A LIFE FULL OF DEATH
It had been three weeks since everything had started. Since the world had been turned into a living hell. A virus had hit Grand Rapids, and panic had broken out. People were dying from it, then coming back to life with a nearly unstoppable bloodlust. The virus seemed like a normal flu outbreak, but after a week it began to take lives. When the first of the dead rose, he was shot down after a home invasion and everyone thought he was a drunk.
After town security was stepped up, everyone realized something bigger was going on. No officials released anything, but people had theories. Then, a few days later, a kid came back to school sick. He was in my class and he puked all over the floor. His eyes were bloodshot, that was almost unforgettable. Then he just collapsed, right there. He then shot up a few minutes later while the teacher was getting help.
He attacked everyone and was biting people like a mad dog. They got the same symptoms and eventually dropped and got back up, repeating his violent process. The whole city was filled with the things, and the military came into town to try to help us. At that point, the survivors at the school had barricaded themselves in the science department with rations from the cafeteria. Five days after their arrival, we didn't hear anything on the radio anymore.
Now, only three remained; I (Mark Thresher), my best friend Henry West (he was in the same grade), and Ms. Willis, one of our teachers. The rest either left the school to take their chances on the streets or died in the school. After the initial chaos, there were not many survivors. The past three days had just been Ms. Willis, Henry, and I. I was worried sick about my parents, because there was no way I could get in touch with them. Phone service went out a week ago. And even when it was still up, they never answered. All I got was voice mail.
It was early morning, and ominous rays of sunlight shone through the blinds. I sat in a corner, deep in thought. I was a serious person, so I was constantly in thought. I only joked around my friends, and I only had one left.
"Psst," I heard somewhere to my right. I didn't even notice Henry sitting there. Henry was a skinny guy with short fair hair and brown eyes. He was quick on his feet and used to run track. I jumped when I saw him.
"Holy crap," I hissed. "Henry, what's wrong with you? You scared the crap outta me."
"Look dude, we need to talk."
"What is it?"
"I checked the cabinet, we're low on food. Ms. W's been telling us we have more food than we really do."
"Probably to keep us from worrying even more. We already have enough on our plates." Talk about irony
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But we need to make a run down to the cafeteria and get some food. We need to do it while W's asleep. She would never let us do it if she knew about it."
"You're right. But we need weapons," I whispered. I looked at Ms. Willis, who was slumped against the far wall, sleeping. Her glassed rested atop her nose. Henry quietly got up, and sneaked over to a cabinet. He opened it and produced two empty beakers. He lightly tapped one beaker against the edge of a desk and it shattered. Ms. W stirred. He had made it so the bottom had broken, and I was beginning to pick up on what he was doing. He handed it to me and I tried putting it in each hand, getting a feel of my new weapon.
He broke the other beaker and the two of us made our way to the door.
"She'll thank us later," Henry whispered. We opened the door and set off into the hallway. We made our way to the stairs and a horrible stench came from the first floor. We tiptoed down and were horrified by the sight. Dead bodies were strewn all over the place. One of the undead was dining on another body. Guts hung from it mouth and it hands were covered in blood. An inhuman quality was in his eyes. I recognized him as the algebra 1 teacher, Mr. Birch. Flies also buzzed around, enjoying the buffet.
The two of us continued down the hall in the direction of the cafeteria. We were hoping Mr. Birch would just let us pass by, as he was the only thing in our way.
We were sorely mistaken. He saw us and grunted. Henry began shaking. "Come on, man," I whispered. "We can do this. We've just gotta keep moving," We kept going and I had to step over a dead body just a few feet away from the undead man. I silently leapt over it, which was surprising, considering I'm really tall and stealth isn't my thing. I took a few more steps forward before I heard the bloodcurdling cry from Henry. The body I had just stepped over had snapped to life and put an iron grip on his ankle.
I swirled around and brought the beaker down on the undead body's head. It's body went limp. I had seen many zombie movies and I knew headshots kill anyone. If blows to the chest worked too, oh well. I was going for the head.
Henry was crying now, tears streaming down his face. He yanked his leg away from the body, and I saw his ankle. There was missing flesh in the pattern off teeth. Blood was pouring out. The zombie had bit him. We both knew what this meant. He was going to turn. I was going to have to kill him.
"Do it, Mark," he demanded. "Do it!" I too was beginning to tear up. I was shaking my head violently. I couldn't believe this was actually happening to Henry. The two of us had been best friends since we were four. He was about to die, then come back. But I could stop it. Should I be selfish and let him turn into a monster, or should I put him out of his misery?
