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Journal of Arthur Cooper

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  3    12/4/21

Urgh, since coming out of the woods things have moved from bad to worse. Damn near starved to death more than once, wolves on my arse more than once. For the longest time I didn’t have a knife or a bullet to my name. Even after I salvaged this AKM the thirst damn near got me.

Never trust found water. That’s what I have learned. Then again, if I didn’t drink it, I would be dead already. When I found that canteen it was a life saver, literally. My throat was so dry I couldn’t talk anymore. I could feel stuff shutting down. So, I necked it. I lived, but I puke my guts out whenever I have more than a single bite to eat or more than one sip of water. I need to eat and drink more than I used to now as well, thank the stars I had some good fortune hunting, because moving from hospital to hospital, water pump to water pump, is taking all my time. There must be medicine somewhere, or am I just going to have to sweat this one out? Urgh, let’s be honest. It won’t be sweat that gets this out of me.

I have no margin for error anymore. If it were not for this second canteen I found later, I don’t know if I could last the trip from one pump to another. God this thirst.

I hit the Vybor hospital first. Nothing, But I could see in the night smoke coming from one of the chimneys. Someone had settled down for the night, someone smarter than me.  I don’t have the luxury of waiting anymore, I had to press on through the cold night rain. These sodden clothes are going to give me a damn rash. At one point I thought of asking whoever it was for help. I snuck quietly right up to the window. Listened, nothing. Whoever it was, was alone. One on one, it might be safe to talk. But found at night, he would be on edge, and all he had to be, was faster on the draw. And with me liable to vomit at a moment’s notice, I can’t risk a stand off. I wouldn’t’ try anything, I’m not that dumb or vicious… or brave. But I couldn’t risk him trying to rob me. Without this gun I couldn’t hunt. And there isn’t enough food left for scavenging. So, I snuck away.

As I made for the hospital at Stary, I stumbled on the MBVMC. Perhaps the soldiers had a medical store. So, I snuck about again. Nothing, nothing of use any way, except an empty M4 that I took for barter. I reckon that guy from Vybor wasn’t far behind. I snuck in and out like a mouse. But less than a minute after I left the compound someone started blasting in the base. I am not sure how negotiations would have gone with someone that trigger happy.

Pressing on I made for the Nadezhda, but I was not alone. I saw movement as I approached the medical shack. That movement turned into one person, then two, then three. They might have been good people, they didn’t shoot me at least. But a team talking to a loaner? Who knows how desperate they were? And desperation can turn even good men into robbers. And I can’t survive getting robbed. So, I waved, backed off and ran. I wonder if they saw me vomiting in the hedge.

So now I press on, hoping I will just wake up having powered through this thing. Or hoping the medicine will be over the next hill. Because sooner or later, this illness will starve me faster than I can hunt.

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  4    13/4/21

Well I found medicine, a lot of it! The problem is, none of it seems to be the right medicine! Gorka, Berezino, Kranostav, nothing! Well, nothing I need. Scooped up what I can though, might need it for barter later. But things got interesting in Berezino, more life than I have seen in a while. Someone skittering away from the hospital as I crept up. Another smoking chimney and a car! Maybe two. One belted right past me as I hid behind a house, small black and old. The second I only heard, so it might have been the same vehicle coming back around.  But it seems everyone is as nervous as me, no one seemed the least interested in dealing with anyone else… thank God. I still can’t risk a confrontation in my current condition.

Despite the lack of medicine, I think I am getting a handle on this damn sickness. I still feel like death, and I am constantly on the edge of heaving. But if I keep the portion sizes down, I can just about hold it in. This still isn’t sustainable, but I can keep it up for longer. With luck I will be able to outlast this damn bug. But this illness seems to be giving rise to an unexpected complication. The search for medicine is driving me into more and more dangerous territory. I don’t think this is going to go well, but I don’t have any other choice.

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  7    16/4/21

Well today has been eventful. The past few days were not really worth writing about I’m afraid to say. Creep into a town, hit the pump, swallow vomit, turn the place upside down, find nothing, move on. Occasionally livened up with a bit of hunting. All these hospitals must have been picked dry of cholera medicine long ago. At least I think cholera is what I have, fits the symptoms I found in a manual in one of the hospitals. But I’m no doctor. Honestly, I think I might be getting too used to this sickness. The sweat, the nausea, the difficulty focusing. It’s starting to feel normal. The only thing I found of note was a trader who has set up shop and is flogging off old soviet kit. Their stock is decent enough, but the prices are eye watering.

