After the spread of a lethal virus brings the dead to life, the southern part of the United States is quarantined. Aileen MacKenna is just trying to survive when she finds herself at the center of a war of biblical proportions.
Nothing about that last week of humanity told me that anything would be different in my life, well, other than I would be graduating college earlier than expected. I had never anticipated a December graduation when I first embarked on my journey through the unknown land that is adulthood. Before I knew it, it was all coming to an end and I was left wondering where time went and if there was any possible way a time machine could be created to let me go back. These thoughts raced through my mind as I lay in the plush grass in the small courtyard of the school.
Aleena, my twin sister, sat next to me going to town on a chicken wrap with a spinach tortilla. Mine rested next to me almost completely flattened from when I stepped on it running away from a bee I was sure was out to get me. Thinking back on it, if I had known what was to become of the world, I would have taken a bee sting and been grateful. Aleena let out a soft sigh and I didn’t need to look up to see that something was bothering her. It wasn’t the “twin telepathy” thing people seem so obsessed over; she had just been expressing her dislike about me graduating early for the last month or two. We had never been separated before and I was just going to leave her and start my own life. I wished she would get over it and leave me alone about it. She was acting like I didn’t feel sick to my stomach about it too.
Aleena had always had better luck at making friends than I did and had no problem sharing them with me. Even with her bizarre style, she was a social butterfly able to make anyone who wanted to hate her want to be her friend. With her hair always dyed a bright color, it was easy to pick her out of the crowd. I envied her for her confidence. We looked the same but were nothing alike. The fact that she could pull off the oddball look let me know that I could too; I just didn’t have the guts to do it. I didn’t have the guts to get my nose pierced, hair dyed, ears stretched, or a tattoo on my wrist. In a way, it should have made me happy that because of this, people never got us mixed up, but I didn’t even have my ears pierced; I was plain. Had I known that in the near future, I wouldn’t even have the option to try it all out, I would have probably lived more recklessly.
I had never been one with the ability to fit in with any set group of people. Meeting them was awkward, introducing myself was awkward, and even being myself was awkward. Before everything went to hell, everything about my life was ordinary and I was content with that. I was content with waking up for school every morning and going to work at night. I was content with sitting down with Aleena and watchingTitanic until we were tired of crying. I didn’t want anything extraordinary to happen like almost every other daydreaming girl in the world. Nothing about it was appealing to me in any sense.
Aleena’s long, usually tangled hair was pulled back into a messy bun and the dark aviators she had on her face hid her gaze from me. My sister was never one to pay much attention to what people said or did when they saw her. I knew she liked it though, the attention. Why else would someone dye their hair various colours and wear tattered clothing while walking around barefoot if not for the attention? This time, her hair was a dingy purple that I wasn’t a fan of; I told her to go with pink because it complimented her better. Compared to Aleena, I was what most people would consider normal. We were born with platinum hair and I intended to keep my hair that shade for a long time. She pulled her phone out and sent a quick text before finally speaking after about twenty minutes of silence.
“I just don’t see why you can’t just wait until fall to graduate, Aileen” she mumbled as she watched a considerably good looking guy speed by on a longboard.
“Leena,” I sighed, “I love you and I hate that after all this time we’ll be apart, but we had to know this day would come some time.”
Aleena just sighed as she stood up to throw her trash away. When she came back, she grabbed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder before tossing me a glare and taking off on her small, green Santa Cruz board. If her appearance didn’t give away her immaturity, her attitude did the job. I rolled my eyes and pulled my backpack over my shoulder as I tossed my trash out. Texas A&M in Corpus Christi wasn’t a large school in comparison to other universities in the state, but simple things like finding a decent parking spot or a seat in class weren’t so simple. So, when I walked into class late, I wasn’t surprised that I had to hike the mountain of stairs up to the top row where actually hearing the lecture was near impossible. The events that took place in that classroom would make life as I knew it take a turn for the worse.
No one knows where the illness came from or exactly when the first person was infected. The first person hospitalized had been bitten but was too incoherent to remember who it was that did it. News reporters were told that it was some kind of animal and that the man had died of rabies. But, when a family member was disemboweled at his funeral, the cat had been let out. While there has never been any confirmation of where it came from, I know how it began for the Island University. I stared blankly at my computer screen while the professor droned on about something to do with the Reconstruction Era when I heard someone sneeze.
He was sitting three rows in front of me wearing a t-shirt from one of the fraternities; everything about him looked normal. There was no discoloration in his skin or murderous look in his eye. He was just another freshman waiting for his life as an adult to begin. I didn’t know that his sneezing would lead to the island being quarantined or that his sudden nosebleed would send everything into a frenzy. But, most importantly, I didn’t know that he would be the reason that the last time I would see my sister would be that twenty minute lunch in the courtyard where she left angry at me and with me annoyed as hell at her.