The one thing you never get used to is the screaming. The smell is so awful most people throw up the first few times, but the screaming is torture. It sounds exactly the way you think it would. Imagine someone slowly dying and their flesh falling from their bones while they are still alive. Now imagine them screaming through that pain. I don’t have to imagine it. I am hearing it right now. Inside the small room everyone is trying to stay sane, but the screaming is overwhelming every thought. Sleeping is almost impossible. We haven’t eaten in two days and our water is all but gone. Four days ago we thought we were lucky to have escaped our previous ordeal, but we counted our chickens too early. Within minutes we were surrounded and had to run for our lives. We barricaded ourselves into the first seemingly suitable shack. There was no time to replenish our reserves or scout the area. They caught us at our most vulnerable. At first we thought we might have eluded them, as it was quite for what seemed like an eternity. But the screaming started to build and has not stopped. Looking around the room I can see it written on everyone’s faces – the end is near.
Waiting it out and not doing anything was so frustrating in the beginning. A lot of people died because they thought they were heroes. Everyone wanted to step up and save the world. A lot of people died. The authorities tried to stop the infected from harming others by deadly force. It looked like it might work for a while, but they couldn’t be everywhere all the time and people took matters into their own hands. Suddenly neighbours shot each other for having the flu. Total anarchy ensued. Some people tried to ride it out, some just ran and others just disappeared. Nothing of the lives we knew was left. Cities were burning, people were dying and corpses were walking the street.
“We just need to stick it out for one more day” I try to say with confidence. Sam just looks at me. He hasn’t spoken in two days. At 71 he is the oldest one of us and also the weakest. Looking at Sam I know he is not coming with us this time. Next to Sam Julie is trying to sleep. Her eyes are closed but every time the screaming reaches a fever pitch she twitches. When I met Sam and Julie a month ago I thought they were father and daughter. The way Julie was taking care of him and the way he was trying protect her would have fooled anyone. I was alone at the time and running for my life. I ran in to the back of a small house just as they ran into the front. We almost collided. We immediately realised we were all clean and started to run up the stairs. Before we even got to the rooms upstairs the smell of decaying flesh filled the house. The smell of death, so thick you could feel it forcing its way down your throat, choking you. Sam and Julie reached the room first and I glanced back just before they slammed the door behind me. Four corpses were coming up the stairs, dropping their flesh as they went along. The first one looked the freshest and was still pretty much intact. It couldn’t have been more than a day old. Its skin was still tight from the bloating and there was no visible fluids leaking. The three behind it was pretty old, maybe three days. They have lost most of their faces and were moving pretty slowly. They didn’t have much time left. Within a day they would be decomposed to a state of slush and bones on the carpet. The fresh one was the problem. If there was no escape route, we would be stuck here for at least three more days. I always carried enough supplies on me to cover me for five days, but I did not know what Sam and Julia had on them or how well prepared they were. I totally underestimated them.
Mark is sitting with his hands on is ears, rocking back and fro. It sounds like he is singing to himself, but I can’t be sure. The screaming is getting pretty loud again, which is good. The louder they scream the closer they are to the end. I walk over to Sam and give him some of my last water. “Here Sam, drink some water. We’ll get out of here tomorrow. Then I’ll refill my bottle.” Sam’s eyes say thanks, but his cracked lips are silent. Julie takes the bottle from me and gives some water to Sam. I owe Sam my life and hate to see him die like this.
The moment the door slammed shut Julie and Sam were running through the room grabbing the bed and some boxes to barricade the door. They didn’t say a word, yet worked as one. When the door was secured Sam went to the window and locked it. Julie came over to me. “My name is Julie and that’s Sam. Did any of those creeps touch you?” I know what she was getting at and why we haven’t made a run for it yet. A new corpse is a big threat, since it has all the strength of the person it was, without any restrain. If they bit or scratched me, I would die within twelve hours and be up and chasing humans again in another two. If Julie and Sam where still in my vicinity, I would be a threat to them. “No, they didn’t put a finger on me. You guys?” Sam just ignored my question and spoke to Julie. “So, it’s getting pretty dark. We are pretty secure here. We have enough provisions. I say we wait till daylight and decide then if we stay or bail” So we waited. Sam was pretty quiet, but Julie talked all night. I think she tried to drown out the corpse at the door, but I enjoyed the company anyway. She and Sam was not related, but met up about three months ago. Sam saw three corpses trying to get into a building screaming their heads off. He knew something was up. He locked himself up in the house across the road and saw them break through the door. He yelled through the window and threw stuff at them until they started to bang on his door. He saw a pretty girl run from the house right into the one next door. Sam thought that it was a pretty smart move from the girl considering that night was falling. Two days later Sam and Julie formally met.
