We've been camped out all night, about a hundred miles from the nursing home. We decided where we were headed, though just to be safe I won't be telling you more than that until we get there. I wasn't going to use the charge on my laptop to post anything today, but on our way out of the town we were staying in, we came across something that made every one of us stop dead in our tracks.
It was a pit. Not very old, almost certainly dug after The Fall, the edges of it barely eroded from the weather. The sides were almost vertical, and the backhoe that made the pit was still in the bottom of it. At least ten feet deep and thirty across, that hole in the ground was strange enough a sight to make us stop and take a peek at it.
Inside, half obscured by melting ice and slush, were bodies. Most of them were so ravaged by the weather that it was almost impossible to tell anything about who those people must have been. There were a lot of them, we estimate more than a hundred. At first we thought it must have been the dumping ground for the zombies killed by the locals--after all, it's outside of town (in the direction we didn't come by, which is why we missed it the first time) but after that initial shock we realized that it was pretty unlikely.
After all, part of why we stayed in that little town was because so much stuff had been left behind. The people that lived there left very, very quickly, and that means that it isn't likely enough people stayed behind to kill enough zombies to necessitate a hole that big.
After we searched around that area for a few minutes, we came across a body in a car, the occupant having shot himself in the head quite some time before. There was a note, and I'll give you the gist of it since none of us wanted to bring it along, for reasons that may become clear.
It wasn't a typical suicide note. The man who wrote it, the one who shot himself in his car, had been the administrator of the nursing home we had been staying at. He said in it that while some people had come to take their elderly relatives to the supposed safety of the bigger cities, most hadn't. When his staff left and there were so many left to be cared for, zombies prowling constantly...he made a choice.
He described in great detail the steps he took to end the lives of every single person under his care. He was the last one, a single man with no family and no staff left to do the work. He poisoned the residents of his facility, dug the hole here, and filled it with their bodies. He begged forgiveness for his acts. I don't know who he was asking, but I'm certainly not the one to give it to him.
I thought I had seen enough terrible things that I could no longer be surprised by my reactions. I was wrong. To know that this man methodically worked his way through the building, killing helpless people one after another makes my skin crawl. It doesn't help that part of me understands and in some tiny way almost too small to be called real, agrees with his action. I don't think I could have done it myself, but truly take a look at his situation.
He cared for them for a week entirely on his own. It became clear to him that there was simply no way to keep them alive in the short term without help, and virtually no way at all to do it in the long term is society didn't immediately rebound from the zombie plague. He had to leave most of them covered in their own filth just to get any food or water in them for the day. He barely slept, and trying to keep the zombies away was taking its toll on him.
Rather than let them suffer and die from dehydration or the horror of being savaged by a zombie and then coming back to do the same to the others, he made the deliberate choice to end their lives. A brief flare of pain before falling into peace forever. Taking his own life, he had written in his note, was the only choice he had left.
It's brutal. Terrible. And after all this time struggling to survive, forcing ourselves to become observant and aware so that we stay alive, we never thought about this. We never considered the lack of elderly people or the mentally handicapped. Hell, we rarely see anyone who even has a limp.
How many times has this scenario played out over the last nine months? The weak and injured, old and disabled...how many pits are there around the world just like that one?
I don't know. It's too much.
We'll be on our way shortly.