Day One in Day Z
When I came to, I was on the shore of Chernarus—225 square kilometers of zombies, bandits, and soviet architecture—and found that I’d lost all my gear, apart from a puny Makarov that I couldn’t remember carrying before becoming stranded, and a canteen of water, some bandages, and a tin of marginally-edible brown. This is Day Z, a mod in alpha for ARMA 2: Combined Operations, and in traditional zombie-narrative fashion, this is the story of how I died.
The plan seemed simple enough at the time: meet up with old friend Digital Pariah, a hardened adventurer with more than a couple Chernarus picnics under his worn leather belt. He’d informed me that we’d both be dropped off on the coast, and how big could it be anyway? So meet up, loot a few corpses (of our own make), and figure a way out of the place rich. That was the plan.
Now the plan wasn’t looking so simple. I had little help—strike that, no help. Finding my way to our designated meeting point sans GPS, map, or compass would be nigh-impossible. The little radio that picked up on the chatter of other scavengers offered little advice, since nobody could know my location unless we met up, and I didn’t want to risk giving away my location to would-be bandits. If I survived the day, it would be possible to navigate by the stars, but there was no chance in hell that I was going to sit there picking my nose until the sun went down, and less of a chance that I would be crashing through the underbrush in the dead of night. Zeds listen like bats, and until I figured out a better way to defend myself, I wasn’t planning on tussling with too many of the undead.
So I looked around: a small town to my right, a road in front, and a sizable hill to the left. I wasn’t going to head inland with Pariah searching for me along the coast, so the road was out. The town didn’t seem much of an option either—I figured that there would be more zeds there than out in the fields. That left the hill. And besides, from the hill I hoped to catch a glimpse of Pariah, arrived with piles of guns and maybe a vehicle so we could get to getting rich. Unfortunately, I found the hill to be occupied as surely as the town.
I’d heard stories, of course. I knew that zeds weren’t a laughing matter, that even small groups of them could take apart trained soldiers, but nothing could have prepared me for their reality. There he was, looking benign as could be—a bit dusty, sure, but no worse off than the thugs I brushed shoulders with every day back home. He was just shuffling around in silence. If I wasn’t on the lookout for folks doing just that, it would have been possible to mistake him for someone looking for bugs. You know, a botanist or whatever.
And all of a sudden, he charges me, howling and snapping his teeth. Without any more armor than a jacket, his hands tore at me before I was able to put four rounds into his core. It was over in a second: him on the ground, me bleeding from my neck and chest and swearing that one of my nipples would never look right again. I’m no medic, and so it took me a while to figure out how to bandage myself, all the while sitting on top of that hill, visible to the entire world.
I was still trying to clear my head when someone came rushing up the hill. I figured it was another of those zombies, having spotted me from a distance while I sat around like a dummy. I realized in time that whoever it was, he was too quiet. Bob never realized how lucky he was that although I had the shakes and blurred vision, my head was still intact. He was another wretch like me, cast adrift in Chernarus. He’d heard my gunshots, he explained, and came to investigate. We talked for a little bit, but our conversation was stilted and awkward. Eventually, he motioned that he was headed down to the little town that I’d avoided, and I was welcome to tag along so long as I didn’t hold him up. With nothing better to do, I went back down the hill the way I had come up it, and Bob and I went to town.
I didn’t mention to Bob that a town this close to the coast was undoubtedly already picked clean by the buzzards that came before us, but I followed for the time being. I had a little fantasy going that I’d run into Pariah and we could snuff Bob and take his things, but for the time being it seemed better to be in a pair than running around solo.
We rummaged through a couple houses in peace, finding some tin cans and empty canteens, but little else. I found a handful of buckshot and quickly pocketed the shells before Bob saw. Hey, I figure he was doing the same in the other room. Anyway, it’s not like he had a shotgun and needed them.
After a while longer, we’d cleared the first houses of the town. There were more across the street, and they were much more sizable than the ones we’d already scavenged. There were some zeds milling about in the intersection, so we took the long way around, alternately crouching and dashing madly whenever the zeds weren’t looking. We were feeling pretty smart about our new brand of jaywalking when suddenly a half-dozen roars announced that we weren’t smarter than our brain-dead hunters.
I’m proud to say I made a few of the undead even deader, but my pride was fleeting when I realized that Bob had disappeared. We were not trained to work in tandem, and our method of combat had not contained calm back-to-back fighting. Instead, we basically both backpedaled from anything we saw, firing wildly and trying not to shoot each other in the face. In the confusion, Bob must have ducked into one of the buildings along the street. I considered staying in place so he could find me, but a few wandering zombies down the street drained that idea of appeal real quick.
