Read ‘The Blast’ before reading ‘Day 244’. This is a sequel.
It’s early, 05:00 AM, birds just started chirping, which is a nice sound to wake up to. It’s relaxing and it calms my mind. It’s better than a loud alarm clock or something. I remember the time I had to get up at this hour to go to work. Sometimes even earlier, so that I could go for a short run before work. As a personal trainer it was important to me that I looked good, but also to be as fit and healthy as I could. I went to bed early, and therefore woke up early too. My biological clock is still the same, but the world has changed a lot.
Today we’re going out hunting, so we start the day early. I pack my back with a few supplies. I take the western gun belt, left by the previous owner of this trailer, and I put my knife and my pistol, that I found yesterday, in the belt. I grab a shirt from my closet, put it on and leave the comfort of my trailer. I’m not the first one out. As I close my door, Brandon greets me. He’s sitting in one of the chairs that are set up around a now extinguished fire. We built a fire pit: dug a hole in the ground, put stones on the bottom and around the edge of the hole. We use the fire pit for cooking and to stay warm, but it’s also a good place to just hang out.
‘Morning’, I say. Brandon looks at me a bit funny and replies: ‘Morning? I couldn’t sleep, been up all night. I’m worried. What if the other survivors out there want revenge for what happened yesterday?’
‘I thought about that too, Brandon. But it was self defense if it went down how Eric claims it did. So he, we, did nothing wrong. Maybe they’re reasonable people and listen to our side of the story, maybe we can even get them to join us or we them. We can sure use all the help we can get around here. And we are a lot stronger with a larger group of people’.
Brandon thinks, lifts his shoulders and says ‘I don’t know, we’ll see. But what I do know, is that we need to get going’.
We walk towards the storage trailer and both grab a hunting rifle and some ammunition. ‘Don’t grab too many rounds, 5 each, we have to save them for later. Just make sure you don’t miss your target’ Brandon says. I laugh and reply: ‘Easy for you to say, I don’t have much experience with guns. But I will do my best’. He’s right though, I shouldn’t miss. We won’t get too many chances, the animals are very aware of their surroundings and if I miss, the gunshot will scare off the animal. Plus it would be a waste of ammo. Today it’s me, Brandon and Michelle that are going out hunting. Eric is staying behind to guard the camp.
Michelle was a kindergarten teacher before the blast, in her spare time she was a nature photographer. She used to go into the forest, equipped with her camera. Shooting pictures from flora and fauna. She knows a few spots where there’s water, so she wants to come with us as a ‘guide’.
Brandon and I walk towards the gate, Michelle is waiting there already. I walk up to her and hand her the rifle with rounds. She greets us and says: ‘I’m ready to go, let’s do this’. Leon, the man currently guarding the gate, opens the gate for us and lets us through. As we leave the safety of our camp, Leon waves and says: ‘Be careful out there’.
We head south from our camp, the city lies north, today we want to be as far from the city as we can. Not only because of the other survivor group we encountered, but also because we want to find a natural water source that is still untouched by radiation. We know for a fact that there is one, because animals still manage to survive. If all the natural water sources were contaminated by radiation, animals would quickly die off.
The forest surrounding our camp was touched by human hands. The closer you get to the city, the less ‘wild’ the forest gets. We head the opposite direction, and therefore the forest keeps getting wilder and wilder. Deeper into the forest it gets harder to spot any wildlife. It’s so overgrown, there could be a bear standing right next to me and I wouldn’t even notice it! Last hunting trip we encountered a group of deer, Brandon managed to shoot and kill one. He walked all the way back to camp, carrying the deer on his shoulders. This time we’re going to build a sledge with branches and rope. It’s easier to drag the beast that we kill back to camp, instead of carrying it.
We’ve been walking for several hours, and the sun is at its highest point, which means that it’s noon. Suddenly Brandon stops walking and drops down on one knee. Me and Michelle follow his example and both kneel down. There’s two deer standing 100 meters away, they’re grazing. The wind blows in our direction, they haven’t noticed us yet. Brandon quietly whispers: ‘You shoot the one on the left, I’ll take care of the other’. I nod my head and reply: ‘Alright, we shoot on 3………1, 2, 3’. The sound of two gun shots breaks the silence, I raise my head and squeeze my eyes. It seems that I hit my target in the neck, blood is spraying everywhere and the deer falls to the ground. Brandon didn’t miss either, his deer stumbles around as blood runs down its chest and collapses. Both shots were lethal and both deer are already dead when we get to them. Brandon shot his deer in it’s heart with lethal precision. We both build our own sledge, so that we can drag both deer back to camp. Suddenly I notice that Michelle is not with us, I look around but can’t see her anywhere. ‘Where did she go, did you see her Brandon?’
