I open the door and walk in to the house, it’s abandoned. Windows have been taken out and are replaced with planks. The lights don’t work anymore, but there’s candles all over the house. There’s blankets, pillows and mattresses on the floor in the living room. It seems people have camped here after the blast, trying to survive in our ‘new world’. But the house is empty, ‘no one home’. I’ve walked a great distance today, so I sit down on one of the mattresses to rest my feet. I take a bottle of water from my backpack and take one little sip, I have to save some for later.
The world has changed. Streets and buildings are starting to get covered with green and there’s great silence in what once was a thriving city. Besides the birds chirping and the wind blowing through the leaves, there’s absolute silence. A few remaining survivors, including me, have set up camp just outside the city. To survive we must scavenge for supplies, and that’s where I come in.
It’s been 243 days since ‘the blast’. I count the days in a small notebook that I carry with me. Before the blast I was a graphic designer, a bit of a health freak and went to the gym every single day. Socializing was never really my strong suit, so I never had many friends and did not go out much. I spent most of my time at work, in the gym or at several ‘self-defense classes’. I have no military background, unlike two other survivors that are with our group. But because of my fit physique I get to go on scavenge runs with two highly trained Navy SEALS. Now that the city is empty and there’s barely any sign of human life, wild animals have taken over the streets and they make scavenge runs very dangerous.
Brandon is one of the Navy SEALS, he sits down next to me and asks me how I’m doing. I answer him in all honesty, ‘I’m fucking tired, my feet hurt like hell and my mouth feels like sandpaper, we have to find more water’. He nods and agrees, he stands up, reaches towards me and helps me up from the mattress. As I stand face to face with Brandon he says, ‘We found something in the neighboring house. Eric is waiting outside with it, lets go’. I exit the house and see Eric standing on the lawn of the neighboring house. He’s got a big water cooler standing in front of him with three huge unopened tanks filled with water. Jackpot. But, we walked here from camp, so I ask them both ‘How are we going to bring this back? It’s too heavy to carry all the way’. Eric says ‘We should try and find a working vehicle, a truck of some sort, so we can load the back and drive back to camp’.
We haven’t searched for a working vehicle before, for the simple reason that we are not sure if we are the only survivors. There could be others, what if they are hostile, hear our vehicle, track us to our camp and then steal our supplies. It’s risky, but yeah, we have no other option. It’s too far to walk back with these heavy water tanks on foot. This is the first time we are going to take this risk. Our camp has run low on water, so we really, really need to bring all the water that we find back to the camp.
The first few days after the blast were total chaos. People robbing each other, stores and supermarkets were plundered and people were trying to leave the city in a hurry. With thousands of people trying to leave the city at the same time, a huge traffic jam was created. People were already panicking and now they couldn’t leave the city to get to one of the evacuation zones that were set up across the country after the blast. People got out of their cars, grabbed everything they could from their own car and started walking, people ended up robbing and killing each other over small supplies on the middle of the highway. A lot of people died that day, all trying to get to a evacuation zone. A lot of cars were left behind on the highway, making this the place to go for us. Brandon tells Eric to stay behind and look after the water tanks. Me and Brandon head off to the highway.
My feet are tired, my legs feel weak and it feels like my mouth is producing sand instead of saliva. But if we don’t get this water back to our camp, more people will surely die. We are almost at the nearest highway ramp, we can already see a couple of vehicles standing at the gas station. They tried to fill up their fuel tanks, but no luck, the pumps have been completely emptied out. We approach the gas station carefully and look for supplies. There’s a vending machine inside the gas station with a few candy bars left in it. I break the glass and put all the candy bars in my backpack. Brandon is outside, trying to see if any of the cars have keys in them, but no luck. We continue our search and walk onto the highway ramp. There’s so many cars here, one must surely work. As we search for a car with keys, we grab supplies that people left behind. I walk further on to the highway, when suddenly I smell something disgusting. I walk further, and the smell gets stronger, I have found the source, a car with open doors and two dead bodies in the front seats. It seems that they have been chewed on by some sort of animal, probably stray dogs. When dogs don’t have an owner that feeds them, they eat literally anything. There’s a pistol on the floor in the car, underneath the legs of the dead body in the driver’s seat. I gently grab the pistol and close the door. I stand up and look for Brandon. He’s waving his arm, signing me to come over. He found a truck, with keys and fuel! there’s even two extra tanks filled with fuel in the back. Brandon starts the car, the engine runs. Now we must push aside a few cars to clear a path so we can drive off the highway, onto the grass and drive back into the city.
We drive back to the street where we left Eric with the water tanks. The water tanks are still there, but there’s no sign of Eric. We park the car in front of the house and quickly load the water tanks in the trunk. All of a sudden, we hear a loud ‘bang’, coming from behind the house. Brandon and I start running, we get to the backyard and see Eric there. He is covered in blood, leaning over a dead body. He tells us that this man tried to sneak up on him, resulting in hand to hand combat. Eventually the man was able to run away, but Eric chased him into the yard and managed to tackle him. The man tried to grab Eric’s gun, so Eric quickly grabbed it himself and shot the man in the chest. The man collapsed, and Eric checked his pulse, but there is none. The man died on the spot. There’s no sign of others, but we cannot be too sure, we should leave right away. I tell them to grab all their stuff and get to the car. If there’s more survivors scavenging for supplies in the city, they have definitely heard the gunshot.
We quickly get back in the car and drive off. Eric seems to be just fine, he has killed before. They both have been on several secret missions with lethal intentions. Missions on which they had to arrest or eliminate certain targets. The man who attacked Eric probably wanted to steal the water we just found, luckily Eric managed to eliminate the guy. As we drive away we can hear someone loudly scream ‘NOOOOOO!’, there’s clearly others. We are lucky that we found this car when we did. If we found it a little later, we might not have been back in time. Maybe there would’ve been more people by then. They could’ve stolen our supplies and our car, or even worse: capture or kill us. We got out just in time.
Our camp is located a few kilometers outside the city. It’s an abandoned trailer park that we fortified with a wall. We cut down trees in the surrounding area to construct this wall, it took a while to build and we have been attacked by wolves while building it. We lost 2 men in the process. We drive up to our gate and are stopped by one of two men that are standing guard on our wall. I tell them to open the gate and let us in. The gate opens and we drive through. We unload the truck and stash the water tanks in our storage trailer. We now have plenty of water to last for a few weeks, if we don’t drink too much and don’t shower. I can’t even remember the last time that I had a real shower, the city has been completely cut off from water and most natural water sources are poisoned with radiation. The natural water sources that are still untouched by radiation, have been overrun by wild animals, making this very dangerous terrain. Rain is corrupted too, sometimes it rains acid, because of the radiation. Leaving us with barely any drinkable water. When it rains normal water, we collect it with whatever we can. But for now, all we have is what we find.
I enter my trailer, sit down on my couch and empty my backpack, I grab a Snickers candybar and take a bite, ‘Best dinner I’ve had in a while’. Today we hit the jackpot with the water tanks, but we also killed another survivor. We now know for a fact that there’s another group out there, and it seems that they’re hostile. So, it’s a good thing that we already finished building that wall. We have guards on the wall and we have a lot of fire arms. We are low in numbers, but we will be prepared in case others attack us. There’s eight men and three women in our group, there used to be more. Radiation sickness, wild animals and dehydration have thinned out our group. Within 8 months we lost 19 people, let’s try to keep it that way and not lose anyone else. Tomorrow we’re going out to hunt for food, so I better rest up and call it a night.
Click this link to read part 2, ‘Day 244’.