Nobody is quite sure where they came from. Most didn't even believe the rumors were true, until two days ago when they came in full force. A few, however, got out of town the minute the signs started popping up. I don't know if it was dumb luck, intelligence, instincts, or a combination of the three on their part. It doesn't really matter though, since they're alive and nobody else is… at least, not in the way they should be. My family was among the skeptics. I guess that's why I'm stuck wandering through an eerily quiet high-school with nothing but a Beretta 92 with half a clip, a crow bar, and half-congealed blood on my clothes. I think I have some gray matter mashed into the soles of my boots too. Eww…
Like I said, this all really started a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't get this bad until Wednesday. It started with small stuff: Missing persons, unexplained violence, what people figured were animal attacks… even in a relatively small town like this one, it wasn't anything for people to get especially worked up over. My neighbors freaked out though. They started packing their bags and were out of town the next day, warning everyone else to do the same as they left. Not everyone heeded the warning, but a few-dozen people got out when they could. Funny thing is, all the people who had left were new people in town. Nobody knew exactly where they came from or why they moved at all. I wanted to ask, but asking those kinda questions was rude.
Note to self: In messed up situations such as these, screw manners and get intel as needed. Yes, I just said intel. My grandpa was in the army and liked to tell stories about World War II and stuff, and some of the lingo stuck.
Anyway, after that it only got worse. There was a curfew and the police did more patrols, the usual shtick. My twin sister and her friends got pretty ornery about it, complaining about not being able to go out later and mess around. Fortunately, they still had the sense to stay inside and settled with just letting off steam on Myspace and their blogs.
Then everything went to hell. I'm not sure what happened, but I imagine it would've started to get real bad in the hospitals, where all the bite victims had gone after they collapsed. Yeah, they would've gone after the patients and staff after turning. Then they must have wandered out of the hospital and wreaked havoc on the town. Yeah, I'll go with that.
I was at school while all of this was going down, assuming my theory was correct. To be specific, I was stuck in a supply closet, thanks to some jerk-offs who needed to feed their egos by picking on some kid half their weight, even if he did tower over them by at least a foot. My height just made it worse too, making it difficult for me to get leverage on the door to try and force it open. I kept it up for an hour or so, not feeling up to losing face by asking for help.
Then I started hearing the screams. People running. Students and the faculty crying out for their gods or parents to save them. My (rather loud) requests for assistance were left unheard or ignored. My herd instinct blared and I knew that I really needed to get out now. Something was wrong, wrong enough to send everyone into a panic. I could hear my heart pumping blood through my veins, the beat pounding in my ears. Was it a fire? A shooting? I didn't know. I panicked and just kept slamming at the door.
Hours of yelling and struggling had left me exhausted, and I slumped against the back of the supply closet. I hadn't eaten in a while, and my body screamed at me to rest. Having no other options, I complied and fell asleep in the eerie silence that was in the wake of my fleeing peers.
I woke up in complete darkness. This didn't catch me by surprise in the least, as the light bulb had been burnt out for weeks. I groaned as I sat up straighter, working out the kinks in my neck and back. The back of a closet was not the most luxurious place to sleep. As I forced myself into the waking world, my hands clumsily groped the blackness until they found something. It was long and cylindrical, with the feel of plastic molded into a grip. Smirking in triumph, I activated the flashlight. A burning light filled the closet, and I had to blink several times so my eyes could adjust.
My old hand-me-down watch from my father (which lacked a functioning illumination option) told me that it was four fifty-three in the morning. I frowned, realizing that I hadn't eaten in over twelve hours – my stomach also decided at that moment to remind me of that fact. Man, I could really go for a meatball sub right now.
Grumbling, I stood shakily, careful not to nail myself in the head with the shelf. I turned the light downwards, looking for anything that might have been able to assist me in escaping my five-by-three prison. Digging through a mound of hastily stacked cleaning supplies and two mops, I found the object of my salvation: A crowbar. I held the flashlight in between my raised shoulder and neck, grasping the crowbar in my right hand while using the left to wedge it into the small space between the door and the wall. It took some doing, given the limited amount of space for my gangly limbs to maneuver, but I managed to pry the door open and took in a breath for a 'whoop' of glee.
The blood and half-eaten corpses outside the closet kinda ruined it for me, and my whoop turned into something between a yelp and cough as I choked back a sudden wave of vomit – no wait, not vomit. I hadn't eaten anything to make vomit. My stomach acid poured out onto the floor and I lurched in disgust at both the hallway and in an attempt to get my gut under control. The flashlight fell to the ground and the glass cracked on the linoleum tiles. I think a bit of my hope died out along with the little light flickered away.
