Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
The cold was the first thing I felt.
Even before my eyes were open I felt a very deep chill in my core, a thousand spindles of ice sewn between my tissues. I blinked, my eyelids slowly bringing and stealing back the darkness, and with it the desire to keep them closed forever.
I was lying face down on the floor, the tiles speckled with browned blood. I moved my arms to push myself up, but my muscles were stiff, almost too stiff to bend without breaking. I feebly pushed myself up, forcing weight upon deadened legs. I began to wonder why I felt the way I did. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been lying there. There was the most peculiar feeling in my stomach, a sort of dissolution. Perhaps I had ingested something that knocked me out?
Wait. Where was I? I looked around the room I was in. It was a kitchen, mostly everything in order except for the few traces of a hurried exit. The back door was open, barely bolted to the top hinge. Cabinet doors were left open, and it seemed only the food readily edible was taken. A knife set was knocked over, with a few blades missing. There was blood splattered on the floor, in which I was laying. I could see a putrid stream of it running down my shirt, but after a quick search I couldn’t find, nor feel, any wound.
Each window I saw had the blinds drawn, and the lights turned off, as if the house’s occupants were hiding. I went into the living room, barely bending my brittle knees into an awkward walk. It was dark, but I could see the outlines of furniture well enough. There was nothing out of the ordinary, except that the front door had been barricaded with a desk. There was a bedroom towards my right, the door closed, and then a hallway near the front door. The entire house was dark, and empty.
Except for me.
Where was I? Whose house was this? And then, then I realized I didn’t know who I was.
I thought and thought and thought upon it, trying to bring up some memory of a name, a friend, an activity, my face. I didn’t even have a vague image of my own face, and the feeling of facelessness was eerily disconcerting. Trying to access my convoluted memory banks, I realized I couldn’t remember anything other than the cold of waking up on that kitchen floor. I slowly became more and more sure that I had been poisoned, or perhaps had an allergic reaction. What makes one amnesic and unconscious? It had to be some sort of chemical.
What if I lived alone? I checked for a wallet in my pocket, but found none. I tried to call out, but something was wrong with my voice, as it felt and sounded like my vocal cords were shredded. The only thing to come out was some sort of strangled noise, mixed with a phlegmatic sputter. I spat out a gob of blackish-red blood caught in my throat. I couldn’t taste it, but it looked disgusting on whoever owned the couch in front of me.
Since no one had responded to my vocalization, I decided to leave. Going to the front door, I pulled the heavy desk aside. It was difficult, not because of the weight, but because of my limbs. My arms felt encumbered by hundreds of pounds, and the rest of my body had been struck by from sort of torpor, like it was being pulled towards a supermassive black hole in the opposite direction I tried escaping to. Trying to grip the hulking piece of furniture was difficult as my fingers wouldn’t cooperate, but the desk gave way easily, more easily than I thought it would.
I’m not sure how long I spent trying to open the door. Time seemed different. I couldn’t tell how long a moment was, as I was completely grounded in the present. Trying to recall waking up in the kitchen was slowly becoming more difficult. After what could have been hours of failing, I orchestrated all of my fingers together into a twisting motion and opened the door. The difficulty of something seemingly simple perplexed me, but I lost interest and soon forgot about it.
I had heard of concoctions that paralyze, but were there some that caused memory loss as well? I knew of the Haitian zombies that forgot themselves entirely and served whatever voice they heard after they resurrected, but there was no voice to command me. My experience wasn’t quite as dramatic, but someone’s blood was in that kitchen. Maybe I survived an assassination? I had been subdued on purpose, and I could still feel the results in my rigid muscles. But if amnesia was an intended side effect, what would someone stand to gain from it?
I walked out the door, into a suburban neighborhood, trying to figure this conundrum out. The sky was overcast and gray, a constant threat of some sort of foulness to rain from the heavens. The wind was strong, blowing various trash and debris down the street. I could see black smoke on the horizon, rising up to coalesce with the dark clouds.
Step by step, I moved the desiccated-feeling body I was in down the driveway. I didn’t see a single person, just the signs of an exodus. Front doors were broken down or left open, windows smashed, burnouts from tires throughout the street, and the strange feeling of not being alone. I could sense someone was around, I could hear their heartbeat, I could feel their warmth. I needed to find them, I needed to know what was going on. Someone would help me, I was sure.
A too-thick saliva began to form in my mouth, a very foreign saliva. I spit, a purple slime tinged with red hitting the ground, along with something white. The purging of a toxin?
So I began to walk. I made horrible progress, walking down the street on a pair of dead legs. I didn’t mind it, though. I was lost in a sort of mindlessness, not discontent to just be wandering. The whole time, the possibility of other people probed my brain, insisting I find them.
