It was cold, and the black cloak of night had drawn itself over the hills of Chernarus. Having witnessed my companion fall to his death, I huddled myself into the corner of a barn, nervously watching the open doors from a hayloft. The flickering, fading twilight showed me just enough of the shifting forms milling aimlessly outside, making a meal of the still-warm corpse of my former friend.

I checked the ammunition for my pistol. Two clips and one loaded. It might be enough for the infected outside the barn, but if my shots were to alert the entire village, well… I gritted my teeth as the last vestiges of sunlight finally snuck down behind the interminable hills. No illumination. No moonlight. Just the pained moans and groans of the undead shuffling around, laboured breath grating and unnatural. Such things didn’t matter to me; I knew I couldn’t remain in the barn forever, else I would’ve starved in short order.

The fear of dying alone in a backwater shed kicked in. I made my decision, and pulled out one of my road flares. Tossed it down to the deck, I readied my pistol toΒ  cover the staircase up towards me, intent on picking them off one by one until reduced to a pile of twitching corpses.

A few seconds passed. Then a few minutes. No zombies. None to be seen, none to be heard. Perhaps they had eaten their fill of my friend, and had ambled off aimlessly elsewhere, unaware that I was stuck in my shack, shivering in fear of them? Or were they more intelligent than I had given them credit for, lying in wait for me to make just one foolish move?

The flare went out. Total silence, absolute darkness. The wind murmured its way through the thick forest nearby, and I shivered at the sound. Steeling my nerves, I worked my way down the rickety steps of the barn, each creak a stomach-clenching reminder that everything I did endangered my life. Taking a breath, I paused at the barn’s exit. Still nothing but the wind.

One last check, and I bolted. Fled the farming village for the hills. The thump of each footstep pounded like my heart in my ears, the rustling of the grass crackling along with my nerves. I peered into the gerying gloom, scouring the hillside for potential threats. Satisfied that I had escaped the village, I paused halfway up the hill to look back, to check and see if I had well and truly broken free of the infecteds’ grip of fear.

The gunshots were the first I knew of the other man in the bushes. Two flashes and searing pain, tearing the corners of my eyes. Shocked, I dropped to the ground and raised my rifle, firing off a hasty shot. That was the last thing I remember before the blackness wrapped itself around me. Who was out there? What was he going to do to me while I lay helpless in the countryside? Rob me and leave me to the horde? Execute me like a dog? Watch me die a slow, painful death? Scant few seconds for so many thoughts, and sooner than I knew it I was once again awake and gasping for air. The gunshots rang out again, but squinting through the murky ink I saw that they were no longer aimed at me. I saw my attacker down the hill, absorbing the full fury of the village’s once-human population. Poetic, I thought, that I had chosen to spare them.

My better personality stalled me from motion. That was a fellow human down there, after all, could I really abandon him to such a horrible fate? Would it not be the decent thing to do to at least clear some of the infected away from him, so that he might escape with his life? Rapidly, my inner pragmatist realised that someone who would open fire without warning would not be the type of person to show gratitude to a saviour. Such is the life of a Chernarussian Survivor. We all must live with the choices we make for, indeed, they are surely all justified. With adrenaline pumping through my system, I crawled away into the midnight forest, leaving the gunman to the fate he had created for himself. I only felt the slightest twinge of pity when the gunshots ceased to sound out over the valley.

To Be Continued…