Other than that, nothing. Then today happened.

I was working my way west, heading to an old holiday camp I knew from before the fall. Then I saw it, the great green cloud! I heard rumours some sort of chemical weapon had been used near the Russian border during the collapse. But Jesus. Terrain forced me to get a little closer than I would like, fortunately not too close but it still creeped the hell out of me. I kept expecting some mythic beast to charge out of the fog like some tacky B movie. The reality of it is likely far more horrific.  I heard on the radio before it all went down that even NBC suits don’t function as they should in there.  No matter the truth of it I just got out of there, fast!

Not long later I ran into my first human since leaving the woods. A yank, black cowboy hat and all. Fellow by the name of Wayne, Hixon I want to say, Wayne Hixon. He was heading east, and we just ran into each other. I was a little cautious at first, made sure my AKM was drawn but not aimed. He stayed holstered. He seemed on the level and we talked a while about local goings on, the toxic cloud and what is happening in these parts. Turns out he knew even less than me, seems I was the first person he has seen in a while to. He was pressing east in search of game, hunger eating at him. I had more than enough food, so I tossed him some meat to see him through. Am I a nice guy? Maybe. I certainly didn’t ask for anything in return… well not material any way. All I wanted by way of compensation was that he remember who I was, that I didn’t shove a gun in his face, that I had helped. And that someday he might be similarly kind. It was not charity, it was an investment in the future. In the next time we met.

During our meeting a rather modern looking silver car interrupted us, the driver was a very relaxed and casually asked us our business. He seemed pleasant enough but there was no time to exchange information. He apparently had urgent business out east. Certainly, his schedule must have been packed, I saw the same car double backing west a little later, though that time he didn’t see me.  

I parted ways with Wayne and moved west, I would gladly have gone east with him, but I needed ammunition and medicine, and I knew there was none behind me. His lead on some AKM ammunition did not pan out, but I will chalk that up to error rather than malice.

Regretfully, with the land to the north now shrouded in that wretched cloud, I had to turn my eyes south for ammunition. To that cursed airfield. It was a hot bed of strife during the collapse, and I wagered it was not any better now. Still wishing to avoid any unnecessary fights I snuck in at night, and made significant headway, though the damned rain bogged me down again. Were I anywhere else I would have waited it out, but I was not going to spend one minute longer there than I had to. But I made a nearly fatal mistake. I underestimated just how huge it was. With my body as weak as it is, I found myself burning through my water far faster than anticipated. I had to deplete the emergency cans by the end. A non-renewable reserve I cannot easily replace.  Until my body is better, I cannot risk such a raid again.

During the night something was amiss on the strip itself. I saw a bright flash like a grenade, but no noise. Either way, I was not about to risk crossing into open territory with that going on. I worked my way south though the trees instead. The sun was up by the time I reached the southern buildings, and stumbled on a man apparently named Adrian, low on kit and high on optimism. I dearly would have liked to talk to him, and his near by brother, more. But not there. I will not spend one second longer there than I have to. He had some of the ammo I so desperately needed so, to create a good impression with him, I traded a badly worn AK-SU for it that I had picked up earlier in the raid. He seemed ecstatic, and desperate for a firearm. I just gave him a few words of caution about the place and moved on. The water situation was becoming urgent by that point.

As I scuttled away a small helicopter soared overhead. Perhaps it was the one Wayne had mentioned to me earlier. I certainly did not want to be caught in the open by people with air support so I left as quickly as I could, having scooped up at least some loot and 40 precious rounds. Four of which I would later waste on a boar that seemed impervious to bullets, even to the head! What was that thing made of, Kevlar?

