This city has become a massive white padded room with no walls to contain the insanity within. Know this: the living are more dangerous than the dead. There’s no telling what fully functional minds are capable of when sanity exits and leaves the door wide open for evil to come right in. For some people, you either lose your life or you lose your mind.
This morning I returned to the streets to look for food and supplies. I had assumed the heavy snowfall last night would’ve forced the dead into hiding somehow, but that was foolish of me. At least their movement was hindered, which allowed me to get around them easier than before.
I scavenged what was left in Archie’s Corner Shop—enough junk food and water bottles to last me a good week or so. A gunshot rang in the air as I walked out the neon-signed door. I quickly threw myself behind a car left on the curb. After a few minutes, I peeked over to see what was going on.
An elderly man in ragged clothing had been shot. He crawled towards my position, adding strokes of red to the white canvas under him. He got close enough for me to recognize him, mostly because of his discolored eyes—one was a beautiful blue and the other a sickly yellow. I had seen him one other time before, when I was fourteen.
I was laying on the lawn outside, staring at my freshman class picture. Everyone was crossed out in red, and I had drawn a huge question mark over myself. I started to weep into my palms, pushing them into my eyes as if there were buttons buried deep within them that would stop the constant flow of tears.
That’s when the seemingly homeless man appeared out of nowhere. Startling me with his abnormal gaze, he kept his distance and smiled at me. His caring smile dismembered the sad thoughts that had been running through my mind, at least for a moment before they were stitched back together. I remember his words perfectly. “It’s going to be okay,” he said. “You’re a beautiful flower surrounded by dirt.”
Just when I was about to thank him for his kindness, my parents came out and swatted him away as if he was nothing but a nasty fly that buzzed from place to place, unwanted wherever he went.
The old man’s eyes met mine, and he gave me the same smile that played sidekick to his heroic words all those years ago. On that day, a “beautiful flower” was moments away from cutting herself down, until the kindness of a stranger saved her.
I wanted to repay the old man by saving him, but I was outnumbered and outgunned judging by the glimpse I got of the three men that were closing in on him. I quickly hid under the car beside me and remained as still as possible.
The old man didn’t beg. He didn’t even say a single word. He just looked up at his executioners. It was as if he had been waiting for death, willing to accept it fully.
Shotguns roared, eating away each of the old man’s limbs, reducing them to fleshy puddles sprinkled with bone shards. Shrieking, he desperately tried to squirm out of death’s tight grasp, like a fish out of water. Laughter was the only thing that responded to his agonized howls.
Before they finally left, one of the monsters knelt down over what remained of the helpless body and pulled out a knife. For a lingering moment, he forcefully cut around the old man’s neck. The widening grin on his throat spewed relentless waves of blood. The old man’s deafening screams turned into wet, gurgling sounds, eventually ending with gasping wheezes and a loud snap. His head rolled away from his shoulders and towards me.
The old man’s eyes met mine.
There’s a ticking time bomb within me. Anger is trying to disarm it with its shaky hands. It’s only a matter of time…
I walk to the old man’s severed head, left with mouth agape, and dig my knife between his bulging eyes—the blue and yellow gems whose shimmering light had once helped guide me through darkness.
Despite being unpredictable, insanity always leaves a trail behind. Carefully tracing their steps with mine, I follow the three pairs of footprints in the snow with hopes of finding the old man’s executioners without being detected.
Drooling, crooked-jawed residents stand in my way. I lead them into an alleyway tucked between a divorce lawyer’s office and a liquor shop. Chopping through their skulls with my axe won’t be enough.
My anger trips the wire and causes an explosion that leaves behind a rubble of flesh and bones.
The footsteps end outside Orchard High School.
Tomorrow I’ll return and hole up somewhere nearby to watch them for a few days. I’ll learn how they patrol the area. They may even have more people in their group.
When I’m ready, I’m going to kill every single one of them.
Snow starts to fall once again as I return to the site of the old man’s brutal murder. To my chilling surprise, he’s not alone.
A woman is knelt over the old man’s remaining torso, seemingly in deep prayer. I approach her slowly until I find myself mesmerized, frozen in place as if inside a snow globe with a tan-skinned angel as the centerpiece. This mysterious woman’s alluring beauty is enough to make me almost ignore the fact that she has actual wings resting at her sides—made of patches of skin stitched together. Her arresting smile is framed by hair as black as her jacket. But it’s not long before she too surrenders herself to the horrible face of this new world as she pulls on a skin mask.
Refusing to grant me a chance to speak with her, she gets up and swiftly escapes.
Who is she? Why does she feel the need to hide her beauty in such a beastly way? It seems even God’s angels have been covered by the sprawling scab left behind by the devil’s mauling of the world. Or perhaps she’s the devil’s planted seed that’s blossomed into a flower whose deceiving beauty is a deadly weapon.
Will I ever see her again?
I miss you so much, Annie. I’m trying to ignore this pain as best as I can, but your memory is the echo that can’t escape the haunted halls of my mind.
I wanted to bury what was left of the old man, so you could have some company when I’m out working my literal hell shifts. But what was the point? Those pieces of walking shit left nothing but the trunk of a giving tree. Mother Nature has buried the old man under a mound of snow.
I cannot take the extra weight of more guilt to bury in my mind’s cracked graveyard of glass. What will happen to me when it shatters? The mind is the most powerful weapon of all. Mine was loaded with a full clip when you were by my side, but now it’s down to its last few rounds. The same can be said of my pistol, which is as starved as I am.
I know I’m heading into a suicide mission tomorrow. I know that. There’s at least three of them and just one of me.
For the past week, I’ve been watching them from the rooftop of a looted supermarket near the school. The three men go out every day and return after a couple of hours. Some days they come back with bags of supplies, other days they come back empty-handed but covered in blood, joking to each other and laughing hysterically.
I can’t wait any longer. God knows how many more people they’ve killed, how many more they’ve stolen from, leaving them for dead.
This could be the last night I let your headstone share my tears.
I love you, Annie. Goodnight.