The dawn was gray and cold. Having tucked myself into a corner of the townhouse, I listened to every bone in my body crack in protest as I rose from the hardwood floor. I pulled a few pieces of jerky from a small backpack I had collected to hold my dwindling supplies. I washed the salty breakfast down with a bottle of water and thought about how I should proceed. The phones did eventually stop ringing, but not right away. It took hours before the last one faded off, or I eventually just passed out from exhaustion. Throughout the night, a solitary ringing would wake me, but it usually stopped as quickly as it started and I dozed back off to sleep. As I headed to the front door, the phone I had pulled from the wall that should have been dead began to ring. I stared at it for some time and decided I wasn’t going to answer any more phones. I took a deep breath, and headed back out onto the street.
D6 = 1, so 1 card pulled
D6 = 2, drew 9 of Spades
Right down the street there was a coffee shop. The windows were smashed and the logo, though recognizable by anyone in the country who enjoys their variety of caffeinated drinks, was partially torn and flapped in the small morning breeze. Thinking I could maybe salvage something from inside, I tried the front door. It was jammed. I went around to one of the larger openings and was going to climb through when I spotted two small brown bear cubs huddled in the back. One looked directly at me and the other was snoring softly. I didn’t see the mom, but she couldn’t be too far. I didn’t even know if there was one. I backed away slowly and took a look around the deserted street before continuing on.
D6 = 6, so 6 cards pulled
D6 = 1, drew 4 of Diamonds
A mile from the townhouse I came across a traffic jam. Cars, vans, and delivery trucks were lined up bumper to bumper for nearly two full blocks in all directions. All the vehicles, most rusted out with the interiors torn up with what looked like scratches, were empty. There was a lot of blood, faded and chipping from the exposure to the sun, and I could not even imagine what had happened. At the epicenter of all this was a station wagon and an SUV that had collided. They too were empty and seemed to be one of the only vehicles spared of messy interiors. On a nearby building a large banner with cautionary symbols repeated what the signs earlier at the driving range had warned. Everyone should completely avoid eye contact and only to speak in whispered tones. There was also a line about wearing a mask and it’s help, but it was struck out with black spray paint. Below the sign, written by what I assume was the same person who crossed off that warning as the last letter drifted almost unbroken downwards, MASKS NOT SAVE YOU! THEY GET IN WITH MASKS TOO! DON’T TALK! DON’T LOOK!
D6 = 2, drew 8 of Hearts
As I continued towards what I hoped was water, more signs of violence could be seen. Just outside a laundromat and a diner, heaps of clothes and broken glassware and china littered the street. The plates were mostly broken with a rare few lying whole to the side of the road. There was massive amounts of blood here as well. On the ground, the walls, the sharp broken edges of plates, and soaked in the mounds of clothing. More signs littered the walls and inside the nearby shops. All warning of an unknowable threat with some having sections blacked out and others marked up with sharpies correcting the apparently incorrect information.
D6 = 2, drew 3 of Clubs
With the skyscrapers behind me and even some of the larger apartments, stores, and restaurants becoming less frequent, I came across a street lined with shotgun houses. The long rectangular dwellings seemed just as abandoned as the rest of the city, but these even more so. If I had to guess, this neighborhood was already seeing troubled times even before the incident which caused most of the population to vanish. Having finished off the food I had on me, I did scavenge a few granola bars and more bottled water from a couple houses that seemed to have been nearly blown apart from the inside. Nothing still made sense, but I was glad to find something to eat for later.
D6 = 1, drew 9 of Diamonds
I stumbled across another diner, but this one wasn’t as dilapidated as the others. There were a few broken windows, but the place was mostly intact. I pushed through the front door and headed back to the walk-in cooler in search of food. The smell of rotting meat overwhelmed my senses and I immediately realized it wasn’t spoiled beef but decomposing human flesh. I backed away from the death stuffed neatly into the cold space and sprinted to the bathroom. I never made it to a toilet and was washing the sink out when the door opened behind me and I saw a man step through. Disheveled, filthy, and covered in what I could only hope was dried maroon paint, he smiled. There was a familiarity about him and it sent shivers up my body. He frowned and then looked again into my eyes. “Look at me!” he screamed, and I did. This only infuriated him. “Turn around! Look at me!” Something clicked from the signs I had been reading and I remained frozen. The warnings had said not to make eye contact and this mirror was somehow not creating the connection this man was looking for. My hand was clenching the gun I had pulled from the crushed police officer in anticipation. The man’s face twisted in fury and he charged me. I spun, closing my eyes and fired the gun in three quick successions. I heard a grunt and sprinted out the door, opening my eyes so I would not crash into a wall. I ran as fast as I could away from that place with nobody seemingly following me.
D6 = 3, drew Jack of Clubs
The sound of seagulls filled me with renewed hope. I could hear waves cresting against the shoreline and I could smell the briny scent of the water in the air. As I approached the coast, I spotted a parking garage adjacent to a ferry terminal. Wanting to find out why I was being called to this place was still driving me, but it had been some time since I drank any water and I desperately needed something if I was going to keep going. I found a small office that a security guard would have used in between patrolling the parked cars. Inside was a small refrigerator with two bottles of sparkling water. I drank half of one and shoved them both into my backpack. I took a moment to sit on a worn office chair that had, despite breaking all laws of physics, been squeezed into the small space.
D6 = 5, drew Jack of Diamonds
I didn’t know there was a copy machine in the room, but it chirped to life and began attempting to print something. It beeped, clicked, whirred, beeped, and tried all over again. The beep was familiar. I heard it before. Just then the seagulls became boisterous and began screeching and squawking. The phone, an old black and bulky thing hung crookedly on the wall began to ring. I wanted to vomit. I felt bile and spit fill my mouth and my hand shakingly reached for the receiver. I didn’t want it to but I could not stop it. There was silence on the other end. I knew there would be. “The truth will set you free,” I said unable to suppress the chuckle that escaped my lips. The line went dead, as I knew it would. It then began to ring again and it seemed to somehow ring as if it was calling a hundred different phones at once. I placed it gently back on the receiver and, after replacing one of the sparkling water bottles back into the fridge, I left. I headed back towards the diner. I went slow so as not to be seen and waited in a burnt out car where I could see the building. It didn’t take long before I saw a figure enter the front so I headed over. I left the backpack behind and made it inside just as I heard the retching in the sink. I stopped at the door, waiting to hear for the water and closed my eyes. I didn’t understand the purpose of what was happening and it didn’t nag at me even so close to the end. Knowing it was almost over was almost a whole other level of peace. I heard the sink faucet turn off and walked in.