Authors: Samie Sands
“Oh shit!” I quickly slam the door behind me, panting and grabbing hold of my forehead. I just need another minute to prepare myself. It’s not that I’m scared or anything, but opening the door just made me see the sheer volume of zombies out there. Facing that many so close-up is a lot different than peering out of my bedroom window at them. They seem…bigger somehow. I mean, I’m not exactly tall anyway, so I’ve always felt tiny in crowds, and in a group of the infected, that sensation is even less appealing.
I can’t just go out there all guns blazing, I need a plan. I’ve criticised others for getting themselves killed by doing stupid things, I don’t intend to follow that same pattern myself. There’s just so many of them. I need some sort of distraction, something to take their attention elsewhere. Where is everyone else that’s heading to the airport? You’d think the odd one would find the scent of another human to follow, wouldn’t you? I wonder what it is about me that makes my scent apparently so delicious.
If only I had a sniper rifle. I bet I’d be good at that, ridding the streets of the zombies from the safety of my own home before going out with barely any left to worry about. No point in getting an idea like that in my head, I suppose. Gun options are never going to be available to me. I don’t know how to shoot, anyway. And guns are stupidly loud and you have to have good aim, so maybe I’m better off without one.
I need a practical solution, one that I can actually work with. Maybe I could leave out the back door? I hurry into the kitchen and peep outside. On first glance, it seems a lot clearer. I’ll have to make my way through people’s gardens, which may involve a lot of fence-jumping, but it’s better than the alternative. I grip the end of my golf club tighter, making my move quickly. I don’t want to give myself any time to deliberate or second guess myself. Another minute and I might completely talk myself out of this decision. I don’t have time for any of that, messing around will get me nowhere.
I creep as quietly as humanly possible, constantly vigilant of everything around me. I try to be aware of my exact location, and where everything is, but it’s actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. Trying to notice everything at once takes up a lot of concentration. Maybe I should just focus on myself and what I’m doing. Speed is of the essence here. I don’t know how much time I have to get to the airport so I really need to get a move on. I won’t stop listening though, that much I
have to keep up.
My boots squelch in the mud, making me jump every single time. I keep looking around to check that no one is behind me. My fingertips have gone red with the cold, and I can see my puffs of breath in the icy air. Why did all of this have to happen now? It would have been much easier to deal with in summer—honestly, it’s so inconvenient. The cold is just
problem I need to deal with on top of everything else. I need to get to the airport today really; I don’t want to have to spend a night outside. Freezing to death is not exactly high up on my wish list. It would be a shame to die because of the cold in the zombie apocalypse.
“Shhh!” I whisper to myself, stopping abruptly. A noise. I heard something, I’m sure I did. What was it? Oh God, don’t panic. I just need to work out where it was coming from, and then I can see what it was. I’m sure it was just an animal or something. Nothing to worry about. I will my heart to stop thumping so loudly, I can’t focus on anything while it’s being so loud.
The silence rings out, but I won’t be fooled. I refuse to be killed because I didn’t follow my instincts. I know for a fact that I heard crunching footsteps coming from somewhere. I’m convinced that they weren’t my own. I force myself to replace the fear I’m feeling with excitement. This is what I’ve spent my life working towards. I’ve won one battle, I can win another. Plus I’m well protected; my arms feel stiff with all the duct tape covering them. I swing the golf club above my head, imagining how this scene would look on camera.
I continue to walk, but very considerately, my eyes constantly flicking in every direction. It isn’t long until I hear it again behind me. I swing around ready. My breath sucks in rapidly, the cold air stinging the back of my throat.
Of all the sights I was expecting to see, this was not it.
Relief floods through me. She’s here. We have a second chance at happiness, another opportunity to make our relationship work. The only woman to ever accept me for all my flaws, to love me for my quirks. I’ve found her and she forgives me for my neglect at such a terrible time. I
make it up to her; I’ll never do anything so awful again. Just as I’m about to fall happily into her embrace, I take a deep breath in.
It hits me hard, like a thump in the stomach—this isn’t Clare happy to see me and pulling me in for some much needed comfort. This is her rife with infection, and desperately clawing for my flesh. A ball fills my throat and I struggle to get air around it. My head starts spinning and my heart bursts from my chest. My fingers and toes tingle with panic, and I grip onto the wall behind me just to keep me upright and steady. Luckily, in a moment of confusion I somehow manage to get away. The entire time is a blur so I have no idea what happened, but I’m racing up the stairs nonetheless.
I need to get away from her. I
to get my head together, decide what to do about her. I also need to check my skin to be sure she hasn’t gotten anything on me. I don’t want us both to be stuck here, in this house, with the infection. Vomit rises through my system and splatters on the ground beneath me. I don’t stop running—focusing on finding somewhere to hide. I can hear her, I think she’s right behind me.
