In a way, what happened might have been for the best for Fitch. In a way, he surmised, it may have saved his life… Not that he was in danger of losing it before-- Fitch’s wellbeing hadn’t been threatened since roughly the eighth grade—but more that Fitch ran the risk of never having a life at all, or at least, not one that hadn’t been lived before by his father or grandfather, or even his grandfather’s father. What he had had back then had seemed fairly satisfactory at the time: a job that paid him just enough to not be living paycheck-to-paycheck with prospects to move ever so slightly up the corporate food chain; a girlfriend that, while fairly unattractive, at least counted herself lucky enough to never cheat on him and a family that never called, which at least spared him of their criticisms. Yes, Fitch had been all set to sail comfortably, numbly through life to settle unceremoniously (as did his father and grandfather before) into an alcohol-fueled retirement that would bring about his early death, publicly recognized as a “tragic loss of a brilliant spirit” by his few remaining friends and family, but privately deemed “timely” by all.
And to think all of this could have been his.
This portrait of perfect adequacy now clashed harshly against what Fitch had become: sitting in the branches of a tree like some wild man, stringy beard and greasy locks clinging to his face, gun resting on his denim-clad thighs, he hardly seemed to fit the description. Average, auburn eyes that once might have pored over sales projection charts and company policy manuscripts now darted back and forth in the inky gloom, never resting, searching for something in the darkness. Hands that might have hammered clumsily at computer keys now gripped the stock of his rifle, tightening at the sound of each cracking twig, knuckles whitening at each crushed leaf. Instead of his favorite party shirt, Fitch now wore rough plaid, close-fitting with rolled sleeves. Instead of his necktie, a cross he found in an abandoned rectory a month ago. Indeed, to suggest that the humble office worker of yesteryear might one day degrade into this filthy, unwashed wretch might seem ludicrous, absurd. It didn’t matter; for Fitch, those words lost their meaning the first time he watched a human eat another human.
For the longest time no one would admit what was happening: not the government, not the people at work, not the guy at the newsstand and certainly not Fitch. The idea that a model husband in Southern California could submit to such insanity as to murder and devour his family (including the dog, Jojo) was more than enough to stomach, let alone the concept that this insanity might be contagious. Instead, the slobbering Californian was brought down by local law enforcement and the whole thing was labeled an isolated incident; another crazy waiting for the right moment to crack. No one but the rattled servicemen themselves made much of a fuss over how many rounds it took to finally drop the guy.
It wasn’t until similar, large-scale incidents started popping up all over the world that people started taking notice, and it took a whole town in Louisiana being quarantined for the necessary panic to set in. Even then Fitch continued to behave as he had always done: kept his head down, nose to the grindstone, mouth shut. It took a state of emergency and his dismissal from work to finally shake him out of this thirty-two year daze. Even then he moved with the crowds, barely aware of what was going on, of society unraveling. He missed going to one of the government’s "safe havens" because he forgot his briefcase at camp, something that he never once considered leaving behind; everyone who didn’t forget their briefcase was gassed by a military that had barely enough food to keep their own fed and not enough ammunition to worry about the growing crowds becoming a threat. After he saw the corpses burning and smelled the charred skin, Fitch didn’t go around people anymore.