I turned around, heedless of the broken flashlight, and ran down the hallway, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I'm not sure where I meant to go, if anywhere specifically at all, but I knew I wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed to get away from the blood and death. I needed to get somewhere safe. Heh, fat chance, that.
I ran for probably five minutes or so through the hallways, and was almost out of the building when I heard something. I skidded to a halt and slammed myself up against the wall, the crowbar held tightly in my hands. I breathed slowly but deeply through my nose, trying to calm down, and listened. It was a moan, a deep and lifeless moan. No human or animal sounded like that, not even when they were dying. It was hollow, piercing my heart and filling it with a primal terror. I didn't know what it was… but at the same time, I – or at least something inside of me – knew that it was nothing good. Slowly, I forced myself to peak around the corner.
Oh God… I'll never forget it for as long as I live.
There were probably a dozen of them or so. They were filthy, what was left of their clothing caked in congealed blood and dirt, the brand-names ripped apart and their naked flesh mutilated and out for all to see. Some looked better than others, but all were deathly pale, holding themselves limply with their jaws hanging open. Strips of flesh were wedged between their teeth, and blood dribbled down their lips. They stared ahead vacantly, but their nostrils flared every now and then, and they all had their heads tilted to one side, as if listening to some far off conversation. They walked slowly with lazy, lurching steps, leaving blood footprints in the ground.
I retreated back around the corner. I blinked, shaking my head. I looked around the corner again. There was now way this could be happening.
They were still there, and they were headed my way. I waited for a moment, expecting someone to jump out and say 'April Fools!' Then I remembered that it was March.
I – quietly – made my way in the opposite direction, crowbar still in hand. Noise would attract their attention, which would result in them coming after me, which would in turn result in a dead me – or, worse yet, an undead me. Luckily, I had mastered the art of running silently long ago, and sprinted down the hallway, making sure to avoid the slippery blood as well as my puddle of stomach acid. I ran through the doors into the second block of the building, and carefully shut the sliding doors to buy me some time should they come in my direction. The lock to the sliding doors gave a satisfying 'click' and I allowed myself to catch my breath.
My period of rest was short lived, as I heard heavy footfalls roughly three meters away from me. Now alert yet again, I jerked towards the noise with my crowbar held out in a defensive fashion. I didn't have any formal training with close-range weaponry, but I knew how to give someone a good smack to the head.
It was one of the security guards. I think his name was Roberts or something. He was a large, heavy-set guy – your stereotypical cop – balding and cleanly shaved. His uniform was now in tatters, which didn't really surprise me, and a large chunk of his left arm was missing. He didn't look as bad as the others I'd seen though. I guess he was freshly 'turned' or something, having managed to escape somewhere after being bitten and hid somewhere until he succumbed. He turned and saw me. I saw him take in a breath, and I instantly knew he was getting ready to let out a loud moan in order to attract back up.
"Like hell you will," I muttered darkly, my voice raspy.
I ran towards him, adrenaline pumping and my heartbeat blasting in my ears. I lashed out with the sharper end of the crowbar, its wicked claws tearing through his temple and into his brain. He fell to the ground and I swept my foot, tripping him by the ankle and destroying what ability to stand he had left. I wrenched the crowbar out, sending blood and bits of bone all over the place and sneered as I flipped the crowbar over and started beating in his face with the blunt side. I stomped on his neck to prevent him from getting away, and finished him off by stabbing him in the eye and scrambling his brains.
The eerie silence reigned once again as I stood over the once again lifeless corpse. I removed the crowbar from its face and stared at it, trying to fight down yet another wave of nausea. I'd killed someone.
NO, I told myself. I'd killed something. I'd killed something that would've killed me if I'd let it. It wasn't human. It wasn't even alive. It was something else, something alien that I could hardly understand. It was a perversion. It was a monster, something that was a threat to me.
Yet, the face was still human.
I tore my eyes away from the mangled corpse at my feat and snuck up to the door it had entered the hallway through. I put my ear to the wall and listened. No sound came, and still I waited. Nothing gave me any reason to think it was unsafe. I entered the room, and thankfully my ears were right. I gave the room a once over, looking for anything that could be of use. Food, too. I needed food.
