"So you want my life story? What in hell for?"
"Speak into the microphone please, we're making a documentary on survivors from ground zero. I'm told you were among the first to witness the infection in its early stages?"
"Yes, yes, of course. I work in hospital in Severograd, almost 5 year as orderly, lived in Nagornoe when outbreak happen."
"Excellent, yes, tell us about that; how did you manage to escape from there?"
"HA, I escape because knowing when to be coward" *laughs heartily*
"Really though, I make escape because of father. He teach me well; how to survive in wilderness, how to hunt, how to find water, how to navigate by day or night, and how to make safe place for sleeping. And of course, the sneaking unseen." *leans in conspiratorially and lowers voice slightly* " But that I teach mostly myself." *straightens up and speaks normally* "In fact, that is how I am known as Mishka to some," *waves hand dismissively in air* "But that is being other story. You wish to know about infection. I tell you.
After service during civil war of '09, I stay in army little while, but advancement is slow and pay is shit, so when time of obligation is up, I leave. Walk around for a little while, decide what next to do.
*his eyes widen and he leans forward slightly, an obviously excited tone creeping into his voice*
"Then one day, am walking through streets of Severograd when I see her; the most stunning creature I had ever seen! A vision in white, she was, with eyes of softest blue. My heart stop for a moment and almost I trip in the street. We have nurses in army, but I tell you, nothing like this girl. The next day, I am working as orderly in Severograd hospital. Is wonderful place for work, since is close to Nagornoe, my new home. Of course, hunting anywhere in Chernarus is wonderful, but Nagornoe is being maybe little bit better than most. Is many hunting stand, and game is plentiful of all kinds. Only problem is being close to Russian border, but even that can be advantage when hunting is slow. Unlike deer, Russian soldier always easy to find, and jump higher than deer when shot at, HAHAHAHA. Oh, those were some good times.
"But anyway, I set up in Nagornoe, work in Severograd, spend free time hunting in forest, maybe sometimes visit old comrades at military base west of village. Sometimes they do not let me despite former service record; they say "NO CIVILIAN!" and slam door in face. Especially in months before accident. Did not give much thought at time, but now that am mentioning, this is maybe sign?
"Then of course, one day, it become obvious ..."
"What about the girl?"
"The girl, you know, the nurse in Severograd?"
"OH, oh, yes, of course, ha ha. Nothing. Nothing came of that. Is embarrassing subject actually. I do have other stories of women though, if you are interested ...."
"No, no that's fine, go ahead. Sorry for interrupting."
"OK, where was I saying ... "
"Uh, the military base ... you were visiting and then one day it all became ..."
"Oh yes, děkuji, yes. One day it become obvious. Russian helicopter comes to military base. I did not see, but heard. Think was Kasatka special ops bird, but cannot be sure. Never saw video everyone was speaking of. May have been more than one, I do not know. As said, I did not see as I was in forest to east of town. When finally I reach home, have no interest in chatter with neighbors, only want sleep. Work in morning.
"But how you say, 'it was not to be'. Military came sweeping through village, gathering up everyone, waking from bed women, children, workmen, everyone. All had to go. They ship us to gymnasium of school in Severograd, expect us to stay there. Ha ha ha, no, not me. I know better.
"It so happen that one rotný helping keep order at school is old friend of mine, Petr Novak. I speak to him little bit, but he claim is knowing nothing of value. 'Petr', I say, 'you must help me get out of here; I have work in hospital in morning.' He tell me, 'You work in hospital now? Are all of sudden fancy doctor? Maybe will be more work for you soon than you know. I do what I can, Branek, but we are all under orders.'
"Only few minutes after that, we hear first of explosions. Is not close enough for shaking of earth, but from sound, I knew was huge explosion, maybe kilometer away, maybe two. Probably military base. Is no way for knowing if was Russian or CDF or some other. Most people say was Russians, but would be no surprise if something else was going on. So anyway; chaos. Most people duck and huddle down at first, but soldiers rush to see what is happening, and block exits, of course. Then the shouting and panic begin. Oh, was not crazy scene, no one getting trampled or hurt, but was much of the confusion and yelling.
"Soon Petr find me in crowd, say, 'Branek, you are all set now, I tell superior officer you are bigwig at hospital, he will let you go when you ask, just tell him that you are The Mouse'. 'But Petr,' I ask, 'What is going on? Do you know?' 'Is nothing good, Branek. You keep your head down and stay safe, eh?' And just then, another soldier run past and punch Petr in shoulder, 'Pospěš si, Petr' he shouted and ran to the outside door. 'I have to go now, Branek. You pray for me, OK?' 'Of course, my friend, of course.'
"Never have I seen him again.
"But he was as good as his word. While no one was able to sleep that night for the flying of jets overhead, but when day break, I find commanding officer and he let me out to work. The sky was streaked with blood that morning. Of course, I know it was smoke and dust in the morning sun, but also it was blood; a warning of what was to come. Little blood had been shed to that point, but soon enough, it would be as though the skies opened up and rained blood on all of us.
"Never have I been on ship at sea, but scene at hospital was like you might imagine on a ship heading into big storm. There were no casualties yet, but everyone was rushing about, making ready, making sure that everything was ready to go, that there were doubles and triples and quadruples of everything, backups plans for backup plans, and every man and woman at their stations.
