She scratched her nose obsessively – the stench was almost unbearable.
Death, it permeated the air.
It was on the walls covered in red but also black blood.
It was in the pallid faces of those who could no longer scream.
It was also in the bleak eyes of the children whose parents had been taken by the disease.
Those lucky enough to survive infection often fell prey to the teeth and claws of those affected by the pestilence.
Leyla wrapped her arms tightly around her bent knees, bringing them to her chest. She was crouched on the first floor of a ramshackle hostel, praying the stench would hide her presence.
She was a Susceptible; one of the few who had escaped the first outbreak, who now lived in fear of those who had not been so lucky to flee contagion. Or, perhaps, they were the unlucky ones, unable to walk out into the open for fear the wind might carry the scent to a nearby monster. Them, the ones still breathing, those who had yet to succumb to numbness.
A thud claimed her attention – maybe it was just a rotting rafter falling to the ground; maybe it was one of the creatures forcing its way inside the shelter.
Seconds stood still as she breathed and waited, silent like a mute.
In this derelict world, was her life destined to disappear and be forgotten like a rug under a pile of new clothes? She grimly contemplated, lugubrious thoughts running after one another in her mind.
The rattling sounds which her ears detected confirmed her worst suspicions – she was no longer alone in the building.
Her hands shook, uncontrollable, as the floor trembled under her eight. Whatever was coming upstairs was heavy and definitely not human.
A human would have made sure to keep a low profile and avoid unnecessary noises. It increased their chances of survival.
A sense of doom settled upon her heart when she heard feet scuffing on the grit just outside the door. Too stiff legs which could only be dragged by their owner were the cause of such ominous symphony.
The rhythmic beating of her heart was like thunder to her ears and perhaps acted as a radio to the monster.
The creature beat the door open, unceremoniously, as its swollen limbs hammered into thick wood until it yielded under its brutality.
Flecks of light eluded the monster's fearsome stature, blinding Leyla's eyes, which had become adept to the darkness.
She lay on the floor, inert, incapable of reacting to the imminent danger. Her blood, imbued with fright, froze in her veins.
The abomination stood tall above her. Its fetid smell invaded her throat forcing her to cough.
Lachrymose eyes rose to meet black pools.
A head scarce of hair bent to the side at an unnatural angle.
She felt scrutinised as those abysmal depths bored into her. Perhaps a spark of conscience would light up those bottomless orbs and save her.
But it was too late – the rugged clothes dangled from its arm as it held her up by the head. Her feet struggled to find ground and she kicked thin air. Her nails sunk into the insensitive flesh of her attacker but she was soon subdued by its noxious fumes.
Had it been a female before turning, a loving mother? Or perhaps a young attractive man? It didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered at that moment, when it opened its jaws but produced no sound. Its rotten larynx had failed its task. Toxic vapours emanated from its skin and orifices, corroding anything they came in contact with.
It bit into the flesh and it was not yet done crunching on the bones when others swarmed into the room, late for the banquet. Their eyes were dull as they advanced, arms sweeping the floor.
No one knows who Patient Zero was, no one but those who created it. Those who pursued forbidden research, who were murdered by their own creation. Unnatural aberration, birthed by the warped dreams of human minds, its virulent fluids went rampant causing a pandemic.
Now they roam the Earth, or what is left of it, numb and indomitable.
Now that I have started chewing on decaying flesh and putrid bones.
While I rush to write down my testimony of this devastation before sanity forsakes me. I was not a witness to her demise; there were no spectators to the macabre spectacle. Yet that woman with a made-up name is the embodiment of this crisis, since I conjured up the deaths of countless others to come up with her story.
It will be for the posterity to judge our actions, as we crawled into this attic and hunted one of the beasts down.
I, the sole survivor, would rather live as a cursed monster than become their food.