You're running. You can't stop. Each time you do, you can hear them once again. Just barely audible are a few groans, then a moan, some shuffling. It's not too loud though, nothing to worry about right? Right? You say it over and over in your head until you convince yourself that you actually are right. You say, "Probably just the wind. Maybe a cat loose. It can't be one of them." Then you wait a few seconds and the sounds grow. They grow so loud that eventually that's all you can hear. If you can hear them so much that it even drowns out the sound of your own pounding heart, it means you may as well be dead. Once again they have become the hunters, except this time you are their prey.
So, instead you keep running. You run for your life. Literally. You run until you can't breathe anymore, then once you catch your breath you run again. There isn't a moment you stop. You know you can't and even when you do it's never for long. Sometimes you spend the night locked up behind the counter of a dust-filled gas station with a shotgun on your lap, hoping that they'll just walk past the front doors, that they won't notice you in there hiding. You're praying to god that the one in the blue shirt outside will get bored and stop pounding on the already cracking, glass doors.
As grip you the gun tighter, sitting behind the cash register, your entire body shakes in fear. There's no possible way you could fall asleep. Yet as dawn approaches you find that you've been dozing in and out of sleep all night, always trying to keep one eye open. When you realize where you are you're scared. You're terrified at the fact that you're inside a raided and broken down gas station, momentarily forgetting the night before. Thankfully though, you regain your memory in a matter of agonizing seconds. You remember that this is where you slept last night. You remember that there's a something right outside the front doors, limping around. You remember that this is real life. You remember that this is your life.
As soon as the sun is up, you unlock the doors and make a run for it, shoving past that annoying one that was drooling on the windows all night. She makes a grab for you and nearly rips off your sleeve, but you manage to escape without even a scratch. You constantly stumble with the grogginess of waking up but keep running. You run and run until you feel that they can't get you right here, not right now that is.
Once you're far enough away you turn back to look at what you've left behind. There's the blue-shirt-biter, desperately hobbling towards you. Her face is sunk in and her eyes are nothing but puss filled sockets. There's dried blood down the side of her neck. It's old enough to tell you that she's been in this . . . form, for quite a while. Half of her face has decomposed so you can see the bone. The other half is torn and barely hanging on. She swipes her bony hand in your direction, but you're already too far away for her to even get within 10 feet of you. You know she'll loose interest soon enough, just give it a couple of seconds and she'll turn away and shamble off in the other direction.
Then she does.
You give one half smile at your "camp" as a sort of pat on the back. You say, "I made it through the night again . . . somehow," and shoulder your pack full of the only things you could salvage from the wreck that was the inside of the gas station, month old Twinkies and expired cans of soda. Then you pick up your shotgun. Now you're ready to handle whatever comes for you today.
I know this routine well because that has been my life for the past 4 years in Haven. It wasn't an easy one, I can tell you that. But now the infection has spread, and we aren't the only ones who have to deal. Now so does the rest of the world.
And so do you.
This is my story, how my life in Haven began and ended. You might want to listen up because its got a little something to do with how your old life morphed into this nightmare.
I don't even turn around this time.
I just run. I keep running. Blood drips down my side and onto the ground. There's a dull smacking noise each time a drop hits the asphalt, but I can barely hear it over the sound of my feet pounding on the ground. Each step I take makes my heart pound faster. It feels just about ready to explode, but I endure it. This is what my life in Haven has turned me into.
Haven. An ironic name for such a horrible place. It's where this whole epidemic started.
Haven was a big, hidden island somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, used for the sole purpose of creating zombies and letting them loose. This place had the normal amenities that any other place would have, restaurants, malls, movies, etc., except here that didn't have anyone to work in them. The owners of the island made them just to have the zombies feel more at home so when they went to the real thing, i.e. the rest of the world, they would be prepared.
Once the people in charge felt that there had been enough zombies made they decided, just to make things fun, to throw a couple hundred humans into the mix. Fun, right? To them it was a science experiment, testing how the average person would handle this sort of change. To us it was a test of skill, endurance, and wits.
This island was a place where one wrong move meant that your life was over. No one could afford to make a mistake. It was either them or us, and we all knew who to choose. No one would just willingly let the zombies win, our main enemies, but after a while they didn't become our only ones.
