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An Epidemic Away
Peaceful. Despite all of the past days’ on goings, David had finally found something peaceful. His calves ached against the cool breeze and the sweat on his forehead was drying. Hands on his knees, he tried to slow his quick breathing, looking around to make sure the meadow was clear. Flowers in different hues of blue, pink and yellow freckled the green hillside. The particular hill he was on was steep and would temporarily thwart the ill-intended attempt of reaching him. When David finally realized he was alone, he collapsed to his back, laying supine. The sky was a deep blue, like the ocean. Stars glittered plentifully and brightly, like stains on a carpet floor.
Like stains on a carpet floor.... David closed his eyes, and, for the first time in three days, fell into an almost restful sleep.
Laughing. The high-pitched bubble gum giggles of a little girl who had no face, no name. But a smile nonetheless. Her spiral blonde curls were soft against his neck as she hugged him, then her small warm hand slipped into his and the faceless girl told him all about her day. She learned about letters. She was taught how to write.
David stares at the girl, who is asking what was for dinner, and wonders who she is. He wonders why she was talking to him as if they knew each other.
But more importantly he wonders why he loves her so much.
But right at that moment, a dark, grey, dead hand slips out of an alley and snatches her away.
David awoke with a strange sensation of water on his face. He lifted a finger to his cheek and felt the wetness, then brought it out to see. It was a tear.
He got to his feet and took in his surroundings. To his right there was a thick forest. To his left was a lake. He knew from his long journey not to trust lakes. The monsters emerged from there as well...
Well, he thought, I should build shelter. Collect food. Somehow get some water before the monsters get me. First things first, I need to make a shelter.
He took his trusty axe, bloody from his past battles, and headed off to the forest. The trees loomed darkly over him, green and tall. Working nimbly, he began hacking at the branches. It took half a day’s work, but eventually he had enough branches to make a small fence. He hiked up the hill and placed the wood in a pile where he’d slept.
David continued this process until the wood was spilling of the sides of the hill. He decided to start building right away, and would get more branches when he’d run out.
He used the axe to dig small holes in the ground and staked the branches into them. He used skinnier, more flexible branches and weaved them through the branches in the ground.
One side done, he thought.
By the time he finished it was midnight. His arms burned from the lactic acid and his thighs did as well, but he felt proud of the project. In the center of the square fence, he laid down and fell asleep.
Laughing. The laughing once more. Wait, something was off. In his dream-like state, David noted the slight, chilling echoes the small girl’s giggles gave off. Swirling clouds were peaceful, sparingly sprinkling a sunny sky. They moved slowly, graceful, swaying lightly to the notes of the girl’s chilling laughs.
Suddenly the child’s innocent laugh was loud, loud, ear-shredding loud. High pitched, blood curdling screams were tearing at David’s ear drums. The sky turned black and began raining, no, pouring blood.
Why didn’t you save me?
“What?” David called out, jumping to his feet on the meadow, the blood-rain beating down.
I could’ve lived. This is all your fault.
“Who are you? Why do you haunt my dreams?”
It’s all your fault. I could have lived. There was a pause. You betrayed me.
For some distant, subconscious reason, these words cut David deeply. His heart broke right then and there, in a dream his own imagination invented, and his breath caught ragged in his throat. He willed his lungs to breathe but they denied him air. The clouds were fading, their opaque black being covered in a veil of oxygen deprivation. Choking, gasping, hyperventilating did nothing to stubborn lungs. Black.
David awoke, gasping and practically drinking in air, trying to obliterate himself in it, trying to ensure it would never leave him again. Tears sprang to his eyes and he wondered why.
A heavy fog had settled over the meadow, giving it a creepy atmosphere. Anything could be lurking in this, he thought, I’ll need to be careful.
The more David examined his fence, the more worried he became. It looked weak and fragile, hardly strong enough to hold back a zombie.
