Desolation

10/31/2020 4:57:22 PM
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            As he clambered out of the fallout shelter, the first thing he noticed was the blistering heat and unfamiliar smell. He saw his neighborhood in tatters; hardly anything remained. The landscape looked like a cyclone of fire came through, tearing everything apart and scorching the terrain. He stood there in awe pondering how this happened, but that smell, that mysterious smell, held his attention more than the torn apart area in front of him. He tried to ignore the smell by covering his face with his shirt collar, but the scent penetrated the cloth. He needed answers about what occured to the land. He decided to rummage around the wreckage for anything of value, ultimately coming up with nothing worth while. He then remembered the peak overlooking his neighborhood. He turned around and saw it still stood towering over the valley town. He hiked up to the base of the cliff, exhausted due to the extreme heat. The strange scent still lingered in his nasal passages, as if it were burned into his brain. He proceeded to traverse the steep hill leading to the overlook. Cresting the top of the hill, he thought he saw a silhouette of a man sitting in a chair. He called out to him and received a jolly welcome. Sitting atop the mountainous hill was an older gentleman sitting in a lawn chair. The man was cladded with a brown leather duster that was cracked and dried out. He wore military style khaki trousers with a crimson sash tied around his left thigh. The drifter asked the seated man how he wasn’t dying of heat with such heavy clothes on. The old man replied that it was cold outside and showed the drifter a thermometer reading “49?.” He also asked the man if he smelled the same scent that he did. A boisterous response erupted from the old man. He hollered about thinking he was crazy and glad someone else could smell it. Granted, he had no clue what it was either. The drifter asked the old man one last question. “What happened around here?”

    The greatest nations in the world all stood against each other, waiting for a violent act. They all wanted to become the greatest nation in the world, and they would do it by force. The leaders all continually threatened to blow each other to the moon, but nobody acted out. One day, the U.S.A.’s entire nuclear arsenal launched, scattering to each of the other nations. They all interpreted this as a sign of war and launched their nukes scattering the globe. Soon enough, total nuclear annihilation threatened the Earth. The leaders of each nation were executed, before their successors were escorted into safety shelters. The bombs exploded, nearly splitting the Earth in half. Roughly 87% of the world’s population perished. 

    The drifter sat down next to the old man looking out over the landscape. It was barren and unrecognizable. It looked like someone transported some broken buildings into the middle of the Sahara desert. All of a sudden, a figure appeared out in the distance. It was clearly a person, but they looked injured as they walked. The drifter told the old man he was going to go help the injured person, but the old man stopped him and told him to wait. The seated gentleman brought out a scoped rifle and aimed it at the injured traveler. The drifter now yelled for him to stop. The old man said that that injured person is a shambler and told the drifter to take a look. The drifter looked and saw how odd the injured man walked. He asked the old man what a shambler was, and was told it was a type of zombie. The old man brought the rifle back up to his shoulder and a single shot rang out. Several seconds later, they saw a spurt of blood, and the body dropped. The drifter was horrified by what he saw, while it seemed the old man was used to this. Apparently, the old man’s wife and son lived in a bunker that was about half a klick east from the outlook. It was visible from the outlook, and the old man was protecting it. He came up to the overlook every day from sunrise to sunset. The shamblers were cold blooded, and could not move when the cold nighttime came. The drifter explained how he heard a radio broadcast telling everyone to go to Leadville, Colorado, the highest city in the U.S. It was apparent by the broadcast and lack of defense behind the old man that the shamblers could not climb steep hills. The old man told him it was stupid to wander around without any protection, and handed him a sawed off double barrel shotgun, along with some twelve gauge buckshot, a map, and water. The drifter descended the hill and headed east, away from the outlook, towards Colorado. He walked without caution, devising a plan to get from Nevada to Colorado as quick as possible. While absorbed in thought, a morbid sound groaned behind him. He turned to see a shambler a few feet away from him. Before he could react the shambler was about five inches from him. Out of nowhere the shambler’s head exploded, scattering pieces of head everywhere. No more than two seconds later he heard the bang from the shot that saved his life. He looked towards the outlook to see a gleam from the old man’s scope. He was thankful he met that man. The drifter kept striding towards Colorado, being more cautious now. That smell. Where was it coming from? It’s so hot, and the smell is so alluring. The sun began to set, and it was noticeably colder, providing the drifter with some relief. It didn’t last long though. As soon as the sun dipped behind the horizon, the temperature rapidly decreased to what felt like below freezing. So cold. So tired. The drifter started to slow, and eventually passed out. 

