Authors: Samie Sands
I glance up, panting heavily, and blink my eyes hard, trying to focus; the light is bearing down on me so all I can see is a blinding white. Also, I may have hit my head during the fall, I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that it hurts like hell. I finally find four curious eyes boring down on me.
“I think she’s waking up, Mum!” I try to work out what this young voice means. I didn’t pass out, did I? I’m very disoriented, and as much as I try, I can’t seem to remember much of anything. I grab onto my forehead, trying to make the pain subside. A nauseating dizziness grabs hold of me, which makes everything else pale into insignificance. I hear footsteps rushing towards me and my hackles immediately rise. As I push myself into a sitting position, my memory comes flooding back.
The gun. The one that’s still pointing at me now.
“Where the hell did you get a gun?” I start speaking a long time before my brain and senses kick into gear. I’m just so shocked by the sight—you just never see guns here. But someone has managed to get hold of one, and in the zombie apocalypse too. To me, that’s just amazing and
smart. I wonder if I’ll ever be allowed to use it. That would be awesome! I get distracted for a moment, picturing myself in a black cat suit, my long dark, wavy hair cascading down my back, holding the shotgun...
“What are you doing?” A male voice surprises me, and brings me back down to the harsh reality that I’m actually being threatened with said gun. Didn’t that kid say
? I try to focus my eyes on the person who holds my life in his hands. I can just make out his outline in the illuminating light, and his large frame fills me with terror.
I start to stumble over my words. “I was…I was sending the zombies away so I could, um…”I trail off, unsure how to finish that sentence. How do I say “
take me in, please
” to these strangers who are clearly feeling hostile towards me? I’d forgotten how antagonism rears its ugly head quickly in all apocalyptic movies. How stupid of me. They probably think I’m some kind of bandit, here to rob them or something. I try to convey my honesty, my niceness, my innocence through my eyes. Seconds pass, each one feeling like an hour. To my utter relief, the gun eventually lowers and I let out a deep breath that I hadn’t even realised I was holding.
“Why d’ya say zombies?” the strange voice scoffs, confusing me immensely. What the hell does this guy mean? Hasn’t he seen what’s going on outside? This church has windows, for crying out loud, he must have looked out of them at some point. Or heard them moaning, the growling. Or smelt the rotten stench of the air. A million thoughts all run through my brain at once, none of them explaining what on earth this guy could possibly mean with this question.
“The…the zombies. You know, infected with AM13? Roaming the streets? Banging on this door for days?” This entire situation has completely knocked the wind out of my sails. I didn’t expect any of this at all. I certainly didn’t anticipate my new group to have no idea about zombies—
was never in any of my fantasies!
I look up properly now that my eyes have fully adjusted, to take in my surroundings. I’m faced with what appears to be two families. A Hispanic man, holding the shotgun, with his other arm around a young boy who looks exactly like him. They
be father and son. Then, on the other side of the room is the aforementioned “mum,” another young boy, and a teenage girl, who all have very pale, almost translucent skin, and matching hair that’s so blonde, it’s almost platinum.
They’re all looking at me intently, and I’m sure my expression is the same. We’re all regarding each other, trying to figure out where we go from here. I can’t help but think that this isn’t exactly the group I envisioned myself surviving the rest of the apocalypse with. I don’t like to sound awful, but these people look kind of
, and there are far too many children for my liking. I wanted my time to be action packed, not full of parenting. I can’t really imagine they’re going to make my adventure exciting and fun in any way, and haven’t I spent enough time being bored? Maybe I should just turn around and head back outside, hold out for better.
But the thought of going back outside to the starvation and insecurity makes my insides recoil. I guess I’ll just have to accept what is here in front of me. I might not survive long enough to find anyone else. There might not
anyone else anyway. I need to look at the positives of my situation, I can always transform this group, bring in others to make it what I want. I need to stop thinking such ungrateful, bratty thoughts—at least I’m no longer by myself—that’s a much worse prospect.
I break the silence. “Are any of you E?” It’s a very high possibility. The message I found today wasn’t
close to here, but I haven’t seen any signs of anyone else. I find myself really hoping that the message writer is here. I grip onto the original note in my pocket, anticipation fizzing. At the moment, E is a bit of an enigma, an unsolved mystery. I won’t pretend that it’s all I’ve been thinking about since I left the airport, but the painted message has certainly sparked a brand new interest.