A backpack hung from the back of one of the chairs, and I unzipped it. I opened the brown paper bag I found inside and quickly ate the sandwich and guzzled the soda. I looked through the other pockets, looking for a cell phone. I swore mentally as my search proved fruitless. However, I did find something of interest on the ground.
It was a Beretta 92. It must've belonged to Robertson, back when he was alive. I picked it up and ejected the clip. It had a fair amount of rounds left. I guess Robertson had bailed quickly after whatever fight he'd gotten the bite from. I put the magazine back in, flicked the safety, and stick the gun in my pocket. I wouldn't say I was an expert with guns, but on weekends my father and I would go out to the gun range and squeeze off a few rounds at the targets.
My thoughts then turned back to my family. I wondered if they were even alive. They wouldn't have left without me. I shivered at the image of my mother, sisters, and father standing among the mob of undead that was now running rampant. With effort I managed to force the image away, at least for now. I gave a wry chuckle with a tinge of hysteria. You know what the last thing I had said to my family was?
"See you later." That's all. No, "take care" or "I love you," just a callous, "see you later," as if such a thing were guaranteed.
I sat down, looking blankly ahead at the chalkboard. It had several formulas written out. I couldn't understand most of them. This was Mr. Becket's physics class, if I recalled correctly. I quick glace at the open text book and notes in front of me clarified that. The book had belonged to Ashley Stevens, if the name on the notebook was any indication.
Without a word I got up and walked to the window, looking out through the curtains when I got there. I gripped the window sill tightly and gasped at what I saw.
They were everywhere. Wandering aimlessly, searching for food, utterly consumed by the need to feed. They were filthy and many were mutilated, limping with one or more limbs torn apart, their faces shredded, blood staining their clothes and hair. Their moans filled the air, and I felt a cold, hopeless feeling penetrate me. It was like an icy hand had torn into my chest and was now squeezing at my heart and lungs, suffocating me, trying to drain me of life. I fell to my knees and curled into a ball. There was nobody else out there, fighting to stay alive. I heard no gunshots, sirens, engines, or anything else that told me that there was some other living thing here to help me. I was alone in this high-school from hell. Maybe I was the last person in the entire town, or maybe even the world. I choked back a sob.
"Pull yourself together," I said. "Gotta get out. Gotta escape. Gotta get help." They say that talking to yourself is a sign of madness. I didn't think about it. I just stood and gulped, trying to drum up my last scraps of courage and augmenting what I found with my inborn will-to-live. I had to stay alive. I wouldn't die. I wouldn't become like them.
And now, here I am, wandering the hallways, trying not to get eaten. I would've been out hours ago if I just ran without paying attention. I'd probably be dead too. I was looking for a place to escape through that wasn't crawling with zombies. No, you can't just run around haphazardly, like some idiot. You've gotta outsmart them. You've gotta be sneaky. Like air. Or a cat.
We had a cat. I didn't like him too much, and the feeling was mutual. I've got the scratches to prove it. He belonged to my little sister, Stella. Damn, she loved that cat. One time, when we first got him and he disappeared, I had to try and calm her down when she started crying, thinking that he'd run away. I told her that cats were just sneaky like that, always disappearing and then coming back when they wanted food. I don't like cats in general, actually. I like dogs better. They stick with you and will defend you. I could use a dog right now.
The crowbar is looking a little crooked from cracking so many skulls. Blood and grey matter was all over me. Thirteen of them. I've killed thirteen zombies so far. Mostly some strays, but I had to go up against a half-dozen of them altogether. They'd cornered me in the music room. Luckily, the walls had absorbed their moans so I didn't have to worry about getting put under siege. I took them out, one by one, funneling them between the chairs and steps where the band kids would sit during practice. They were all over the room by the time I was done.
Mrs. Dickson, the music teacher, wouldn't have liked it. She was a real neat-freak, couldn't stand dirt on anything in her classroom.
Anyway, back to me in the hallway. It's still dirty, filled with bodies and streaks of blood on the floor. It's not as gross as it used to be. I'm used to it now. God, that sounds sick, doesn't it? I'm hungry again. I looted a vending machine, busting the glass open with the crowbar. I grab all I can and run then, before anything that heard the commotion could come and try to eat me. I'm not food. Skittles and Slim-Jims are food. Well, not the best food, but food nonetheless. No, I'm not meant to be eaten. Nothing's gonna be eating me. No sir.
Then I notice that there aren't any zombies wandering around on the other side of the windows. The air feels heavy, too. I stop mid-step, foodstuffs in my arms. I hear them breathing, too. I don't bother turning around. I just drop my loot and run, run as fast as I can. More zombies come stumbling in from the sides, forcing me to turn left. Great. They're trying to back me into a corner.
