I don’t know how I got here.
I don’t remember my past.
Hell, I don't even remember my own name for Christ's sake.
I stand alone.
I’ve been walking for what seems like years now, traveling streets and hiking back country roads, taking refuge where I can find it. It seems nothing is left in this world. All the houses are vacant, the once bustling streets of cities are now overrun by vegetation and animals that were once kept caged for our merriment had finally broke free of their iron prisons. But even in this silent chaos there is this one driving force in the back of my head. This force, this drive, pushes me southward.
Onward each and every day I push towards my destination, never stopping, hoping that all my effort will somehow pay off when I reach it. On the nights I can sleep, I dream of a small wooden house in a prairie. The dreams are so vivid, I can smell the blooming flowers on the hillside and the wind blowing through my hair. Yet still there is this feeling of foreboding almost oozing from the house. A sound resonates from the the house like a beating heart. During every dream I always start to meander towards the house but sadly, I never make it inside; the shadows always reach me first.
Now within this godforsaken world there are a few constants: that I’ll keep moving south, that someone or something will always try to kill me to further their existence, and that those damned shadows are always watching me.
I call them "shadows" because I know not their real names, nor have I seen them; only their shadows, hence their name. For as long as I remember (even though that's not very long) they have been following me. I guess they started right when I began moving southward. They are more active at night. Not to say I don’t see them in the day as well, but night seems to be their favorite time to terrorize me. They used to scare me, but now I’ve grown used to them. Well, as used as you can get to shadowy creatures following you in the dark.
But something is strange with me compared to the very few other people I’ve met on my travel southward. Along my way I have met a few good hearted souls; even fell in love at one point. Yet the shadows always take my companions away from me. The image of them being dragged into the darkness; kicking, screaming, protesting against their captors, begging for my help; is etched in my memory. Alas, I was and always am powerless to help. Thus, this has forced me into a long journey of solitude.
I stand alone.
I suppose you could reason that my journey is for revenge. Ahhh yes, you assume I journey towards this destination with hope. That when I reach it, revenge will be dealt. That the death of my companions will not be in vain. And that the visions of her being dragged away screaming and crying, that are etched into my very soul, will leave me.
Do you think I'm delusional? I would love the sweet taste of revenge and at last, have peace at night. Sadly this is no cliché love story and I have not a conceivable idea of what will happen when I reach the cabin. Yes, I hope that some closure will find me in the end, but I have no illusions to what will and might happen once I reach it finally.
I’ve reached the mountains now. I know not the name of them, though I feel as though I did know at some period in time. They seem to stretch on for an eternity. Deep shades of golden auburn and lush green run against the sides of the hills. The jagged tops reach up to the cerulean sky like fingers of a great giant of old tales. I’ve taken refuge in a cave along the south side of the mountain. From my cave I’m looking over a lush valley. Streams fed by a waterfall course through the heart of the valley like veins in the human body. Yet even this beautiful valley seems menacing with the closing darkness. The darkness seems to be its own entity, driven by the madness and chaos that has overtaken the world. Smoke rolls up from deep within the valley. I think to myself that maybe it's someone like me, looking for a purpose, trying to make sense of this chaotic world. But deep down I know that it’s them; shadows. They’ve been much more active these past weeks as I’ve grown closer to my destination. I feel them now as I speak these words to you. They wait outside my cave, watching me. Their black, sleek, shadowy forms drift through the dark, biding their time until they can finally deal me the fate they dealt all my companions. That night I dreamt.
I stand alone. The breeze swims through my hair and brings me the oh so familiar smell of tulips blooming over on the other hillside. The tall grass swings to the rhythm of the natural forces that push them. In front of me, fifty or so yards away, stands the rickety cabin that I know all too well. The storm door bashes back and forth from the strong eastern wind. I take my first step. All grows quiet, just as it always does. And the sound... that wretched and terrible sound starts.
The beating sound of a heart overwhelms me. It booms from the house as if it holds the heart of God. As I make my way towards the cabin, I start to feel their presence. To the left and right of me, large shapes of varying sizes are moving through the tall grass. They flow through the vegetation like water through a stream, watching my every movement, daring me to try and enter the house. I quicken my pace, but they match it. The heart beat is louder now, the sound vibrates the whole field and my hollow chest, almost as if it was my own heart. I was twenty yards away now. The shadows were closer now. Blood pounded in my ear. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. The porch was there, right in front of me. Just one more step and I’ll be there. I slammed against a dark force. I teetered backwards, trying to keep my balance. This is different. The dreams never go this way, and it feels so... real. I look up and face the force that had stopped my progress; shadow. The dark, ever changing form stood in front of me. Wait, no... it's more as if it's swimming in the wind itself; taunting me with its slick black form. The only aspect constant about my pursuer was its hollow eyes. They bore into me, filling me with hopelessness. And even though he had no mouth to speak, those eyes said everything. The hatred. The malice. The pure need for evil within those eyes chilled me down to the bone. The shadow lurched forward.
