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Last thing I remember was being bitten.
Then, a timeless interval of darkness.
I remember a vague feeling of coldness, a clammy sensation of claustrophobia. Mounting panic drove me to seek a way out of my prison, but I did not know where I was, or who I was. Cohesive thought was nearly impossible; each thought was separated from the next by a gulf of amnesia. With each thought I had to again recall my name, and identity. With each thought I was reborn into a struggle for consciousness. And, with geographical slowness, I won through. My thoughts started to filter in through an uninterrupted stream of awareness, and I pieced together my situation.
I was jogging through the park one afternoon, as was my habit. I stopped at the drinking fountain to refresh myself, when I heard the bushes behind me rustle. I turned, and there was a homeless man, looking pale as death and shuffling forward in a blind stupor. I stepped forward, thinking to assist the man, when he suddenly lurched forward and bit me savagely about the neck. I kicked him off, and tried to flee back along the path, but I barely made it a dozen yards before stumbling to the ground. The wound in my neck was bleeding profusely. I’d worked as a paramedic long enough to realize that this amount of blood loss was fatal. I rolled over onto my back, and started to think about staunching the blood flow. I tried to compress the wound with my handkerchief, but my arms were surprisingly weak. Things grew dim, and I was aware of a hazy figure standing in front of me. He was shaking me, but I could barely feel it. I think he was shouting, but the words couldn’t make it through the cotton balls in my ears. I felt I was at the beach again, being gently washed away from shore. I didn’t try to fight it; the water was so warm and relaxing. I let it wash over me, carry me away. My last thoughts were of my cat. I liked that cat.
So then, I was dead? I was seeing my last moments clearly in my mind, and it seemed no doubt. The wound to my neck must have been horrific. I felt a momentary shame at having given up my life so easily. Ok, so I’m dead. But I can still think. Can still remember. So that makes this what? Heaven? Hell? I was never a religious man, but I’d always thought that heaven and hell would be a bit more… busy. Clouds and fires and the like. This was nothingness. Was I in limbo then? I guess that would suit. I may not have been religious, but I certainly wasn’t a bad person. Was Limbo was to be my reward? But again, Limbo is supposed to be nothingness, and this wasn’t nothingness. For starters, I still felt cold. Now that I thought about it, I still felt.
And right now, I felt something tickling my foot.
Or rather, I tried to scream. I tried to kick out with my foot, but nothing happened there either. For a brief moment, I thought perhaps I didn’t die, but was instead paralyzed, but that made no sense. A paralyzed person is numb; they feel nothing from the injury down. And I could feel all over. I suddenly became aware of a horrible sensation of movement all over my body, like I was covered in worms. And not just covered. It felt like they were boring into me, inching their way into my flesh. The sense of revulsion was overwhelming, but I could not gag. That made it worse somehow, like a boiling kettle with no spout to let out the steam. With no physical release, the feeling of disgust welled up on itself, till it dominated my mind completely. I felt like a man with no mouth, vomiting up a stomach full of bile, only to have to swallow it back down again and again. I screamed and screamed in my mind till rational thought was completely obliterated, and my thoughts became a storm of black and red. Then, thankfully, I passed out.
When I came to, I felt the immediate sensation of movement. Not worms this time, however. This time I was moving. My arms were scrabbling in front of me, clawing up through what I now realize was dirt. I was underground. My mind raced at the thought! I was moving again, I wasn’t dead! But again, my body refused to sway to my demands. I could feel the arms and legs moving, fighting to reach the surface. I could feel the dirt between my fingernails, but I was powerless to move my hand in the slightest. My body was moving of its own volition. To my disgust, it opened its mouth, and I got a throat full of soil. I could taste it, feel it stuck halfway down my throat as my body refused to swallow. It seemed not to notice the dirt clogging its airway. The feeling of choking was unbearable, and threatened to overwhelm me again, but I fought back the rising panic. I tried to focus instead on what was going on. I was trapped in my own body, somehow. Maybe somewhere, in some secret government lab, I was a guinea pig for a sinister new technology. Like what they did with that cockroach, putting a chip on its back that hotwired it’s nervous system, so the could control it via remote. Maybe I was the logical succession of that technology. That was the only plausible explanation I could think of.
