The sun. Harsh, burning, bright. It’s been so long since he’s seen it. For the past 6 months he’s only ever travelled at night, thanks to them. The overwhelming heat and light beat down upon him like the wings of a carrion bird, always there, waiting for him to fall lifeless into the dust. For miles around, all he can see is dust and sand, with a few abandoned buildings dotted here and there, like stray ink droplets from a careless quill.
Grey tarmac stretches to the horizon in front of him. He knows he will not see its end, a place of shelter, and a measure of safety – though in truth, nowhere on earth was truly safe at this time. A battered, ancient shotgun hangs loosely in his hand. The weapon has kept him alive for god knows how long, the man having lost count of the number of times it’s fired. He ran out of shells in the last fire fight, but he still holds onto it like a child with a blanket; giving a modicum of comfort during the night terrors that now plagued his waking reality as well as his dreams. An olive green military rucksack, once groaning with rations and ammunition, cuts into his shoulders. It’s light and empty, though it still feels as heavy as his loss across his back. For a minute that thought overwhelms him, and he slumps to the ground in anguish and in pain.
A hand runs through his dusty, grime covered hair. The corners of his mouth crack open as he breaks into a rictus smile as he remembers her. How brilliantly she fought against them, crowding round her even as she split their skulls into pieces. How noble her sacrifice was, blowing the former safe house to smithereens to give him a chance to get away and prevent herself from joining what she detested. How she smiled and wept as she agreed to marry him after this was all over. The grin stops.
The lone man casts his bloodshot yellow eyes over his wounded leg. Underneath a soaked, bloody bandage is a leg laced with fragments of glass, stone and metal. It’s infected and dripping, the pus mingling with the blood in the wrappings turning them a sour, sickly green. No point in changing them now though. The pain is mounting, forcing him to choke down two vomit inducing pills with one of his last mouthfuls of blood-warm, coppery water from an old, beaten tin. The tablets came from his old doctor’s surgery, when times were better and survival didn’t depend on how fast you could run and how well you could shoot. Normally a person was only meant to take one every 6 hours, the pills being strong enough to render even the most unbearable injury to a mild sting. He had been taking two every three hours. He has only two left. He knows he won’t live long enough to need them. His respite, small and worthless as it is has to come to an end.
Once again he struggles to his aching feet in boots two sizes too small. He shuffles on, trying to distance himself as best he can from what follows.
And the road leads on.