When you have an incurable disease, like I do, your illness is a part of who you are and while it may not always be something that you’re actively thinking about it’s an omnipresent fact that you’re always aware of. Much like the rest of your body you don’t really think about your disease unless you have a reason to. Take your arm for example; you don’t usually pay too much attention to it, but the moment you realize there’s an issue, resolving it jumps right to the top of your list of things to do immediately. In the days before the internet had crashed, there were signs that things were eventually going to get bad and somewhere, in the back of my mind, I began to think “How will I survive in this potential crisis if the medical supply chain breaks?” Calamities don’t happen in a vacuum after all and I’m sure at some point you too saw that everything was headed for an inevitable collapse. It was around then that I started to plan with Deno, my father-in-law, who is also an incurable, how we would manage to survive in a societal collapse, post-apocalypse type situation and so, about a week into the dawning crisis, once it had become clear that we were at the beginning of a long, downward spiral my father-in-law, my wife, and I began to execute the first step of our plan: rob a local pharmacy.

 

We went in looking for two main things; opioids and insulin. I’m a type one diabetic and Deno was afflicted with D.I.S.H. which is the acronym for Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis. Both conditions are incurable, sure, but until this particular moment in time both were easily treatable. He required lots of pain pills so that he could get up and move around like a normal person as the calcium that was supposed to build his bones was deposited in the tissues surrounding them, slowly turning him into a literal living fossil whereas I required one of a variety of manmade hormones designed to replace the one that my pancreas stopped making after my body decided to destroy that organs ability to function.

 

Those various encroaching infirmitudes and minor issues aside, both me and Deno had been leading relatively healthy and productive lives as upstanding members of society till then. Still, society doesn’t always function in a flawless manner, and we had both previously gone through periods where we had found ourselves incapable of getting our necessary medications. As either of us could attest, all it took was an interruption of a few short hours until we wished we were dead, fighting with maximum effort just to keep it together until we could manage to acquire our next dose. Sitting and waiting for the clock to creep forwards in these horrible scenarios we both felt like junkies, and only a semantic argument could be made that we weren’t. We both needed our drugs badly and neither of us could live without them for long.

 

It was experiences like this where we had been put through the literal hell of drug withdrawal which led us to actually act on our plan before everything started falling apart instead of sitting and waiting until it was too late. Knowing what we knew we figured that once things really started to get bad there would undoubtedly be others like us, other unfortunate individuals riddled with illness who would have the same basic idea: rob a pharmacy to ensure that you have enough medical supplies until you could make your way to a medical warehouse or depot somewhere and make off with everything you could fit in a truck. The only way to be sure that the medications we needed would be waiting for us at our chosen targets would be to hit them before anyone else did, and so we made our move while we were still uncomfortable with the idea of becoming robbers, but before it seemed that anybody else would be willing to make theirs. Though not elaborate, we did have a plan to minimize risk to ourselves as well as the staff. No one was supposed to get hurt….

 

Our target was one of those corporate big box stores you used to see all over the place with the pharmacies hours posted right on the door. We rolled up right before they were supposed to shut down for the night, figuring that there were likely to be less people working then. To create a distraction, Hope, my wife, set fire to the gas tank of one of the uninhabited cars in the parking lot shortly after we entered the store. We were walking towards the pharmacy when we heard the car explode. The staff that were up front ran outside to see what the hell had happened and we pulled out our pistols and rushed towards the pharmacy. We started to scream for everyone to get down and then we heard a gunshot from the other side of the counter.

A woman in a white lab coat fell to the ground a few feet in front of us, blood quickly spreading from the holes peppering her torso. The man who had gunned her down held his shotgun limply looking almost as stunned as we did. Clearly he had never killed anyone before. My best guess as to what had just happened was that he was one of those other unfortunately debilitated bastards we had been worried about, only he had decided to make his move a few minutes before us and had the pharmacist cowering in the corner with his weapon trained on her and was about to start grabbing his preferred medicines when we arrived. When our distraction occurred, this first thief was caught off guard and dropped his attention just long enough for this woman’s survival instincts to kick in and she bolted. That made him freak out at which point his survival instincts kicked in. With two men now running towards him, weapons drawn, while explosions were going off in the background and his hostage was making a run for it, he quickly turned to keep his weapon trained on her, gripping his weapon a little too rapidly and it’s trigger just a little too tightly and BOOM. One dead, or rather, dying pharmacist.