Walking down a street through the eternal maze of neighborhood, I came across a dog. A big Doberman. At first, he caught my attention in an interested way. I looked at him, enthralled. But then he caught a glimpse of me, and started barking. The barking became louder and louder, and I began to grow irritated. The way the dog stared at me, fangs bared, caused my reservedness to subside. I could feel the fury cauterizing my body, crawling up my spine, making my hands shake. This animal was challenging me. My prey.
I strode over to him, oblivious to the deep growling. The dog readied himself to pounce, and the thought of this pathetic thing posing a challenge was amusing. He jumped forward, biting into my calf, hard, hard enough to cause a crunch to sound. But I was so full of rage, so full of hatred that my whole body was numb. I threw myself upon the dog, wrapping my hands around his neck tightly. I slowly began twisting my iron grip with as much power as I could muster, and nothing in the world would stop me from breaking his neck. He managed a whimper in such a saddening manner that if I could feel sorrow, it would’ve hurt me inside. So I made it excruciating for the dog, finally breaking his neck after his head was twisted a hundred and eighty degrees. Then I picked his corpse up, slammed it into the street, and started punching in his ribcage, grinding his flesh and innards against the cement with my fists, until just the head and hind legs remained intact, connected together by a spine and fur matted with the dog’s bloody remains.
When I was done, I asked myself what I had just done. I now felt nothing, I was calm, I was collected. My mind analyzed the situation and it deduced my anger as a fair reaction, though I had a subconscious feeling that what I had just done was sickeningly wrong.
What if I had brain damage? I had heard a story of how a man had brain damage in a specific area, which caused him to fly into a blind fury at the smallest sleight. What if it happened to me? Enough oxygen deprivation can cause both brain damage and unconsciousness. Was I even mentally fit to be a human being anymore?
I needed to find someone quickly.
I continued on, eventually reaching the end of the neighborhood. Two cars were crashed into each other, and I walked up to them. One was empty, while the driver of the other car was resting his head on the steering wheel. I walked over, opening the door and lifting his head up by the hair. His forehead was caved in, pieces of skull broken off in his brain. He didn’t smell particularly good, so I picked him up and threw him into the street.
I sat in the car, looking at it. I was sure I’d driven cars many times before, but as I sat in that seat, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. I grabbed the wheel, turned it. Nothing happened. There were a ton of buttons next to the wheel, and I began pressing them. One of them made a terrible noise come on, and after forgetting which one it was, I left.
I was on a main street. There were cars parked in the lots out front of derelict shopping centers, the occasional sign of violence streaked upon the pavement or wall in a bloody fashion. The lights of miscellaneous shops were still on, though I could see no one inside. Automated traffic lights went through their cycles, unaware that they did nothing to serve the people who weren’t there. The place was a ghost town, void of anything that might be alive.
Then I saw someone. I was in front of a grocery store, the entrance destroyed by a flipped car. The person I saw appeared to be a man. He limped, and it seemed like every time he put weight on his right leg it would almost snap out underneath him. He was making his way into the apartment complex from the other side of the street. I tried yelling out to him, but all I could make was a groan.
He continued on to the complex grounds, and I decided to follow him. When I passed the surrounding fence, however, I saw a group of people running up a flight of stairs into an apartment. One of them was holding a gun towards the man trying to follow, who seemed to beseech something of them by holding his arms out. From the look of it, he needed medical aid.
And then they shot him. I immediately took cover behind the fence, peeking around the corner. The last person to go in was a woman, who made the strangest feeling rise in my chest. I took a look at her as she stared at the corpse of the man her friend had just shot. She couldn’t see me, however, and went inside.
There was something peculiar about her. She contorted my chapped lips into a goofy semi-grin. I had a feeling like I knew her, like I needed to know her again. Perhaps she could help me sort this whole mess out. Maybe I could find out who I once was.
But I wasn’t going to be able to approach them if they were just shooting random people. I made my way towards the grocery store. My muscles began to grow flexible, and I could move a bit more smoothly now, though the calf the dog had bitten wasn’t as strong as my uninjured one. I began to hope that whatever chemical was in my system was starting to wear off, and that there might not be permanent effects after all.
I walked through the parking lot. The place was abandoned, though it didn’t seem voluntarily. Some of the car doors were open, some were painted red. One trunk was open, half-filled with groceries and a carton of eggs smashed upon the concrete next to it. Dozens of carts were left astray. The car that had rolled over had smashed the glass doors leading into the grocery store. It appeared the car was resting upon a few people, their blood and organs forced out of their bodies all over the cement. The wind blew. It was cold.
