Its not easy explaining the zone to the friends I leave behind when I set out scavenging. I blame Hollywood.
The easiest way to depict an apocalypse after all, is to just scatter around some trash and add a sepia filter. Or set everything in a rusty old warehouse, and add some comment about how its too dangerous to venture outside because of the radiation, mutants, or whatever. Plus its cheap, and the sets can be reused by other productions. Then of course, video games trying to evoke similar feelings copy movies. No reason too, its not like they have to pay to set up sets and hire FX workers to make it rain, but no the boss feels that my art direction will be too "unfamiliar" to our target audience and thinks we should tone down the philosophy angel because people play these games for the action not the story and.... and...
Wait there's two dozen reanimates wandering in the river bed not ten meters from here - why am I ranting about work?
Oh, right. Anyway, In turn, lacking contact with the outside world, the people remaining in the tower fill in images from their imagination.
Its better thought of as ruined, but not destroyed. Its, just creepy really - more so than the reanimates. Everything is mostly where you remember it, but never just quite how you remember it. Things are both cleaner than usual without the litter and foot tragic of people, and yet dirtier because no one is there to clean up after the storms.
As things go, it was a pretty soft apocalypse. No rain of meteors, no mushroom clouds over every city bigger than a tourist trap, nor thousand food tidal waves. More like people yanked the fuses than ran out without locking the doors and leaving the windows open to the rain.
It began with a big electromagnetic pulse - the government setting off high altitude nukes to deal with the alien ships from what I heard. Idiots. Isn't this why they banned high altitude tests and weapons in space a century ago? We don't even know the if aliens meant to hurt us, they could of been peaceful. but people just assumed they were a threat from all the movies they've seen. Damn you Hollywood.
Most things just shot down at that point - you know, this amazing cutting edge technology from the 19th century called a circuit breaker - no computer consoles blowing up in your face. Some looting and a couple fire maybe, but the national guard and police were able to get a surprisingly quick grasp on that.
Then the reanimates came. Everyone was a bit stretched to the limits, traffic wasn't flowing right, and now you add what is both a virulent disease, and legitimately terrifying. Even if it was a normal pandemic, things would have been bad. Well, there was panic, evacuations, and with the hospitals full and workers abandoning their posts, power tended not to get restored, complicating recovery, and then without medicines and refrigerated food other diseases kicked in...
Well you should know this already. Five years have passed, and the human population is about 5% of what it once was.
Right, that is the history lesson for the day, oh, but I started with geography didn't I? Well, lets see.
You don't have thousands of cars a day going down the roads, but no one is patching the potholes either. Graffiti has been worn off and isn't getting replaced, but neither is the usual paint that keeps things nice. Buildings aren't just falling down or shattered by a blast-front, yet when a window beaks, water and wind get in, strewing things apart. Mold spores, and unfiltered water flooding basements - turning subterranean areas into unexpected rivers - are probably a bigger threat than the neighbors or aliens most of the time. That and feral dogs, but we've gotten off topic enough already, haven't we?
Fires don't start spontaneously, but lightning strikes are unaddressed. Its a bit odd actually, Most of what remains is public spaces built to high standards in the last few decades, or century plus buildings that were made to last and did so because they were in fortunate non-disaster prone locations.
There is a definite unclean bathroom smell in a lot of places – but you're generally not going to find rotting bodies – scavengers and other natural mechanisms have at the very least gotten beyond the stage of stink, if not dragged them out entirely.
Silly thing is, cheap plastic toys have probably held out just fine, while the expensive durable goods like wooden dining tables and antique furniture have been compromised by worms and wetness. But we can speak more of what to find in scavenger hide outs later. Those things are getting a bit too close. Here, follow me...