I'm not proud of it. I never have been, and I never will be. I've done things that I wish I hadn't. But what's done is done.
I try not to dwell in the past. I can't think about the mistakes I've made and the people I've let die just to save myself. I couldn't stay sane out here if I did. In Afghanistan you couldn't make mistakes and expect to live. In your bunk at base it was safe. Out on the streets, taking fire from every which way, it was unforgiving. You were forced to make sacrifices to make it out alive. Not everyone was going home. We accepted that.
In the streets now, you don't take fire. You don't take cover. You don't take casualties.
You scrounge for your next meal. You scavenge for batteries that haven't already been spent. You hunt for a few scattered rounds, hoping to god that they aren't just empty brass shell casings. You provide for whoever you've kept alive in spite of the fact that they'd be safer dead. Family, friends. Hell, any company you can find that isn't trying to eat you or kill you for your stuff.
In the first days after the plague struck, I'd hidden out in an abandoned Sam's Club store in the middle of town. There was in incredible amount of food, and the generators in the back were solar powered by cells on the roof. It soon became a hub for any survivor that stumbled across it. The remaining town police force kept order, and several of the scavengers we sent out for supplies that we couldn't find in the store came back with several dozen boxes of assorted ammunition and firearms. Living spaces were formed out of the giant shelves that soon became empty. We made recreational areas out of the furniture that we had no use for. The exercise equipment became human powered generators, which contributed to electricity for the entire place.
It was like a colony of sorts. Building a safe haven out of hostile territory.
One night, I was out on patrol on the outer walls, and I heard a loud buzzing approaching through the crowd of undead gathered around the front gate. I glanced down into the crowd just as an incredible explosion ripped through them. I'd been knocked off my post on the wall and into the parking lot, 15 feet below. I don't know how long I lay there, but when the daze was lifted, I saw the horde streaming through a gaping whole in the wall and straight into the building. I couldn't see much else, on account of the smoke and fires blazing all around me. I could only hear gunfire, screams, more explosions. I couldn't think straight. I climbed back up the wall, and looked over again. The horde was distracted as they crashed through the whole, focused on their prey. I looked back at the store.
The surviving police were firing into the crowd below them, without any effect. There were thousands in that crowd, they could never kill them all. I locked eyes with a teenage girl, not yet 16, as she stopped to reload. Her eyes told me she was begging me to stay, to help them fight off the crowd. I couldn't return her gaze. I glanced back at the crowd, which was now dwindling as they funneled into the building. I took one last look at the building, now being engulfed in flames, and leaped over the wall. I somersaulted when I hit the ground, and landed flat on my face. I was up in an instant, gasping for air. I took a moment to compose myself, and ran as fast as I could, away from the building.
I didn't stop running for days. I'd find a rooftop and sleep for a few hours, after I made sure it was safe. I didn't have much to do. I'd count the ammo in my vest. Hum to myself. I didn't want to risk any target practice. I scrounged around for food every so often. I found a small suitcase which I loaded up with any assorted meals I found.
I spend a lot of my time thinking now, about that night. I abandoned those people, plain and simple. They were my family, my friends. And I ran out on them. Be it some insanely selfish act of self preservation or some greater will to live, I have to live with it.
And I will never forget the people I lost that day.