is a bad time to ask this." I slowly peaked over again, looking in the direction of the owner with the scratchy voice. A tall man came to my view, I couldn't see his face very clearly, but he looked to be in his 30's. He had a long leather coat and thick boots that made him look extremely tall. The long barrel of his gun came into view next. It was still smoking a bit from the last shot that was fired, however it was placed beside him. "Can you come out so we can talk face to face? I won’t shoot you." I was still hiding, my face the only thing visible to him. He slowly walked closer to the building. I could finally make out his face. He had dark brown, wavy hair that was chin length. The hair matted down by sweat and moisture on his well-fed cheeks. He had a little bit of thick stubble. I tried to speak, but nothing came out. He sighed and looked around. "Look I'm going to be honest with you, I'm lost. I've been lost in this foggy forest for 3 days now..." his face fell and he said "I saw earlier you had some sort of map…can I see it?" Was he hiding earlier…? Now he's asking for...help. He looked up and saw my expression "I know asking for help now-a-days is asking a lot...and with all the circumstances…" his words trailed off. I looked at him intensely. "I don't want to have to take it from you." my heart jumped at his words and I darted off. "Wait! Dammit!" he yelled after me but I just couldn't stop. I was sure he was going to fire his gun but no bullets whizzed by while I was running.
I darted right into the fog, without knowing exactly where I was or where I was going. I was panting and stopped to take a breath. Before I could even get a gasp of air in, I heard the man shout behind me. With my heart beating in my ear so loudly, I couldn't hear what he was saying, but it didn't matter. I started to run but fell, landing on my wrist and scraping it a bit. I gasped and looked behind me, hoping he wasn't too close. I couldn't see much and the sounds of scuffling were hard to pin point. I tried making as little noise as possible as I got up from the ground. The fog was extremely dense in this area. I tried looking around to see any familiar land marks or colored cloth, but the only tree visible was the one next to me and it didn't have anything on it. I started to panic. It was quiet.
"There you are." I heard him from behind me. I screamed and fell forwards again, crawling to get up so I could run. I felt his hands around my shoulders. I hit him in the face with the back of my hand. I landed a pretty good hit but it wasn’t enough for him to let go of me. "I don’t want to have to seriously hurt you so calm down.” I looked at him terrified. How did he find me? I took a couple of deep breaths as he slowly let go of my shoulders. “You aren’t going to run again are you?”
"Who are you?" I asked, my voice shaky. He looked down at the ground
"Just call me Hunter." he sighed and looked at me seriously "Give me the map so I can get out of here." he reached his hand out and I stepped back a bit.
"I need this map." my voice shook. He put his hands up
"I'm not going to take it from you. I just need to see it." I looked at him questioningly.
"Put your hands behind your back." he looked at me confused
"Put your hands behind your back and I'll show you the map." I took a deep breath as I kept the map close to me. He paused and stared at me, giving me an annoyed glare.
"Fine." he put his hands behind his back. "Happy?" I unwrapped the map and stretched it out in front of him so he could see it. He looked over the map a bit.
"Where are we?" he asked, his eyes fixed on the map. I sighed and pulled the map back. Since the fog is so thick, it means we're closer to the swamp. I left from that abandon place...
“I don’t know.”
He scoffed “Okay, well we didn’t go far..." Hunter said and started walking off. He disappeared in the fog quickly, but I could still hear the sounds of his scuffling. Before thinking twice, I followed his footsteps. I felt kind of strange following him, after all that's happened. I kept walking after the scuffling noises until I finally walked into the opening with the two burnt buildings. I saw Hunter only a little bit ahead of me. I looked at the sky and saw its dark tint start to get darker and darker slowly. If I don't go soon I might have to camp it out here, in the houses.
