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  • ramblingreader3


“He lost his family didn’t he?” Kevin asked without looking up at her.

“Yeah, his wife and four year old daughter. He watched it happen and couldn’t do anything to stop it.” Shaun looked up at the ceiling trying not to let tears fall. She wanted to be strong for him today.

“You also know he got shot with an arrow right? Lee saved him. I dunno how he really feels about it all.” Shaun looked over at Kev trying to burry himself in what he considered work.

“Yes, I went down to see if he was alright.” Kev looked up at Shaun. “I will radio when we make contact. Good luck in there today. I’m sorry I’m not better at peopling Shaun.”

“It’s okay Kev. I think there are more people like that now than ever before. Honestly I’m surprised we’ve all managed to work together this long.”

“I would say that has a lot to do with Mike.” Wes stopped what he was doing and looked up at her. “I don’t think his ability is survival. I think it’s empathy and compassion, and it works in such a way that he compels others to share in it making them want to work together.”

“Hmmm, well, I guess I would have to agree. There is something about him that makes you do more, isn’t there. He also has this knack for keeping people calm.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Thankful he’s ours.” She smiled and turned and headed for the cafeteria, her loyal canine companions close on her heels.

“You know you guys should be dead by now right?” The dogs looked up at her. She stopped and bent down “I love you guys. Thank you for your support.” She took a moment to scratch them on their heads and accepting some large dry kisses from Otis, the large Coonhound. She picked up Chester the Chihuahua and tucked him under her arm as she headed to the cafeteria.

She walked in just as Wes began his story. She walked quickly over to him and sat next to him and BB. Wes and BB nodded at her and Wes continued as he fidgeted with the bandage on his shoulder.

“I honestly never thought I would be okay enough to tell this story, but this place, all of you, give me hope for the future.” Dylan grabbed his hand and gave him a reassuring squeeze.

Wes cleared his throat, “Many of you have already met me since I was the one who found you but I have only ever told my story once so bare with me” Wes looked over at Shaun and she gave him a comforting smile back.

“I had sat back and witnessed the carnage in the beginning months. I had remained an observer mostly because I had yet to witness any good in most of the early survivors and since I couldn’t save my own family, I didn’t believe I would be of any help to anyone else, until I met BB. Back then people couldn’t learn from one another quick enough to save themselves. Just when they believed they were safe, they would find out quickly that they definitely were not. I watched a lot of people die and I’m not proud of that. I’m a better person now and I struggle everyday with what I witnessed in that first year.

I knew I needed people. I knew I would, technically, need many people to not only survive but to live. I did try to search for a group of people that I felt were, at the very least, trying to make the world a better place. However, instead, I found many continuing to contribute to the natural destruction of it all. It held me in a state of depression for some time. There seemed to be very few good people left in the world. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I was even one of them anymore. Regardless, I felt that I was done with being on my own, for punishing myself for my family dying, which I will also tell you about in a bit. I need to warm up to that part so again, just bear with me” Wes shifted in his seat as he watched some people come in late and find a spot to sit. With his heart pounding in his chest, he looked at Shaun and nodded, she nodded back and taking a deep breath he found the confidence he needed to begin again.

“So, obviously I desperately needed to make some friends and prove to myself that I was worth my survival. I had to believe that there was a reason I was still alive” Wes shifted in his seat.

“I had taken to living in the woods by then since it had proven to be safer then anywhere else. The infected had a difficult time navigating the forest terrain back then and tended to stay out of it unless something brought them in. I found that I rarely had to fight a group of them off. Chances were pretty good that I would hear them long before they found me. Luckily, grace and covert ability hadn’t been something that any of them possessed at the time”.

“I spent most of my time watching the infected. They gathered themselves up in the high rise downtown, the number one reason why we blew it up. The non-alphas lingered around everywhere. I kept to the outskirts of town unless I had no choice but to venture in. I had begun to feel more comfortable sleeping up in the trees then anywhere else. The infected still can’t climb and a good tree felt the safest to me though not very comfortable. I wish I had some of Lee’s ability back then. That kid isn’t just a sharp shooter, he can make quick sitting posts from a variety of resources. A truly amazing talent” He smiled over at Lee. Lee sat up a bit straiter and smiled. “Thank you for having my back by the way. I wouldn’t have made it out of there if you hadn’t done what you did” Wes nodded. Lee nodded back.