 

There was stunned silence for a moment, but then someone shot at someone else and bullets were blasting the shelves of worthless over the counter concoctions and precious prescription chemicals alike. I moved left, and Deno moved right. The battle was heated but essentially a stale mate. The range of his shotgun prevented him from killing us so long as we kept our distance, with the threat of becoming as dead as the pharmacist stopping us from doing anything other than taking frenzied pot shots from behind cover. After a minute or two he picked up a bag and made to move for the medicine shelves, presumably intending to grab whatever drugs he had originally come for and leave. We saw what he was trying to do and I leapt into action. Adrenaline raging I ran from my cover and sprinted towards the guy as my father-in-law provided covering fire.

Seeing this, the other burglar dropped his bag, turned, and lifted his shotgun. The guy behind the counter had not seemed to find my father-in-laws covering fire threatening and instead of trying to avoid it, he had decided it would be a better idea to take out the armed adversary who was rushing towards him.

It was immediately apparent that I had made a mistake. I was almost to the pharmacy counter where I had intended to duck down and hopefully gain momentary cover but almost wasn’t quite good enough. He had a clean shot, and I had nothing. I did the only thing I could do and leapt head long into the counter, smashing my shoulder into the plasticine paneling as his shotgun blast tore me in half. I was dead…… Well, I thought I was. I had clearly heard a shotgun blast, and there was no way he could have missed me at that range. And yet, there I was, contemplating my own death, and so, therefore, I was, apparently, alive. I stood up and beheld the most beautiful sight of my entire life: Hope had driven up to the open pharmacy drive through window and had blown the bastard clean in half a mere second before he had done the same to me. Everything was covered in gore. All of the medicines, and every wall and floor behind the counter. I whooped with shock and joy. I ran over to her, and pulled my wife up through the window. Tears were streaming down her face and she was shaking too hard to stand by herself but I hug-crushed her until my arms went numb all the same. We proceeded to bag everything worth anything and got the hell out of there.

 

Despite how poorly our first drug theft had gone we had unknowingly managed to pick the perfect time to do it. That same night the deteriorating conditions within the country at large had gotten to everyone within our particular county and the governor had declared martial law in our portion of the state. This caused what few riots there had been to worsen and spread up and down the coast. Between all of the places where there were large massacres of civilians and ultra-violent retaliations against public figures, our paltry death toll of two was hardly even noticed. We hit the road and were out of there before the military blockade could trap us in.

We kept moving, heading towards what we hoped would be our last target. There were a few locations we could have gone after closer to our point of origin but we decided to hit this one near the state line for a multiple reasons the most prescient being that we were all still quite nervous after our botched first operation and we wanted to get as far away from that mess in both memory and space as we could. My wife was particularly disturbed by it. None of us had ever killed anyone before, and as the adrenaline from combat slowly faded the whole affair began to weigh heavy on us all. In the long miles leading up to our next destination, all three of us talked about what had happened over and over and over again, letting our feelings spin out into the still air of our automobiles passenger seating compartment once we inevitably ran out of condolences to pass around. We were determined not to have to kill anyone else. If we could help it.

Upon our arrival, we were relieved to find that the information we had received and the assumptions we had made seemed to be correct. A shabby brick building, on the small side for what was described to us as a warehouse, it was more or less in the middle of nowhere, down an endless stretch of county road. There were only a handful of cars in the cramped parking lot when we arrived, with a single semi-truck in the docking bay. We decided that it would be a good idea to attempt the same strategy we had at the pharmacy, and so we waited and staked the place out. After a few hours, near sundown, around half of the cars left and we decided to make our move.

 

Things went as good as it possibly could have gone for a large scale medical supply heist which was being perpetrated by second time criminals with no other prior experience committing armed robbery. That is to say; we got in and we got out with the aide of the few remaining employees of the warehouse.

There was a brief scuffle when we initially forced our way in, surprising one of the employees as they began to leave through a side door, but once everyone had settled down and we bandaged up the truck drivers leg wound we got to talking and everyone actually found our plight and our plan quite sympathetic at which point they decided to help us in exchange for some of the extra fire power we had brought with us.