Fortunately I made it to a water pump before the situation got truly dire, but it was touch and go. Clearly the ordeal upset my system. I had kept the vomit down for days, but up it came again… and again after that. Last of my hunted game got puked out, twice! Damn it all, I need that medicine. In a cruel mockery of fate I very nearly struck gold in that department. At about the time a strange man called Lion Tamer got very angry on the radio about his helicopter, I stumbled on what seemed to be an abandoned base. At first, I was extremely hesitant, believing it to be a base in the early stages of construction and very much occupied. But as I drew closer, I could see signs of battle, and clear evidence of looting. There were vast stores of less useful supplies left behind, with everything of actual value picked clean by buzzards long ago. I will admit I am not always above being a buzzard, rummaging through the cabinets for some medicine. But whilst I found drugs of every other kind, nothing, not a thing, for cholera. So close… yet so far.

To make matters worse, my trusty axe began showing signs of wear and tear as I made ready to cook up some chickens. That things has been vital to my success. The damn infected would have torn my guts out a dozen times over were it not for a sturdy chop to the head from that thing. I need it to operate silently in many areas. Without it life is going to get much more difficult. Sickness, scarce ammunition and soon no axe. Damn it.

But at least my day did not end on a sour note, but rather a perplexing one. I have begun heading back to sell the excess equipment I have no use for. On my way I stumbled across a sword in a lake! Well, a pond but still. I must confess my head began swimming with Arthurian legends. Legends that I must not be worthy of because pull all I could, it would not budge. Just when I thought this place was getting as odd as it could, it surprises me yet again! I wonder who Chernarus’ Arthur is?

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  8    17/4/21

Praise be to God!

Well, that might be a bit hyperbolic. But today has been my best day in a long time, and God might actually have had something to do with it. My axe was waning, I found a spare. My clothes were torn, I was able to trade for a sewing kit. A trade that saved a man named Andre’s life for I had the medicine he so desperately needed. And then I went to church. I may not have found God. But I found something. Community, and maybe, hope.

I must confess, I was nervous at first. When I heard the radio call arranging a service, part of me thought it was a trap. Another part of me thought that the hawks would wait for the doves to gather at the church, then butcher them. But something compelled me to take the risk, to reach out for… something. Something human at least. Unloading my weapon and then walking into a bunch of strangers had my heart beating in my chest with the pace of a runaway train. But they were decent, every one of them was decent.

The service was touching and relevant, delivered by a woman named Leontyna. The sermon focused on strength in the face of fear, remaining righteous in the face of the monsters in human skin that rove this land, and that with God and light on our side we need fear nothing. I am not as ceased of her words as she seems to be. The butcher’s knife and the bandit’s gun still put a fear in to me that the vague notion of an almighty is doing little to solve. But perhaps I can face a stranger with a little more spine now. Be a little more confident in charity. Certainly, everyone from the Lost Highway, a group whose name slips my mind but seems to be made of Chernorussian’s, and the Duchy seemed to be good men and women.

The Duchy in particular made a strong impression today. Perhaps they have the right idea. I was fortunate enough to exchange a few words with the Duke, just to thank him for putting on the whole show. But father Gregor took a particular interest in me. He told me to be more generous than I already have been. To give and ask for nothing in return, not even mercy or remembrance of a kindness done. I cannot help but have some doubts about that. Truly selfless charity is all well and good when times are fat. But these times are very, very thin. All I have in this world is what I carry. If I just give and give and ask for nothing, not even that the kindness be remembered. I fear I may find myself hungry, alone… dead. I fear it. But what did Leontyna and Gregor say about fear?

This is one of those thoughts that will eat at the back of my mind. I will certainly return next week. If there is a next week. I may not be convinced of God quite yet, but I am quite convinced of them.

More materially a fellow in blue named Leon was passing around updates regarding the encroaching gas from the north. There was a lot of wild speculation about the source, but he was able to confirm a few things to me. It does not affect infected. NBC suits can work, for a while. The toxic cure will kill you unless you are in peak health. It is moving.

But more chilling than that was the talk of men in black NBC suits. I heard tell that they had cyanide capsules in their teeth to take in the event of interrogation. That is some high-end bollocks that suggests a major player is involved. It seems these lunatics are spreading it intentionally, even trying to launch a fresh cloud from Green Mountain? But why? One man thought they might be something to do with the fallen Russian regime. But there are far easier ways to end the world. Russia has enough nukes to end the earth ten times over, and I would wager what remains of their military still has them under control. Or at least I pray they do. If they wanted to take the rest of the world down with them, that’s how to do it. Who is doing this, and why?

