Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Remnant

After a long morning of meetings yesterday morning, I went out with Dave on a long scouting trip to look for materials for his proposed second wall. One of the perks of sending out so many people to hunt for food is that we're getting tons of reports of useful stuff being found. It doesn't hurt that the constant traffic away from the compound means easy travel as our people clear more and more of the roads. 

Our trip took us southwest, farther that direction than most of us have been since The Fall. Kentucky has a lot of towns tucked away so well they're almost impossible to see, and with grass everywhere growing unchecked, it's possible to miss entire roads. Luckily, some of our scouts are from Elizabethtown, and that's the direction we went. 

I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that I could kiss whoever it was in state government that requested some of the ethanol vehicles be trucks. The one we drove in had blessed air conditioning and a functional CD player, so I got to listen to music. That's a rarity for us. Granted, it was my brother's music, but I'll take what I can get. 

The trailer we were hauling behind us had some spare gas loaded on it, just in case we had to detour or make a run for it. Our goal was to get to a smallish town about ten miles short of E-town where our scouts and hunters had marked a large construction contractor's yard as a possible source of materials. 

Long story short, it was. The place was simply huge. I guess the company that used it did a lot of business, because Dave was like a kid in a candy store. We found steel forms to use for the wall, though only two sets of them, enough to do about twenty feet at a time. There was a lot of stuff there, but much was missing. Must have been several jobs going on when The Fall came. 

Best of all, they had their own diesel fuel on site. Nice portable hand pump hooked up to a rolling tank. About half full, and the thing could hold five hundred gallons. I didn't ask how much weight we could haul in the truck, and Dave was suspiciously tight-lipped about it. 

Since the tip had worked in our favor, Dave and I prowled the town in an attempt to find more diesel fuel. We're never without a trusty siphon. 

It was about twenty minutes into our search when we came across a zombie. The lack of them wasn't surprising, since most places empty of people also tend toward low populations of the undead. No, what caught me off guard was that the thing was standing in one spot, staring at a mural on the side of a wall. 

The paint was chipped and faded, the image old long before the zombie apocalypse hit us. It was of two children playing on a swingset, one pushing the other. Both of them were smiling, happy. I think it was an old advertisement. 

Dave and I watched for a minute, unseen as we'd ducked behind a hedge. Being on foot was dangerous, but we drew less attention that way. The zombie occasionally cocked his head to a different angle, then back. After two minutes, we were ready to leave. That was when the zombie did something strange. 

It bent at the knees and put its hands out, and mimed pushing, never looking away from the mural. I heard it let out a low keening sound, a sound so forlorn, so human, that it brought tears to my eyes.

We run into zombies sometimes that do things like this, and it never fails to remind me of the harsh reality that these were once people. Some of them almost seem to remember that existence. It doesn't make it us hesitate to kill them, but it makes it harder on us to do it. These occasional remnants always seem to catch us off guard. No matter what they do to us, the hurt is fresh each time. 

Dave and I left it alone. What use in killing it? Its existence might be terrible for us to comprehend, but it clearly wasn't threatening anyone. Why risk ourselves to kill a being that was so obviously saddened by the vague sense of what it had lost, yet took solace in the old pictures that reminded it of that life? Right or wrong, I leave it for you to judge. 

For us, it seemed too cruel. 

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