From what I witnessed the infected congregated and chose sides. They occasionally fought over territory. I scribbled notes in this beat up journal” Wes picked up a worn leather journal that had been sitting in front of him and lifted it over his head for everyone to see.

“My goal for a long time was to find a way to kill the infected without killing myself in the process. There were just too many of them though. I thought that maybe if I gathered enough information then maybe someone would be able to use it. Luckily, I came here and we did use it. Anyway, I have added this journal into the library here. Anyone can come borrow it. I think Shaun is right, the more information, the more experiences we share, the more likely we will survive. I also feel that it will be good to talk. The trauma we’ve all suffered needs to be expressed and dealt with. I feel like the more prepared we become the less I fear, if that makes any sense” Wes gave a nod to Shaun and she put a coffee in front of him. He took another deep breath and continued.

“I had also spent a lot of time following survivors. I would follow and listen for a while, sometimes it took seconds to know I didn’t want any part of what they had become, other times it took longer. One thing had been clear for far too long, it didn’t seem as though there were any decent people left” Wes sighed heavily. Remembering those days, he began to feel empty and he hated that feeling. “It may be important to note here that many of those undesirables made a stand with Anna” he looked over towards Cole. Cole nodded in agreement.

“Ya know I had never been any type of survivalist before. In my old life I had never even gone camping. I had never shot a gun or done anything that would involve defending myself by any means at all. I had led a very simple and calm life before infection day.After school I went to work in a bank. I discovered that I loved numbers so I became a financial analysis advisor and had a passion for it. I worked hard and obtained the coveted corner office with a nice promotion. Soon after that I fell in love with a beautiful woman, we got married and had a beautiful baby girl. Life had come easily to me and I felt blessed to have had everything I did” Wes voice became a bit quiet as he went on. He cleared his throat and shuffled in his chair to sit up again.

“July 28th 2016 was our daughters fourth birthday. We lived in a beautiful gated community. It became a war zone within hours of the first news report of a flu epidemic. Up until that time we had no reason to think we were in any danger. We didn’t even give it a thought as the children played games in the yard. Then some teens with guns jumped the back fence and crashed our little girls birthday party. Oddly enough, they saved our lives that day. I imagine that if we stayed we would have been eaten by the infected rather than just being shot at. Miraculously, I managed to get to my daughter and wife, dragging them across our backyard while bullets flew through our guests, our family. Blood pooled around them as they briefly stood in shock from being hit. We had twenty guests at the party and, as far as I know, not one of them made it out alive. I pushed past all of them, a bullet whizzed by my head and through my best friends, his head exploded out the back. My father in law was hit in the chest, others fell as their legs, and arms were ripped into by assailing bullets. Chairs were being tossed, tables toppled over, glass shattered everywhere. I towed my wife with one hand and held my daughter with the other. The glass door shattering seconds before we jumped through. We slid behind the island in the kitchen. My wife began screaming at me, She was in a panic. Her face wet from the tears that streamed down her face. She grabbed our daughter and pulled her close. I began to plead with her that we needed to leave. I remember looking at her and praying she would come with me without question. Instead, she yelled at me, she screamed that it was our family being shot, that we had to do something.

Her voice hitched in her throat, her arms trembling around our daughter. Our daughters arms and legs wrapped around my wife as she tried shielding her with her own body.

I began to panic, I pleaded more with her and I regret yelling at her. But I was just as terrified as she was and all I could think of was our survival. I grabbed her arm hard and shoved her in front of me and out the door. Bullets wizzed close by us as we ran. When we stumbled through the front door I was shocked that we had not been hit.

I opened the car door for them to jump into the passenger seat and slammed the door. I scrambled around to the drivers side fumbling with keys. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening to us. I just knew we had to get out. I knew we were going to die if we stayed. I honestly can’t explain it. It's like with the survival stuff, I can’t explain how I know everything I know. Many of you have other talents that are extraordinary in some way. Shaun for instance never took a fighting class in her life, however, now she is faster than Bruce Lee, not that many of you will remember who he was, but he was martial arts expert in the movies, rumour had it that he had to slow his moves down for the camera because he was so fast. Many of you seem to have a new talent to survive in this new world and I applaud you for continuing to use it and refine it.

