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The Shriek

Our Final Change

I was sound asleep when I heard it. Underneath my blanket, my ears heightened to a state to where I could hear the drop of a pin a mile away. I wanted to get up but my body wouldn't allow me. I was stiff with fear. What could make such a sound? I couldn't imagine it out of a human or any wildlife nearby. It occurred again, only closer. My body came out of its stiffness, allowing me to get out of the bed. I dashed to the window, opening it all the way. I poked my body out and looked up and down the dark mountain beyond the trees. I waited a minute to hear the shriek again to detect its direction. It didn't come. I closed the window. Even though I didn't know what is was, I changed into my hunting gear and equipped myself with my rifle and handgun.

I walked out of the safety of my cabin for the woods. Before entering the tree line, the noise echoed out, coming from the west. I readied my rifle, struggling to turn on the attached flashlight, and dashed in that direction. I ran through the trees with my eyes on alert for any sort of movement. After minutes of running, I stopped to rest on a fallen tree. It seemed that I came out into the forest at night for nothing at the moment. I yelled, "Hello! Anyone out there?!" There, of course, was no reply from whatever caused the shriek. But as I gathered myself together, a different noise emerged from behind me, and quite near. A low, growling sound. I peeked over my shoulder, without making any sudden movement, standing behind me was a wolf. Its body was lowered in the attack position. I slowly reached for my handgun, which was tucked in at my left side. As I pulled it out, the shriek pierced my ears. It was louder and did not faint. I covered my ears as they began to ring. I turned and saw the wolf cowering and whimpering. When the shriek disappeared, the wolf sprinted away. As I was relieved from the immediate danger, I grew fearful as to what could scare off a wolf in such a manner. But I had to know what was out there. I continued on.

I kept at a slower pace through the forest to save my breath for when I really needed to run. I had the feeling that running was inevitable to what I was walking to. As I stepped over some bushes, my foot caused an unfamiliar noise. I lifted my foot to see what was underneath. Covered in maggots was a head of a fox. Disgusted, I started to fall backwards but caught myself on the bushes. Using the flashlight on my rifle, I scoured the area around the head. Scattered about were the fox's legs, tail, and its torso ripped into four separate pieces. Some of its blood stained the ground. The poor critter was torn apart by something unknown to me. The strange part was that it wasn't eaten. I studied the fox further by lifting up one of its legs, shaking off the very few maggots. I detached the flashlight from the rifle to look for clues. The only noticeable detail was that there were only claw marks and no bite marks.

Footsteps approached with the crunching of leaves and snapping of twigs. I dropped the fox leg and the flashlight. I stumbled for the flashlight, getting on my knees as the light went off from landing. The footsteps grew closer. I found the flashlight and turned it on. At the moment the flashlight lit up, it revealed a pair of bare human feet. I moved the flashlight up as I stood, hoping the feet belonged to a lost camper in the woods. Instead, it was something inhuman. Before me was what appeared to be a naked man only with grayish, white skin, no hair, and its mouth covered in blood. Lastly was its eyes. Its eyes were of a bat, staring directly at me without a blink. The thing opened its mouth, showing its rows of long, sharp, yellow teeth, and letting out the very shriek I've been hearing. I covered my ears but it didn't stop them from bleeding. The thing charged at me. I went for my handgun, shooting it three times until it went down.

I stood there, keeping my gun pointed at the being, afraid that it would get back up and attack me. After a few minutes, I kicked it on its side to make sure it was dead. It didn't move. I flipped it over, finding my three shots. One was in the cheek, the other in the chest, and the last in the shoulder. Black goo leaked from the wounds. I examined the body, noticing its pointed nails crusted with dirt, its holes for ears, and a tiny hole in its upper arm that resembled a needle injection. Not knowing what else to do, I gathered my rifle, slinging it over my shoulder, and started a makeshift stretcher to drag the creature back to the cabin. With great difficulty, I made it back and was capable to lift the creature, strapped to the stretcher, into the truck bed. I ran inside for the phone and called 911. Once I put the phone to my ear, all I heard was a dead tone. I dialed a friend of mine who had a cabin ten miles away, hoping they would contact the authorities. Again, the only sound was a dead tone. I didn't know what the hell was going on. Why would both lines be down? I scrambled to the truck and drove away, heading for my friend's cabin. It was deer season so I knew he would be there.