"M-Mark!" he pleaded. "I don't wanna turn. Please!" He was making too much noise. The bodies all around us began getting up, groaning and moaning. Some of them were missing limbs, chunks of flesh, and some even had intestines hanging out of various holes in their midsections. Henry too saw this. He looked at me with a smile. He mouthed a single word: Go. I took two steps back, then with a sob, turned and sprinted down the hall. I could hear Henry's screams behind me along with the sounds of tearing flesh. I could also hear the zombies' moans of content. I hated those things, and I vowed to kill them all. But at least they put Henry out of his misery. If they mauled him, there wouldn't be enough left of him to return. It was the truth. A sad, sad truth.
But I didn't have time to mourn right now. I had to think of how to keep myself alive now. Even if I got to the cafeteria, I wouldn't be able to get back to Ms. Willis. I was going to have to hit the streets. Almost every zombie in the school had to be moving now. There was no way they couldn't hear the commotion behind me.
I ran and found an exit. Two wooden boards were nailed across the doorway. It must have been an early attempt to fortify the school. I looked behind me. Three of the undead were slowly approaching. I put down the beaker and firmly gripped one of the boards, and pulled with all of my strength. It wouldn't budge. I pulled even harder, and it gave just a little. The undead were approaching. They shuffled forward in a daze, like college students leaving a bar.
With a grunt of pure desperation, it came free. But I didn't have time to remove the other board. The zombies were now a few feet away, and I had two choices: I could either die here feeling sorry for myself, or put up a fight. I looked at the board in my hands. A long, rusty nail protruded from each end. I got a good feel of the board and my hands and charged. I swung down hard on the zombie to the right. A nail impaled his skull, and he fell limp, this time dead for good. I yanked the board out of its head and swung at the next one, cutting his throat. I then decked it on the head with the edge of my board. I put a dent in its skull, and it went down with a groan.
Suddenly, I found myself pinned against the wall by the last of the trio. The only thing in between my face and the walking carcass's face was the board. I could hear its teeth scraping against the wood. With my last ounce of my energy, I gave the board a strong push. I tugged my board back, and the last zombie fell. A nail had been stuck through its eye when I had pushed it off of me. Without wasting a second, I went back to the last board. When I had freed it, I took it, for it had sharper nails and would last longer than the other one. It was slightly longer, but not as wide, giving it lots of valuable maneuverability
I opened waited for a second to regain my energy, then I heard more footsteps approaching. I quickly opened the door and began jogging. The city town was deserted. No one was around, save for a few of the undead stumbling around.
I only lived a few blocks away from the school, so I was going to try my luck there. Maybe my parents were there. I began at a steady jog, staying in the middle of the street. I was being eyed by the undead, which seemed to be contemplating whether or not to go after me. I guessed they were lazy. They didn't charge me. I then thought about how much everything had changed. On the right side of the street, I could see an animated carcass bent over, its back to me. I jogged by and my stomach turned as I glimpsed it eating a dog. Its hands were soaked in blood, and it was chewing on some of the dog's intestines and what looked like a bone. The dog, which was still alive, whimpered and looked at me with pleading eyes.
Then it hit me: there was no way the city could come back from this. This was a new world. One where the dead ruled. Although Henry wasn't going to turn, he still died a terrible death that I could have prevented. I should have put him out of his misery when I had the opportunity. And I wasn't going to let this dog suffer. I charged at the zombie and swung the board with all of my might, anger, and regret all packed into it. With a sickening crunch, the man died a second time.
I lifted the board high over my head, and looked down at the perishing dog. It looked at me once more, and I could've sworn I saw a tear coming from its eye. With a grunt full of despair, I brought the board down and killed the dog. I walked away, and something had changed. I was prepared to do anything; whatever it took to survive. The only thing I had left was the possibility that my parents were home.
That pushed me into another jog. I came to a corner. My house was to the left of the corner, so I turned it. I turned to see a whole mob of undead men and women, walking in a uniform group. I cursed under my breath and took off the other direction. I could hear them all moaning and groaning. I looked back and some of them were in awkward sprints of the own. They were just shuffling and stumbling faster than I thought they could. I tucked my chin to my chest and tucked the board under my arm. I kept running until I heard voices.
"Hey kid!" I heard someone shout. But they weren't loud enough to be heard by the zombies. I turned and looked and saw four kids, hiding on the other side of a porch. They had their backs pressed against the side of the porch where they were out of the zombies' sight. An African American guy who looked maybe a few years older than me beckoned for me to come. They all got up and ran to the backyard of the house. I pivoted and darted after them. As I got closer, I saw they all had weapons. The guy who had called for me had a baseball bat. Another short guy with blond hair who looked about fourteen had what looked like a broken chair leg. A girl with dark brown hair and light brown skin who looked my age had a tire iron. And another girl with red hair who seemed to be about the first guy's age had a crowbar.