The bin bags, as they were called, were not the only spectres raised this evening. The Chedaki have risen from the grave it seems, and a sinister corporation seems to be waiting in the wings doing…something.

But despite all the grave talk. This has been a good day. For the first time, in a long time. I am actually looking forward to something.

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  9    18/4/21

At last, at long last, I have the tetracycline I need, and multi vitamins to boot! The sickness is gone! I thought it was a dud at first, when I took the pills and nothing happened. But several doses later and I noticed the sweating seemed to dry up. Then I realised I had gone for a whole hour without wanting to empty the whole content of my stomach. Pretty soon I wasn’t gasping for a drink every twenty steps! I was hobbling from village to village, pump to pump. Frequently dipping well into my second canteen. Now I can go three villages at a jog before even wanting a sip! Praise be to modern medicine! And to the woman who sold me the pills!

I swear, just being healthy, feels like a super power.

And it’s not just my health I don’t have to worry about. For the first time since coming out of the woods I have enough. I have a small but workable reserve of the all essentials. I even have a sword now! A sword! And it cuts through these things like butter. I don’t have to spend every waking moment scrounging for food water and medicine, turning over every rock! It’s liberating to say the least.

But as I sit here, writing these words, I am reminded of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. My basic physiological needs are now met. To large degree so are my safety needs. Or at least they are as met as they can be for a lone wanderer with no home…

Home, that somewhat cuts to the heart of it. From what little I can piece together I have to confront the fact that the home I was waiting for, is gone. My family, the house I grew up in, my home. They are all gone now. I know it. I saw a teddy  bear today, it looked a lot like the one my sister had as a kid. That… stung.

But self-pity will get me nowhere. I need to build, not wallow in emotional self-indulgence. Now I need friends, I need community. I am reminded of the service. I find myself again thinking that might be the way forward. Perhaps. More immediately I ran into two men, going by the names Jackal and Fox. It was tense for a few moments, I could not quite get a read on them and my suspicions only grew when they asked if I was part of a group. I played it vague, always watching the second man out of the corner of my eye, thinking he was trying to get behind me, hand itching for my gun. But I kept it on my back, where I had put it after they had done the same.

Talking to them they seemed like decent people. I was on guard but slowly relaxed a little more. They spoke of setting up a small organisation, one that did not treat it is members like mere numbers. Certainly I have seen that sort of thing happen too often. But beyond that, they appeared vague. Perhaps they were as cautious and cagy as I was. One of them made mention of an “organisation” which was ominous. But they could have robbed me, and they didn’t. Now I have some separation, and the anxiety is leaving my system I may reach out to them on their radio code. Work together for a bit, when meeting them isn’t a surprise.

Though speaking of surprise, we were interrupted by a car full of men from something called “the bar.” Their spokesman introduced themselves as “Skipper.” Though I may have misheard.  There were now six armed strangers around me and the nerves started creeping back in. But, I recalled father Gregor’s words about doing an act of kindness and expecting nothing in return. So I gave the men from the bar the full jerry can of gasoline I was carrying, refusing any payment. I wonder what will come of it. Probably nothing. But even with that kind gesture the sheer number of strangers with guns was making me uneasy. Had it all been arranged in advance I might have rested a little easier. But chance encounters are more… anxiety inducing. I made my excuses and left.

But I have some contacts, and thank the heavens I have my health again. Let’s see if I can build on this foundation tomorrow. Perhaps, I might actually make a few partners. 

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  10    19/4/21

Today has not been the best of days, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Only two major things occurred today.  First, as I was trekking through the night, I stumbled on a toxic cloud. Initially I thought my eyes were deceiving me, I was far too far south for that. But there it was. I cautiously approached to confirm my findings and… yes. There it was, glowing, green and very gaseous.  But it was at grid 09-05. That’s the Dubrovka region! It seemed like an isolated cloud, but I did not hang around long enough to map its edge. I got to a safe distance and called Sister Leontyna, and later Fox. Asking them to spread the knowledge around, and in particular I hoped the good Sister could pass the information to Leon. He might know what to do with it. If it starts popping up at random, we could all get screwed far faster than any of us realise.

