Outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, August 18th 2162.
I woke up to the sound of gunfire. Shocker! I thought to myself sarcastically. Getting up, I stared out the window at the familiar landscape. The ground was its usual shades of brown and the trees that were long dead; now nothing more than black logs lying on the ground. Some people were on the street this morning, walking to places of work or trying to tidy up their properties. I lived in a relatively poor area, being in an unpatrolled neighbourhood that was close to gang territory. I had bought this building as it was cheap and I didn't have much money when I moved to this city. Going down the stairs of my home, which was once a Laundromat, I headed into the kitchen. Opening the fridge to see what food was available, I took out a box of cereal, which was probably the only thing not spoiled and had glass of water with it. After eating breakfast, if you can call it that, I went up stairs and saw what clothes were available to put on over the t- shirt and shorts I slept in. I grabbed a grey jacket, a pair of very faded jeans and an old white baseball cap with a large letter D coloured black. Pulling out a duffel bag from in under my bed I opened it and picked up two things that have kept me alive in my short yet eventful life, my M4 carbine and a colt pistol. I cleaned the guns, loaded ammo into the mags and put the pistol in my belt and the carbine on my back. Now, I was ready.
After locking up the house, I started my walk, seeing destroyed cars on the street and garbage all over the roads. The sidewalks were cracked and stained with the years of violence and conflict; I looked to see the ruins of Detroit, the largest buildings all with broken windows and crumbling walls. The only reason Detroit was still standing is the bomb exploded long before impact, leaving most buildings intact. People travelled very quickly through this part of the city, being mostly uninhabited structures. I only saw three people since leaving my neighbourhood, this was a little below the daily average. Continuing my route to work I passed the 'Welcome to Detroit' sign and climbed over the debris to see smoke rising somewhere in midtown.
Something was burning, a common occurrence, so I decided to take an alternate path to work. Me and three other guys run an aid station in one of the worse parts of Detroit that hands out food and other supplies we find, just to give people some hope and happiness in their day. Passing the town center, I saw some people scavenging the building. I didn't say anything to them. Most people don't even acknowledge the Ruin Crawlers - that's what we call the largest gang of scavengers in Detroit. It's better to avoid them, as they're usually packing a lot of heat.
Today was different though, as I decided to watch the Crawlers a bit; three men and a woman broke down the makeshift door, three of them scrambled into the building with guns and axes raised. I heard a woman scream and then she ran outside, right into a cheap trap. One of the crawlers was waiting with his axe.
"STOP!" I couldn't help myself. She stopped to look at me. I wish I'd turned away. I see enough tragedy in my life; this was the last thing that I needed. Yet, I kept my eyes trained on the girl, while the blade wedged itself inside of the girl's skull, stopping directly between her eyes. She dropped heavily to the ground. There was no time to think about what had just happened. I pulled the gun off my back, flicked the safety off and put three shots into the crawler with the axe. He fell to the ground, the gunfire drawing the other three scrambling out of the building. One of them shot at me. It's a good thing that they can't aim to save their lives. I ducked behind a mailbox, bullets skimming its metal edge. One pierced the bent, rusty mailbox and bounced of the M4, just missing my head. Sighing in relief, I was counting the bullets he shot at me. By my best guess, he had a revolver. By that assumption, after six shots he had to reload. I counted the six shots, took a deep breath to calm myself, leaned out and dropped him with one shot to the head. Leaping to my feet, I rounded the mailbox and pointed my rifle on the Crawlers, now without their only gunman.
"Drop the axes" I ordered, glancing at the dead women's body. The man and women stared at me furiously. Their animalistic glares felt like they would burn a hole in my head. They wouldn't hesitate to kill me for a single second.
"NOW!" I waved the gun wildly and shot a bullet between them. They dropped the axes and ran off. I entertained the thought of shooting them in the back, but decided it wasn't worth the ammo.
I walked up to the dead woman's body, a look of crazed fear frozen on her face, broken only by the bloody chunk of metal which split her skull in half. I pulled out the axe with a sickening ripping noise, sending a fresh pulse of blood from her brain out onto the broken pavement. I pulled her body into the house where she'd been hiding out. I would now never know if it was her house or not. I folded her hands over her chest and left, satisfied with my makeshift funeral. I then went outside and stood the Crawlers up on the side of the building, making sure that their wounds were clearly visible; a sign to other Crawlers that they should stay away, because to enter this area meant death for them.
Walking a few feet, I then looked back at the building which had now become a mausoleum. And I cursed the world. I cursed it for giving me this job. I cursed it for the Crawlers ever having been born. And, most of all, I cursed it on behalf of the dead woman, who would never get to see if the world ever fixed itself.
I started the walk down the street to the aid station; smoke was rising over the hill. Something was wrong.
Authors Note: Rewrote this chapter a wee bit, added some more description to the setting and of James. I just wanted to establish James's character a bit better early on, and of the conditions he lives in. I was also thinking about writing some brief character bios and putting them up on my profile page. What do you think of that? Thanks for reading !