I woke up with a start. When had I fallen asleep? Panic surged through me for a fraction of a second, but I calmed myself down to avoid irrational thinking or actions. I had been on first watch and somehow fell asleep, from sheer exhaustion most likely. I quickly checked on Larry; he was breathing normally, and then went to Brock. Except…he wasn't there. I looked at the empty spot for a moment, and then checked that all Larry's and my supplies and weapons were still in place. Everything was where I'd left them. Had he taken off without us? Had he left us to the headless zombies outside? It would be a clever plan, leaving us with evolving zombies in the dark with only a tiny LED flashlight for illumination. I immediately scolded myself for falling into this trap.
I spun 180 degrees around and stared at the barn house door. Someone had screamed those words outside. Had it been Brock? I sneaked a glance out a crack in the wooden door. Nothing…a body suddenly slammed against the door and I grabbed my sword, wielding it with both hands. Bang! Bang! The door wouldn't hold for much longer, I had to get back-up. I backed up to where Larry was, crouched down and elbowed him the face, still wielding the sword tightly and watching the door. He grunted, rolled over and…fell asleep. He was obviously too tired, but could I take out a dozen or so zombies in such an enclosed space while protecting Larry? Unless, I thought, I leave Larry as bait and…no. I couldn't. But I had to think fast, before…
"Aieee aie aie aie aieeee HA!"
"What the heck." I muttered under my breath. "Who…"
Crunch. Slash. The slashing and wet sounds of blade against flesh echoed in the night air. Then all was silent. The crickets started making noise again, the animals moved around once more. I started breathing more normally. I let out a huge breath, unbolted the door and opened it.
The bloody face of Brock made me reel backwards, letting go of my sword in shock. I looked down and grimaced; his left hand was torn up, flesh and veins all ripped up. Hid blood was gushing out like a fountain; the floor had pools of the red stuff. He's infected, I though. Too bad I have to kill him; he was such a great asset to our situation. I picked up my sword while cautiously eyeing him.
"I know what you're thinking." Brock laughed. "You want to kill me don't you?"
I stayed silent, waiting, watching.
"Well, I don't plan on dying anytime soon so…" he smiled at me. "Watch and learn."
What he did next was so fast that even my trained eye barely had time to register what had happened. He plunged his axe into his left arm, an inch above his elbow. There was a thud, a crack as his bone broke and then his agonizing screams as he continued to cut through many nerves at the same time. He fell on the floor, clutching what was left of his arm and howled and howled…
"Claudine." I turned around to see Larry. His eyes were illuminated by the moon so that they shone. "What have you done?"
I shook my head. "I didn't-"
Were you trying to kill him?" Larry screamed. "Is that how you treat an ally, a comrade? What are you? Who are you? How do I know that you won't kill me next?" He came towards me, spitting out words of confusion and betrayal. "If so, I might as well finish you and-"
"Larry calm down." Brock said through his clenched teeth.
"Calm down?" Larry paused and seemed to think for a moment. "Calm down?!" His face was suddenly a mask of rage. "So you two are together in this? You screamed so I could wake up, let my guard down and then have myself killed...no, MURDERED by you two?"
"Larry listen-" Brock was still in pain, but was trying to console Larry instead. Brock and Larry were the same in a sense, always thinking of others. But that similarity was what I most despised. "Larry, the zombies…"
"SHUT UP!" My voice seemed to echo forever. "Both of you!"
They both opened their mouths, one in objection, one in anger.
"I said shut up!" I growled. "Larry, you have a fever."
The two males looked at me, then at each other.
"So?" Brock asked.
"How do you know?" Larry asked at the same time.
"First of all, you have a weird nasally sound to your voice. Secondly, you sound crazier than you've ever been, although it could also be from stress. Thirdly," I paused. "You have snot all over your face."
Brock started chuckling, then Larry caught the laughter and they both started laughing. Brock's arm must've become so numb that he didn't feel much pain anymore. I looked on with a stoic expression. What I didn't understand was why they were laughing. This laughter could be a negative or positive thing that could help stabilize or destabilize everyone's mentality. Their laughter was confusing to me and I wondered what this meant. I decided to find out.
"Why are you laughing? What's so funny?" I demanded.
That only encouraged them to laugh even more with more energy and in a higher pitch. Oh what the hell, I thought. I'm sure they're both mad now since they've been through so many stress factors. Unfortunately, their laughter was infuriating, as well as extremely annoying. I wondered about my own mentality at that point. Had I, in turn, also turned mad?
"Hey...hey Larry..." Brock laughed between gasps of air. "You've got SNOT all over your face!"
Both of them burst into more laugher. They clutched their stomach and started rolling around on the floor. I stared on with so much confusion, I'm sure it showed on my face. Apparently my expression helped them lose it even more and they were hysterical now. It took several minutes before they calmed down to a contented sigh and the last of the chuckles finally faded away.
"I'm sure I burned tons of calories and extended my life for years!" Larry said. His voice cracked and sounded as if there was phlegm half-way up his throat. He made a horrible retching sound and coughed the phlegm up onto the floor beside him. He moved away warily. "Yuck."
