Among the First
It was the only urge that Miles Greenburg really felt anymore. Not that he really felt anything anymore. His whole body had felt like a weak numbness had been spreading through him for several hours now. And he was felt very warm despite the sharp nip that hung in the air about him. But even so he kept moving along the route he’d been following automatically for some time now. He was a bit dazed at the moment, unsure of exactly what was causing him to feel this way. But he had the sense to know he wasn’t in perfect health.
Damn just what I need, to have call out sick after only a day back on the job.
The thought about work popped into his head without him fully realizing it. Confusion was written on his face until he realized why he was only just getting back to work. Shaking his head at his own confusion he kept pressing forward, his thoughts focusing around his life and hectic situation he was in.
With the way his luck had been going for the past few weeks he was hardly surprised that he was getting jumbled on what was going on. Even getting sick now was to much of a shock to him, it was the typical bad luck he’d been having ever since he moved here. Just look at what had happened to him over the course of the past two weeks. His car had been towed, his house had been broken into, not once, but twice. He’d nearly lost his job due to a miscalculation in the company’s financial records, a miscalculation that claimed he’d stolen nearly 20,000 dollars from the company’s deposits. And as if it wasn’t enough to have been accused of this crime the company had then decided on launching a full investigation into his career and suspending him without pay for nearly a week and a half while the investigation was completed. And now to top it all off a deranged homeless woman had just nearly been mugged him on his way back home.
Like I really need that on top of all this he thought hopelessly, his life had been nothing short of a train wreck for months now. Ever since he had moved to the city and started working, it had just been one thing after another. Oh how he wished he could go back to Maine and the quiet hometown he’d grown up in.
He inhaled the cool air deeply and shook his head for a moment but stopped when he felt a sharp pain, which seemed to emanate from near his temple. He slowly raised his hand up and began rubbing in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure. He was sure of it, he was indeed getting sick now, and he’d have to hurry home if he knew what was good for him. The more he thought about the amount of petty drama that had entered his life the more he felt his luck just wouldn’t improve. Wrapping his coat tighter too himself he felt his left hand throb against the numbness in his body. Puzzled for a moment he pulled back his left sleeve once again to check his hand, suddenly the mugging earlier rushed back to him in perfect detail as he stopped dead in his tracks in front of a small jewelry store off to the left.
How the hell could I have let that nut job near me? I should have been paying more attention.
His thoughts were muddled as he thought back on the days events trying to remember exactly what happened that day. He was almost surprised at home much he managed to remember now that he was concentrating on it.
He’d had a long day at work, his first back since the investigation into him, and without his car he was forced to make the choice between taking the bus or use the subway. Feeling a bit worn from the troubles of the day and not wanting to walk the extra distance in this weather to the subway he had opted to take the bus, though he knew it was likely to take him slightly longer to get home with the number of stops it made.
He had been getting close to it when she came at him. She had been sitting quietly in an alley he often used as a cut through to the bus stop. He hadn’t even thought much of her as many homeless seemed to frequent the area. It attracted little foot traffic and had a dumpster which proved useful in hiding their make shift homes from the prying eyes of local law enforcement. Only moments after he had walked past her and heard her shift behind him. He had thought she was just moving to get more comfortable where she lay but a quick glance back had proven him wrong. She was standing, and breathing heavily, her jacket skewed so that it barely hung on her shoulder while her pants both sported large tears in them accompanied by a set of bloody knees. He paused, in the moment he saw her all the bitterness in him from the past few days washed away. Here was someone in true need of help, and he’d be damned if he didn’t try and at least make sure she was ok. Slowly and cautiously he turned around to face her.
“Ma’am? Are you alright?” he asked quietly, finally taking a good look at the women in front of him. She was pale, her hair and make up a wreck. She stood there in a strange state giving off the impression that it took an extreme effort to remain upright. And while her arms seemed to hang loosely at her side it also seemed as though she was a bit stiff in how she stood, almost as if it were difficult to move. Whether it was the cold day or possibly the disability that put her on the streets in the first place he didn’t know. But she seemed to be too weak to talk as her voice wheezed with each breath.
“Ma’am? Are you ok? You’re bleeding.” he asked again this time a bit hesitantly. He was beginning to be a little puzzled by her behavior, unsure of what to do he glanced around looking for someone to help.
At the sound of his voice this time she looked up at him almost as if seeing him for the first time. This was the first time he got to look her fully in the face and the look upon it would be imprinted in his mind for the rest of his life. Time seemed to freeze as he took it in. Her jaw hung loosely open as she stared at him with eyes that somehow seemed to not see him. Almost as if they looked through him, but not as though he wasn’t there. They looked at him as if he was something else, eyes that said he wasn’t human. They were cold and without mercy, as if the essence of her humanity had somehow been stripped away and left this shell of a women before him.
