The Lonely Side Of The Street
From the time I rounded the first corner, I didn’t see any more of the infected outside.
The city streets were devoid of life. Devoid of life, perhaps, but not sound.
Anguished screams echoed around me.
Unspeakable horrors were occurring across the city. There was nothing I could do to help. I wasn’t sure there was anything anybody could do, short of evacuating the survivors and burning the city.
I decided I’d be better off walking in the direction that was producing the least amount of noise.
The shouts and screams became more distant and I arrived at a new commercial development.
It was an open air mall made to look like a quaint European town. There were two layers of shops that ran the length the project, about two blocks. In places, there were two or three more floors of residential condos.
I sat down on the edge of a fountain in the middle of the cobblestone walkway that divided the stores.
The entire area was silent, but I knew there had to be many people hidden in the shadows, or high in one of the condos, watching me and wondering what to do.
There would be no way I could be accepted by them. With all my scrapes, bruises and limping, I looked just like one of the infected. I knew I would need to recover a little before anyone would possibly take me in.
I pulled the water bottle out of my backpack and drank. The water was pretty warm, but I didn’t care. I was definitely dehydrated by now, and I needed liquid in my system.
I jerked the bottle down to see who had spoken.
About 20 feet in front of me stood a middle aged, long haired man trembling and holding a knife.
Where did he come from? I glanced down to see how far away my bat was. It was just at my feet.
He took a half step forward and raised the knife. “You can’t b-be here.”
I put down my bottle and raised my arms slightly. “It’s OK, I’m not one of the infected. I know I look like a mess, but that’s because I took a tumble…”
“Shut up!” He stabbed with the knife in the air. “We decided you can’t be here.”
I closed my eyes and let out a slow breath. “Fine, I won’t stay. Just let me rest a minute.”
He narrowed his eyes. “How can you prove you’re not infected?”
I shrugged. “I can’t, other than the fact that I’m not currently trying to bite you. Can I finish my water?”
I picked up the bottle and guzzled it down. While drinking, I glanced around. There were a few people staring down at me from the safety of their windows. They probably thought I had been infected and would soon lose my mind.
I stood up. “I’ll tell you what, if you refill my water bottle, I’ll leave immediately.”
The man just stood there a minute. His eyes moved from side to side as he considered my proposal. At length he spoke.
“Fine. Toss it over.”
I did, and the bottle clanged at his feet.
Knife still raised, he bent down and picked up the bottle with his free hand.
I sat down again.
He backed away, scurried up some stairs and disappeared.
As I waited I noticed the damage my falls had done.
I had several scrapes on my arms and legs. They were accompanied by bruises of various shades.
The longer I sat, the more everything began to ache.
I turned my attention from my physical pains to the issue of my survival. Where should I go next?
I imagined at this point it wouldn’t really matter where I went. My reception would be just as poor anywhere. No one in their right mind would allow a stranger that looked as banged up as me into their protection.
If what the doctor said was correct, then I should probably head to the outskirts of town where there weren’t as many people. Maybe I could find another office building, this time one without a mad scientist.
I sat for several minutes before the yelling started.
I looked up, but couldn’t place exactly where it was coming from. Somewhere on the second level.
There were two men yelling. I was pretty sure one was the man who had confronted me.
It was easy to pick out that they were arguing about me, but I couldn’t hear which of them was on my side. Or even if either was really on my side.
I had the sickening feeling again that I wasn’t going to be accepted anywhere until this was all over.
At length the shouting ceased, and the long haired man appeared at the railing on the second floor. He was rather red in the face, but all the same he looked a little pleased with himself.
He lifted up two bottles, one in each hand. “I got you an extra.”
I stood and my knees cracked. “Thanks.”
He dropped the bottles to me and I loaded them in my backpack.
It was now time for me to make good on my word and get out of there. “Hey! Just one more thing.”
The man appeared again.
“If you do see somebody else that looks like they might be infected, don’t bother coming out and challenging them with a knife. Just hide.”
I didn’t bother to wait for his reaction. I picked up my stuff and headed south toward the city limits.
The walk this time was much more quiet. The virus must not have made it this far yet. The day was becoming very hot.
The commercial area faded into a nice neighborhood. I passed several rows of houses with well kept yards and expensive cars parked in the driveway.
Here and there I caught movement behind window blinds.
My injuries were really beginning to stiffen me up. Everything was hurting, and I was favoring my left leg. For a while I was certain that some rich guy and his two large sons were going to burst out their front door and mow me down.
But none of the residents came out, called out, or did anything. Except watch. Out of the corner of my eye at practically every house I noticed blinds or curtains shuffling to give the occupant a better view.
It doesn’t matter. I can take care of myself.
I didn’t dare approach any of the doors. Too many people would assume I was infected. Nobody was going to let me in, and forcing my way in with everyone watching would bring another trip to the house of pain, or worse.
I had to just keep going until I got to the edge.
Within a half hour, I saw the wall.
Oasis had been a military base at one point, about fifteen or twenty years prior. After the base was decommissioned, oil was discovered about 10 miles out of town. From that, the city started to grow. Even with the growth, the city had still not filled all of the space from the original base. Around most and maybe all of the city still stood an eight foot cement wall. As far as I knew, nobody had bothered to expand past it.
And there it was across a thirty foot strip of grass that probably ran the entire length of the wall. A grim reminder that I was trapped inside a dying city. On the other side lay only desert for a hundred miles or so in every direction.
Looking to the east a couple of blocks I could see a place where the wall had been knocked down.
I went over to investigate. What I discovered shocked me.
A truck had driven through the wall. I know it was a truck because the crumpled blue beast was still visible. The wreckage from the wall had not been cleared either.
But that wasn’t the worst part.
The crash looked new, but the hole it made was already patched with a brand new chain link and razor wire fence.
In my mind, that could only mean one thing. They’re trying to keep us in.
I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that a quarantine was the best option. It just hurt to be on this side of the decision.
A distant echoing scream shook me from my stupor.
With that, I knew the virus was claiming another host. I have to get off the street. I scanned around for the most abandoned looking building possible.
A self storage lot caught my eye. There were eighteen or so units laid out in a giant “U” shape. Each unit had a regular door on hinges and a bay door for loading large pieces of junk. The neighboring lot had several large trees that kept much of the lot shaded. The “U” opened to the south and the second unit from the opening on the left side was missing a door handle.
I checked that second unit out.
The handle was off, but the inner workings were still there. I used my pocketknife to work the mechanism and open the door. The unit was empty.
Finally some luck.
I would have to find water somewhere else later, but if I stayed quiet, I imagined it would be reasonably safe to hide out in there. I stepped in and pushed the door shut.
I hadn’t considered how dark it would be. The only light I had was entering through where the door handle was missing.
I sat down against the wall next to the door and began my horrible wait. It wasn’t long before I realized my mistake.
Next Chapter: Corbin has some crappy alone time in “Chapter 18: A Long Day And A Longer Night”