Bernhard Manson

It wasn't too long after winter was over that Bernhard had began his trek across the country. A trek that would land him in a village called Falconer in New York State.

He left his house on the first Sunday of July. He was out of Orlando-his home-and Florida by the end of the day. At that point, he stole gasoline from a gas station. He hadn't been able to just pump the gas like normal because the power was out, so he had stolen from a semi-truck that had been transporting gas. It had made it to the station, but no one had much cared to fill up the pumps. He then filled up four of those red containers and stowed them away in the trunk of his Chevrolet station wagon… just in case.

The vehicle was rusted and a good thirty years old, but it still ran quite good. It wouldn't stand a chance in a race against any new car, but it still ran good enough to merit a purchase. He would've stolen a newer car from any of the dead drivers, but dealing with the dead bodies in the car was something he was not prepared to do.

Bernhard felt that he might go insane after his second day of driving. The loneliness was eating at him. It wasn't the normal loneliness one would experience if they had no friends, no. It was a loneliness that no one should have ever experienced. It was too horrible. There was no one-NOBODY-around.

On his third night away from home-at this point he was in Georgia-he began to hear things. Things that propelled him towards a seemingly inevitable insane set of mind which he was already headed towards. The first time he heard something, it was a woman's voice in the distance. He couldn't quite make out what the voice was saying, but it sounded a bit like a threat. The end of the sentence always sounded as though the entire thing were a question, however. He tried to hear what she said every time she said it, considering the sentence repeated itself continuously and rapidly, but he couldn't do it. Trying to figure out what was being said was like fishing; he almost had it, but then he lost it. Unlike fishing, however, he didn't think he would ever find out what the woman was saying.

The next night was worse. He was almost out of Georgia then. He had needed to stop and raid a convenience store for food and drink-he didn't want to go through the process of boiling river water just yet, which, he understood, he would need to start doing soon-and he had needed to refill the red containers, not to mention fill his gas tank up to the brim. There had been another semi-truck carrying gas handy just when he was almost at empty.

What he heard that night was a man. He was screaming in the distance. His screams were repeated at regular intervals and always sounded exactly the same. He tried to find out from which direction it was coming from, but it was seeming to come from all directions. In the morning the screaming ended. The worst part of that was that he had no idea if that had just been his imagination or not.

Three days went by with no noises whatsoever. He had hoped that they were over. That hope was futile.

The noises came back with a vengeance one week after he had left his house. He heard a snarling. A very loud snarling that kept him awake all night. Near dawn, when the snarling was decreasing in volume, he looked out the window.

It must've been a big hallucination is all that Bernhard says about what he saw. If it wasn't, then God help us all.

There were thousands of dogs and wolves and other… things, standing outside of his car. Encircling the car. Covering the land all the way to the horizon.

Then Bernhard fainted, when he woke up the crowd of thousands was gone. He was very grateful that was the last he heard of those noises.

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Bernhard was grasping the leather of his car's large steering wheel tightly. His knuckles were white and his fingers were aching. His teeth were yellowing and hurt. He wondered if he had gingivitis or something like that. His brown eyes were dry and blood shot. He had burst a blood vessel in his eye and it was worrying him. Every time he looked into the rearview mirror and saw that big, red dot near the center of his eye he nearly screamed. He didn't feel it, and that scared him. He should feel something like that.

His brown hair was tangled up and extremely greasy. It was dangling over his face because he hadn't bothered with cutting it for the past couple of months. His fingernails were long because he had clipped them, and he accidentally cut open his arm when he was scratching a mosquito bite just a day ago. A band-aid was now covering the wound. He had thrown all kinds of disinfectants on it; he hadn't wanted to chance getting infected with the virus. That'd seem quite anti-climactic. He'd survived it all just to get infected a few months later? That would suck. Although, he wondered if he'd be better off if he had gotten infected.

There was also a big question nagging at him: why did he survive?

He didn't wonder that like so many others were; he didn't think he had some purpose that he needed to fulfill that had yet to be fulfilled. He just wondered why he hadn't gotten infected. Was his biological make-up, in some way, different from those who HAD gotten infected? Was he a mutant? The more he thought about it, the more he thought that he was a mutant. Not like Spider-Man or the Hulk, but a mutant nonetheless. It was an odd conclusion, but just as plausible as any. Maybe even more so.

His arms were skinny because he hadn't worked out in so long, and his mustache and beard were a good deal thicker than they had been before the epidemic.

He was driving down an interstate highway. He didn't know which state he was in or to which state he was headed, and he really, truthfully did not care. He could be on the highway to Hell for all he cared.

The white shirt he was wearing now had a hole in it. He would've thrown the shirt away and worn a different one, but that hole had been made by his cousin. His cousin was a smoker and one time when he had flicked his cigarette out of the window, the cherry came back in and landed on his shirt. Five minutes went by without anyone noticing it, but then Bernhard had looked down and seen the ash. That's when the smell of burning cloth had hit him.

