The Last Days of Priest Preston Collins Preston Collins liked to think of himself as a good man. He was a priest and he spread the word of God to his flock with compassion and insight. While he had no family, he was not lonely for he had the love of the Lord in his heart and his congregants to share it with. Recently, he went to the hospital due to chest pain, and the doctor told him his heart was weak. Preston decided to make some changes so he could live long enough to continue spreading the word for many years to come. He cut out red meat and started riding his bike to church. The reports on the news had caused panic, and many sought his comfort during these tough days. But today, the church was empty. Preston thought nothing of it, he was early for his sermon so it was nothing too unusual. He saw some movement out the window, and went to approach - noting a teenage boy running past. Upon seeing Preston’s bike out front, the young man stole it, riding away! Priest Collins was in shock… this was Valley Station, there was no crime here! It’s a pleasant, lovely little town where everyone knows everyone and doors stay unlocked. But here it was, in front of his own eyes, his bike being stolen from in front of his church. Preston walked outside to take a look. He shouted after the boy to come back, seeing him ride off into the distance. And then he heard noises. Turning around to the direction the boy was running from, Preston saw three men aggressively shambling towards him, at the pace of a speed walk, stumbling drunkenly. He approached, beginning to ask the men if they were okay. Yet as he got closer, Preston saw blood on one of their mouths and another seemed to have its arm grotesquely twisted, his radius protruding from his flesh. His heart rate began to accelerate as his brain began to correlate their condition to the virus that seemed to have the world in a scare. It was then that he noticed their eyes. They were blood red. Preston implored them to stop, and when no such thing occurred, he turned to run back to his church. Only another one of the creatures turned the corner, blocking his route. Adrenaline now pumping through his veins, Preston turned tail and sprinted towards home. His heart could only handle the full fledged run for so long. He slowed to a jog, and then to a walk. Sirens blared in the distance and screams of terror filled the air. The man tried to comprehend what had happened… mere moments ago everything was so pleasant. Passing by a home, he knocked on the door. When there was no answer, he tried the doorknob. It was unlocked. After all, this was Valley Station, where everyone knows everyone and doors stay unlocked. It appeared nobody was home. Preston was a bit of a technophobe and he never bought a cell phone, so he found the family landline and tried calling the police. He received nothing but an automated message. Preston cowered in the home for hours. By the time he gathered enough courage to try to make it home, he found the sun was setting… so he settled into the home for the night, sleeping in another man’s bed. He got little more than an hour of sleep. Once the sun rose, Preston’s nerves hit again. He stayed for hours, until finally thoughts of his cat filled his mind. Whiskers was all alone, and she was his responsibility. Steely resolve filled his being as his determination to make it home to Whiskers drove him to his feet and out the door. He began walking the streets. It wasn’t long before he heard screams for help. Perhaps a member of his flock? Preston approached the noises to see a truly horrible sight. He saw a woman on the ground, a man on top of her making animalistic noises akin to growls. Preston looked on in absolute horror as he tore a chunk out of her forearm using his teeth! The woman turned her head, begging for his assistance. Priest Collins turned and ran away. He ran all the way down the street, finding another house where he could duck inside for cover. He tried the door… unlocked. Upon opening it, he found a family of three on the floor, on their knees. A mom, dad, and a teenage girl. Their hands were bound and they were gagged. A man holding a hunting rifle stood in front of them, turning around towards the sound of the open door. Preston was dumbfounded, standing perfectly still, unaware of how to help. The man calmly told him to go, and Preston didn’t move. He then screamed the command, and Preston once more turned around and ran. Upon leaving the house, he saw a masked man break through a window of the Murphy’s house, entering with a pistol drawn. Preston ignored it, pushing on running towards his house… to Whiskers. He saw a woman wailing in the street over a man’s corpse. He kept running. He then came across a corpse clutching a pistol. The man seemed to be totally disemboweled, his guts brutally ripped from his body. It’d been some time since Preston had fired a weapon, but growing up in rural Kentucky he was familiar with their use and it was starting to seem more and more like he could use a weapon. He gingerly approached the corpse, moving towards its weapon. Suddenly, it’s eyes opened. They were blood red. Preston ran, leaving the gun in the street. He saw a woman being cornered by the infected, screaming. He watched as a man approached heroically, acting very much unlike Preston has been. The man carried a pistol, and he unloaded the clip into one of the infected. It kept coming as bullets whizzed through its chest and neck. The 8th bullet hit its head, and it fell to the ground. Getting the message, he aimed the gun towards the other infecteds head and pulled the trigger to hear a click. The gun was empty, and the creature sunk its teeth into his neck. The bullets he fired at the other creatures chest went straight through it, hitting the woman. She was on the ground bleeding out as the third infected went to feast on her face. While he was watching this grizzly scene unfold, he felt a hand pull back on his shoulder and heard a groan in his ear, followed by a deafening bang. He turned around, blood splattered on his the back of his head. Standing heroically was a uniformed