I blew past the trees, hitting 100 on the dashboard only slowing on the sharp turns. After just six minutes, I pulled into the my friend's driveway, which I almost missed. Going up the gravel road didn't stop me from speeding. Finally, the cabin came into view through the trees. I parked my truck, keeping it on so I can see with my headlights. I jumped out, calling for my friend. "Beau! Beau!" I came to an immediate halt at the front door, seeing it was wide open. I saw inside that the place was ransacked. Everything was broken and scattered. "Beau!?" I went inside, watching my steps. I looked through the first floor but didn't find Beau. I grabbed a flashlight off the floor and moved towards the staircase, inching up the steps. As I advanced, a horrible odor pervaded the air. I pinched my nose, continuing to the second floor. At the top, I sensed the smell coming from the right. There were two rooms with one room with its door slightly opened. I pushed against the already opened door. The odor became stronger. I pointed the flashlight inside and screamed at the sight. On the bed was Beau torn apart like the fox in the woods, his limbs all over and his decayed head on the bed with his eyes still open.

I stumbled down the stairs, throwing up at the bottom. I leaned against the wall, trying to pull myself together. I directed my eyes toward the window with the headlights in view. As I stared, a figure passed by the lights, heading towards the front door. I stepped to the front to find someone, standing outside as they faced the cabin. They stood in an offensive pose. With the lights from behind them, they appeared as a shadow. I yelled, "Who are you?!" Their response was the same high-pitched shriek from the creature in the woods. I attempted to run only to trip over a broken lantern with one of its glass shards going into my ankle. I landed on the ground, seething in pain. The new creature crawled into the cabin, salivating towards me. This creature was the same as the other except it was clothed in a dress and had a few patches of long hair upon its head, as it seemed to be balding. As it got closer, I reached for the shard of glass in my ankle. With adrenaline running through me, I pulled the shard out of me without a flinch. The creature grabbed my other leg nearly digging its claws into my knee. Before it did any further damage, I took the shard of glass and stabbed the creature in the neck. Its black goo squirted out, getting on my face. The creature became limp and I tossed it to the side. I hurried to the kitchen sink, dragging my hurt ankle, to wipe off the black goo as it began to create a burning sensation. I then grabbed the first aid kit in one of the cabinets to treat my ankle, pouring the alcohol on the wound and wrapping it up with bandages.

The next twenty minutes I sat on the kitchen floor, blubbering like a child. I didn't know what was going on. What were these creatures? How long have they been out there? Were they human? Are they all over? I had to find out more. I rummaged through the rooms, knowing that Beau had a more extensive armory than me. I found grenades, more guns, and a crossbow. I loaded them in my truck and made way for town. I sped down the mountain as dawn was slowly coming. Even after twenty miles, there were no other cars or any other human activity. But in a distance ahead, as I came over a hill, I could see the town. Suddenly, my truck went into a tailspin. I tried to gain control, turning the steering wheel in the other direction, only for the truck to slam into a tree. Airbags exploded, hitting me in the face. I struggled out of the airbag and truck to see what happened, discovering how much pain I was in with my sides and head throbbing.

I looked down the road in the direction I was coming from. Lying on the ground to the side of the road was a man face down. A part of his leg was gone. I stumbled over to the man as fast as I could, sustaining my pain. Where his lower leg was missing seemed to be a recent incident as he was still bleeding out. I took off my belt and used it as a tourniquet around the man's thigh. I turned him over. He was still breathing and he began to open his eyes. I said to the man, "Hold on! I need to get something!" I went to the truck and grabbed some old towels in the back to cover up his leg, dashing back towards him. As I wrapped the towel around the stump, I asked, "Can you hear me?!"

As he became coherent, he looked down and cried, "I... I... what... it took my fucking leg! Oh, God!"

"It?! Where is it?!"

He lifted his hand and pointed to the ditch by the road. Down in the ditch was another creature, holding the rest of the man's leg. I was both pleased and disturbed at the sight. The man explained, "Your truck distracted the damn thing from tearing me apart! It charged at you when you nicked it."

"Is it dead?" I asked

"I don't know!"

With my handgun still on my side, I pulled it out as I inched towards the creature. It was still breathing with great difficulty. It lifted its head with its face half gone from charging at my truck. It growled and gurgled as it tried to crawl towards me, getting nowhere. I aimed my gun at the creature but decided not to waste the bullet since the thing was already dying. I felt that I was going to need all the bullets I could get. I returned to the man on the road. "It's dying."

"Good!" The man sat up, leaning on his elbows. "Shit, it hurts!"

I stated, "We need to get you to a hospital! I'm Ray, by the way."

He replied, "Chuck... holy... I don't think I'm going to make it!"

"Yes, you are! Just hold on!" I helped Chuck off the road, having him lie down in the backseat. I examined the car for damage, finding the tree into the truck bed on the driver's side. I started the engine and was able to maneuver the truck away from the tree to continue towards town. I glanced at Chuck through the rearview mirror as he winced in agony. I asked, "How's the pain?"

