Time. I don’t have it. Time to think, time to drink, time to cry, nothing. The dense, claggy air engulfs me, each shallow breath filling my lungs; weighing them down with the putrid stench of decaying flesh, causing me to wretch. Each step becomes more difficult in navigating past the motionless corpses that lay festering in ghoulish distortions on the moist soil of the forest. They are everywhere now. The relentless drone of the carbines and the deafening projection of anti-aircraft guns persists like a nagging child, triggering a profuse pounding in the back of my skull. Sweat begins to seep out of my pores, as I attempt to make it to make it to somewhere off grid before nightfall; my heart, like a caged gorilla, is banging on the walls to get out. Breaking into a jog, I can sense the blood diffusing through my socks whilst my feet grind against the wall of my standard issue steel footed combat boots, grating the skin at every point of contact. My neck is forced almost to breaking point with each swift turn I make to ensure that I’m not being followed. A player in a life-size video game is what they look at it as if to justify their destruction, so I play along, pretending that it is all just one big game and that I will win. Though this is no joke, this is no game, this is real life, my life that has been aimlessly torn away from me; I have the scars to prove it. But I suppose you do anything to survive, escape, that’s to say if you could, but there is no victor here.
As the morbid black of the night sky finally comes closing in, I can’t help but think about how it was before, the various ways I’ve changed. ‘Suspect everyone, trust no one’ - that’s the motto I now exist by. What we are forced to do now can no longer be classified as living, and hasn’t in my book for a long time. I don’t think I will ever really ‘live’ again; like a disaster movie on loop I replay everything over and over again in my mind. That’s something that you can never leave behind: the wounds of memory, the impact of witnessing life being snatched away just like that. The wailing of the wind in my ears causes my eyes to water as the sound of crunching autumn leaves occasionally merges with that of crushing bones beneath me. The remains of bony armed trees amongst the otherwise barren land stretch out towards me, yet provide the only sense of direction I have. October 4th 2080, that’s when he said he would meet me, before we got separated and I intend to be there.
Original image by Annabelle Shipton