The Beast - Chapter 1: In the Middle

It was raining. The rain was pouring down on the woods on both sides of the street. It was also pouring down on the road she was following, alongside with the wind, giving her a hard time to make her way up. She could only hope that this was nothing more than the occasional German summer storm that would not last for much longer than one or two hours. Although she assumed it was early afternoon, it seemed like dusk, and the rain being blown into her face made it even more difficult to spot any beings that might be closing in to her. She was making only slow progress, dragging her bicycle with her and carrying her enormous backpack.

Filas was travelling by bike, being the most logical way of transport in these times. In her opinion, at least. Not depending on fuel, flexible, and in emergency cases fast enough to get out of trouble. She knew there were quite many people still relying on cars, but she did not want to take the risk of being out of fuel in the middle of an attack. After all, no one could say how many survivors there were, and how long the supplies of petrol would suffice. Furthermore, she had already experienced that people filling up were in great danger of being attacked exactly then. And, most importantly, when it all had broken loose, the roads were jammed with cars that could not move anywhere, but with her bike, she was able to slip just past them. It was almost two months now since she had left the city of Paderborn where she had lived and studied. In this time, she had learned the benefits of a bicycle. Not that it was all positive though. The panicking families stuffed into the overloaded cars not getting forward still haunted her in her dreams.

Family hadn’t been too much of an issue to Filas for several years now, and she assumed that wouldn’t change anymore, given the circumstances. After all, they most likely wouldn’t even recognise her.

Her mother had died of cancer when Filas was just 15 years old, and after that she was left with her emotionally absent father and with her most hated sister. Now, eight years later, Filas had not seen her sister for five years and her father for three years. In fact, she did not consider that a loss. She felt relieved that she did not have to care about them anymore and that she could live her life the way she wanted without being stopped by people she did not have any positive feelings for, but was forced to live with. Considering that, studying at university had been one of the best decisions in her life.

She had also got into LARPing in her last three years there. LARPing means Live-Action Role-Playing and basically means that people put on armour and weapons from past times – especially medieval attire is quite popular – and meet with other people sharing that interest, having duels, battles, or simply an old-fashioned party with a lot of campfires. As she had always been a fantasy nerd, Filas was all into it as soon as she found out LARPing existed. She learned to wield a spear and to shoot arrows with a bow – both skills had already saved her several times in the past two months, although it was not playing now. She had attached the spear to her cycle on the right side, just so it blocked neither the front wheel nor the pedals, and so she could naturally mount her vehicle from the left side. Her bow and a quiver filled with arrows were in the basket in front of the bike. She considered her spear the ideal weapon at the moment. She could not have used it for LARPing because it was a real spear that usually dealt deadly wounds – something she needed in this situation though. And as she was not in America, where ammunition basically could be found in every neighbourhood, it was better to be able to do close combat while keeping her opponents at a bit of reach. She had her bow and arrows for practical reasons as well: in case she had some time, she could make some more arrows, or she could just take them out of the dead bodies and reuse them.

She also had a large box on the carrier which was filled with drinks and food, so she could get them fast when she was having a short break. A first-aid kit was in there as well. All her other things – clothing, her sleeping bag, a blanket, and a few things she could not part with, like a few books and CDs she totally liked – were in her backpack. And, of course, her meds.

It was quite a heavy weight Filas was having with her considering that she was rather slim. Right now, having moved up for some time, her luggage was certainly a burden to her.

After she had left Paderborn, she went north first, to the larger city of Bielefeld, hoping to gain some safety there. Unfortunately, she learned there that a larger number of people also meant a greater risk of being attacked by the dead. After barely escaping, she was going north-east to her hometown Minden, although she didn’t know exactly why. She had basically cut all the bonds she had had with that town, but in that situation, it seemed logical to look for shelter in the smallish town she had once called home.

She never arrived there.

On her journey there, avoiding the motorway, she got along several other smaller towns. All of them were overrun. But not by the living. So, instead of driving towards Minden, she took a route that led her straight eastwards into an area where only few people lived. It was a slightly mountainous area, although Filas was hesitating in calling hills, which were only 400 metres high, mountains. She had spent some weeks in Extertal, a village deep in those hills, until it had been attacked from the east. She knew that there were some smaller towns in that direction, but it was then that she realized that 50,000 could be quite a high number of people when they were attacking. As she realized that the few people defending the village were overrun, she had no choice but to escape. Fast. It was a rough ride, but she finally made it. She realized that this part of the country was still too densely populated, and that she had to look for an area where really only very few people were living.

