Real or imagined, I must press on with this daily half-life. Getting up, getting dressed, carrying a weapon—a weapon at all times—and trying survive. We survivers, the few that I've met anyway, call this life and world Kubricuton: a sad attempt at humor, combining the names Stanley Kubric with Tim Burton. That's what this world is. The surrealism of Burton mixed with the horror of Kubric.
This morning I am tired. It's a three mile walk to the river bank, where you can still catch edible fish. I stop half way, and sit down on part of what used to be a concrete retaining wall. Now it's mostly rubble. The screeches of this world's animals are unmistakeable, and I look up from my make-shift rest stop to see them.
They're there, the pair of them. What used to be giraffes? Maybe? I don't know what you'd call them now. Their bodies are certainly giraffes, right down to their long necks and brown spots, but there's more to them now. They have wings, which beat the air with such a force that there is a consistent whum whum whum sound as they approach. They land a hundred yards away from me. They pay me no attention; they never do, but it scares me all the same. They have red eyes. Not the pink of an albino animal, but a deep, horrible red, and sharp teeth that are always bared. They left eating leaves behind in that other world and now catch and eat small rodents and fish wherever they find them. They remind me of zombies, really, with their unnatural eyes and horrible teeth. The zombie stories we heard about when the world made sense.
One glances my direction but immediately turns away. It's as if they don't think I belong here any more than I think they do. They move closer to each other and intertwine their necks. What is that? Is that a hug? One nuzzles the other. Are they in love? Do they have such a concept? I can't bear it. I can't watch these....things be in love. Not now. I pick up a few stones and hurl them at the creatures. They turn to me, make some sort of hostile sound that I'm pretty sure translates into profanity, and take to the air again. Their wings cast dust into the air as they go.
I'm alone now. So angry, and so alone. By my calculations, it would be February 14th in the old world. Valentine's Day.
I grab my gear that I left on the rubble and start walking again. I feel the loneliness even more intensely now, as if it is my punishment for breaking the contentment of two creatures that seemed to have it. I can't remember the last time I met another surviver. When was the last time? It was when a spent a few days with...Jim? No, John. John and his wife, Samantha. They were headed north to see if they could locate any family. They were going to follow the river until it intersected with the highway, and then follow the road. I warned them that the road is not what it used to be and now it's mostly overgrown or broken and not worth following. Besides, the chances of finding their people were remarkably slim. Hadn't they noticed the ghost towns? They met my information with blank eyes and told me they were going to try anyway. They spent three days at my house, enjoying the company of a new person, then went on their way. That was in March. Almost a year ago? No, it was March two years ago. Two years since I had met another person. Alone in this soul-crushing hollow life for two years.
I start talking to myself, a habit I had developed to deal with the silence of isolation. “They're probably dead, you know,” I said, thinking of Samantha's meticulously braided blond hair and John's boisterous laugh. “If they had found people, they wold have come back for me. They're gone now. They have to be. They're where everyone else is, which, I mean...come on. They're probably dead. Maybe we can't leave where we are. Maybe it's some sort of rule.”
I reach the river, bait my hook, and cast my line. I sit on a rogue grassy patch and wait, but I'm not paying attention to line anymore. I'm thinking of Samantha and John-not-Jim again. Maybe they were dead, but if not, wherever they were, they were together. Together and in love.
I look out over the water and see a few fish jump out of the water and dive back in. They seem so lazy, so playful, so unconcerned. They are together and will remain so, with the exception of the one or two I take every few days to survive on. Is it enough to be together but live in danger?