Anyway, I drove faster than I had ever driven in my life while Tanya screamed at me from the passenger seat and cried about how we weren’t helping our friends and family. As far as I was concerned it was all about saving the two people that mattered most in that moment, I knew I wouldn’t be able to save anyone else. I was surprised I had managed to get us to that point. We sped through our over manicured gated community with chaos happening on the front of almost every lawn. Houses caught fire as strangers sent Molotov cocktails through their windows, people were running out of their houses packing vehicles with personal possessions while fighting off others. The once peaceful community, became a war zone, blood sprayed driveways, doorways painted red with handprints. People we had once considered neighbours bit into others ripping their necks open. It was utter madness and I don’t believe my mind comprehended any of it for some time. By the time we reached the main gate it was broken in pieces and a truck sat in the middle of the chaos fire blazing bright as the ultimate symbol of the end.

We couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. Tanya kept whispering, “‘What is happening?’” as people ran every which way. Odd looking people screamed awful sounds and then their mouths opened wider than what seemed possible, teeth sharpened to points, muscles in their neck looking completely unnatural as they tore into bodies. At the time I thought they were on some new basement brand drug.

Tanya held our daughters head against her chest attempting to shield her from the view of the outside world. Blood spattered the ground everywhere as we sat locked in our car in disbelief and complete shock. I held her hand as the chaos that was our new reality unfolded just feet from outside our comfortable SUV.

We couldn’t move, if we went forward we would have run people down. Everything was happening around us. We sat in silence neither one of us having the ability to move, we just both sat their in complete disbelief to the event unfolding in front of us. It seemed to take an eternity for the action to move away from us but somehow we had been overlooked. It was dark by the time we decided we had to go somewhere. I put the car in reverse and we went to find another route out.” BB put a cup of water in front of Wes and touched his shoulder in support. “Thanks man” BB nodded.

“We managed to drive to the outskirts of town before we ran out of gas. I had spotted a couple farms from the highway just before our car came to a slow sputter and died. We hadn’t seen anyone for a while by then so we cautiously headed towards the houses in the hopes that there might be good people that would let us in.

The farm house we ended up at was beautiful, it was exactly what my wife Tanya would have wanted to retire in. The wrap around deck looked picture perfect, a love seat swing and a picnic table with a chess set ready and waiting to go. We knocked for about 5 minutes without any response so we tried the door and found it open.

I checked upstairs. We searched the house, feeling awkward about our intrusion, but knowing it was necessary.

Tanya saw that the fridge and pantry were full and we were starving. Tanya set our daughter down at the kitchen table and started pulling food from the fridge. My daughter didn’t speak a word. I was surprised she ate. After eating we cleaned ourselves up and put our daughter to bed in the master bedroom.

I took the first watch, sending my wife to cuddle with our daughter. I barricaded the back door with the heavy farm table. Locking all windows and doors I braced a chair under the door knob like what I had seen in movies and then went to the living room to turn on a television and hope for news.

We were lucky that week, and the next. We didn’t see anyone for three weeks. We were still in the farm house trying to agree on an idea to get out of the mess we had found ourselves in. But neither of us were brave enough to venture out. So far, things had been safe where we were. We felt as though leaving would jinx it somehow. We had seen the news coverage. No where looked safe.

One day Tanya looked up at me as I stood behind the couch she was sitting on. Our daughter drawing with crayons and paper on the floor in the living room. We had spent most evenings watching the television and listening to the radio. Reports of chaos and anarchy poured in from everywhere. All we heard was there was no hope anywhere. There was no where to go, we just sat there watching our daughter colour on the floor.

I walked over to the window. I was the one who thought we could wait it out. The farmhouse across the field hadn’t had any movement either. I thought maybe they’d be stocked up as well. Tanya put her arms around me and we hugged as we stared out across the field to the other farm house.

The next morning I raided the house for a backpack and gave Tanya the shotgun we found in the back of the master bedroom closet. Between the two of us we had figured out how to load it and shoot if it came to that, though neither one of us had ever shot a gun before.