The next few moments passed in a blur, with a powerful lunge forward the women cleared the seven feet between them and had grabbed hold of Miles. Having still been frozen in place with shock written across his face he was slow to react. In a late instinctual panic he tried to move away from her but he was much to slow. Before he could even start to turn and run she was on him, grabbing tightly to his arm trying to drag him down to the ground with her with a grip that felt as though it could crush bone. The next thing he knew there was a sharp pain by his wrist and before he even think about the pain his instincts kicked in. Screaming in pain he did the only thing he could think of in his panic taking a hold of the women’s head in hand he drove it down into his knee. He felt her bit loosen as it connected and in that moment ripped his arm free and away from her now blood covered mouth.
In shock and panic about what had just occurred Miles fled the alley running as fast as his legs could carry him, clutching at his left arm. Just as he turned the corner he slowed slightly and chanced a glance backwards making sure the women wasn’t pursing him. It was in that moment he saw her, kneeling on all fours clearly shaken by the blow, but no doubt alive and able to move. In that moment he forgot about any concerns he may have had for her wellbeing. She had attacked him and nearly took a chunk out of his arm, in this moment there was only one thought left in his mind.
He didn’t care where he was going, so long as it took him far away from the nut who attacked him. After running as hard and as fast as his leg would carry him he stopped out of breath and heaving several miles away under street lamp. He was exhausted and slightly disoriented as he hadn’t run a great deal in years. panting he looked around himself to find that in his panic he’d started running towards into the heart of the city.
Scanning the area once more he looked to see if the homeless girl had followed him, still shaken kept glancing around as he stumbled forward in the direction of the main road.
Oh god, Oh god she bit me! What do I do? What do I do!? Came the panicked thought’s asked racing through his mind over and over as he continued on.
Once again he glanced behind him, his eyes darting back and forth in fear. Spotting a stone staircase just ahead and under a street lamp he made for it, he need to rest for a moment and clear his head. Sitting down heavily a deep coughing fit over came him as his body finally began to relax as the adrenaline laced panic faded and his body began to realize the unexpected strain it had just been put through. Finally Miles decided it was time to take a look at what damage had been caused by the woman.
Bracing himself for the worst he pulled back his sleeve, what he saw there nearly made him vomit. His hand was mangled, and blood was seeping slowly but steadily from it. Blood flowed down a large chunk of his skin that clung by threads to him. Against his better judgment he attempted to flex it, hoping to see the extent of the damage. Instantly he felt waves of pain and nausea sweep over him. He knew in that moment that the woman hadn’t just tore his skin but had basically shattered the bones metacarpal bones which connected to his pinky and ring finger.
Despite the pain he couldn’t help but chuckle for a moment, still years after high school medical class and he could still remember those damn bones.
“Probably the only thing I ever learned in that stupid class.” he said aloud with a slightly amused sigh. He glanced down again at his hand, if he had only worn gloves today he would probably only would have a couple broken bones. When the women had come after him his jacket hadn’t been of any real use in preventing her from latching on. Once her teeth had sunken into his flesh there was nothing else he could do but rip away as fast as he could. Suddenly a wave of dizziness over took him, he couldn’t understand why for a moment until the idea came to him in a fog.
I’ve lost a lot of blood. The hospital, I need to get over there now.
For a moment he rested where he was. He knew what he needed to do, standing up from the steps he slipped his jacket off his right arm, and exposed his long sleeve shirt underneath. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a very small Swiss army knife, one of the ones with a blade no bigger than an inch long. Opening the little blade up he took his sleeve in his mouth and pulled his hand inside. after a few minutes of fumbling with his sleeve he managed to cut off a large chunk of it and proceeded to wrap what was left of his hand in a feeble attempt to stem the blood flow. Replacing his jacket on his shoulders he put his knife away and moved away from the steps with the feeble blood soaked cloth wrapped tightly around his wound.
It was slow going, and though one would think that someone on his way towards the hospital would have paused at the sight of a man walking slowly with a blood soaked hand to ask if he needed any assistance the cold winter days and troubles of the city had long since left many people with oblivious to the troubles of others.
Not that their sympathies would have done much good. Miles was a private man to begin with. Had anyone paused to ask him if he needed help it was likely he would have politely refused and continued on his way. It hadn’t seemed like a need to cause panic he simply needed to get to the hospital and have them bandage him up properly, he figured he could file a report with the police once he got there as he didn’t own a cell phone to call right away.
As he traveled towards the hospital Miles started to feel as if he were forgetting something, and it had to be important otherwise why would he feel he needed to remember it? Had he been with anyone else then they probably would have noticed it right away but being alone he couldn’t quit put his finger on what it was. His mind began to wander and his thoughts jumbled as he continued his trek. Soon he was trying desperately to keep his goal in mind
“Get to the hospital so you can go home and rest, it’s not that hard Miles.” He found himself saying out loud. He paused for a moment, why was he talking to himself?
“You’re, you’re ahh… tired? No, no, no, that’s not right…” he muttered, what was the word he wanted to say? Raising his hand to his head he wiped the sweat off his brow and smiled as the word came to mind.
“Disoriented, that’s it I’m disoriented.” His grin faded as he looked at the back of his hand. He couldn’t figure it out why he was confused about this again? The thought popped back into his head a moment later.