It certainly puts all the petty infighting bullshit into perspective. Speaking of which I almost came a cropper of that. I was flogging off a few petty scraps to the trader up north, freeing up space for the game I sorely needed to hunt. When I was interrupted by 4 armed men, camouflaged, heavily equipped. Most wore blue berets with a red star, several wore sunglasses, and one was even smoking. And they all had thick accents and a bad attitude. Faster than I could blink I was backed up against the railing with several men practically pressing into me. Before I could even open my mouth, one was accusing me of stealing, shortly followed by an allegation of littering. Littering! It was very obvious they just wanted to fucking rob me. They were trying to bate me into doing something stupid. So, despite the fact that every part of me was shaking inside I kept calm, I forced calm. I grinned and talked to them as if everything were normal. They demanded I showed them the contents of my pack, fortunately they didn’t find it very interesting. They claim they took nothing but I noticed some food and medicine was missing. Then they took the piss about my spare knives and that I should learn to share. Fucking thieves teaching me to share! One of them really wanted my sword. But I stalled, claiming I needed it to live. Which I do! It seemed to work, their leader was a little more relaxed than the aggressive shit who loved getting in my face, and he wanted to leave me to my business and move on. Thank Christ they didn’t find the money or the ammo. I don’t have much, but I just know they would have taken it all, and it would be a bitch to replace. I might not even survive the lack of ammo.

Once they were gone the façade fell pretty fast, I sagged to my knees, shaking like a leaf. My breathing instantly turned ragged and short. I kept my nerve when they were about. I was respectful, but not craven. But the moment they were gone I couldn’t hold back the fear. God damn it, and God damn them. Camo, blue beret, red stars. I don’t know who they were. But they were organised and acted like they owned the place. No one from the Chernorussian army would be caught dead with that symbology, and there sure as heck weren’t RF. Oh dear god, did I just run into the Chedaki?   

Edited by Edgeford
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Days since leaving the Cabin –  12    21/4/21

Well, today was certainly interesting. I came a cropper in a damn storm yesterday, slid most of the way down a cliff and shredded much of what I own in the process. It still bloody aches. But I have managed to piece myself back together, more or less. I found a new hat, look a little less like a paramilitary now, which is a good thing. I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, and I must confess I rather like way it looks when I catch a glimpse of myself in some broken mirror. Who would have thought I would ever suit a Stetson?

But that is not the highlight. It seems a lot of people were having a hard time. I ran into Nikoli again down at the trade station on the south coast, traded some ammo and minor pieces of kit. He seems to be doing well for himself. But the day really kicked off when I ran into Eli. He was crawling around the Zelenogorsk army base when I bumped into him, poor bugger was almost naked. I had a spare bit of kit, tossed it his way, escorted him through the base but he only got a few scraps of gear. No food, no water. I know what that’s like. He wasn’t going to last long. So, I resolved to help him just a little more. I was about to take him out to a good spot I know, when we ran into another wandering soul. This one had her act together, a lovely thing by the name of Cassidy. A red cross worker, and a kind spirit who gave me an empty magazine for my rifle without asking for anything in return. I quite embarrassed myself by failing to remember her name, perhaps her Irish lilt was distracting me. I found myself getting quite flustered over my poor memory. What a clod I am. She probably thinks I’m just another bumbling idiot. She did however, mention that she was catholic, which prompted me to mention the services being put on by the good sister. They may be eastern orthodox but I can tell that church is open to all.  Cassidy seemed quite taken by the notion, I do hope she appears. I will keep an eye out for the red armoured, red shawled red head when I go there. She is good people. They could use someone like her.

But alas, I could not spend all day hiding from the rain in a shipping container with her and Eli. When she went her separate way the two of us headed up to Sosnovka, then over to the dam to the holiday camp before scrounging what we could at the military camp to the north. It was clear someone else had already had the same idea. But by the time we were done Eli had better clothes, a canteen, reserve food and a knife. About as good as we could have hoped. I think I may suffer a little from performance anxiety though, my sword work was not at its best and I ended up taking a bit more of a licking than I would were I alone. But it was not all one sided, his sister is a bit of a cook apparently and he was able to pass on what she had taught him about which mushrooms were safe to eat. That little tit bit might just save my life some day. Turns out Eli is a lucky man, a wife and a sister both close, healthy and alive. I hope he realises just how lucky he is. We bumped into another guy by the name of Jacks, who was in much the same state as when I found Eli, wearing almost nothing, no kit… cold. But to my pleasant surprise Eli tossed him some of his own spares he had gathered whilst with me. Father Gregor would be proud, I hope.  

