he had read about it, how a soldier would wake up, no matter where he was — battlefield or bed — on the defensive, always ready to fight for his life. he’d portrayed a soldier once, on stage, and had found that any sort of research would make his role that much more believable, provided he discovered a way to put it to use. there’d been no waking-up scene in the play, so the information went the way of so many of the random tidbits lane seemed to collect and was mentally filed away, locked in some drawer.
now, years later, it seemed relevant again. it came to mind after his eyes adjusted to the flickering light and he realized that, before he’d even registered it, his arm was outstretched and reaching for the handle of the ax leaning against the subway car wall next to him. but he didn’t need it, not then. there wasn’t a sound to be heard. he started to breathe again, sighed.
well, then. time to get up.
lane’s neck hurt, and he rubbed the back of it as he gently sat up on the hard plastic of the seats, glancing around the car to make sure there were no intruders silently watching him from a dimly lit corner. his eyes scanned over his belongings, his life reduced to the small pile of things at his feet: a duffel bag; candles; matches; a flashlight filled with batteries which were running low; the canned goods he’d salvaged from home and managed to find in an abandoned convenience store; a pair of scissors used in lieu of a can opener; a packet of beef jerky; a cup; an oil lamp running on its last reserves. he was nearly out of bottled water, he remembered. he had to find some way to boil whatever water he could find.
it had been over a month since derek had… died, though the days bled quickly together through the pages of lane’s journal. when the power grid was wiped out, he had eventually been forced to leave the apartment on supply runs. on one such run, a couple of weeks after it had all been set into motion, he’d come back to find both entrances of his building blocked by the things that roamed the streets. it had been daylight, and they were slower, but he’d kept his distance, taking cover in the shadows of neighboring buildings, trying to calculate a way in. there was none. one of the roamers had been his landlord.
he’d wandered until dusk lapped at the sky, realizing he had nowhere to go; his mom had moved to sunlit tides with his stepfather, and he had no siblings. his aunt and her family lived in los aniegos, but that was across the country. similarly, his uncles lived in pounawea, another aunt in twinbrook, and the last in an rv that was never in the same place twice. with the cell towers down, there was no way to contact anyone. they were all out of reach. derek’s family would be of no help. and his friends… he recalled pounding on doors, telling them it was him, to open up, but there had been nothing, no response, no answer. his heart sank all over again. they were probably scared. with the sickness spreading, who could be trusted?
he’d started to panic then, still remembered the tight feeling in his chest because it never really left, lingered inside him all these weeks. that was when he had spotted a small group of people, probably a family, heading for the subway station.
the place it all started.
the first thing which had come to mind: ‘of course the train isn’t going to work. don’t they know that?’ but then it dawned on him that they were staying underground. that meant it had to be relatively safe.
and it was. at nightfall, he’d ducked into the station, passing bodies on the steps. they had been taken care of by whomever had made it underground first — maybe the family he saw, maybe others. nevertheless, his grip remained firm on the ax he’d looted after all hell broke loose and society degenerated into a damaged, broken institution with a ‘fend for yourself’ mentality. they’d all been looking for weapons. it wasn’t lane’s first choice, but the ax was the best he could find, and it had already served him well.
hunched down, he’d kept low to the ground as he passed the cars, some completely black with broken, blood-smeared windows, a few lit with wavering flames barely illuminating tired faces.
as long as they don’t bother me, i won’t bother them.
toward the end of the train, deep in the tunnel, he’d used his ax to pry open a set of doors. the car became his home for the next few weeks.
and, as far as homes went, it wasn’t a bad one; things remained quiet, and it was rare that he heard the elevated voices of his neighbors in the distance. sometimes he heard a gunshot, and he knew a zombie (how strange it was, to use that word outside the realm of fiction) must’ve emerged from hiding in the shadows. mostly, it was quiet, and while the silence sometimes ate at him, it was better than the chaos he’d been thrust into above.
aching back slouched as he sat, lane pried his mind from the memories it clutched onto and reminded himself that he needed to find water, but his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud voice, booming in the station.
“hello? is anyone down here?”
it could be a trap, he thought, hand reaching for his weapon as he slouched farther, laid on the seats. he’d witnessed ambushes on the streets, people at each other’s throats over food and supplies.
“if anyone’s down here…” the voice broke off and he heard the clearing of a throat, sound harsh and abrasive. “they’re… if you’re down here, you need to leave. they’re firebombing the city! it won’t be safe. please, tell everyone you see. they’re burning it all to the ground and we have to get out!” the voice was laced with the sound of genuine desperation, which rattled lane, and before he could take another breath, he heard the echoing sounds of footsteps receding toward the station exit. if it was true…
dropping to his knees, he packed his things.
I no longer search for things like the space between two and three, or the moment when warm summer days break into golden autumn nights only to be followed by cold, bitter winters.
