Endless Cycle. Short Story.

I saw it all from the beginning. How could I not?

It seems that life just repeats itself in a never ending cycle. Oh, sure there are differences, the causes change, the languages and inventions are different, but it always ends the same.

I was born a long, long time ago. I’m not saying that to be oblique, I’m actually not sure when I was born. My parents, family and friends from that time have died. As far as I am aware, no evidence of my city, or culture, survives. When I was a child it was clear that I was different from everyone. I didn’t injure easily and if I was hurt it healed miraculously fast. At first they thought I was blessed by the gods, then they thought I was one. In a few short years I was given rule of them first, then of the surrounding cities. My fame spread across the land, people revered me, came to me for blessings, for advice. It wasn’t all good though, people blamed me for their ills too. There were many attempted assassinations. At some point I invented others, gods and goddesses that lived in the skies, watching over all, I told them I was their representative, the one chosen to be their ear and mouthpiece. That helped, the assassination attempts eased, but they never really stopped. I enjoyed my life, it was pleasant if tiring. Then, war came. Disease and famine, there was nothing I could do to stop any of it. I starved with them, but I could not die. They drove me out of the city, I do not blame them now though I was bitter at the time. I had begun to believe the tales and mythos that surrounded me. It was better for everyone that I was gone. It was a time of great upheaval and destruction, cities were wiped out, people were exterminated.

Years later I revisited the city I had come from, they had forgotten about me mostly, there were still people clinging to the religion, but they were few. I was able to pass through with ease, no one recognised me, anyone who had any hope of doing so had long since died. It felt wrong to go back to them, to take over the mantle of god after I had abandoned them. So I kept going. Soon, I had forgotten where that city had once rested. It could be any one of thousands I had lived in.

The world shifted, changed, but I stayed the same. I moved around, always travelling. I could starve and it was a discomfort, but after a while it just became background noise. I watched it all as I travelled the globe endlessly, kings and uprisings, cities and empires. All crumbling, one after another.

I remember when the new disease first started, after all, I was there. It was purely by chance that I had found myself in the city, just a place to rest myself for a while. At the time I held no such concern for most events, but later I was told that everything was thought to have been reactions to some new drug that was being sold. People were attacking one another in the streets. As the weeks went by the reports began to change and I started to pay attention. Then, a few days later I saw one of them. I had lived through many epidemics and I could feel that this was shaping up to be a big one. I wanted to leave before travel restrictions were enforced, I did not want to be trapped in a city as those around me died, fearing that I would be caught and tested on.

A man was walking down the street, about a hundred feet ahead of me, as he passed the mouth of an alley a woman burst from it, running at full speed and collided with him. They both went sprawling to the ground, but she had grabbed onto him and did not let go. The screaming started instantly. There was blood everywhere as she began to rip chunks of his flesh from his body, his face. When the police arrived she was still eating him. She spat at the police, aiming for the eyes. Neither were quick enough to stop it. They put her down in the street, shooting her until she stopped moving. Both of them emptied their guns. It wasn’t long before a cordon was set up and the area was blocked from view. Later that night I looked for a report and I found a brief mention of a drug crazed homeless woman murdering a man. The woman had not looked homeless, she wore a business suit. I could not tell if she was dirty, she had been covered in gore at the time. I left that evening.

I travelled around, stopping in places occasionally. As the world degenerated, I stayed in safe havens at first, working with them to build shelters and farm food, most of them were overrun in the early days. I was rarely the only survivor, others usually managed to escape. Some of them were fine, even thriving when I left them. I never liked to stay somewhere too long, always worried that the things would pin me down. They called them zombies, the reanimated dead, though scientists were quick to point out that was not what was happening. At least they were in the early days, when there was still television and newspapers.

My biggest fear was being trapped somewhere by a horde, slowly consumed, mouthful by regenerating mouthful. I was always careful to have multiple escape plans. Then, one day the unthinkable happened. I allowed myself to be trapped.

I had been travelling on foot for days and had seen none of the creatures. They never travelled far from potential food sources and though they were predators, they could be heard moving through the woods easily. I set up camp in a small cave. It was a cold and rainy day and I decided to set up a fire to keep me warm. I may be immortal, but I could still feel the chill as it settled onto my bones. I don’t know what attracted them, the smoke, the heat. I had been walking for so long and I was so tired that I began to doze in the heat, drifting in and out of consciousness, knowing that I would be alerted if they were moving through the woods. I was wrong.

I came to completely surrounded by them. They seemed unsure, they didn’t attack me instantly as I had seen them do to others. They were thinking, reasoning. I could see it in their dark eyes. They had created a barrier, and one of them stepped forward. A man, more of a boy really, perhaps seventeen. He made guttural sounds and gestured and the they started to move, tightening the circle. They responded to him instantly, as they did so I realised they were pack animals, they were developing skills to hunt and catch their pray. Perhaps I had underestimated them and their abilities. I started to make slow, steady movements. They were animals, so I treated them as such. I needed to escape, scare them off. As I reached into my pack, they attacked, hands gripping and tearing at me. They were strong, stronger than I would have imagined. I watched as the furrows they tore open healed, as they gnawed at my skin, trying to worry it open as though it were tough leather. Only three managed to get mouthfuls. Two of them collapsed, screeching and writhing on the ground, the other fell backwards and lay almost still, chest barely moving up and down. The others were confused, frightened, their grips loosened and I managed to break free. Then I ran.

They chased me for a short while before the leader called them off. They had worked it out, I was tainted flesh. Unsafe. Inedible.

Months and years went by, soon I was able to travel freely again. The creatures would not attack me, they would watch me warily as I passed. Perhaps stories of me spread amongst them, like some bogeyman or dark god. I moved amongst the settlements where I became famous to them too, known to deliver anything to anyone, at the right price of course. I was the only one able to travel the world and reliably deliver almost anything that was easily portable. The only dangers I faced were the gangs of people that roamed the countryside, it was always best to avoid them. I had only one run in, they attacked me, stole my things and left me for dead. I tracked them for three days before they set up a camp. I snuck in during the night and slit their throats one by one and retrieved my belongings, along with a few other items that I thought would come in useful. Once I had gone the creatures fell on the campsite, devouring the bodies.

It’s always the same, the world grows, it perishes. We’re back to living in villages and small outposts, soon there will be cities, then empires, then, it’ll all come crashing down again. I am comforted by this knowledge. Yet still at night, while I sleep I dream about them. The three that sampled my flesh. Two died, I am sure of it, but what of the third? Is he still out there? Changed or enhanced by my flesh? For now I can live in the hope that he perished too, that someday he will die, but the day I find out for sure might truly mean the end of all mankind.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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