Soon after the "test subjects", people like me, were dropped onto the island the food started to thin out. All the new human inhabitants of the island started to eat the animals that roamed the forests and the berries that lined bushes. Eventually there wasn't enough to sustain everyone. Animals turned to eating the flesh of zombies and living human beings. The people on the island stole from each other, raiding campsites and stuffing all they could into their backpacks. The raiders didn't need to kill the original owners of the food to do that though. The zombies took care of that part, what with all the screaming and crashing the zombies had no problem finding their way over to the campsites being raided. When people attacked, they always attacked in groups of 5 or 6, always getting at either a smaller group or a weaker one. Most of the time the cause of the raid was because someone else in that group that was trying to protect their own life and sold them out to the raiders.
The raiders would always say things like, "Don't worry. If you give us the location, we'll spare you. We'll even make you one of us. We'll be your permanent protection." No one would willingly take up that offer, but when there's a knife to your throat the deal seems pretty sweet. So obviously they gave away the location for their own protection. The deals never worked out the way planned though. The "bandits" always end up killing the rat (whoever snitched) when they're on the road.
Bandits raid the camps. Zombies eat the entire camp. The rat gets killed. Zombies chase bandits. It was a vicious cycle. That's the main reason I have never, and will never, travel in a group, or anyone at all for that matter. Ever since I was dropped there I'd been on my own and that's how I wanted it to stay.
Each and every one of us inhabiting this island was dropped here at one point or another. In the beginning everyone put on this island knew nothing of the dangers. The official story was that we had volunteered for a special program and they had given us all the information before we had even signed the "waivers". The story was that we knew what we were getting into. When the media asked questions, that's what the guys in-charge said. The real story couldn't have been farther from the truth.
Every single one of us was found, picked up, then dropped here. Some were hand picked because of their skills and background. Those guys were picked for the actual results of the study. The others, like me, were people picked because they wanted to see how the normal people would fend for themselves. We were those people you found drifting on the side of the road, trying to get someone to give us a ride to the closest rest stop. We were that homeless guy you saw shivering under the bridge. We—I was that kid on the run, trying to get as far away from home as I could.
The way we were found and brought here was different for almost everyone. I was found on the side of the highway, a pink book bag slung over my shoulder and a pocketknife attached to my belt.
I was walking in the grass, maybe an hour's drive from my home when they found me. A brand-new police car merged into the emergency lane, slowing to drive in pace with me. The window of the passenger's side rolled down and a woman in wire-rimmed sunglasses popped her head out. She smiled over at me and said, "We've been looking all over for you. Your parents have been worried sick about you."
Over the past two days of having been away from home and sleeping in the woods any "rebellion" I had left in me was gone. The sun was already down and all the feeling of anger and sadness had been replaced by remorse. When they found me I was just about to cry. Not only from fear, but also exhaustion and the fact that I knew I was so lost.
At this time I was only 12 and had run away because I was so upset at my parents, although I can't even remember why now. It seems strange not being able to remember something that affected not only my life, but everyone else's as well. This one tiny mistake of mine impacted the life of so many in a way I never could have imagined.
"Just hop in and we'll take you home, okay?" she said, her sunglasses slipping down her nose.
I nodded, choking back tears and walked over to the backseat. I yanked open the door and slid in. As soon as my seatbelt was buckled, the man in the driver's seat drove off, speeding down the highway. I clutched the side of the door, trying to keep my calm, which was pretty hard when you're in a car with a maniac driving down a jam-packed highway at 96 miles per hour.
After we slowed down and I regained my senses the first thing I noticed was the fact that there was no cage dividing the police officers and myself. I distinctly remembered seeing those in all the crime TV shows I had seen and thought that was kind of strange. I quickly waved it off though because, "you can't trust everything you see on TV." The second thing that put me off a bit was that the front dashboard was covered in posters of missing children, the kind you'd find pinned up on a board at the police station. Mine was on the very top. It was a picture of me from the last school pictures we had taken. My usual straight brown hair was a tangled mess because I hadn't found the time to brush it that morning. I was wearing a pink t-shirt and had my hands resting on my thighs with a big smile. All my information was on there. Name: Rose Grey, Age: 12, Eye Color: Brown, Hair Color: Brown.
The woman in the passenger seat picked up the transmitter attached to the radio and clicked the side button to speak into it.
"Yeah. Monroe and I have the girl in custody. We're bringing her over to the station right now . . . Over."
She held the button for a bit longer, letting the static consume the silence around us, and then released it. There was no reply, but the woman didn't seem to be waiting for one or even notice that one never came.
