Monday, January 31, 2011
I never thought I would survive when all other humans had died. My neighborhood, which is part of a small town in a large state, was struck by a very unusual plague. I don’t know how the plague could strike so quickly, and leave no survivors, except me. I have no idea who or what brought the plague to our town, but how could I be the only survivor when everyone else has died. It wasn’t like any novel or film, where there are zombies running wild or cannibals eating people. Silence is my terror because of the constant reminders of children playing in the streets, women gossiping on the sidewalks, and men doing yard work. Most of my family and friends were killed by the symptoms of extreme vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, and intense headaches. I, for some reason, remained asymptomatic through the few weeks that the plagues hit the town. The media reported no cures for the flu-like illness. My wife was the last to die, and my two children died in the hospital one week earlier. All my other family members and friends died trying to escape the plague or each other, but I was left in my house with only my old Amigo scooter to get me around. Scooters are not as fast as mopeds, but they can travel for about five to ten miles on a single over-night battery charge. I may be now the only crippled man alive; I just hope there are other good people somewhere else. I cannot bear the extreme sadness in my heart and the anger towards life that left me alone in this world. I’m frightened by the thoughts of dying alone. What if I fall on my back, and hurt myself? I will be like a turtle on its back shell without any help to turn over. I’ll die for sure if this happens to me.
I am not the kind of person to give up. I need to believe that there are others out there. How close or far off? I do not know. There is nothing here for me. My wife lies dead under a blanket in our room where we made love and produced two beautiful children. The foods, although still fresh, have no flavor for consumption. Smells from my wife’s clothes and the children’s toys no longer bring joy to my heart. Flowers in the patio window, even though still alive, are now dead. I cannot stay here, the pictures on the wall and all the household decorations, give me bad memories. I can either let myself die by suicide or I can die fighting for new a life. Death by suicide or from natural causes is still death. Right or wrong, it’s in my blood to fight. This is a true battle for life.
I have hoped the CDC, the military, or some government agency might come to rescue me, but I have not seen anyone for the last two days. There is no news on any TV channels and nothing on the radio. I have even checked many local websites, but they remain inactive. All I have is a strange dream telling me to go south. I don’t know if I can make it, but my plan is to stay as close as possible to buildings because I have no idea how long the power will stay on. I know the risks of leaving my house, but after using my Amigo scooter for years, I can safely predict a breakdown. I will leave my sad home in search for new life. For if I lived through this plague, then there should be others.
Now it is the first morning of my journey on a clear and sunny day. My scooter is fully charged, yet I do not know how the electricity is still on, or if the power is on around the town. TVs, electronics, and other expensive items lie in every yard and in vehicles where people have attempted to loot. They are of no use to anyone now. Items that I would have wanted in the past, no longer have meaning to me. They are as useless as the plastic that wraps their wires, batteries, and circuit boards. I have checked all communication resources, but no live activity occurs on any media. Now, I set out on my journey with food in my belly, a flash light, a milk jug with water, a roll of toilet paper, and a warm blanket for the cool nights. I also place a sharp knife under my seat cushion and a red grill lighter in my front basket. I dare not know where I’m going or who I will meet, but I’ll take my chances in the wilderness rather than to die like a stiff crippled corpse.
As I drive my scooter further outside my front door, the scent of rotting meat in the air hits me like a strong wave of bad filth that turns my stomach. The sounds of trees swaying and a few singing birds in the distance, tells me that life is not totally lost. I see a few dogs down the sidewalks, but only one dog didn’t seem afraid of me. It’s a black and white German Shepard with bright brown eye and perky ears. As I stroll down the road, I get a sense that the dog is following me. I ponder to myself, why is this big dog following me? Does it want to eat me? Surely not because dogs normally growl at their victims, I say to myself. I never owned a dog. My parents weren’t animal lovers, and so I learned to reject most four-legged creatures. My kids always wanted a dog or a cat, but I was too pig-headed to let them get one. I used to say that animals smell bad and they require so much work. This was the same excuse that my parents gave me.
It didn’t take me long to realize that my perceptions of animals were wrong. I entered a gas station store where the door had been propped open with a newspaper stand. I was hungry so I drove up and down the aisles to see what foods left there that I could eat. Behind the counter I see a young woman hunch-over with her head laying in some bloody vomit. I quickly turn away in hopes that it is a hallucination. I do not dare to look again because my mind will play tricks on me, and I will imagine her in a zombie state that might come towards me to eat my head off. I stay focused on the soft drinks that were hot, but drinkable. The chips were fresh and so were the beef sticks. I could see the dog in the next isle following me around. I think it was testing me to see if I was a nice person or guarding me in times of trouble. I did not know which one was true, but it was soothing to have a companion. As I was fumbling through the chips, a bag fell on the floor. I bent down to grab the bag, but I felt a warm breath on my hand as I reached for the chips. The dog had grabbed the bag with his teeth and he snatched them away from me. As I reach for another bag of chips from the rack, I felt a gentle mouth on my lap with the bag being let go by the dog as it ran backwards in its own defense. “Oh, you’re a smart dog,” I calmly said. I knew then that I had a friend for life. As the dog again slowly approached me, I hold out my hand to let him smell it. “Come on boy, it’s alright.” The dog finally put his two paws in my lap as he licked my face in joy. “I will call you, Amigo for you are my new friend, and I will depend on you the way I rely on my scooter with the same name.” Off we went for our long road trip to a hopeful place of salvation.