Rosy sun cheeks and empty moon eyes; some things are better left behind,
The cats are helping by hunting for rare creatures to sell day and night…
the transformation itself is rapid. as far as anyone who’s seen a person change can tell, the decomposition process starts immediately after coming into contact with infected saliva.
derek was already rotting from the inside out when he’d come home from work, when we’d made our plans, when everything seemed as normal as always.
that night, after my hand had sought out his heartbeat and come up empty, derek woke up. as the glowing lights from advertisements outside the station illuminated his features, it became clear that what i hadn’t seen in the dark — or what i’d chosen to ignore — was that this wasn’t the kind of death they write about in obituaries. i felt my heart give a painful lurch as our eyes made contact, though there was nothing there. no spark, no knowing smirk. he looked sick, and momentarily, my fear subsided and gave way to sympathy, to wanting to help him. but ‘sick’ is a term we use for the living. and derek wasn’t that anymore. he didn’t breathe. he didn’t blink. his movements were unnatural, but he was fast compared to those who’ve roamed the cities for months on end now.
i had a bruise on my back for a week after that; stricken with panic, i’d hit the lamppost behind me as the women, who were part of the group which had gathered, screamed, frozen in terror. a kid began to cry. i could barely swallow.
his eyes were blood red, matching the remnants of the fluid around his mouth, smeared on his chin where i had tried to wipe it off. the color around his eyes was dark with sepsis and infection, the rest of his skin extremely pale, sickly yellow-green, as if all the blood in his body had been drained, and i thought back to how much he’d vomited.
he took a step forward, uneasy, yet confident all the same. some driving force, something like survival, pushing him on. the woman with the child turned to run.
prevented by the terror which ensnared me, i didn’t think about what was happening any further; it wasn’t until later, after i’d run home, a few pleaded words the only motivation to keep my legs moving, that the term ‘zombie’ popped into my head.
i lifted my palms. in self-defense? in the hope of calming him down? i don’t know. i couldn’t move.
"derek… it’s… it’s okay." i knew it wasn’t. it sounded stupid, laughable, even as i said it. but i had nothing else.
he didn’t pause, didn’t even acknowledge me, other than to stare, eyes like a dull knife. he took another step.
another girl screamed. over my shoulder, i heard a man try desperately to quiet her, but it didn’t matter. derek’s attention was already drawn to her. he moved past me, and i squeezed my eyes shut, hands still up. i think i was crying.
when i finally worked up the courage to look, teeth sinking into my lip, derek stood, lightly swaying, in front of the woman and man. their expressions were tense, but they began to relax after a minute, when it seemed that nothing would happen.
that was when, like a predator lying in wait, he lunged at them.
their screams often permeate my thoughts.
So my game crashed. Due to CC, apparently. I’m guessing it’s a female hair I downloaded since that’s when it crashed. dhjfksdh Too tired to bother with it now. But I did manage to save this before it crashed on me.
It’s Clyde and Liam’s childhood home. 8D Not an exact replica of the house I found when looking at streets in Woodside, but. Close enough. I’m happy with it anyways.
it happens at different times. it must have something to do with the body’s chemistry, the fact that everyone is unique inside. i don’t know. no one does.
for derek, it was a minute after we kissed, a minute after we realized we were going to miss our train if we didn’t leave right away. just a minute, more or less, but it was so fast that i got dizzy when i turned around and took a step back. the shock must have been painted on my face in broad strokes; i remember the quick taste of copper, adrenaline already working its way through me, though this was not what i experienced on a theater stage. he groaned, and the sound was guttural and raw and thick, like nothing i’d ever heard before. primal. there was a gurgle as he clutched at his abdomen, his face gradually twisting and contorting, as if it slowly sunk in that what was to come wasn’t merely a wave of nausea, that it was much, much worse. there would be no recovery.
after he collapsed, he began to vomit. instantly and instinctively, i found his side, and the texture of his vest is forever etched into my fingertips. when i glanced at the ground, trying to find some sort of answer, a cause, i noticed there was blood. a lot of it. my phone was already in my hands.
"i’ll get help, baby. it’s okay. it’ll be okay." i waited for him to call me a liar. my entire body was consumed with tremors, and they extended to my voice. but he never said a word. instead, derek spit out the rest of the blood that had gurgled its way up into his esophagus.
on the emergency line, there was no answer. i felt stupid, useless, scared. there was always an answer. always.
beside me, derek slumped to the ground. i rolled him over, and the thing that i can’t shake, the panic, it was caused by… i felt no resistance. he was completely limp. there was blood on his lips, and he was pale and cold. he’d been so warm earlier, and now…
"fuck. fuckfuckfuck." i grabbed his face, wiped the blood from his chin, tugged on his shirt, shook his shoulders. he wouldn’t wake up. and i knew it, you know, i knew it, but i was too fucking scared to check. i couldn’t check his pulse. i wished i could give him mine. it was fast and strong and i couldn’t catch my breath.
still no answer from emergency services, and then: “if you are calling about a medical emergency at sacred spleen memorial hospital, help is on the way. all available units have been dispatched. please hang up the phone and wait for further instructions from medical personnel as they arrive. if this is a separate emergency, please stay on the line. all operators are currently busy with other callers and will assist you as soon as possible.”
around us, a small group of people had gathered at some point. i couldn’t even acknowledge them. a chill had licked its way up my spine and was there to stay. when i rested my hand on derek’s chest, there was no heartbeat. i didn’t know cpr. no one was answering the goddamn phone. and these eyes on us, they just stared. no one stepped forward to help. everyone was frozen in fear. sirens blared in the distance.
and then, underneath my palm, derek stirred.