That was the first night of the more vivid dreams, but the dreams vary now. Sometimes I don’t even make it to the porch like that first night. Last night was different from the rest; she was there. Walking with me across the field, holding my hand, just like she used to. But even as good as it was to see her, history has a habit of repeating itself and they took her from me; dragged her away. And once again, I stand alone.
Sleep is not an option tonight. I’m closer now. I’ve reached a small town on the outskirts of the mountains. A town that seemed abandoned until now. Most of the buildings had been commandeered by the natural forces surrounding it. The once strong asphalt roads are now crumbling from lack of care. A large box that contained different color lights lay near large machines with wheels that remind me of a much happier time.
Outside I hear the babbling of people, but these are people I want no contact with. People... no, they're not that. That implies they're still in contact with their humanity. Not to say they were not human at one point, but at this point they had lost all their humanity. I call them "The Lost" because, like all things in this world, they seemed to have lost their way. They are gauntly things, all of them. Their faces thin and bony; hollowed out cheeks and eyes that were blacked out from exhaustion. Dirt and blood cover their body. Their limbs seemed to be barely attached to their unnourished body. Their walk deceives their body. They walk with their back straight, with a proud stride as if they were royalty. They have crude misshapen bloody weapons made out of different objects. They have animals that walk with them. These things were once considered man’s best friend, but now they are all but a doppelgänger of their master on four legs. Matted fur; their ribs shown from underneath their blood-soaked skin. Their mouths are left in a permanent snarl, revealing their jagged teeth and black gums.
My place of rest lies in an old boarded up house on the northern part of town. It seems I made a poor choice in a rest stop. "The Lost" are active and very close. They have control of an old hotel and gas station, maybe 200 yards away from the house. I watch them from the top floor.
I cannot lie; I am terrified. But it's a different terror from what I feel towards the "Shadows". I know what "The Lost" are capable of. I’ve seen people dragged through the streets and crucified, torn apart limb from limb, and then eaten by them and their canine companions. Mercy, sympathy, good, hope, love... these are words that do not exist in the minds nor vocabulary of these wretched beings. Their actions push me to realize that this world might truly be a lost cause now. It seems now that they’ve finished ransacking the gas station of what useful supplies it had. I watch them cross the street to the hotel. That's when the screams start.
Women and children, pulled forth by their hair from within the rundown hotel. There was around fifteen people, only five of them being men. You could see the strain and exhaustion etched in their faces. Much like "The Lost", they were covered in dirt and blood. You could visibly see the hopelessness in all of them. "The Lost" drag them to the middle of the street and force them to their knees. One man stands, trying to fight back against his captors, but his protests are swiftly dealt with by a blow to the head and a knife slide through his neck. Yet again another bloodcurdling scream rises from the street as blood shoots from his neck. I watch as the man struggles on the pavement; his blood spills from his neck, staining the ground; fighting for what life he still might have. I look onward without even flinching. Sadly, this world has grown me accustomed to these things and I am no longer fazed at what it's capable of. The women are being dragged into the back of cages attached to beasts of burdens, with other women that they must have collected over their travels. The men are then lined up and are dealt the same fate as the one that tried to resist.
But as they come to the children, I can see on their sinister faces just exactly what they plan to do. Their faces deceive them and even though they do not utter their intention, I know. Anger rises up through me like the hot water that spews from the earth. I slam my fist against a board. It pops loose and my heart stops. I watch as the board falls from the second story to the pavement, and my entire body goes rigid as it crashes. "The Lost's" heads swivel in my direction and their companions begin making their loud gurgling barks. They begin to rush towards the house, but out of the corner of my eye I see them - the "Shadows". They have come.
They move through the street, absorbing all the light. "The Lost" yell and scream in fear along with their companions. They try to scamper away but to no avail. I wish I could explain fully what is happening. I can’t see the street anymore, the screams are gone and all is quiet. A chill and a feeling of foreboding has passed over the town. I wish I could have been on that street when they came, so I could escape this world. I did not sleep that night.
It's morning now, the sun is rising and I see that the street is empty, completely barren, as if no one had even been there. I gather what little I have in supplies and make my way out of the house. The fresh morning sun burns down on my dry face. I look to my compass and start to head south once again.