That was when she decided to head for the south, and eventually ended up in the Sauerland.

The Sauerland was a pretty large region, south of Paderborn. It was a rolling countryside, with several lakes, many forests and, most importantly, only few towns, which were not too large and therefore basically rather easy to defend if there were people who knew how to do it. Filas drove south on her bike, but also drifting somewhat into the west. She wanted to avoid the larger hills, being more than 800 metres high in the east end of Westphalia, and the larger towns of Hesse. And so she ended up on the road she was taking at the moment, completely in the middle of nowhere.

It had been raining for half an hour already, and under normal circumstances it might have been best to look for a tree as a shelter from it. Unfortunately, the circumstances were far from normal. So she just kept walking, not daring to make a rest in the potentially dangerous forest with the rain, which muted almost all other sounds that might indicate that something was closing in on her. By doing so, she was making only slow progress on her way, but that was at least a bit of progress.

After a few more minutes Filas saw a traffic sign on the right of the right of the street. Some steps later she also discovered some houses in the dense rain. Apparently, she had got to a village or something like that. She got close enough to read the sign. It said “Brenschede – District of Sundern”. Almost all German cities were surrounded by villages, which were declared as districts of the city for reasons of administration. So Brenschede was the village she entered, whereas Sundern was the larger city. Probably not especially large, otherwise she’d already heard from it, but maybe with some ten thousand inhabitants. Formerly.

It was generally safer in villages than in cities, because there were fewer people who could pose a threat to her. Yet, it was very possible that a village was already overrun and filled with them. Therefore, she loosened her spear from its fixing before taking it into her hands. It was not quite easy to drag her bike and hold the spear at the same time, but she managed it while entering the village. It did not look too good from what she saw as she got deeper into it.

It was hard to say in the heavy rain, but she assumed that the only street in Brenschede was the road she was following. The houses lined up on its sides, maybe ten houses or twelve. She heard the flowing of a river from a few metres’ distance, but could not see it. Most likely it used to be only a small river, but after half an hour of heavy raining it sounded like it was swollen up and flowing down the hill with great power. The road itself was a mess with all kinds of things lying around, preferably garden furniture. The cars were parked sloppily, some of them still with open doors or still being half on the road. One car had apparently even crashed into a house. A pink umbrella was stuck in a hedge in front of another house. Filas had not seen yet a place looking like this that was worth to linger in, so she made her way further, following the road that seemed to go steep upwards at the end of the village. That was her goal for the moment, looking into all directions and focussing on any noises apart from the rain.

Then, while she was passing the last house of the village, she heard what she was afraid to hear.

Groaning.

Not the kind of groaning she had produced herself quite a lot of times when she was simply annoyed but did not dare to groan too loudly (although these two kinds of groaning were slightly similar). Not the kind of groaning two lovers might produce. Not the kind of groaning of people carrying something very heavy. Not the kind of groaning when people woke up after a night that provided them with nothing like enough sleep. No kind of groaning that Filas had ever heard until some weeks ago. This groaning had absolutely nothing human about it. And neither had the creature she spotted on her left, which was coming from behind the last house on that side of the road. Said creature had been human once though.

It was apparently a she. Or it had been one once. Who knew if those creatures still had to be distinguished according to sex or gender? And asking for the preferred pronouns most likely would not help anyone in this situation. She was wearing an old-fashioned dress with flowers embroidered on it. The colour was hard to tell because large spots, most likely dried blood, covered the gown, which was also ripped in several places. Her legs were in tights, which were massively torn as well. She was wearing only one shoe, having probably lost the other, but she did not care about that at all. Most scary, though, was her face: covered with long hair that hadn’t been washed for weeks at least, it was a face without any human emotions, covered with many little wrinkles, showing traces of blood around the wide-opened mouth, revealing yellow teeth. It was contorted out of pure hunger and bloodlust. The skin colour did not even resemble any human skin tone. And then, there were her eyes.

It was impossible to tell what colour they had been once, whether blue or green or grey or anything else. Now the eyeballs were in a yellow tone, with red spots, probably from burst veins. The pupils were shrunken and only the black of them could be seen. The eyes were completely emotionless. After all, they were dead eyes. But they were looking at Filas while the creature was slowly coming closer to her, slowly and clumsily stumbling into her direction.