Gathering up his axe, David carefully listened for the foretelling moans of a hunting zombie. He heard none, but was cautious anyways.
I need to make a plan, David thought, but how does one do such a thing? David sat on the ground and pondered. The best course of action was to set up camp. He hasn’t so far seen any undead, but if he eventually did, unless it was a horde, he could simply kill them.
Staying in one place for good is dangerous, he thought, I may get attached to the beautiful blooming flowers or the clear, blue skies. This might make it harder to burn it all to the ground in case of a horde. And what IF a horde? How will I survive that on my ow-
The sound of a gun being readied ticked off behind David’s head.
Eyes huge, he put his hands up, slowly stood and turned to see who his offender was.
She was his age, 27, maybe a year younger. Her hair was a crazed, greasy, frizzy mess and on one cheek blood was splattered. Her eyes were bloodshot, tired and paranoid. Her hands were trembling as they roughly clenched the revolver.
“What is your name?” David asked softly. Her expression was a perfect mirror of her thoughts; she looked surprised, but still she persevered.
“Get back on the ground!” she shouted, cocking back her gun. Calmly, slowly, David lowered himself to the grass, never breaking his eye contact with her. He pressed himself against the warm blue flowers and yellow roses.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked. She didn’t respond, merely eyed the fog around them and David realized she was checking for the monsters. He stayed silent, listening with her. Nothing was to be heard other than their quiet breathing. She paused but a moment, then fixed her attention upon David. She sized him up, but they both knew only one thing actually mattered, and this one thing basically defined David for who he was.
“I am Jessica.” she finally said.
“David.” he replied. She offered her hand and he took it. When he got to his feet, Jessica gestured to his fence.
“Do you really expect that to hold off a devil?” David gave her a look.
“I was about to fortify it-”
“That doesn’t matter what you were about to do, let’s make a plan and get it done before night hits.” And with that, Jessica turned on her heels and sauntered to the forest. David sighed and turned to his sad-looking fence, pondering upon its improvement. The grass was thick yet soft and surrounded David like water up to his waist. Subconsciously, he played with the ticklish ends of the grass. The feel of the grass gave an idea to David’s mind.
Using the axe’s dulled blade, he grasped the grass by the very beginning of the stalks and cut there. He tossed the grass into the fence and continued slicing and sawing. When he had a generous pile, he took two strands and twisted them together. He held the two ends together, then tied the fence up where the wood met.
When David finished, Jessica had returned from the woods with arms filled with wood.
“I want to build a house.” she called out, dumping the wood inside the fence.
David thought for moment, looking from the wood to the forest, to the hills, to his axe then, finally, to Jessica.
“How about we dig a hole?” Jessica looked puzzled.
“What in the world would we do that for?”
“To put all the wood in. Let’s face it, this isn’t a big fence and we need this fence to defend ourselves from those things. We are not going to finish this house in one day. A wood storage unit would be best.” David stood there silently, staring at Jessica while she thought it over.
“Alright. You chop the wood. I’ll dig the hole. Take as long as you need and get more than an armful. Branches only.”
David saluted her and marched off to the woods. Jessica rolled her eyes and began to dig in the bare area of the land, where David had cut the grass. Thick stems and roots were hard to dig up, but after some finger-cutting minutes she managed. Using her hands as shovels, she began digging. It took a while; the sun was going down after about two feet. Jessica’s thirst was getting to her. The fog had long since disappeared, fading away with the day. She knew there was a lake but decided it would be best if she had company. She hiked over to the woods and was about to call for David when she heard it.
Moaning. The moaning of a nightmare on the prowl. Jessica’s blood froze and she stopped dead in her tracks. It was low, silent, oblivious to itself. But over the groans there was a thunking which, to Jessica’s realization, was obliterating the moaning from the origin of the thunk-making.
The tree was dead. There was practically a sea of trees and this one, dead center in a clearing, was dead. It smelled foul, like gasoline. Perfect.