"Horrible! I can't believe this is happening!"

"Do you know what's going on? What those things are?"

He said, "I've been running through the woods the past few days, trying to figure it out."

"The past few days? How long have these things been around?!"

He answered, "I don't know! A while I guess. The first one got in my cabin three days ago. Just broke through the door. After I killed it, I followed its tracks to find out where it came from only to find more of them in the woods. I've been running ever since. You are the first person I came upon."

I responded, "I discovered one just a few hours ago. It's in the back of my truck."

Chuck gave me a quizzical look, sitting straight up and turning towards the back. "Why the fuck you have one in the back?!"

"I didn't know what else to do! I was going to take it to the authorities!"

"Have you contacted anyone?"

I answered, "None of the lines are working."

"Shit," Chuck lied back down on the seat. "What's happening?!"

I sped down the road, coming upon the town border. Before reaching the town, all over the road were abandoned cars with decayed body parts scattered here and there from many people. I stopped the truck as I fell into disbelief to what was in front of me.

Chuck, who was still lying down in the backseat, asked, "Why did you stop?" He sat up and saw the chaos outside.

I stated, "I think we've been in the mountains for too long."

"How could this happen?"

"There must be so many of these things to do this!" It looked as if a whole herd of the creatures rampaged through the road.

"There is no hospital, is there," stated Chuck.

I replied, "I don't think there is anything left."

Out of the silence of our gloom, a long shriek emerged from nearby. We covered our ears and looked to where it was coming from. Two creatures crept out of the trees to the right of us, heading our way. I grabbed the shotgun and said, "I'll take care of it!" I jumped out of the truck and marched towards them. I aimed the shotgun at the two, putting my finger on the trigger.

I heard Chuck call out, "Ray! Ray!"

I looked back and saw another creature on top of the truck with another at Chuck's door. I brought my attention back to the other two creatures as they came closer. I shot one in the head, causing it fall down instantly. I shot the other only to hurt it in the shoulder. It continued towards me. I fired another shot, hitting it in the chest. With the two dead, I aimed at the third creature on top of the truck, shooting it down. Chuck let out a horrible scream as the last creature dragged him out of the backseat. I sprinted to the side, seeing that the creature ripped Chuck's arm off. I shot it in the head with its black goo, splattering all over. Chuck was lying on the ground, gasping for breath as his arm bled out. I got down on my knees and started to tear off a piece of shirt. "Just hold on! Stay with me, Chuck!" Before I could do anything else, Chuck stopped gasping and his eyes stared at nothing. He was gone.

I cried, "Fuck!" I curled up against the tire and wept into my hands. I was alone again. Feeling hopeless, I sat there for what felt like an eternity but was only for an hour. It was finally sunrise but it couldn't be seen as the sky was overcast. With no more tears left, I decided to bury Chuck. I scavenged through the vehicles, hoping for a shovel. I found one in the tenth car. I dragged Chuck's body to the side of the road and buried him properly. I stood at his fresh grave, wishing that I had more time to save him. Even though I barely knew him, I mourned for him and felt his absence. I continued on searching through the cars for supplies that I may need in the future. I didn't expect there to be any functioning businesses in town. To make room, I dumped the creature's corpse from my truck bed. Who would be around to test what the damn thing is? I loaded everything into the truck and started the engine, which was now the only living thing I had with me. With caution, I drove down the road, dodging other cars. There were a few times I had to get out and push objects off the road. But I made progress. I made it to the town. I made it to the main street. It didn't get any better.

Before me was a town burnt to the ground while only a few walls still stood. More bodies and body parts were all over, including bodies of the creatures. I stepped out of the truck, carrying the shotgun. I moved forward to see what else was left. With it being a small place, I only had a few streets to check. I wandered down one. Thinking that maybe someone was hiding somewhere within the town, I yelled, "Hello?! Anyone!? I need help!" I kept quiet for a minute to see if anyone would respond. In the distance, a bang occurred, echoing through the town. I sprinted towards the noise, making my way back to the truck. When I made it back to the main street, the banging continued, but I couldn't see what was causing the sound. It seemed like it was coming from my truck. I stepped toward the truck and noticed dents on the side that weren't there before. As I got closer, a huge dent occurred right before my eyes on the hood. I quivered at its bang. I was ten feet away, but I started to back up. The banging stopped only to be replaced by the sound of footsteps on the road. I aimed my shotgun towards the truck, keeping my eye out for anything to appear. The footsteps stopped. The shriek emerged from behind, stabbing my ears. I turned to see a creature inches away with its mouth open wide. I pulled the trigger of my shotgun, shooting the creature inside its mouth. As it collapsed, another creature appeared. I readied my shotgun as it approached but it took its hand and knocked my gun to the ground. It swung its claws at me, scratching my left arm. I fell on my back from its swing. The creature picked up the gun and tossed it away. It marched towards me, hissing and growling. I scurried to my feet and ran for the truck. The first thing I grabbed was my handgun. At the moment I aimed it at the creature, it vanished into thin air.