From horror movies and videogames, Filas knew the idea of beings like that. Beings that had died but were still on Earth, emotionless, brainless, heartless, only hungry for human meat. They were called zombies there, and since she had no better idea of how to call these beings, she just kept to that. It was zombies that had run over every city and every village she had been to in the last weeks. It was zombies that had attacked Extertal and wiped out its population. It was zombies that were taking over control of the whole world now, from what Filas knew. They were extinguishing humanity by making them their preferred food, reproducing that way as well. Each and every person Filas had seen being bitten by a zombie had turned into one after some time. Avoiding their touch was essential in order to survive. And that was easiest when avoiding them for good, which was why Filas was looking for only sparsely populated areas. Apparently though, that was no guarantee either for not meeting any zombies.

Filas let drop her bike to the floor after picking up her spear. She’d better get this done fast, for she did not know if there were more zombies in the village, which was quite likely. Where there was one, there were probably a lot more. She was quite happy for her spear which gave her some reach and made it more manageable to defeat them in combat without getting touched by them.

The zombie came into her reach. Filas pushed it to the right first. She was still a bit careful when starting single combat with a zombie. She could not just forget that they had been human once, unless there were many of them around her. In that case, her will of surviving got the better of her, but otherwise she was still inhibited.

However, the zombie she was facing in this moment did not give up too easily.

After some stumbling, it regained its balance and got closer to Filas again. This time, she went a bit further when defending herself and pierced the zombie’s guts with her spear. Every human being would have been stopped for good with that kind of wound.

Zombies, however, did not care too much about most wounds.

It was maybe held up because it could not simply move on and grab Filas, but that did not hinder it from reaching towards her anyway. There seemed to be only one way to keep the zombie away for good. Filas had been afraid she had to do it, but she had at least wanted to see if there was any other way to get out of the situation. Wherever she had met any zombies, there had been only one way to destroy them, which made it very difficult for people defending them.

So Filas pushed the zombie back, pulled out her spear, and drove it through the zombie’s skull, piercing its brain.

Its limbs became numb immediately, and after groaning throughout the whole combat, the zombie let out one final groan and grew silent. There was not the slightest degree of humanity even in that final sound it made before falling to the ground and staying there motionless.

Trembling, Filas pulled her spear out of the more than dead body and cleaned it with the zombie’s ragged clothing. She did not know what to feel. She had killed a huge number of them already, she had had to, but she could not forget what and who they might have been not too long ago: humans with their own histories. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons... And she had no idea if there were still people out there who might have cared about them. But this one had been killed by her. And her friends or relatives would probably never find out. It bothered her. A lot.

Filas did not have too many people she could care about. No true family. Only few friends, and even fewer after her coming out. Her few friends in real life had already disappeared when she left Paderborn. And most friends she had made in the last months had been online and were situated in places like Norway, the UK, or even America. She had no idea if any of them were still alive and there was practically no way to find out. All WIFI connections seemed to have been lost. She could only hope for them that they had made it. And then there was the one person that she really cared about, for whom she desperately hoped that she was still alive, out there and maybe thinking of her at this very moment. The one she had given her heart to.

But it was not the moment to get lost in her thoughts now. Filas looked around, but she did not see any other zombies approaching her right now. She picked up her bike again, put the spear onto it, and looked at the dead zombie one last time.

“I’m sorry”, she mumbled. “Really sorry”. She turned away and went forward. After a few steps she had left the village and was surrounded by forest while the street was becoming very steep. She still had to push her bike because cycling up there would have been almost impossible if she wanted to move further up, which she very much intended to do. At least she noticed that the rain had stopped.

Despite the steep road Filas fastened her pace. It was not likely that there were too many zombies in this area, particularly in the dense forest, but if there were any, it would be a most unpleasant surprise. So it was best to leave it behind her as soon as possible. Luckily, she reached the highest point of the ascent after 20 metres and she could continue by riding her bike for the next metres. She swung herself on it and on she went.

She totally loved the feeling as she increased her speed on the bike. The freedom, the wind blowing through her long hair was not dulled by cold raindrops. She knew of course that she had to be careful, regarding the still wet street, so she would not fall, but even so it was an amazing feeling, sweeping aside most other concerns of hers, and sweeping aside also the encounter she had just had. She was surprised that the road was so well built, without any potholes. She did not have to pay attention to any of those, and could go fast enough that she knew she would outpace every zombie there might be.