I had caught up and the five of us raced across the backyard. I already got what they were doing. I could hear the mob gaining behind us and I ran even faster. We all tossed our weapons over the fence separating this backyard from another. The fence was overrun with plants, and it was difficult to find a handhold. I managed to get over first, and I had already picked up my board. The guy who had gotten my attention was next. He seemed to be their leader. The girl with the tire iron and the guy with the chair leg vaulted over with ease. The girl with the crowbar was the last one. She tried to get over, but a plant had caught onto her foot. She was hanging there, screaming and struggling, her nose inches above the ground.
Then I noticed the small vine that had her foot slowly being pulled back. I could hear the undead pounding on the fence from the other side. She was slowly being pulled back up and I rushed to her aid. I quickly sliced the vine with a nail on my board. I caught her as she fell and put her back down. She picked up her weapon and the five of us set off again at a steady pace.
"Thanks," I said to the leader. "You saved my butt."
"Ah, it's nothing. Anyway, I guess I should introduce you to the group." Without stopping, he pointed to the group members.
"That girl you just saved," he said pointing to the redhead. "That's Kathy. The other girl is Rachel. And the short guy with the chair leg is Cameron. I'm Eric. Who're you?"
"Mark. I just came from Taft High School. I was holed up in there with my best friend and a teacher. We had tried to sneak away from her and find some food, but my friend was killed and I couldn't get back to our hiding place. So I was forced onto the street from there. I tried to get home, but the way was blocked by those things."
"Well, Mark," Cameron said. "I think you should stick with us. We could use you."
"Yeah," Kathy agreed. "And thanks for what you did back there." I nodded.
"Where are you guys from?" I asked.
"We're all from different places," Rachel explained. "We were all just hiding out in a gas station where we had food and drinks. Then it got overrun. So we hit the streets. A lot like you did. But I suggested trying to get the Maple Tree Hospital. It's about three quarters of a mile from here. They probably have medicine and maybe there are even a few survivors."
"She's really smart," Eric pointed out. After that, none of us spoke; we just finished the long jog there. We had to take a couple of detours, but it was quick. Suddenly, Kathy began coughing. Her eyes looked pink, and she began coughing up phlegm.
"You okay, Kathy?" Cameron asked. Then we all saw her ankle. There was a cut on her leg. Then I pieced it together. But not before Rachel.
"A nail on Mark's board probably cut her. And by the looks of that thing," everyone glanced at the blood all over the top half of it. "It probably got some zombie blood in her blood stream. We're all aware that this is a virus. But it's seemed to be highly contagious through blood stream infection. That's why bites make you turn."
"What?" Eric asked shrilly. The next thing I knew I was on the ground and he punched me in my jaw. He reared up for another blow but Cameron and Rachel pulled him off.
"The guy didn't know," Cameron said.
"I-I'm sorry," I stuttered. "I didn't."
"I would've died back there if you didn't," Kathy said. Her voice was raspy now. She definitely had the virus.
"Maybe we can do something at the hospital," Rachel suggested. But we all knew she was trying to just brighten the mood. We all knew there was nothing we could do for Kathy. Eric put his arm around Kathy and we kept going. The hospital was now in sight, It was completely deserted, and the setting sun gave it an ominous glow.
We were now upon the research wing. We rushed to the automatic doors. And as expected, they didn't open. Cameron took Rachel's crowbar and wedged it in between the two doors. Slowly, he got them to open. We were now in a tunnel-like area. We went down and Kathy puked all over the floor. We came to a set of double doors. I pushed them open and we were in the lobby. It was so empty and dark that it was kind of scary. There was a reception desk. One each side of it was a door. We went to one that read 'EMPLOYEES ONLY' an Eric tried to open it. It wouldn't budge. Then I heard a familiar moan and rushed to the doors we just came through. I looked through the small bulletproof glass window.
There were five or six zombies clambering in, looking like demonic shadows in the dark light. I rushed over to Cameron and snatched the crowbar. I put it in the handles on the double doors just as the first zombie threw himself against it. I was knocked onto my butt, but I had wedged the crowbar in there. It held and the zombie couldn't get in. Eric was now yanking the handle on the employee door so hard, it was almost coming off.
"Come on," he grunted. "Come on." I tried the door on the other side of the desk. It opened with ease, but I shut it quickly when I saw some zombies having a meal in the hall on the other side of the door.