I hurried back to my cave, almost sprinting there. I made it just as the fog was getting into its dark black sheets of cloth. I made a small fire and opened another can of food. It was peaches. I hadn't had peaches in a while...I closed my eyes as the taste of the peaches brought back old memories. I remembered the light that used to hit my bedroom wall every morning when I'd wake up for school, how id stare at it as it dragged from one spot to another. I remember the birds as they used to sing happily to each other. How my mother would wake me up every morning with a smile and a laugh... we didn't have much money at the time... but we had each other. That was enough to keep me content. She used to love peaches. I would always see her eating them in the morning as she got ready for work. I remember her words to me every day before she would leave. I opened my eyes and finished eating. I threw the can into my pile of cans. I sat back next to the fire and looked out at the entrance. It's uncommon that someone would be that comfortable around another person in these times, even so, after that pig... I sighed and looked at my hand. The one person that didn't want to kill me and they asked for directions… I am truly living in a strange world… I got up and started to wiped off my hands, making sure the cut didn't get infected. There were only a couple details that kept running through my head. Why did he kill those pigs? How could he have tracked me down so fast, but be lost? The fire slowly died out and made a small puff of smoke fly into the air.
The night went on smoothly like normal. I lit another fire, when I heard some scuffling outside. I quietly got up and peaked out of my cave, looking into the darkness. I put my head back inside and leaned against the side of the entrance to the cave. I heard the scuffling get louder until it made a complete stop. I could hear the sound of another person’s loud breathing in the darkness.
"Anyone home?" The scratchy voice sounded just like the man I met earlier....
"Why are you here?" I yelled out
"It was getting dark and I needed shelter." I peeked outside in the darkness.
"Show yourself." At first I heard a sigh and then more loud scuffling. He walked out of the darkness and stopped at a distance I could see. "Why are you here?"
He looked down" It was getting dark and the buildings don't have much cover."
“How did you even get here?”
“I’m really good at remembering things, like maps.”
"And you assumed that I would lead you to something better?" he shrugged
"If you have a map, you have to have a safe spot. Can you just let me in?"
"I'm going to draw attention."
“I don’t care.” he sighed.
“What made you think I was going to let you in?”
“Look, I’m being nice here” he raised his gun “I can just take if I wanted.” So why don’t you? I paused for a bit, staring at him warily. I played out all the scenarios in my head. Most of the creatures in this fog were inhuman beings like the pig, at the time, I didn’t need a gun. I backed up to give him space to walk inside. He walked slowly inside, keeping his eyes on me. "Oh, comfy." he looked around at the hard dirt ground and at the inner cave walls. "Well at least it has a lot of space." he slowly sat down near the fire and put his gun right beside him. "I'm just going to be here for the night then I'll leave okay, you don't have to give me that look." I didn't realize my face was tensed up and turned my eyes towards the cave entrance. "How did you end up here?"
I didn't really want to share with this guy. I don't trust him. I just continued to look out the cave entrance. I heard him sigh. "Not much of a talker, are you?"
"No." I walked to the fire and sat down across from him, keeping my eye on his gun.
"You don't get many visitors, do you?"
"I don't want to talk."
"You haven't seen a human that wouldn't want to kill you in how long and you don't want to know anything about them?"
"A good mistake to make in this world is to think there’s someone who’s got good intentions." he nodded.
“I’ve proven that I’m not going to kill you, give me a little credit.” He laughed to himself. How could this guy be so optimistic? “Can't we just have some human interaction?" he looked at me with sincere eyes. We sat in silence before I decided to speak.
"Where'd you get the gun?" he looked beside him at his gun and then back at me.
"I had this gun before...all this." he grabbed something out of a small bag that was tied to him and started looking through it. "Are you hungry?" he lifted a can out of his bag and gestured it to me. I can't take his food...
"I'm fine” he stared at me for a bit before putting the can back into the bag. I tried to avoid eye contact. This is awkward...I continued to stare at the floor.
"Are you that intimidated by me?"
"I don't know you." I looked up at him intently. "Why are you being so friendly?"
“I don’t need to waste bullets, besides, you seem human enough to think rationally, why would I want to kill that if I don’t have to.” his smile became a little crooked. He looked at the fire. "I understand, it's okay, we don't have to talk." he said mockingly, his sick grin still on his face. The night went on silent, he didn't speak. I never took my eye off the gun. After a couple hours passed, the fog outside became lighter. "Would you look at the time..." he got up, put his gun to his side and stood in the opening, looking out into the fog. "Thanks for letting me stay here for the night, even if it was kind of against your will." He bowed and started walking out. A small feeling of guilt started to well up in my heart. The sound of gun shots echoed through the fog. "Oh..." he turned around to look at the direction of the gun shots. He seemed to know what made the noise from the look on his face. "You should stay inside for today." he smiled playfully at me and disappeared into the fog