I wake up to a pounding headache. I can barely open my eyes. My lips are dry. My clothes are sticky with sweat. There is nothing unusual to this morning, so I sit up in bed, and soon I find myself walking to the bathroom, to splash some water on my face. Or rather, to try and wash off the blood red smudges covering it. The bathroom is dirty, the tiles are cracked, and the paint is peeling off the walls, but that doesn't bother me. I don't care about my living accommodations these days. I don't bother taking a shower, so once I have relieved myself, I walk out of the bathroom and head towards the kitchen, where I rummage through my almost empty cupboards for something edible to eat. There is a half-eaten, now mouldy, bread and some foul-smelling ham, which I have left in the cupboard since I don't have a fridge, a few apples, bananas, and a chocolate bar, I have completely forgotten about. I, of course, settle for the chocolate.
After changing into pretty much a replica of the clothes I wore yesterday, I grab the mouldy bread I left out on the kitchen table and am out the door. That is of course, after I ensure the alarm is on in the house, and I have locked my multi-point lock system. Nothing is safe nowadays. Not even my good-for-nothing, small apartment.
A few minutes pass and I find myself walking past the rusty fence that once surrounded Mr. and Mrs. Rush's two storey house. If I concentrate hard enough, I can just about remember the way the house looked before: there used to be stone steps leading to the small patio, before the house's grand entrance doors. Those doors would open to an even more impressive entryway, with a spiral staircase, that lead up to the second floor. All the rooms in the house were large, and beautifully furnished, but what distinguished it from others in the area, were the balconies: every room on the second floor would open up to its own balcony. The house was as peculiar, as it was magnificent. And the family that once occupied it, used to be happy. Of course, that was before all hell broke loose.
Now all that remains of the property behind the tall fence, are ruins. Ruins, caused by the fire… This isn't the only lonely fence in our city. No, there are many more abandoned or destroyed properties that once used to be somebody's beautiful home. It's just that this is the only house, whose story I actually know.
But before I can dwell upon the past, I hear a sad whine. It's Lucky: the hungry, homeless, very unlucky dog. His name is quite ironic to be honest, for he is by no means lucky: he was born at the wrong place, at the wrong time. But he is not the only starving animal in the city. No. There are hungry people on the streets, let alone stray dogs and cats that once used to be somebody's beloved pets.
He is huddled up by the fence and is currently staring up at me, with devastated eyes. He might have lost even more weight off his bones, but I can no longer tell. He is filthy, and his fur has degraded to the point where it is almost non-existent. His ears have been chopped off, and his once happy tail is gone. He continues to watch me with wary eyes – my once social friend has been reduced to an antisocial, scared nothing. This is what this new world would do to you. Lucky is but a pain chip on a wall full of massive cracks – any moment now and it would all crumble to dust. It would be irreparable. Maybe it already is.
I throw him the bread I took from the kitchen, but I do not wait for him to overcome his initial fear to approach it, as I continue down the road. Soon, I find myself on the main street. There are many humans around, but only a few of them are actual people.
One crucial rule of this new world is: You have got to learn to blend in, or you would not last long.
You have to move fast, as you manoeuvre through these human crowds, but not too fast or you'd draw attention to yourself. You don't want that. It is advisable that you don't make eye contact, for it too draws unwanted attention. And you don't want that. Physical contact is usually frowned upon, so try not to bump into anybody as you go, for it too would draw too much attention to yourself. You. Do. Not. Want. That.
The walking dead, or at least that's what I call them, are harmless really: they just shuffle around, with their lifeless eyes, and empty souls, minding their own business. They would not bother you unless you bother them first. Unfortunately, they cannot be helped – they're too far gone already.
Now, the others…
I feel someone tugging on my arm. Zac. Now, he is something else. You should never mix with his kind. They're dangerous. They are hungry, starving. But not for food. No. They want something else. They want something…more. And they're ready to go to extremes to get it. They are capable of many things, including murder.