I realise that Mark is not singing. At first I think he’s just humming, but then I start to hear the words “idonwannadie, idonwannadie, idonwannadie”, over and over again. I go and sit next to Mark. He keeps rocking, but glances up at me. “Hey. You ready to get out of here in a few hours?” I try to sound as relaxed as possible. Mark looks at me with his big puffy face. “You reckon we’s be out here soon?” The only reason Mark is still alive is because of his size. I have seen him throw a corpse across a room, splattering it against a wall. I don’t think he can even read or write, but right now that is not a skill anyone can use; throwing corpses five meters through the air is. Soon we’ll rely on him again.
After two days Sam, Julie and I left our safe room. There were a total of four corpses piled up outside the door. We treaded carefully around the sticky pile of decomposing flesh, making sure not to touch any. As careful as I was, I slipped on a bone and started to fall. Hitting the ground, breaking my skin and touching the corpses remaining fluids would be a death sentence. I felt my feet staring to give away under me and gravity claiming my body. As quickly as it was happening I was thinking what a dumb way it was to go. I have transformed myself from a geeky bookworm to a survivalist who could look after himself and help those he met. Countless times I surprised myself with my new found strength and cunning. And although the end of the world was looming, I was rising above it. Or so I thought, until I stepped on a stupid, dumb shiny bone. Death by tripping. I felt my body hitting the ground, but it was at an awkward angle. Something was wrong. I opened my eyes and realised I was lying against the wall next to the pile of deadly remains. Sam was bracing himself against the opposite wall. Julie was looking at me with bewildered eyes. “Huh?” I uttered in disbelief, not comprehending my victory over fate. “Sam, you ok?” Julie asked. He was holding his wrist. “Yeah yeah. Tell your boyfriend to keep his eyes open.” Sam started down the stairs. “I’m not sure what just happened,” I admitted to Julie. “I think Sam just saved your ass. He pushed you away from the gunk as you were falling”
Sunlight is creeping in through the cracks in our barricades. We will have to do something now. Sam is lying way too still and Mark has stopped rocking. All is quite inside and out. We will have to do something now. I shuffle over to Sam and Julie. I touch his arm. It is too cold. Julie just looks at me with no life in her eyes. What I am about to do will save us and make her hate me forever. I crawl over to Mark. “Hey Mark, it’s time to get out of here. I will need you to do me a favour. Will you help me?” He just nods slowly. Outside I can still hear them scratching against the walls. I am getting dehydrated and my head is pounding. We will have to do something now.
The three of us were together for a month when we saw Mark. He was sitting on a park bench. We assumed it was a corpse, but we kept an eye on him for an hour without noticing any movement. We decided to go and inspect him up close. Sam said to let him be, but we were curious. As we got close we heard him hum and realised we made a huge mistake. In front of him, hidden from our vantage point, were about six corpses scattered on the ground. Just as we turned to run he looked up, and as if nothing could be more normal said, “I’m Mark. Are you gonna try to bite me?” I laughed for the first time in months.
“Julie, we need to go now. I know you love Sam, but he’s not with us anymore. But he is still going to help us. Even now he is still going to help you live”. Julie looks at me as if I am talking in another language. I swallow hard, but my throat just closes up more. Sam is dead and we need to get out, now. “Julie I am going to do something you are not going to like and I need you to be strong and run when I say run and not turn around. You have to promise me that you will do that. For Sam.” Her eyes are confused, but she shakes her head yes. I stand up on weak legs and shuffle over to Mark. I already told him the plan and he knows what to do. I squeeze his arm and we walk over to Julie and Sam. Mark bends down and picks up Sam’s body. Tears start to run down Julies face. I walk her over to the furthest door away from Mark and Sam. I nod at Mark and he turns away from us facing the window. The corpses are screaming again. Julie joins them as Marks lifts Sam’s body and throws it through the window. The corpses run towards it and start to tear the flesh from his frail body. I grab Julie and we run as fast as we possibly can.