Synopsis – A woman, surviving in an apocalyptic world, finds a journal, and decides to chronicle her remaining days.
I panicked this morning.
Woke up with a weird feeling in my stomach, like my organs were practicing knots. I thought maybe I’d touched the infection, that it was all over. It took me a few to realize it was excitement. Haven’t felt that in awhile.
She rises with sun, not much choice considering she slept outdoors with no shelter from the summer sun. She slides down the rubble, landing on her feet with half a stumble.
There’s barely a breeze and sweat drips down the back of her neck. She wipes it with her palm and when she looks at her palm, dirt covers it. She looks down and takes note at how dirty she is. She shrugs, hydration is more important.
Looking right, she brings up a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. If she follows the road, it’ll take her out of the city, towards Albion City.
She goes left instead. The sun’s still in the same position in the sky, (as is its little bro, the ball of death), when she finds the building she’s looking for.
The sign above it, ‘The cycle shop’, is holding on through sheer stubbornness. She inches under, watching it warily, gripping the door handle. It protests, the hinges rusted after so many year, but it opens with a few violent yanks which makes the sign wobble.
She darts through. It’s only when she in, that she notices the smashed window beside the door, big enough for an elephant to dance through.
The shop is frozen in time, though heavily touched by the elements. Most of the bike frames up front are rusted, their glossy paint peeled away years ago. She presses down on one of the pedals. She imagines she could do a handstand on it from the way it’s seized…if she could do a handstand, that is.
She can, however, ride a bike. She checks all the bikes in the front area, but they’re all in a similar bad state. There’s another room through an arch at the back or the store room behind the counter where she may luck out.
She jumps over the counter, checks the mini-fridge underneath, where she finds a half-full bottle of water, or half-empty. She shoves it into her backpack, then tries the door. It swings open.
She peeks into the room, where she spots a couple of bikes that look in good condition, and a few cupboards too. She steps in, pauses as she considers the open door, then pulls the door shut behind her.
She checks the cupboards first. There’s a lone packet of dry noodles. The expiry date is has to be long past, but she opens it anyway. She slides down the wall until her behind hits the floor, and takes a bite of the noodles. She gets her notebook out while she chews.
Half a bottle of water and a packet of dry noodles, it’s a good start to the day. I figure getting a cycle will make the journey a little quicker to Albion City, though why I need to be quicker, I don’t know. The weather’s holding good too, last week it rained 24/7.
I’m feeling pretty lucky.
She finishes her noodles, then takes a few sips of water, not enough to quench her thirst, but that’s life now. She picks up the crumbs off her joggers and pops them in her mouth, then stands.
She checks over the bike that looks in the best condition. It’s pink, not her favourite colour, but she’ll deal. The pedals are little stiff, but they twirl and the chain looks fine too. She doesn’t know much about bikes, but it’ll do.
She dumps her backpack on the counter, then wheels the bike out into the storeroom, and battles to get it out of the shop door. She leaves it against the wall and goes to fetch her backpack.
“Please, I’m hurt. I need help.”
She freezes. It feels as if lightning zaps her spine. After several moments, her shoulders relax by a fraction. She rubs her ears as she edges to the exit.
“Please, I’m hurt. I need help.”
Her heart speeds up, hands shake, as she turns to the archway that leads to the other room. She didn’t imagine that. At least, she thinks she didn’t.
She creeps over to the opening, muscles tightening with each step and peers into the room, squinting. There’s not much natural light. She reaches up and clicks on her head torch, sweeping the room like a searchlight. Bicycles are hooked on the walls and there’s a stack of them in the right corner of the room.
She pauses, almost missing the body. Only the upper half of it is visible. The rest is obscured by the stack of cycles. It’s a woman with long, grey hair which covers her face. The body looks fresh. She sniffs, it smells it too.
She’s about to turn and leave, when the body moves. The woman raises her head, her grey, matted hair hangs over her face.
In a soft, raspy voice, she says, “Please, I’m hurt. I need help,” she reaches out with a pale, almost ghost like, wrinkled arm before it flops to the ground again.
It’s the sound of a voice that causes her to freeze up, not the sight of someone alive. She seen plenty alive, if the infected could be called that.
She steps closer as if something invisible tugs at her. She steps, just out of reach. The woman’s body rises with each rattling breath.
She prods the woman’s hand with the tip of her trainer. She ties to speak, Are you OK? Alive?, but her voice comes out as a thin wheeze. It’s been awhile since she’s used it.
It turns out not to matter. The woman lurches up like a viper, body arching, and she grips her shoes. The woman’s head snaps up and her hair parts, revealing her face. It’s withered, like a dried out corpse, and has a network of black veins all meet around her eyes.
The pupils are pure black and drip down her cheeks. Her lips curls into a snarl, revealing blackened teeth, many half eroded or gone entirely.
She kicks out, tried to tear her shoe from her grip, but it’s like a vice. The black vines wound around the woman’s arm pulsate and begin to travel down her arm and towards the shoe. If it touches her skin, even for a second, it’s over. It curls around her shoe like a snake.
She tumbles back, falling on her hip, sharp pain winds her, but she kicks out as she looks around for something to pry the woman’s hand and the infection off. She can feel it slithering up the heel of her shoe.
She grabs a saddle and rams the metal tube into the woman’s hand. She shrieks and releases her shoe. The infection shrivels back too, but doesn’t let go completely. She rams her heel against the ground and scrapes it backwards until her foot slips out.The vines spread out, swallowing her shoe, still searching.
She’s already on her feet and out of the door, backpack in hand. She sprints past the bike, but skids to a stop, swerves round and hurries back to it, climbing on and pushing off.
The bike wobbles a few time and she veers left and right before getting the hang of it. Wind rushes through her hair, cooling the sweat on her skin. Down one shoe, but still alive.
She rides blindly until her calves scream and her shoe-less toes cramp. Slowing, she realizes that she’s rode back to her nest from last night. She topples off the bike, it clatters to the ground. It takes her a moment, but she climbs up the rubble and curls into the middle of it.
Seconds later, she jerks up and tears open her backpack, pulling the notebook out. She opens it to a fresh page, pen poised over it.
When her hand, and her entire body for that matter, stops shaking, she writes,
At least the only thing I lost was a shoe and not my life, my mind.
I…I’ve seen a lot of infected over the years. They’re not zombies, not really. Cuz I’ve never seen an infection take any notice of something already dead. It seems to like things that are alive, not that anything infected stays that way for long. The…
She taps her bottom lip with her pen as she struggled for the right word. Eventually, it comes to her.
The hosts quickly waste away. I guess that’s why it’s always looking for healthier hosts. But…I’ve never heard an infected talk before.
What does it mean?
She looks up at the stars, and the mini ball of death still heading this way, and searches for answers that aren’t there. She scribbles down one last thing before curling into her nest,
Even with all that goop clogging up her eyes, I looked into them and there wasn’t anybody home.
I think it’s a sign that it’s time to move on. Tomorrow. Albion City.
I read an article once about this virus in rats that actually controls the rat so it’ll get eaten by a cat, where the virus could thrive. At least, something of the sort. This is how I, (currently), imagine the infection works.
I’m not completely happy with this chapter, feels like I waffled on and went nowhere, but I guess that’s what happens when you wing writing a novel and commit to posting whatever you’ve written.
Critique is welcome. I always appreciate those who take the time to help me improve.