Old man Burden

Old man Burden was looking out the window. His wife past away only a day ago.There was no funeral for her or words of condolences for him.

After the spread of the Disease it became all about resources. Those who had them could afford a lot, those who could gather or create them could get respect at least. The old man was not rich, too slow to gather and his back and fingers too worn to create. Hence they call him old man Burden, a person who would just eat and take up space, with little to give in return.

The old man was okay with this, as long as he was together with his wife it didn't matter how other people treated or called him as she would always reassure him with a warm smile and her best attempt at a homemade meal with the bits of gruel they received for food. But during her last days her smile wore off. There were things that laid weight on the elderly couples' minds, but were never talked about. Their children and grandchildren who moved away before the outbreak or the insanity that befell them to become outlaws and leave any scrap of humanity behind. One of her more recent regrets, however, was Ollie.

When the family moved away the old man started to feel lonely. No matter how tiresome it could be, he loved seeing his grandchildren play in the small garden they had behind their house. With them gone it became too quiet, and the neighbors weren't exactly energizing, since the whole block had the same age group. One day, his wife came home with a surprise: a young English Mastiff. The old man objected at first saying that they are too old for a puppy, but agreed to try it out for a couple of days after his wife insisted. He was quickly taken with the little pup, who was intelligent enough to swiftly know where he could and couldn't go. The old man would often sit in the back porch and look over his book to see the young Mastiff play with the joy and energy that reminded him of his grandchildren. He had to bear his wife's triumphant smile as he told her that the dog could stay. He named gave it the name Ollie, the same name the old man's dog had when he was but a boy.

 

These days of enjoyment did not last long however, as news of the Disease started to spread.It seemed fine at first, but what seemed fine one moment became a nightmare of panic and confusion the next. The army went to everybody's house for "emergency testing and evacuations". This meant people were being dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night onto a truck to some new base that was now their home. Nothing could be taken with, not even Ollie. The couple tried to insist but couldn't stand up to the soldiers.

 

"Ollie might still be there," was what she said. "That was eight years ago. He would be either dead or moved on,"Said the old man, who was quickly silenced by the wife's surprisingly sharp eyes. "He might still be there" She repeated.

 

Those words echoed through the old man's head while he was looking out the window. It's true that Disease's effects were there, turning the foliage dead and brown and covering everything with a sand like dust. However they were told that order outside the camp quickly crumbled with outlaws showing up and animals turning feral at a surprisingly fast rate. "But you wouldn't know that looking outside," he mulled. There were never any reports about outlaws seen in the immediate area and he hasn't seen any animals since they came here.

 

"Screw it," The old man sighed, and slowly stood up. There was nothing left here. Nobody who would care or even look at old man Burden. He took some clothes, his share of the day's water and some leftover gruel he still had from last night and, missing a decent container, wrapped it in the cleanest cloth he had. He wish he could take more but he would probably be arrested or worse for doing so. He also took the wedding ring from his late wife and put it on his pinky remembering how, after all these years, her hands were so much smaller than his. Slowly he made his way through the camp towards the exit. At last, people started turning heads when they noticed his backpack and direction. When he was near the gate he even noticed that some were following him. For a second he thought that people were going to stop him, but that illusion was thoroughly shattered when the guard opened the gate for him and people started snickering. "Fuck you too," he mumbled and took his first step out of the gate.