"If I had my other arm, I'd probably pat you on the shoulder for making us laugh so much." Brock sighed. "Can't remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long over something this trivial."
"Nevermind the laughter." I snapped impatiently. Were they treating this as a game? We were in the middle of basically nowhere with zombies all around us, evolving and changing so fast, it was hard to keep up. "What the hell happened a few minutes ago."
"Snot." Brock and Larry said in unison. They started chuckling.
I willed my eyes to pierce daggers into their faces. They sobered up quickly.
"Alright." Brock grunted. "Before I turn into one of them (if I do), I might as well tell you everything. A few minutes ago, they evolved to have echolocation, so I had to murder my family. Going back even further, as you all know, our country's scientists were conducting a really stupid and contagious but effective weapon that could protect us and defeat everyone. The classic taking over of brains by some weird bacteria shit you see in movies. What's different, slightly to say the least, is the fact that you won't turn into a zombie if you don't fall asleep. The bacteria is very weak when the human mind is conscious and won't be able to take over the nervous system because of the increased amount of activity happening.
"However, as soon as the host falls asleep, or falls unconscious (this can range from half-dreaming to fall on knock-outs), the bacteria starts taking hold of the host's nervous system and from there on the host can not undo the process, even if they wake up in the middle of the 'taking-over' process. I learned this from my best friend, who happened to work at the top secret facility. She wasn't supposed to tell me of course, but our bond runs deep, or at least it used to, so she told me everything."
"Wait a second." I retorted. "If that's the case, why did the man in that car turn into a zombie?"
"What guy?" Brock asked.
"Oh, I remember now." Larry said. "Claudine and I were looking for a ride on Highway 7 and some random guy came and told us to hop in right after we'd pretty much given up all hope on finding a car ride. During the drive, he suddenly acted strange and then started to say 'Sorry', and turned into a zombie. But if the bacteria can only take over during the host's unconscious or half-conscious state, how could he have turned?"
Brock pondered for a moment. "Well, he either slipped into a half-sleeping state during the drive and snapped back a second later or..." He shrugged. "...or the bacteria was so advanced by then that it could take over the conscious mind of a human after a few minutes or hours of work."
My mind was thinking of scenarios and possibilities. Bacteria was the cause of this phenomenon. A very strong and fast-evolving bacteria. I remembered reading about Super Bugs and their gradual, but speedy resistance to antibiotics and such. A light bulb suddenly appeared in my mind and lit up with a brilliant flash. Antibiotics. If we could maybe find an antibiotic that could destroy the bacteria inside a host's body...maybe, just maybe, it was possible to return Earth back to its original state of...what? Earth was already so corrupted with the humans terrorizing everything from nature to each other. What was worth saving in this world? The few people who had kind hearts? The few people who wanted peace? What was the point of saving humankind...why not just...let them all...everyone...just...die...?
No, what was I thinking. I wanted to live. I knew somewhere deep inside my locked up, cold heart, I wanted Larry to live too - maybe even Brock. But the first problem was the antibiotic. If these zombie bacteria were like super bugs, they would, through natural selection, quickly become immune to any antibiotics we shoved in their way. The feeding of these antibiotics might even make them stronger, as it eliminated the weaker ones. I kneaded my fist against my forehead. What to do...what to do...
I looked up from my deep thoughts to see Brock and Larry watching me intently. "How long have I been...?"
"Approximately 5 minutes give or take." Larry replied.
"I think it was more like 2 minutes." Brock groaned as his arm leaked red liquid. "Silence makes time expand like a hot air balloon."
"That was a bad analogy." Larry smirked.
"Can you think of a better one?" Brock growled in good humour.
"Well, no. You win this round."
Brock scoffed again. "Well, there you have it."
"I've been thinking..." I started.
"Kinda obvious." Brock retorted.
"Shut up." I murmured. "Continuing, I was wondering if we could find a cure to this apocalyptic problem."
"Kill everyone?" Brock asked.
"Nuke all the infected areas?" Larry suggested.
"No." I sat on the dirty floor and slammed a hand against it. I picked up the mushroom I'd seen on the ground before. "Antibiotics." There was a brief moment of silence.
"That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say." Larry said in surprise. "If it had been any other bacteria, sure. But this is way off the scales of just finding antibiotics as a cure."
"Yes, I realized that, but we could always try." But my heart sank as I contemplated my poorly thought out plan. Of course. What would work against these monsters of bacteria? And how would we even obtain these antibiotics? I was tired, my mind wasn't functioning sharply. How had I even thought of this plan? It was blasphemy in all ways. I was so tired...so very tired of surviving, of hoping, of pretending, of thinking, of locking away my past...if only I could...rest...just...just for a bit...okay? Everything faded.
*Author's Note: When Brock cut off his left arm, he was trying to prevent the bacteria to spread to the rest of his body. No one knows how fast the bacteria spreads or if he cut it in time, so we'll just have to wait and see*