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Epidemic

The Living Dead

“You fear me, but I fear you.”

Echoes of thunder and sharp piercing lightning streaks peek through the heavy grey clouds illuminating the dark sky. This morning marks the anniversary. A full year has passed and still no cure; my memories are slowly disappearing. We all thought it was a flu at first, but it spread so rapidly we couldn’t put any precautions in place, not that they would have helped anyways.

I remember the first attack very vividly. It was a saturday morning, the sun high and the heat blistering. White fluffy clouds rolled across the deep baby blue sky, while the rich green grass, and luscious trees vibrated with the hum of animals. The day it occurred an elderly woman was crossing the street as a sweet boy scout guided her across. Cars honked their horns and pedestrians smiled in adoration as they continued on with their Saturday mornings. A husky man approached; I remember thinking it was very absurd, a man striding towards a young boy and helpless lady; it was an odd picture. Most people didn’t pay any mind, maybe ruling it out as him going to assist the two, assuming he was trying to prevent a dilemma. What the passing people and impatient drivers didn’t expect to see was the man take a giant bite out of the lady's neck. She fell back landing on and trapping the small terrified boy. He pushed and wriggled, desperate to escape the chomping rows of teeth that targeted him. Men and women screamed, gasped and hollered, some climbing out of their cars, others running in the opposite direction, all petrified confused and overall not prepared for the events that were about to unfold.

Months later and here we are now. The virus has spread worldwide, infecting billions. Cannibalistic men, women, and children travel the streets, the only thing on mind being the unquenchable hunger and thirst, hunger for human flesh and thirst for their blood. Survivors travelled in groups seeking uninfected survivors, food, and shelter. No one was sure if there was a cure, but that was the only sliver of hope they could hold onto, enough of a motivation to keep them alive.

The streets now empty and bare, the buzz of animals long forgotten replaced with an eerie silence that never lifts. The air, now thick and heavy with smog, rarely if ever lets a sliver of sunlight through. The plants decaying just as humans were. The building scavenged and destroyed. The land littered with layers of filth.

People still question how it was possible; it’s not completely clear to the ignorant minds of many, what is understood is that it’s called neurogenesis.

You know all the controversy out there about stem cell research? It’s basically that stem cells can be used to regenerate dead cells. The re- growth of dead brain tissue is neurogenesis, which is exactly what happened to a comatose head trauma patient. It caused the brain to die off from the outside in. The outside being the cortex, the nice part of a person that makes a human... well, human.

That just leaves the part that controls basic motor function and primitive instincts behind. This is how chickens can walk around after being beheaded, mindless body shambling around. The patient had no thoughts and no personality, nothing but a cloud of base instincts and impulses, which apparently include devouring human flesh.

As my feet drag along the concrete paved roads, my hair is pulled every which way by the gusts of wind and heavy buckets of rain pouring through. My mind is flooded with both the heartwarming and horrendous memories that still haunt me daily. I grew up in a very religious family. In my household, my father was not the man of the family, but God himself was. We attended church every Sunday, we prayed before dinner, my parents even brought their bibles to the breakfast table. I was an only child; Christmases were filled with extra presents, I never had to fight for my parents' attention, no sibling rivalry, no childish quarrels, just me and me alone. We were the picture perfect family, everyone wanted to know the Robinsons but despite our fortune and status that surrounded my family, I always felt so alone, like something was missing, a piece of me that I longed to discover. I was a fairly popular student in high school, I attracted lots of attention. More specifically caught the eye of a pleasant girl in my Spanish class, Amber Reynolds. We became close, maybe a little too close one Friday night in the back of the Sunday school room with some stolen red wine. My parents thought it was a gift from God; despite my young age of 16, my parents insisted I would become a wonderful father even turning my father's office into a nursery.

Amber's parents did not feel the same way. The day my son was born, my family stood in the waiting room; the Reynolds used the opportunity when they were alone to take Amber and left. I never saw them again. I didn’t care much I had Wilson, the baby boy, who shared the same face as me. It may have been difficult at times, the constant crying, many feedings, the diaper changings. It was all worth it to witness his first steps, hear his first words, his first tooth, first Christmas, first day of school; when he was enrolled in Boy Scouts the beaming radiant smile that graced his face and lit up the room. He came into my life and filled the void, he was the missing piece I had been yearning for. For all these years, he made me whole. Wilson was my world.

What is still unclear to myself is how after those who have died from a bite undergo neurogenesis naturally, or in simpler terms, come back to “life.” That is where the pandemic came from, how it began, and we still have yet to find out how or if it will ever end.

The zombies themselves were truly disgusting, terrifying beings. I sit here now as I speak to you staring one straight in the eyes.

His cheekbones are hollowed, eyes concave. The once-flushed tan skin that spread over his body was now a grey leather-like substance, stretched across his face. Blood cascaded from his mouth, creating a pool beneath him and seeping into the worn fabric of his stained ragged shirt. His legs bent, and twisted in odd positions causing him to stumble with every step he took. His pupils were dilated and his irises non-existent, the only colour present being charcoal black.

The first attack left me empty; my soul was ripped from me. On that very day Wilson couldn’t stop talking about how excited he was to earn his public service badge, we were on our way back home from scouts and he vividly spoke about his discoveries that day. I nodded along pretending I understood, but the only thoughts crossing through my mind were his happiness, that’s all I cared about. I was the one who spotted the older lady attempting to cross the street, and I was the one who suggested he help. An easy way to earn his public service badge and I had long before taught his road safety.

He jumped at the idea, hugging me and running off to assist the lady. I smiled and stood attention, focused on the two. As a father, when an unknown man approaches your child, you become wary of their intentions. With an attack and a bite, adrenaline courses through my body as I sprinted to save my trapped and endangered son. Pulling Wilson out from under the lady and shielding his body from the man was the only thing I could think to do. It was too late.

I could no longer stare at him, the wretched creature made me sick to my stomach with even just a glance.

A sound disturbed my thoughts, reminding me I should be searching for my dinner, not sitting here alone in this abandoned warehouse, thinking of my past. I need to come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be the same again.

I have hope that Wilson is still alive, hope a kind group has taken him in and protected him like I had tried that day, like I had tried his entire life. Maybe he will survive until a cure is found, maybe he has a chance at a regular life, a chance at an education, love, a family.

I now know God does not exist. The stories, verses, and history my parents had implanted into my brain from the moment I was born, I now knew was bullshit. God has no mercy, we all patiently endure.

With a groan and gurgle I turned away from the cracked mirror, exiting through the door, attention now fully focussed on the petrified woman whose eyes leaked with salty tears, desperately trying to escape, only to be washed away in the raging storm, cackling winds and sputtering rain. The weight of the support beam that had toppled over moments before restricted any movement as she attempted to flee. Her legs crushed underneath. Empty bottles and wrappers pooling around her puddle-submerged body. My senses were overridden with the delicious scent, and my stomach growled with my never ending hunger.

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