fbpx

Jackson

Alan Jack­son has adjust­ed well to the end of the world well. He’s learned the rules. He has a plan.

You can learn a lot about them by watch­ing. Bide your time. Take it easy. Don’t pan­ic and you should be okay.

I’m not a biol­o­gist or a doc­tor. I don’t know what’s hap­pened to them or why it hasn’t hap­pened to me and to be hon­est, I don’t care. I don’t know if I’m immune or whether I’m just rid­ing my luck and it’ll get me even­tu­al­ly. I might only have a day left, but I might last anoth­er twen­ty years. I know hard­ly any­thing about this strange new world, but I’m learn­ing how to survive.

I nev­er had any train­ing for this kind of thing. I did a cou­ple of years in the Boy Scouts but that’s all. I could have done with a stretch in the forces, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t stand the shout­ing and the dis­ci­pline. I’ve nev­er been able to han­dle being told what to do. Unless I’m the one doing the order­ing, then I work bet­ter on my own and I always have done. I used to get on with oth­er peo­ple well enough but, giv­en the choice, I pre­fer my own com­pa­ny every time. Espe­cial­ly now. I wouldn’t be able to trust any­one else to stay qui­et or still enough when the bod­ies are about. The rest of the world is dead and every­thing I do is exag­ger­at­ed by the still­ness. I can’t take any risks.

If I move they’ll see me. If I make a sound they’ll hear me. They have num­bers on their side and I know that if I give them half a chance, they’ll kill me.

So what have I learned about them? Well, for­get­ting about what they used to be, they’re pret­ty sim­ple crea­tures now; easy to read. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of con­scious thought going on in their fes­ter­ing brains, but I have noticed them begin­ning to fol­low cer­tain behav­iours. And those behav­iours are chang­ing almost by the day.

It’s almost a week now since it hap­pened. I checked enough of them at the start to be sure they were dead, but some­thing inside them has sur­vived and it’s grow­ing stronger. It began when they picked them­selves up and start­ed to move again, then they were able to hear and see. Over the last twen­ty-four hours I’ve seen them become even more ani­mat­ed. They’re begin­ning to show rudi­men­ta­ry emo­tions too: anger, although that could just be a phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of frus­tra­tion, and either fear or pain, I can’t tell which.

Enough of this. I’m wast­ing time. Day­dream­ing is dan­ger­ous. Hypoth­e­siz­ing point­less­ly about what might or might not be going to hap­pen to them won’t help: all I can do is respond to the changes day by day and try to stay one step ahead of the game. My com­par­a­tive strength and my intel­li­gence should see me through. I have to keep con­trol and hold my nerve. Start to get jumpy or twitchy and I’ll make mis­takes. Make mis­takes and I’m dead. No sec­ond chances.

These things don’t com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er, but they’re devel­op­ing a strange ten­den­cy to move togeth­er in large groups. It’s almost like they’re herd­ing. Some­thing hap­pens that attracts one or two of them, then more and more fol­low the first until there’s a huge crowd of the fuck­ers. I can use that behav­iour to my advan­tage, but there are dan­gers too. The advan­tages? When they’re togeth­er it’s easy to pick them off in bulk. I haven’t yet, but I can imag­ine being able to take out hun­dreds of them at a time if I have to. And the dan­gers? If I’m the one caus­ing the dis­tur­bance that’s attract­ing them, I’m fucked.

Attack­ing a group of them can be unex­pect­ed­ly pos­i­tive. Start­ing fires also helps. A lit­tle heat and light is enough to draw them out from a wide sur­round­ing area. The stu­pid things can’t help them­selves, and they stum­ble towards the flames with­out giv­ing me a sec­ond glance. I can walk right past them and they won’t notice if there’s some­thing more inter­est­ing hap­pen­ing near­by. Their sens­es are dull and basic. Give them some­thing obvi­ous to focus on and they lose sight of every­thing else. I’ve been col­lect­ing fire­works. Feels strange to be root­ing through toy shops now, wrong almost. But if I’m cor­nered all I have to do is set off a rock­et and wait for them to react. I got the idea from a Romero movie, back when this kind of thing was just fiction.

Dark­ness is my best friend.

The crea­tures are still clum­sy and slow. Take away their sight, and the advan­tage I have over them is mas­sive­ly increased. That’s why I now trav­el almost exclu­sive­ly after nightfall.

So what’s the plan? You have to have a plan, don’t you? I’m head­ing for the coast. I’ve a hell of a dis­tance to cov­er still and it’s not going to be easy trav­el­ling on foot, but I can’t think of any oth­er option. I tried using a car, but the noise caused more trou­ble than saved and if there’s one thing I’ve got plen­ty of, it’s time. And why the coast? Seems as good a place as any. Nowhere will be com­plete­ly safe any­more. The coast strikes me as being rough and inhos­pitable, and with the ocean on one side I’ll have less land to have to watch. Maybe I’ll find myself a light­house, some­where strong and remote like that. Some­where they can’t get to.

I’ll be all right on my own. Maybe I’ll get lone­ly, maybe I won’t. What­ev­er hap­pens, I’m just glad I sur­vived. In a strange way I’m almost look­ing for­ward to what­ev­er the future brings. The only thing that’s guar­an­teed is it’ll be free of the count­less bull­shit trap­pings of my pre­vi­ous dai­ly life. A future with­out the drudgery of try­ing to hold down a job and pay bills. A future with­out pol­i­tics, crap TV, reli­gion and who knows what else. I know I sound naïve, because for every prob­lem the infec­tion has solved, it’s cre­at­ed hun­dreds more, but you have to be pos­i­tive, don’t you?

I often won­der how many peo­ple like me are left out here? Am I the only one, or are there hun­dreds of us creep­ing qui­et­ly through the shad­ows, avoid­ing the bod­ies and, by default, avoid­ing each oth­er too.

Doesn’t mat­ter.

Every­thing will be all right in the end.

More to the point, I’ll be okay.

THE AUTUMN SERIES