    The sun rose in the morning as it always has and hopefully always will. It’s delightful rays warmed the drifter, awakening him from his involuntary slumber. It was so hot now again. The smell was still rampant in his nose, too. The drifter decided that he needed to find clothes to stay warm during the cold nights. When the sun was directly overhead he felt a surge of energy and started running towards his destination. He heard a loud rumbling sound off in the distance ahead of him. The drifter could once again smell the strange scent, now more present than before. Straining his eyes, he only saw waves of heat coming off of the road. A truck abruptly crested the small hill that prevented it from being seen previously. The truck came barreling towards the drifter and he had to dive to the side of the road to avoid it. The truck screeched to a halt and slid sideways. The driver got out pointing a revolver at the drifter. He was wearing a tan crocodile hunter hat, a black leather vest over a white tank top, and khaki cargo shorts. The croc hunter examined the drifter before deciding that he was not a shambler. The drifter huffed a sigh of relief, and the croc hunter rummaged in the back of his truck. He pulled out a pink parka jacket and torn denim jeans. He handed them over to the drifter without saying a word. The croc hunter jumped back in his truck and thundered down the road again. The drifter put on his newly acquired gear and once again caught wind of that smell. He was a little disheartened to see a few bloodstains on the parka, but nonetheless grateful. Night was approaching, and the drifter came across a mostly intact house. It looked like it was made of steel that burrowed deep into the foundation. He stepped through the open doorway and carefully investigated the house. After clearing each room, he decided to sit down. He didn’t feel tired at all even though he had been walking all day. The sun went down once again, and it got cold. The drifter felt cold again. The parka was doing well, but the ripped jeans did not provide enough heat. He once again fell into a comatose state until morning. 

When he arose again he heard a small scraping sound from downstairs. He still couldn’t move but was fully awake. He could hear the scraping sound coming up the stairs now, and felt a sense of dread. After more time passed of the paralyzed drifter hearing the scraping sound getting closer, he saw a deformed head peak around the corner into his room. It was a shambler. He panicked and couldn’t move, but the smell was back again. It still wasn’t a bad smell, but it was strange. The shambler limped closer to the drifter, prepared to eat him. The adrenaline from the fear warmed him up enough that he was able to reach his sawed off and blast a hole through the shambler’s body. The zombie got up after a few seconds and dripped blood everywhere. The drifter took the liberty of using his other shell to shoot the head off of the shambler. Luckily that killed it, but the smell was so strong now. He escapes the house before it becomes his grave, heading out east again. On his way through the town he saw a car that looked to be in good shape. He saw the keys were in the car still and tried to start it. It sputtered for a bit but eventually fired up. The drifter drove the car for a little while, despite it having a flat tire. It was still faster than walking after all. In the distance he saw a pillar of smoke and went to investigate the scene. 

Arriving to the area, he could hear multiple gunshots and yelling. He got out of the car and ran towards the commotion. There were three men all in heavy attire, fighting off a hoard of zombies that were way too fast to be shamblers. He made sure to stay out of their site until it was clear. The agile zombies piled on top of two of the men and ripped them apart. The last fighter fled and detonated a bomb he had placed prior to retreating. When all was clear, the drifter approached the lone survivor. The survivor pointed a gun at him and told him not to move. The drifter complied while shouting that he was not a shambler. The survivor asks the drifter if he smells anything strange. He says that the smell is very strong. The survivor then cuts his hand with his knife, and tells the drifter to take a gulp of it. Being held at gunpoint, the drifter decides to drink the blood. After a minute passes, the drifter starts twitching and can’t breathe. He asks the survivor what’s happening, and the survivor gives him an answer. “You said you can smell something strange. That smell is blood. Only shamblers and the like can smell blood without it being directly in their face. You may have felt fine before, because the virus was dormant, but it activated when you drank my blood. I’ve been ordered to eradicate any and all infected. I’m guessing that you passed out when nightfall came, am I correct? Deus benedicat tibi anima mea.” The drifter reaches for the survivor in a frenzied panic. The survivor puts a round in between the drifter’s eyes and he lays still. 

They all carried the virus; the drifter, the old man, the croc hunter, and quite possibly even the survivor. The government had no interest in the redemption of mankind. They just wanted the world to be cleansed. By the time the operation ended, the world population was down to only 3%.