Sweat? It’s mid winter, why am sweating?
Raising his hand to his head he felt himself with the back of his palm. He was warm, very warm. Enough so that even he could tell he was. Moments later he realized he had started walking again.
He’d gone several more blocks before he realized he wasn’t even sure where he was at this point. Coming to a stop he began looking around trying to gather some hint as to where he was, but nothing came to mind. He wasn’t even sure what town he was in if he was honest with himself. His face twisted into one of pained confusion as he tried to piece together where he was.
“Boston! Boston, that’s right. I’m in Boston right now, must be near the park, I think. Huh, that’s weird. I don’t really remember what I was doing over here…” he said his voice trailing off. His head was really starting to bother him, why was that again? Shaking his he put his hands on his head trying to focus.
Alright Miles, pull it together. Think!
“Where was I going?” He asked aloud, causing a man near him to look questioningly at him before moving on.
Staring after the man slightly put off by the distraction Miles simply shrugged to himself and turned around, walking back the way he came. His feet took him where they will, no longer heading the hospital as the destination he had in mind, he was just moving.
Just keep moving…
Miles paused again. Hadn’t he just been here? He looked around, shock written on his face. The jewelry store stood off to his right now but he could have sworn he’d left here hours ago, why was he back again? He looked down the street hoping to see the man who had just past him and ask him for directions. But he was gone, in fact Miles couldn’t see anybody.
“Wha?” He said his voice quivering slightly as he wavered on his feet. He couldn’t have moved that fast, there was no way. Miles blinked several times and took a look around. Something had changed…
“No.” Miles said as his brain made the connection. “What? What’s going on when did it get dark out?”
What’s going on? How long have I been here?
He shook his head in disbelief.
“It’s just winter, it gets dark early it can’t be much later than six” He reassured himself, he was just being silly at this point. A bemused smile crossed his face as he turned and started to shuffle away.
Over the course of the next several hours Miles continued to walk, his thoughts drifting in and out of clarity. The pain had all but faded from his arm and his fever quickly started to rise. But still he kept walking, his feet taking him to a secluded part of the park, near his house. He wasn’t sure why but he liked being here, it reminded him a bit of home and the nights he spent camping in the woods. His fever had quickly taken over his mind and after walking for hours on end his body was finally giving in. He collapsed heavily on the ground as the agony of the virus overwhelmed him. Spasms of pain ripped through his body as his lungs labored to keep supplying air to his body.
Hours later the sharp spasms of pain and his writhing started to subside, the dry heaves came to an end. But while his deluded mind didn’t let him feel the pain any more tears still poured from his eyes as his barely conscious mind tried to grasp what was happening in his final moments.
“Tired, I’m so tired… Dad. Dad, my head, it really hurts” Miles mumbled through the sobs, his delirious mind placing his old father in front of him. They were on a camping trip up north, hiking with his family when he was a kid. He loved those trips.
“Go to sleep Miles, it’s ok. You’re brothers and I will wake you once the tents are set up.” His dad smiled his giant bearded grin as he looked at his youngest son. It had been years since Miles had seen that smile. His dad had past away not long after in a work accident at the lumberyard.
“Are yo- are you sure dad?” He mumbled, “I can help out still if you’d- if you’d like.”
“I’m sure son, now go ahead and rest. I promise I’ll be here when you wake up.” Miles dad said, his smile hadn’t changed in Miles mind at all. It was still the same as all those years ago. “Go to sleep now.”
“Ok dad, goodnig...“ Miles said, his voice trailing off as his final breath left his body. The vision of his father slowly started to blur as his body shut down and finally his world went black.
Miles Greenburg died in a tormented pain the likes of which not many have experienced but which many would soon come to know. However while all that made Miles who he was no longer remained on this earth it didn’t mean that his body would rest in the peaceful slumber he’d left it in. Something else had taken root in what remained of him. With the morning light he would rise once more, a shell of his former self.
Its eyes fluttered open, adjusting to the bright sunlight above. Its senses were sharp, but that was no matter. It didn’t care for any of that nonsense it had other concerns to deal with. Slowly and stiffly its arms creaked as it moved to raise itself. It’s eyes looking for any kind of movement, as it rose clumsily to its feet. It felt only two things the first was hunger. A hunger that would never be satisfied, one that would stay with this creature till it rotted away. A hunger that drove it to feed on anyone and anything living thing it could lay its hands on. A hunger that took over the minute these creatures’ eyes opened. They showed no mercy, and held no hesitation. It’s desires screamed for it to feed so right now that’s what it would do. It would feed, consume and spread to all corners of this earth. But there was one more thing it felt, a small glimmer of what was once Miles Greenburg that still burned brightly in this creature. It felt a desire to survive.
Slowly and clumsily what was left of a dead young man stumbled off looking to feed and spread, a cloth wrapped tightly to a disfigured left hand. Miles Greenburg had become one of the first to join the ranks of the undead. A plague was coming and not a soul on earth could stop it.