I woke up lying on a beach, unsure of my surroundings. I heard a seagull fly over head, and as my eyes slowly adjusted to the light I could make out a large city situated just west of me, and a long coastline stretched into the distance heading northeast leaving me with a choice: should I head into the wild seeking safety, or brave the city, surely peppered with an unholy combination of zombies and bandits, to try to scavenge supplies?
Opening my pack, I saw that my support was slim. I had only a pistol with a few spare rounds of ammunition, a canteen, a can of food, and some bandages. It was enough only to afford me some basic protection, and not even that for long.
I chose the city.
Creeping slowly along the coastline, I moved from bush to bush, cautiously surveying my surroundings as I moved. Soon I had reached a warehouse on the docks surrounded on either side by large shipping containers. The crane in the distance told me I was in Elektrozavodsk, one of the larger cities in Chernarus. I slipped quietly between some shipping containers, remaining crouched to quiet my footsteps. The edge of the city stood naked to me, and I could see neither friend nor foe, which gave me a deep sense of foreboding; an enemy I can see is one I can avoid.
I kept moving, hugging myself close to the buildings as I went. Just ahead of me I saw an open door in a drab building, and I darted across the street and inside hoping nobody, or no thing, had seen me. Various items were strewn about the structure – a tire here, some scrap metal there – but as I had no vehicle they were useless to me. I did find a couple cans of beans, though, which would keep me going for a while. As I started to make my way back out suddenly a low moan echoed from behind me. I spun and saw that two zombies had seen me after all, and forced a mortal choice into my brain: do I shoot, or do I run? I had limited ammo, and there was the risk that the sound of gunfire would attract more zombies than I could handle, or worse, a bandit.
I could hear their footsteps gaining on me from behind as I tore back into the street, and to my horror I saw two more of the monsters awaiting me there. I quickly changed direction, and raced aimlessly down the bare concrete before I spotted a ladder on the side of a boarded up warehouse. I pulled myself onto the rungs, only barely escaping the long grasps of the undead. As I reached the top, I realized my mistake: the ladder was the only way off the roof. I lay down on the rooftop to catch my breath and listened to the desperate groans below me; the zombies growing more feverish with each growl. Suddenly I remembered the flares in my backpack, and I pulled one out, heaving it half a block away back toward the street. The flame caught their attention, and I quickly descended the ladder, sprinting away from the city with the tortured howls fading behind me.
I soon reached the forest which fell just beyond the city’s grasp, but I knew it could offer me little protection. With few supplies, death was as sure to await me within the branches as it was within the city; whether I was murdered or collapsed from thirst, I would still be dead. I knew a fire station existed on the opposite side of the city, so I pointed myself there, keeping just within the trees lest a waiting bandit watch my approach. As the station came within sight, I saw that fortune had smiled on me, as only a few zombies could be seen around it, and no bandits. I easily avoided the slow moving demons as I moved into the complex, and saw a half dozen dead soldiers strewn around its floors. This was a good sign: where there had been soldiers, there would be weapons.
My logic was proven sound when I happened across an assault rifle. I failed to find any ammo, however, but any thought I had of continuing to search was driven from my mind when I heard gunshots ring out from within the city. I was not alone. They were far enough away that I did not worry I had been seen, but I knew I could not remain stationary in such dangerous surroundings, and I moved out of the station into the hills above it.
I had still failed to find adequate supplies, so much as it loathed me to think it, I knew once again I would have to make my way back into the city. Turning around, I looked down at the buildings and saw a hospital a few blocks away, and a close grocery store. I hoped I would not regret it as I told myself the medical supplies would have to wait; food was a higher priority at the moment, and with the sun sinking deeper into the horizon I knew I could not risk investigating both. It would be faster, but no different of a result, to put a bullet in my head than to find myself caught in a city after nightfall.
