The days trickle by like sand. I live off cans of preserved food, drink whatever water I can find and sleep in abandoned buildings at night. And although I'm doing whatever I can to keep myself going, my body is fighting a loosing battle. My skin has taken on a sickly pallor dotted with scars and scrapes. Every day, it's harder to get up and keep walking; and with only some canned beans here and there to eat, I'm already dropping to an unhealthy weight. Luckily, I haven't encountered any more bloodthirsty maniacs.
I travel further north of the city, hoping to somebody who can help me, but with no avail. I'd underestimated how big this city was – after a little over a week of trudging past empty buildings and shops, my landscape still has not changed. At least I've found out where I am, based on a torn pamphlet I found outside of an airport: California.
And then one day, everything changes.
I force myself to get up after a sleepless night, tossing on some clothes I looted from a small boutique. Even though it's winter, it isn't at all cold, but I still wear a jacket. I fish through my small pile of cans for a makeshift breakfast and then step outside of the building.
Thin gray clouds obscure the sun and hang low over the city; it's going to be a gloomy day. I examine my airport pamphlet, and after figuring out where I am, I start heading up a long stretch of gray asphalt. I'm just passing by a broken stop sign when I hear the distant noise of footsteps.
My mind instantly flashing back to the man at the convenience store, I scamper into the nearest building, a large Bank of America with one of its double doors gone. I rush to a spot next to a window where I can stay concealed but also have a good view of what's happening outside.
I wait for a minute, and then a group of people comes into view. I bite my lip and stare. In the lead is a middle-aged man with a green backpack over his shoulder, taking slow steps as though exhausted. My heart thuds rapidly as I wonder whether or not he's sane. Behind him, I count five others: two teens who look quite alike – possibly brothers, an elderly lady who hobbles along on a walking stick, a young man in his twenties and finally a tall and stately woman, dressed in a very dirty white lab coat, her hair pulled back in a brown ponytail. This person is strikingly familiar to me, and I have no idea where I've seen her before. But her presence tells me that these people are not dangerous, and without thinking, I step outside of the bank.
The young man is the first to notice me. He lets out a yell, alerting the other members, who instantly swivel around to face me. They're all carrying bags, and without skipping a beat, the group reaches into their packs and pull out – weapons. The teens have baseball clubs and knives. The others each have a gun, except for the old woman; she wields a tiny little butter knife that would make me laugh if I was in any other situation.
I stagger back, my hands held up in surrender. These are real people, and I don't know whether to laugh or scream or cry.
"Is it one of them?" The young man says fearfully. His words take a few seconds to sink into me, and then I realize he must think I'm like the psychopath.
I'm about to shake my head, but the woman in the lab coat beats me to it. "Oh my god," she stammers. "Is that you?"
I stare at her. She looks so familiar… but I honestly can't remember a thing. "Who… who are you?"
She is silent for a full minute. And then: "Julie, I'm your doctor, Eliza Brookwell."