 

The people in the warehouse, including the truck driver, had access to more thorough news than we had been able to get through our car radio, and apparently things were deteriorating quite rapidly elsewhere. Full blown military scale conflicts had supposedly broken out in several states, leaving whole towns burnt and desecrated in parts of California, New York, and Texas, at a minimum. After talking with us, everyone there decided that they weren’t getting paid anywhere near enough to sit around twiddling their thumbs while they guarded what had already begun to turn into a gigantic target as the country was torn apart all around them. The trucker wanted to get back to his family before things got any worse, and the others just wanted to get the fuck out of there, to run away and try to prepare for the unimaginable. So, they helped us load up the truck with everything they had that we needed and we drove away leaving them a small part of our arsenal in the back seat of their newly acquired automobile.

 

Next came the last part of our plan which was simple, at least in the abstract. We would take all of our pirated medicines and supplies and make our way out and into the great expanse of the Smoky Mountains. We figured, with the country being torn asunder, and population centers becoming battlefields, it would likely be best to try and avoid most cities, and setup up our operation a reasonable distance from the majority of people. Along the way we stopped in the blackened wreckage of some smaller towns we drove through pillaging the raw materials for our laboratory and farm, as well as several houses worth of building supplies.

Most of the things we needed for our attempt at long term survival were quite simple to aquire; the poppy seeds, which we needed for Deno, were actually purchased outright before any of this had even begun in earnest. We figured that we would have to burgle a farm of some kind to get the amount of pigs we would need to keep me alive but as we drove through a dead main street on a cracked and ruined backroad, Deno almost flipped the truck in order to avoid flattening the herd of swine that had just oinked its way across the entirety of the road, creating a surprisingly convenient roadblock. We spent the rest of that day, from around noon to sundown, attempting to rustle pigs out of the desecrated remains of the surrounding businesses and the surrounding wooded areas and into the back of our truck.

 

We kept driving until we found a place that looked suitable to our needs, a place that we hoped would be our final destination. There was a waterfall at the spot we settled on. It poured over a cliff and into a pond which flowed on into a stream. This allowed us to construct a waterwheel so that we could have electricity, as well as easy access to plenty of fresh water for both us and the animals. There was plenty of land abutting the cliff face so the pigs could roam and the flowers could grow and things actually went pretty well for a while. We fed the pigs, watered the flowers and eventually the house was complete and it was time for our first harvest.

It went better for Deno then it did for me. Harvesting the latex opium from the flowers was fairly straightforward. All we had to do was create small incisions on the plants once they had matured and voila, powerful pain killing drugs seeped out as a milky sap. It was semi-potent as-is and could be consumed right from the second it was harvested but eventually, we began to refine it. At first we only did small batches so as to make sure that we understood the process and didn’t burn through our small stock of hard won goop but, eventually, once we had become sure that we knew and understood the procedure things went pretty smoothly and we refined all of the material that we harvested from our poppy crop.

 

Creating the insulin needed to keep me alive proved to be quite a bit trickier. The whole reason we needed to find a way to make electricity for ourselves, besides comfort, was so that we could begin attempting to produce insulin. We had gotten a shit load of it from the warehouse, as was the case with my father-in-law’s pain meds, but after a few years we would inevitably run out. Thus the pigs and poppies. The idea was to acquire a farmable source for both of the chemicals which we couldn’t live without. I had researched everything as thoroughly as I could before the internet stopped functioning, and we had gotten all the supplies we would need either at that medical warehouse or on the road and so, all that was left was to try our own hands at creating the stuff. We both wanted to be sure that there was no chance that we would ever run out again and to that end we started our farming efforts as soon as we had our new home built. We fenced in a large area that the pigs would be able to roam and we planted our first crop of Papaver Somniferum. He waited, and I got to work on turning our pork into chemicals.

 

The process to refine opium latex into purified opium was a lot like any normal recipe. Cook it for so long, constantly stir, and then just wait until it cools. By comparison, what it took for me to create insulin was on a whole other level of biochemical manufacturing. At first I couldn’t stop fucking things up. In my life before everything went to shit, I was an artist; an author, not a chemist. I hadn’t even gone through a single high school level chemistry course, but when you have a few years to figure out how to create the only thing that will allow you to survive and nothing else to occupy your time, you eventually start to figure things out.

