Been waiting all day to release this one, hope you enjoy it.
Look at me. Now.
By Jason Warden
How long can I hold it in? How many reflexes can I consciously ignore? Do you remember the last time a sneeze got you killed? How about a hiccup? Cherri seems fine, her breathing is normal, no sniffles, no coughs, but for the last hour, she only stares out the window deliberately not looking at me. I wonder if she’s holding back.
Words like “Worst Case Scenario”, “Tragedy” and “Apocalypse” were bandied about from the start. Some grabbed their guns, some, especially those few preaching the end days, went to the streets to meet it and see their God. Surely, some of them are still out there, wandering, aimless, and if they can think, still looking for their savior.
Why won’t she look at me?
We knew we would be stuck in shelters or underground until the wanderers… Died? Is that even appropriate? Or until we were forced to fight our way out. We knew that meant months inside, maybe even years, but we thanked God that it didn’t start here, that we had time to prepare. I wonder now if HE deserved the thanks. What we considered “worst case” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Not when all we were given was an extended death sentence.
Chuck took a lot of shit about his bunker before the world went to hell. He was the crazy old guy in town, and even the hell-raisin’ kids avoided his place. Rumor had it he’d killed more than a dozen dogs for wandering onto his land. Growing up only a half mile from him, I suspect that number is and was low.
He wasn’t racist exactly, but you could tell that he used to be. Back when it was fashionable. He might say, “Excuse me please,” when passing someone of color on the street, but if you listened, what he meant was “Get the fuck out of here.” I’m quite convinced his stance on women wasn’t much different.
She’s obviously avoiding me. I’ll have to take her down before it happens, before she changes.
If you asked me when it started who’d make it, I’d have had to put my money on Chuck. He wasn’t saddled by emotions. He didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything. I honestly can’t say why he let us in. Maybe he just didn’t want to be alone; maybe he had more practical reasons. Either way, we’ll never know, he was the first to change, and he took care of it the way he took care of everything. By himself.
She’s shivering. Oh God, it’s happening.
He left a note. Cheri and I were asleep when the shotgun blast reverberated through the small space, bouncing off the gray metal walls. My eyes flew open and as ridiculous as it sounds; my first thought wasn’t of what I could have been, my family members or even what comes next. My first thought was of all the time I wasted on a degree. Four years digging in the dirt trying to explain the cycle of life on our planet. What an utter waste. For a few seconds, I waited for fire, or darkness to start creeping into the corners of my vision, but only my ears registered what had happened. They rang for hours afterward.
I can smell it. It’s awful, as if her skin is rotting right off her body. I knew I should have kept Chuck’s gun close.
Alive, Chuck was a heavy bastard. He seemed even heavier splayed out with spinal fluid glistening and leaking, every time we jostled his body. We tried not to, but Cheri and I both puked getting him to the door. After, it was just a matter of making sure there weren’t any wanderers close by. The clean up after was even worse, that’s when the Wanderers did come. The sounds were terrible. Hearing Chuck’s tearing flesh as we tried to clean up the parts of him left inside on the walls and ceiling was just too much. We did all we could do, Cheri and I held each other and cried. We’ve been here alone ever since. It’s been two weeks. We wondered at first how it got Chuck, but neither of us could understand it, and still don’t. I suspect now, it’s airborne. It has to be, neither of us were bitten but she’s definitely…
I can’t wait any longer…I…
“Julia, just let me go,” she says. “While you are still you, just let me go. Give me a chance. Please.”
She’s crying, but she won’t meet my eyes. Fucking Coward!
Nice try, but I can smell te rot, it’s all over the room. I try to speak…
I choke, sneeze and raise my hands to cover it. Thick dark blood spurts between my fingers. The rot is euphoric, it overwhelms my senses, and it’s so good, so right. I reach for Cheri, wanting only for her to experience it, for her to understand. She
There’s an explosion, but no pain, no fear, only darkness, wonder and a glimmer of hope. Hope that Cheri will make it out.