I murdered a man yesterday. Not for revenge; not because I wanted something he had; I think just because I could.
The wall that separates life from death is so thin. Being alive feels so active, so permanent that we forget how little it takes to shatter it: just 10 grams of lead moving at 800 metres per second.
My victim—no, that doesn’t sound right. The man hadn’t seen me lying prone in the dirt beside a bush. He had just gone into a nearby barn, looking for supplies I guess. He was obviously new to the area: a veteran would have long since ditched the small Coyote backpack and Makarov pistol that he carried for something better. And I guess he was low on ammunition, too, because when he spooked a few zeds, he fired only three shots before he turned and ran. Right into my sights.
I suppose I could have helped him out, killed the two zeds that were after him. The thought never crossed my mind—in fact I didn’t really think anything at all. He was there, running, and I was there unseen, with my gun, and him in the sights. I fired once, and he fell.
The zeds were still intent on him, clawing at his corpse, and ignored me. I shot them too, for safety. Then I figured I might as well see what he’d been carrying. A tin of beans. An empty water bottle. Painkillers. Nothing of any real value. I might have kept the beans; I don’t remember.
While still beside his body, I saw another figure not far off, running along the road that crossed the field ahead. Instinct made me lie down, beside the corpses, as I kept my gun on this new arrival. Coyote backpack. Makarov. Carelessly visible as he ran down the road. Another rookie.
Again, because I could. I fired once, I think I missed. He started, but continued to move. Twice more, and his silhouette collapsed into the grass. I still felt nothing.
I didn’t have any hope that he would have anything else I wanted. But he did: a compass, a hunting knife, matches. It was only then, taking these from his corpse that I felt a momentary guilt; but it quickly faded, swallowed by the apprehension that someone else might have heard my shots, and do to me what I had just done to these two. I left the road and the buildings behind me, and plunged back into the forest.