Chapter 1- LOTUS

I could admit that the world has come to its unavoidable end. I could also admit that I had secretly wished for this to happen, but if that got out now I would deny it to my very grave. Because when the catastrophe hit, it ended life as we knew it.

In the past I was a supernatural enthusiast, I watched horror movies constantly and could spend days digging into the scientific background of vampires and other beasts. I wasn't a popular girl, I kept to myself and was content with my looks and social standing. I was neither ugly nor beautiful, and my body rested somewhere between plump and curvy, not to mention the fact that my nest of red hair defied every product imaginable, sometimes even gravity itself. It wasn't unusual that I was an outcast because of my "weird" habits, but then again that's what kept me alive.

A lot has changed in 3 months, of course there was the fact that civilization no longer existed, then the scarcity of food and supplies. Oh, and don't forget the ever growing population of the undead roaming the streets.

I remember the very day our town began seeing signs of the infection. My mother worked as a nurse in a small clinic, and sometimes I would have to spend several hours in the lobby waiting for her shift to end. It happened on one of those days, I was reading a novel that the school librarian suggested to me and as I looked up to see another stretcher pull in I had to resist the urge to gag. The man was in his late 30's, his skin was yellowing with areas where the flesh was pulled back to reveal strands of muscle, his eyes bulged out of the sockets and seemed to be covered in a milky film. I immediately mistook the man for a decaying corpse, but after seeing his chest rise and fall in a quick, rhythmic beat my stomach decided to get rid of today's lunch.

I guess you could say vomiting all over myself was a blessing in disguise. Within 20 minutes all hell broke loose beyond the safety of my stall, When exiting the bathroom I found a relatively abandoned and quiet hospital. I didn't see any traces of blood at my end of the hallway so I never expected for my eyes to lie on the mangled body of the secretary as I turned the corner. Pools of blood were spattered on the floor, along with torn scraps of flesh and intestine. Clutched in her right hand was a screwdriver that was slightly bent and had remnants of splintered bone plastered to the metal. Only a miniscule amount of fear leaked into my brain. I bent down and pried the screwdriver from the dead woman's hand, then wiped the game onto my jeans. I headed to the nursery to check on my mother. I approached in a cautious and slow fashion. I heard feet shuffling around the room and low gurgles through the door. Raising my screwdriver I nudged the door open and braced myself for what was inside.

The room was dimly lit, blood stained the floor and two bodies were heaped against the wall, both missing their intestines and most of their flesh. To my relief, neither one was my mother. My eyes almost skipped across the man standing in the middle of the room, it was Dr. Pierce, my mother's supervisor. He was standing over one of the cribs, although his back was toward me I could clearly make

out the bloody scalpel in his quivering fist. Not once, not twice, five times he thrust the scalpel inside the crib in a rapid succession. He then quickly moved to the one next to it, lather, rinse, repeat. After each kill you could hear a throaty hiss and the most vile retch a human child could produce.

"STOP!" I shrieked, unable to contain my horror. The doctor's hand hovered in midair as his head twisted toward me. Dr. Pierce's eyes were wide and bloodshot, these were the eyes of a man who had lost his sanity.

"Infected, infected, all infected." He whispered. This was not the man that greeted me with smiles and gave me a handful of m&m's every time I came in with my mom when I was little. His voice was haunted, like he had aged 60 years and had seen every disaster that had ever hit the earth. Dr. Pierce lifted his hand to me, revealing a rugged bite mark on his palm. Blood and puss oozed from the wound, and bone poked out from underneath the tattered flesh. His trembling legs collapsed in on themselves and he ended up withering on the floor clutching his hand. You could physically see a change with his skin as the infection rose up his arm. I was frozen, my body resisted to come to his help. I didn't know if it was instinct to stay away from something that dangerous, or if I was mentally incapable of moving because of the shock. Because, yes at this time I finally realized that I was in one of my fantasies, except for once, it wasn't fiction it was reality.

The doctor's movement soon became forced until he lay on the floor like a rigid board. He reminded me much like the first patient, except for the fact that the disease was only centered into his left arm and hadn't spread to the rest of his body yet. His chest rose and fell, and occasionally shuddered as he tried to draw breath. Between the small gasps he uttered two words through his gritted teeth- finish it. 'Finish what?' was my first thought. Out of nowhere came a high pitched wail from the baby cribs. The noise rattled my brain and pierced my eardrums. I had to kneel to the ground and press my hands against my skull. Make it stop, MAKE IT STOP. I staggered to the first crib, only to find myself on the floor again, heaving the remains of whatever was left in my stomach.

That thing in the crib, was NOT a baby. It's skin was a pasty grey covered in black scabs. The flesh at the hands and feet were flaking off showing bone, and blood trickled from every entry. The eyes, ears and mouth were gushing with the red liquid.

I calmed my mind and stood, it was important to keep my head. That was one of many rules in a zombie apocalypse; not following it would secure your immediate death. I raised the screwdriver and shut my eyes as I drove the shaft through its skull. Blood splashed on my face, and with each kill the murderous screech became bearable. By the time I reached the last crib my clothes were drenched in blood, and I smelled more like a decaying corpse and less like a sixteen year old girl.

I once again lifted the screwdriver, ready to end this task, but I caught myself- inches from the baby's vulnerable head. Inside the crib was not a grotesque child, instead lay a sleeping baby. There was the soft pink skin with chubby limbs. Everything as miniature, small hands and small feet, a wee bump for a nose. Without thinking I cradled the infant in my arms, checking it's body for wounds, specifically

ones received from zombies. I looked around the room for a sign of life, but there was none. Even the loud panting from Dr. Peirce had stopped. My attention was then drawn back to the baby who stirred in it's sleep. The heavy lidded eyes fluttered open and as it came to, the baby opened its mouth and made a noise somewhat caught between a gurgle and a laugh. I couldn't help but smile. Despite the dead bodies in the nursery, and the things I had to do to the Zed…this child that somehow miraculously avoided the walking dead, gave me hope.

I later discovered that although I thought that bringing the child with me was a mistake, it turned out it was a godsend. It was a girl, with beautiful green eyes that sparkled like mine. It made me remember our family tradition, girls were named after flowers, boys were named after stars. My mother was Freesia, and I Lotus, this child although not biologically mine would carry on this tradition.

Phlox, a beautiful white flower, native to the state she was born in. That was her name. From that moment on Phlox was officially a member of the family.