The man in the driver's seat, who I'm guessing is Monroe, adjusts his rearview mirror so he can see me and smiles. "So, Rose, it seems that you've been away from home for quite a bit. By yourself?"
I pipe out a soft, "Yeah. All alone."
He lets out a long whistle in admiration. "That's a long time to be out all on your own! How'd you do it?"
A small smile creeps onto my mouth and quietly I say, "It wasn't anything. I just slept in the trees and stayed out of sight . . . And before I left I made sure that I had packed up a bunch of the food we had in the storage room."
Monroe's eyes flick back and forth from the road to the rearview mirror, watching me with a smile. "Well that's amazing! You must be pretty resourceful."
This time I had a full on grin. "Yeah! I am!"
"We could use a little girl like you where we work. Isn't that right Carmen?"
The woman with the sunglasses nods with an all-knowing smile. "You're are right about that Monroe. She's going to be a good participant when we get over there."
Back then all I did was smile and nod confused. I wasn't sure what they were talking about at this point but the fear of losing their admiration by asking dumb questions was too large. So I kept my mouth shut.
About twenty minutes later we exited the highway and turned into a rest stop.
"We still have a bit to go," said Carmen. "So we're going to get you something to drink and maybe something to eat if you want. I bet your hungry after all the traveling you've been doing."
Monroe puts his hand up to stop Carmen and says, "Of course she's hungry! You just wait here, Rose. We'll get you something to eat and be back soon." Then he locked the door and sped off with Carmen.
I waited patiently inside the car for some time much too long for them to just be getting hamburgers and drinks. By the time they got back the sun had already gone down completely and the stars were completely visible.
Monroe opened up the door next to me and handed me a burger and a cup of fizzy water. "Now make sure you drink all of it, I don't want to send you home dehydrated."
Then he winked at me and turned to face Carmen. Theirs eyes met and a dark look crossed both of their faces for a second, like they knew something very bad that I didn't. But as quickly as the look came it left.
Carmen stood leaning on the outside my door while I ate and Monroe headed back inside, pulling out a cell phone. By the time I finished drinking my water my head started to feel lighter and I felt exhausted. I set down my half-eaten double cheeseburger. My eyes grew heavier and I slowly laid myself across the entire backseat. Looking through the front window of the car all I saw were stars growing brighter and the rest of the world growing darker. The world felt like it was spinning.
Monroe walked back over toward the car and waved at me. I tried to lift my hand and wave back, but I didn't have enough strength. I couldn't even smile at him.
Letting the exhaustion take over, I closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them again Carmen was standing over me.
"Don't worry, Rose," she said with a smile. "Things'll be okay soon enough."
She put her hand on my head and smoothed down my hair for me. My eyes struggled to stay open and with the last of my strength I looked out the front window once more. What I saw confused me. Monroe was ushering down a helicopter and trying to yell loud enough to cut through the sound of the chopper.
My eyes widened as much as they could at this point and I let out one strangled gasp. Realization of what was happening came too late. They were not taking me to the station and where ever they were taking me was much much worse. By the time I had figured it all out, I was too late. Whatever they had given me kicked into full affect and I was out like a light.
When I came to I was lying on the roof of an abandoned McDonald's and zombies were surrounding the building clawing at the windows, trying to find their way up to me. At first I was terrified and I thought that someone would be able to find me and save me. I waited 3 whole days up there, only staying alive because whoever had left me there was nice enough to let me keep my pack full of food. In there I had enough to last me 5 days. Thankfully they had also let me keep my pocketknife.
During my time up there I learned things. I learned that zombies are attracted to noise. They can smell pretty well, but sound trumps smell. They couldn't see anything, like they may as well not even have eyes. I also learned that although they weren't all that smart, they couldn't be taken for granted. If there was one of them, there were bound to be more nearby. Also the strength was a huge thing. They were scary strong, once they got a hold of you, it was hard to evade them.
The whole time I was up there I saw 4 large groups pass by. Each one I yelled for. I would ask for them to help me and they would just keep going. I knew they saw me because of the looks of pity they got on their faces when they heard me. Some would look over and mouth the words sorry, but most just hiked their bags up farther and walked faster.
That first night I cried and cried. It was so much to handle. I missed my parents. I wanted to be safe in my home with them. I wanted to feel the warmth of my father's arms around me, protecting me. I wanted my mom to lay my down to bed like when I was little and sing me a lullaby until I fell asleep. I just wanted it to be over. I felt so terrible. All I could think was, none of this would have happened if I hadn't run away from home.
