Friday, July 15, 2011

Hunger Pains

This morning I walked house to house, trying to get an accurate count of the number of people left in the compound. I wish I could tell you that I got that job done.

In the southeast corner, there is a section of wall that has several small houses built right next to it. "Houses" may be too generous a term, as they were built quick and dirty by my brother when our original population began to overflow from the homes in this neighborhood.

They're small things, the largest only about twenty feet on a side. I hadn't been there in a long time, but I knew that there were people living in them because we're over capacity for living space.

I talked to several people and took their information for my census. At the fifth of these houses, I got no answer. That shouldn't have alarmed me, but something was out of place to me. The door was locked, which was very odd. There was a faint metallic scent in the air.

I broke the lock and went in. The house was only two rooms, divided by a thin wall made of plywood and curtains. In the main room was a dead man, head impaled on a long steel nail driven through a scrap piece of wood. There were bite marks on his arms. The bites looked human.

In the second room were three dead children with their skulls caved in. I could see the filmy eyes and vacant expression that is the hallmark of the undead on one of their faces. Only one had a face left to see.

The worst part was that the bodies of the children were so ragged and thin that I had to imagine that starvation killed them. It wouldn't have been obvious to a casual observer, as the kids wore baggy clothing that helped hide their condition, but I wasn't casually observing. I was looking at their frail, thin bodies to learn what had happened to them. It wasn't hard to figure out.

My guess is that all three of this man't children had been starving themselves by giving most of their food to their dad. Too many of our young have done this, and I hate myself for not investigating further before now. One of them must have caught some virus or something, and with their immune system weakened by malnutrition, died in their sleep. I'm guessing the oldest one, a girl of about twelve, only because she didn't have any bites on her but the other two kids did. She likely attacked them in their sleep and killed them quickly.

The scene must have been unimaginably terrible. The man, whose name I can't seem to learn from anyone, wakes up to his children moving into the main room. He only realizes what's wrong when they attack him, and he does the only thing possible: he defends himself. The wounds on his arms looked defensive to me, anyway. I'm not an ideal investigator, but I think it's pretty logical.

He had to kill his own flesh and blood to try to save himself, driving them back into their room and bludgeoning them to death. He knew his time was short, as he'd been bitten many times and the bites nearly always kill. He took the only option left, and drove his head right onto that nail, piercing his brain to make certain he wouldn't come back.

I can't imagine the heartache he endured as he took his own life. After having to do such awful things to his own children, I doubt anyone would have the will to live. I wonder how this post would differ if he hadn't been bitten.

In the end, it was almost lucky he was. It saved him the choice of living with the pain or dying alone.

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