Word Count: 1049
One soldier could do nothing but watch in shock as the infected rampaged through the office block, eating anything that moved. A few of them were feasting on a body, not too far from where he was stood.
He was a long way from home – one of the ones sent over from Britain. He was scared shitless. He had never seen a dead body before he got to America. Never had so much blood been shed before his eyes. This certainly hadn’t been what he’d joined the army for. He’d wanted to fight for his country, protecting his friends and family from terrorists or other threats, not from zombies.
It all felt so ridiculous, and using the word ‘zombie’ only made it worse. It was like he’d just stepped onto the set of a horror film and gotten lost, unable to find the exit again. Everything around him could be props for all he knew, and everyone around him an actor. It wasn’t a bad dream – he’d pinched himself several times and didn’t wake up in bed, laughing to himself at how stupid he’d been.
One of the zombies looked up and spotted him standing there. She stood up, abandoning the corpse they were picking apart in favor of some fresher meat. She almost made it, too. The soldier shook, unable to move as she tore across the road towards him.
A bullet flew into her head from the right, followed not long after by his commanding officer.
“Get moving, kid, we’ve got to secure the rest of the camps,” the older man said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the scene.
All hell was breaking loose in the other camps. The severity of their situation seemed to finally be setting in. Unfortunately, that meant that it was total chaos with people panicking. Some were determined that they were going to leave and find somewhere safer. They weren’t stopped. They didn’t get very, far, either. With a small swarm of infected running around outside their front door, they never stood much of a chance.
“Aidan!” the surprise of hearing his first name for the first time in a while made the young soldier falter for a second. “Aidan, we need you to be in there to calm people down. Tell them that they’re safe and when they argue, just assure them that every measure to limit the damage is being taken. Listen, mate, I know it’s hard, but you’ve got to keep your shit together.” He just nodded dumbly, following his orders, and going inside like a good little boy. He wasn’t even sure who had just given him that order.
He walked into the crowded lobby, instantly swarmed with questions and people trying to get past him.
“You’re not doing enough to protect us!” one voice cried over all the others, and suddenly he had an angry mob on his hands. In that moment, human nature disgusted him. There were more important things to be doing, like helping the army barricade and defend their shelter. Instead, they were teetering on the edge of a riot. Battering the people that stood between them and the infected wasn’t going to help matters, but fists rained down on him regardless.
He did his level best to get back outside – there was no reasoning with these people.
“We’re doing everything we can,” he cried out under his attackers. His armor was stopping the worst of it, but they were still managing to hurt him. Someone’s nails scraped down his neck, peeling off a few layers of skin, another person crushed his ankle. He yelped as it twisted under him and a split second later, he was lying on the floor underneath this enraged mob. They were no better than the infected, he thought, flipping over on his stomach, trying to crawl away from them. Perhaps all this virus had done was highlight what humans were really like – base, violent creatures.
Spitting out a mouthful of blood, he remembered hearing somewhere once that if humans had evolved from a different kind of primate, they would have been a peaceful race, less likely to wage war or inflict pain on others. He tried to imagine a world like that, but as he used another person to pull himself up off the floor, he found his imagination wasn’t quite capable of producing those images for him.
He tugged the door back open and near enough fell out into the road again. There were no other soldiers around to reprimand him for not carrying out his order, and he didn’t plan on sticking around to get yelled at – or dragged back inside by a mob of people not yet done with him. Dragging his aching ankle along behind him, he took himself back towards the White House where he had been stationed earlier on in the day, hoping it would be less awful there somehow.
It wasn’t any better there at all. Other soldiers were dealing with similar mobs, but unlike Aidan, they were dealing with it by shooting people down. He couldn’t take any more of this shit. All he wanted to do was to go home and sleep in his own bed and see his family again. Every minute, it was looking less and less likely that he would ever see anyone he knew again besides those in his platoon.
A tank rolled past him, heading out to the office blocks, followed by a truck with a group of men and women in army fatigues, toting guns and a grim expression. His duty as a soldier urged him to catch up with the truck and jump in the back, to lend a hand where he could. His instincts all screamed at him not to, however, and he found himself torn between breaking down right there and then, and doing what he was supposed to.
In that moment, the thought that had crossed hundreds of minds in the days since the outbreak crossed his own: there was no way out of this, no way he would ever see the other side of this shit storm. He glanced down at the gun in his hands.
Shaking his head, he ran after the truck; his suicide would help no one.