Some say his kind is sick. And maybe they are. But the thing is – they do not want to get better. Others claim they're just stupid, brainless. But one could argue being brainless is common amongst the humans nowadays, and yet Zac and those like him are different. They are worse. They are much worse. Perhaps they are crazy. Or just plain evil. Perhaps it is in their genes, or maybe it is what the new world has made of them. Perhaps they just didn't want to blend in, and now it is too late. Perhaps I just don't want to figure it out, because once I do, I too would reach the point of no return.
Slowly I extract myself from the deadly cold clutches around my arm, as I try to ignore the foul smell that seems to surround Zac, as I look up at his pale face. Just like Lucky, he has lost weight since the last time I saw him, but that's not what bothers me the most. No. It's his eyes: they are bloodshot, as they swim in tears, and yet…Yet they are intense, so very intense, as they stare back at me, that a quick chill runs down my spine. He seems impatient, as he shifts from one foot to the other, but his eyes stay fixed on mine, unblinking.
But before I know it, he is running away from me. Scared. Hopeless. He is trying, and failing, to escape the demons. And I cannot help him. Not him. And definitely not the others, who are just like him.
So, I walk on…
I pick up the only newspaper on the newspaper stand by the old train station. I read it every day. The same paper. The same stories. Nothing changes: I know that on page 5 I would find the story of a missing girl, and then on page 10, I'd read about a criminal sentenced to life in prison. I read it every day. But it is just something I do to kill time.
My days are boring, repetitive. And yet I still find myself struggling to deal with the routine life I have come to lead.
My nights are just as boring, and just as repetitive. But at least my diary keeps me company, when loneliness and despair decide to pay me a visit. And they always visit. And although the pages of my lifelong friend are filled with repeating words and phrases, here's what I'd write down tonight:
I woke up this morning with the usual hangover. I know, I know - I should probably stop drinking. Maybe someday I will.
On my way to work this morning, I walked past the Rush's house. Or rather, what's left of it. It makes me sad, when I remember the times I'd play hide and seek with their daughter, Zoe Rush, around the house. It really was a beautiful place. I don't know the details behind her parents' divorce, but I am guessing it had to do with Mr. Rush's drinking problem. The poor guy got so drunk one night, after yet another date with his bottle of scotch, he burned the whole place down, when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. He was a good man, with a bad habit that cost him his life.
But I always disliked Mrs. Rush. You know, Lucky still comes back to the fence every morning, waiting for somebody to open the gate and let him back into the loving home he was thrown out of. I gave him some bread this morning, but that is not enough. The dog deserves a loving home. But I can just about look after myself, let alone bring a dog into this miserable excuse of a life I have got going on.
What else? Um, I ran into Zac today. Or rather, he approached me, again, asking to borrow some money. I offered to buy him a coffee and a sandwich instead, but he refused. I know he wants the money to buy drugs, and I refuse to sponsor a drug addict. But he cannot be helped. I mean, his parents couldn't keep him in rehab, how can a random girl, he might have sat next to in 5th grade, change anything?
Oh, and on today's edition of 'Daily News', I read about yet another missing girl. Now, I don't know if she ran away from home, or something's happened to her, but nothing really surprises me anymore. Just the other day, I read another teenager's suicide story, on the very same page of the very same newspaper. Similar stories, just different names.
As per usual, I sat on the train, reading my newspaper, trying to ignore those around me; trying to blend in. You know, I gave up on people a long time ago, when I realized that regardless of whether they're wearing a school uniform and a backpack, or a suit and a briefcase, people are absorbed into their own private lives. They no longer care about those around them but rather about the meaningless world on their phones, Ipads, laptops, Kindles, or whatever other technologies mankind comes up with. My grandmother used to tell me of a time, when she was a student, and how she'd strike up conversations with strangers on the bus she took to school every day. People used to love sharing their lives with others, for it made them all the more real. And they loved hearing about the lives of those around them, for it made them feel all the more important. It is sad that we, as social human beings, seem to have lost the ability to socialize; to communicate with one another, without the use of technology.
We're all just the walking dead.
You know what's funny? When I was 15, I used to watch a lot of movies about zombies, natural disasters and dystopias. I used to dream of becoming the heroine in one of those apocalypse movies.
Well, there is no point to dreaming anymore, because we're already living in an apocalypse. We're already somebody's unfortunate dystopian world come true."