Soon I find a bathroom, which is the exact room I need, and I slam the door behind me with a resounding bang. I lean my back against the door, breathing heavily, tasting the sick on my breath, which is making me feel ill. A tear splashes onto my cheek as I think about Clare. This loss feels worse than any of the others. This one is
fault. If only I’d been more accepting, if only I hadn’t ignored her. If she’d stayed with me, she would still be alive. I pound the wooden door behind me in frustration, I don’t want to believe it; I can’t accept it. Not Clare too. Haven’t I been through enough?
Of course, my banging is met with a much louder, more terrifying thump as a response. I need to act quickly—I can’t let her get in here or I’ll be trapped. I flick the lock closed and push the washing basket up against the door. If she’s strong, this won’t hold for long so I can’t dither. I rush over to the mirror and switch the tap on. The sound of the rushing water soothes me for a second; if I can get my skin washed I’ll be able to think straighter. As I run the warm water over my arms and face, my pulse slows down significantly. Even though I can’t actually see anything on me, I can feel it washing away—leaving me and flushing down the drain. I also have to clean my teeth to get rid of the stale smell, and scrub the splatters of bile that hit my shoes on the way up the stairs. I would never have been able to concentrate with all of that filling my brain. Now I’m fresh, I can focus on the bigger problems.
Next I need to get out. I look towards the door, to where Clare is standing, and remember her hiding behind pillows at the scary moments in horror films. How has my kind-hearted, lovely Clare become the villain? She’s now the monster I need to escape from. If I wasn’t so frightened, I’d be laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
And now I have to kill her.
That thought bursts loudly into my brain in my negative doomsday voice. It’s mocking me, laughing at me, enjoying my pain. No, I can’t do that. Although I think
would rather someone kill me, than leave me in that infected state, but I would never be able to forgive myself if they found a cure and I’d murdered my beautiful Clare for no real reason. No, I’ll find another way out of here. No one needs to die today.
I made a stupid move going upstairs, I shouldn’t have let panic rule my decisions. Now it’s going to be really difficult for me to get out. I glance out of the window, is there a drain pipe I can climb down or something? No, I’m not going to be able to do that. The only way I’ll be leaving is through the front door. Now it’s just a question of how. The hungry look I saw in Clare’s eyes suggested she isn’t going to give me up easily.
There’s a man, all scruffy and covered in blood. His clothes are torn and hanging off of his body. He’s wild-eyed and sprinting quickly towards me. Is he infected? Maybe he’s been homeless during the Lockdown or something. I’m in way better condition than he is, but then I’ve only just come outside.
I’m frozen to the spot, watching everything progress in slow motion. I can’t work out if he’s a zombie or not. He’s running, which goes against what I’ve learnt of AM13, but then viruses
evolve. I’ve read plenty of books where that happens, but it’s usually caused by something—a nuclear bomb, maybe—and that certainly hasn’t happened here. They would have warned us if there was any chance of radiation poisoning, wouldn’t they? I seriously hope that doesn’t happen. I don’t want to suffer that long, agonising death.
So if I assume he’s alive, then why the hell is he gripping tightly onto the hand of a woman who is without a doubt riddled with the disease? Why would anyone pull a zombie along with them as they run? That’s what you’re supposed to be escaping from.
I’m fascinated by her appearance. Her head is partially caved in, obviously not quite enough to kill her yet, but it still looks pretty horrific. Her mouth is ripped wide open, which makes her growling much louder than any I’ve heard before. She is dragging a bloody stump behind her, with bones poking out at all angles. Intestines are dangling down under her shirt and clumps of black blood are sporadically falling from her. She looks so much like a stereotypical beaten up, old zombie, just like a Hollywood construct, that she doesn’t frighten me at all, despite the fact that she smells appalling. Even though she’s completely disgusting, I feel completely desensitised to her. She snaps violently towards the man holding her, but the motion means she can’t get close enough to reach him.
Tension grips me as they get closer. I’ve mentally prepared myself for the possibility of zombie battles, but I didn’t expect to be forced to kill someone alive, but if he threatens me with his little ‘pet,’ I’m going to have to, aren’t I? It’ll be so much harder fighting someone with the same mental capacity of me, plus this guy is probably some kind of psychopath. Apocalyptic situations are well known for bringing the worst out in people.
I’m going to have to make myself look like a formidable enemy. If he thinks there’s a chance I might beat him, he may leave me alone. Or is that just wishful thinking? I grip onto the golf club harder, very aware of its location right above my head, if I’m going to swing, I need to do it at exactly the right moment. I’ve got to be clever; my reflexes need to be perfect.
