Last Desperate Stand chronicles the life of a man living in a post apocalyptic world. The story of H.M. Wells is told through a series of journal entries set in the universe of 7 Days to Die. Click here to start from the beginning.
I had a hard time sleeping, that night in the ghost town. Found myself actually missing the hum of the electric Shamway sign. When I first arrived there I had debated knocking the damn thing down, but after a few nights I realized how much it actually helped me sleep. The mechanical buzzing is comforting in some way, something I just can’t put my finger on. I think it reminds me of falling asleep with the T.V. on. Closest I’ll probably ever get to having that again.
Up on the roof of the long since abandoned church, there was nothing but the sound of the wind. Of course the wind carried with it the cries of the torturous beasts below me. What sleep I did get was interrupted by strange dreams. Not nightmares, but memories from my childhood, only twisted and inaccurate. These recollections, spliced with the insanity from today’s world, kept me tossing and turning all night. Needless to say, by sunrise I wasn’t very well rested but still ready to go all the same.
I high-tailed it back to the safe house practically running through the burnt forest. I was anxious to get back and form a new strategy, still I wasn’t all that surprised to find Kevin had not yet returned. He had a longer round trip than I did after all. If he ran into any trouble, I knew he might not make it back tonight at all… if ever again. It was thinking like this that made me question my decision to split up. The few experiences I did have with Kevin told me he wasn’t really the type of guy that could handle ugly situations. He had lasted on his own before I came around, so that’s saying something. I am beginning to wonder exactly how he managed to do that.
I found a few heaping piles of gore on the spikes. Glad to see the traps working, I decided to use this alone time to do some more trench work.
Nearly every time I’m digging in the trench my mind begins to wander. When my body is hard at work with mindless repetitive tasks, I find my brain is able to reach places I normally don’t have the patience to go. Like deep into that dream I can’t stop thinking about. Not so much the dream really, but the actual memory. My brother.
I was camping with my dad, my Uncle Fritz, and my younger brother Nathan. I was about 12 years old maybe, which would make Nathan about 10. My dad, John, was a real man’s man. He was a man in the era of John Wayne and McCarthyism. A patriotic, clean cut man who could find his own food, loved a challenge, and never gave an inch. An extinct relic of Americana, for better or worse. Camping was like a cleansing of the soul for him. He would drag my brother and I out into the woods every free weekend, whether we wanted to go or not. I didn’t mind going out into the forest as a kid. Hell, what boy doesn’t like getting dirty and starting fires? Sure it did get tiresome and sometimes I would rather have been playing baseball with some friends. But there he taught us how to hunt, how to tell directions by the sun and the stars, and he taught us how to live off the land. For that, I will be forever grateful.
It was early in the morning, predawn. My brother shook me to wake up. We loved getting up and sneaking out of the tent in the early morning before dad and Uncle Fritz had slept off the beers from the night before. We knew where he kept the matches and would quietly gather up kindling and try to start the fire using only one match. Kind of a badge of honor, a way to impress the big guy with something he actually cared about.
Finding kindling that wasn’t wet with the morning dew this time of year was tough, though we knew where to look..
Not much can move a man as fast as the blood-curdling scream of his child. I witnessed firsthand this fact that morning when my brother stepped into a steel leg hold trap. The trap, set long ago and likely forgotten, had probably been placed by a trapper to catch a cattle thieving wolf or coyote. It didn’t catch one. What it did do, was force two young lads to grow up, long before their time.
You see, the trap had snapped my brothers still growing leg bone just above his right ankle. A bear trap may have severed the thing right off, but this smaller trap broke the bone and dug it’s unforgiving teeth right into my brother’s muscles. Had he just laid there everything might have been OK, but tell that to a child in danger. No, he squirmed and pulled and tried his damnedest to free himself from the clutches of the metal monster. This only made things worse as the teeth began to tear right through the muscle and separate the foot from the rest of his body. Fortunately for Nathan, he passed out from either the pain or the fear after only a few seconds.
Unable to find the zipper for the tent door, my father sliced a hole straight through the lining with his knife. He and my uncle were by my brother’s side within a minute, at first following the sound of Nathan’s scream, and then following mine as I called to them. I mistook my brother’s unconsciousness as death. Quickly assessing the situation, the two men pried open the jaws of the trap and instructed me to lift out the mangled mess that, at this point, barely resembled my brother’s leg. I had to pull up on the leg with more force than I had initially expected. The teeth of the rotting old trap had dug deeply into the muscle. The leg gave way with a certain squishing sound that I would later in life become all too familiar with.
Covered in blood and terrified I did as my father said and maneuvered the leg out of the insatiably hungry trap. The snapped bone was jutting out of the base of his leg and the now useless foot swung dismally by a few tendons and some remaining skin. The separation was likely a result of Nathan’s frantic struggling.
My father hunched next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. I looked into his eyes and saw the closest thing to fear that I would ever see from him. He said, “Your brother is still alive, but he needs your help. Go into the woods and search for a downed tree near the creek. Find some bark with mold growing on it and bring it back here as soon as you can.” I nodded and ran towards the creek. Obeying, but not understanding.
By the time I returned with the moldiest portion of the tree there was a fire burning and a cast iron pan over the heat.
My uncle stepped out of the tent and froze for a moment, he was startled to see me standing there. In his hand was something wrapped in a bloody T-shirt. My brother’s foot! The man hurriedly placed the foot inside of a backpack and using a sock as protection, he grabbed the handle of the scalding hot pan. His eyes told me not to follow him back into the tent.
From my position outside the tent I heard an uneasy moan and then a horrible sizzling. Nathan let out an earsplitting scream. I began to cry.
A few minutes later my father stepped out of the tent. His wrinkled night clothes stained forever red. With a blank stare on his face, he took the moldy bark from my hand. A wretched burning smell lingered as he sat beside me. Timidly, I asked him what the bark was for. “It’s to make homemade medicine for your brother,” he said. “The doctors call it antibiotics.”