It is 1948 and the second world war was lost, but not just for the allies. Due to the desperate recklessness of the Third Reich, the world has been twisted into a corpse of its former self. (short story)
He stepped in a slow gait across dusty, tread-trodden earth. Held by a strap around his shoulders, a black-skinned MP40 hung limply in his grasp, his hands clasped in black gloves. He wore a set of thick ballistic armour, tempered to fit his form perfectly; it had been made specifically for him, as he recalled with some measure of disdain. Said armour was clasped by an equally soot-black coat that reached down to his knees, buttoned up to hide his armour beneath it. On the left shoulder, some frayed strings told of a patch that had been removed; he had done so to be rid of the accursed symbol, to attempt to forget the army he had been forced to serve, to forget what he had been forced to do in their name. Upon his back was a large pack comprised of cloth and metal and tubing, two thick, black tubes stretching from his pack, around his neck, and into the snout of a glaring gask mask. The mask wrapped around his face to conceal all emotion, the eyes vacant and black, the leather skin scratched and brown. A strap too stretched around his torso from the right shoulder down to under the left one, three canisters holstered upon it and several dozen high caliber bullets lining one end. A belt wrapped around his waist to press his coat tight against him, several more canisters lining his right hip while a large pocket of animal hide took up the space on his left hip. The tip of a vz.24 poked out from behind his back, a modified scope attached to its body. Atop his head, where a helmet would have sat, instead sat an item quite peculiar for his time. Sitting upon his head in a perfect fit, slightly dipped to cover a little of his face, was a wide-brimmed, leather hat typical of a doctor of the bubonic plague. Once, a red cross of the Reich had been emblazoned upon it; now, it was left bare to mark his defection.
Stepping forward, he paused to glance upward at the sombre sky, a brownish blackness of smoke covering much of it. Before him stood towering buildings, all of which were left to ruin and some of which had already collapsed by way of either shell or degradation. Regardless, it was a city that was once the last bastion of safety from the cancer that had infected the world, albeit a fascist and unpleasant one. Once, the mighty walls of steadfast concrete had towered high, fending off waves of teeth and claw and bone with ease. Once, the mighty forces of Berlin had stood as a beacon of hope in the dying world, despite it having been the hometown of the very decay that now destroyed everything.
With a deep breath that hissed with the response of the rebreather, he continued his trek, stepping over rubble and debris as he passed through a gaping hole in a concrete wall. On the other side, cars lay overturned, rotting corpses of their former selves. But the rot of rusted corpses was nigh in comparison to the crimson mess of fresh bodies, the flesh stripped away to leave a pile of red bone, ripped clothing, and torn entrails. The bodies were numerous as they cluttered the road upon which he stepped, personal items strewn about and tinged with blood. In one corner, a red-soaked, stuffed bear sat on its side next to a rather small pile of gore and bone, tattered clothing once colourful now a dark mess. He regarded the sights around him rather blankly, unphased by the carnage he had now grown so used to. He did not so much as flinch when he stalked into an alleyway between steel buildings, sliding his body past an overturned baby carriage, the insides stained with dark blood. He did not so much as flinch when he hopped over a mess of torn limbs and half a torso, the flesh mostly stripped away to reveal bone and entrails. He did not so much as flinch when, not too much farther down the alley, he was forced to step over the other half of the torso, the severed pelvis and legs laying limply but mostly intact with a trail of blood and intestines in its wake.
Finally, it was at the end of this alley did he finally find his attention stolen from him. The last corpse, one that seemed to have nearly escaped the carnage behind it, lay on its chest, arms spread forward as if desperately grasping for safety. Regardless of how badly mangled the corpse was, he could tell by its size and stature that it had once belonged to a little girl. From behind his gas mask, he stared down the girl, her body frozen in a state of desperate struggle. Her clothes had been mostly torn, her legs broken off at the knees and right arm mangled by what he assumed had been teeth. It wouldn’t have garnered more than a passing glance from him had he not noticed the girl’s most striking feature, or rather the only feature left untouched. Her face stared back up, eyes wide in a frozen state of terror. Her face, although blood spattered, was pale and youthful, telling of a girl not much older than twelve. After a moment, he muttered a prayer and an apology under his breath, forcing himself to look away and carry on.