I thought I was afraid before. My hearing heightened as I listened for the creature. I watched the ground closely to see any subtle hints of movement. Then something did move. I shot my gun at it within a split second. It was only a leaf, blowing across the road. But as I stood there, a deep, sharp pain went into my left shoulder. My blood gushed out as I cried from the creature's claws, digging into me. I pointed my handgun over my shoulder. Aimlessly, I pulled the trigger. The creature appeared and fell to the ground dead with its claws slipping out of me. I was bleeding out fast. With the bodies all around me, I hurried over to one with a belt. My left arm became useless so I had to use my right. As I pulled out the belt, my vision became blurry and I grew very weak. I fell on my back unable to get up again. All I could do was lie there on the road amongst the other bodies. I told myself this was it. I was done. Within seconds, I could only see darkness.

...

A light shined into my eyes. What felt like seconds ago from when I was dying on the road was much longer. I found myself strapped to a metal table in an examination room. My vision was still blurry and with the light beaming down right at me didn't make it easier. But there was someone else in the room. I could tell it was a man from his deep humming. He was to the right of me, facing away. I didn't know what he was doing.

I asked, "Who are you? Where I am?"

The man responded, "Awake now, are we?" He turned and faced me. He was an old man, wearing a doctor's coat. He had a big, unsettling smile. "I'm sorry about your arm. I did all I could."

I turned to look at my arm to see it was gone. My heart sunk and my body trembled. I couldn't believe it. "My arm! My arm!"

"I know. This would have been much better if you were fully intact, but you have to take what you can get." The doctor's casual manner was most disturbing. He stepped closer to my side, looking down at me. "I'm Doctor Koen, or the town doctor. Now... I knew all the locals here by heart, but I do not recognize you. Based on your attire, your truck, and its contents, I would say you came from the mountains. Am I correct?"

I was astounded. I couldn't believe this guy. He acts as if the world wasn't ending and overruled my monsters. But he did know, which made it even more terrifying. I demanded, "How about you tell me what the fuck is going on here?! What is happening out there?!"

The doctor replied, "Patience! Patience!" He moved about the room. "You most certainly came from the mountain if you have no clue as to what's going on. How long have you been up there? A year or more?"

"A year?! This has been going on for a year?"

"Oh! You should have seen it!" Doctor Koen became more excited. "They were everywhere. They turned at such a fast rate and killed too. Just all because of this little thing," he held up a small syringe. The serum inside was murky.

I asked, "What's that?"

Doctor Koen chuckled, "Just a flu shot. But so much more." He started to creep towards me still holding the syringe upright.

"What are you doing?!" As he got to my side, he readied the syringe, aiming it at my arm. I yelled, "Stop! Please! Don't!" I wriggled as best as I could within the straps so he couldn't get a clear shot. But within a split second he jabbed me with the needle, injecting the strange serum. He pulled it out. I asked, "What did you do?"

He set the syringe on the table. "This will be a first for the both of us. I have cured so many people with this serum. But I have yet to see the transition. Thank you for granting me this honor."

That's when I realized the truth. "You?! You did all this? Why-" Suddenly, a strong and painful sensation came over me. It felt as if a thousand knives were stabbing me from the inside. My body went into convulsions as I began to foam at the mouth. My temperature changed from hot to cold each second. As the pain increased, my vision grew darker until I couldn't see anything at all. But I began to hear everything from the fly in the corner to the doctor's own heartbeat, which pounded in my ears. The smell was even more overwhelming. Though the room was scented with bacteria and chemicals, the savory aroma of the doctor's pumping blood was all too unbearable. It was exhilarating and enticing. I could feel my nails growing longer and my jaws readjusting as my teeth sharpened and curled upwards. A rush of adrenaline that I never felt before went throughout my body, relieving me of the horrible pain and giving me the strength to break out of the straps. I heard the doctor scattering away from me as I rose from the slab. I reached out and grabbed the doctor by the arm, feeling the long nails digging into his flesh. He cried in pain. The scent of his blood became stronger to where it was hard to resist. With no hesitation or second thought, I ripped his arm off and sucked the blood out of it. I heard his cries and his body collapsing to the ground. After I finished drinking, I wanted more. I was pure and powerful.

The best I ever felt. Before I could finish the doctor, out of my mouth came the shriek. 

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