I walked alone, dreaming of my
iPod, fried chicken, and the internet. My mind set adrift in
the mundane dance of my feet, everyday more of the same. Dodge
the abandoned cars, step over the discarded bodies, and hide
from the cities. It was there amongst the danger, the dreams
subsided. Muscle memory made fast use of my two handguns and
if necessary the shotgun. No, the cities were for fools and
There in the wilderness, guided
only by the sun and the stars, I strayed. The chance I’d find
one of them would be very slight and the odds of finding one
of me much higher. Survivors were the ones who were smart,
stubborn, and strong enough not to die during the initial years.
I sucked on the plastic tube
attached to my pack, bringing necessary nutrients to my body.
Some days I neglect, letting the dreams become more real. The
dreams pull me back to my wife and little girl. There I would
stay, in the log cabin surrounded by high metal gates and the “danger
they’re inside” signs. Shayla would be there, running her fingers
through my dreads with my little girl Kia at our feet playing
with her crayons.
We were the lucky ones. It had
taken many years to convince Shayla that a life of solidarity
and outdoors would be better than a wall of concrete and noise.
She was a city girl but she loved me anyway. Even without the
dreams I can smell her perfume, see her slender face, thick
lips, and green eyes.
I raised my left hand up to my
face. It was there I wrote in ink the number of days I had
been away from them. Every sunset I reminded myself not to
look at it. Anxiety sets in every time. They needed me. The
crops had failed and the animals scarce. It seemed even they
had enough sense to get away.
A noise brought me out of it
all. My handgun was drawn and I moved closer to a large tree.
They sense fear and smell blood, I reminded myself. I am confident.
I will survive. They will die. The mantra repeated itself.
I scanned and listened. The worst thing you could do is get
surrounded or backed into a corner. That’s when I saw it…Him…It’s
face a decomposed mix of skeleton and falling flesh.
They move slow like the Romero
movies of the past. Some groaned, others screamed, this one
was silent. I moved from tree to tree making sure to keep it
in front of me. The instinct is to shoot it but it’s not the
smartest response. Like moths to a flame they had adapted to
the sounds of guns. Guns meant food…I had to be sure.
I circled it. Patience paid for
itself when I saw the other. A child, no taller than three
feet, with hair that hung from patches of skin atop her exposed
skull. She trailed the other with unsure movement. They claimed
during the broadcasts that they weren’t intelligent. Any semblance
of such was residual brain waves and accidental neuron fire.
I didn’t believe them. Never trusted them, they had brought
this upon us. What had they called it? “A terrorist attempt
at racial genocide.”
The girl’s hand moved in my direction.
Her small arms reached for me, her upper torso moving before
her lower. The man did the same. In times like this, rule number
two is always hit them in the head. Any other place would just
be a waste of bullets. The man was first, his head popped,
spinning his body around. The girl turned to him, her sunken
eyes seemed to widen. There was a memory there…an emotion.
Maybe it was just my mind’s need to rationalize it all. I hesitated.
She had forgotten about me and moved towards him.
“What you waiting for?” called
a voice behind me.
I swung around to meet a tall
baldheaded bull of a man. He had his rifle trained on me.
“You can’t let them get away…shoot
them and shoot fast.”
He fired and the girl fell face
first onto the ground. A large hole leaked green and brown
liquid onto her back. My emotions were mixed, sadness and relief
rushed over me.
“Thanks,” I said lowering my
He smiled and made his way over
“Don’t mention it,” he said then
shook my hand. “Will.”
“Nathaniel,” I replied.
He eyed my weapons and the sixty
pound pack on my back.
“Not from around here?” said
“It’s been twenty days since
I seen another soul,” I replied.
He forced a smile. He would have
to test me. Strangers are never to be trusted, especially those
“It’s tough out there by yourself.”
I nodded and drew another drink
from the straw, “Got to go. If there’s more around, the shots
will attract them.”
I turned my back to him and started
off in my original direction. I hadn’t asked for anything and
I didn’t attack him. I was safe to bring back to the camp;
all I had to do was wait for it.
“Wait,” he called. “I’m sure
you could use some food and sleep. God knows how you’ve been
“Scout out a fifteen minute perimeter
based on how fast they move and sleep in the middle for ten
He raised his eyebrows; the question
had been rhetorical,
“Uh…sure. Just come on…The camp’s
We kept our distance along the
way. My mind being my companion for so long it was hard to
transition back to being “normal”. Shayla’s voice tickled my
“When are you coming home?”
I looked over to Will who had
begun to ramble.
“Fucking assholes thought they
could get one over on us…shit, all they did was made it easier
to see who the real enemy is…”
Shayla frowned. Things were still
the same. They still hated, hunted, and strove to kill us.
“Soon babe,” I whispered.
“Huh?” questioned Will with a
I’m not alone anymore,
I reminded myself. I shrugged and he picked up the pace.
“Not too far now.”
A few minutes later the trees
opened up on a brown and white RV surrounded by two dark green
tents. A skinny man in a faded I Love New York t-shirt
waved at us from the roof. He sat Indian style in the middle
with a scoped rifle attached to a makeshift stand. So far,
they were smart. Will noticed, “We take turns…those of us who
“A headshot the best way,” I
“Yo, who’s the new guy?” said
a teenage girl emerging from one of the tents.
Her round Asian face contrasted
well with her smooth caramel skin. Her T-shirt read “Hate” and
had an angel halo in the middle of it. Her brown eyes looked
me up and down.
“He’s with me…calm down. He helped
killed a few,” said Will as he handed her his gun. “Where’s
the food? Get him a plate.”