"Then the bombing began.
"Yes, well, not bombing necessarily, but heavy artillery. Same thing. Russian guns from over the border, spitting death and fire from their black throats. Horrifying. At first, it seemed focused in the forest around the military base, but slowly began walking its way east, west and south. They hit the hills above Severograd, but either did not have the range or the resolve to hit the city itself.
"It did not matter. They had weapons far worse than cannon for us. At first, there were only rumours. A patrol of CDF soldier missing, a dog horribly mauled by something that was not a bear or wolf, a little girl's bad dream. The police actually brought in the first one. They thought that maybe we could do something, or tell them something about what he was. Maybe they thought we could help him.
"They had knocked him down and tied him down to a board somehow, like a stretcher. He must have been knocked out temporarily or shocked or something while they did it. Maybe they used a Taser, I don't know. He was burned beyond recognition, his head a grisly mess of scorched bone and torn, charred flesh. His left arm was held on by little more than what was left of his uniform, but he did not need arms to kill.
"As one of the larger, stronger orderlies, they naturally called on me to move the burned soldier. I swear he was nothing but dead weight while I carried him, but at some point after I had left the operating room, the thing came back to life and tore a chunk out of the head doctor's face. Naturally, after that, pandemonium.
"And he was not the only one. Others marched out of the hills north of town and began tearing into anything living they could reach. They were desperate, and unstoppable. Nothing checked them, nothing at all. Not fire, not bullets, not shouting or even holy water. Never have I seen a creature pursue destruction with such ferocity and need.
"One approached from a side door of the hospital, chasing after a young woman; she barely escaped. Another orderly who tried to shut it out was forced to lean against the door to keep it trapped there, between the door and its frame. I managed to force it out with an IV stand so that we could seal the door again, but I had to look into its face. It was not human any more. There are some who say that the infected can be cured. They are wrong. Those people are gone. What burns now in their eyes is some hellish force or mad fever. They are not coming back. No one can return from that. And given all that they've done? Who could face it, even if they were cured from infection? One of the doctors mentioned she thought it might be a strange form of rabies. Is there even a cure for rabies? Here, I show you my cure.
*removes a silenced pistol from his leather vest and lays it flat on the table*
"Mishka Bor, curing infection 9 millimeters at a time since 2017. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
* bows slightly *
"Between the Russian bombardment and the insanity in the eyes of those infected, I knew the city was lost. Sometimes it is wise to make strategic retreat in face of inevitable defeat. I have been called many things, but never 'fool'. Some people you meet today will tell you they were lucky or fortunate. Not me. *leans forward intently* This is what I do now. This is how I live. I am survivor. Not only strong, and smart, I am determined. And I know what to do.
"I grew up in tiny osada of Bor; this is where father teach me woodcraft and survival skills. So this is where I went. I offer to take anyone from hospital with me, but none would go, or perhaps none would go with me; after all, even though I had worked with them for almost five years, I was mere orderly, and few knew me for what I was. Is terrible shame. I could have saved some of them, almost certainly. Maybe even taught a few to survive in the days after, but they believed they knew better. Their mistake. I have not seen any of them again.
"Oh no, wait, this is not true. There is one that I saw again weeks later, when I went back to Nagornoe to get my old rifle and other personal items. Remember that orderly who had trapped one of the creatures in the side door of hospital? He was there, in middle of road in front of my house. I put an axe blade through his skull. He must have gotten scratched by the creature he was trying to keep out, I don't know how it happened, but he was no longer fit for polite company.
"That night I returned to Severograd and began a campaign of mercy killing. I looked especially for the beautiful nurse that first attracted me to the hospital, but never have I found her. I don't know if she's dead or alive. But I tell you, I learned a couple of things that night. One; these creatures ... alright, I'll say it - these ... zombies ... they do not see well at night. Is simple matter to sneak up to them and open their skulls from behind, if you are patient and quiet. Lesson number two; they are not to be trifled with if you are alone. No one is having eyes in back of head, eh? Hahaha, I may sneak up on them, but they too can sneak up on you. And they are very much attracted to sound of gunfire, from all directions. Is best never to fire weapon in city, or anywhere with limited visibility.
"That is my story, or at least as much as I am willing to tell to you. Is it what you were expecting?"
"Yes, thank you very much. One never knows today what will be important tomorrow. Every little detail we can learn we're eager to record."
"Hmmm" *grunts skeptically* "and on this 'tomorrow' that you speak of, I wonder who will be there to watch your recording? Perhaps I am too pessimistic. Ah well. My advice to you, young man, is to find yourself someplace safe, or build some safe place and defend it with your life. I do not know what this thing is that has driven mankind insane, but if there is not a cure, then certainly some of us are at least resistant to its curse. I myself have been scratched, beaten and perhaps even bit once by these things, but still I am myself. If you, too are resistant, as by this time I have little doubt you are, you would do well to find yourself a woman, and breed many resistant babies. May not be most popular opinion, but if humanity is to survive this apocalypse, then we need to fill out our ranks a bit no?"
* wags eyebrows at documentarian *
"Regardless, I wish you best of luck, and long life."
"uh, yeah, thanks Bran, same to you."