I’d fucking kill for air-conditioning, I muttered to myself as I lay on the rough bitumen flat-top roof of the garage. The August sun blazing down from a perfect blue sky…shuffling my body left and right to try and get comfortable. Some sharp stone or edge from the roof was digging right in to my side and distracting my aim. I should have brushed the area clear just like I’d been taught before putting my mat down. Getting sloppy 

Absently I sipped from the straw of my camel-back water reservoir, christ it tasted warm and bad but at least with the purification tablets I wasn’t going to get a worm or bug and shit myself to death. Well not til I ran out of the tablets anyway

The location I had chosen had good sight lines down the highway on two sides and to the back there was some scrubland that didn’t offer much in the way of hiding places. So I’d climbed up on the roof of the garage without incident but with no overhead cover up I here I didn’t fancy getting trapped by being complacent. I had to keep reminding myself that no one had my six

Sweat beads forming and rolling gently down my face. I’d fucking kill for an ice cold mountain-dew right about now

Concentrate. Eyeball to the sight on the rifle, heat haze glimmering on the blacktop but no movement just yet. Maybe I’d been a bit too quick to run on ahead, maybe I’d been trying to see if the gods of fate wanted me to do this

Again the stone or whatever the damn thing was, dug right in just below my breastbone, causing me to flinch. I’d fucking kill for a soft mattress right now

The “I’d fucking kill for…” game had started between myself and Ray as a way to distract from the current discomforts of modern-life, throwaway lines of dark humour to make our shitty situation fade away slightly. That was until the dumbass had gone and gotten himself killed

Now he was gone and I was again on my own it was a little harder to take any comfort from the ritual. Part of me had become convinced that if I stopped saying it, then maybe I’d lose whatever edge I had against fate and I’d go crazy, be smacked right down and torn up by this shit old world or worse (huh or better) stick a bullet in my own head. That particular thought crossed my mind increasingly these days 

Focus. Eye back down to the sight. There. On the horizon walking down the tarmac of the highway, the shambling outline of my target walking towards me. From here it looked like a shapeless blob, just a smeared outline of a human. Its motion like a marionette that had half of its strings cut. Even from this distance you could see it staggering every now and then, side to side and then tipping too far forward as some defect in the road pushed its slushy center of gravity out of whack

So whilst I lay here watching, hoping not to get snuck up on with this fucking chip digging in and distracting me. I watched with increasing frustration as every hundred or so yards the damn thing would totally fall over and face-plant the floor. Each time, what felt like long drawn-out minutes would pass before groggily it would get back up again and continue towards me

After an hour, it was still best part of a goddamn mile away, I clamped right down on the manic laugh that was on the verge of escaping my mouth. Walk away, move on. Screw this shit! It was going to be dark before long and the last thing you wanted to do was be out in the dark with them around

No. I’d decided to do this. Breathe. Calm the fuck down and just get it over with. I closed my eyes for a few moments and centred myself. Better

Time passed, not sure exactly how much but sun was steadily starting to drop in the sky, clouds were now passing overhead, the once burning skies now carrying a chill. Now shivering and wishing it would fucking warm up, I looked through the scope I could clearly see The Grey in all its messed-up glory. 

It was shambling down the road, locked onto ‘me’, its target. No more than 500 yards away now. Its head was down but kinked to one side at a totally wrong angle. It had a faded baseball cap, still somehow stuck on its head. Through the scope I could now clearly see the Dodgers logo. 

Nearly time

I took my eye away from the scope again and craned my neck around to see if I could spot any hostiles getting close to the garage. Everything still looked clear, but it wouldn’t be until I got back down to the ground would I know if I was safe or not 

Eye back to the scope I could now see a large hole in the side of The Grey’s throat. A blackened mess torn through the marbled skin and flesh that yours truly had gone and inflicted earlier when I messed up the damn shot first time

Raising the rifle slightly I could see one of its blank off-white eyes sightlessly staring down. I could never shake the feeling that they could still see when that was patently impossible. The numerous, highly excited scientists on the news (until there was no more news and no more scientists) would tell viewers that their affected’s corneas were just scratched like hell due to The Grey’s not needing to blink 

Later on, the same scientists in now muted, but still sickly-excited tones would tell you that The Grey parasite took over the the core functions of the brain, the remnants of the lizard or something, I forget the proper science name of it. Doesn’t matter. Anyway, they may not be able to see but the one sense these bastards seem to have amped up is that of smell, once they’ve got your scent they simply never stop following you. Of course its possible to get away from one or two, but once you run into a mass of them you are basically fubar

Myself and Ray had been in a group of like twenty way back when it had all started. Strength in numbers we thought, y’know? Wrong! We’d run into a massive pack of them by the State Farming University not that long after the first week and one by one the bastards took us out until only Ray and I managed to get into one of the cow sheds and cover ourselves in shit. Man we stunk, but it worked 