“No.” The man shatters my illusion. “I’ve seen a couple of messages around the town, though. I actually thought it might be you for a minute.”
Full of disappointment and exhaustion, I sigh. Unfortunately I can’t sleep yet, however desperate my body is to give in. I need to get these people to trust me first. They’ll have to accept me into their group before I can be cheeky enough to ask for a bed for the night. If I’m
lucky, I might even get food.
To hurry this process along, I speedily launch into my story of my time during the apocalypse. I may edit it slightly to make it more satisfying for myself, but the basic details are the truth. This works in exactly the way I wanted it to, because it isn’t long before they’re also opening up to me. Thankfully, their tales are accompanied by dinner.
Randy, who owns a farm—which of course explains the gun—and his son Leon, have always run all their power from a generator. This cut out in the early days of the Lockdown, which meant they didn’t have any electricity to keep up to date with the news. Fortunately, they were always very self-sufficient, so they had plenty of food to survive on. Unfortunately, that meant by the time they were forced out of their home, they had long missed the meeting at the airport.
I can sense from the sadness in his eyes and the way his body language is almost retreating, that he lost someone during that time, but he doesn’t divulge any information about this, so I don’t push it. I bet it was Leon’s mother, Randy’s wife. I don’t want to bring down the mood of the evening by getting someone to discuss their losses, so I allow him to tell his story in his own way.
The other family consists of Sarah and her two children, Ben and Emily. On closer inspection, I think Emily is about the same age as me, which puts me in a better mood. At least I’ll have one friend here. They lived in the cottage next to the church—they’re the vicar’s family and he was a very strict, deeply religious man. He forced them to stay behind when everyone else left by plane—which means my suspicions were correct, and there isn’t a refugee camp anywhere nearby. He insisted that they would be safe in the church, and that God’s wrath needed to be faced, not fought.
“We noticed that he was infected a little while after we heard the planes leaving. It sent him madder as time progressed. We hid, frightened as he preached to us over and over that he had to ‘
leave the church and join his fellow comrades.’
He kept ranting that it was ‘
his mission from the Lord.
’ It was awful. He fought his way out and we haven’t seen him since.”
I’m stunned into silence by Sarah’s story. That’s crazy. I’m actually kind of glad the vicar isn’t here; I don’t know how I would have tolerated the insane preacher with his scary God-fearing stories.
I wonder if he’s one of the zombies hammering on the door.
“So we just…stayed. We didn’t know what else to do. Everyone else had gone and we were terrified. I wouldn’t have known how to begin looking after my children out there, with all of that danger.” I’m starting to form a picture of their strict uptight lives as Sarah talks. I try to imagine Emily’s teenage years—I bet she’s the complete opposite to me. I barely had any restrictions growing up; my parents pretty much left me to my own devices. I guess they trusted me not to go off the rails and I never really did. The sad thing is, now I’ll never get to. I’ll always be alone so any rebellion will only hurt me. “I was just starting to get really panicky, wondering how we’d ever survive this, when Randy and Leon crashed in here. A bit like you did, I suppose.” She smiles gratefully in his direction, and I notice a slight blush form on his cheeks.
Finally, the question I’ve been dying to answer is asked. “So did you want to stay here with us for a while?”
A smile plays on my lips as I answer, relief and happiness bursts from my chest. “Thank you so much, I’d love to. I’ll do anything I can to help you out—” Sarah puts her hand up to stop me before I go off on a tangent, and indicates towards a sleeping bag, which I grab gratefully. The fatigue sets in again, I almost forgot how tired I was in all the excitement.
As I lie down I realise what all of this really means. I finally have another secure place to stay, with thick stone walls keeping the zombies away. Plus I have a group which, despite first impressions, are actually really friendly. You never know, they could turn out to be kind of awesome. Plus, we have a gun in our ranks, which can in no way be a bad thing.
Finally, after days of forcing my eyes open, I fall into a deep slumber.
I can’t get my head around the newest orders from the higher ups. It’s worse than anything I’ve ever been asked to do, ever. It’s bordering on immoral. Do they expect me to have no heart just because I work in science? I know that’s the stereotype, but people don’t really believe that, do they? I’m sure there may be others who wouldn’t think twice about doing something like this, considering it’s for the greater good, but not me. My conscience shouts far too loudly.