Have you ever put a lighter to your sock? Well, once the flames have encircled your feet and gone out after burning all of the fluff suck on your sock, you can smell the same smell that Bernhard had smelt that day.

Now, so many months later, he was wearing it to remember Butch, his cousin.

To think that his last contact with another human being had been so long ago. His mother had died in his arms. He had been carrying her to the hospital. The hospital hadn't been open since the day before, but he wanted to find some sort of medical equipment that might save his mother. She died just when he reached the locked doors of the hospital he had once spent three weeks in recovering from a broken leg. He had laid her down there. It was cold-not as cold as it got in the north, but still cold-and he wanted to get back to the semi-warmth of his house and curl up in his blankets. He had wanted to sleep and wake up to the same world he had woken up to for almost twenty years of his life. So he had left his mother's body at the doors of a worthless hospital. Then he had wasted away in the house until the summer had come. The tourist season. As insane as it sounded, he missed the tourists.

His blue jeans were very large for him now. When he had carried his mother to the hospital they had fit him perfectly. Now they were loose. These were hand-me-downs from his much older brother, so he didn't dare part with them. The rabbit's foot in his pocket had been a small present from his tapped-for-cash-father. The very small, blue stuffed-animal bear in the passenger's seat had been dug out by his mother. It had been his when he had been a new-born baby.

The very car he was driving had been his grandfather and grandmother's car ten years before. He could still smell their signature aroma.

He was so completely lost in his thoughts that he almost hit the scraggly, old woman walking down the middle of the highway. Luckily he spotted her and slammed down on the brakes. He was certain he had seen a deer, that his eyes had deceived him.

He almost drove past the old woman without a second though, but then she turned around and exposed her wrinkled face. Her gray hair was covered with a black hood that was connected to her black jacket. It was unseasonably cold in the area and Bernhard understood the jacket. The woman looked at least seventy and also looked about to fall over and die.

Her green eyes, which expressed age much clearer than her body, were full of fear and confusion. Maybe she had thought everyone dead as well. Maybe she had planned on walking herself to death or some strange shit like that.

Her face looked as though it had gone through a hundred lifts, pulls, and stretches. She wasn't fooling anyone.

Bernhard got out of the car and shivered at the cold. Twilight was approaching and the sun was casting beautiful orange over the sky. Looking around himself, Bernhard saw nothing but trees and fields and hills (oh my).

He walked over the old woman cautiously. He wasn't certain if she was really real yet or if she was just a hallucination. She looked at him just the same way he looked at her. She was very small and was clutching a large, brown purse in her right, gloved hand. Her left hand was tucked into a pocket of her jacket, maybe clutching the handle of a gun or a taser gun.

"Excuse me, miss," Bernhard said in a hoarse voice that he hadn't used in so long. The old woman continued to look at him distrustfully. "Are you real?"

She squinted her eyes at him. "Yes," she replied.

Bernhard then did something he hadn't done in so many, many months. He smiled. "I am, too."

He took a step forward and she took a step back. She then removed a handgun from her jacket pocket. "Stay there," she ordered. Her voice was uneasy. She wasn't certain if she should put the gun away or blow his brains out.

"Miss…" he began.

"Shut up!" she shouted in a voice so powerful that he took a jumping step backward. He hadn't expected such a powerful voice from an old woman. She was so angry because she couldn't believe she had gone so low. Pointing a gun at a young man who was probably only trying to help her. All of her life had led up to this moment. The same with every other moment of her life. Her entire life seemed small and pointless now. She couldn't think of her reason for life. Why had God put her on this earth? To kill the only other person she had seen for months and months? She lowered the gun. No. That couldn't be why God had blessed her with life. It just couldn't.

Bernhard was extremely relieved to see the gun go back into her pocket. The old woman looked at him apologetically, and then began to bawl.

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Four minutes later Bernhard was driving again. The old woman was sitting in the passenger's seat. The stuffed bear was in the back, now.

Bernhard looked over at the new occupant of the car. He alternated looking at her and at the road for the next couple of minutes as they talked.

"My name's Bernhard Manson," he told her. "What's yours?"

"Sheila Montgomery," Sheila replied. "I once knew a man named Bernhard. I went to high school with him. He was killed when a bunch of robbers stormed into the bank he was working at."

"When was this?"

"I don't remember the year anymore. I do know it wasn't too long after graduation. It was in the 1950s."

So Sheila was at least 70 years old.

"Bernhard was a good, handsome, young man. Where are we going?"

Bernhard looked over at Sheila. "Anywhere."

Sheila nodded. She looked exhausted. Why shouldn't she? She had walked for God knows how long and she was over 70 years old! She also looked dehydrated… and starved. Bernhard couldn't help her with the dehydration considering he had drained all of his bottles of Gatorade and spring water, but he had some canned foods, which didn't need to be cooked. He wasn't sure if Sheila would appreciate the type of food he had, but she would eat it, of course. When you're starving you'll eat anything that even has a chance of giving you nutrition.