Brandon replies ‘No, but I can track her down. I see her footprints already, come, this way’.
I follow Brandon, he steps through some bushes, passes a group of trees, and walks onto an open field. In a distance we can hear laughter and splashing of water, we run towards it. It’s Michelle, she found a small lake in the middle of this forest and is standing in the water with bare feet. She says she saw birds drink from this water, and for that reason beliefs the water is uncontaminated. I believe her, I take off my shoes and clothes and jump into the water. The water feels so cool and refreshing, I haven’t cleaned myself in 244 days! This feels magical. Brandon is standing on the side, laughing. He tells us to get out, we have to get going, fun time is over. People back at the camp are waiting for us. I get out of the water, even though I wasn’t in it for long, it still was heavenly. I feel reborn.
We walk back to the two deer. We strap them onto our sledges and we start walking. We’re really going to enjoy these deer when we get back to the camp, finally a nice meal again! It’s been a while that we had fresh meat, we should go out on hunting trips more often instead of just scavenging runs. The only disadvantage is that you have to bring back the kill, and if it’s a heavy animal, it’s a pain in the ass. We’ve walked half a day to get here, it’ll take us a little bit longer to get back. We can’t move as fast as we did on the way here, dragging the deer is pretty heavy, but it’s a better option than carrying the beast.
We have struggled to drag the two deer through rough terrain for several hours, the sun is going down, and we are now close to our camp again. The terrain is becoming less rough, which makes it easier for us to drag them and we can increase our pace. We walk alongside the road that leads back to our camp. We are almost there. As we approach our gate, a woman walks up to us from behind. Eric is standing guard on the gate and he alerts us. I turn around and see the woman. I quickly grab the pistol from my belt, aim it at her, and tell her to stop walking.
She stops and says: ‘I mean you no harm, I seek refuge. Me and two others, a man and another woman’.
I look at Brandon and Michelle and say: ‘What do you think?’
Brandon replies: ‘I don’t know. You told me this morning that we could use all the help we could get and that we are stronger with a bigger group of people. You do have a point, and we have plenty of food right now’.
Michelle directly trusts the woman and says: ‘We can’t leave them out there to die, let’s take them in’.
I agree and tell the woman to get her friends and meet us at the gate. The woman whistles and a man and a woman appear from the tree line. They look like they are in need of help, and they seem harmless. Eric has already opened the gate and the six of us can walk straight through. The three newcomers thank us for letting them in, they introduce themselves as ‘Clara, Nikki and Clay’. I tell Michelle to show them around and that they can each pick one of the available trailers, because there’s plenty. They wander off, Eric returns to his guarding position and Brandon and I bring the deer to our ‘butcher station’. A wooden table with two poles attached to it, on which we hang the deer upside down, to drain them from their blood. We gut and skin the deer. And when that’s done, we cut the deer in small thin pieces. We’re going to use some for dinner and the rest we put on the drying rack. We built a drying rack a few months ago. Meat can be preserved longer when it’s dried. We put the drying rack close to the fire pit, to smoke the meat and to dry it faster. I bring the meat, some organs and the bones that can be used for dinner to Lucy. She used to be a ‘chef’ before the blast. So she’s in control of the cooking, she’s going to make us a delicious meal tonight.
We are all sitting around the campfire when Lucy calls us: ‘Dinner’s ready!’ We all get up from our chair and walk towards Lucy’s trailer. She made us a nice venison soup. Cooked the deer meat, organs and bones in water with some tomatoes and carrots. We all enjoy our soup together at the campfire and talk about how beautiful the stars look. It’s a beautiful clear night, you can literally see every single star out there. After today my body is tired and my legs are burning up. I almost fall asleep while looking at the stars, it’s time for bed. I say good night to everyone and go to my trailer. I open my door, step into my trailer and drop down on my bed straight away.
I close my eyes and fall asleep within a second..