No Hope :
No one knows where they came from. Or if anyone did they have no way of letting people know now. The ‘war’ was over in a matter of weeks.
Skin Walkers we called them. They looked for every intent and purpose like people, but if you got a chance to look long enough you could see… something… writhing under their skin. Something inhuman and something terrible. You could feel it once you knew it was there, that wrongness, like a stink.
The second worst thing about the Skin Walkers was that they could turn you with just a touch. Once they laid a hand on you it was over. You were no longer you. You were gone. In your place was something that looked like you, sounded like you, acted like you in exactly everyway. And that was the worst thing about the Skin Walkers. They weren’t fast, strong or anything that you would think would help them take over so quickly. Instead it was the fact they could make perfect copies of who they took. Indistinguishable from the real thing. Their skin wouldn’t writhe unless they let it, and apparently any blood tests would turn up identical.
Anyone who went off alone could never be trusted again, because you just couldn’t know if it was really them who came back. They could talk to you like your lost friend or your lover or your parent and you could never tell the difference. That is, until you felt their hand on your shoulder. And then it was too late. Yes, that was the worst thing. To have someone you love, someone you trust, turn out to be one of those things all along. You had no way of knowing when the switch had happened – only that you had trusted a monster all that time.
As I said the ‘war’, if you could call it that, ended quickly. I can’t give you any real detail on it because we never got a chance to find out. My best friend Ryan and I had managed to get on the run with a pair of guys, Jeff and Bobby. We’d run into each other in the early days of the panic. With the Walkers closing in and nowhere left to run we fell back to Jeff’s apartment. We tried boarding the entire place at first but quickly realised we’d never be able to keep it up. Too many entry points. Instead we grabbed everything we could and holed up in his bedroom. Luckily he and his mother had gone on a shopping run when they found out about the panic. She had been grabbed as she was about to get in the car. With nothing else to do he had locked the doors. Ignoring the begging and the pleading of the thing that wasn’t his mother he had taken off. On the way he had picked up Bobby. That was when they ran across us. Scared shitless and without a clue. Stupid bastards took us in. It was lucky for us but it was a risk they shouldn’t have taken. I don’t think I would have. Either way, with the impromptu shopping food and water wasn’t an issue.
The problem we faced was very simple, how long can you go on without hope? The ‘war’ had ended quickly, of that much we were sure. The last things we had seen on the TV before the power died hadn’t been very promising at all. Being trapped in a room with 3 other guys and knowing that humanity has died off. How long can a man go without hope? Knowing that you’re all that’s left. You are trapped in a room. You have no power. You are pissing and shitting in buckets that you empty out the window. There’s only one mattress to speak of so most of the time you are sleeping on the floor. And then there’s the knocking.
It started out as an attempt of forced entry. They tried knocking the door down. But we piled enough against it that that soon proved fruitless. They tried climbing through the window, but we boarded it off as well, and they lost several Walkers trying. Instead they would knock. They would knock and they would talk. At first it would be simple things, requests to open the door. Lies about peace and misunderstandings. Threats and terrible promises. Then they used our loved ones. Crying, begging, and pleading for us to open the door. Promises that it was better this way. No more pain, no more hiding. A new life and better one. Old secrets, forgotten memories, anything they could use against us, we heard it all through that fucking door. How long can a man go without hope?
I’m ashamed to say I was the first to go. I lasted six weeks. It was the despair that got me. The rubbish living conditions and the monotony I could cope with. It was the knowledge that there was nothing left. That the rest of humanity was gone, replaced by those horrors. No matter what we did we were nothing but a small candle, trying to keep itself alive while a vast and uncaring ocean rose around us. We couldn’t hold them off forever and we knew it. We didn’t have the provisions, but before that we knew that the barricade wouldn’t hold. One day they would get through, then they would claim us. Six weeks. That’s how far I could go without hope.
I did it in the middle of the night, taking care not to wake the others. I didn’t leave a message, there was nothing to say. I removed a beam from the window, edged my way out by inches, and I jumped. I made sure it was headfirst, I didn’t want any chance that I could survive, lying on the street in agony waiting for them to come for me. Six weeks, that was enough.
They carried on without me. I suppose there was nothing else to do. Bobby was the next to go. He lasted another week. He left a note. I don’t know what he would have said.
I don’t know what got them to do it. I don’t know how they pulled it off. But the other two, Ryan and Jeff, made a break for it. They must have realised they couldn’t go on living like that, trapped and waiting to die. Instead they chose to go out and die trying. They padded themselves up in makeshift armour, putting as much between them and the Walkers as possible. They actually made it to the car before Jeff was taken down. My friend was already in the car. They were completely surrounded. He could try and get the poor bastard and they could both die there or he could run and leave him to have his makeshift armour torn open.
He took the first option, what would you have done?
I reckon he regretted that in the days to come, knowing him. Some things a man shouldn’t have to go through alone. He’s in the arctic somewhere now as far as I know, hiding out in the wilderness. The last man. No hope, just carrying on day after day. I don’t know how he does it. It doesn’t matter in the end, he’ll be found eventually. I know him, I know how he thinks. If anyone can track him down, it’s me.
I never looked down. That was the problem. I knew that if I saw the ground I would never let myself do it, and I would climb back through that window and go another fucking day with the shit food and the bucket and the knocking and the voices and the empty hollow fucking despair. So I didn’t look down, not until I was in the air. I wish I had, because I never hit the ground. There were too many. Waiting, watching, grinning.
It’s better this way. No more pain, no more hiding, no more fear and no more despair. It’s better this way. No need for hope, no need for warmth, no more worry and no more waiting. It’s better this way. I hate what I have become. The stink, the indescribable wrongness, it surrounds me know. Choking, smothering, writing under my skin. I hate it. I hate it all. But it’s better this way.
AN: This was mostly written at about 4 in the morning after a pretty rough nightmare I had. I tried to capture what upset me the most from the whole thing but as I’m sure you all know something always gets lost along the way. Either way, I hope it was still good enough to upset other people. Is that wrong of me?