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A beam of sunlight falls across my face, spearing into my eyes, jarring me awake...the bat falls to the floor with a clatter as I shift, having forgotten it was there. I'm groggy, exhausted, aching all over, arm afire and inflamed where I was bitten by the golden retriever. In the background the radio and TV are once more static.
I slept poorly, waking up multiple times during the night, as the screams of the infected split the night. Several times I heard infected outside the house, on the porch, in the backyard...during those times, I didn't even breath for fear of them hearing me, but I haven't heard anything for over 2 hours now and I'd managed to fall into a fitful doze.
I move like a corpse, stiff and sore, as I get up and head into the kitchen to make a quick breakfast. I cook up some eggs and bacon, making sure that I don't bang the pans around to much, and once the food is done cooking, I leave the pans on the stove, and eat. No need to clean up, I don't suspect that I'll be back here once the morning is done.
After eating I grab the bat and head into the bathroom for a shower, hopefully a hot shower will get rid of the kinks and soreness. I let the shower heat up, so much so, that once I'm done, the room is full of steam, misting the mirrors and windows and making the towel slightly damp. I brush my teeth, shampoo my hair, and stay in so long that I'm turning into a prune when the hot water starts going cold.
My bite wound from yesterday's dog attack is still oozing pus, so I grab the rest of the bottle of whisky, and slowly pour it into the hound, biting my lip so hard that it starts bleeding. The pain in unbelievable, unlike any sort of bite that I'd ever suffered. It doesn't make sense, I've been bit by animals of all kinds, dozens of times, with nothing like this.
Once the bottle is empty, I rinse off in the cold water, grab my bat and change into a fresh pair of clothes, underwear, jeans, work boots, thick socks, a Dram Full shirt, flannel overshirt, sunglasses, backpack. Bottles of water, fresh bandages, some candy bars and then as I am packing I find myself wandering around the house aimlessly....picking things up, just to put them down a couple of seconds later. I realize I've been doing this for the last 10 minutes and it strikes me that I'm scared. I'm in fact terrified. I want to crawl up into a ball and call an adult, someone older and wiser to come and deal with all the bad guys, the monsters, for me.
But I'm by myself right now. No one is here to turn on the lights and make everything all right...
I grab a photo of my family, then look around for a couple more, find them, toss them into my backpack, the phone charger for the now dead phone, toss that into the backpack, look around the kitchen for the biggest and sharpest knife I can find, and then, finally loaded up, look around.
I write a note to my family, letting them know where I've gone, that I'm alright, but have gone on in search of Squidgy, that I've headed to Niska's house. If Squidgy for some reason returns, she's to stay there if it's at all safe to do so.
In the background the radio is going, and in between bursts of static, an announcer states that there's been an evacuation declared for Perth. Martial law has been declared. Sydney and Darwin have been written off. The announcer warns that some of the infected, once killed, come back. She then starts to explain on how to kill the infected so that they stay "dead" but her explanation is lost to the static.
I'm stalling, I need to leave or risk not leaving at all, the later it becomes the more the chance of me being caught out after dark when the infected are more active. I look around the house on more time....the scene of so many memories since I moved to Australia, good ones and bad ones, and realize that there's a good chance that I'll never see this house again, never see this room again.
I feel myself tearing up as I head out the front door, locking it firmly behind me. I likely won't be back, but if I am able to, I hope to find the house in one piece. And I go.
At first I slowly walk down the street, glancing around to ensure that no infected are in the area, but every time I look, I happen to glance back to our house, which seems to be starring at me and soon I'm running, heedless of noise as I try to escape my house, my sanctuary, which is beckoning me to stay.
Niska, my adopted brother, lives about 12 miles away, normally a good walk, but nothing beyond a couple of hours at a good pace. The sun is shining, but the birds are quiet, the air is still, humid, it feels like there is a storm coming.....
I get a couple of blocks away from my house without incident and slow down, puffing, out of breath. I need to think straight, I cant lose my head, which is just what I did. If I do, I'm sure to die. I go back to climbing back yard fences as quickly as I can, making my way to my brother's house. But after yesterday I'm more cautious, pausing before I crest the fence to scan and listen...
Far in the distance I hear crackles....rumbles....pops.....gunfire, from the city....and as I get ready to crest yet another fence I hear a scream, a rage filled scream. Running towards me from behind the bushes in the backyard is an infected, face covered in blood....I drop back down and run...heading further into the development, away from my destination, as I hear a thump as the infected man.
I hear another scream from the opposite end of the street and turn in horror to see a heavyset woman, top covered in blood, run out from an open door, and then right behind her, three children, all covered in blood, one dragging it's left leg. They freeze, then spot me, and screaming, give chase.
