I stand on the hill in the purple predawn gloom, examining the bleak landscape before me. The wind gusts in strong, intermittent bursts, lifting dark waves from my tense shoulders and whipping them across my cold cheeks, where tears run freely.
Instead of finding comfort in this rare place of peace, the surrounding desolation only hammers the loneliness I’ve felt these last months further into my heart. It’s been some time now, weeks, since I’d last seen another Warm Blood at all – even longer since I’d come across one who hadn’t tried to kill me.
The towns and cities I’ve passed through were overrun with the Dead, and whilst they might not be great conversationalists, at least they make noise… horrifying, guttural noise though that may be. Still, it’s something.
In comparison the silence here feels deafening, and it makes me feel more alone than ever. When you’re fighting your way through crowds of the ambling Dead, you don’t really have time to dwell on the crushing loneliness; and when you’re trying to sneak from Warm Bloods who’ll happily kill you on sight it’s very easy to convince yourself that you’re better off on your own.
But out here with nobody in sight, alive or dead, no villages or any sign of civilisation… just the rolling hills and the sharp wind tearing in from the sea whistling in my ears… There’s no lying to myself. I am, completely, alone – and it’s suffocating.
I turn my head to look out over the sea as the new dawn crests over the horizon, casting a dazzling gleam across the rippling waves. It amazes me that there is still beauty in a world that has become so dire. I take deep breaths of the salty air, wiping away tears and regaining what’s left of my composure.
As the sun rises, it brings a soft light that illuminates the land, and something in the distance catches my eye – a solitary house, teetering on the edge of the hillside.
A nervous flutter swells beneath my ribcage, after all this time could it be… hope?