cop, his gun smoking. One of the infected had grabbed him, almost taking out a chunk of his cheek. It was now on the ground, a hole through its skull. The officer turned and ran towards more of the infected before Preston could ask what was going on. He kept on, determined to get home. He couldn’t run anymore, so he walked down the streets. There was smoke in the air - a fire raging in the Western edge of town, and the occasional siren, scream, or gunshot echoed through the town. The man just ignored it. After ten minutes or so, he turned around upon the sound of heavy footfalls to see a woman running in his direction, a half dozen of the creatures shambling after her. Preston followed her. After they put in a lot of distance between themselves and the monsters, they turned into an alley, determined to hide until they shambled past. Now that things calmed down, he recognized the woman as Shauna Lorens. She was a congregant of his, although she only came to church a few times a year. That waited together in silence. Soon enough, the six creatures did pass by. They decided to wait longer and began talking. It felt good to have somebody to talk to. Around fifteen minutes after they’d past, Shauna and him kept on. Preston invited her to stay at his place, where he had a car he would use to drive her home once the streets cleared. Given his place was closer, she agreed. A car past by on the road, driving erratically. At this same time a woman ran out into the road, a man close behind. It was hard to tell, but it looked like he was chasing her and it seemed aggressive. The car slammed into the woman, sending her flying. The car stopped, but when she didn’t get up it simply drove off. The man chasing her looked at her on the ground, dying. He walked off back in the direction he came. Preston and Shauna ignored it as best they could, continuing on. Turning onto Farmington Road, they saw a dozen of those things in the street! They went to turn around and go a back way when a man ran out of his house with a shotgun and started mowing them down. They looked on, horrified. The man seemed almost enthused, shouting insults at the creatures as he loaded them with buckshot. He got four of them down before he went to reload. Preston noticed one of them coming up from behind the house and shouted towards the man - but the gunfire must’ve deafened him… or Preston wasn’t loud enough. Either way, it clamped its teeth on his shoulder. The man screamed as the other infected began to join in on the feast. Shauna and Preston ran past while they were distracted. Passing the general store, they found it a popular destination with many people desperately taking items off the shelves, running them out of the store without paying. Preston saw one men try to take a case of beer out of another man’s truck in the parking lot and promptly get shot in the chest for the effort. They ran past there particularly fast. Finally, as the sun started to set, Preston’s house came into view. Shauna and him, both utterly exhausted, were extremely relieved. Preston noticed the door ajar… he hadn’t locked it. Why would he? He cautiously opened it to find his house torn apart. Everything of value was taken. Mortified, he called out for Whiskers. What he heard was a groan. Shauna insisted that they needed to run, but Preston refused to leave Whiskers. One of the creatures came into view. Shauna tried to pull Preston but he wouldn’t budge… so she left him, sprinting out of his house to look for shelter. Preston was tired of running. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a cast-iron frying pan. As the creature approached, Preston willed God to give him strength as he gave a scream of defiance, smashing the creatures head with the pan. It fell to the ground, and Preston again slammed its skull with the pan. He did it again and again and again until he was too tired to swing it again and the creatures head was little more than mush. Sobbing, he hurried in the direction where he saw the creature come from to find Whiskers. His beloved cat had been torn apart, flesh ripped from her bones. Preston laid on the floor and sobbed. He continued to sob, letting it rack his body until consciousness faded away. The next morning, he buried Whiskers in the yard and went to his car to turn on its radio, hoping there’d be a broadcast about what to do. Sure enough, there was. On the open air he was being told that sanctuary was offered at the mall, a respite from the horrors that have unfolded. After everything he’d seen in Valley Station over the past couple days, he was beyond relieved to hear it was finally all to come to an end. He grabbed the frying pan, putting it in the seat next to him as he went to drive to the promise of a safe place. On the road there, he heard a boy scream for help. Preston looked over to see one of the creatures biting down on an older woman’s arm, presumably his mother. Emboldened by his heroic defeat of one of the creatures the previous night, Preston resolved himself to help the boy and bring him to the mall. Unfortunately, the second he looked ahead he noticed one of the creatures on the road. Swerving to avoid it, he hit a pole. Desperate as he was to get to the mall, he hadn’t even taken the time to put his seatbelt on. He was flown clear of the car, shattering his windshield in the process. His head slammed into the pavement and he was dead. Priest Preston Collin’s last moments weren’t uncommon. Many residents of Valley Station have faced similarly brutal deaths in the past few days, and those who didn’t certainly witnessed some of the same kind of horrible travesties that Preston did - committed by the infected and healthy alike. It was witnessing those travesties that made the promise of sanctuary so desperately appealing to Preston. In the face of such a world… what choice will you make? Will you be brave, like the many heroes Preston saw - many of which didn’t live to tell the tale? Will you be a coward, living to run another day? Will you live ethically now that there is no law to hold you accountable? When the world you know dies… you see who you truly are.