I told her to hide upstairs in the spare room, it had a view straight to the neighbours house. I gave her a tender kiss on the lips and pulled her close to me. I remember the feel of warmth of her body pressed against mine. I loved her with everything I had and I immediately felt a loss that I had been so distant over the last couple weeks trying to assess our situation and try to keep us alive. This was all well outside my comfort zone at that point and I knew it. The scariest thing to me was that Tanya knew it to. She knew that neither one of us had any idea how to survive in a world different from our own. I took one look at her beautiful face, her eyes hazel with gold flecks, her wavy brown hair cascading down her back, high cheek bones and flawless skin, full lips. I fell in love with her all over again. I kissed her forehead and leaned down to kiss my daughter. I gave them one more squeeze and that was it. Now that I have thought about it over and over I wish I had held on to them longer, I wish I knew all the things I know now, unfortunately I didn’t know any better then. I may have had instincts for survival then but I was afraid. I had never needed such information before and I second guessed everything I felt.

“I guess that’s why we're are here eh? To tell you our mistakes and hope you can survive a bit smarter.” Wes looked at the kids. They looked too young to him, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to take this all seriously when he was their age and yet, they all sat, listening intently to every word. It gave him hope for their future. Maybe they would be the ones to bring the world together. He couldn’t stop the tears that fell from his eyes. Remembering his life before and the hope for the future was overwhelming. Dylan squeezed his hand and he looked over at her. She was beautiful. He was lucky to have experienced love again, to feel that he deserved it. He leaned over and put his hand on her belly. She leaned in and kissed him. They had yet to tell anyone, for the first time in a long while he felt hopeful for a future.

“I told her I would be quick. I closed the door and headed down the porch stairs. My heart beat hard against my chest as I walked out across the field. I looked up to the window and saw them both, our beautiful daughter in Tanya’s loving arms. We exchanged a silent wave before I looked away. The adrenaline beat in my ears making it difficult to focus.

‘Don’t die in front of your wife and child Wes, they need you now more than ever’ I remember whispering to myself. I hadn’t been outside since we found the farmhouse. We really didn’t know how to navigate this new world and the fear of failing, dying in any sense was profound. I didn’t know it yet but that was actually the first day of my new life, and though I wouldn’t understand for some time I was much more important than I could have ever thought possible.

I made it across the field to the farmhouse. It was similar to the one we had taken shelter in for the last three weeks and since I hadn’t noticed any movement in or near the house I decided it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

The deck squeaked under the pressure of my weight. I tried to listen but I couldn’t hear over the racket my heart was making in my chest.

“Jesus, come on, it’s not like you haven’t walked up to a neighbour and asked how their day was going, why are you being so jumpy? It’s not like everyone in the world is out to get you” I whispered to myself, attempting a pep talk to calm my nerves, which I still do on occasion.” Wes smiled at Dylan.

“I knocked lightly on the door.

I said “Hello?” in the most friendly voice I could muster. I tried the door and surprisingly found that it was open.

“Guess people are pretty friendly around here, no one seems to lock their doors” I said to no one in particular, or maybe I thought it, in any case, The door swung wide open and the smell hit me like a brick wall taking the air from my lungs I gagged and stumbled back. I pulled the handkerchief from my pocket and tied it around my face. I took a tentative step into the house. The house was dark even though it had hit mid morning by then, all the curtains had been drawn shut inside. Leaving the front door open to provide some light and a quick escape I took a couple more steps in and hesitated a moment before heading down the hall. Placing my back to the wall I side stepped lightly. I didn’t really know how I would handle myself in a fight since I had never been in one up to that point, but I was grateful for the handkerchief and the free hands just in case. To my right behind the stair case was a doorway. A small amount of light entered through the kitchen window over the sink and from what he could tell there might be a window through the door and to my left inside the kitchen but at that point I couldn't tell for sure what the layout was. I slowly peered around the corner at the end of the hall finding a downstairs bathroom. Hesitating for a moment I decided to check the bathroom first. I crept into the bathroom finding nothing more than some bottles of aspirin and a container of Vicks. Thankfully, I opened the Vicks and rubbed some on my handkerchief, then tucked everything into my bag. I took a deep breath and listened for any movement I stepped into the hallway. The house looked picture perfect despite its smell. I side stepped into the kitchen finally spotting the source of the horrific smell.

