“Marty!” Donald yelled into the vacancy of his hometown. For two months Donald had been away from Richmond and his family. Now the world has changed, pushed off the edge of madness and plunged deep into darkness. The wind howled lifting a newspaper off the pavement and sent it fluttering through the air passed Donald. The emptiness of the city was haunting, but that was to be expected after the events that unfolded. What scared Donald the worst was that his wife and son were among the missing masses.
“Sarah!” He called receiving only a fading echo in reply. “Marty!” Donald made his way passed a local owned furniture store called “Divine Furnishings”. He noticed the twinkle of shattered glass on the sidewalk which came from the high glass display window and he noticed the dead boy resting in the window pane. He turned away, stepping off the sidewalk only to avoid the broken glass and the small pool of blood, then returned along his search. A few more steps led him to the scene of a long ago car collision. The heaps of twisted metal were hard enough to look at without the addition of the man and woman who sat still in the driver’s seats. Donald tried to look away, tried to tell himself that this didn’t happen to his town, not here. He had been in New York City when it first happened and the gruesomeness which he had witnessed was indescribable, but somehow he thought that this part of the States would be untouched. As he walked along the street, passing wreckage and body after body, he came to the horrifying conclusion that nowhere was safe and his family may have been some of the unlucky ones.
Building smoldered along the streets of downtown, still spewing smoke from fires that started when everyone lost their mind. The smoke rose to the sky, thickening the air over the city to a hazy grey. Donald reached the end of the sidewalk, which was a two way intersection, and saw a grouping of about twenty abandoned cars and more than a dozen bodies left in the road. Donald’s vision began to double, then triple, and finally blur with tears. He lowered his head and used the heel of his hands to wipe the fresh streams from his cheeks. That was when the howl came from somewhere far behind him. The howl sounded like a human shriek, but with its rise in pitch and ferocity, there wasn't really anything human about it. The first time Donald heard that high-pitched yell was in New York when everything started to go wrong. Donald was sitting on a park bench; enjoying a nice early fall morning and watching the people pass him by. He saw a nicely dressed man holding a briefcase hurrying along at the usual fast New York style pace. The man in the suit looked down to check his watch then froze in place as if he had just realized something important. The man stood there motionless for a few awkward moments then, as suddenly as he stopped, he fell back on the ground. When he landed his body began to jerk violently, Donald knew that it was a seizure from his experiences with his recently passed mother. Donald jumped from the bench, trying to make his way to the man but struggling as a group of concerned onlookers already began to cluster around the fallen man. Donald eased back when he saw another man in a suit and a woman in exercise clothing on their knees beside the twitching man. The woman laid a hand on the man’s chest and as if she had somehow commanded it, the seizing stopped. All in the crowd exchanged a look of concerned look, some gasped and clasped their hands to their faces, while others screamed and proclaimed him dead. The woman lowered her head in an attempt to try and hear the man’s breathing, and that was when the man came to and sank his teeth deep into his rescuer’s neck. A spray of blood followed by a volley of screams and the crowd dispersed in a matter of seconds. Donald stood his place, knocking shoulders with frantic bystanders, as he was both shocked and amazed at what had just happened. The lunatic man threw the lunatic businessman threw the woman off him and rose quickly to his feet. He shook his head violently then surveyed the crowd that ran in every direction away from him. A stream of fresh blood spewed from his mouth as he turned his head toward the sky and howled that lunatic’s howl.
Now that same howl rang through the void of Donald’s hometown. One cried out, then another, and another. Soon the whole city was filled with a chorus of psychotic songbirds. Donald thought of Sarah and Marty, thought of them alone in a city full of homicidal maniacs. He ran through the intersection, leaping onto the next sidewalk, and then making a sharp turn to dive into the closest building which happened to be a book store. During his time trying to get back to his family, Donald found that it was relatively easy to hide from the things that used to be people. He ducked behind a small display shelf just a few feet away from the entrance to the shop and covered his head when he heard the fast approaching footsteps of sprinting mad men.
Donald saw the shadows of a few zip passed the door, uttering guttural noises as they stormed down the street looking for their next victims. Donald heard several more footsteps stomp by but one set slowed. The thing’s breathing was rapid and fierce, as it stood in the doorway seeming to sniff the air. Donald could see feet through a gap in the bottom of the shelf. They were bare and filthy with the grim from outside. The bottom of a night gown twirled with every jerky movement that the maniac made. It was an elderly woman with a mess of dirty silver hair and blood staining the front of her silky blouse. She stretched her mouth wide as if to yawn, sending a crimson waterfall splashing to the floor, and howled. The noise was deafening, a high-pitched squeal more painful than nails on a chalkboard. Donald cringed, covering his ears in an attempt to stifle the sound. The woman stopped, her breathing quickening, spraying blood with each exhale. She grunted, turned, and sprinted out the door to chase after her follow lunatics.
Donald stayed in the book store for a few hours, watching the sun slowly beginning its dip behind the horizon.
Donald’s eyes swelled with tears as he rose to dust filth and ash from the legs of his pants. He approached the bookstore entranceway, one hand gripping the framework tightly, readying himself to duck back inside. The sun sank lower, painting the sky a brilliant blur of pinks and purple. It was almost beautiful if it wasn’t hovering over the streets littered with damaged cars, wrecked buildings, and decaying flesh. Donald stepped back into the street and started walking deeper into the mass of destruction, moving cautiously and ducking behind abandoned vehicles and d rubble along the way. Donald stopped at a shattered SUV for a moment of rest. He placed his head against the cool black metal and whispered to himself.
“I can’t find them.” He said softly, more tears blurring his vision. “I can’t, not with all this.” As if to reassure Donald that they were still there, a loud shriek came from an infected that rang out in the distance. Donald turned to rest his back against the vehicle and sit squarely on the rough pavement. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes. When he opened them that was when he saw it.
A large green sign stretched across the length of the downtown Main Street area. It was a few yards away from where Donald was sitting but he knew that at once it advertised the town Fall Festival that was celebrated every year around about the time that everything went straight to Hell. Now the sign was beaten and ragged ad someone had taken bright red spray paint to it. In large swooping letters, the paint read “5 miles east”.
“Well that’s a start.” Donald groaned as he rose, dusting his clothes once more but not noticing the dark stain on the back of his right leg that came from a puddle of dried blood. As the sun finally gave way to the blank night sky, Donald passed through his old town and was back on the road. To announce his departure, the town cried out with the howls of the insane.
© Copyright 2016 J A Kennedy . All rights reserved.