The Last of Us: Apocalypse 101 – Rule #73, Look For The Light

August 17, 2030


Rule #1, Cities Are Bad

Rules #13-17, When You Kill Them Make Sure They’re Dead

Rule #27, Only Carry What You Need (And Weapons!)

Rule #49, Learn Not To Feel

Rule #58, People Aren’t Better Than Monsters

-Iggy Bigby

When you’re lost in the darkness… Look for the light. Believe in the Fireflies!

Sounds pretty hokey, doesn’t it? I used to think so.

Back in Buffalo – almost 20 years ago now – we hated the Fireflies. That stupid slogan was everywhere. Inescapable. Alex and I would snicker about it in the Quarantine Zone, come up with some fairly solid riffs on our self-proclaimed saviors and their righteous mission. We couldn’t understand why they’d want to tear down what little we had left. We were so young and so selfish.

Sure, the QZ was far from perfect. A borderline fascist environment, honestly. But at the time, at least it kept us safe – or, as safe as we felt we could get in a world post-society. Democracy was gone, we thought. Accept it, and let us trudge through life. Stop trying to tear down our walls. FEDRA’s walls. I’ve been through a lot since then, though. I’m different now. Maybe you see it in my writing? I don’t joke like I used to. I’ve stopped trying to sugarcoat the reality of our situation. It’s bad, and yeah, someone should probably do something about it.

It’s not enough to live behind walls anymore. It’s not enough to spend decades cowering from existence, one mistake away from losing everything. That’s not the future I want. Not for me, and not for you. It’s certainly not what I wanted for Sweet Pea. It’s been a couple years since we left Jackson, and since then, I’ve started to see what I’d been missing this whole time.

Believe it or not, the Fireflies give us our best chance at a life worth living.

If you’ve been keeping up with all my entries, you’ll remember we were waiting for someone named Tommy to pick us up from Jackson and ferry us back to the Fireflies’ base in Salt Lake City. I almost didn’t go with him. The community in Wyoming was beautiful, and I couldn’t think of a real reason to leave it behind. Then, not long before Tommy made it to us, Jackson had to fend off a Bandit attack. Five men, all of whom I’d come to know, gave their lives to keep their families safe. To make sure their children would have enough supplies to make it through tomorrow.

I realized, at that moment, how important the Fireflies could be. Jackson was only allowed to be tranquil some of the time when the apocalypse wasn’t forcing death down its throat. The Fireflies had the potential to build a world where it could flourish. Where it would only be one of many thriving communities. I didn’t have anyone to protect anymore, nobody else to look out for but myself. So, I decided my best use was to leave Jackson and dedicate myself to crafting a world where its residents could sleep soundly at night.

I joined the Fireflies, and I haven’t looked back. Ironically, Tommy went back to Jackson after dropping us off. He wanted to stick to his word; get us there safely. But he found something special in that county, running that dam. He found love, so he left the Fireflies. I suppose you could say I took his place. I don’t regret it. First decision I’ve made in a while I can say that for.

You might think it’s some culty bullshit, but I’ve never felt more secure. I have a purpose again, and I feel good doing it. It’s been a really long journey, but if I had to enter another rule in this journal – in ‘Apocalypse 101’ – it would be to find whatever it is that makes you feel this way too. You might be thinking it’s a weird thing to put in a survival guide. That joining a militia feels like a surefire way to get yourself killed. But there are other jobs here, aside from being a grunt. There are doctors and caretakers and cafeteria workers. All of them LIVING. Being truly ALIVE.

So, literally or metaphorically, I encourage you to abide by the following rule.

Rule #73, Look For the Light

Before you join the Fireflies, however, let me give you a brief history lesson. It’s not like school, where you sign up for classes and they teach you everything you need to know. It’s more of a “pick it up as you go along” situation. Lucky for whoever has found this journal, though, I have sorta been treating it like school. ‘101’, and all. So I’ll give you the rundown and hopefully, you’ll be good to go by the time you join up. Hell, maybe by when you find this we’ll have already done it and nothing I’ve ever written will matter anymore. That would be something.

Anyway, best I can tell, the Fireflies came about sometime in the early 2010s, not long after the apocalypse started. As I’ve covered a couple times, their goal was to restore a democratic government and remove FEDRA and the QZ’s from power. In their early days, they didn’t have much support. They’d try to start riots or coups from inside QZ’s, but it didn’t work. Eventually, they went further than FEDRA was comfortable with, and six Firefly members were publicly executed. That was a mistake on FEDRA’s part. Really stirred the people up.

After that, things started to take off. Their numbers grew, people started to see the light. They were able to organize. You could identify members from their clothing – always yellow and green, like the glow of a real firefly (Get it? True fashion). That’s what I wear now, too, which is great because I’ve always looked good in Earth colors. We also wear cool, fancy pendants as an identifier. A way to weed out the spies from actual believers.

The Fireflies’ base of operations has moved around a few times, before they landed in Utah. I’ve heard the last spot they called home was at the University of Eastern Colorado. They were there for a while, but I’m glad I missed that era. It ended poorly. Bless their hearts, the militia was searching for a Cordyceps cure in the University’s science labs. Trying to bring the world back by ridding it of monsters altogether. Testing all sorts of wacky vaccines on monkeys, until one got loose. It bit a doctor, and everything fell to shit from there*. The labs were no longer viable. They had to move elsewhere.

The last decade has been spent trying to get as many people and communities on the Fireflies’ side as possible. A lot of the QZ’s have now fallen to Firefly insurgency, a nice change of pace after so many years of failure on the militia’s part. Unfortunately, as soon as people get a little taste of freedom, they get spooked. They think the Fireflies will turn out to be just another dictatorship. So, after the QZ’s topple, the folks there reject us and make the cities their own. I can respect the idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Apparently, this is how the Hunters got their start. QZ’s that fell to the Fireflies just became hotbeds for “survival of the fittest.” A shame. So much wasted potential.

Now that I’m here, I’m hoping I can put an end to the mistrust. Alex always said I had a way with words. A way with people. So maybe, after I help end FEDRA, I can be a peace broker. Make up for all that time of simple killing. Stand up and convince the citizens of this country to play along. To unify. To build better lives for themselves. Maybe I can at least do that.

When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light. And look for me. Don’t be afraid to say hi.

*(That was in 2028, just before I made myself known. I still hear whispers there’s a lead on a cure, but as far as I know, nothing all that miraculous in terms of actual progress has been made. We’re led by a woman named Marlene. She’s a fighter, and she knows how to rally the troops. She’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. Marlene is convinced her and the surgeon here, Dr. Jerry Anderson (real nice guy), can change the world. I hope she’s right, because if she’s not, it could be the end for all of us…)

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