No, wait… they can't. They aren't that smart. I'd managed to keep back a zombie or two with an unlocked door. They couldn't figure out how to turn the stupid knob.
I turn and find myself at a dead end. The doors are chained shut, and in front of them are several moving boxes. Desperate, I throw myself at the boxes and start pulling and tossing them away, trying to get to the doors. I can bust open one of the windows or something. Whatever is beyond the doors can't be any worse than the hellish army behind me. Said army was oddly silent right now too.
"Your kind is a truly amusing one, Cytotan," says a voice behind me. I freeze. My heart is beating in my ears again. Everything is still, and I turn around. I drop the crowbar in shock, reeling backwards as if struck by an invisible force.
"Stella…" I breathe. A warm feeling lights up inside of me. She's right there, standing in front of me. Her sundress was a little dirty, and her long brown hair could use a washing, but she looks fine. She smiles at me. I'm not alone. My little sister's here. I can grab her and bust out through the window and hotwire someone's car and get out of this godforsaken hellhole. "You're alive." The warm feeling within me dies as she smirks coldly.
"My deepest apologies," says the girl that wasn't a girl in a frostbitten, poisonously sweet voice. "But I'm afraid that the one known as 'Stella' no longer exists, Cytotan." She walks toward me, grinning wider in a way that seemed to split her cheeks. I see it now. She's paler than normal, blue veins visible through her pasty skin. She stops in front of me, still grinning. The horde of fiends behind her remains motionless, standing at attention akin to the way an army would in the presence of their commander. "I must say, you have proven to be most… difficult."
"What are you?! Where's Stella?!" I demand, my hands shaking. She – no, it – laughs.
"I think you already know."
I blinked. It can't be true. She's right in front of me. She's talking. She can't be one of them. No way.
"Now, we have a schedule to keep," she says briskly, as if talking about some business deal. "You have two choices. You can try and fight your way out of here, in which case you lose and join the ranks our brethren… or, you can surrender. I'm feeling quite generous. I'll grant you a warrior's death, as you Homo sapiens say, and allow you to take your own life. You'll be completely consumed for food, and will not be turned." She chuckles. "And no, there isn't an option three. Choose now, or I'll choose for you."
I'm shaking again. This can't be real. My eyes return to the crowbar on the ground. I dive for it, but the thing that used to be Stella kicks me away with surprising force for a girl her size. She laughs. I stand up again, shaking more in a mixture of fury and terror.
"It is inevitable, Cytotan. You will die here," she hisses, her façade melting away. I ball my fists. "Accept it. You have lost here. You will either feed our brethren or join them." My right hand moves to my pocket.
"The reign of Cytota on this world has ended. We are the new rulers of this planet. All that you have ever held dear is ours now. We are your masters now."
"Shut up…" I grasp the Beretta.
"Even if you were to somehow escape, you would only head into a world filled with others like myself. It's just revolution, Cytotan. Like the dinosaur, your time has come to an end." She chuckled darkly. "What, are you going to kill me? I know how you mammals are. You won't kill me whilst I still hold the visage of your sibling. It's engrained in your very genome. You can't kill me. You won't kill me."
I whip out the Beretta and aim. My resolve is now steel.
I hear the gun fire. Two rounds tear into her forehead, and she jerks backwards with a look of shock on her face. She lands and slides a little bit on the ground, the momentum of the bullets carrying her small body. I think I might be screaming. I don't know. My throat hurts. I empty the rest of the magazine at incoming zombies, taking them out. I manage to kill one or two, but most of my shots are too shaky and just hit them in the knees or chests and slow them down. It's all a blur now.
I pocket the empty Beretta – it may come in handy later – and grab my crowbar. I turn and crawl over the boxes with renewed vigor and drive the crowbar through the glass. The glass shatters. I swing my crowbar around, clearing away the shards and then dive through. I land on the ground hard and skin my elbow, but I pay no attention to the minor wound. I'm running now. The parking lot is in sight. I can here the zombies moaning behind me, struggling to get through the doors. More start pouring in from the other buildings, but I pay them no heed. I'm untouchable now. I get to another car and drive the crowbar through the window. I smash it to pieces, unlock the door, get in, and hotwire the car. The zombies are almost on me. I hit the gas and go, smashing through the sea of undead. I laugh as they are crushed beneath the wheels of the car. I drive and drive and drive and drive…