ToDay’Z lesson: safety is an illusion. No danger in sight only means that danger is hiding. Sometimes it’s in really obvious places: the world is crawling with flesh-eating zombies, after all. Other times it’s less conspicuous: I once broke my legs by opening a door too fast. But just don’t believe for a second that you’re ever really safe.
My brothers and I got a little too cocky during one session, assuming that the old safety in numbers adage would hold true. And for a while, it did. But it seems fate was merely toying with us.
The three of us, Jason, Jack and myself, journey north from Cherno, hitting a few barns and creeping through towns, scavenging what we could find. We were sticking close together, until somewhere south of Topolka Dam, Jason vanishes. Mildly worried, we call out for him, and the forest responds with gunshots.
They’re such a common sound in games, but in DayZ the sound of gunfire carries a terrifying weight, a very real sense of threat. One surprise shot can swiftly end a successful survival spree. Jack and I freeze, desperately calling again, until Jason replies nonchalantly.
Relieved, we scold his carelessness. Gunshots attract more zombies, and often, other players. We let him know we’re in a field by a small pond, waiting for him to catch up. Two seconds later he fires again, and Jack reiterates, perhaps more clearly.
“Shut the hell up!”
A string of freaked-out half-words tells us those gunshots weren’t Jason’s. Jack and I drop to the ground, and whip out binoculars to scan the surrounding hills for movement. A tense few minutes crawl by, as we wait to see Jason emerge from the tree line. Finally he appears, and no more gunshots were heard.
As we cautiously continue northward, we ponder their story. Who they were, what they were shooting at, where they were heading, whether they survived the encounter. Perhaps they were as afraid of our gunfire as we were of theirs.
Our journey soon takes us to the small town of Msta. We pick through the buildings quietly, methodically, but it doesn’t yield much reward. A barn just east of town proves to be quite profitable though, and we spend a fair while sorting through it. It’s not long before we have enough food and water to last weeks, a couple of high-powered weapons, and the mistaken belief that we’re ready for anything.
Being the two with the guns, Jason and Jack venture outside first. Barely a step out the door, a single gunshot rings out. Jack begins another round of yelling at Jason for reckless shooting, until he notices Jason crumpled on the floor. Before he can react, a second shot sends him sprawling as well.
The silence that followed was unnerving. I was hidden from the shooter by the wooden wall of the barn, but if he’d been watching, he knew I was in there. I cowered in the corner, clutching my axe as my only defense.
Jack’s rifle and Jason’s shotgun were only a few metres in front of me, and I desperately needed an upgrade. The gunman was surely on his way to collect his trophies, and my axe-wielding maniac facade would be no match for his cold accuracy and firepower. All I had was – maybe – an element of surprise. I crawled closer, behind a crate, ready to “axe him a question”, should the shooter show himself.
Courage slowly returning, I peek my head out – and another shot ricochets off the floor nearby. Yep, he knows I’m here.
With my last sliver of advantage gone, I instinctively drop to my belly. My final mistake. The shooter now regards me as minor a threat as the two recently deceased, and charges in. He was pretty damn accurate at long-range, and when the rifle is basically touching my head as I struggle to my feet, I don’t expect – or receive – mercy.