As they descend onto me, the golf club starts to slip. My palms are sweating profusely and it’s getting harder to keep hold of the metal pole. “Stop it!” I hiss at myself under my breath. “Stop it now, you can do this. No, you
to do this. You’ve got no choice.” I click my tongue, a habit I got into to help me concentrate. It’s how I got through my GCSE exams last year.
The man and his zombie pass by me in a blur, knocking me backwards, not even acknowledging my existence.
“Hey!” I cry after them involuntarily, causing the man to turn and face me. He doesn’t stop moving, not even for a split second, but I can immediately see the pain and fear deep-rooted in his eyes. The woman must be someone important to him, someone he loved and he obviously can’t let go. Maybe it was his wife. Either way, it isn’t going to end well. Maybe he’s running so that no one kills her, or maybe he knows that if he stops for too long, she will kill him.
I want to laugh at his idiocy. He’s made a fatal mistake; he’s allowing feelings to affect his decisions. That’s a sure-fire way to end up shuffling and moaning in amongst the rest of the zombie population. Well, if that’s what he wants to do, then so be it. You wouldn’t catch me doing anything so stupid.
Suddenly, another sound gets my attention. I turn slowly; just to be faced with the real reason that guy was running.
I lean over the bath tub, trying to ignore the pounding that’s getting louder and louder by the second. I need something to lure Clare away from the door, but what? Unless a loud noise blares out or another person appears somewhere, I’m stuck. I’m going to have to fight. I’m going to have to attack my fiancée to keep myself alive. I don’t want to hurt her or damage her in anyway. If a miracle cure
appear I don’t want any of the changes to her to be my fault. She may have memories of me smacking her and then we’ll never get back together. I couldn’t bear it.
I grab the crowbar, forcing myself to make a move. I’ve spent my entire life trying to prevent myself from getting ill; I really don’t want to die via one of the worst diseases humanity has ever experienced. I just…I can’t let that happen.
If I can stun Clare, for even a second, I can run out of that door and not come back until I have some answers. Really I’m doing all of this for her. I’m trying to find out if there is an end to the disease in sight, just for the slight possibility that I might get my beautiful Clare back.
I hold onto the lock and time stands still. I can hear the ticking of a clock very loud, but I don’t know where it’s coming from. It could just be my own mind. The negative voice in the back of my head, the one that has prevented me from doing so much with my life, starts yelling louder than ever before.
“Go out there and you’re going to get infected. Go out there and you’ll die. Go out there and you and Clare will eternally be in that horrendous condition.”
I shake it away; I don’t need this now. I can’t be crippled by the demons that have always haunted me. There are more important things at stake here. I’ve got to push through the barrier and beat it. I’ve got no other choice. Listening to it has brought me nothing but misery in my life, I need to break out of the vicious cycle that has been tightening its grip on me for as long as I can remember.
I push the door open and she comes flying through it, landing on the floor. I watch her for a second, my heart aching. Her gorgeous blonde hair, usually tied into a neat bouffant, is straggly and full of grime. Her pale skin is dirty and rotten. Her eyes are blank, there is nothing left of her wonderful personality. I no longer recognise anything about the woman I love so dearly. She scrabbles around, trying to get to her feet. Her lack of awareness, her stupidity, hurts most of all. Clare is such an intelligent woman, I know she must despise being like this. I raise the crowbar, ready to do what’s right, ready to put her out of her misery, but instead I bring it crashing down onto the toilet seat, smashing it to pieces. The noise grabs her focus and I rush out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
Tears stream out of my eyes and I slump back against the door. The weeping turns into full blown sobbing that causes everything to start aching. I want things to go back to the way they were. Why did AM13 have to come along and wreck absolutely everything? This is beyond awful; it’s a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Suddenly a scratching sound shakes me out of my coma. She’s already reacting, still trying to get to me. I wish she could recognise me, but it was widely reported that victims would lose their memories quickly once infected. It’s absolutely devastating for the love of my life to regard me as a stranger.
Before I get a chance to move, I feel something dripping on my hand. Blood. Her blood. Alarm shoots through me in an unexpected rupture. I hold my hand as far away from my body as I can, sprinting down the stairs.
The sight of a kitchen sinks calms my heart beat slightly. I scrub my skin roughly, until my hand is red, raw, and peeling, but I need to be absolutely certain that every scrap of the blood is gone. I can’t bear the thought of that awful illness touching me, even for a second. Especially after seeing it so close up. I only stop scouring when I hear Clare start to move clumsily down the stairs. She has escaped from the bathroom already. I need to get out; I don’t want to risk another fight.
I know I won’t catch AM13 just by the blood of an infected touching my skin, unless it gets into a previous cut, but I can’t afford to take any risks. I don’t want to die, not now. I grab my things together, knowing that I need to leave this very second. When I get out of here, I won’t stop again until I make it to the airport.