An unknown virus is unleashed, reducing the population of the Earth to brainless, low-functioning least temporarily.

How this all started, I can’t say for sure. In the horror movies, they used to say that the undead would come from voodoo spells, or spores from space, or an escaped virus, but I can’t say how it started now, in this real incarnation. All I know is that I find myself amidst this pulp, the only rational, logical mind among the brainless, impulsive throbbing flesh, walking dead, in search of life to consume. I’ve witnessed these hideous creatures mow through a throng of people in a matter of minutes, bloodthirsty, lusting for the violent quenching of hunger through human meat or blood or brain matter, I can’t tell what. They don’t lumber along like I would have expected. They move as fast as any human. The only certain way to differentiate these from such as myself is the gaping hole in their heads, from where another hideous creature consumed through their skulls and into the jewel of gray nerve fibers composing the brain, or at least some part of the brain that understands right and wrong. For here I have seen these animals continue vital functions, breathing, plump with infected blood, heart pumping, so clearly the brain stem is intact. But now they have, for some reason, become like wolves, with the opportunity to sink their claws and jaws into a human being paramount in their desires.
And once the skull is ripped open, the blood let, and the brain matter evacuated, the person drops dead, if for any other reason than from shock of being attacked in such a way. The body pales for less than an hour, then the blood returns, the horrific infection reanimating the deceased, though personality stripped, morals eliminated, with nothing but life functions propelling the beast forward. And this may be the most insidious of the infection’s traits: that the prey becomes as the predator; simply, they reproduce by eating.
In my wanderings, I have been horrified at the sight of infected children, ten years old, five years old, infants. In each case the bloodlust is unchecked; they have as much desire as the adults. I journeyed out of the western mountains of Virginia until my car ran out of gas around the West Virginia-Kentucky border, and it is evident that the pathogen originated its assault on America on the coast, moving inland. It appears that the mountains may have escaped the virus, perhaps it can’t deal with the higher altitudes, but even these, the foothills have become saturated with the vicious beasts, preventing my return to the shelter the mountains provide.
Every day, I am on the lookout for other survivors, for some illogical reason, I suppose. I long for others, perhaps for some ill-conceived, instinctual notion that there is safety in numbers, that being among two or three or ten is somehow better than being alone. It’s absurd when one remembers that the opponent numbers in the thousands, perhaps millions. In my travels before the fall of this plague weeks ago, I had the opportunity to cross America from coast to coast twice, and in my professional standing was able to visit all corners of the United States, so I know how vast this world must be if America’s sizable expanse is really just a modest fraction of the Earth. Who knows what other countries are equally as affected? Who knows if other countries have quarantined the marshal government that has taken over the US, if any truly has? This could be about billions of infected, and the potential end of the species.
Perhaps my search for survivors has to do with my inherent need to reproduce, a desire held at the species’ consciousness, if not at the individual level. Before, the choice to reproduce was spurred on a sense of fulfillment, of watching a young new life grow and the beauty that it brings to one’s life. Now there are greater things at stake, like the continuation of humanity.
I shudder now to recall what I have witnessed over these past weeks, that perhaps this infection is more advanced than what I had originally given it credit for. At first the re-living corpses were like rabid dogs, mindless, uncontrolled, leaping upon the poor souls who crossed their paths, ending their lives with a satisfying pull off their craniums. Their humanity was gone. But it was only a few days ago that I saw a horrific string of events. Armed with a broken jagged broomstick, I saw a boy, perhaps fourteen years old, wearing a baseball uniform complete with cap, dragging himself along the floor. He had lost the use of a leg, and I could barely hear him groan. The boy’s face had a look of fear and exhaustion, and he reached out to me for help. I approached this fellow survivor, my heart leaping at the joy of finding another uninfected human, when the characteristic growl echoed from his throat at the moment I was about to pull the young man up to help him. This was one of the infernal creatures, who had disguised his malady by wearing a baseball cap. I instinctively swung my broomstick around and pierced him through the heart, and he collapsed on the ground, dead.
The virus had evolved.
It learned that its telling mark was the head wound, and did something to cover it up. Soon I would see hordes of people infected with the grisly disease, corpses moving about, wearing a covering of some kind (cowboy hats, scarves, football helmets, anything) to disguise their state of death.
The days since all this started have clouded my mind. I can’t tell how long it’s been since the first wave came through. My mountain retreat received a poor radio signal, so I was effectively incommunicado at the event’s outset. I have tried to keep myself pure of the wretched course, but it can’t have been less than a week since I’ve seen my last fellow survivor hunted down before my eyes. I feel alone, confused. It’s as if I’m Cassandra, holding a precious truth, so right, so fulfilling, my life, an individual life, and there’s no one to tell it to but someone who is apt to devour me. I have been steadfast so long in my purity, yet I long so much to taste, to have a drop of blood dance upon my tongue, to feel the pasty gray matter fill my cheek, and become one of them, no longer to be alone, to revel in my inclusion, in my oblivion. I am tempted, but now resolute. I CANNOT let them take me. I will not. I may be the last person on Earth, but shall die fighting for my species.
I say this bravado to trick myself into striving on with this wretched life of mine. I know it is inevitable, that I will fall to their machinations, because this is no dumb virus. This is a smart one, it knows how to evolve. And today, as I roamed through an abandoned hotel somewhere along Interstate 64 in Kentucky, in search of some forgotten can of food, I saw that it has evolved again. No longer would those carrying the disgusting germ be known by the opening in their skulls. The virus has learned a new way to reproduce, and heaven only knows what can come of this vile upgrade. For in the hotel, far removed from its last human inhabitants, I saw two of these wicked creatures, mating.
The virus has evolved again.

Submitted: September 21, 2010

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