I couldn't stop reading, I just couldn't. I had to know what this man had been through. I had to know what had caused this cataclysm. This diary, it was a true page turner. It was a treasure trove of memory, of loss, of doubts, of rediscovery, of life. I suppose that since I had met this man before his death, I felt that he was writing to me, and that his words carried a sense of urgency. They screamed at me: "read us!" So I did.
"The hell you doing? Put the damn gun away!"
"Hoo boy! You see that right there! Right through her pupil, man. Like a damn bull's-eye!"
"Christ, you're going to get us all killed. Put that shit away."
"Ey, motherfuckers got Ed, boy. Tell me you don't wanna see they heads blow the hell up."
"You're entirely too enthusiastic."
"There could be a hundred in here and your dumbass just let them all know we're in here."
"We're fine. I wouldn't worry too much."
"Ey, listen to Dom and calm yo ass down, boy."
"Christ, just keep your guns holstered unless shit gets real, that's all I'm asking."
"The fuck you mean, 'holstered', boy? This ain't no wild west shit."
"Oh for the love of--Trev, you going to get that one?"
"Course, man. Imma chop a bitch right up."
"Like I said, too enthusiastic."
Twelve pages laid one on top of the other, folded in half, then stapled down the center to a thin cardboard-cover. The entire notebook was hand-made from repurposed scraps of paper trash. Aside from seven blank pages at the end of the book, small tight letters filled each page from gutter to paper edge. A diary of the terrors he had survived? Or were these written before the cataclysm? Only one way to discover which—but am I violating him by reading his private thoughts? Am I stealing from him if I re-record his words? But why write if not to have read? Just think your thoughts. He is dead anyhow. So...?
I spy with my little eye four blundering, brainless brutes shuffling about, bumping into things and being generally bothersome. I don't really have the best vantage point, so four is actually just an estimate from visual observation and from my futile attempts at echolocation. To err on the side of caution, I will proceed under the assumption that there are, at a minimum, twice as many as my projected estimate; over preparation is certainly preferable to the contrary.
Much to my dismay, my hurried and panicked inner self has erected an enormous mental blockade in my mind: a towering citadel eclipsing my thoughts within the darkness of its shadows. I have managed only two possible courses of action, excluding of course simply retreating for the door empty-handed, for to retreat outright would be to abandon Shilah and accede to her death, and I will not be having any of that. Unfortunately, both of these options have unknowns that could immediately render them unviable. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I cannot accurately determine the viability of either plan until fully committing to one of them, and if any of these unknowns were to rear its ugly head, the line will have already been crossed; no takesies-backsies; the ever-charismatic and lovely Xander will be relegated to the role of community chew toy. Let us hope not.
“My solace has been shattered,” I thought as I peered out over the mass of putrid flesh meandering and swaying and shuffling; then, “Fool. Did he really think that he could have made it to safety out there… alone in the dark?” I wondered how it happened…
There, see? There he is, sitting at the base of the emergency door. Is he hugging his knees and rocking?
No? Too cliched, too... too-ish? No. He is standing at the door, head hung low in defeat. He tries the push rail again... it’s locked. It was locked before, why would it suddenly not be? Or, did he push the rail to serve as an ellipsis? He turns around to check if I’m coming for him.
I have come to realize that I know so little about them, and therefore it follows that I know so little about myself… Agh, no, this cannot be expanded upon now, there is no time. The procurement of cat food is my primary objective, and Shilah’s wavering mortality will not wait on such labyrinthine discourse. Time is of the essence. I made a vow, and I am a zombie of my word.
Yet, here I am somehow justifying the construction of sentence after non-contributing sentence, providing little in the way of a solution to the situation at hand. Oh, the burdens I bear, subject to such distracted and convoluted thoughts; author to such triviality. Perhaps it is in my nature, this persistent creation of nonsense under the guise of insight, like free-flowing sewage posing as clean drinking-water… or something, I don’t know, a more suitable simile evades my mind. But wait, let us return to the notion of nature. How can this possibly be determined – that which comprises of my nature – if I am unable to define myself in any coherent manner? I imagine some form of self-awareness is necessary if we are to proclaim subconscious tendencies, and be honest in doing so, otherwise the very notion of nature can be abused, misused, and misconstrued. Oh, good lord. This is really getting quite ridiculous. Focus, Xander, you can do this. Wait a minute… Xander the zombie? Ugh, I shudder at the alliteration. I am surprised at not having noticed that before now. Okay, no more. Let us start again.
Light flitted in through the large, oriel windows that fronted the library and down the aisles it streamed, illuminating the dust that floated aimlessly about the air. Rays of light are beautiful even when visible only through dirt particles. I looked out the window down the aisle to the left of me. The sun would go down soon and darkness would obscure my reading. I needed to get that back-up generator running, but… why but? Because you make excuses to not do things.
What do you mean, "do you", didn’t I just say that you do? Put the book down and figure it out.
But this is an interesting part.
The notion of causation can be so fascinating. There I was, skeletal frame hunched over this laptop, the soft glow of the screen illuminating my saggy face like a campfire, staring into the false company of the clumsy words my clumsy fingers clumsily produced onto the screen. I had positioned myself onto the floor in a manner that mostly resembled sitting; the laptop rested on a coffee table I had been using for my latest in nonsensical jibber-jabber, and I was tap-tapping a broken melancholy rhythm in my continued effort to elude the ever-oppressive weight of silence, the latest work in my episodic series of despair. Woe is me. Occasionally I would pause and glance over my shoulder – entirely illogical, but necessary to ensure the absence of any nosy observers secretly imposing their curiosity on my disjointed discourse – before returning once again to my somber dialogue, grumbling about my involuntary reclusion from the confines of this voluntary cage. It was raining, as I recall, appropriately at that. Such perfect symbolism: the brooding cumulonimbus skulking across the sky, blotting out the sun with its bulbous grey form, saturating the city with its lamentations.