1) Awakening

1) Awakening

A Chapter by Nicholas Woode-Smith

Peter Swart has been hiding in an apartment for 7 days after the outbreak. He is running out of food and now has been forced to venture out into this new world. Will he be able to handle it?


The sun was rising, revealing the pleasant sight of Table Mountain in all her majesty. Golden sunlight flooded the land, illuminating the gray rocks of the mountain and assorted greenery below it. As the sun continued to climb, it revealed more and more of the vast mountain, painting it a majestic gold. Just below, the shadow of dawn was being swallowed up and consumed by the ever growing rays of the sun, and revealing the forests in all their glory and splendour.

It was a refreshing scene, especially after the week of rain which had made this unpleasant week exponentially drearier. It seemed that someone up there had a sense of humour, or at least the knowledge of how to set an appropriate scene, as the weather had fit perfectly with the events of the past seven days, even if people liked it or not. Maybe that was the point, actually; maybe the rain and storms were meant to make the already terrified, angry and depressed people of Cape Town even more vulnerable. That would be logical, a scene of despair was never complete without the correct ambience, and what was more ambient than a rain storm coupled with the screams and conflict of an entire city. Not much else, except maybe the sound of a populace losing all hope before their little lives were cut short, which was also a prevalent sound in the last seven days.
The fresh morning air was crisp, the first fresh air that Peter had felt in awhile, as the storms kept him in doors. Standing on the small balcony of the apartment, he could easily see out onto Table Mountain and into Claremont proper. 

He had spent the morning staring at the mountain, basking in its magnificence not for the simple act of doing so, but for a much more self-fish reason: he didn’t want to see what he had sheltered himself from below. But who could really blame him? There were not much pleasant sights to look at since that day. Peter had to admit, since the world died, most things had become very dull, especially from the view of his exclusive penthouse, conveniently located in the centre of what was now one of the hardest hit suburbs this side of the city bowl. In hindsight, Peter realized that he had probably made a stupid decision coming here after the attacks. Granted, he had panicked, and one can do very little whilst panicked, but when one thought of their mistakes, they seldom thought of their mood at the time. Peter had spent most of his time in the one bedroom apartment brooding over if he had made the right choice. At the time it had seemed the only one. Peter had been stressed and anxious, and it was that mood which he Peter did remember, and it was the presence of those moods which was the reason that Peter was worried if his decision was the wrong one.
He had survived for seven days, however, and that was no mean feat. He must have done something right. For seven days he had managed to go to bed comfortably amidst the screams and for seven days he had managed to get enough to eat from the dwindling supply of food which the previous owner had so-kindly left behind.

Peter Swart was anything but unfortunate in his predicament. While most had died on the first day, from infection or from more mundane methods, he had survived. While most were either hunkering down in a ditch or looking for someone to eat, he had food and a warm bed. This was something he hoped would remain for a long time, but as most things always did, this was about to change.
Peter had been staring all this while at the majesty of the mountain which had been a symbol for his city, but one thing always bugged him. Even if he had survived this long, he couldn’t just ignore that the event had ever happened. Hell, for the last seven days he had acted as he would have in his own apartment back in Rondebosch. The difference of course being that this was not his apartment, and that instead of pizza and 2-minute noodles, he was now down to eating cat food. He had sheltered himself as he had always sheltered himself. Peter had never been a sociable 19-year old student. Many described him as a recluse, or an eccentric. Peter didn’t doubt the former, but he had objections to the latter. To him, he just didn’t like people. He had always been introverted, and that had always worked out for him. People required too much maintenance, became too much of an inconvenience. He had gone through life not accepting help, and not going out of his way to make friends. It had worked out for him, and even drove forward other elements in his life. If he had gone into digs with friends, he wouldn’t have been encouraged to earn enough money to buy his own apartment, and by extension, he wouldn’t have worked hard enough to receive a promotion. To Peter Swart, friends were baggage and people just a necessary irritant. Thinking about that day, Peter found himself realizing that it was his anti-social behaviour that probably saved him.

In accordance with Peter’s personality, his interests all related to having to speak to as little people as possible. It was this reason that on the 15th of March 2015, he had gone to Cavendish in the early morning to purchase a new game. By passing the traffic that was almost certainly about to erupt hours later, Peter had arrived at the store at about 7 AM. The mall was near to empty, the only people there being security guards and shop owners opening up for a new day of business in this nation’s dying economy. It was just how Peter liked it.