I run, as fast as I can, hearing more screams from the infected, echoing out behind me....they're calling to other infected I think as I see two more infected give chase, a tall thin man who has strings of saliva flying out of his mouth and a pretty woman, with wild hear and bloody teeth.
I need to get off the streets and I need to get off now!
I bolt, ducking down side lanes, jumping a fence and then another fence...heart pounding in my ears as my lungs burn, but if I slow down, I die...I know this down to my toes...I hear more screams behind me, and then more screams as new infected respond.....
Run bitch, run!
More fences jumped, ducking down alleyways, the screams grow fainter steadily and I start to get back on track to Niska's house, but I have to slow down. I try and take shallow breaths so that I can hear any possible infected in the area and once I jump this fence, I take my bat and tie it to my backpack, grabbing out the kitchen knife...It's smaller and less bulky so hopefully if I need to I can run faster. Plus in these tight alleyways I don't have as much room to swing a bat as I'd like, the knife will work better this way.
I limp out the back gate of this yard, thank you jesus for yards with gates, I think as I head out the wooden door, only to run right into an infected boy.
About 13 years old it stops in dead surprise as I stumble against the fence and then I bring my knife up, slashing at it's face, cutting it's cheek and then stabbing it it repeatedly, straddling it as I thrust the knife into his chest until he stops moving.
Blood spurts everywhere, drenching my face, and I fall back against the fence trying to catch my breath...I'm exhausted and terrified....please god don't let any of those other infected hear me or my struggle I think to myself as as I watch the blood pour from the dead infected, watching the body go pale. I need to get to Niska's and I need to get there as quickly as I possibly can.
I stand up. grabbing my backpack and knife and as I turn the corner into the next yard I hear a faint gasp and then a snarl....I jerk around in time to see the dead boy climb to his feet, lips pulling back in a snarl as he moves towards me...
I killed him, and he's gotten back up....what the fuck....I turn and run.
There's a McDonalds along to Niska's house and as I quietly pass it, I hear crashes from inside the building and then swearing. I crawl into the bushes about 50 yards away and then wait a couple minutes before I make a decision.
There's people in there, uninfected people, this might just be what I was looking for, someone to help me!
I move to head into the restaurant, to let the people inside know that there's another human near by, maybe we can help one another, when I hear another scream of the infected and then another as they start appearing from the houses near by, streaming into the McDonald's, crashing through the windows and then more screams echo in the surrounding area as the swearing is cut off, into screams of fear and then pain and then....it's quiet....
I shudder and hurry on towards Niska's...I'm almost there, there's a couple of what would in normal times be busy shopping centers the last couple miles to his house, but I decide to take the back streets, the alleyways, I'm sure there will infected crawling all over the shopping centers. I make my way through the back alleys quietly, taking my time, pausing at each intersection, to wait, listen, sense....the sun is getting lower in the sky and I'm getting ready to cross one of the last alleyways to my brothers house when I freeze, and then retreat into the shadows as an infected man comes out from behind a car, and then after a minute of sniffing the air, heads the other way....
I'm almost to Niska's, hopefully Squidgy and Niska are home, are safe, and we can see about getting the fuck to the evacuation center....I turn the corner onto his street and there's his car!
I trot quickly towards his house and as I turn into the alcove of his house I hear a noise.
It's a voice!? A human voice!
"Ash....is that you?"
I freeze "Who's there?" I quietly hiss...
"It's Sam" I hear quietly in return as my buddy peeks around the corner of the house leading into the back yard of Niska.
I run to my buddy, throwing my arms around him in a bear hug, and then we stop, look at one another, and then "what the fuck's going on!?"
We head into his backyard and I pull out a key to house from my pocket and unlock the back door.
The aroma of cigar smoke immediately hits my nose, and Sam and myself both quietly call out, asking if Squidgy or Niska are there, but it's immediately clear that they aren't. The house feels abandoned, and I can see there's a glass of beer on the table along with some pasta starting to grow mold.
Sam and I quickly pull the curtains shut for all the windows, barricade the doors with the kitchen chairs and then sit down.
Sam looks pretty beat up, with scrapes up and down his face, one of the knees out on his jeans and his signature red hat has never looked worse, stained and tatter, and more a rag then a fedora. We find a note from Niska and Squidgy, saying that they'd gone into the city, to my brother and sister in laws...to Sully and Gecko's house, in order for the family to be evacuated together...that they'd stayed as long as they could, but that the infected were starting to become interested in the house...