I escorted them all to the safety of Myshkino before parting ways, but I hope I will see them all again. I made sure they all knew about the service. Something tells me that Eli and Cassidy will make it… maybe that’s just the hope talking.  

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Days since leaving the Cabin –  15    24/4/21

When God closes a door, he opens the window. I just wish that window wasn’t a 308 sized hole in Tom’s body. I fucked up and someone took a bullet for it. It had been a good day, I was looking forward to the service, despite the recent troubles on the mountain I was optimistic. I was looking forward to seeing so many people there again. As it turned out, almost no one showed up. I probably shouldn’t have either. Tom might still be in one piece. Fox showed up, with a new friend, Ark. He seemed decent, and Nikoli was there even before I was, talking to the good father. He is a good man, and a rare thing in this world being a pacifist.

I remember the sermon being a decent one but I can’t recall even a single word of it. It has faded into the background like tinnitus of the mind. What was important was Tom, a poor bugger who just came out of a coma, a man who didn’t even know the place names yet, needed help. And I gave it to him. I took him on a route I knew to try and get him some basic functional equipment and get him orientated in the region. We were doing well, until I offered him a choice.
“Do you want to search the next village or skirt it and head to a base near here where we might get you a gun?” He chose to skip the village and go to the base. And that was that.

In the rain I saw a figure shadowing us, moving fast but with a huge pack. I was cautious, he was clearly following us. But he was alone and closing. With the father’s encouragement lingering in my mind, we talked to him. The man was dressed in all black military gear, with a black alice pack, a beard like Santa and a black cowboy hat. He was also armed to the teeth, heavy automatics, RPGs, the works. I immediately knew we needed to get out. I started backing away, making excuses to leave, but he wouldn’t let us go. I knew that if I ran there would be a bullet in my back and Tom was standing his ground. The fucker kept trying to get behind me, another clear warning sign. He refused to stand in front of me and talk. Then the second guy appeared, clearly he had been watching. If I had tried anything to force him to back off, I would have had a bullet in my skull.

Next thing I knew it was hands up or die. He had gotten his gun up first, he had me dead to rights, and Tom didn’t even have ammo. So, I did what any sane man would do, I cooperated. They had me tied up in a jiffy. Took my rifle, my plate carrier, my money some other bits and bobs of kit, ammo. Then Tom, Christ, he had nothing. But he drew, he drew an empty gun to try and bluff the buggers down! What were they going to steal from him? Pocket lint? A flurry of 308 rounds from the other bugger’s M14 and that was that. 

The pair started taunting me about it, the other one was dressed largely in black to, though with a brown scarf like item, and packing serious heat. That giant pack must have been empty because the guy in the cowboy hat just tucked his rifle into it like it was nothing as he scooped up all my gear. They were clearly just there to rob people. But to what end? Ahh who am I kidding, those kinds of guys don’t need reasons or ends, at least the Chedaki have a cause, loathe them as I may. But these guys were doing it for kicks and a power trip. They asked me questions about nearby groups, I told them what I knew, which wasn’t a lot. Little more than their names. They thought I was holding back, tore of my boots, started going on about chopping bits of my feet off. Turns out their version of local is different to mine, so I blurted a few more groups, that was about it.

They took a few moments to rub the theft in my face, and talk about how generous they were being, before running off and insisting I go back the way I came, still rubbing Tom in my face, mocking him before he was even cold. When they left, I checked his body, but I couldn’t find a pulse. I am not a doctor, maybe I am wrong. I hope I am.

But I couldn’t hang around for long to find out. Those bastards were probably watching me through the scope of my own god damn rifle!