He began chopping. As he chopped, his mind wandered to distant places, letting his hands do the work themselves.
Who was the girl? Why did she hate him so? A yearning from deep in his chest longed for her company, yet logically he knew this was ridiculous, because she was likely a figment of his imagination, a centre of his nightmares.
And what of Jessica? How quickly she appeared into his life. It hasn’t been an hour and the impact she’s had on his life...
Impact? What impact?
Instead of hacking at the trunk, David had started at the branches. He’d worked for so long, they were all gone. Remembering Jessica’s request to stay in his spot, he began chopping at the trunk. His thoughts ambushed him once more.
How long has it been? What day is it? All I can really remember is the bloodshed... Waking up in my house, blood and gore splattered on the walls and floor.... And my axe lying beside me...
A sound was playing off deep in the distance... David paid no attention to it.
The forest was calm. The animals were missing and the setting sun played in and out of the forest leaves.
David felt something wet on his hands. In his zen-like trance, he glanced down at it without meaning to. It was blood. What?
David glanced back to the tree and found, to his dismay, it was bleeding from the cuts he’d inflicted.
You betrayed me.
To his surprise, the tree began sprouting leaves. Despite himself, David reached and plucked one off. It wasn’t a leaf. It was a spiral, blonde curl. A bloodstained lock of golden hair.
David backed away from the tree. A sickening feeling spread throughout him, and David tried to get away but couldn’t because his feet were caught in the spindly roots. He tripped and fell, then tried to edge away.The blood seeped from the trees’ cuts and floated a foot in front of him. It kept flowing, forming and morphing slowly into the small girl.
She had a face now.
She was delicate, skinny, with soft, nearly white blonde hair and gleaming green eyes. She was pale, beautiful, the spotlight of his night terrors.
She offered him a hand, but David refused. She first looked confused, then angry. A fury so ugly, so frightening blackened her lovely face into a hideous scowl, and she screeched. She swiped and caught David in the arm. David cried out, instinctively swinging his axe. She cried as she hit the ground, her arm now sliced off. Tears brimmed in her eyes as David hacked at her over and over again, blood spiking out, splattering the trees and himself. Finally, she stopped crying. But he didn’t.
Jessica rushed over to the sound of crying and rustling. She hoped with all of her might that David was okay, if only to have company. Swerving between tree after tree, she finally made it to the source of the commotion, a clearing centered by a beat up dead tree and a bloody David, who sat on his knees, axe just out of reach, simply sitting there over a thoroughly chopped up zombie.
“David?” She called tentatively, trying not to be too loud. She slowly crept towards him, resting her hand on his shoulder. He didn’t react, didn’t even turn. He was hot beneath her fingers, a quick-beating heart slow to find it’s rest.
“David?” she whispered. Without a word, he stood, took her hand, and led her away from the corpse.
David couldn’t sleep. The shock was still ebbing and he was slow to realize he had hallucinated. Jessica was snoring lightly beside him and he wondered what her story was. Where she’d lived before the illness struck. If she’d been happy. If she’d been married. If she had had kids.
As David stared into the seemingly endless sky, a low, almost non existent sound began to come into his range of hearing. It was moaning and David knew it knew where he was. He got to his feet, axe in hand, and headed off to kill the beast, leaving Jessica vulnerable to a hungry zombie, unconsciousness hindering the chance of self defence. But David didn’t consider this as he lopped off. Just like before...
Thousands of miles away, a zombie was limping its way down a long abandoned street. Fellow undead were feasting on remains beside her, but something deep within her subconscious, something that fueled the disease rather than being killed by it, drove her to walk past the already crowded uninfected corpses. Cars with shattered windows and twisted metal doors offered no challenge as she passed them. Pollution and ash was thick in the air as fires world round gathered in the atmosphere. She lobbed her way, a primal instinct making her carry on. Though she was a mere dead body being controlled by a virus, a dying wish kept still in her.