|Southbridge - or the northern tip of it, at least|
Note: This is Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead - the new version, with a new world and a new character. Check out my other posts for the details about this game, including installation instructions and tips for beginners. This post is just for fun.
I'm a survivor.
Yeah, call me a coward if you want, I don't care. But you can't, because you're dead, huh? Everyone's dead...
And it's not my fault! There wasn't anything I could do about it. I'm not a coward!
I was traveling cross-country, far from family and friends, when the world ended. Suddenly, it was a complete madhouse. Sure, we'd heard rumors. We'd seen the military everywhere, and we knew something was up. (Ha! Lot of good that did. All that gave us was zombies outfitted in Kevlar!)
OK, I'm sure they did their best, and so did I. I would have joined up with other survivors - of course I would. I offered. I argued that we needed to get organized. We're social animals, for chrissake! How do you think human beings have survived this long?
But no one was willing to trust a stranger - even the few who weren't operating purely in panic mode by then. I was there. I saw it. I wish to hell I hadn't, but there wasn't anything I could do about it! Heck, it's a miracle I survived myself. I nearly didn't...
I'm not a coward! I'm cautious. I'm prudent. When the world goes to hell, there's no way one man can stand in the way. Somehow, I ended up in the woods, and I stayed there as long as I could. I slept in the trees. (Thank the gods the weather stayed clear!) I scavenged for food. I'm no survivalist, or even a backpacker, but I am a survivor.
Eventually, I wandered into the evac shelter just north of Southbridge. (That's what the signs say, at least. I don't even know what state I'm in, not for sure.) Would I have been rescued if I'd made it there sooner, whisked off to some tropical island paradise where human beings are even now trying to rebuild civilization?
Maybe, but there was no sign of that. There was a car engine sitting on the pavement in front of the shelter - just the engine, nothing else - and a pair of jeans in the basement. Those were the only signs that anyone had ever been there. The doors were closed. The windows were unbroken. There was no blood, thank the heavens, and no other sign of struggle, either.
I had a small pocketknife and a matchbook - I don't smoke; I just picked it up somewhere - and I was carrying a plastic bottle of water. That was it. I'd been wearing the same clothes for far too long - t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers - but I'd tried to keep them clean and aired out. (I didn't want anything trailing me by the smell.)
And as far as I could tell, I was the only human being left alive on Earth.
I hope not. No, no, I can't be. There must be other survivors left, and I'm going to stay alive until I find them. But I wouldn't stay alive for long by hiding in the woods. I needed supplies. I needed shelter. And I needed weapons. (Oh, I'm not going to fight unless I have to. I've seen how far bravado gets a person! But I'm tired of being completely helpless.)
I had shelter. The evac building would keep the rain off, I could close the curtains to keep... things from seeing me, and there were doors in all four compass directions. If something came at me, I could at least escape in the opposite direction.
And I'd checked it out before I'd even come close. The shelter sat in an open field, far from anything else. In the daytime, at least, I could see a long way. And most zombies are slow. I could outrun them, if I had to. But I still needed a weapon.
There were metal lockers in the evac shelter, though they were all empty. But I grabbed a rock from the field outside and smashed one of them to pieces. Most of the debris was useless, but there was a stout metal pipe which fit my hand pretty well. And by flattening the end with my rock, I created a makeshift crowbar, which would come in useful as a tool, as well.
I kept the rock, too. I took a drink of water, then left the bottle behind - no way to carry it - but I put a couple of rocks in my pockets and I carried the club/crowbar in my hand. I knew better than to go very far into town, but I thought maybe I could sneak into a few outlying houses, so that's what I did.
It was scary. I'm not embarrassed to say that. But, oddly, I also felt a bit ashamed to be breaking into someone's house and going through their stuff. Still, they were almost certainly dead, and... what else could I do? I needed supplies. I needed food. I needed water. I needed clothing - in particular, I needed some way to carry the other stuff I found. And - of lesser importance immediately, though necessary to survive for long - I needed tools.
So I pried open a few back windows and went inside. For the most part, I stayed in the back, because I could see zombies through the front windows, and I couldn't close the curtains without them seeing me. Perhaps if I came back at night?
There was stuff scattered around, but I couldn't carry any of it without dropping my makeshift crowbar. So I made a note of what I'd found and moved on. I did find some food and some warm cans of pop, and I ate and drank my fill before returning to the evac shelter, so it wasn't a complete loss. I needed to be methodical about this, anyway. I needed to take my time and scout out everything I could.
