Ash. It floated on the air like snow, coating the city in smeared grey. He took a breath of his last cigarette, ignoring the stinging heat on his fingers as it burned too close to the filter, the smell of singed wool assaulting his nostrils. It was better than the stink of death and charred wood that lingered in the bitter cold air.
Dropping the glowing butt into the cracked stone, already missing its warm nicotine, he ground it under worn boots and pushed away from the wall, slinging his rifle back over his shoulder and trudging down the narrow streets. His knapsack was alarmingly light and he knew carrying it was useless but he clung to it anway. A fools mission, scouting, looking for survivors, in a city of dead. How long had it been since he’d seen the white fog of breath on another soul? Instead he saw white faces rotting, flaking dried brownred and gaping mouths no longer able to suck in air.
He wanted something to drink, smooth gold fire that would warm his heart and keep it beating in his chest. Life felt foreign, he felt akin to a mummy, wraped in clothes that clung to him like a shroud, encrusted in dirt, blood and sweat; days, weeks, months old. A second skin just as filthy as the flesh underneath it. How long had it been since he bathed?
How long had it been?
Since his radio crackled life, since he’d heard orders, since was sent to this forsaken city, since his food had run out? Time was meaningless in a world of gray, shaded mornings, cloudy skies fogged with soot, black starless nights. They’d long since forgotten him, cast him off as another victim of an experiment gone wrong just like his commrades. The rest of his platoon had died the first few weeks they’d been dropped off, some coughing until their lungs bled and spilled at their feet, vaccines rejected. Others putting a bullet through their skulls to silence the screaming that echoed night after night.
It was quiet now, eerily so, to the point where he sometimes aimed his rifle at the sky and let of a round, screaming murder with every bang, just to hear something. But even bullets only echoed hollowly before they too fell silent.
Eyes scanning the empty street he let out a gutteral half whimper half sigh before turning to find shelter for the night. Another day spent wandering on blistered aching feet, ready for a night spent staring through one eye at his knife in the light of his small fire, watching it flash and wondering how it would look drenched in red and glimmering. He’d try if he had the courage, but like a plant withered and brown under the baking sun of the desert, he clung to life for reasons unknown. He’d find someone, anyone, before he breathed his last, he didn’t want to greet death on his own. A vow spoken the morning he woke up to find himself half blind and the last alive.
Morbid half stories that spill into paragraphs on my computer screen. I have no idea where this is going. I just started to write it tonight and here it is.