In the first year of living there I got smarter. I learned things from watching others. I never directly spoke to these people I learned from, I would just sit in trees and watch them, remembering their techniques the best I could. I learned the hard way to never approach anybody else in Haven. It was in the first few weeks of me living there that I had to learn that lesson. I was watching a group, and at this point I was wary of the others, but not so much that I wouldn't consider getting close to them. I was so close to walking up to them and asking if I could stay with them for the night. They seemed so cozy, so loving, and so safe.
That's when I heard the screams. A father and a daughter were crouched in the center of a ring. The ring surrounding them was made of about ten men holding pistols. The father was hunched over protecting his child, no older than myself.
"Please!" the father shouted. "We just wanted a place to stay. It's just us I swear. We'll go, just don't hurt us."
The circle watched them like crows, taking in every shiver the father let loose and every heavy sob the daughter emitted. The man refused to meet their eyes; he just held his daughter tighter and tried his hardest to stay strong for her.
The father pleaded and pleaded for theirs lives in front of the cold men. Then he eventually gave up on his own and asked if they could spare his daughter's life at least.
"You can kill me! Feed me to the zombies! Just please don't hurt my daughter," he shouted, now crying along with her.
She screamed the entire time he spoke. She kept saying, "I wont let! Daddy don't leave me!"
He just kept asking them to save her though, ignoring her requests. The entire time he spoke the group just stood motionless. I watched them with my jaw dropped. I knew there was nothing I could do to save them, but I wish I could.
The man got up and grabbed one of the larger men, screaming, "AREN'T YOU LISTENING? Just, please, save her. PLEASE . . . DON'T ACT LIKE YOU CANT HEAR ME . . . ANSWER ME!"
The father looked the large man straight in the eye for one long minute, and the next thing that happened was horrifying. The large man pulled out his serrated knife and slashed him across the chest clean across the chest. The father's hand flew up to the new wound and stumbled back, falling against the tree directly behind him. A large thud was heard as his head collided with the trunk of the tree.
The father tried to regain his balance, but the blow to his head was too much, He was tipping in every direction. Blooding was oozing out of the wound in his chest. A steady trickle began flowing from his hairline and down his cheek.
Then the zombies came. They moved slowly, getting closer and closer to him. He didn't have the strength to run, so instead he dragged his feet back towards the men. He knew what was coming for him.
Two of them grabbed his daughter, holding her off the ground so she can't run anywhere, so she has to watch.
The zombies flank the man from all sides except the front. One tears his shirt almost completely off. As this zombie tries to grab him, the ones on both sides of him grab his arms and one of his legs. He tries to shake them off but he has nowhere near the strength right now that it takes to shake those guys of him.
The first one to bite him sinks its teeth into his arm, ripping off a huge chunk. Another bites his neck, making more blood ooze. That's all it takes for him to go down. His shriek is agonizing and one of the worst things I have ever heard. You can see the tears visibly flowing down his cheeks. The rest of them pile on top of him.
His daughter just screams and screams. "Dad!" Her tears drop down onto the floor. She fights the men holding her and eventually they release her from their grasp. As soon as she's free she runs into the pile of zombies, tearing them off her father, crying and screaming. They begin to bite her too, but its like she can't even feel it. Finally she can finds him underneath the other zombies still tearing off his flesh and ravishing in his blood.
She collapses on top of him and wraps her arms around him. He wraps his arms around her weakly as well and I can see the life leaving his body. He plants a gentle, trembling kiss on her forehead The last things I see leave her father's lips are the whispered words, "Sarah, I love you. Daddy loves you."
But I don't even think she could hear it over her own screaming.
I lived there until I was sixteen years old. The rest of my time in Haven being just as hard or worse. One year I escaped death almost every day consecutively. Another one I almost ran out of food completely, until I chanced upon finding a little something here and there. One time I was attacked by a pack of zombies, only making it out alive because of the stupidity of another.
The things I saw, the things that happened to me were enough to make a person wish they could die and for a while I did. Then I got a hold of myself. I knew that any life was one worth living and that maybe there was someway to live a better one. I needed to try and find a way out. Eventually I did.
I learned about the cargo planes in my fourth year on the island. These were the ones that carried the food that we found lying around on the island for us. Once I learned more and more about these planes, I devised a plan to escape. I knew their location. I knew how to get to them. I knew what I had to do to get out of there. Now all I had to do was go through with the plan and three months later I did.
