Daylight is fading as I set out on the second day, but night has not yet fallen. My stomach growls and I realise I’ve barely eaten or drunk since yesterday, so I sit down for a can of Pepsi and my last tin of cold rancid beans, hammering the can open on a nearby tree stump.
Gotta think. I’ve got a fair few pistol magazines and a few flares left, but no food or water. I’ve no choice – I have to find supplies. That means entering a town.
I set out through the failing light, picking my way through the trees. I’ve no map, no compass and no sense of direction beyond the paling sun on the Western horizon. It’s maybe half an hour before I find a road to follow, keeping at a safe distance in case of ‘traffic’, undead or otherwise. Eventually, as twilight turns to full fledged night, a sign looms out of the shadows. Zelenogorsk.
A thick mist is driving in, obscuring vision even more, but serving at least to mask my approach through the open fields surrounding the town from bandit eyes. As I get closer I see my first zombie – a man-shaped silhouette crawling around with his face in the dirt by one of the houses on the outskirts. No, wait. Not crawling. Hopping. He lifts his head to the sky, uttering a gutteral croak that hangs in the fog like a threat.
To my horror, that croak is answered. Several low, soulless moans echo through the night and a host of shambling figures lurch into view from between the houses. Shit. I hit the deck.
I watch them for a full five minutes before I notice the store, illuminated by a flickering streetlight. Wide, glass fronted windows – a supermarket! Food! There are maybe five hundred yards between me and the store – but there are at least six or seven zombies as well.
Screw it. I need that food. I drop to the ground and begin crawling. Zombies pass mere metres away; each time I hold my breath, and each time they wander off, oblivious. It feels like an eternity before I make it to the store. The front entrance is barricaded by barbed wire and I curse quietly before making my way round the side.
The service door at the back is wide open, and I pause before entering, listening. It’s very dark now and quite difficult to see. Zelenogorsk itself is black and silent, save the moans of the walking dead. I head in, pistol raised, expecting the worst.
The shelves are stripped bare. My heart sinks. All this for nothing. Then I notice the foot. Poking out of an open doorway is a foot. Hell, it’s a whole leg. I hear the flies as I approach, smell the rot. A whole corpse, but mercifully inanimate. Rounding the corner there is a second, as lifeless as the first, still clutching an assault rifle.
Jackpot. I loot an Ak-74 with three clips, a map and compass, some matches, a hunting knife and a large number of chemlights. The other body has cooked meat and cans of soda, and I stuff my backpack with all I can carry. There’s a toolbox and some car parts too, but these are bulky, and I leave all but the toolbox for future explorers.
Grinning at my haul, I exit the store on my belly, hoping to avoid any other treasure hunters that might be watching. I crawl out, past the zombies, and head back South to clear the edge of town before cutting a sharp line North-East towards Stary Sobor, near the centre of Chernarus. The forest looms before me once more, but I feel the bulk of the AK on my back. This time, I walk in unafraid.
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