Still, I didn’t like the idea of being in the middle of town alone. It was conceivable to go back the way we had come in, but it was just as conceivable that some zeds had heard our gunfire and walked over for a meal. So I looked around and saw a tower in the distance, high and slender, and scaled by a ladder bolted to its side. I scavenged in that direction, keeping away from the few zeds that I saw in houses or down alleyways. At the base of the tower was a shed, and within I made an important discovery.
A map! Finally, I could figure out where I was and radio my location to Pariah. I scrambled up the ladder and settled in to take a look.
Within seconds, I was using words that my poor dead mother would have whipped me had she heard. I had figured the coastline of Chernarus would be a manageable target for myself and Pariah, but rather I found that the probability of us chancing upon one another was so slim that it was hardly visible. The coast stretched on for hundreds of kilometers, winding and intersecting with dangerous towns and hills and forests. I thought I might be in Chernogorsk, but my calculations were more fancy than deduction, as I had only assumed that I was heading east when I entered the town. For all I knew, I was in Solnichniy or Kamyshovo, and what I assumed was east was in fact north.
My worries were temporarily put on hold when I heard a shout from below. It was Bob, unaware that I was above him, and he was battling an entire horde of the undead. Or half a dozen. I’m not sure which.
I’m not a sentimental man, but Bob’s frantic fighting touched a chord in me. I realized that at this range I could only affect the outcome by the barest margin, and that I should conserve my ammunition for sure shots. But maybe some small part of me had become attached to Bob, his silly little baseball cap and all. So I drew my Makarov and became his personal guardian angel, lining up and taking shots at the distant sprinting zombies. I’m not sure if Bob heard my shouts of reassurance over the howls of the zombies, or if he noticed the crack of my own pistol against the register of his own. I’d like to believe that he heard me, that he took heart when he saw my bullets raining down on the undead, that he heard my pistol’s cry for what it was rather than mistaking it for the sharp echo of his own shots.
I’d like to believe that.
The truth seems harsher, as it always does. I killed at least one of the creatures that pursued him, and wounded more for certain. But when the horde was thinned and Bob was free, he didn’t stop and turn towards my shouts—rather, he ran into the nearby building marked “TEC.” I waited, hearing the occasional shot ring out from that concrete giant. I waited for what felt like an hour, spotting him twice through the building’s windows, and once more when he briefly emerged onto the roof before once more disappearing.
I never saw him again. From my perch I could see all around the building, but he did not emerge. I drank from my canteen and ate some tasteless rations. Finally, I watched an injured zombie painfully crawl across the field and through the front doors.
I had only one round. I had prayed that I could use it to summon him again, as I had done when I first met him on the hill, but now I saw little choice but to descend from the safety of my tower and bring Bob out alive.
Nothing prohibited me from reaching the building. I entered through the back, hopeful that Bob had slipped out and that we would run into each other. I also hoped that his desperate fight had left him with some ammunition to share, and that we would be able to return to the tower to hide for the night. But the building was silent.
Until a zombie began to pursue me through its barren concrete halls, that is. My single bullet tore through its chest but did not stop it. As I ran through the building, I paused many times in hopes of finding some sort of weapon. I succeeded in finding a crossbow bolt, though this wasn’t much use paired with my Makarov. I considered physically assaulting the creature, but I knew there was no hope of succeeding in such an endeavor.
My only hope was to find Bob. I finally found a ladder, which I scaled, and hoped that my pursuer’s mind would be too far gone to remember the necessary motor skills to climb up after me. This proved a false hope when the zombie turned out to be a better climber than I. I was on the roof. Nowhere else to run.
And no Bob.
I wasn’t entirely alone, however:
I realized that perhaps my trip to Chernarus was ill-advised. I should have made sure to bring better equipment, or learn the layout of the country (or learn the key bindings). I didn’t know much about the resident species of undead. I didn’t even know if I would reanimate and become one of the monsters after they snacked on my intestines. And now, thanks to my greed (and Pariah, who I now planned to haunt), I was cornered on a rooftop and out of options.
So I made a choice. The last choice afforded me.
I didn’t die instantly. I lay there a while, bleeding out on the pavement. But not for too long. It was a pretty quick, compared to death-by-munching. I think I made the right choice, anyway.
Well. That’s the end of it.