We stink and with this information in my mind, running on repeat we rinse off the worst of our wounds, taking turns standing watch, our blood, and the blood of my dead infected running down the drain as we catch up on what's happened to one another over the last few days....I'd found Sam's car at Mane Liquor, with blood stains on the driver side door.
He tells me that he'd pulled in to meet up with his friend Denise Brazil in order to pick up some beer and whisky at roughly the time everything in Perth went to shit....so around the time I'd arrived at Cellarbrations Carlisle, or a little bit afterwards....He'd been immediately set upon by a blood covered infected Josh Daley, one of the owners of Mane.
As Josh had slammed into the driver's side door trying to get at Sam, Sam had escaped via the passenger door, running through Mane Liquor via the front door and escaping out the back. He had managed to escape into a near by restaurant where his friend, Denise, picked him up.
He'd managed to get back home safely, only to discover that his wife Talitha was trapped in the city...he'd come to Niska's after a day of trying to reach his wife, so that they could carpool into the city, to hunt for her and get her to the evacuation spot, only to discover the house empty....he'd sadly had to make his way to Niska's the same way I had, by foot, trying to avoid detection. The last time he'd seen Denise she'd been rushing back home to her family, he knew nothing more of her whereabouts after that.
He'd grabbed a machete from his shed before making the trek, and I could see that it was sharpened to a razor sheen, but even with all of that, he'd had a hard time of it...
We can see the sun slowly setting peeking through the gaps of the curtains, and can see the infected start to come out and move, up and down the street. We very quietly retreat back into the living room after grabbing some candles and a few lighters in Niska's room.
There's no food in the house, it being Niska's and he believing that man can live on whisky and cigars alone, but there's plenty of great whisky and fantastic cigars...
Sam and I are quiet as we sit down, lost in our own worries, worries that so closely mirror one anothers, the fear of our family, in danger, of having no idea on where they are. The power's still on so I plug my phone into the charger and attempt to dial Squidgy's number, but there's nothing but a busy signal. I then offer the phone to Sam, where he attempts to call his wife, with the same sad, disappointing results.
We both look at one another in frustration....hungry, frustrated, frightened, stressed, confused, we turn on the tv, and put it on the lowest volume where we can still hear anything...and then I go to Niska's whisky cabinet and grab a bottle for us to drink the night through.
Highland Park 40 year old.
The bottle catches my eye due to the fact that myself and Squidgy had bought the bottle for Niska's birthday....we'd planned on opening it together for our birthdays, Niska's, Squidgy's and my birthday's all being within a month together...it was going to be a great night....
Except the infected came and nothing happened...
And so tonight Sam and I crack the bottle, grabbing a couple of glencairns on the way back from the cabinet and pouring monster pours and then grabbing a cigar from one of Niska's many humidors, a Partagas D4, one of my favorite cigars. Sam only raise an eyebrow at me, seeing as he doesnt smoke at all, and then I light up, and try to lose myself in my whisky.
The aroma is stunning, one of the best noses, if not the best nose I've ever had, come off of a whisky. Stunning, complex, aged but youthful, and fucking beautiful.
Soft smoke in the background, typical Highland Park honey and heather, cut grass, sultanas, figs, plums, raspberries, sherry, salt, smoke, cinnamon, nutmeg, dark chocolate and more come through....
Stunning, complex as can be, and absolutely stunning....Sam and I actually look up at one another in amazement....I'm left thinking of an old quote I had heard somewhere, in a time long ago, on an earth with no infected, that in the midst of death we are in life and this whisky fits that quote.
Sam and I just sit there quietly as the tv plays in the background, right now it's static with flashes of a person through the fuzz, but nothing useful.
After 20 or 25 minutes I decide to take a sip, and once more I'm blown away.
Soft smoke, heather, honey, aged toasted oak, dried fruit, raisins, spices, toffee, chocolate, oranges and orange peel, everything is in balance.
And the finish is subtle, lasting minutes after my last sip, but not dominating my palate, with the oak, and a little saltiness coming through.
Sam and I sit there for a while, drinking this lovely whisky and then I speak,
"I'm going into Perth tomorrow...I need to find Squidgy and Niska, I need to make sure that my family is ok"
"That's ok, if you don't mind I'll come with you. I need to find Talitha, make sure she's safe...."
I can see that we're both stressing, dreading the following day...we need to head into the city, the main city, the capitol, the place where the infected are most likely to be and we know it will be dangerous....
We sit there in the dark, tv flickering on the walls behind us, as we hear the screams of the infected outside shattering the night, and drink our whisky, and this whisky which should be one of the greatest things we have ever tasted, doesn't comfort us at all.....