Cursed Earth | Later -->

They say you can never go home again. Well, I don't rightly know who "they" are, but they're right. At the very least, Peoria, Illinois sure as hell doesn't look like any place I'd ever call home, anymore. I mean, hell, there's not a single person here anymore! The soul of a city is its people, and without them, it's just a husk. In fact, even as cities in this cursed earth go, this one's deader than most. It's like all the people just evaporated or something. Just like that. Poof. Mind you, I have seen this before - Lexington was like this - but I don't come across it very often, and I've been looking for a mighty long time.

How long I've been looking, I think I lost track, but it's been at least, oh, three winters now. Three winters of wandering, criss-crossing back and forth over the southern USA, hoping to find something still operating. I haven't covered all the ground, not by a longshot, especially down in the bayous of Louisiana or the deserts of Texas, but I can tell you this much - there's not a hell of a lot left. Oh, there's a few guys still around, but most of 'em don't trust a soul anymore. Mostly, it's signs of desperate last stands and mass exodus everywhere you turn, and distressingly often, it's worse than that. It's miles upon miles of gridlock, an endless train of smashed windows and rusting metal, drivers and passengers long since consumed to slake demonic appetites. Frankly, I can't imagine it, the sickening futility of it all, traffic backed up down every road, not moving, as the demons close in from all sides. I'm never gonna let that happen to me. But I digress.

So finally, my wanderings bring me here, to Peoria, where I was born, forty-seven years ago. God, there's nothing here, not even demons. It may be dead, but for the first time in a very long while, I can sleep under the stars without fear.

I awake the next morning and pile back into my battered Peterbilt. Though I know it's impossible, I keep getting sporadic shortwave signals from the north that sound an awful lot like PSK to my ear. It's probably just a beacon, but I've got to check it out, just in case. What else is there for an old wanderer to do with his time? It's not like I can go home again, anyway.