It's close. The urge to move south has grown even greater now. My dreams are coming alive right before my very eyes. I now stand in the tree line of a great old forest looking outward. Before me lie the rolling lush hills I had seen in my dreams. The tall grass seemed to go on for ages. Flowers on the hillside swung in the eastern wind, delivering their sweet and oh so familiar smell to my nostrils. The sun’s beating rays shone down, exposing all that was below it. Yet in the distance, darkness grows. Black menacing clouds swirl in the sky, and lightning traces their bodies as if Zeus himself was in them. Since I’ve started my journey I have had no clear sign to where I must go, only the push to move southward. But now I know that I must follow those clouds no matter how foreboding they may feel. I know that the only way to find peace is to venture to the cabin and face whatever may lie ahead of me. I make my way onto the prairie. The world as I have known it has stopped, and time itself is now flowing with the same consistency as molasses. And in this silent menacing chaos that I have grown so accustomed to, once again… I stand alone.
The land has grown dark before me. A hill stretches up towards the heavens in front of me. I know that once I pass over it, I will find find my purpose that I have sought for so long. Each step up this hill feels like my whole journey all in one. The chains of my purpose weigh against my shoulders. My breath draws in, slow and ragged. The peak of the hill is there; one last step. There, on top of this hill, I see the one thing that had driven me. I finally can accept that I wasn't crazy. There, down below, lies the cabin. Yet even now that I've found it, on top of the lonely hill, I stand alone.
I wait at the base of the hill. It's become just like my dreams now. The shudder door of the house bashing like a cymbal in the wind is the only sound that pierces the air. That foreboding feeling that I know too well flows through the air and drags my soul down like a ball and chain. I crouch, scanning throughout the grass, trying to see any sign of them. It would seem that I am the only inhabitant of this grassland, but I know I'm not truly alone. I rise to my feet, look one last time out across the field, and take my first step. One by one I take my steps towards the cabin. That's when I feel them.
Just like the dreams, they appear on both sides of me, watching every move I make. The feeling of terror rises up in me, telling me that it's not worth it to turn around now. But I know I must continue onward. I cannot and will not allow my friends and her life to go to waste just so that I could cower out now. Everything I have worked for comes to this moment. The human spirit inside me that drives me each and every day to take one more step further than I was yesterday will not let me stop. They are coming closer to me, filling me with the sorrow and despair that comes with their presence. I keep my eyes forward. On the porch I see the one from my dreams.
It has taken the form that almost seems human. It has to be ten feet tall. It stood on monstrous black legs, its arms swung from its side like great pendulums. Its eyes were the same hollow black sockets that I remember from my dream. It stared at me and began to meander towards me as I made my way towards it. I sped up; it sped up. Again, I felt that drive. But this drive told me to run, not away, but instead straight towards this shadowy beast, and so I did. As I sprinted towards the monster, it did the same. As the ground rushed beneath me, I closed my eyes and prepared for the worst. I hear a bloodcurdling scream and sound akin to flesh ripping from bone, then with a loud crash I plowed into the door of the cabin, breaking through it and landing face first against the damp mossy wood. I collect my wits and look back through the door and see the shadow standing in place, his hollow eyes piercing through me. His face splits in two and lets out the same sound again, and the door slams closed. Silence.
I can hear the beating now that I’m inside. The overwhelming smell of mildew and mold overtakes my nostrils. The wood sinks in under my feet and squelches. The low hanging ceiling makes it difficult for me to walk. Pictures of deteriorated landscapes hang from the wall, giving the illusion of a much happier time. I can’t believe that I’m here. Months of work to get to this cabin and finally it has paid off. The beating seems to be coming from the room to my right. I walk into the room. There in the middle of the room sits a pedestal with a box atop of it. The box is of ancient construct and weathered very heavily. The beating is resonating from it even louder now as I make my way towards it. All this just to find a box. I reach towards to the box; the vibrations rocking my hand as I put my fingers to the lid. I cautiously lift its ancient top. Light spills from its edges as I open it slowly.
A heart monitor beeps at a steady rhythm. A nurse walks around to my bed side. A young beautiful woman with dark brown hair sits to my side, holding my hand. Her eyes are tired, giving her an appearance of being much older than she actually is. But now a smile dances across her face. I smile back; a smile? Smiling that seemed like a foreign concept until now. I smile because it seems as though my efforts paid off. I realize where I am, my name, all those things that I once knew not. But now above all else I know I do not and will not ever again…
Written by Peppers246