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The Infection...

Charlie’s little, slimy body lay shaking and cold on the damp, dark earth. The taste of vile sat thick in the back of his hot throat. He hadn’t meant to eat his family, he thought with a twinge of nausea. It just happened. He had been hungry- so, so hungry. Hungry enough to devour an entire bush, a small tree, even his relatives. Charlie shuttered. As he laid there, stomach knotted and twisted in the darkness of the night, he could barely stand the emptiness gnawing at his innards. Every crack and pop and dropping acorn made his whole body flinch. Food, Charlie thought manically, I need food. Though he’d munched on everything edible in that park, nothing he had consumed could satiate the wild hunger that burned deep inside of him.



Why, Charlie cried out inwardly, why am I so hungry! And then it hit him- he hadn’t thought much of it when the mosquito had bit him earlier that day. “Get off!” Charlie had said simply, rippling his fuzzy back. And the pest toppled over with a sickening crunch. Charlie turned to glare at it, but to his dismay, the other bug just glared back. With a wild fire in his eyes that Charlie had failed to notice. “Food, food, food,” muttered the mosquito as he lashed at Charlie, trying to sink his fang into the caterpillar’s soft flesh a second time. Finally, the bug retreated, flying awkwardly away on his crippled wing.



Charlie quit reminiscing long enough to stare at his tiny reflection in the puddle beside him. The bite was red and swollen now and pulsed like a second heart. The realization that the bite was what caused the wild hunger was vague to Charlie. His mind was sick and weak, but in his eyes, there was a familiar and most crazy glaze over his irises. The same glaze he had seen earlier that day in the eyes of the mosquito. He’s infected me, Charlie thought sadly, and now I’m going to die. So Charlie lied back, blocking the pain in his abdomen from his mind, preparing for his transition from bug to decaying body.



With one last, gut-clenching spasm of his body, Charlie gave up. When out of nowhere, the echo of footsteps and music found its way to Charlie’s ears. He looked over to see a small human boy, making his way down the sidewalk with a guitar in his arms, strumming. His blonde hair blew in the breeze, the wind carrying his scent with it. When Charlie caught a whiff of the boy, his stomach twisted and gurgled yet again, his mouth watering. He knew what he wanted now. He knew what he was so hungry for- Human flesh.





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“They found him at Mobile Municipal Park, gnawing on a twig. They took him in to custody when he lunged at a police officer ready to bite.” explained the doctor, pushing more sedative into the boy’s IV drip line. “I don’t understand,” said his mother, “he had just left the house and was going to practice with his band. He was fine!” The doctor murmured quietly to his distraught mother. “Ma’am,” he said calmly, “Has your son come in contact with any wild animals lately- at the zoo, maybe an unvaccinated dog?” She shook her head, “No. No, he doesn’t even have a goldfish.”



He had always been a good boy, Jon had. She looked over at his pale body, the amount of visible light in the hospital room minimal. Though he was nearly always off-pitch, and his loudness wasn’t perfect, he’d been an avid player. He never missed a practice. The thought of her little boy going from ninth-grade acoustic player to cannibalistic animal stressed her so bad she thought she may faint. “Have you x-rayed him? Does he have a tumor?” she asked.



“All indications: fever, lethargy, sweating, rapid heartbeat, point to something blood related- something viral. Now, we haven’t ever seen anything like this, so I’m not going to give you a false diagnosis.”

“Just spit it out!” his mother shouted at the doctor impatiently.

“We think your son has rabies…”

“FROM WHAT?” she screamed

“Ma’am, the bite marks are very intriguing. They look like those of a caterpillar.”

She nearly fainted. The day just kept getting progressively weirder. “He was bitten….By a caterpillar?”








***

She slumped down into an uncomfortable knot in the chair beside his bed, the overtones of beeping machines getting progressively slower as her son fell deeper and deeper into sleep…

She kept herself busy by staring through a glass of water. Te refracted images behind the cylinder looked like a blur of colors. Soon enough, everything looked like that and a wave of exhaustion laid itself over her.

----------------


The two brothers were on their way back to Mobile to visit their parents.

It was the first time they’d been home since the beginning of the semester and both were excited. The anxiety in the car hung thick as Max fiddled with the radio. “Stop that!” shouted his brother, Fred as he swatted at Max’s hand.

Max huffed. “Just do your job and drive,” he said, “quit interfering with my peaceful bubble.”

Fred snorted. “Well your interfering with my radio is interfering with my peaceful bubble.”

“Whatever.” Max snapped, clicking a random button and slouching back down into the passenger seat.

To the brothers’ dismay, folk music started playing along with a crap load of static.

“My eardrums are bleeding,” Fred whispered.

“Well I was trying to find something good to listen to, but somebody wanted to whine about it like a little girl-“

“Shut up,” Fred cut him off. “Listen to all that white noise. There must be something wrong with the frequencies

“Or maybe you’re radio-active,” Max joked, snorting at his horribly corny pun.

Fred rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I can’t wait to get a new car with a radio that’s worth a crap.”

“And a GPS?” Max added. Fred nodded, “And a GPS.”

A hot, radiating energy from the sun and a lack of a working A/C prompted the two to pull over at a park nearby.













***

Whilst walking around, cold cokes in their hands, the brothers came across an emaciated, dead looking caterpillar.

“Poor little guy, look at the welt on its back.” Max commented, taking a huge gulp. Fred reached down to poke it, and the caterpillar arched his back in a snap the speed of light.

“Ouch!” Fred shouted…

“What?” Max asked.

“It bit me….”

.




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