He knew that coming this early meant he would have to wait awhile, but he didn’t care, it was worth it to avoid the nuisance of people.
While sitting down in the near empty market area between the two halves of the mall, Peter could not help but notice the posters which had been popping up everywhere. Posters of green and gold stating that people will need to obey the state if they are to survive the disaster which they were in. They bore slogans commending the actions of government owned groups, as well as condemning the actions of what they called ‘agitators’. 
Peter had suppressed a sneer. He may not like people, and may not care that much about the welfare of his nation, but he could see the posters for what they were: blatant propaganda trying to justify a dystopia. And that was what South Africa was, a Dystopia; for what else could a dystopia be? The state had muscled into everything, destroying the press, the economy and freedom itself; hunger and disease ran rampant; borders had been closed and curfews enforced. All this made possible due to the eradication of any and all opposition just a year before. The news may have stated that these were necessary precautions, but Peter knew that if the people were not so busy burying their heads in the sand, they would wake up and South Africa would have had a revolution on its hands. 

Sometimes, Peter did care about his society, and this was normally coupled with anger. These were of course rare; he honestly didn’t care what happened, as long as it didn’t affect them. Even when the TV started going ablaze with the reports of a new disease, he had not cared " it was not affecting him. He should have cared, though, as now it was affecting him.
At the market area of Cavendish, he had waited for the opening of the video game store, like so many days before. Of course, life had been simpler all those other times. You didn’t have to confirm your identity at every intersection then, and didn’t have to put up with a military patrol blocking traffic every other hour. It had been a much simpler, more pleasant life.
He couldn’t have known what he was about to face that day, however; couldn’t expect that he may never even get to pick up his pre-ordered game, and not even care about doing so.
Thinking about it still unnerved Peter and he could find himself still becoming weak at the knees when he thought about it. Peter was by no means a squeamish person, even if sheltered, but he had found himself vomiting his full after he had escaped what happened that day at the market. Any normal person would have. 

Peter had been waiting there for about an hour for the store to open. The air had been cool, forcing him to rub his knees together awkwardly to keep himself warm. It had been in that socially uncomfortable position in which Peter had been shoved over.
It had obviously come as a surprise, one minute standing and the next being barrelled over and landing on the floor, and Peter only recovered from the shock a few seconds later. Pulling himself up, he found the culprit, a woman, running as if for her life. Peter lifted himself up, an angry expression marring his young face as he shouted after her. “Hey, are you crazy?!”
The woman had already rounded a corner, but he still felt satisfied that he could get in a little verbal revenge for the totally uncalled for shove. After dusting himself off and turning in the direction from which the woman had come, he then saw the reason for her flight.
Shambling towards him was something he had not expected to ever see in his life. Something he thought was exclusive to video games and movies, and in all logic " should not exist. 

Peter stood stock still as the figure moved closer and closer. Torn clothes, dark skin and broken teeth " Peter would have thought this a beggar if it was not for other additions. While beggars and the great unwashed were generally dirty, they tended not to be covered in blood stains and possess eyes of red.

Recovering from his shock, Peter soon started to doubt if this really was what he thought it was. How could it be, he found himself thinking, they didn’t exist. He reassured himself that his first perception was wrong and then decided to confront the man.
“Oi, what you think you doing?”
The beggar didn’t answer and just kept advancing in a slow cumbersome gait. Unnerved by the lack of a response, Peter backed away slightly.
“Are you listening to me?” he spat, perturbed at being ignored.
At this outburst, the beggar turned to him with bloodshot eyes, emotionless eyes. Peter couldn’t help but show the anxiety he felt at the beggar’s stare. A drop of sweat started to form on the tip of his chin, and as it fell, the beggar moved again.

Peter couldn’t have expected the attack, but he did alright in countering it. One second the man had looked like a mindless drunkard, the next he was hissing and charging. Peter only narrowly dodged the charge and was a split second away from being barrelled over and pinned. The ‘beggar’ hadn’t given in, though, and rounded on Peter with a blow which he also narrowly dodged. Teeth bared, the ‘beggar’ persisted with the attack.
“Are you bledy crazy?” Peter exclaimed, trying to keep away from the flailing onslaught. He already knew the answer, but he felt that it was necessary to say it aloud. Peter soon realized that he should have focused more on getting away, as one of the beggar’s blows met his side, winding him.

The blow knocked him onto the floor to fall next to the seating area of one of the currently abandoned restaurants. The beggar was about to pounce, but even if shaken, Peter had played too many video games to let his guard waver. He grabbed onto a nearby chair and threw it with all his might. The piece of furniture made contact and hit the beggar in the legs, toppling him.