The last house had a basement filled with guns. Yeah, big surprise, huh? It seems like the only right we have - had - in recent years was the 'right to bear arms.' Every other right could be limited, but never that one, huh? Fat lot of good it did that poor bastard in the basement, though. He was still moving around, but he wasn't alive.
I shut the door and left. The fact is, I didn't know how to use any of those guns. But one thing I did know was that it was an
This was America, after all. Half the men and even some of the women had been carrying their own personal penis substitute. But you know what happens when some swaggering fool shoots a zombie? Oh, he might drop one or even two, but the sound of a shot is like ringing a dinner bell. And eventually, all those zombies get back up again,... plus one.
(I don't want to be misleading here - assuming that anyone else will ever read this. Zombies don't eat brains. They don't eat anything. They just have an overpowering urge to kill. That's one reason why I think this was a military project gone wrong. But that's another story. I just want to be as accurate as I can here, so I thought I'd better explain.)
|Southbridge evac shelter|
I couldn't sleep that night - too keyed up, I guess. So I thought I'd try a night raid on the town, maybe get to some of those front rooms in the dark (so I could close the curtains and look around more thoroughly). I'd seen a clothing store, too, a little further in. If I could get there, maybe I could get a coat with pockets.
That's where I headed first. It was drizzling rain and very dark. I see well at night, but even for me, it wasn't easy. [Note: I was wrong in this post about the Night Vision trait. Actually, the distance you can see varies with the conditions. When it's raining, it's darker than when the night is clear or even just cloudy. Makes sense, huh? The developers seem to have thought of everything.]
But it was easy to walk quietly, too, and I was able to search the clothing store without encountering anything at all. I found cargo pants in my size, plus a trenchcoat and a raincoat, and then topped it all off with a voluminous bag I could sling across one shoulder.
Finally, I could carry stuff! So I went back to those homes I'd explored earlier in the day and filled that bag, and my pockets, with food, drink, and small tools. I was in a great mood as I ran back to the evac shelter. I suppose I wasn't paying enough attention, but it was still pitch black outside. Anyway, I nearly ran into the side of a moose.
It was scary as hell in the darkness. Have you ever seen a moose closeup? They're huge! Normally, they'll ignore a human being, but not when they feel threatened. And running up to a moose in the middle of the night clearly feels like a threat to them.
I tried to back off, but it kept attacking me. I tried to run, but it was faster than me. It kept knocking me down as I was trying to escape. Finally, I ran inside one of the homes nearby, but it came right inside after me! It was just so fast, I couldn't even get the door closed.
In desperation, I started beating at it with my makeshift crowbar, and I finally drove it off. At least, it ran out the front door, and I was able to close the door behind it. Then I crawled out a back window and ran for home again,... only to run smack dab into another moose.
I was nearly in hysterics by then. I'd not only taken a beating, but my new clothes were getting shredded. So I started hitting the moose with my crowbar until that one, too, ran off, and I was finally able to return to the evac shelter.
My trenchcoat had been completely destroyed, and my raincoat was little better. Most of my clothes were damaged, with only the messenger bag still in good condition. Well, I was a little better off than I had been, but not much. I did have some food and water, at least.
The next day, I thought I'd check out a science lab to the northwest, but I started encountering these giant insects. I'm talking about ants the size of dogs - big dogs (and even a fly of that size). What had those damned scientists been doing?
I remember finding science books at my grandparents' house - until my parents found out and threw them away - so I knew well enough that science hadn't always been like that. But in recent years, the only science being done was funded by the military - partly because only the military had any money and partly because we didn't really value science. Only technology was valued and, for the most part, only military technology at that.
I'd always loved to hear stories about the old days, when scientists could research whatever the hell they wanted. Heck, I might have become a scientist myself back then, back before scientists were basically just army grunts without the status. Anyway, I'd heard rumors of worse stuff than giant bugs. I just hoped I wouldn't run into any of that stuff.
As it turned out, I found some scientists on the way back - their corpses, at least. One of them was animate. At first, I thought maybe it was still alive, because it didn't seem to be completely mindless. It was mindlessly hostile, though. I smashed it with rocks from a distance, while it was still fumbling through its pockets. (I didn't wait to find out why. Despite its weird behavior - not quite like ordinary zombies - it clearly wasn't human anymore.)
I continued a little further south, on the west side of this small suburb, as the drizzle turned to rain. Pretty soon, I was in a thunderstorm (and remember that my raincoat had been damaged pretty badly). Just before I could get to another house down there, I was spotted by a zombie dog - a German shepherd that had apparently been an army dog when it was alive, since it was still wearing the remains of its Kevlar armor.
