Walk Beside Me



Original poster
The alarm clock blared, it's droning cries the only noise filling the otherwise silent house. Beyond dilapidated, the house could hardly be considered a true dwelling; among dead salt flats, it stood a mere relic of what humanity once was.

Once was.

It was odd to think of humanity in the past tense. Yet after the war, that really was the only way to think of it. They had come, the invaders, and had stirred things up on Earth. Things had been peaceful for a while, until people started disappearing. Not many, to start with; only a few here and there from each city. At first, no one knew who to pin the blame on, but then when whole laboratories and government-funded research bases had come under strange attacks, everyone knew who was at fault.

And it was when everyone knew, that everyone disappeared. Bombs were dropped, noisy things full of alien radiation and fire. Some people died during the initial attack, but others were taken.

Yet one had been spared, or at least she thought of herself as the only one left. For some ungodly reason, she had survived the bombings and the abductions, and the reason was something she couldn't quite wrap her head around.

To the sound of her alarm clock's shrill whines, she was waking up. Maybe it was odd of her to still utilize such a hum-drum device, but it kept her on a tightly wound schedule. Wake up early, spend the day hunting and scavenging for supplies, and then return home to hit the sack early. She was convinced that without this schedule, she would surely perish under this new Earth's savage rules.

Her name was Margaret Landon, and she was twenty-four-years-old. Her hair was chestnut brown, and her eyes were a deep emerald green. Along the bridge of her nose ran a marathon of immature freckles, but they were the only things to disrupt her ivory complexion. Margaret was on the tall side, with a lean frame and long legs.

When she would depart her home to go hunting and foraging, she'd wear her fondest piece of clothing; a dark blue sun dress.

And now, after little preparing for the day ahead, she wandered barefoot onto the salt-flats, wearing that blue sun dress and carrying a sniper rifle. Upon a plateau overlooking a semi-green valley she positioned herself. She was surely an odd sight amongst the dead, white earth.

As she breathed and set her sights on a small herd of some-what mutated deer, she thought.

She thought about how wonderful it would be to not be so lonely anymore.

Evander woke slowly, his body slowly drifting back to reality from the embrace of sleep which, while he could not avoid entirely this new world since it haunted him in his dreams, at least offered a measure of solace against the solitude of his daily life. The sun filtered through the dirty window over the pallet on which Evander slept, illuminating a room that was astonishingly intact despite the state of the house around it. While the foundations crumbled and the drywall fell in chunks to reveal the internal workings of the house, a web of pipes and cords that were intertwined and mangled, Evander sat in a room that had remained almost pristine.

To Evander, it was a sign. The room had belonged to his infant son, whose death had preceded the degradation of the planet. This little house had belonged to him, as well as his sweet young wife, once. It seemed like a fairytale in his mind now while he thought back to those times, something an old woman would begin by saying "One upon a time..." and end with something happy. It occurred to Evander then that there was no way he would ever be made into a fairytale, at least not without drastic editing. When his son had died shortly after he was born, his wife had divorced him and left him this big old house, all alone, for a year. Just before things really started to go to hell.

The room was no longer full of sorrow as it had been back then, rather jaded memories, but that the room was almost entirely unmarred by the attacks had meant something to Evander. This had become his solace in the world, this little room. The pastel blue paint was only chipping a little bit, the white carpet dirty but whole.

The familiar pang of hunger twisted Evander's stomach and he sat upright finally, rubbing his eyes with a calloused hand. The time he'd spent struggling to survive had aged him more than his twenty-eight years, lending a few streaks of silver to the hair near his temples that were almost imperceptible against the honey blond of his messy hair. His tall frame was athletic, but more thin from hunger than exercise, which caused his skin to be sallow and unhealthy looking. The only thing unchanged were the piercing silver eyes beneath black wire frames, whose intelligence had remained undimmed.

It was time to hunt, he decided, slipping a knife from his belt. He was lucky some animals had survived the attack, else he probably would have starved by now. The animals had been getting wise, so he had to go further out today to net something to eat. Mentally, he charted a route out to search so that he could return home without any trouble. That in mind, he set off on his way.
Margaret set her sights on a buck with gnarled, flaking antlers, these mutations more than likely the results of an irradiated gene pool. Some animals had gotten it bad, like the birds. Margaret would swear that she couldn't recall the last time she'd heard a songbird sing. Yet it was the big animals who had survived the attacks with the most success.

"Don't run...don't run..."

A lot of the time, Margaret spoke to herself while hunting, or while doing anything, for that matter. It was the sound of her own voice that was keeping her from losing total control of her sanity, because at least her voice offered her some kind of human comfort.

Her finger twitched anxiously on the trigger of her rifle. The mutated buck seemed to be getting wise. It's head was raised, it's ears rotating slowly, and soon, it's peers joined in. For a short moment, Margaret had feared that the deer had heard her subconscious mumbling, but then relaxed when she found that to be impossible. The stale winds wouldn't have carried her voice down into that small area of living green.

So, what had these deer tense? A predator?

Before she'd make the mistake of finding out and losing her kill, Margaret pulled back on the rusty old trigger and the bullet left her rifle with a loud 'CRACK!'. It was a sharp note that the winds would undoubtedly carry for miles and it had the healthy deer sprinting away.

With deft movements she descended the little plateau and carefully moved through the grass towards her kill.

She didn't know what had the deer so on edge, but the mere thought of some big, hulking predator had her on edge, too.

Evander stood, surprised by the sound of the bullet. It took him a moment to realize that the buck he'd been carefully stalking had just fallen dead. The moment seemed to freeze as he looked at the face of the creature, easily as surprised as he was. The eyes were wide, baleful, and it was almost sad to end the life of a creature who'd managed to survive this fallout. Suddenly, Evander whipped around, knife extended.

Something had to have shot this deer. A figure approached but his eyes were to the sun looking at it and he stood on guard, wary of whatever might have just shot the gun. To his knowledge, there hadn't been any people left besides him. None that he had seen. Perhaps a misfire, debris falling on an old, loaded gun he'd thought, but now... the shape...

"Hold there" he called, his voice a little dry due to the lack of water. The figure paused. It was unmistakably human, even with the blinding light hindering his assessment. That shape could be nothing but a human, walking proud and upright. It was as though Evander's prayers had been answered with that gunshot. He even forgot about the rumbling of his stomach in lieu of trying to analyze the shadowy human.

Who knew what radiation would have done to anyone else, though? Perhaps they were mad, or cannibalistic... Evander cringed a little. There had been an awful lot of dead bodies afterward... Bodies he'd been smart enough to bury all around where he'd been staying - he didn't need the disease that decaying in the sun would breed, nor did he need deadly, irradiated, well-fed rats.

(I am so sorry that this took so long. This is what I get for starting something when I'm ill and tired... I cannot apologize enough though.)