The figure was prone, but breathing, meaning Peter didn’t have much time and would have to abandon his game, he would not risk staying there. Peter lifted himself up as the beggar did the same, but a kick to the head managed to keep the violent degenerate lying down. After making sure he would make it without being accosted, Peter bolted.
He had no desire to be in the area when police started asking questions, and if what he suspected was true, he would need to get out of there for more than avoiding a minor inconvenience.

He had parked his bike about a street away as the mall’s parking lot had been full. This proved to have been a stupid move, as coming here in the first place must have been. He had been running non-stop but as he turned the corner of the street, he found his physical capabilities catching up with him, forcing him to stop for some breath. He leaned down, panting furiously and feeling like he was about to vomit up his own lungs. After leaning on a nearby wall, his vision began clearing and after using his sleeve to clear some sweat from his brow, he looked back at the mall. The beggar wasn’t following him. Peter let out yet another breath, but this time one of relief. Of course, his relief was short lived as he noticed something else. 

Shambling near his bike, which was located just across the empty street, was not one but about three people akin to the beggar. What was different was that all three of these figures bore something which further proved Peter’s previous assumptions. They possessed bites, bloodied wounds which stained their clothes and looked as if they should be pulsing blood by the second.

Peter was of course shocked, but his encounter with the beggar had prepared him for this. He now knew that somehow, beyond comprehension, there were zombies loitering around his bike. 
At that moment Peter started regretting being an RTS gamer and not a zombie shooter, as Starcraft could never have prepared him for this. He backed away slowly, trying to keep as quiet as possible. The zombies didn’t notice him and seemed content to just groan and occasionally gurgle. 

He had managed to make it to the far curb by the time that the car came screeching down the street, of course drawing the zombie’s attention immediately. It had gone fast, but Peter had managed to get a glimpse of the cause of the frenzy. The windscreen was already covered in blood, but from the passenger windows, Peter could see the brutal killing as a zombie mauled the driver.

“This can’t be happening,” Peter murmured to himself without thinking. After saying it he quickly looked at the zombies, who luckily had not heard him and had instead decided to follow the car which had proceeded to crash into a tree near an intersection. The sound of the impact was loud, especially coupled with the sound of the cars alarm and the hissing of the zombies as they went to investigate. That was when Peter noticed more of them. Zombies who had heard the noise started shambling out of corners and buildings, some with bites and clouded eyes and others who ran with blood lust. Those were the ones Peter feared, and he didn’t allow the chance to slip away as he broke out in a run. His bike would have to be abandoned. 

Peter found himself swearing as he ran. Swearing at how ludicrous his predicament was, and how inconvenient the loss of his bike and game would be. For a time, he had managed to convince himself that what he had seen was an illusion of a fatigued mind, but every block he ran he saw more of them. He also started seeing people trying to fight the zombies, and failing dismally. Puddles of blood littered the streets as zombies clung onto people, seeking to consume them or spread their vile disease.
Peter felt sick from the running and from the sights, but fear drove him onward. He knew he couldn’t just keep running, and that he would have to stop eventually, but for now he just wanted to get away, get away from the violence that had ruined a previously peaceful morning. Every so often he turned a street to find a formerly quiet suburb alight with violence. He heard gunshots, but he didn’t know from where. Police he guessed, as civilians were not allowed guns anymore. 

As the streets grew quieter and all sounds of violence and pursuit disappeared, he started to slow. His adrenaline was slowing and as he finally stopped, he doubled over and vomited out the remainder of his breakfast. Swearing at himself for stopping, he hastily turned around to see how far away any zombies were, and prepare accordingly. The street was empty.

He let out a relieved sigh, but knew that his time of respite was going to be limited unless he acted soon. He could still hear gunshots and screams in the distance, but the trees which canopied the street managed to drown most of that out, as well as the fresh sun. On either side of the street were seemingly abandoned apartment buildings or flats, a few of them still had cars parked out in front.
From all appearances, though, the area looked like a ghost town " just the type of place Peter liked. 

He knew that his predicament was now one of survival and recounting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Peter realized that he would need to start making sure he secured said needs. He needed food and sleep, both of which he would find in the flats. He knew it was illegal to trespass, but in this scenario, he severely doubted that the police would care about a squatter. They hardly cared before this madness. 

