“And then there were three…” – Nick was dead.
No-one had seen where the shot had come from, nor even heard it despite only being a few hundred yards from the little town… but we were low to the ground and scared. “I’ve been shot…” were his last words, and the sparse shrubbery we had been using as cover from the zombies shambling around the outskirts of the town felt little protection from a sniper-rifle round. Even in the dead of night, we felt exposed and naked. No-one said a word, but we all started to crawl away from that cursed place as soon as we heard Nick’s final breath from the radio.
Does that sound horrible? My conscience thought so; the guy had made an ungodly trek from the south, being chased by zombies and god knows what else to reach us. Battered, bruised and bleeding; his only chance had been to find supplies in this ramshackle little town, swarming with undead. And we had let him go alone. But, terribly, I can actually remember how easy it had been to shrug it off – I was starving, Craig and Rory were already discussing our next move, and somewhere out there, there was a silent killer even deadlier than the zombies. A killer with a mind and a will to kill. It’s amazing how the mind works under pressure.
Rory, hunched over his filthy, sodden map, decided there was a supermarket in a nearby town, a few miles away. If we were going to survive the night, we would need food, water and (just as important) guns and ammo. So, saying a silent farewell to our fallen comrade, we set out into the night.
Survival is a strange thing. The things we all take for granted – food, shelter, safety; it all seems so trivial in our day to day lives. Take all that away, and suddenly you have to fight for these things… when a tin of beans is all that separates you from life, and a mud-spattered death – it has a way of changing your priorities.
Take that guy I shot a few nights ago. I had just met up with Craig in a small town to the west, and we were searching the houses for something, anything that might help. Craig somehow managed to lose his only gun, and we were suddenly ambushed by zombies. I put two down as they ran at me, and another as it shambled along the road. Just then, we heard a cry from the road – “Are you guys shooting each other up there?”.
“No, just zombies!” I said as loud as I dared. I could already hear more of the bastards shuffling through the trees nearby. The chap ran up to us, stupidly carrying a flare. The light brought more zombies and, side by side, we started firing at the shapes emerging from the trees. An oppressive silence said we were safe, for a moment, and our new-found chum headed into a nearby house to rummage. “Can we trust this guy?” Craig whispered, but my mind was blank. The situation was bleak enough already without this – we had found next to nothing in these houses, and Craig had no way to protect himself. Another zombie groaned as it left the darkness of the woods, and I took aim.
The stranger came out of the house, firing at the new arrival. Somewhere, a cold, dark (but extremely logical) voice remarked that Craig needed a gun, and this poor chap had one. The zombie went down, and I put two bullets into the stranger’s head. “Get his gun, we need to move”. I almost looked around to find out who said the words, as I barely felt them leave my lips. What had I done? This guy… I didn’t know his name… had been no threat. But, then again, he might have been. We needed something he had, and just because he helped kill a few zombies didn’t mean he wouldn’t turn on us when he needed something from us. I knew Craig, I trusted Craig, but this guy? He was an unknown variable. And we were better off with his gun. At least, that was the way the little dark voice justified it.
Craig was shocked, I could hear it in his voice, but I think he understood. I hoped he understood.
Anyway, ancient history now. Craig, Rory and I sat at the outskirts of another town, and this one had a supermarket. We were all hungry; I was starting to feel weak and slightly sick – this was the last roll of the dice. Our problem? More zombies than I could count in my hunger-weakened state milled around between us and the town’s supermarket. Rory remarked we could get through them if we kept low and slow; it was pitch black, if we stayed silent we would be invisible. That was the plan anyway.
We made the supermarket without incident, mostly thanks to Rory’s instructions – I swear, the guy must have been a Green Beret or something – and found a veritable treasure trove of food, drink and even a new pistol. I was busily wolfing down a can of cold beans, when I heard something groan out front. Moving quickly to the back door, it became apparent that I had been a little noisy with my beans – zombies had caught our scent and were moving in for the kill. We were running now, zombies behind us and nothing but darkness in front. “Split up!” someone cried – Craig I think – and not pausing to think, I veered off left. With a glance back, I almost cried with the absurdity of what I saw – they were all chasing me!
