He looked dead, he even smelled dead. He had slate grey skin and his eyes were glazed. If it weren't for the fact that he was still breathing, I'd assume he was dead. But, though he smelled and looked dead, the specimen was very much alive.
In fact, I had known the specimen, and he had once been human. I could tell, behind the glaze, were Aaron's two, perfectly healthy blue eyes. His hair, which now fell out in matted clumps, was still its original blond color. The rest of him, though, was twisted beyond recognition.
His once full right arm had been reduced to half its original length (The wound was still fresh, judging by the low-viscosity dark fluid pouring from the ragged wound). His remaining fingers had become gnarled and one or two of them were actually mangled. He was missing a toe or two and the left leg was badly broken.
Someone had buried a knife in Aaron's right shoulder. That someone had then apparently fled, as the blade was still there, soaking in dark fluids. The teeth of my late friend were yellowed and quite a few of them had fallen out. His cheeks and stomach, which were slightly rounded and healthy-looking in life, were hollowed out with what appeared to be malnutrition.
The worst of it however, was the split in Aaron's skull. Through it, I saw the noodle-like grey matter that had, at one time, served as his brain. Now it seemed that it was deeply contaminated by the epidemic known to just about everyone as Virus Z.
The epidemic had been spreading like wildfire across the contiguous U.S., turning about half our population into zombies. The walking dead were dangerous, not a force to be reckoned with.
Their bite slowly infects the systems, beginning with the nervous system and the all-important brain. As that goes on, Virus Z attacks the other systems, replacing scarlet blood with strange dark fluid and dimming the eyes. Eventually, the affected person drops dead. Before they're missed, however, they come back, except, they don't really return. Their bodies resurrect, but their spirits remain in the afterlife, are destroyed completely, or are simply buried deep in the brain.
After resurrecting, the bodies return to their most primitive state, not understanding modern language and not knowing any modern technology. At this state, the body only knows one thing; hunger. And they know lots of it. It seems the zombie prefers raw flesh (the bloodier the better) and the rare delicacy of brains and eyeballs (something like spaghetti and meatballs, I guess).
The concept of the inability to feel pain remains a mystery. The current theory is as follows: Virus Z attacks the nerves. The attacked nerves begin to break down and eventually disintegrate. The person, by this time, drops dead. The later resurrected zombie feels no pain because its nerves no longer exist.
I didn't understand why Aaron had been bitten. He hadn't done anything wrong; he didn't get drunk, do drugs, or commit crimes. He was engaged to be married, or… well, he had been. His future wife probably didn't want to marry him anymore. She could have chosen from quite a few men, but she had chosen Aaron. Unfortunately, so did the zombies. Well, all I can say now, is she probably has a new boyfriend lined up already.
I looked down at the immobilized shell of what had once been my best friend. He turned his glazed eyes on me, glaring hate into me. Aaron wore a tight-fitting oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, which not only provided him with plenty of air, but prevented him from biting me. I checked to make sure the straps holding him to the table were secure, and then began my tests.
Taking a syringe, I walked as close as I dared to the zombie. He didn't react as I inserted the needle into the ragged stump of his right arm, drawing out some of the dark fluid. I put the now full syringe aside and picked up a knife. I was to stab him once in each limb to see which held the most "blood". As I did so, I noted the same amount of "blood" came out of each limb.
After finishing all the tests, I picked up a syringe filled with a thick pink fluid. My last instructions had been this: "When you're finished, use this. If that fails, use the gun and shoot him in the head." Put more simply, I had to "put him down". Walking over to Aaron, I found that he understood what I was about to do. He thrashed wildly, trying to get loose, to run away, to live.
I just barely stopped the tears as I put the tip of the needle to Aaron's badly broken left leg. I hesitated, and then plunged it deep into his rotting flesh. He screamed as the fluid entered his bloodstream, killing him. All the dark fluid poured like rivers out of his wounds, emptying him of his life. With it, the cloudiness of his eyes left him, clearing his vision so he could see his murderer with his dying breath.
Aaron's scream petered out into a strangled sound, and finally, a sigh escaped with his final breath. My best friend, rather, what had become of him, was completely gone. As I thought this, he suddenly lurched, straining against the straps.
I stepped back, surprised, as Aaron's skin once again took on the same hue of a healthy human. Scarlet blood came from the wounds in messy spurts. He screamed again, not the dying scream of a zombie, but the scream of pain from a human.
Regaining my scenes, I hurried forward and wrapped as many wounds as I could. By the time I had done so, however, Aaron had lost far too much blood and was officially dead. I stared at the body, which was now bleeding itself out. I turned my gaze to the syringe, awestruck at the simple tool. The thick fluid I had forced into the zombie's body had cured him.
To be continued…