My ruminations were cut short as I felt something new. My right hand no longer scrabbled through the dirt. It had broken free. I could feel a gentle breeze blowing past it. My other arm shot through and, with a mighty heave, I was wrenched up into the sunlight. It was midday, and the bright sun shone down harshly into eyes that refused to blink. The pain seared through my thoughts for a few seconds before my head mercifully turned away. When the spots in my eyes had faded, I managed to get a look at where I was. Stretching in front of me were hundreds of tombstones. The graveyard. Makes sense, I guess. Where else would you bury a dead guy? Well, an almost dead guy. Laughter echoed around my mind as I considered how odd he scene would’ve looked to a bystander. A body clawing its way out of a fresh grave, just like in those cheesy old zombie films. They’d probably go and…
Oh god, oh god, oh god. …
No, no, no, this can’t be right. No. Zombies aren’t real. They just aren’t. They’re Hollywood fiction. Cheap thrill moneymakers, and that’s it. If zombies were real, people would notice them. Dead bodies can’t just shuffle about biting people without attracting attenti- oh shit. Oh shitty shit! The man in the park.
I replayed the scene in my head. It was embarrassing, really. Zombies were the weakest, most easily escapable movie monster around, and I was taken out by a solitary one. Hell, I walked up to it and tried to help. But then, who is on the lookout for zombies! Really! None of the major religions warn you about this. There are no Look Once Look Twice ads concerning the living dead. Living Dead. Whoever coined that term was spot on. I get to live forever, potentially, feeling everything this body, this zombie, does.
Oh crap, Zombie. Brains. Shit!
I snap back to attention, and the body has ambled down out of the cemetery and onto the street. I scan the way ahead, but it is surprisingly empty for this time of day. Suddenly, I spot movement in the alley across the road. Hopefully the zombie hasn’t spotted- no, too late, we’re shuffling straight for it. Oh god, I’m going to eat someone’s brains. I’m going to feel it biting through their skull and eating their brains. I can feel the phantom bile rising in my throat when out of the alley stumbles another zombie. Thank Christ for that. It turns to return to the alley, and my body follows. My eyes adjust to the relative darkness, and I see there are at least five of us in this alley. Well, that explains the empty streets. A zombie pandemic must have broken loose. And why the hell not! Zombies overrunning the free world! And hey, I’m sure if I hang around long enough, I’ll see the rugged hero come blasting through here with his shotgun! Hysterical laughter swirls around my mind. I feel I’m on the verge of losing it for good, when suddenly I lock eyes with one of the zombies ahead. I realize that there’s someone in there, just like me. There’s someone in all these walking corpses, watching through the dead eyes, unable to stop the horror. The thought gives me a perverse kind of comfort. I’m not alone in this nightmare. A good chunk of the population is right here beside me.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming from around the bend in the alley. They are falling to fast to be another zombie. It’s someone running. The others with me here all turn towards the sound, just as a young woman comes tearing around the corner. She collides with the lead zombie and crashes to the ground. She screams, and tries to back up, but it’s too late. They fall on her, and my body lumbers in to joint the feast. I feel myself reach out and grab her arm. It feels so soft, so fragile. I scream in horror as my body wrenches it from its socket and brings it up to its mouth.
Sweetness. A taste beyond any I have ever experienced in my living life. My body tears flesh from the young arm in great hunks and swallows them down, as my mind shudders with sensation. The flesh quenches a burning hunger I had barely noticed, but will now never forget. Finished with the arm, I move in once more to the young girl, who has now stopped moving. She’s dead now, I think, so she is out of pain. Plus, she’ll not be able to come back as a zombie if we pick her bones clean. Really, she’s being spared a horrific fate. I tell myself all this and more, but I know I’m just rationalizing. Want I really want now is more flesh. I want to taste it again. Already I can feel a great hunger returning to my body, and I have to silence it. I reach back down and tear out two great handfuls of flesh when, from behind, I hear a noise familiar to any moviegoer in the last thirty years. The distinctive sound of a shotgun being cocked. Then comes the growl
“Get away from her you bastards!”
We turn, and there is a man standing at the mouth of the alley, holding the menacing looking weapon. My body drops the flesh and starts towards the man; I feel it let out a moan of hunger. The first zombie reaches him and a devastating blast echoes around through the alley. It drops, headless and motionless. Here then, is my salvation. The next zombie falls to the harsh bark of his gun, and the one after. I close in, and relief floods me. After this nightmare, I could care less about an afterlife. I just want the sweet relief of unconsciousness. The man waits till I move right in, and I see the disgust on his face. I realize that part of his friend is still hanging from my mouth. He lifts the gun up point blank to my face and pulls the trigger.
The dry click echoes louder than the gunfire, somehow.