We did the same thing with the insulin that we had done with the opium. We started slowly and increased our production quantities only after we were sure that we knew exactly what the fuck we were doing. Take one pig organ and add sulfuric acid, then put that into the stirring machine and let sit for three to four hours adding an appropriate amount of alcohol to the mixture as it is stirred. Once ready, take the resulting admixture and place it into your (in this case) custom built Centrifuge. Filter, then heat, afterwards adding Ammonium Sulphate and so on. It was very…. mechanically intense, especially after we ran out of rebreather filters. We had thought that the smell of the chemicals in the laboratory portion of the house was particularly overwhelming before we ran out functional masks but afterwards…. the only way to explain what it was like in there is with the phrasing that my wife came to use. Standing there, hour after hour, sifting and mixing, checking and rechecking the steps you were following, standing right near those large thunking machines, she said that it was acrid humidity so cloying it became depreciative. That’s how she put it. It was so wet and hot in there that it could become difficult to breathe. Or think. Still; with a large amount of persistence we slowly began to master the process and around a year in we began to see results.

 

Our final product terrified me. It was a light brown color, which was a stark contrast to the crystal clear liquid of the professionally manufactured insulin that I had previously been used to. I was aware that other people who had managed to successfully sustain themselves on homemade insulin had been treated to similar results and I knew that they had ended up being fine, but when you are considering injecting yourself with something the color of diarrhea water no amount of foreknowledge will make you feel any better about it. Thankfully there was another very important step between me and the shit liquid, one which would hopefully reassure me about the safety of my new product.

 

We took six of our pigs and walled them off in their own pen. I had read all kinds of papers about how, in the early days of pharmaceutical insulin creation, scientists had tested their insulin by starving the animals, chopping out their pancreases, testing on diabetic creatures as well as various other kinds of exaggerated testing protocols. For our situation, the only thing that made sense to me was the direct approach. I injected three of the test pigs with the chemical and did nothing at all to the other three. Sure enough, the pigs that I dosed did not have a good time. Once it was clear that the insulin had effected them I gave the creatures some potent sugar water and they eventually snapped out of it and were more or less fine….. and by fine I mean alive and not suffering from any horrendously long-lasting or life-threatening side effects, so far as I could tell.

 

The reason I had done these tests was to make sure that there weren’t little pieces of animal organ or bacteria floating around in that light brown liquid. Insulin needs to be injected into fatty tissue and injecting large quantities of particulate matter and foreign bacteria into your body can lead to a potentially fatal reaction. But, as it turned out, despite repeated subcutaneous exposures to the brown serum all the pigs remained fine after a brief period of drowsiness and confusion, showing that not only did the insulin work but that it was likely safe for human usage as well.

 

We had reached the point where there was no longer any point in stabbing my test animals and so, with great hesitation, I took my first injection of the brown insulin. Intellectually I knew that I should be ok; the pigs hadn’t had any negative side effects from their repeated exposures to the insulin, at least not as far as I could tell, but the color of the stuff was like a knife to the part of my brain that would scream: DO NOT INJECT THIS! And yet I did. And I was ok. Nothing bad happened. It felt exactly the same as the clear insulin I had been familiar with all of my life. I didn’t feel weird unless I took either too much or too little and so I kept using my homemade stuff for the remainder of that season. We released the test animals back into the larger pasture so that they could be with the rest of the herd and we began to think about how and if we would be able to sustain our situation long term, perhaps even forever and whether or not things were likely to get better or remain insane in the rest of the former U.S. of A. We were very surprised to find that one day, the answer to all of these questions came rolling right up to our front door.