Rachel was panicking. She knocked Eric out of the way and began pounding on the door. "Someone let us in! Please! We're going to die out here!" She backed up and curled into a ball, crying. Kathy began coughing once more, and I noticed her eyes were turning a sickly yellow. She was beginning to seem disoriented. Rachel was right. Kathy seemed to be on the verge of turning, and we were cornered.
Suddenly the employee door swung open violently, and a man in a lab coat with wild eyes and a beard hurried us in.
"You kids are lucky to be alive," he said.
"Who are you?" Cameron asked.
"I'm a medical scientist who works, or worked, here before this virus began taking over the city. My name is Dr. Hanley. I've been working in the lab back here for a cure. I've been testing the blood of a dead person who suffered against my own. And I am on to something. I've noticed the I never turned after being bitten. I had O negative blood. So I have realized that people with O negative blood are immune for some reason."
"That's my blood type," I said, coming to a realization. There was a possible cure. This doctor may have found a way to help Kathy. A way to right my wrong.
"Great. We may need it in the long run," Dr. Hanley said.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Eric said. "We just want somewhere safe to stay. We just want food, meds, and water. We don't wanna be your guinea pigs."
"I have both. But this is important. I can see your friend is barely clinging on to her life, or should I say, first life."
"Don't you want to help her?" I asked.
"Okay," Eric said reluctantly. Dr. Hanley led us down to his lab and put Kathy in a chair. Then he washed his hands. He was lucky this place still had running water. He then rinsed off a syringe under hot water. He got a test tube off of a shelf and put a small dosage into the syringe. The cure was a clear liquid with a red tint to it. Rachel sat beside Kathy and comforted her.
"You'll be alright," she said softly. Dr. Hanley was inches away from putting the syringe in her when a loud pounding came. The zombies must have gotten through the double doors. Or the other ones were done with their first course and were ready for their second one.
"Don't worry kids," Dr. Hanley said. "They do that all the-" he was cut off by an even louder sound. The zombies had knocked down the door.
"Hurry up, Doc!" I shouted. I could hear them approaching. I could hear their feet scraping against the floor; I could hear their groans of hunger. Dr. Hanley jumped when he heard them and dropped the syringe. In his panic, he stepped on it and shattered it.
"Crap!" he yelled. He backed into the counter and knocked the still open test tube into the sink, and the cure flowed down the drain. All hope was gone.
"It didn't even matter!" Cameron yelled in realization. He was breaking down. "Even if you healed Kathy, she'd die from those zombies, just like we're about to!" Hanley turned on Cameron.
"Even so, I'd like to die knowing I solved this! That there really was a way to close the gates of hell that have opened in our world! That there was a way to preserve the few remnants of humanity left in the world!"
"But the cure wouldn't have enough time to take effect, regardless," Rachel pointed out shakily.
"This is it," I said solemnly. "We had a good run while it lasted. But this is it. Thank you all for saving me when you did. You are all great people, and just remember, we're not dying alone. That's all I was afraid of. I'm just glad I won't die the way my best friend did." Cameron started sobbing. Dr. Hanley was on his knees, his head in his hands. I slumped against the counter, accepting my fate. Rachel cradled Kathy, as she was reaching her final moments. In a way, I was happy. I was finally about to leave this hell. Finally.
But Eric refused to die like this. All six of us knew that there were too many of the undead to fight off. But even so, Eric charged into the hall with his baseball bat. I could hear the metal make contact with a few of the undead. I could hear them falling to the ground. But as expected, I heard a cry from Eric and a thump as he hit the ground. His hands came into view as he tried to grab at the lab's doorframe. They suddenly disappeared as he was dragged out of sight. He was the first to go.
Then Kathy. Her eyes closed and Rachel began bawling. Then she shot back to life and tackled Rachel. She began clawing at her and bit her arm. Rachel screamed in surprise and agony. Then the rest of the zombies poured in. It was all over now. There was no escape. My immunity couldn't save me. I was still going to be torn apart and consumed by these monsters. One of them dove at Cameron, getting a tight grip on his leg. Just like when Henry died. Then in a fit of despair, Dr. Hanley threw himself at the mob, and drowned in the sea of the undead. How many could be in this hospital?
Although I welcomed death, the fear was unimaginable when the first of the undead creatures crawled over to me. It only had one leg. The flesh on its face was rotting and peeling in some places. Its breath carried the stench of death. One of its eyeballs hung uselessly from it socket. Blood covered most of its clothes. Clothes that were so familiar somehow. I let out a cry of pure terror as it sank it's rotting teeth into my neck with an unsatisfiable hunger for flesh and thirst for blood.