Authors: Samie Sands
By Samie Sands
Copyright © 2016 by Samie Sands.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: May 2016
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
For James and Akira.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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So loud. It feels like it’s coming from inside my own head.
I cover my ears with my hands, pulling my knees up to my chest, trying to block out the whole world for a moment. I just need to
I don’t know what to do about her, I really don’t. I can’t just do
. She isn’t right, however much I try to convince myself otherwise. I have to accept the truth. I have to admit that whatever is behind that door isn’t my cousin. Not anymore. But that doesn’t make this any easier.
When I found her, outside the door collapsed and covered in blood, I completely freaked out, what if she had this
, the illness? I had to block out all my deep-rooted fears about catching the disease while I carried her in and cleaned her off. I didn’t have any choice, did I? There’s no one else left—as far as I’m aware, anyway. I don’t even know
she got here. Was she heading this way on purpose, coming to see me? Or was it simply a coincidence that it’s my door she passed out in front of?
I left her to sleep. She slept for days. She slept for so long I started to fear that I was too late, that she was already dead.
Then, there was movement.
I heard her get up out of the bed and move about the room. I waited. I didn’t talk for fear of what she might say, for fear of learning what had truly happened to her.
She switched. Day to day. Minute to minute. One moment she would be speaking, albeit very slurred and stilted words that I could never really understand. The next I’d just hear screaming and smashing, as things would be thrown around in a violent rage. It was terrifying.
Now, I’d give anything for that emotion. Now all I can hear is growling, moaning, shuffling.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
I fear she’s going to bring that flimsy door down soon, making my decision for me. I’m not ready for that, not yet. I’ve already lost too many people. She might be the only one I have left.
I already know that my parents are dead. The last time I spoke to my mother, I could hear my dad slowly dying in the background. He was coughing and spluttering the whole time, and growling in between. He was starting to sound just like all the others do—the infected on the outside. I could hear the trepidation in Mum’s voice, but she wouldn’t tell me any details. I’m sure she must have known that neither of them had much time left, but she was too proud to let me help.
I could have done it anyway, I suppose. When I tried to call over the next few days and got no answer, I could have hot footed over there and helped them both out, but I didn’t. I’m a coward—I always have been—but that doesn’t stop the guilt from eating me up. I was too afraid of finding them both hungry for my flesh. I was terrified of joining them in the undead army that’s growing steadily by the minute.
I think it’s safe to say that the Lockdown has failed.
The Lockdown. What an idea—quarantine everyone inside their own homes, gather all the infected into a specialised medical facility to cure them, and then let life get back to normal.
That’s what we were led to believe was the plan. Unfortunately, it hasn’t seemed to work out that way at all. I don’t know what went wrong—how or why—but here we are. The number of infected roaming the streets is rising rapidly, and no one has any idea what’s going to happen next. There’s never any new information on the television or radio; the news reports are just repeats from before. There are definitely no signs of life returning to normality any time soon.
If I was still receiving food deliveries from the armed forces, I might feel a little bit better about the whole thing, but they petered out a while ago, just proving to me that this has gotten out of control. I’m rapidly losing confidence in any of us surviving this mess. I think the AM13 virus was ravaging far too out of control before the government even attempted to get a handle on it. I don’t think they ever stood a chance against it; they’d left it far too late.
Oh Leah, I wish you weren’t behind that door, banging away. I wish you were on this side, with me, helping me get through this. I’ve only just managed to scrub all of your blood from my skin. You can just imagine how bad that was for me, can’t you? But I did it for you, because you’re my family and I love you. I keep reminiscing, remembering us playing together as children, and looking after each other throughout school. I can’t get my head around the fact that my lovely cousin Leah is that violent beast in the other room. It’s too sad to comprehend.
“This is crazy, it’s absolutely insane.” I’ve gotten to the point of talking to myself, which I know is a terrible sign. I’ve been wandering around for a few days now, too terrified to stop for even a second, never mind sleep. I think my mind is starting to lose it a bit with hunger and exhaustion. I’m starting to regret my snap decision to leave the house; but I just couldn’t bear to sit there waiting for death any longer. I’ve never made a quick choice before, I always deliberate things for a very long time, analysing it all from every possible angle. Certain people used to criticise me for it, but the first time I break out of that mould,
I can’t go back home though, no way. I wouldn’t be able to bear it. Not only is my house a constant reminder of everything I’ve lost, every breath I take inside those four walls is dangerous. The virus is all over the walls in that building, it’s clinging to the air. I could feel it starting to seep through my skin, trying to work its way into me. I was feeling ill, convincing myself that I had AM13, even though I wasn’t displaying any signs at all. I can’t control the hypochondriac that lingers in my brain, constantly nagging at me, never leaving me alone.
I really want to find another house to stay in. This is just as bad, if not worse, as the situation I was in before. Out here I’m always vulnerable. There’s constantly something after me, even if I can’t see it. The smell lingering in the air is rotten and disgusting, which makes me feel sick to my stomach, and I’ve already used up all of my hand sanitizer that comes everywhere with me—I’m really on edge without it. I keep subconsciously walking with my hands held away from me, as if I want to separate them from my body. If I could find somewhere new to stay, I could eat, drink, and wash. Plus, it would also be incredibly useful to gain access to the news. I know nothing new has been reported for a while now, but I don’t want to miss it when it does.