 

We had tried our best to create a sanctuary for ourselves; a place where we would, potentially, be able to stay for the rest of our lives if that proved necessary. We wanted to create a home, and a resource, a place where my wife and I could start a family, where we could raise our kids, where her father would be able to live out his days in peace as he watched his yet to be born grand-children grow and come to understand this hopefully healing world. We were all very much aware of the possibility that things would not be getting better any time soon however, which is why we decided on building our little cabin miles and miles away from even the smallest town. We didn’t want to be found unless we decided that it was time that we should be. Above all else we wanted to make sure that we were no easy target; for anyone. Being a functional farm with a variety of supplies including fresh water, electricity, animals, vegetables, weapons, ammunition, medicines, and drugs we figured we might be an even larger target for any potential attacker then that medical supply depot which we had, ourselves, burgled. Not only was there some pretty decent and hard to get stuff in our new home, but, there was the means to create more, and not just what we had been making thus far. If you were to get the right chemicals into our lab there was a large variety of things you could make in there. Our place, in and of itself, was a desirable thing and that is above all else why we had to build it in the middle of nowhere. If we were living there, and thriving with a modicum of 21st-century comfort then so too could anyone who came there and took it from us.

 

Still, we got lonely all the way out there. That loneliness is what lead to our eventual downfall I think. In all our years on that plot of land I don’t think there was a single person or group of people that we turned away, and the few times single individuals or small bands of travelers happened across our humble abode on the way to wherever they were headed we were more than happy to invite them in for a hot meal and some welcome company.

I haven’t really had anyone to corroborate things with since then but my best guess as to what went down is this: one of the people we let stay with us got captured by some resource starved group a little closer to the remnants of civilization. They were caught, and possibly tortured and eventually they told these starving people about the little farm with a bunch of pigs and flowers which also happened to have a working water wheel somewhere out in the Smoky Mountains. We didn’t tell people what we were doing out there, but it is possible that this theoretical former guest happened to have a keen eye and saw something that looked like drugs or medicine, ammunition, or weapons and they let that information slide in order to try and save their own life. Even if they weren’t all that sharp it would be hard for even the dullest individual to miss the fact that we were living easy with working electricity and convenient amounts of food and water. This organization, and I am still not sure who they were, sent a group of people out looking for us and on one horrible evening, in the fall of that year, some of them happened to find us.

I can only describe the people who attacked our home that night as raiders. We saw the very beginnings of these sorts of hardcore bandit clans as we made our way out and into the mountains but we were completely taken aback by the level that things had apparently progressed to since we had been living in the wilderness.

I call these folks raiders because that’s how groups like this tend to organize themselves. Raiding parties of starving people who begin to cling together, amassing all the things that were easy to come by before everything went to shit, the sorts of things that were designed to survive independently of societies functioning; vehicles, fuel, weapons, and ammunition, all the while raiding further and further afield from the previously metropolitan areas that used to be these people’s homes, which provided them with the just enough gear to keep them alive and fighting as things went to shit, but which quickly ran out of necessary supplies when the serious parts of what had been the war began to taper down. Inevitably, a ton of people who had been fighting for their very lives for whole months, or even years found themselves with tons of bullets, but almost no food or medicine, and no real way to produce any from within the confines of the crumbling concrete jungle around them. Like in so many fictional tales, many of these now starving and ravenous people came to the same conclusion. There is no food here, let’s use all of this firepower to go and find and then “acquire” it, somewhere else. They got into their vehicles, and took to the highways and lesser roads in search of food, and anything that could help them to survive in this now oppressive landscape, taking whatever from whomever, like bands of modern day high caliber Vikings.

These bastards had decided to use our own strategy against us; they arrived right before sunset, probably angling to see if what they had heard about our electricity was true and to take us by surprise at the same time. And it almost worked. If it hadn’t been for my wife passing through the front of our house as they arrived, she might not have heard one of their doors slam, looked out the window and seen a battalion of heavily armed and armored military raider types forming up to rush our house. We were lucky in that first instance, and because of that we were able to surprise our surprise attackers. Our home made flash bangs detonated right as they were about to reach our porch and we mowed down as many of them as we could. The ones who were still standing scattered and ran for cover and their sneak attack slowly morphed into a siege.

We had built our home so that every door would be visible from the dining and living room, just in the extremely unlikely event that something like this occurred and so while our position wasn’t super defensible and we were pinned down quite thoroughly we were able to stave them off, more or less. They just kept coming though, and this went on for what felt like hours, someone at one entrance trying to distract us while someone with a ranged weapon provided covering fire, all in an attempt to get a group of their people in through the doors or windows. A door would get kicked open and we would send a hail of bullets in that direction. They tried everything, they came at us from every angle, they laid off just to give us a false sense of security and sacrificed a surprising number of their own men to try and sneak someone in through the lab while we held off the deluge coming through our broken living room windows. And of course they tried over and over again to simply rush in and shoot all of us before we could shoot them.