I got to the dumpster behind the store, and opened it up. I grabbed a piece of cardboard, and underneath was a small child, face gnawed until it was unrecognizable. I could see the bone of the nose, though the cartilage was gone. There was an ear spat out next to his head. The lips were eaten in a particularly vicious way, exposing smashed-in teeth and purple gums. The eyes had been slurped out, leaving this eight-year-old child staring into the sky with a lifeless gaze. The skull was smashed in and the brain was served at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The body had pieces picked off of it in varying degrees, in some places to the muscle, in others to the bone. This was the work of something wild, something extremely voracious. The child was small enough to be an easy meal for a pack of starving dogs. There was even a news report about cases like this a few months ago. Wasn’t there? Or did it seem like something that would be on the news? Regardless.
I reached my hand into the emptied stomach, digging up past the remains in search of wet blood. After getting some, I wrote “I’m not an enemy, don’t attack!” on the cardboard. The body gave off a foul stench, and it wasn’t the sight so much as it was the scent that deterred me. It wasn’t decomposition, but there was something definitely wrong with the corpse.
So I left, utterly forgetting the small child. I arrived back at the opening of the apartment complex. The door the group had entered was shut tight. I waited, not sure how long it was, but completely content with passing the time doing nothing. Then I thought it would be better to see them coming before they could see me. So I took my sign and went to the cemetery across the street from the apartments, where I would be able to properly observe them.
Night came. Everything was quiet. Not a single car passed. No one walked along the sidewalk. There wasn’t a single person out picking up fast food, visiting the grocery store or renting a movie. Orange glows on the horizon kept me company.
Anything that a human being might once do was never to be done again.
I lay there, silently, watching, alone in a yard full of corpses. I had the same sensation I had in the neighborhood I woke up in, that there were people around. I knew I could feel the ones in that apartment. So I waited for them.
The only uncomfortable part was the cold. I couldn’t get warm at all. I wished my body would metabolize whatever was in me. I just wanted to feel alright again.
I was slowly beginning to forget what exactly I needed metabolized from my body. Was it something bad? It couldn’t be, as I felt perfectly fine. I had the vague feeling that I should wait for the people who went into the house, that maybe that woman I saw could tell me what I needed out of my system.
I spent the night next to the grave of Chris Redfield.
Then day came. It seemed slow, but I couldn’t be sure. My mind was only conjuring up blanks when I tried accessing the last few hour’s images. The clouds stayed, like a dark harbinger hiding whatever might be bright, whatever was left that could be warm, if there was anything that could make me warm again.
Finally, I saw them come out. A few, including the woman. I made as much haste as I could, holding up my sign, until I caught one of their eyes. It was a man, thin, gaunt, bones quite prominent, like an undead skeleton. He had a handgun, and as soon as I came into his vision he pulled it up, aiming it at me, yelling out a warning. The other two looked at me, and the woman I had seen gasped.
I got a better look at her. She was beautiful, even angelic. Blonde hair, of a very light color. Green eyes, the color I imagine Mother Nature herself might have. I could see an aura around her, of a bright white. I saw it shoot towards me, and I was instantly soothed. My leg felt alright, my spirit was healed, my being rejuvenated. I loved her, and I’m sure I loved her even more back before, when I knew who I was.
She looked at me, mouth agape, expression stunned. The skeleton covered in flesh took a step forward, but she stood in front of him. I held my sign out, and she read it. I could see a tear run down her face. They muttered a conversation to each other, but the man let me continue on.
“No, how can you trust him?” The man yelled as the woman I loved started walking towards me.
“We’re going back, right now, with or without you.” And the other two started running back up the stairs. They meant nothing to me, however, so I didn’t care.
I dropped the sign. This woman, a complete stranger to me, yet so familiar I felt that if I lost her now I would lose my entire life. She came closer, and stopped.
“Is that you?” She whispered.
“Yhhuss.” I managed to articulate with difficulty. For this woman I could remember nothing about, this woman that I loved, I would do anything.
She walked up to me. I extended my arms to embrace her, and when she fell into them I ripped her fucking throat out, the flesh in my mouth one second and swallowed in the next. She started choking on blood, trying to scream and failing, falling to the concrete. She was mute, the same way I was.
I got down to my knees, making a fist and smashing through her ribcage to get the best-tasting organs. I broke the skin, broke bones, gripped her heart, ripped it out and started savoring it. I had no idea why I was doing any of this, as I was now a mere victim of my instincts. This drive took over my hands and jaws, this inherent rage encoded within my existence. I know knew the purpose of my existence.
