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LEVEL 01: SINGLE PLAYER
Months after faking my death, I never crossed a single soul. Not human, nor animal; only the rotting corpses that have plagued every city I’d seen. On one hot summer day, I ran to zero supplies and left my final safe house. Lost, hungry, and clutching to my last shreds of sanity, I staggered along a road somewhere in northern Texas. I still carried Zach’s now beat-up backpack.
My stomach ached, and I felt weak. “Where is everyone?”
I had water, but still needed food, but I hadn’t found a single gas station, liquor store, or even motel in over twenty-four hours. How I wished I had a GPS, but even if I did, charging it was impossible. I doubted satellites connected any longer.
Within me, a small sliver of hope remained that one day someone might rise and destroy the corpses, but where were they? My fellow gamers and my fellow pros of the new age?
I’d made a big mistake in leaving the Gamers’ Guild. How could I miss them so much?
I stumbled into a nearby telephone pole and leaned my head against the hot wood. Growling made jump. A corpse? Little energy ran through me, but I did so. I found nothing but the empty road. A manic giggle escaped my lips, and I leaned against the pole again, sliding and landing on my ass.
“Must’ve been my stomach? I should let the next corpse eat me and put me out of my misery.”
The days had melded together, and a week or more must’ve passed since I’d eaten. For a moment, I thought to check the backpack, but then remembered I kept it for sentimental purposes. It didn’t have much use.
The sun set late each day. With the scorching temperature, I sweated a storm, and I smelled akin to a rotten melon, maybe even a corpse. With the Zombie Apocalypse came lack of hygiene. Either way, I had no one to impress.
A long groan came from my stomach again, and I closed my eyes. “Please be quiet.”
The groan repeated, this time, it didn’t come from me.
“Dammit!” I scrambled as the corpse behind me made its lunge. It landed with a splat and lay there unmoving. I cocked my head, had it killed itself? I stared in silence. This undead wore priest’s vestments. A gold cross necklace had landed near my feet. I glared at the symbol and shoved it away.
I skirted the corpse. “Got anything useful?” He had no weapons or food. No surprise.
I kicked the bastard. “Stupid priest.”
A long howl broke the late afternoon silence, and I jumped. My nerves were on edge.
“What the hell was that? Sounded like a coyote...”
There weren’t animals—Not for months. I was just going insane.
My leg flew from underneath me, and I fell. My head cracked on the asphalt, and everything blurred. The undead priest scraped the road with broken nails, trying to come in for a bite. I twisted to crawl away and my sneaker came loose, leaving my foot bare and vulnerable.
I cried and dug my fingers into the dirt by the roadside. The corpse gripped my heel as I pulled myself to a fence, only to find it covered in barbed wire. I couldn’t crawl under and escape. With my back to the barrier, I kicked hard. The corpse grabbed that foot too and tore the shoe off with its jagged teeth. Thinking it found a meal, it let go, and I got away, taking my backpack with me.
“Asshole!” I glared as it tore apart my only footwear.
He needed an ass kicking. I threw the backpack and charged, my bare feet slapping the road. As I got close, I snatched the large, sharp cross necklace. The corpse looked up as I stabbed the holy symbol into its skull, over and over. At least I found the proper use for a cross.
I gave it a great kick, and chunks of its head splattered the roadside. My chest heaved as I stomped for good measure. I found my torn-up sneakers and rage boiled in my belly. They were useless. I screamed and hurled them.
Again, my stomach growled.
“Shut up!” I unleashed foul curses and retrieved my backpack.
Darkness crept in from the east. Before long, my feet were sore, and I stopped at a middle-of-nowhere bus bench. One board sank in under my weight, which had decreased through days of starvation.
A groan escaped me. “There must be a city coming up.”
I glanced at the bench. The paint was peeling, and it bore advertised of a pre-apocalypse sandwich. My eyes widened as I took in the juicy-looking burger with melting cheese and dripping sauces. The fries looked delectable. I wanted to rip off the picture and devour it. My tummy rumbled, and it took everything not to punch myself in the gut.
I lifted my feet and examined my soles. They scraped, red, and embedded with tiny pebbles.
“I can’t go on like this.” I picked the rocks out, pulled my knees to my chest and rested my chin. Minutes later, the sound of static lifted to my ears. It didn’t register until I heard a voice.
“Dear Sister?” A guy asked.
I tore the radio out of my backpack, and reached for the button, but a girl answered first. “Is this frequency secure?”
“Don’t be silly, Sister,” the guy said. “There aren’t enough intelligent creatures left to hear us. I’m sure no one is listening.”
“You are sometimes a dimwit, Brother. There are pockets of survivors all over the country, plus the Creepers.”
I kept listening. Where were the survivors? What was a Creeper?
“Good,” he said. “Did you hear about the loss in the family?”
She sighed. “Yes, that happened months ago. Shameful, isn’t it?”