He lay in the ditch, faced down in the mud, half covered to conceal himself as they passed. Nearly drowning in the mud until it was safe. When he saw them coming from the fog he counted seven or eight of them. There may have been more but it was not worth waiting to count. He had his rifle and rounds but they had more. This was not the day he was going to die, not like this. The cold wet earth that engrossed him was a cold and bitter hug but it kept him safe. They were not more than ten feet away from his near lifeless body. By the grace of dawn and fog they could not see him no matter how hard their eyes strained. Dawn turned to light and while they were long since gone he waited still until his arms planted themselves and pried his battered body from the bog. Eventually his body rose, cold, and soaked but alive. The blood soaking from underneath his sleeve was not nearly close to his primary concern. Though deep as the knife wound was he would live. Needle and thread were not a part of his equipment that was stashed in the rotten tree but he knew maggots were abundant. The open pit was filled with them that kept themselves fat on those that did not survive like he. They were useful in preventing infection. He could keep it wound tight until he could seal the wound. The man that had inflicted the wound had bled far more for far longer. That man kept the maggots fat. That man’s blood is why he was hunted their prey had escaped them. There was no way of knowing exactly how many of them there were but there were enough to leave open pits filled of those who refused to join. In this new age there was strength in numbers and brutality. Survival governed behavior and interactions. While numbers may provide strength they bring with them the attention from other groups. Other groups who desire what others may have. There was no value in gold or any form of currency, the only value in goods was in the ones that aided in survival. A gun was silver but bullets gold. Water was good but gasoline better. Though the buildings were largely destroyed and the plumbing gone, the creeks and rivers still ran clean. Gasoline however, was finite and scarce. The gas stations were long since pillaged. He could have been long gone with the use of a vehicle with just a little gas but they were luxuries he was too poor a soul to have. At the moment he rose from the bog he had on him: one 7.62 Remington bolt action rifle, 10 bullets to match, one folding pocket knife with a blood rusted blade, one photograph encased in a plastic bag, one half empty yellow lighter, and 12 stale cigarettes. However, his pack that lay stash held more. With safe passage through the trees he ran to it. Within minutes he was there. After recovering it from the tree and brushing off the rotten bark and crawling bugs he continued through the trees. He heard no noise from aside from the birds and wind rattled leaves. Over rocks and roots he made his way to the base of the hills. There he would rest until the light faded. It had been hours since his eyes last closed for sleep but he still needed shelter. He gathered wood and branches until he could assemble a shield to protect him and the dim light of his small fire from the elements and those that may discover him. Once complete he allowed himself a meager meal and much needed sleep. Day breaks and the dew covered ground is just as empty as it was the day before. He knew he had to get back to them but they were still far away. His group needed him and he needed them. They were his family since the day his was killed at the start of the war. Casualties of war was a common story and everyone alive knew many. Whether it was by bullets or bombs everyone knew a victim. Some, like he, lost more than others. It was the same old story of a man losing his wife and children. Two to be exact. Three years ago when the bombs first fell, city blocks were leveled and buildings fell. Those inside were crushed and trapped. He watched from his car as the building that held his life fell and he was helpless to prevent it. The car was packed and filled with supplies and the route was drawn on the map. There was room in the car for all of them but only he would occupy it. The news reported over 500,000 dead. That was only the first attack. Many more would follow.