I am thankful to all the construction workers that had built sidewalks and curb-cuts because I can sometimes use the sidewalks or roads to guide my way towards the smooth paths. We travel for hours when I reach a main overpass just crossing a major highway. As I sit in the middle of the bridge and look out in the distance, all I see is never ending roads of stopped cars. The sight is like a bad image of a world of life that has gone dead. I look down off the bridge, and I see myself jumping off. The only thing that keeps me from ending my life is that if I was spared a horrific death, then I owe it to the dead to go on living. Was this a plan from God? If it was, then I must fulfill his plan. I must drive my scooter until I find others like me. I cannot believe that I am the only soul that survived this deadly disease. I must travel with Amigo by my side until I find someone out there. Although there are many assorted vehicles in my path, I hesitate to look in the windows of these cars. I do not want to see the rotting corpses with gray pale skin, bloody red eyes, dry mouth, and black-pus sores on their faces in the car seats, all trying to escape the path of the plague. After a few hours of traveling with Amigo, I see heavy clouds in the distance. With my battery starting to get low, we make our way into a deserted large grocery store parking lot.
Amigo and I enter the store through the shopping-carts storage entrance because all other doors seemed to be dead. The store is still well lit, but the smell of foul odors fills the air as I see rotting foods and decaying bodies. With the sounds of thunder fast approaching, I gather soft bedding to one corner of the store. I try to stay away from all food areas, restrooms, and medical isles because those are the areas with decaying human remains. I do bring over a bag of dog food and cut it open with my knife for Amigo. My trusted companion eats his food and drinks some water as I plug in my scooter for the night. As I sit on my make shift palate, I look around the store at the wasted items that are not wanted, nor needed. Where did we go wrong? I don’t know, but thoughts on my past life haunt my very soul as I cry myself to sleep. During the night, I hear strange noises throughout the stores. They are like moaning cries from the dead. I pull my blanket over my head and get closer to Amigo. I do all I can to ignore the haunting sounds of the night because if I listen to them, I’ll go mad.
In the morning, Amigo and I awake to a sunny day. I get up to pee in a small corner of the store. I think to myself, is it right to urinate on public property? Hell, it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s nobody around to complain. Hell, I wish that I could hear the sweet sound of a complainer, if only for a second. All I have left is my companion, my scooter, and my dreams of being a devoted father and husband. I really missed the kids yelling in their rooms, my wife nagging on my day off from work, and the daily noise of flying airplanes and honking car horns. I was even starting to miss the annoying hustle and bustle of cell phones ringing, people typing on computers, and bosses telling us to get our reports by the daily deadlines. Now there is nothing around but empty stores, cars with rotting bodies, and the frozen memories of lost time.
“Time to go, Amigo,” I quietly say as the dog arises on all four legs. The smell of rotting meat becomes stronger with the high humidity from the fallen rains. I gather a few items, eat some trail-mix that I took (because money is useless now) from the snack isle, drink a bottle of orange soda, and head back out the shopping-cart entrance. At least there are no moving vehicles to hit me or Amigo as we again begin our journey south. I don’t know why we are going south, but I guess any direction is better than none. Within a few hours, five or six I guess (I don’t really know or care), we reach our next resting area. To me, time does not have any meaning any more. There are no second or third hands, no digital number to count down my life. There’s only sun up and sun down. Eat and drink when we get hungry or thirsty, pee or shit where ever we are, and take naps when we get tired. I now know how it feels to be an animal. At least animals have themselves for social comfort. My broken memories of the past are a source for solace. This is why I keep a little transistor radio in my basket in case someone makes their way to a broadcasting station. I would love to hear real voices again.
We stop at a famous fast-food joint; at least I think this is what it is. All small restaurants look alike now. Red, yellow, blue, or white, I don’t place colors on restaurants like I used to. The golden arches aren’t so golden any more, especially when there are dead people with their heads in their own food and rotting kids in baby carriages. They are just buildings to spread my blanket on the floor, feed my face, and sleep through the night so I can wake up to a charged scooter and head south to somewhere or nowhere. I am a scrounger by day and a hermit at night. After a few hours of sleep, I can see the dark sky turn blue with a tint of orange in the horizon. I never would have imagined myself sleeping in a fast-food restaurant. I keep hoping that it’s all just a bad dream, but I keep waking up in the same place that I fell asleep. I don’t even know what a shower or bath feels like, and my body odors are just as ripe as the closes corpse. “Time to set-out again, Amigo,” I softly say to him as he stands up.
This day is somehow different, though I don’t know how or why. I leave the restaurant, pat Amigo on the head, and set-out on down the road. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I heard a faint sound from a long distance. Apparently, I was not going crazy because Amigo began to get excited as he pointed his eyes and ears towards the sounds. Could it be a live voice, I wondered. The sound got louder and louder as we dodge every crack and big rock on the road ahead. It sounded like a high-pitch female voice on some kind of loud speaker. Was it real? How far off? Would I find it before it stops calling? God, I hope so. “Please! Please! Just be fucking real!” I say out loud. Amigo and I begin to go faster and faster as the voice becomes identifiable in saying, “Hello! Is there anyone out there? Come over here!” The voice also seemed to be singing random songs in an almost crazy, but very sad, tone. Am I saved? Are there others? I wanted to know so badly. “Go faster, go faster scooter,” I say with my finger on the throttle switch all the way down. Amigo is running along-side of me as he pants with every breath. As we get closer and closer to the voice, I notice that the bars on my battery scale begin to move downward to the empty symbol. Will I make it to the sound or not? With my heart pounding and my blood pressure rising, I race towards the sound of new life. Is this the beginning of new hope or just a whisper in the wind by a recorded message?