I heard shots back the way I had come from, normally I would shy away from that. But given the dire situation, I headed straight to it. To warn whoever it was of the bandits. It was a fellow named Dima and I did not deport myself well, I was a nervous bloody wreck. Bumbling and babbling, telling him about the danger to the west. To his credit, and my good fortune, he took mercy on me, and guided me to the square in Cherno, where a group named SPERO has apparently set up shop. Whilst there I ran into Leon, and Callaghan from the Lost Highway. God bless Leon, he knew just what to do, got ready to spread the word, caution others. He was practical, collected, said I could set up near his base, that poor fucker has had it worse than I had, but he held up better than I did. I need to be better, calmer, more in control. This is not good enough. What use am I to anyone like this?

Callaghan for his part, game me my first ever cigarette! I would have preferred a drink but in that situation I would have grabbed for any kind of relief, just something to do with my nervous hands. He’s a decent chap as well. But stuff got, interesting, later. I bumped into a fellow named Alkis, a hardened realist and nihilist he was none the less sensible and civil enough, even if he did seem to relish in his reputation a little. He was constructive, directing me to the future, rather than the past, trying to get me to focus on how I could use my pre war financial flare, to help here, in this post collapse hell hole. He underestimated the specificity of my skills a little, but his heart was in the right place, and it has given me some ideas.

Then there was Josef, I am not sure yet if he is going to be a friend, a devil, or both. The man is, or was, local organised crime. Practically boasts about it. The only reason I use the past tenses is there is no law to call him a criminal, his behaviour certainly seems no different. But he at least seems to have a code about him, and knows that unnecessary violence is bad for business. Plus, he seems pretty sure that the guys who robbed me were Chechen, and he hates Chechens. That’s good. He is busy setting up a club, dealing in everything, from drink, to drugs, to flesh, and he’s a smooth talker to boot. I rather took a shine to him, and I have to admit, his pitch appeals to the free marketeer in me. I was a little off put by how eager he was to call me one of his own though, even though I expressly rejected joining him at that time. He may have said it with a smile, but his reluctance to take no for an answer was… off putting. Still though, he made a good impression, perhaps a little too good. Before I knew it, he was talking me into some very suspect things. Drink, drugs and girls I can turn a blind eye to, so long as everything is voluntary and fair. But there was a darker undercurrent to it all. That was when Nikoli showed back up, and thank God he did. Just his presence was a short, sharp shock to my moral conscious.

As I said, close a door, open a window. If Tom had not been shot, I might never have met these people. Never received an invitation to work for Josef, or to live near the Lost Highway. It’s a shame though, that the price of it is measured in 308.


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Days since leaving the Cabin –  22    1/5/21

This was not a good day, it might not be my worst day, but it was far… far from my best. It started with my first failed attempt to reach out a hand, to do something useful in this ash heap of a world. I went to the SPERO compound, and the Lost Highway, no one. Then came mass, or what should have been mass. No one showed up, not father Gregor, not any of the congregation, no one. Is he dead? Are they all dead? Perhaps. A man named Woody, from the bar, stumbled into the church as I waited. He knew nothing about what was going on, save for the fact that the Duke apparently got his head chopped off by the Chedaki. If that is the case the whole Duchy is likely in disarray, no wonder there was no service.

But I was not deterred yet, though going by what happened later that day I doubt I will be able to look Woody in the eye next time I see him. I tried to find the Duchy, to enquire after the good father, to see if there was anything I could do, to help. Nothing… no one.

I then turned south, heading back to the Lost Highway and SPERO. The only thing I found was an old Bell Huey circling overhead, clearly looking for any sign of activity in either location, before it eventually landed right by the Lost Highway, rotors never spinning down. I could not see what was happening on the ground. But judging by the fact the engine never slowed, and it was gone a short while later, but stayed on the ground a little too long for a passenger drop off, it was a smash and grab raid. The poor fuckers. Poor Leon.

No one was around in the aftermath, so I turned north again, making for the bar where there were some people according to Woody. After slogging through the storm there were a few good moments. Barbara was there, a very good woman who I have met before… Barbara, and a new fellow named Wolf, ex-army and a decent chap it seems. His friendliness when I entered the bar, running right up to me, put me on edge for a few moments, but that swiftly went away.

Sadly, Tom was not there, it has been a week and I still can’t find him. I had hoped he would show up at one of the three centres by now, or at the mass, but nothing. We were however, joined by a very nervous man by the name of Nicholas, who has apparently just escaped slavery. He was asking a lot of very specific questions about group size, near by bases, and he was shifting around a lot, never standing still. I was not entirely sure I trusted him, though he seemed to get a little more relaxed and press for less information as time went on.