So he picked the flat on the right to match his political leanings. The front door was wide open and all he needed was to waltz right in there and shut it behind him. The front door was in the form of an average glass door and a superior trellis door behind it. Lucky for him, the trellis door was an automatic locking model and clicked into place. The glass door, however, was less convenient and he had to be content to leave it unlocked.
Feeling safe behind locked doors, he assessed the interior of the flat. It was a small building compared to other apartment blocks, providing only 4 rooms, two on each floor. The ground floor was complete with only a check-in desk which was currently unoccupied. It seemed that this building had been abandoned in a hurry, which suited Peter just fine.
At the check-in desk, Peter found, among other things, a ledger, a computer and a key-ring adorned with about four keys. The computer’s screen was currently blue, so he did not attempt to utilize it, and instead grabbed the keys. Suddenly he found himself itching for a weapon, as he realized that in his haste, he had forgotten if the rooms were actually truly empty.

He surveyed the entry hall, but the only thing he could find which could vaguely resemble a weapon was the large ledger. So he pocketed the keys and lifted the large book up, swinging it to test its weight. It would have to do.
The first room was up the stairs, and he took his first steps as quietly as he could, being faced with only the occasional creak as his shoes impacted with the old wood. When he finally reached the top, Peter drew the keys from his pocket but then realized something.
I don’t want to open a door just to be bitten.
So he did as any normally sociable person would and knocked. First, nothing answered. So he knocked again " still nothing. He brought his ear to the door and listened. For a full minute, nothing made a sound, and after becoming assured that it was safe, he unlocked the door and opened it. 

As he had surmised, the small room was empty, and the rest of the apartment seemed the same. He closed the door behind him, not wanting to be caught unaware and then began his scavenging. He didn’t plan to stay in the first room he found, but he knew he would have to take anything he could find to survive. The room looked like it had been hastily left, a chair was tossed over and the fridge was wide open, revealing nothing but a wedge of cheese. Peter didn’t particularly like cheese but he knew he would need it all the same. He opened up the drawer opposite the fridge and found nothing but a bread knife. It was short and anything but combat ready, but it would be more useful than the ledger. Underneath the drawer was a section devoted to packets. He took one and then placed the cheese within. Satisfied that he had raided the kitchen of anything he could use, he moved on to the bedroom. As he had expected, the bed was a mess, blankets tossed everywhere. Not much was left, and after some fruitless searching, Peter left.
After he had raided the sparse apartment of anything he could find, he moved onto the next. This time he managed to find a leather jacket to go over his thin T-shirt as well as a packet of Simba chips. He also found another equally blunt bread knife but decided that two would always be better than one and decided to pocket it.
The first room on the second floor was much richer than the first two, as he found an entire cooler bag of food and an abandoned tobacco set, lighter included. He took the lighter as he knew he would need it sometime, and even pocketed the tobacco, as you never knew what someone might trade to get their fix.  
It was the last apartment in which Peter decided to lie low. In it he found nothing but cat food that he hoped he would not need to eat any time soon. Here he took off his burdens and began to settle into his new temporary home.

© 2012 Nicholas Woode-Smith

Author's Note

Nicholas Woode-Smith
A draft, may or may not contain errors, typos or formatting woes.

My Review

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Featured Review

I like it, because it's well described action and the first paragraph is quite well done. I have a few suggestions that you can pick and choose from:
1) Try throwing in a few short sentences to alternate
2) Make me feel for Peter. Right now I don't really care if he survives. Give him some fear, some doubt maybe. Some history. Some loving!
3) I don't know how realistic it is that the whole area of the city would be abandoned minutes after the first outbreak- maybe this isn't what you were intending to write, but it's what came across to me.
4) Clean up the pacing a bit
5) Alternate description with thoughts with action instead of having a chunk of each here and there

Have you considered writing in first person? I don't know if that would be better, and I like that you didn't, but it's an interesting thought that I had while reading.
Looking forward to reading the next!

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


I like it, because it's well described action and the first paragraph is quite well done. I have a few suggestions that you can pick and choose from:
1) Try throwing in a few short sentences to alternate
2) Make me feel for Peter. Right now I don't really care if he survives. Give him some fear, some doubt maybe. Some history. Some loving!
3) I don't know how realistic it is that the whole area of the city would be abandoned minutes after the first outbreak- maybe this isn't what you were intending to write, but it's what came across to me.
4) Clean up the pacing a bit
5) Alternate description with thoughts with action instead of having a chunk of each here and there

Have you considered writing in first person? I don't know if that would be better, and I like that you didn't, but it's an interesting thought that I had while reading.
Looking forward to reading the next!

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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1 Review
Added on April 8, 2012
Last Updated on April 12, 2012
Tags: zombies, awakening, shelter, survival, outbreak


Nicholas Woode-Smith
Nicholas Woode-Smith

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

I'm a writer, gamer, politician and anime enthusiast. I am involved heavily in the Libertarian movement in South Africa and hold the position of Director of Social Media for the Libertarian Party of S.. more..