Mitigating Circumstances – Part 3
I was a camper. Everyone hated me.
OMG NOOB CAMPER QUIT CAMPING U FAG.
Finding a quiet corner of the map – or a dark spot in a busy corner of the map – and picking off passers-by was, apparently, not cool. It got me kicked off countless servers.
GET SUM SKILLZ CAMPER!!!!!
Of course, what I should have done was brainlessly galumph around the map until I got killed.
Well, everyone wants a quiet corner now and I got mine.
Evie and I used to come up here for walks, even brought Joe a couple of times before The Fall. One of the highest points in the area – arcing above the fringes of what used to be south London – it was a makeshift landing strip during the Battle of Britain, so I’ve got good, clean sightlines. I get four minutes’ warning if anyone is coming for me; enough time to grab my rucksack and disappear.
It’s a beautiful view in a way. Abandoned tower blocks, smouldering. Crystal Palace Tower snapped in half. We used to call it the badlands, whenever we had to venture north of Croydon, but it’s official now, with a capital B. Anyone down there is already dead.
The abandoned Morrisons didn’t work out so good, because frankly, it wasn’t as abandoned as I’d been led to believe. I slipped out while Norris slept so now he’ll be down there, swearing vengeance. Vengeance for what, I don’t know, but that’s the thing with people like him. They are convinced the world is against them and imagined slights consume them. It makes them dangerous and it doesn’t matter how careful you are, eventually it will be your throat slashed in the middle of the night. I didn’t fancy waiting for that.
The only reason I’m telling you this is because there is a figure walking towards me right now. His walk is strong as he drives one foot after the other up the hill. I first saw him three minutes ago, so I have a minute to leave, to find a new home after nine days of blissful solitude here, but for some reason, I’m not moving. He’s carrying a gun, I can see that. It looks like an assault rifle and yet, I don’t move.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a camper.
I’ve got a gun too, you see. Tyke furnished me with one before I slipped out of the compound, away from Ellie and Clive and KidSafe, so now I look down the scope, I can see clearly who I am dealing with. He is, and there is no other way of putting this, a bad motherfucker. This guy has seriously levelled up. His avatar is awesome. He’s been grinding for some serious XP. He’s young, in his teens I’d say, but build like a wrestler with a black t-shirt straining over his torso. A Chicago Blackhawks Cap shades his face as he looks to the ground.
It’s feels very realistic, I have to say, and in the old days, I wouldn’t have hesitated pulling the right trigger on the controller and sending him back to his spawn point. But right now, with him becoming larger with every second that passes, I think perhaps they were right. I am a NOOB. I need some SKILLZ.
I was never going to use the gun. I put it down, stand up and put my hands to the air to show I’m not a threat. He sees me, but doesn’t break stride, just continues to walk as if he knew I was there all along. Then, 50 yards away from me, he stops. He turns his cap back to front and as he does so, the sun breaks from behind a cloud and illuminates his face.