I was terrified. Putting one foot in front of the other was almost painful. It went against every fibre of my being. I squeaked out a ‘hello?’ in a slightly higher pitch than what I had wanted. The feet behind the kitchen island didn’t stir. Staring at the feet I crept towards to peer around the countertop. I turned and gagged suppressing the urge to vomit all over the kitchen floor. The male on the floor had half his head caved in. Chunks of his brain and blood littered the floor around what was once his head and spread going up the cupboard. Blood that had turned into a black colour circled around the dead mans body” Wes took a sip of water and looked at the young faces sitting still and patiently waiting his every word. They would never understand the terror of first days. He wondered if they would understand any of the past. They seemed to be content in learning what had happened but they already had been outside. Each of them had their own zombie story, fortunately many of them had been prepared to step out the gate.

“Looking around the kitchen I found the pantry. Hoping for the best I opened it to reveal cans upon cans of food. Slightly relieved I dropped the backpack and began filling it when I heard the screams. I froze for an instant. Suddenly realizing that I recognized the voices of my wife and daughter. Scrambling I crashed through the back door only to see my baby girl flying through the side second story window. Below, a group of the infected caught her and began to tear her apart. Blood spraying up the side of the white house. I stood horrified at what I was witnessing” tears began to fall from Wes as Dylan put her arm around him, he looked up and bravely continued; “My mind went blank, I was confused, and lost. A large man in a red shirt and dirty jeans came around the corner of the house, what was once my wife hung limply over his shoulder. That’s when I realized the shirt hadn’t been red to begin with, it was stained with blood. He opened his mouth wide and let out a screech that sent me to the ground clutching my head. With my feet I shoved myself across the deck and back through the door slamming it shut. I held my head in the hopes that my brain wouldn’t begin coming out of my nose since it felt that someone was stabbing it with a thousand hot pokers, which some of you already know about” He glanced around the room as heads began to nod slowly. I, luckily, haven’t been phased by the sound since then and I’m not sure why.

By the time the pain in my head subsided I had no idea how long I’d been lying on the floor of the kitchen for. I blinked, trying to make sense of what had happened. I sat motionless waiting for some noise to tell me what to do next, but all I could hear was the sound of my own breath. Slowly standing I peered out the small window in the door. It was quiet. The wind nudging across the long grass, rustling the leaves on the trees slightly. I suddenly needed air, desperately clawing open the door. The hot, fresh air hit me like a cement wall as I heaved onto the deck tossing up everything I had eaten in the last twenty-four hours. Bile rose in my throat as I heaved again, my stomach clenching in a horrific attempt to vacate anything that had been housed there. I refused to look at the house where my daughters blood had been displayed up the siding. Instead I looked out to the tree line. Wiping my mouth on my sleeve I reentered the house, placed some food, a can opener and a bbq lighter into my pack. Walking back through the house I remembered the small door leading under the stairs and decided to take a look. Digging in the boxes of Christmas decorations I was about to give up when my foot hit something in a box making a clanging. I was grateful for what I discovered. I tossed the tent, a sleeping bag and a camp cook set into the hallway. Digging a bit deeper yielded a decent hiking pack. Placing everything in the hall way I grabbed my small pack and repacked everything including some food and bottled water and a decent jacket that hung off the hook in the hallway. The weight of the pack was heavier than I would have liked but I chalked it up to the inexperience of hiking ever in my life. Adjusting the straps on the pack I walked out the front door and onto the sun filled deck. Lifting my head up to the sun I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer for my wife and daughter and headed for the tree line” There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire cafeteria. Wes looked up and was greeted with people standing up with tears in their eyes. Each of them came to shake his hand and give him a hug. He let out a good cry and couldn’t remember or think of a time where he had let himself grieve for them. Dylan stood by his side the entire time and he wondered how he got this lucky to have two amazing women want to spend their lives with him. They each loved someone entirely different but it was still him. He dried his eyes and turned to Dylan looking at him with her worried eyes. She was asking him if he was alright with her look of concern. “I’m alright” he held out his hand and she took it.

Dylan looked lovingly into his eyes as he touched her barely showing belly. Everyone clapped and yelled their congratulations and came back for round two of hugs. Wes couldn’t remember a time feeling more loved then he did at this moment and he thought how silly that could be since he had had a wonderful life before with close family and friends yet for some reason this felt more real and he couldn’t fully explain why. After some time chatting with others he said goodnight to Dylan and left to see what Shaun had been up to since she had had to leave part way through, it was unlike her.

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