Erik usually kept to himself, living in a small cabin by the woods near Olsha – he learned during the last years that small, secluded places attracted less infected, and they weren’t as sought after by bandits as well, making Olsha a relatively safe and preserved town. His place wasn’t very fancy, but he made sure to make it warm and cozy and stock whatever was necessary for survival. The only luxuries he allowed himself to have were some old books and a couple of bottles of liquor; the last, saved for colder or more stressful days.
Supplies from the old days became rarer to find with each passing day, increasing the need for longer and longer journeys into nearby cities. so Erik tried to make these trips more sparse, to minimize risk. Every time he decided to leave for a search made him anxious, with a dry mouth and sweaty palms. Before each trip, he would ritually sit at the table to check and reload the handgun over and over again before putting it inside his jacket, examine the edge of the small knife, and make a quick prayer, sometimes wondering if anyone was really listening. Then he would stretch, drink a small sip of liquor, pick up his backpack and exit, vapor leaving from his breath due to the cold.
Today was no different. His stock of food was running low, and he wanted to see if he could find some cans of bacon or beans – finding any of those would ensure a true banquet, and it has been a while since he had any of those. Even though he hated to search more populated cities, since it aggregates a much higher risk, he absolutely needed more ammunition and alcohol – things you almost can’t find these days in smaller towns. He had to go to Svetlojarsk. The rewards were well worth the risk.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck! What the hell was I thinking coming here?”
Those words kept repeating themselves in a loop inside the man’s mind, while he ran for his life on the streets of Svetlojarsk. He was chased by three hungry infected, each more decrepit than the other. His shirt had huge bloodstains near his neck, and many minor scratches were evident on his face and arms. Erik’s face was livid with fear, but his movements were fast and efficient – years of encounters with the infected would teach him to be nimble. Using fences and trashcans as obstacles for his pursuers, he kept increasing the distance between them, while thinking desperately of a way to escape from certain death.
It all had happened because of a lapse of attention. Erik blamed his state of satisfaction after finding a full – and sealed – bottle of bourbon, golden label, clearly saved for a special occasion, inside a small house near the docks. After staring at it mesmerized for a couple of moments, holding it in his hands, he opened it reverently and smelled the wooden scent that emanated from the bottle of whiskey. Smiling like a mischievous child, he saved it in his backpack, and opened the door of the old house he was in, to continue his search. What he would too late realize was that the hinges of the door were in terrible shape, deteriorated by the time and weather. Pulling the knob, he just had time to evade from the falling wooden structure, that would loudly be destroyed after contact with the floor. The noise immediately attracted the attention of nearby infected, which immediatly began sprinting towards the now startled man. He managed to evade the first attack of the closest pursuer, and started to flee to the east, but was injured in his way by the claws of a woman with signs of advanced putrefaction. Despite his small injuries, he manage to sidestep her second attack, and regained his momentum to continue running. Noticing his imminent escape, she lunged towards Erik, grabbing his backpack and scratching his neck. Thinking quickly, he managed to get rid of his jacket and backpack, making his attacker fall on the road with his gear on her grasp. While sprinting, his mind was desperately evaluating possible escape routes, most of them unlikely to succeed. His best chance of survival would be to lose his pursuers in the forest between Svetlojarsk and Berezhki. Luckily, he knew that region very well by now, and though they were fast, his pursuers weren’t very smart.
After 20 minutes of running between trees and climbing among the rocks, he managed to find a crevice in a large rock near the coast. He would stay there for what would seem an eternity and hope he was no longer being followed. The sun went down and the stars were starting to timidly show up in the sky when he left his hiding place. The echo of gunshots probably caught the attention of the infected during the chase, since he couldn’t hear or see anyone nearby. Walking towards the coast, he would finally have time to breathe and assess his current situation, he thought.
He didn’t realize before how cold it was. Sitting down by the rocks on the coast, looking to the horizon, Erik’s arms were crossed, and he was visibly shaking. He was freezing and thirsty. All that sprinting had taken its toll, after all, making him sweat and dehydrate. His jacket and his supplies were all gone, including food and drink. The weapons he had were in his jacket, so he had no way to defend himself. Also, night was approaching, and he would need to find shelter soon if he were to survive. These thoughts made his eyes sadly wander to the distant sea. He sighed, lamenting the loss of the bottle of whiskey. “My only hope is to head to Berezhki, now”. A place he avoided for years.