There, she thought with a broad smile when she saw a right-hand bend after a short slope. She loved that feeling so much when she drove through the bend. This amazing feeling in her stomach. It was like flying. Like the moment when she had agreed that the two of them start dating. She wanted to memorize this feeling, wanted to remember her until the end of her days. That might come sooner than later, but in this very moment she did not care a single bit about that. This feeling of utter happiness. Her memories of the few happy moments in her childhood. As a child, she had ridden her bike quite frequently to escape from home at least temporarily, and it still gave her an immense feeling of freedom these days. Funny how a simple bike ride could make her feel better immediately. She wondered if there were any people left on Earth who would still feel the same in these times. Probably not.

After the bent, the street went straight forward, leading her some more uphill. On Filas’ left, the mountain rose with dense coniferous forest. On her right there was an abyss, bordered from the street only by the crash barrier. Filas noticed that the barrier was not as safe as it was supposed to be, because there was a hole in it, directly before the next bent. It seemed like a car on its way up or down the mountain had crashed down there.

At the hole Filas carefully looked down into the abyss and found her assumptions confirmed. An estate car lay down there upside down. From how it looked like, Filas guessed that that accident had happened at least a few weeks ago, so there was no way she could help anyone, even if she would make it down the steep slope. She wanted to go on, but she just could not. She looked around, in each direction, listening closely to any sounds around her. After a few moments, she picked up a small stone at the side of the street, and threw it at the car.

She missed.

Swearing a little, she picked up another stone and threw it down as well. This time, a short noise confirmed her that she had hit the car. She was surprised at how loud it was in the silence all around her, but nothing else happened. No groans, no one stumbling out of the car, no one screaming for help, and, as she looked around again, no one stumbling out of the forest behind her. Whoever had been driving that car had been gone by now, but she could not tell where. With a bad feeling in her stomach she went on with her bike ride, wondering. The size of the car made her assume a family had been travelling with it. Why did they tumble down there? Had they been under attack or had they just hurried and had had one careless moment which had been their destiny? And, most importantly for her personally, had they been escaping uphill or downhill? Was she herself maybe driving into her own doom? But there was no turning back for her, as always in her life. She was probably safer the higher she got.

Lost in her thoughts, it took a while until Filas noticed how the abyss on her right slightly got less steep until it was on the same level as the street itself, covered with forest as dense as on the other side of the street. Some metres later, she slowed down as she saw a path leading into the forest on the right. It seemed forsaken in the middle of nowhere, leading into the dark forest. In earlier days, she would not even have considered to take that path, but now, in days where the straight road only seemed to lead into misery, she needed to consider each and every opportunity. If she had been with a group, this path might lead to a place that might be defended easily, but on her own it only appeared to be a cul-de-sac, a place she would have to leave again within a few days when her provisions were used up. She decided to follow the main road for some more time.

After regaining her pace, she enjoyed the silence around her, the soft breeze of the wind, smelling fresh and clean. The street, still wet from the rain before, might have looked clean as well, if it was not for single leaves and branches that had fallen off the trees as first signs of the autumn to come soon. This time, however, she could not really regain her sense of freedom. She had already made two unpleasant experiences on her way up this mountain, and she was getting more and more worried about what else might expect her. The world has fallen apart and had got way more dangerous than it already was before.

After some hundred metres, the street got too steep again, so once more, after looking around carefully, Filas got off her bike and pushed it further upwards, putting step after step, always in the middle of the street, always listening for any sounds that might announce one or more zombies, and always looking into the wood on her right, and the meadow that had replaced the wood on her left. But everything remained silent, apart from the stirring wheels of her bike and the clicking of the bike chain, and after some minutes, she thought about all of her concerns some more, moving sensual impressions to her subconscious.

Suddenly, she got torn out of her thoughts. “Put down your bike! Hands up!”

In front of her, clad in olive-green uniforms, there stood five men. They wore weird hats, and their uniforms did not look like they had been worn a lot. Their overall appearance was rather ridiculous, but Filas could not really laugh at them, most of all because of the two guns which were pointing at her.

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Hello everyone,

here is the first chapter of the series I'm currently writing (considering the prologue not as the first chapter in that sense).

It is most of all an introduction of the world the story is set in now, and of the main character of course. It may be a little unfortunate I gave her the same name as my pseudonym on here, just ignore that please ^^ The plot will unfold more in the following chapters.

I hope you enjoyed reading it and I'm looking forward to any kind of feedback!

Kind regards,
Filas



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