Most of the houses look abandoned—I can’t tell if this is a good thing…or a really bad one. I don’t know if their owners picked somewhere else to hole up during the Lockdown, if they were forced out by starvation, or if they were early victims of the disease, and it’s this lack of knowledge that’s making me unsure of my next move. I need to work up the courage soon though, or I’ll end up dying for sure. I
to be brave for just once in my life. I must do something positive. I haven’t got anything to lose in any case—I’ve already lost everything.
I take in a deep breath, trying to ignore my pounding heart, trying to force myself to be decisive. I can’t stay stuck inside my tiny bubble of fear any longer. I need to do the opposite of what I would usually do, and do something constructive. After all, this is literally a case of life or death. I shudder, taking faltering steps towards a building in an agonising decision-making process. I’m shaking, sweating; my feet feel like they aren’t even touching the ground. I’ve never done anything like this before, ever, and the panic is curling tightly around my heart.
My fingers unfurl as I reach the innocuous door. There might be nothing out of the ordinary about this building, but it’s the most important set of bricks that I’ll ever be faced with in my entire life. It changes everything. If I can do
, if I can just get inside here and stay safe, I’ll be able to do anything. I’ll be able to slowly release myself from the grip of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that has restricted my entire existence up to this point. I might
be able to survive this disease that could possibly threaten humans into extinction.
Oh God, I need to stop thinking things like that. I’ve got to try to shut off my doomsday inner voice. It’s making everything feel so much worse than it already is—and that’s saying something in this nightmare!
I force my fingers forward, the butterflies in my stomach becoming more like large birds. The tension is too much; the sweat is already racing down my forehead. A noise, a slight shuffle makes me jump backwards, my heart in my throat. I push my ear up against the door, straining to hear over my own laboured breathing. Silence. I must have been imagining it. I can’t let myself get worked up over nothing; it’ll end up killing me. I gulp down some deep breaths of cool air before trying again.
The door swings open easily, too easily. It makes me think the previous occupants were forced to leave in a hurry. I hope that doesn’t mean anything or—more importantly anyone—has been left behind. I shake my head, trying to clear out any negative thoughts, trying to focus. I’ve already taken a huge step today, a massive step. I don’t want to backtrack over my own pessimistic mind.
I flick the light on, then off again, repeating the process three times, just to try to keep myself calm. I’m happy to still have electricity—I thought with the loss of control of the virus, we would also lose household commodities. I suppose that’s one victory to be grateful for.
Well, for now at least…
“Hello?” I whisper quietly, too quietly for anyone to hear me. I clear my throat noisily and try again, willing my voice to come out louder. “Hello?” I can’t keep the wobble from it, however much I try. It seems that the nerves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
No one answers me but I still can’t get myself to calm down. Not yet, not until I’m certain. I walk slowly on my tiptoes into each room, scanning each one thoroughly. Looking in every nook and cranny, just to check that no one is hiding. Each empty room brings with it crashing waves of relief. For someone like me, who struggles with even the simplest of everyday challenges, to be rewarded for my bravery is just mind blowing.
Soon, I am forced with one test too far. The attic. The dusty, mouldy attic that will be full to the brim with germs. Much as I tell myself that I’ve absolutely
reason to go up there, that it’ll be empty, and even if it isn’t, nothing threatening will have any way of getting to me, I can’t stop thinking about it. Even as I’m in the kitchen scanning all the canned food that sits in the cupboards. Even as I’m eating a warm bowl of vegetable soup, wishing desperately that I had some bread to dip in it. Even as I’m washing up my dishes, I can’t stop thinking about the attic.
I know I’ll never get to sleep, however tired I am. I find it hard to switch off even at the best of times, so I’ll never be able to stop this worry from buzzing in my ear. I
to do it. I need to make my way up that ladder and have a look. Just for a second. I won’t need to be there for long. If I can just stop trembling, it’ll be all over a lot quicker.
I stand at the bottom of the ladder tapping my foot. I can hear bangs and crashes coming from above me, but I know for a fact that they’re nothing more than a construct of my mind. I
that, so why can’t I just ignore them and go up there? Why am I frozen to the spot?
Each creaky step up the ladder is a milestone. I have to keep pausing to wait for my head to stop spinning, and for my heart rate to return to a bearable pace. I can do this, I
. After everything I’ve achieved today, this is nothing. This is simple, just a quick peek and then all will be fine. Nothing to worry about. All I need to do is take one deep breath, count to three and then force my head upwards.
* * *
As I see the steaming jets of water running from the shower, my spirits start to soar. I stare at my face in the mirror as it fogs over. Same jet black hair, same piercing blue eyes, same scar on my cheek that has been there since I fell climbing on rocks when I was ten. Nothing has physically changed, but I look like an entirely different person. Maybe it’s just my perception that’s new. Maybe it’s because I’m slowly breaking out of my shell.
As I step under the flow and feel my muscles loosen, I smile to myself. I’ve done it, I’ve actually completed tasks that would have been impossible to me only days before. The attic was empty, completely unused, just like I knew it would be. There was dust, lots of it, but I’m washing that off now. I won’t let my mind get tangled up and twisted in that, however much it wants to. I’m going to stay focused from now on. I’ve realised that when I push myself, nothing is impossible. Maybe this outbreak is
going to be a good thing for me. It’s possible that when this all blows over, I’ll be able to live a more fulfilling life. My luck has been good to me today. This could be a sign of things to come.