The only thing I loved right now was the way her flesh tasted, the first thing I had been able to taste in so long. It had the perfect texture, the right amount of chewiness, and the blood was a perfect compliment. I felt an elation, I felt an amazing high I had never known as I consumed her carcass. I felt a tooth get stuck in a particularly calloused piece of hand, but swallowed it anyway.
I would regret this later, if I could still regret. If I could still regret, I might regret that after I had my fill, this woman would get up, only to suffer the same bewilderment and estrangement from reality as I had. I might regret that I was purposely going to let her reanimate, so she could do infect others. I might regret the deaths of the others she would eat. I might regret letting the corpses of children be thrown into dumpsters after her victims did their part to spread this disease. If I could still regret. If I even cared to regret.
I might regret succumbing to the results of my twist of fate. I am now the plague-bearer, I am now the one I used to despise in horror movies.
I am the downfall of my former race.
I am the apocalypse.
And then I began to feast.
* * * * * *
I walked down the stairs of the safe house, a volunteer to collect supplies. Ash and Leon accompanied me. We made it down the stairs and walked over to the car. All of a sudden I heard a yell from Ash, and turned. He was holding his gun up towards one of the dead–
It wasn’t just one of the dead. It was my husband.
The tumultuous storm of negative emotions I’d experienced these last two days had just ended. Ever since the genetic switch within humanity’s junk DNA was pulled magnetically, there was no place more like Hell than home. Each one of us was now another’s apocalypse.
One by one, countries fell. The Northern Hemisphere was hit, then America, then our state. It was one swift sweep, like God waving his hand across the world to clean up a mess he had let grow too big. I knew it was the end. The beginning of that end started when one of the undead broke into our home and bit my husband in the back of the neck. Life became meaningless.
Until this moment. Now he was back. Back from the dead, not completely, but close enough. My reason to stay alive was resurrected in the form of this corpse in front of me. I could see past the glaze in his eyes that he could remember me, that he had been searching for me. He stared at me, the way he used to stare before he would tell me he loved me.
Ash stepped forward, and I quickly stepped in front of him. I read the sign my husband had made, painted in some sort of red, which said, “i m n e me) doet atak”. His spelling was never very good anyways, but this meant that he was still cognitively functioning. And even though he was a shambling corpse with a shin bone piercing through his calf, I still loved him. I tried to stop myself from crying.
“What’re you doing?” Ash asked.
“That’s my husband,” I told him.
“That’s NOT your husband, he’s a corpse, a zombie hungering for your flesh. He probably walked in from the same cemetery as the other cadaver.”
“I’m going to talk to him.”
“No, how can you trust him?” But I had already started walking towards my husband.
“We’re going back now, with or without you.” I heard Ash yell, and then their footsteps up the stairs. I didn’t need them, though. The only person I needed was him. The man in front of me, the one with the dilated, newly-pigmented pupils that were as ghostly as the full moon, the one with the blanched, sickly pallor, whose jaw hung slightly slack and leaked a purple fluid. He was missing one of his front teeth, but with the bloody and rotting gums he had developed, it seemed like they’d all fall out soon anyhow. He was covered in dried blood, and smelled of decomposition. But death was the final barrier, and he had broken it. Now we could be together forever.
I stopped in front of him.
“Is that you?” I asked.
“Yhhuss,” he rasped, like his vocal cords had been cut with a scalpel and then sewn back in by a high school special ed student with a cleft hand.
I walked up, he opened his arms, and he embraced me.
* * * * * *
The cold was the first thing I felt.
Such an overwhelming cold. I opened my eyes with difficulty. I was staring up at the sky. Massive clouds, dark and menacing, were sailing through the firmament. Lamps lit the area I was in with an orange glow, creating an eerie otherworldly sensation, as if I were in some reality that never existed until this moment.
With as much strength as I could muster, I tried moving. My muscles were stiff, and bending them was almost impossible. I finally got up, though. I took a look around. I was in the parking lot of what looked like an apartment complex. Where was this? Where was I?
Wait a second. Who was I? I began to try and recall something, anything from my memory. Nothing came up. I tried calling out, but the only noise I made was a strange gurgling, as if my throat were full of a liquid.
Then I looked down. There was a corpse next to me, lying face up. I had the strangest feeling that this man was important, that I had known him. He was missing a tooth, covered in blood, and obviously killed by a bullet to the head. He gave me a very peculiar feeling, and anyone who could feel sorrow would have been saddened by this man’s condition. So I started walking away. I had an instinctive feeling that there were people nearby, though where, I wasn’t sure. But I needed to find people. They would help me, I was sure.
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