Chapter I

The sky was an ominous and empty shade of daylight grey as solemn footsteps march to the beat of a dead world. All around was the sight of mass destruction and decay, a barren wasteland of nothingness. A tattered brown cloak flutters in the passing wind which no longer possessed the scents of life. The wearer presses on despite the despondent surroundings, her black pants and tank top serving to further drag her into her innermost darkness. Dark brown hiking boots traced with black carry her forward to an unknown destination as the clanking of a rather large weapon lay covered under the brown cloak along with her. She brushes her short layered ebony hair out of her brown hazel eyes with a gauntleted hand as she spots a ruin up ahead. However, the sight of her target did little to quicken her pace, which was slow and steady. At the age of twenty-eight, she walks with the dragging gait of an older, more experienced warrior who has fought and seen far too many battles.

The light of the unseen sun was still shining on as the young woman reaches the ruins and ascends broken steps of stone-worked stairs. She was amazed at how so much of the divine structure was still standing despite what had come to pass more than a year ago. Since that fateful day, the young woman had been seeking answers that have yet to be explained.

Why am I still alive?

Passing through the opening of what used to be shielded by a pair of doors, the woman trudges onward into a vast temple hall where statues were broken in half and decimated crassly. She passes by all of the meager alters until she came across a mighty big statue of one deity which amazingly was still sitting in its rightful place, despite numerous cracks and broken-off parts that littered its being. She stands before the statue and looks up at it with desolate eyes as her pale hands come up to pull down the hood of her brown cloak to reveal the rest of her short ebony hair.

"Forgive me for not removing my footwear, Enlightened One. Such small matters are unimportant considering our current conditions."

The remaining eye of the statue of Buddha seemed to look down upon the young woman in acknowledgement. Feeling that her thoughts have been heard, the young woman remains standing and looks up at the statue face to face.

"It's been only a year since the nuclear Third World War ended, but for those of us who have survived it feels like an eternity. I can still hear the cries of my family and friends as those nuclear missiles rained down on us that day. So much death and destruction, and for what? For countries to prove their own superiority over others at the cost of extinction?"

She pauses to compose herself as she clenches her gauntleted pale hands in frustration.

"Why are humans so foolish, Enlightened One? Why is it that they cannot find a way to live in harmony? Why must there always be conflicts?"

She unclenches her hands and brings them up to examine invisible stains.

"I was helpless to save my family and friends. If only I had done something, maybe things wouldn't have turned out this way."

She looks up at the war-torn stone face once again.

"But, why is it that I survived? The nuclear weapons should've wiped the entire planet out, and yet here I am standing in one piece. This does not make sense at all. I should've died with the ones I cared about!"

With a frustrated cry, the young woman kneels down to strike the ground beneath her with a powerful punch. The ruined temple shook violently as loosened stone and woodwork fell out of place and throw the structure into further decay.

"Because of those nuclear weapons, my strength and natural abilities have been enhanced to monstrous levels. But at what cost? I no longer have anyone dear to protect. All this strength means nothing to me."

Standing up, the woman gazes up at the statue once again.

"What reason do I have to live on? What purpose do I have in this dead world? Is it my destiny to forever live in solitude or is it merely fate? Please, give me a sign, Enlightened One."

For a few moments the woman stood there in silence. The divine statue did nothing to relieve her of her grief and sorrow, nor did it provide any answer to the questions she asked. She gives a sigh of saddening disappointment to hear a small ringing coming from one of her pants' pockets. Indifferently, she slips a hand in to pull out a small cellular phone and flips it open. She puts the receiver end up to her ear to hear a male voice on the other side.

"Rift? Hey Rift? You there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. What is it?"

"We found another survivor around our age. He looks malnutritioned so we're giving him some of our rations."

"Any special abilities?"

"Nothing yet. I don't know if he's even an Infected."

"If he isn't, then there's going to be problems."

"Don't worry about it; we'll ease into it." A small pause. "Where are you, anyways?"

"Looking for answers."

"Oh… Got ya. When are you coming back?"

"Soon."

"Oh, okay. We'll be camping out near Sierra."

"Alright. Take care, Drake. Rift out."

In one swift movement, the woman slaps the phone shut and returns it to her pants pocket. She takes one last look at the statue of Buddha and puts her hands together in a respectful bow before leaving the ruined temple.

Once outside, Rift could feel the wind picking up speed. Since most of the world's plants and natural forests have been almost wiped out, dust storms have become a normal occurrence around the planet with tornados and cyclones being the most hazardous weather formations around now. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen a flower, let alone a tree. The nuclear Third World War had poisoned nearly everything on the planet. Only an Infected such as herself can consume anything edible without encountering any considerable side effects. She had once encountered a normal human who tried to eat a simple apple only to succumb to its deadly scientifically created side effects which usually proved fatal in the end.

At least now nothing would suffer for too long. Physically anyways.