The night of my escape I packed my bag with all the things I had gathered. I stuffed the map I had carved on a leaf, just days before, into my pocket. I didn't bother saying any goodbyes to the island itself. I was eager to leave and determined to.
To get there I traveled four days to the most remote spot on the island. It was very tropical there with lush palm trees, sandy beaches, even scorching hot. This was where the planes landed and took off. There was a large chain-link fence surrounding the perimeter. I spoof there for a minute in complete silence. The hum was dull and low, but it was there. The fence was electrified. I couldn't touch it so instead I found a hole just big enough to fit a person through it.
Slowly I climbed through the hole, careful not to touch the fence. Once I was confidant that I had made it safely inside I sprinted off in the direction of plane engines. Using the cover of darkness to my advantage and the sand underneath my feet to muffle my footsteps, I just went to the planes with every piece of energy I had.
When I got to there, to the actual planes, I ducked behind a trashcan nearby. Crates were being loaded onto one of planes, crates big enough to hold a person. Everything was going according to plan, soon enough I would be the one on that plane and then I would be free.
When the men loading the crates had there backs turned I crouched and ran to a big crate marked APPLES. I silently stuffed myself inside of it. It was full of rotten apples probably being sent back to the states to be exchanged for ones that weren't so expired.
I sat there for ten minutes unmoving until I could feel them lift me off the ground on a dolly. Every second longer I stayed in there, the more confident I became in my plan. I thought it was fool proof, but I now know that was naïve of me.
I was scared of what might happen if I was caught, but not scared enough that wouldn't go through with it. I knew that this was better than anything else I had planned. This was the only way out and was better than no way out. Apparently I wasn't the only one with this thought.
There was one other stow away on the plane with me. He was 10 feet away from me and I could hear him struggling in his crate,
"Hello?" I whispered. "Are you okay in there?"
He didn't answer, but his movements stopped. I peered out of a hole in my crate and looked at the one across from me that moved slightly.
I slowly lifted the top off my own and stepped out, "Do you need help?"
There was a long pause, then a strangled, "Ye-yes. H-h-help."
The voice was that of a slightly older woman. A slightly older, hurt woman.
I rushed over to her crate and the sight I was greeted with was terrifying. When I lifted it's top I saw her sitting there, scrunched up, one eye twitching open and closed, the other one completely shut. She was drooling down the side of her shirt and he teeth were bared. Her entire left side was covered in dried blood and I could see that her ribcage had been broken and torn open. Her entrails hung out and onto the bananas she lied on top of. She was a woman who was almost a zombie, but still had enough of her mind left to speak in quick, one-word sentences.
My hand was on the rim of the crate and I quickly tried to yank it back before thee worst could happen, but I was too late. She grabbed my hand tightly just as I lifted it an inch from the crate's rim and pulled it down to her mouth. She sunk her rotting teeth deep into it and I let out a muffled scream. I shook my hand, trying to get her to release me. her decomposing flesh, hung over my own skin as she tore away, drooling everywhere.
I tried and tried to get her to release me, but she was too strong to fight. Finally I kicked the crate hard, making a BANG, and she let go. The crate fell over onto its side and she went tumbling out. Above there was a loud crash followed by all too much yelling. She looked up, distracted. I took this opportunity to run back into my crate, pulling the top over my head, safe.
I heard her heavy footsteps trudge off and finally recede. The next thing I heard was a lot of shouting, followed by lots of gunshots.
Then there was silence. I thought maybe they had gotten her in time, but just as I had started to think the plane spun out of control.
I heard one last shot in the whine of the wind, then a strangled cry of something that couldn't have been human. They had killed her.
They thought they had stopped the spread of the infection. They thought that that the outbreak was prevented when they killed her.
Then we hit the ground and went up in flames. They knew if that wasn't the end of it, this sure was. This would stop her.
And it did.
That was the end of it right? The world was safe? She was gone. So were the rest of the people on board. There was nothing to worry about now.
The outbreak had begun and ended with her. They knew that.
Or at least they thought they did.
Out of the wreckage a single person rose. Their body was burnt up and broken bones stuck out of their charred flesh, but they were alive. They searched for that person for weeks. The Lone Survivor they nicknamed her. The only one who walked away from the crash. The only one to have left the wreckage alive.
That person was me. I was the Lone Survivor, but no one left that wreckage alive.