Five zombies were chasing, slathering at the mouth, and arse-clenchingly close. A boom sounded to my right, and one fell over mid-stride. Another boom, and one staggered. Craig and Rory had stopped and were thinning the herd with their rifles. My legs were jelly, my breathing was becoming shrill, but a little flame of hope sprung into life in my chest. Swinging around with my pistol, I took down the last zombie with an adrenaline-assisted headshot.
Close. But we survived. And I immediately needed to pee.
A little north, we discovered a small field covered in hay-bales. We took a few moments to regain our composure, Craig and Rory scouting out our next destination as I relieved myself at a nearby bale. My heart-rate was returning to normal and things were looking good. Sadly, the jogger’s euphoria only lasted a few moments as a few things happened in quick succession – a yell and a gunshot in the distance, and a rather sound thump to the back of my head – I went down like a sack of spuds. As I came to, moments or hours later, I heard the zombie before I could see him. That was probably a good thing as he was heartily chewing on my leg, and shock can do terrible things to a man’s thought process.
Miraculously, my pistol was aiming at the thing’s head before I even thought about what I was looking at, and a single bullet ended him. I was now bleeding badly and my radio was squealing on the grass. Something about a barn and ammo – I was unbelievably calm given the circumstances. I found my bandages, and quickly stemmed the bleeding as best I could. Standing on a single shaky leg, I grabbed my radio head-set; Rory and Craig were shouting orders and movements to one another. Rory was out of rifle ammo, it seemed, and being chased. “Where are you guys?” I stammered.
“At the barn up ahead, we got zombies”
“Yeah, me too, on my way”
“Seriously, that’s our last piss-stop…” I stifled a laugh as I shambled towards the gunfire.
It wasn’t hard to find the barn. It was hard, however, to remain standing. I had lost too much blood, and I hovered on the verge of passing out with every step. I was getting thirsty, and started to wish I hadn’t drank that coke I found at the supermarket. Thankfully, by the time I reached Rory and Craig, they had dispatched the last few zombies and were searching the bodies. My situation was bleak, and we all knew it. Rory, again at his map, said there was a deer-stand a little ways north – deer stands are great places to find supplies. When they aren’t surrounded by zombies, of course. We walked, partly for safety, but mostly because I would almost certainly faint if we pushed too hard. That little dark, cold voice in my mind stirred – this was not going to end well.
It took us half and hour to get to the deer-stand, half of which was due to my ever-more frequently passing out onto the cold grass. Craig was there to help me up, and Rory was patient and quiet, but things were starting to add up. Survival doesn’t mesh well with compassion, and I was becoming an unknown variable. Oh, I wasn’t likely to shoot either of them; but I was slowing down, and passing out during a zombie attack could get them killed just as easily. I was a drain on attention and supplies. Craig’s ammo was wearing thin, Rory had even less, and I still had a pistol with several clips. I even had beans in my backpack… and beans won’t help you if you’re bleeding to death.
We eventually arrived at the deer-stand, and noted the few zombies staggering about. We split up to kill them, but before I took two steps, I keel over again. By the time I get to my feet again, the zombies are dead, and Craig and Rory had taken up defensive positions around me. It was now or never… “You’re going to have to kill me, guys”.
The automatic responses and excuses came up, and died quickly. I was pretty far gone anyway, and I had supplies that could keep both of them going for a while longer. Besides, is this any different to when I shot that guy? He was a liability without even knowing it. Survival is about avoiding or removing the threat, and taking the course of least resistance. A starving man will pass a fully stocked shop if it’s surrounded by zombies, because there’s always a chance if you are still breathing – and none at all if you’re not. Stupid risks pay off only in movies and computer games. In the real world – you just die, and I was already dead.
Rory pulled out his pistol slowly, and simply said “You sure?”
He couldn’t face me, so he went behind me. I sat down heavily, about to pass out again. I could almost smell the gun at the back of my head, although they say that happens when you’re about to die – you notice everything. Although, they also say you don’t hear the shot that kills you, and I definitely heard this one, before flopping onto the rain-sodden grass. Darkness fell.
As I re-spawned, one thought dominated my head – DayZ is fucking awesome.