I crept from house to house as I moved toward the store, every so often more shots continuing to sound through the desolate streets from somewhere close by. I managed to make my way into the store without incident, and saw that my risk had paid off: food and other supplies were plentiful here. I took four or five cans of food and a flashlight, and managed to scrounge up a compass, before I slipped into the backroom, where I found several piles of shotgun shells. Even though I didn’t have a shotgun, I shoved several into my pack. The choice proved fortuitous as, within a closet at the back of the room, I saw a shotgun laying across the floor. I had scarcely picked it up when a rustling sound reached my ears.
I turned and instantly threw myself on the ground. Where I had been standing only moments before, a bandit was now searching through a pack on the ground! I didn’t move, couldn’t move, and held my breath, hoping he hadn’t noticed me. After a moment, he moved back out of the store, and a sigh of relief escaped my lips.
I would risk no more in Elektrozavodsk tonight.
Waiting until I was sure I was alone, I forced myself out the back door of the store, pushing myself toward the grassy hills, the forest, and within the open arms of the trees, safety.
I allowed myself to breathe easier once I had reached them, feeling confident enough to walk openly within the branches. Zombies rarely ventured out this far, even at night, and bandits liked to camp the cities, watching for unwitting victims on the coasts. I left the trees only once, to fill my canteen with water from a pump I had seen secreted beside a barn, and ate a short dinner of cold beans before continuing to make my way north, hoping to find what I could to keep breathing. I knew the village of Mogilevka was somewhere ahead of me, and I hoped to reach it before dark. I knew there would be water and food there, and I hoped to find some wood and matches, as well. The cold was already starting to grip my bones like a desperate fear from the past, and the sun faded further with each passing step, and already I could see the twinkling of the brightest stars staring down at me from past the clouds.
I had walked for what seemed like hours, and the confidence dripped from my mind as each step wore on. Soon I knew what my heart had been telling me: I was lost. The village was not this far, and I had either gone too far, or gone the wrong way. Either way might have sealed my fate. I had no choice but to retrace my steps, and I did so as quickly as I could. The light was almost gone now, and being exposed in the wild once it had faded was not a thought I wished to entertain for long.
I was in luck! Moving back to the south I came across a road that somehow had escaped my eyes on my first pass, and I recognized it as the one which would lead me straight to the village. I had given up all hope of reaching it before dark, as the last rays of sunlight clung to the horizon, but I thought that I at least could make camp on its outskirts. Soon the dull outlines of the first few farmhouses could be spotted ahead of me, and I started to look to the trees to rest for the night.
Suddenly, an angry growl reached me from the field to my right. Zombies weren’t supposed to be out this far from the buildings! Apparently, I had failed to inform them of this, as two of them tore from the long grass and raced toward me. I could barely make out their forms against the darkness, and I turned and sprinted away, hoping to reach higher ground. There would be no escaping them without the aid of daylight; I knew I would have to fight. I turned and pulled my shotgun from my back, loading shells into it as swiftly as my shaking fingers could load them. The creatures would be upon me in seconds, and I knew I would only get a few shots.
I aimed carefully as the first zombie approached, and firmly pulled the trigger. The buckshot tore into the left side of his head, and he fell back dazed for a moment before dropping heavily to the ground. The second had no thought for his fallen comrade, and he continued to run toward me, the infinite blackness of his eyes reaching into my own as he moved. I dropped to one knee to steady my aim, then fired the second shell, which struck him firmly in the chest with a thud. There was no stutter this time, as he fell to the ground silently beside the first.
I stood again and spun in every direction, fearful that other creatures had heard the shots. To my relief, the world fell quickly back into silence, and after a moment a flock of birds took flight in the distance. For some reason, their seemingly lack of care for the dangers of this dead world brought me comfort as the last light of day faded at last from the sky. The stars filled the sky above me now, and, oddly enough, I felt almost at home beneath their watchful company.
I moved away from the grisly scene and up through the woods on the other side of the road. A farmhouse in the village could be seen in the distance ahead of me, and I thought it safe enough to make my camp within sight of it. I was still without supplies for a fire, and my canteen was all but empty. The new day would bring new challenges, and a new struggle for survival.
I realized this may be the last night I would live through in this world, and I let it take me as I shut my eyes, and drifted into sleep.