It was very fast, and most of my rocks just bounced off its armor. I did hit it in the head a couple of times before it got to me, but then it was just a matter of standing my ground and smacking it with my crowbar until it was dead. I was bleeding badly by then, and in a great deal of pain. But it was only when I started to bandage my leg that I realized why. The rain had turned to acid!
What in the hell have we done to our planet? Yeah, we'd had 'acid rain' before - we'd been screwing up our own environment for years - but nothing like this. If I hadn't been wearing a motorcycle helmet I'd found in one of those houses, I think I would have gone blind. As it was, my skin felt like it was on fire.
I ran towards the nearest house, pried open a window, and crawled inside. It didn't matter what was in there. Without shelter, I was going to die anyway. Luckily, it was safe. There was just a frightened ground squirrel in the garage, a pair of boots in my size (my sneakers were about shot by then), and some odds and ends of food and drink. But mostly, it was a place to wait out the acid storm.
When the rain turned to drizzle, I looked outside to discover bodies lying all around the house - zombies, apparently 'killed' by the acid rain. Of course, I knew that they'd just get back up again, eventually. I'd seen that happen far too many times already. So I went outside and cut their heads off.
On the way back to the evac shelter, I tried to stay close to houses I'd already cleared, just in case the acid rain returned. Christ, I'm glad that hadn't happened when I'd been lost in the forest. What a way to die!
It was only mid-day, but I was exhausted, so I slept until nightfall, then went back into town. This time, I raided a sporting goods store, which was a big disappointment, then a grocery store, where I grabbed a shopping cart and filled it to the brim with everything I could find that hadn't spoiled (including some useful magazines about crafts, construction, and popular mechanics, too).
On the way back, I encountered a weird, swollen zombie which exploded after I hit it with a few rocks. Then I was almost at the shelter when a cougar attacked me. I killed it - mostly with rocks, again, and a few lucky hits with my crowbar - but not before it shredded the few clothes I had left.
I had to learn how to repair that stuff, so I spent the next day practicing. (I'd found a needle and thread in a couple of those houses.) I also read for awhile, when I needed a break. I had enough food - especially after another period of acid rain left moose and wolf corpses all around the shelter - and I needed to take it easy for a bit.
|Cabin in the woods, but this room isn't finished, and there's no water.|
A couple of days later, the sun came out, so I headed north. I'd seen a cabin in the woods, and I wanted to check it out. It looked safe enough - I didn't see anything dangerous on the way - and the cabin had a bed and a wood stove. But one wall needed repairing, and there was no permanent source of water nearby. Well, neither was there at the evac shelter, but at least I could get water from toilets, for awhile
It stayed clear, so that night, I went further south, raiding some military surplus stores. Again, the results were disappointing. I found a few things that were useful, but no weapons. And I really needed something better than that makeshift crowbar! (Maybe I should get a gun, if I can find one with a silencer.)
There were a lot of wrecked vehicles everywhere, and a couple of them still had their lights on. Thus, I came upon a well-lit scene that will give me nightmares for years: a playground, still full of kids. Only they weren't kids anymore.
They couldn't see me, so I just stood in the dark crying.
Eventually, I moved on. What else could I do? There were several military surplus stores nearby. I found some MREs, some military clothes, and a really nice backpack, but still no melee weapons. I attracted some attention at one point, when I was forced to move into the light, but I lost them again. Then I opened the back door of a supermarket and came face-to-face with a glowing blue portal.
I nearly had a heart attack. I'd heard rumors about such things, and if even half of what I'd heard was true, I needed to start running and never look back. But survivors don't panic. I closed the door and headed back to the evac shelter - moving more quickly than usual, true, but I wasn't in a panic.
Still, what do I do now? I can't head into the forest, not without a shelter, not given the likelihood of more acid rain. I'd try that science lab, but I don't fancy being eaten alive by giant ants. Yet that might be a kinder fate than what waiting around near that portal would grant me.
Could I destroy it, somehow? How do you destroy a portal? I suppose I could burn down the grocery store, but would that accomplish anything? I just don't know. And the fact is, my skin crawled at the very thought of getting that close to it again.
I laid awake that night worrying and wondering what to do. Maybe I could wait for a sunny day and head east into the forest, just to see if there might be something in that direction. Alternately, I could try exploring southwest, trying to stay a prudent distance from the portal that way. But what was a prudent distance? I had no idea.
I'm still wondering what to do.
Note: Part 2 is here, and my other game-related posts are here.