Each of us took a fair deal of hits, but before long most of the night was gone and everyone was still breathing and more or less in one piece. The raiders seemed to have taken a break. At first we thought it was another trick, the ultimate lull; give us a few hours to relax and then bam, kill everyone. But we didn’t really care what they were doing at that point. They had stopped shooting and that is what allowed us to finally execute our own plan of attack.

They had kept their trucks at some distance, presumably to use as cover for their long range gunners in addition to keeping their vehicles out of the general weapons range of the people pinned down inside the house. We were pretty sure that that was where they had fallen back to which meant they were all in one place, which is to say, most of our attackers were sitting on, in or near vehicles with a bunch of highly flammable gasoline inside of them.

My wife and my father-in-law provided covering fire, taking a couple of pot shots at the snipers which were visible to them with our own long range rifles. I kept low and jumped forward, scurrying along the floor until I made it up to the window sill. The glass from the blown out panes on the floor cut me all over but that didn’t matter. If I didn’t fuck this up I might’ve been able to bring the situation to a close at long last. As I got into position, my blood pumping, I twisted the caps on our lab crafted grenades and lobbed as many as I could into, under, and around their vehicles. Someone saw what I was doing, shouted “Grenade!” and the raiders attempted to scatter. Then the grenades went off and each of the military vehicles was hit by several sets of explosions and were propelled into the air on clouds of roaring flame.

Our yard was a roiling chaos. Flames, and flaming liquid were everywhere, lighting the scene of charred remains and disembodied organs which were strewn about in haphazard patterns, marking the boundaries of the explosions which had consumed the grounds. And people. There were people running everywhere. Those who had survived the initial blasts had a variety of reactions. Some ran, most attacked. There were people coming at us from every direction. At first it was a shooting gallery, with people running blindly towards us only to be mowed down or blown up by everything that we lobbed out of our front windows. But they were beyond caring. We had destroyed their band of brothers, likely all that they had to care about in this world. You could tell that was how they felt by the unyielding rage in their eyes. My memories of this one guy in particular still haunt me…..

The sun was just beginning to rise, at long last, and most of the raiders were dead. Our line, all three of us fighting side by side and in unison had broken a long time ago and had faded alongside the pretext that this was a simple take over. When those trucks had gone up in flames so had the idea that anything was to be done with this place besides completely destroying it, and soon after that initial charge of raiders someone had tossed a grenade into the house and blew out the whole left side of the dining room and we scattered just as the raiders had.

This giant of a man was slowly careening towards my father-in-law. Deno had just killed two of his compatriots by the shed abutting the poppy field fence out back. He knifed one guy whose body he let slump over him so as to absorb the two blasts that the second guy shot his way. His partner’s body took the bulk of both blasts and as the second man was reloading Deno was able to wriggle his gun around the dead man he was holding and took the second guy in the forehead with a pistol shot. He was breathing heavily to the point of being ragged, and his arms were red up to the elbow as he released the corpse he had knifed and tried to gain control of himself.

I don’t know what the guy approaching him from behind had been doing before, perhaps he was knocked out in one of the initial truck explosions and he had only recently recovered consciousness. He was covered in blood, just splattered with it, and he had organs hanging off of him all though none appeared to belong to him. His face was freshly disfigured on the left side like he had taken part of an explosion to that side of his body or a muzzle blast to that part of his face and that eye was a white, blind scab surrounded by flesh charred black and chewed up by shrapnel. His other eye, his good eye, held nothing. There was malice there, but it was far away. Whatever had happened to this guy he was still deep in it.

This hulking figure remained silent as he moved towards my father-in-law except for his intense breathing. Once he got within ten feet of Deno, though, the man started to scream. A long, wordless pronouncement of hatred and suffering came from within him as he fired his semi-automatic rifle. The man’s grip on his weapon was loose and his muzzle lurched upwards as it sprayed lead wildly. Deno was hit several times up his left leg and into his abdomen. He shrieked and fell.