Apparently Sheila was a fan of tuna fish because she went through two cans of that before slowing down. She thanked him. Bernhard wondered how long it would take to get to the next town so they could find some water and boil it or just get a package of bottled water. That overpriced shit sure was coming in handy now.

If Bernhard hadn't found Sheila, she would've died before even seeing a sign of demolished civilization.

No other survivors were found for the next three days. That's when they reached New York State.

"Welcome to New York," a Bernhard Manson who looked so much different from the one who had stumbled upon Sheila said as they passed a toll booth and a sign proclaiming their entrance to the state. Bernhard now had shorter hair-Sheila had been a barber back in her early twenties, working at her father's barber shop-and trimmed nails. His face was shaved and his eyes weren't quite so blood shot. It made such a difference for him to actually have company. He was so happy he could just shoot himself.

"I lived in New York once," a younger-looking, less wound-up Sheila stated, delving back into a life that no longer existed for two reasons: the passing of time and the death of most of the humans on Earth. "The city, I mean. It was horrible. That was back when I was giving a futile attempt at preserving my youth. Didn't work."

The sun was at its peak in the sky. It was beginning to descend, signaling the beginning of the second half of the day. They had a good eight hours of daylight left.

A large, green sign proclaimed that a town called Jerricksonville was not far off-only fifty miles or so.

It took them just under an hour to get there.

The clock of the car-the clock Bernhard knew was fast yet couldn't remember if it was ten minutes or twenty minutes fast-told them that it was 2:35.

Jerricksonville was just like the other towns and cities they had been to: completely and utterly barren. Wrinkled and stained newspapers fluttered in the wind… well, those that had somehow survived the melting snow without getting washed down into the sewers or just plain torn apart. Rotting dead bodies were everywhere, stinking up the day. By then both Sheila and Bernhard were used to the stink.

A few windows were broken because some dying assholes had decided it necessary to steal shit. Most of them probably dropped dead on the way home. Bernhard wished they hadn't done what they had because it sure as hell made walking down the sidewalk much harder than it needed to be.

"Oh my lord," Sheila suddenly gasped. Bernhard followed her gaze and saw a woman standing on the sidewalk in between two buildings. She was tall and had black hair that dangled down to her shoulders. She was wearing gray sweat pants and a white T-shirt with maroon stains on it. Big stains. Blood stains. The woman's eyes looked about thirty years older than the rest of her. Bernhard figured she was probably in her early twenties and wasn't the prettiest nor the ugliest of women. She was staring at the car with wide, scared eyes.

"Jesus," Bernhard breathed. Sheila was too shocked at the presence of another living human being to tell him can the blasphemy.

Bernhard and Sheila stepped out of the car slowly. The woman took off like a bullet. Her bare feet had to hurt like hell. "HEY!" Bernhard shouted after her and ran after her. He thought of using the car but dismissed the idea after realizing the woman could just run down an alley to lose them. "Stop!"

The woman was far ahead of him and he didn't think he'd catch her.

That's when she tripped over a stinking, putrid, mushy corpse and landed face first half on the road and half on the sidewalk. She yelped in pain and then tried to regain her footing, the foot that had slammed into the mush of the dead body covered in dead skin and flies.

Bernhard reached her before she could. He grabbed her arms and she struggled.

"Calm down!" he shouted. "I'm not gonna hurt you! I'm not gonna hurt you!"

Either from lack of energy or belief in his statement she did stop struggling.

"What's your name? Mine's Bernhard."

The woman obviously didn't want to tell him, but she did. "Maria."

"Okay, Maria," Bernhard began. "Here's a choice for you to make: do you want to stay here by yourself, or do you want to come with us, the only living human beings you've seen in months."

"Weeks," Maria corrected him. "Some bikers came to town a couple of weeks ago and started smashing everything apart. They tried to kill me."

Bernhard looked at Maria's blood-stained shirt, almost certain that Maria had killed some of the bikers in the struggle.

"Do you want to come with me and Sheila?" Bernhard asked.

"Yes," Maria replied with hesitation.

So began the first major group of survivors.

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Hey, MorbidMan here. Sorry about the weak ending. I decided to split this chapter into two or three chapters. Maybe four. This won't be any biblical war thing like in Stephen King's "The Stand" just so you know. The entire army thing was just a hallucination.

I hope you enjoyed this update… it was about time don't you think? Sorry about this extreme amount of time between updates. I've become obsessed with . Check out my stories there sometime if you want. See you all next chapter.

"My man got a heart,

Like the rock that's in the sea,

My man got a heart,

Like the rock that's in the sea,

Well, no one told me about her,

The way she lied,

Well, no one told me about her,

How many people cried" - Malcolm Mclaren "About Her" (a song you can hear in "Kill Bill Vol. 2")