It’s fucked up, that’s what it is. I can’t take much more of this. Are the people in charge psychopaths? No, maybe not. Maybe they do just want answers but this is just one step too far. Specimen 13.
13. James Max, 8
4”1’, 49kg, dark brown eyes, dark brown hair.
No existing medical conditions.
Mother and three brothers still in camp.
At the moment he’s in stage two. I’ve run all the standard tests on him. I’m just waiting for him to transgress into stage three. Then they want me to dissect him.
Yep, that’s correct. You read it right! I have to dissect this child who isn’t much older than Melody. I’m sat here, watching him die. Not a dignified death either, a horrifying, painful death. It’s not right for this to happen to a child. It sad enough without knowing what’s to come later. Once he’s dead I have to contact the board, who will send in a soldier to put a bullet in his brain. That’s when I have to do it.
I asked, I begged for it to be another specimen. I’d still hate it, but the fact that it’s a young child makes it a thousand times worse. Of course they know this. They refused my request. I know why—I’ve figured it all out, it’s so obvious. They want to break me, to punish me for taking so long with this research. They think I should have fixed everything by now. So, they want to strip me of my humanity, make sure I’m more willing to do whatever they ask of me. They want to destroy any part of me that I have control over.
Nothing is sacred here. The people in charge are willing to go to extreme lengths to get their way. I can’t even begin to imagine what the civilians are going through. It doesn’t bear thinking about. If I’m suffering, they probably are too. I want to see Melody and Ashley, my need is getting more desperate by the day. If I do this, if I can just get through this task, complete their little ‘test,’ I’m going to demand that I visit them. If I really am the best that they have available, surely that gives me some leverage? I’ve got to use that to my advantage. This needs to be more of a two-way street. I can’t do all the giving.
I’ve just got to do the unthinkable first.
It’s done. He’s dead. I did exactly as I was told, ignoring the sensation that this whole thing was wrong. As I contacted the board, I thought about Ashley’s face. When the soldier came in, armed and ready to shoot, I thought of Melody’s face. I tried to ignore the blast and the blood. I tried to think about seeing my family again, but that horror will haunt my nightmares for a long time to come. The board have succeeded in damaging me in that way, at least.
Now his cadaver is laid on the workspace in front of me, taunting me. I can barely remember the moaning, violent beast he’d become, all I can see is the scared little boy calling out for his mummy as another wave of agony hit him. I have the scalpel in my hand, but I can’t bring myself to act. Not yet.
If I put on my professional mind, and think about this act logically, it’s the best thing to do. It really is the next step in my research, it could show up something that I’ve missed. But it’s such a small body. It’s a little boy that didn’t deserve this. His life was cut far too short. Now he is being spared the right to a humane death, his family won’t be able to hold a funeral for him. I doubt they’ll even be told what’s become of him. I wish I could tell them, I wish I could ease my conscience by letting them know that it wasn’t all my fault. But they’d probably rip me to shreds for my part in all of this.
Results from the autopsy:
After performing the typical Y shape incision from the shoulders to the sternum, and opening the chest cavity, the organs were exposed.
They were almost entirely black, shrivelled, as if they had not been in use for years, never mind hours. I removed all the organs one by one, using the en masse technique of Letulle. They could have almost fallen apart in my hands. This merely confirmed what I’d already seen in the MRI scans.
Then I opened up the heart. An outpour of gangrenous pus spilled out. And the same for the lungs, the kidneys, the liver. I’ll read up on this, research further into this as I have a feeling it’s somehow key.
I keep reading over the data from the autopsy, wondering where to go from here. I need another brain. I need someone else to come in on this and help me. I’ve hit a brick wall in my research. Maybe pride has stopped me demanding assistance so far, but no more. I want to find an answer to this, I want to go back to my normal life, I do really want to help everyone that has survived and I can no longer do it alone.
Sometimes even discussing findings with others leads to answers. Just running over ideas and debating opinions. I’m sure many revelations have been stumbled across in this way.
Tomorrow things are going to change around here.
*NB: Specimens one, four, five, and seven were removed from my laboratory today.