I started to fire my own weapon at the guy. I missed the first few shots. He didn’t even notice. He just continued to lurch towards Deno; breathing, in and out, in and out, exhaling small puffs of white fury into the crisp gray morning light.

I was running by then. I had a shotgun and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hit him until I was a little closer. I didn’t understand what he was doing. He dropped his gun and crouched over Deno’s crumpled form. Breathing. And staring. I was close by then but not yet close enough. I could only watch as the man put his hands on Deno and began to claw at his stomach wounds, forcing his fingers into him and ripping him open.

Deno started screaming. And I shot the guy. I only hit him with the edge of my spread but I did hit him. And he didn’t seem to notice. His entire world appeared to be solely comprised of his hands digging into this old man in front of him. We were all screaming now, two voices in rage and one in pain.

I pulled my trigger again and this time I got him. Shrapnel sunk deep into his back and neck. And he still didn’t stop. I was almost on him. And I shot him yet again. The shotguns expulsion ripped through this guy’s body. He shuddered. And he started to stand up. I cocked the weapon and loaded several more shells. He turned around.

There where holes all in him. Clearly, he was losing a lot of blood, but he had been so covered in viscera and damage from the initial horrors that he had faced that it was hard to tell what damage, if any, besides the shrapnel’s exit wounds, that I had actually inflicted on him. And still he just stood there and stared at me. With his ruined eye and his eviscerated face he just stood there and stared me down, breathing hard and staring. I felt his hatred and his madness. And then he began to come towards me, likely his body finally failing him as he began to die I thought, but no. He came out of that stumble and placed one foot solidly in front of him, now, surely being moved by rage alone and I unloaded my guns remaining shells; one into his stomach, and one into the underside of his jaw, both at point blank range. He stood for a moment longer ogling me with his skull of a face, burning with hatred and a desire to kill, a display of an all-consuming thirst for revenge that I don’t think I will ever be able to properly describe and then, at last, he fell, collapsing to the ground in front of me. I had to jump back a foot or so, so as to not be trapped underneath the falling mass of his corpse.

I was completely still, stunned by what had just happened. There was no sound. There was nothing but a slow creeping in of light to the world around me, illuminating the horror of the previous night as well as my own gore splattered form. And then Deno began to moan and, realizing he was still alive, I ran to him. I moved him inside what little was left of our house. I bandaged him up as best as I could, and then I went to look for his daughter, my wife.

As I cleaned him up we talked it over, and neither of us had seen her in quite some time. Things had become confused fairly quickly after the grenades got involved and we all ended up running in our own directions, fighting our own fights. So I went looking for her. I checked all over the farm, noting the damage as I went. There didn’t seem to be any raiders left, but they had taken everything with them. At some point a majority of the fences had been smashed and so all of the pigs had escaped. The wind had blown or an explosion had pushed some of the flaming gasoline into one of the poppy fields and once one went up they all did. Puddles of liquid and flame still licked up towards the sky all over the place as I walked around, surveying the ruination. And of course there were bodies. Bodies everywhere. Many of the pigs had also fallen at some point during that night’s chaos and the smell of cooking pork mixed with the smell of burning human flesh, and much to my dismay it was difficult to discern the difference.

There was no sign of her. Anywhere. She didn’t come out from behind a tree, or cry for help from somewhere off in the distance. I started to call my wife’s name….. and hours went by. Eventually, I began looking for her with the bodies. Some of them were just too mangled to be able to tell who they were, but I didn’t think any of the bodies reduced to piles of intestines strewn about the yard could have happened to be her. The last time I had seen her there had only been a few hours left until the morning and there definitely hadn’t been any more explosions since then. So, when I couldn’t find her and she didn’t appear I went back to her father. He was dead by the time I got to him.

