-Chapter 1: Outbreak

It was dark. The streets were lined with rubble and litter. Mist poured out of the sewers and into the thick damp air. I stumbled through the darkness, feeling my way along the brick walls of the alley.

"Raarrrgh."

I heard a chilling but all too familiar sound from behind me. Unable to see my pursuer I had no choice but to flee. As quickly as I could I made my way towards the mouth of the alley. The street lights had long since burned out. With only the moonlight to guide me the streets were a dimly lit shadow. That night the clouds conspired against me. Dead men don't need sight to find you, all they need is your scent.

I hurried past the locked doors and fire escapes. As I rounded the corner all I saw before me was blackness. I feared I had reached a dead end. From behind me I could still hear the mad shambling of a bloodthirsty monster. I pushed forward into the growing darkness, unable to see even my own outstretched hands, but I could still feel the roughness of brick against my fingertips.

As I sepped forward again my foot caught something on the ground beneath me and I tumbled, hitting my head on something unexpectedly soft. I raced to regain my footing and in my frenzy my hand touched something wet. Something sticky. Something warm. I shuddered as I realized I'd just tripped over a fresh corpse.

My pursuer had rounded the corner. I could hear him getting closer. His feet scraped against the concrete as he shuffled forward. I panicked and tried to get to my feet. I propped myself up against a wall but it was impossible to tell if it was the same wall that guided me here or if I was trapped. The sound of shambling feet and the smell of rotting flesh creeped towards me, slowly unraveling my sanity and sending me into an ever deeper state of panic.

Desperately I searched for something, anything, that could be used as a weapon but came up empty. He was almost upon me. I clawed at the wall, frantically trying to pry loose a brick or hoist my self up and out of harms way. My fingernails peeled back and my fingertips scraped to the bone. A clammy, putrid hand grasped my shoulder and pulled me back. I let out a blood-curdling scream as his teeth tore into my flesh and in my last moments alive I started to-

"Mister Jackson!"

I awoke from my dream to hear the voice of my History teacher, Mr. Priestly.

"Ugh. Whaa?"

In my groggy state I could scarcely remember where I was. I looked around to see all eyes on me, a sheet of paper glued to my face by a puddle of drool. The class erupted in laughter, which quickly subsided as the piercing gaze of Mr. Priestly cut through with the precision of a scalpel.

"I'm disappointed in you Andrew, but I can't say I'm surprised." He said. "For someone named after a President one would think you'd be a bit more interested in history."

"I learned everything I know about history from the greatest movie ever made." I said. "In the words of Abraham Lincoln: Be excellent to each other, and Party on dudes!"

Priestly dropped his book with a thud that caused the whole class to jump.

"You've just partied your way into detention, Andrew. See me after class."

Great. My third detention this month. What a tool. I spent the remainder of the class hunched over my desk pretending to take notes. The columns of my notebook littered with drawings of undead flesh-eaters, bent on feasting upon the living. I'd gotten pretty damn good at drawing them, too. Maybe my over-active imagination was good for something, after all.

Mr. Priestly gave me the the same old song and dance about the importance of school work and paying attention, and that those who ignore history were doomed to repeat it. Blah blah blah. I nodded and when it sounded like he was finished I told him I understood and that it wouldn't happen again.

After class I made my way to study hall to spend the next half an hour locked away behind closed doors with the rest of the so called degenerates. Between pages of her book Mrs. Walker glanced up at us with an oppressive glare. The minutes trickled away in sullen silence.

"My parents are going to be pissed." I thought.

Fuck 'em. My mother mostly slept and my good for nothing fuck up of a step-father couldn't give two shits about me. He'd gotten in a fight late last night and hadn't gotten out of bed this morning. Probably depressed or hung over or some stupid thing.

Mrs. Walker ran detention like god damned boot camp. If the school board let her I'm sure she'd drill us, make us do pushups, stand at attention, and have other kids beat us with bars of soap stuffed into socks. It wasn't all that bad, though.

At least I was in good company. There was Skuzz, Duke, Izzy and Weasel. The only people I could call my friends, even though we never saw each other outside of detention and hardly ever talked. It was a bond that wasn't defined by words; a universal hatred of teachers and the shared annoyance of having to sit through so many hours of drudgery that brought us together.

Skuzz was the typical punk kid everyone knows and nobody likes. Leather jacket, spiked green mohawk, piercings somehow, even though he was just sixteen. He once told me his cousin ran a tattoo parlor and even gave him a Prince Albert. I didn't dare call him out on it. He was there for acting out, lipping off teachers, and missing homework. Just a general shit disturber.

Duke was a jock. I don't usually like jocks but he always had pot and was willing to share. He was kind of a dick and not very bright. He was... slow. Not like, mentally handicapped, just generally stupid. He spent most of his time in the gym working out. Dude was built like a tank.

Izzy was a firecracker. She wore too much eye shadow and cut holes in socks so she could wear them as sleeves, but I think she's cute. What a temper on that girl, though. Once I saw someone bump into her in the hallway. She chased him down, jumped on his back, and bit him on the ear. Nobody crossed her, and that's the way she liked it.

Weasel stood out in the group. Not because he was big, or looked like a punk, or anything, but because he was smart. Too smart for his own good, really. Weasel had a problem with authority. He always wound up in detention because he spent most of his time in math class correcting his teacher. He wasn't wrong, but she didn't like the idea of being shown up by a kid. Weasel was a spindly kid with thick rimmed glasses. His hunched posture made him appear shorter than he actually was.

We heard the screams of the kids outside. Obviously someone was having more fun than we were. As the half hour dragged on there was more screaming, kids banging on the doors, just the usual enthusiasm of a Friday afternoon when everyone had too much energy and no outlet to release it.

More banging. Mrs. Walker stopped reading her book and yelled from the back of the class "Go away!" in her most authoritative tone. The banging continued.

"I mean it!" She commanded.

More banging, this time I swore I could hear scratching and... what was that, groaning?

"That is it!" Mrs. Walker bolted out of her seat and marched towards the door.

Everyone turned to watch. We all knew what happened to kids when Mrs. Walker was on the war path. This is the most entertainment we'd had all day. "You kids had better get out of here this instant!" she bellowed as she flung open the door, but what she found was far more terrifying than she could have imagined.