Then shit went south. A vehicle went by the bar’s northern wall, a guy was standing on it so his head could poke over the wall, a quick recon. Then the doors flew open, about five or six heavily armed men strolled in, confident, weapons drawn, the seeming leader in a Ghillie suit. These didn’t look like bar people, Barbara didn’t know them and they sure as hell didn’t look friendly. Wolf went to talk to them, but I knew a shake down when I saw it and better than even odds they were Chedaki. I ran, I literally said “fuck it” out loud and ran. They must not have noticed me slip into the side path, by the time they saw me I was out of the southern gate and moving hard. One figure, the least armed of all of them, dressed in black, seemed to be running after me when I looked over my shoulder as I belted across the fields. But he couldn’t catch up. I heard one, maybe supressed, shot from the town… an execution? It sure as hell sounded like it. Jesus, I abandoned Barbara to that! She is a good person, sweet and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She herself said her strategy was to run, hide or agree if captured. But I don’t think she got away and I don’t have the excuse of being an unarmed gardener. Part of me knows I should have stayed. But part of me knows it would be pointless. I would be robbed, maybe shot, maybe dead. But worse off than I am now, and I wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference.

I know running was the smart thing to do… but God do I feel like shit for it. I feel almost as bad as when I had cholera, I want to cry and vomit. I tried again and again today to find some way to team up with people, to help, to make a positive difference. But every avenue was shut down… a ghost town. As it has been for days! And in only my second decent human contact since the aftermath of Tom getting shot,  that might lead to something, out come the guns again with no prospect of victory.

Am I only good for getting robbed, getting other people shot and running away? Why did I come out of the woods? What did I hope to do, to achieve? What am I good for? Perhaps if I hiked out of South Zagoria? But what would that achieve? Would it be the same shit, different place? What am I for in this world? What am I doing? Shit… I’m sorry.  I’m sorry Barbara, Tom, everyone… I’m sorry. But sorry Isn’t good enough.

Edited by Edgeford
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Days since leaving the Cabin –  24    3/5/21

I went North, looking for Tom as he described over the radio. But I overshot, now he is to the south of me, and in a very, very dangerous spot. I tried finding that doctor he mentioned but there was no one. No one. But what was I expecting? South Zagoria belongs to the Chedaki, for now at least. Them, their lickspittle, and a few other random bandits. That’s all that’s left. They are the only people who seem organised anymore, the only people with decent numbers, the only game in town. And they leave nothing behind that they cannot take for themselves. You know for the first time in a long time, I was actually afraid of one of the infected today. Not because it was a shambling monster, but because for a split second I thought it was a man. Men are far more terrifying, and I cannot bear to face random strangers anymore, because odds are I will just come out of it robbed and with a bullet in me. At one point there was gunfire not far from me. Just one gun, just one man, doubtless attacking the infected. But I was so terrified of that one man I spent the whole night crawling on my belly across an open field I could not avoid, so he wouldn’t find me. Because chance encounters with men in the middle of looting end in robberies. As do chance encounters with almost any group of people when they aren't expecting company. 

What is there left? What can I do? I try to find SPERO, there is no one at home and bandits lurking around their base. I go to the Lost Highway, I stumble on a robbery in progress. I look for the Duchy, ghosts. If I go near Green Mountain I know I will be robbed. If I go near the bar I know the Chedaki will be there. I know the transporters are not to be trusted. There is nothing left, the Chedaki have destroyed it all, and for what?  

Even a cabin in the woods scares me now, it must be a trap, it must be a Chedaki hideout. They are all there, just waiting for me to stumble in and get my head blown off.

I have the essentials, and enough ammunition to see me through for a long time if I avoid fire fights. Perhaps it is time for me to leave. To melt into the woods again and head west. It will have its risks of course. It could just be the same shit, different place. But I doubt there are many places with a force as dominant and needlessly cruel as the Chedaki with no one to oppose them. People who destroy just to destroy. People who rob just to rob, people who piss in your face just to laugh. Until they are gone, there is nothing left in South Zagoria… nothing to reach out to.

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