She cut her eyes from me to him.
“I hope you like rotten deer,” she
said as she trailed off.
Will chuckled. “She’s kidding.
Kid sister, we call her Angie. Pain in my side…these are the
years. You know what I mean.”
I didn’t, my daughter was barely
“Who’s the new guy?” called the
man on the roof.
“What’s this I hear about a new
guy? Boy, you bring home strays again?” called a strained voice
from the other tent. “We barely have enough food to go around.”
Will winced as he looked at me.
“Shut up ma…not like you help
with the hunting anyways. Go back to sleep. That’s ma…and the
guy up there’s Jake.”
Her tent shook from left to right
but no one came out. Jake went back to the gun and his search.
“I won’t take up much of your
time. The sleep and food sounded good. It’s been a while.”
Will smiled and pointed to the
RV. “There’s a bed in there. Take as much time as you need.
We could use the help.”
The night came and I laid in
the R.V. unable to sleep. Will had taken tonight’s watch, giving
Jake time with Angie, his apparent girl. I sat up, throwing
the blanket off of me. My mind wondered how Shayla was holding
up. How could I sleep when she was at home alone with Kia?
Her perfume hung thick and suffocating. Kia’s brown eyes appeared
like large pools of sadness. I jumped out of the makeshift
bed bumping into an old TV then the door. Will shuffled around
on the roof.
I opened the door slow letting
the night slip in. I reached for my shotgun, slinging it over
my shoulder. Out of habit I scanned left and right, the ladder
to the roof was next to me and I proceeded to climb up.
“Can’t sleep?” said Will without
“It’s not home…no offense,” I
“Tell me about it,” he said. “Shit’s
just not the same.”
“I dream sometimes,” I whispered
as I removed the blade from my boot.
“Yea…things never happened…it’s
all the same…this is the dream and I’m asleep at home with
my wife and kid…”
“I think we all do that.”
I moved close to him. My hand
grabbed the back of his head and before he could cry, I slid
my knife across his throat. Blood gurgled out and splattered
the roof. His body struggled underneath me. A drowned cry finally
escaped. I waited until he stopped trembling to move back to
the ladder towards Jake’s tent.
“Jake,” I whispered.
There was no response so I clapped
my hands and called again. Someone stirred and out popped his
head, his gun in his right hand.
“Hey, new guy?”
I didn’t waste time; the knife
went across his wrist then up across his face. I pushed it
into his eye and he cried out, falling back into the tent.
I followed landing on top of him and the sleeping girl. She
woke up fast but I was faster. She didn’t have the time. Her
life ended with her half awake.
“Boy, what are you doing up there?
What’s all that noise?”
The mother chose now to get out
of her tent? She wasn’t a threat. I slipped out of the tent.
Although she was a large woman
with the weight our ancestors used to survive, she leapt away
from me like a rabbit.
“What the hell you mean dead?
Seriously… I ain’t got no time for games…Where’s Will? William
get down here now. What’d I tell you about these strays?”
I showed her my bloodied knife.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” I
said as I looked for unusual bulges under her blue dress. “I
want you to run and run fast.”
She didn’t move. The anger had
dissipated and replaced with shock and fear. Even after it
all the fact that someone could still feel anything surprised
me. I stomped my feet towards her.
“I…I…” she stammered.
I danced the knife in circles
in front of her face.
“I said run…Now!”
A slash across her wrist made
her run. They smell blood and sense fear. Her run was
slow, almost comical. I watched for a little while before heading
back up the ladder. Will’s body was still face down.
“The real enemy is us,” I said,
while I kicked his carcass off the roof.
From my pack I retrieved my tools,
a hatchet, knives, and other things necessary to remove the
meat. It wasn’t personal…I didn’t know them. Laughter…a bad
joke…The virus had claimed those who were melanin deficient…It
didn’t know them either. It had changed us from the minority
to the majority but things stayed the same. Shayla had always
claimed to be different. There was too much love to hate.
I went for the organs first.
The heart, liver, lungs, and brain were cut away then washed
with water from their container. I rubbed salt into them, then
applied another layer before wrapping them in plastic wrap.
“Don’t forget some of the fat.”
I smiled and scooped a little,
salted it, and dropped it in a zip lock bag. Shayla was happy
for that. By the time I was done, Will, Jake, and Angie were
nothing but limbs amassed in a pile of unusable waste. They
would eat well tonight, giving me the time I needed to start
My body was on auto pilot. I
dreamed of them and they were happy. I was almost home. Shayla’s
face smiled wide. Trees separated and the dark dull grey gates
sat on the horizon. My heart fluttered and my pace quickened.
I knocked on the gate. It was locked from the inside. More
protection needed from the outsiders. I heard shuffling, she
had to be sure.
I smiled, “Yes baby. It’s me.
Open the hole.”
A small slot opened and I stuck
my hand inside. She would have to look at my skin; the hands
were the first to go.
“I thought you’d never come home.
Mom’s been a hand full.”
The gate opened and I slipped
inside. My little girl kept the gun up trained on the outside
world. I stared at her face, was she real? How did she survive
all this? Was I right to let her?
“I know, baby. It’s getting harder
every day,” I said, as I closed the gate.
She threw her arms around me.
Her tears soaked into my chest. I missed her, I loved her,
and I didn’t want her to let go. We cried together both of
us not wanting to go inside the house. But soon we would have
to. A few minutes passed and I finally said, “Let’s go feed
# # #
The Long Walk by
Steven Jermaine Saint Aubin Jones
published April 21, 2010