I take watch in a place once called Woodford Park. Its high slopes, now absent of grass, rises above the smog and permits a better view of the surrounding area. Mostly its just outlines of wrecked buildings and long abandoned vehicles, but I need to keep my senses focused for any sign of movement. My left hand rests firmly on the butt of my revolver.
I raise my gun in the direction of the sound.
“Who’s there?” I ask. My tone wavers. Don’t let them hear the fear in your voice. “Identify yourself!” My finger tightens around the trigger.
Something groans from behind. A pungent smell drifts towards me. I spin round and -
“Jeeze Louise!” Quinn stumbles out the mist. “Are you trying to kill me?” I release the trigger.
“I thought you were one of them!”
He steps back and brings his hands out in front of him. “Woah! Be careful with that thing! You can’t just wave it around.”
“Sorry.” I slide the gun back into my hoody. “What are you doing here?”
He shows me the decomposing body of a dead rat. “Wondering if you’re hungry enough for lunch yet.”
He grins and dangles it closer towards my face. The smell makes me want to vomit. I knock it out of his grasp.
“Act your age for once! I’m supposed to be on duty here, protecting the few remaining survivors in this g-dforesaken town. That, unfortunately, includes you.”
“Dude, I was only doing what Bossman said. This is your first time alone on patrol, isn’t it?”
“Just to clarify, when did Bossman tell you to scare the fuck out of me?”
His lips curve into a smirk.
“You know I hate it when you smirk at me.” I glare at him.
He raises both hands into the surrender position, but his expression stays the same.
Another hand shoots from the earth beneath us and clasps around Quinn’s ankle. He lets out a sharp shriek and instinctively tries to free himself. I’m shocked.
Frozen on the spot. I watch as yellow nails sink into his flesh, making it weep blood. I can actually see the knuckles where the skin has worn away.
“Help me!” Quinn screams at me while he tries to stamp on the hand with his other foot. “Help me, you stupid bitch!”
I can hear the breaking of bone.
Or is the breaking of something else?
I watch in horror as the fingers dig their way into his foot and wriggle about underneath his skin.
What if it’s the sound of something breaking free?
I find the revolver back in my left hand and without thinking I pull the trigger.
8th January 2013
I awake in my bedroom. A layer of sweat coats my brow and the back of my neck. I can still hear the gunshot ringing in my ears. It felt so real!
My head flicks towards the window, where the sound came from. Hesitantly, I leave my bed and walk over. I fiddle with the edge of the curtain before I can pluck up the courage to open them. Sunlight floods into my room.
As I peer outside, I see Quinn leaning nonchalantly against his bike, holding a handful of small stones he had scavenged from my driveway. He pokes out his tongue.
I open the window and call out, “What the hell do you want at this time?”
“What d’you mean what time?” He calls back. “It’s almost three o’clock in the afternoon. We were supposed to meet up two hours ago!”
I glance at the clock in my room. Shit!
“Sorry! I’ll be down in a few!”
I rush out the front door and almost run straight into Quinn’s smirking face.
“Some party last night, huh?” He crosses his arms and pretends to be disapproving.
“I wish. I had another nightmare.”
His arms drop to his side. “About the…?”
“Yes, the Zombie Virus.”
He stares at me soberly for a few seconds before cracking up.
“Well I’m glad you find my terrifying dreams so bloody amusing!”
“Louise, there’s no such thing as the Zombie Virus.” He tells me after several attempts to compose himself. “Well, there is. But it’s only a nickname for an actual virus with zombie-like symptoms.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I knew that there was no point in arguing with Mr-Know-It-All. “Where we headed?”
“Well, everyone’s at Woodford.”
The park’s name crawls down the back of my spine. I shiver.
12th January 2013
The Ten O’Clock News is on the television downstairs. They’re talking about the Zombie Virus. I can hear snippits of the report from my bedroom.
“Two possible causes…Bitten by the infected…Hotter climates…Mosquitos, if they consume blood from an infected human, can carry the virus…symptoms include…giving the appearance of rotting skin.”
Another voice, the interviewer, asks a question. Something to do with rumours of cannibalism.
I shut my book, turn off the bedside lamp and get under the covers. Then I wait for the nightmare.