Stepping out of the alley, the doctor stalked into the street, spying through the glass of his goggles a set of five shambling bodies to the far left, a little down the street. They walked in a strange stagger he had taught himself to watch out for, their bodies twitching unpredictably as they stalked around a set of blood-spattered cars. He payed them no more than a passing glance as he kept up his slow but steady pace, walking the corner of a building to follow the sidewalk. He carefully stepped over a large pile of debris, climbing atop the rubble of a collapsed building to get a better vantage point of what was ahead. Once reaching the top, he placed himself on a broken concrete pillar, letting his rifle hang by its strap to reach onto his belt. He pulled free a small box, unfolding it to reveal a monocular. With that, he looked far into the distance, scanning over an array of collapsed buildings, dead cars, and corpses both cold and warm. He quickly observed several twitching silhouettes, most of which sat in a state of dormancy to await more prey. He knew just how to avoid them, but he would first have to decide what route to take. Scanning around, he spotted something else of interest. A fork in the road ahead curved around a building; upon said building was a large sign with words written in white paint scrawled across it. It was written in English, and he was suddenly thankful then that he not only spoke German but English fluently. The words read “Survivors” with an arrow pointing down the right side of the forked street.
Folding up his monocular, the doctor made a careful descent down to the other side of the collapsed building, stalking down the cluttered street and stopping just out of sight of the shamblers. He then decided to duck into a nearby building, climbing in through a broken window to stalk through a dark and messy grocery store. Corpses and gore littered the ground there as well, but he ignored all of it in order to reach a back door at the far end of the building. Pushing through it, he peered out into a cluttered alley, the left side, which would lead back to where he came, having been blocked by a crashed car and pile of dismembered corpses. When he glanced right, he just caught the profile of a shambler as he staggered past, disappearing around the corner. Paying the predator no mind, the doctor made for a third path, which cut directly through the two buildings in front of him. This alley stretched forward even more narrowly, ending at a chainlink fence stained with blood, a dismembered hand and forearm grasping tightly around it, the body nowhere in sight. Approaching this fence, he climbed up as quietly as he could and dropped to the other side, glancing around to see he had lead himself to the forking road. Several silhouettes began shambling toward where he had stood not moments before, atop the fallen building, oblivious to his presence. Wary but confident, the doctor followed the sign’s directions, taking the right path and following it for some distance. After some time, he came upon a gate made of scrap wood, metal, tires, and fence barring his path.
Though he had hoped to be met with a guard of some kind, he was not surprised to find the gate unguarded entirely. A plank of wood hung nearby with the words “SOS” scrawled upon it in the same white paint. Taking a deep, mask-muffled breath, the doctor approached, finding that the gate hung slightly ajar. This he took to be a bad sign and, sure enough, as he entered the once-sanctuary, he found a mess of mangled and torn corpses. He sighed, realizing that even in Berlin, a place he had hoped would have more of the living, he only found death. The doctor stepped into the centre of the small space between buildings, something he had figured was some sort of plaza at some point, glancing around. Nothing stirred among the many dead, blood spattered across the walls and floor equally. He took off his hat briefly, holding it to his chest before securing it tightly back on his head. Turning, he began to make his way back out, deciding he would have to keep searching. Just as he began to walk away, a curious sound caught his attention. He halted, standing completely still and listening again. Sure enough, he heard it again, this time a little louder. Following his keen ears, the doctor stalked back into the bastion, approaching a nearby building that was half destroyed by what he assumed had been some sort of explosive during the war. It was in shambles but rebuilt mostly with scrap wood and metal, an upper level made completely of junk. He carefully stepped inside, his gun at the ready as he followed the sound.
The closer he got, the more he began to recognize the sound. It was a sound he had not heard in a long time; it was a sound that brought memories flooding back, the good and the bad; it was a sound he could not resist heeding. As he approached the far end of the room, the sound became clear; they were sobs, the crying of a child. His heart racing and instinct demanding that he give whatever help he could, he rounded a corner, meeting gazes with a young girl, her blonde hair long and matted, curled up in the fetal position. He lowered his gun instantly, looking upon her with a sense of paternal kindness. He felt a need to help her, to do something to ease the scars she surely had from what had happened to whomever was taking care of her before. The good doctor was about to summon his kindest voice, to reassure her, to comfort her, to quell her tears. The good doctor was about to help her to her feet, to remove his mask and show the kindness on his face. The good doctor would have done these things, had his keen eyes not glanced toward her right arm. The good doctor would have given her hope in the dark world, would have saved her life, had he not noticed the bumps that had begun to creep up her right arm. The good doctor instead did what he had done countless times before, readying the only cure knew of. The doctor, as good as he was, was not good enough to do what wished he could. With a single tear sliding down his cheek behind his mask, the good doctor raised his cure… and pulled the trigger.