Librarian’s Note: I found this hand-written letter on the front doorstep of the library this morning, stuffed in an unmarked envelope. I have no idea who wrote it, and no one saw who dropped it off. Regardless of the author, I just hope it’s nothing more than a really cruel joke. If it’s not, I’m afraid I have one more reason to be terrified of living in this valley.
Because of me there is now one less among the living of Trumbull Valley, and for that I am truly sorry.
Let me back up a bit and tell you something I’ve never told anyone else before: I’m a killer.
Over the past five years I’ve murdered four people. Snuck into their homes in the dead of night, watched them as they slept, then slit their throats. As you might imagine, the end came very quickly for them, but those scant few seconds – as their lives emptied out through their open necks – were the most precious to me. If you’ve never seen the look of abject fear on a man’s face as he comes to grips with his own sudden mortality, then I don’t know what to tell you. There’s nothing quite like it.
Kept a low profile through the years by always staying on the move, spacing out my kills, and when submitting to my urges, only targeting single individuals. I’ve never had an interest or desire to slay children or entire families; I’m not a monster, for God’s sake.
When I ended up in the beautiful Valley a few months ago, I had every intention of making it my new hunting ground. That is, until the end of the world happened.
That’s what I’m assuming everyone is calling it, anyway; I have no idea. Despite having experience in the art of killing, I’ve had no easier a time over these past weeks and months than any of you. I’ve narrowly avoided roaming hordes, had a juggernaut total my car, and came face-to-face with a feral in an encounter that almost spelled my end.
I even managed to team up with a fellow survivor – yes, an unrepentant killer working hand-in-hand with his fellow man! Can you believe it? I’ll admit, when Mrs. Veronica Miller came to my door a couple weeks into this whole mess, my first instinct was to immediately turn her away. But I didn’t. To this day I still don’t know why I didn’t send Ronnie packing that fateful evening, but I didn’t. I let her in.
Maybe it was the human element. Perhaps even someone with a soul as dead as mine finds themselves craving human companionship eventually, if kept separate from it for long enough. When humankind has been whittled down to the point where you begin to long for the sight of a passing car or simply the inane, pointless chatter of your fellow man, I suppose even the hardest heart can soften.
Ronnie and I made a good team. In no time at all we were functioning together like a well-oiled machine, making efficient supply runs, quietly dispatching the dead that roamed too close to the house, and getting to know one another. Well, I got to know her, anyway.
Ronnie was in her mid-forties – around my age – and had lived alone with her husband Tony just a few miles up the road from my place. Never knew they existed. Anyhow, they were apparently only a year into their new lives as empty nesters when the zombie apocalypse hit. After an ill-advised attempt to rescue their dog Millie, Tony got bit. A few days after that, Ronnie had to put him down.
She told me how she used to be a dental hygienist working out of Danforth, and that her husband was an accountant. Their only child moved out of state to attend college last year, and she worried constantly about the state of things out east. Was Samantha all right? Was she safe? Ronnie also admitted to me that shooting Tony after he’d turned was the most difficult thing she’d ever done, and hoped to ever have to do. I held her as she cried upon telling me the story, and for the slightest moment I think I may have felt sorry for her.
Of course, I told her about myself. All lies. About how I was an every-man jack-of-all-trades, finding odd jobs here and there to support my grand journey across the majestic US of A. Gave her some bullshit name as well. Come to think of it, I can’t remember for the life of me what I had her call me. Not surprising – the ol’ noggin’s not what it used to be.
So that’s how things went for the weeks and months that followed. Scavenged for supplies, thinned the dead, survived. Things were about as good as they could get for the situation we were in, and we both started to think that if we stayed on point, we just might emerge on the other end of this whole nightmare.
But then the urges started to come back.
I should have seen it coming a mile away; it’s the reason my cold lizard brain wanted to turn Ronnie away at the door when she first showed up. Still, I tried to ignore it. Fight it.
I thought that maybe slaughtering the risen dead could sate the hunger; in the following days I proved to be much more unhinged and brutal during our zed-clearing runs, and Ronnie noticed. She began to worry. Rightfully so.
It was somewhat satisfying dismembering zombies with ruthless abandon. It slaked the bloodlust a little, but for the most part remained an empty, unfulfilling experience. There was something missing, and I knew what it was: the fear.
As the days passed, my thoughts often returned to the past. Stalking through darkened houses, creeping through silent bedrooms. Looming over the beds of my victims, waiting with breathless anticipation for the expression on their faces when I woke them up. Waiting for the fear.
It’s not the same with the dead, obviously. They’re mindless, relentless, and have their own dark hunger. They have no fear.
I fought my urges for as long as I possibly could, but eventually they won out over me. They always do.
I murdered Ronnie in her sleep two nights ago. A blade across the throat, just like the others. You have to understand – I had to do it. I fought against it for as long as I could, but in the end I just had to submit. I had to see the fear.
But before you curse my wretched existence, know that there was a sort of karma at work that night. A divine reckoning, if you will. Ronnie came back, as I knew she would, and in the process of dispatching her a second time, she bit me. I’m infected.
I plan on leaving Trumbull Valley before this fever fully consumes me, but in case I don’t manage that, please feel free to execute the slightly balding zombie in the Mariners jacket with extreme prejudice.
And going forward, please remember this: As bad as the mindless, seething hordes of the dead can be, sometimes the living are worse.
Written by Andrew Coe, winner of the Life After Zombies writing contest.