Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I nearly got myself killed today. I went on a scavenging run, the better to keep my supplies stocked and untouched. I passed my little gas station, there isn't much left of it now. Someone burned it to the ground. The rubble is blocking the access to the tanks, but I don't think much was left in them. I drove past on a loggers road, keeping off the highway. There's a small town about ten miles up the road. I made for it, driving slow, keeping my radio on - I'd caught some brief messages a few days ago - weak and barely understandable. I caught a few words, "No Hope. They're everywhere. I'm done trying to survive." Has it gotten that bad? I have to shit or get off the pot. Either head for Tryon (and hopefully the rest of the group), or make this cabin more defendable. I reached the town two hours after dawn (I try not to travel at night, the headlights might be an invitation to other scavengers and they might not be in a trading mood). I stopped and turned the SUV around in case I need a quick getaway. The 'town" was barely deserving of the name. One main street with maybe twelve buildings, two of which were burned to the ground, and four side streets. It was off the main road, a double lane highway. One could pass it easily without even noticing it existed. Getting out my binoculars, I checked it out. One of the burned out buildings had been a McDonald's. That was no great loss to the world. The other however, had been a gun shop. Bones were scattered all about it, as well as a hell of a lot of brass casings. I tried to puzzle out what happened. Had the owner been surrounded by the things, got wounded and taken his own life in a spectacular fashion? I'd never know, but I wished that store hadn't burned. There was a well looted grocery store, a bar, and the rest were usual - a diner, a barber shop. It was like Andy Griffith meets the living dead. I was getting ready to leave when I heard shouting. In front of the bar was a young woman, long hair, nude with a battered face. She started to run and I heard a series of pops. She went down, legs bleeding. Two men, dirty and wearing leather clothing - no patches that I could see - came out, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her back into the bar. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but the larger one, an ugly, bearded fuck, laughed. What the fuck was going on here? Using the bincos, I looked around the town. Where were the things? Noise brought them, I knew that from the radio and encounters. The town wasn't blocked in any way. Then I saw them. At one end of the town were a series of stakes. Chained to the stakes were people. Living people. All were being slowly torn apart by the things. I swallowed bile and put my binoculars away. This was too much for me to handle. If anyone ever reads this, they'll think I'm a coward, but I'm one guy against who knew how many thugs? I know why they were wearing leather. The things can't bite through it. Give someone a chance to get away or fight back. Cursing that things were this bad, I started to creep away. I was near my car when I heard voices. Bringing my AK around, I slipped between trees when I saw them. Three more leather clad fucks, all looking at my wheels. Damn. I couldn't just shoot, If I hit my car I was dead. None of them were wearing patches, so they weren't bikers. But what the fuck were they? I creeped to my left as one raised a crowbar. I had to act now. Crouching, I brought my weapon to my shoulder and fired. Crowbar went down, his shoulder shattered, bounced off my ride and lay still. The other two, carrying shotguns, jumped and spun around, one, a short, weasly looking guy, fired wildly. As they did, I heard some moans. My time was running out In the quiet of the woods, I'm sure the sound of shooting would carry a long ways. Rising to my feet, I blasted Weasel down, three shots throwing him on his back, legs kicking. The last guy dropped his shotgun and grinned, his teeth disgusting. "Hey man, no need for violence. We can be cool." Behind him was a small group of things, each more hideous than the other. Teeth grinned again and was starting to talk when I shot him in the face. Without waiting, I ran to my car, popped the door and hopped in. I would have liked to siphon the gas from their car, a state troopers vehicle - then it hit me - they were wearing Highway Patrol leathers! Had civilization fallen so far? Starting the car, I hit the accelerator and peeled out. The things were preoccupied with their meal - Weasel was still alive and screaming shrilly as they tore into him - as I drove off. Now I knew I had to get the fuck out of here and make for Tryon. I didn't know if these creeps were going to try and hunt me down, but alone, if they did, I didn't have much of a chance.