Eye to scope, finger on the guard. 250 yards, give or take. The Grey was wearing a faded pair of dungarees with a ripped Nirvana tee. There was a massive rust stain across the right side of its torso where the original bite had happened. Well this was at least the right one, I’d been looking for it over the past ten days. Only unfinished business and a promise-to-keep had prevented me from heading out of state and towards the coast already     

I first spotted The Grey late yesterday afternoon. It was standing there banging itself against a one-way security gate at the local police station trying to get to some poor bastard who’d bled out on the other side of the now-locked gate. I had heard the repetitive ‘bang-bang-clank’ of the gate from a good mile away and gone to investigate. I needed somewhere to hide out the night and did not want any nasty surprises in my vicinity 

Thankfully I was downwind, so I holed myself self up across the street in the first floor of a burned out apartment and hoped that the still-strong smell of the fire would mask my presence. The whole side of the building had been exposed by the fire, a boiler or something must have blown out the wall

There wasn’t much to do other than wait til dawn. The last thing I wanted was to try and take the shot and mess up before dark. They moved a damn sight quicker at night, way faster than I could move confidently in the dark. Learned that lesson already, was never, ever going there again

Before settling down I checked my rifle and pistol. I made sure that the pistol had one in the chamber and the action was clean before putting it back into the holster on my thigh. Somehow I fell into a fuzzy half-sleep to that rhythmic bang-bang-clank, waking only fully when the half-light of dawn started to creep into my vision. Rolling my shoulders to get rid of the kinks caused by my oh-so comfortable accommodations, I then took a swig from my awful water reservoir and ate some jerky for breakfast  

Peeking over the damaged wall, I checked for any other hostiles before carefully clambering down the damaged staircase. I left the apartment and picked up some of the debris littering the street. My head raised, never taking my eyes of The Grey as I headed towards it

When I got a handful of yards away, I put my pack on the floor with my rifle and started hollering like a mad man and throwing the lumps of concrete, several hitting the target but bouncing off without any real reaction from The Grey although I think by now it’d clearly got my scent as it slowly swung around to look at me. Frozen for several long seconds I stood there, fired into motion as it suddenly was lurching forward. Then its arms were out, its black teeth bared at me through its mess of a jaw. Torn skin flaps were hanging down, no doubt caused from gnawing on some poor bastards bones or kissing the pavement every time the damn thing fell over

Walking backwards I got ready to take my shot but tripped on some of the same crap I’d just picked up to throw. I landed flat on my ass, winding myself in the process. Fumbling for the pistol strapped to my leg and cursing myself for not thinking ahead to unclip the fucking restraint! Finally my fingers decided to work and I pulled the gun out of the holster. By this point though The Grey was pretty much on me. Looking up at it from the floor, adrenaline coursing through my veins I raised the gun and fired wildly for what felt like forever, emptying my only clip at it in the process  

Scrabbling backwards, I got to my feet and saw The Grey flat out on the floor blown back by the bullet impact. Carefully I edged forward to see if it was staying down

I’d fucked up and only managed to hit it in the neck! Five shots and only one on target. Shit! shit! shit! Definitely not out of action, the bastard was now starting to rise, another lower, slightly wet bass growl coming from the wound. With my rifle out of reach and shaken from the encounter, I turned and did what any red blooded male would do and ran, picking up my pack on the way

Once I was safely out of immediate danger, I stopped to catch my breath. It definitely had me locked-on, its head now leaning out to one side where the bullet had gone through its neck as it stumbled towards me

Out in the open and now worried about the noise I’d made firing the pistol, I decided there was nothing for it but to get it to follow me and let me try again on my terms

So I had run on ahead of it for most of the morning making sure it was following. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Needed to make sure it definitely still had my scent so I could go and find a spot 

When I saw the garage I knew this was the place. They Grey was currently out of sight, time to get as ready as I could be

Closer now. I could clearly hear a low ragged moan emanating from The Grey, no doubt excited by my smell or something. A montage of crappy aftershave ads ran through my mind From Before. Again I clamped my mouth shut, biting my tongue on the crazy-ass laugh that desperately wanted to leave my lips. If I allowed that I wasn’t sure I could stop it

This was it. Less than 50 yards now. I’d taken plenty of shots like this before and would maybe take a load more of them before I was done

Slowly I pulled the bolt back on the rifle, holding it every millimetre of the way til I heard the ‘snick’

Finger now off the guard. I took a bunch of steady breathes to calm me down. No more fuck-ups. I squeezed the trigger 

The sudden loudness of the shot made my ears ring, I think I may have even shouted out. My eye though was firmly fixed to the scope and I clearly saw The Grey’s head kicked back and explode out to one side by the force of the bullet entering its mutated skull. It seemed to take an age for the The Grey’s body to get the message that it was now dead-dead but finally I watched it to fall to the ground. Only then did I lower the scope. My socket aching a bit from the pressure I’d been applying 

Done. I was done

“Goodbye Ray” I muttered before rolling off my mat and sitting up. I quickly cleared away my gear and with quick glances down, dropped down to the tarmac. Rain clouds were forming to the East. It was time to go

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