I stared at his body, no longer breathing. And I went back to checking the dead. I had nothing else left to do. The explosions and fires had ruined the house, utterly destroying the laboratory, destroying all of the equipment and blowing up all of our supplies. Even the water wheel had been damaged beyond repair. If I could find my wife…. well….. if I found her amongst the bodies at least I would know what had happened to her. So I searched and I searched and I searched some more, at first only bothering to check the women of a similar build, but then it got to be nighttime again and so I started to check every body. I used a flashlight at first and at some point I must have fallen asleep due to exhaustion but the next day I was right back at it. Eventually, I stopped. I don’t know when. I don’t remember stopping. But at some point I found myself sitting in the blown out remains of our only hope for survival, huddled on the ground in a stupefied manner next to Deno’s gradually putrefying corpse. What else was there for me to do? My wife was gone…. I had no more insulin….. maybe, if I waited around long enough she would come back with a secret hidden stash of insulin and we could finally get out of there, and go back to civilization. The government would have rebuilt itself and everything would end up being fine! And then I would look to my left at my kindly father-in-laws bulging chest cavity and wonder how long it would be until that started to happen to me.

I ended up sitting there, in that ruined charnel house for a long while. It couldn’t have been any longer than a few days or I would surely have died from Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It was definitely starting to set in at that point but it hadn’t quite managed to kill me, yet. I was parched beyond all understanding, and the world was wildly spinning with nausea and saccharine pain, my body slowly shutting down as it agonizingly amassed its own oversweet nutrient-poisons. My insides felt like they were preparing to start consuming themselves as at long last my body was free to show me what my disease could really do to me if given the chance. I started then, to think of it as its own entity, as though my Diabetes Mellitus was an old-school demon which had been sitting besides me my entire life and it was now thanking me for the chance to finally get to take full control of my body and show me what it was truly all about. And I was going to let it, too. This disease which had been less bothersome to me than the common cold for most of my days was about to start killing me and I was just going to let it happen….. But then I remembered something. A tiny thought slowly bubbled its way to the forefront of my consciousness and with herculean effort, I army crawled over to a particular floor board and was barely able to wedge it up and walk my fingers inside the hole underneath….. to find insulin! I had hidden a small personal supply of insulin away at one point and couldn’t bring myself to think about it with all of the other reasons I wanted to die winning out over the insistent memory of this little temporary lifesaver.

Still. I felt awful. I didn’t really want to go on living but I was tired of feeling like death. Dying is one of the most unpleasant things that I have ever had the misfortune to experience and there was only one way to make that feeling stop. So, I used the small amount of alcohol I had hidden in this miniature prep kit, to clean off a spot on my grime caked leg, and with more effort than went into defending my home and family those few days before, I stuck myself with a syringe containing all of the insulin remaining to me, all of the insulin in the entire world so far as I knew, and I drifted off into a feverish, pain riddled sleep.

I awoke some hours later, in the pitch black of a starless and moonless night, feeling a little less deathly; still not well but able to move without requiring an inhuman effort. In giving myself that insulin I had come back to the world ever so slightly and the smells coming from all around me… I had to leave. I recovered the flashlight I had been using to look through the corpses and I found some clothes that hadn’t been destroyed as well as a single towel and I made my way to the lake by the waterwheel. I was certain that the water had been polluted by the runoff from the dead on the nearby battlefield but it couldn’t possibly have been as bad as what was on my body at that moment and so, I jumped in.

The icy water was quite bracing and once I had managed to put on the relatively clean clothes I felt almost human again. I was not yet better but I was continuing to get there. I dried off thoroughly, put on my shoes, strapped the flashlight to my head, made a bindle from the towel and a stick I found and I started to run. I found out very quickly that I was still far too ill to be active for long but I needed to get away from that place. And I needed to run. I’ve been running every second of every day ever since then.

I really do need insulin to survive but exercise works as a stop gap measure. Heavy exercise forces the body to burn sugar for energy and so by running non-stop I can help to lower the amount of sugar in my blood which is kind of what insulin normally does.

But this fucking disease is gonna get me yet…. All I am doing is prolonging the inevitable. Insulin also regulates the body’s ability to allow sugar to enter your fat and muscles for storage and so, without a steady stream of it sugar is slowly building up in my bloodstream. I’m able to get rid of some of that through exercise but not all of it and eventually all of that glucose in my blood is gonna catch up to me. It is only a matter of time until my mouth begins to dry and my lips begin to crack. My insides will begin to hurt and then burn and one day, soon, they’ll stop and I will fall and at long last my unending flight towards the unyielding horizon will be over. The diabetes will have stopped me, my disease will finally have won. And that will be the end of that.

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