Death. It is not something you normally think about. Now that it is upon me, it is the only thing I can think of. I am not fully dead yet, I may have a few hours left.
It started two weeks ago when I came home from school and found Dad hastily packing his travel bag. “Hi, Dad. Are we going somewhere?”
“Hey, Aaron. I’m sorry but this trip there is only room for me and a small bag. I should be back on Friday.”
“Oh,” I loved traveling with Dad. He was a well-known anthropologist and worked for various organizations. We’ve been in some really awesome places together. “Where are you going?”
He was currently bent over his duffle bag, trying to snatch a sweater from the other side of the bed. “Antarctica.”
“What! No way! Dad, you gotta take me.”
He shoved the sweater into the bag and zipped it closed. “I can’t, son. This call came from high up. They won’t allow it.”
“How high up?” I asked, dumping my school books onto the sofa.
“I just got off the phone with the Secretary of Defense five minutes ago. They are sending someone to take me to Suffolk County Air Force Base. I fly out immediately.”
“The United States Secretary of Defense? What does he want with an anthropologist?”
Dad rubbed the balding spot on the back of his head. I used to kid him that he rubbed his own hair away. If I still had tears left, I could cry now, I miss him terribly, and I miss that absentminded way he would scratch his scalp when he was dumfounded.
“Listen, Aaron.” He swallowed hard, then sat down and took my hand. “I have a bad feeling about this and even if I could take you I wouldn’t. I’ve received calls from friends, something bad is happening down there.”
I could see the worry in his faded blue eyes. “Like what?”
“What I know is a tremendous chunk of ice broke off a mountain side and exposed what was once a human settlement. They found human remains and evidence that this settlement was in the middle of an ancient tropical rain forest.”
I shook my head. “But that would mean this settlement was more than 40 million years old? Dad, the oldest human-like bones ever found were carbon dated to be about 3.2 million years old. A discovery like this would change everything!”
“Yes. That may be one reason why the government is keeping a lid on this. The other more serious reason is the original team sent there got sick and stopped reporting in.”
This put a whole new spin on the subject. An ancient virus, if it was able to withstand forty million years in deep freeze and still obliterate a team of scientists could possibly mean a new pandemic. “Why you? Why not the CDC?”
Dad gave me a grim smile. “The CDC is going. Actually Kipp will be with me.” Kipp was a good friend. He worked in the CDC’s biocontainment lab on string viruses like Ebola. They must think it extremely dangerous if they were sending Kipp to set up a mobile containment lab. “Listen, Aaron. Make sure you keep the walkie-talkie active. If something goes wrong, I will send word to you. Will you be alright?”
I did not want him to see me worry or he would worry more. “Of course, I’ll be eighteen in two weeks. I’m an adult now, right?”
An Army Jeep pulled up the driveway. Dad gave me a crushing hug. “Love you, son.”
Dad did not come home Friday. But the walkie-talkie came to life on Friday night. Dad and I took a standard set of old-fashioned units and modernized them. I was able to program the units to bounce off several satellites so we could talk or send messages anywhere in the world. These were not text messages, but encrypted data that printed out of the unit on thermal paper. He wrote that he loved me and followed that with all the data I needed to understand what was happening.
I am sorry, but it is becoming extremely hard for me to write. I can feel my muscles tightening up as something akin to rigor mortis sets in. But I am not dying as fast as the others. Take Mrs. Winston for example. She is shambling past my house as I write these words. Yesterday she was a hard-working woman raising three kids on her own. Today, her movements are jerky as if the very act causes her severe pain.
She now stops directly in front of my house and turns to face me. Her right eye is missing, along with a good chunk of her cheek. Can she smell me? I wonder. If I opened the door, I know she would, and then rush over to eat me. I use the word ‘rush’ loosely because the dead aren’t very fast.
You may be wondering how I got sick if I knew what was happening before the virus spread across the globe. It was really stupidity on my part. I only had enough food to last me three weeks. So engrossed in the news reporting the virus that I failed to prepare myself for survival. I could also blame it on my grief over losing dad, but it really boils down to stupidity.
Our community has it own small grocery store. I had noticed that the dead don’t travel as much around noontime, so I strapped a machete to my back and loaded dad’s shotgun. I made it to the store, filled my bags and was halfway home when they attacked.
Hmm. Not the right choice of words there. The dead don’t attack. They cannot move fast enough for that. I dodged them easily and quickened my pace. Suddenly thirty of them crept out of the nearby woods and shrubs. They neatly cut off my path home. I turned to run, only to face more of them. They had me trapped!
My heart felt like a jackhammer it was thumping so hard as I whipped up the shotgun and pulled the trigger. The shot caught Jonathan Martin in the shoulder. It actually vaporized his arm, but it did not stop him. Nor did the wound bleed. But a thick syrupy puss-like substance did ooze from the wound.
I lost a moment of time in utter shock, then shot Kimberly Raye and Mark and others to no avail! They paused their forward march for the barest moment upon being wounded. I shot Adam Tripp in the face at point-blank range. Headless, the body advanced two steps and fell, spilling yellow gook onto my Reeboks.
Out of ammo I unsheathed the machete and started swinging madly. Unlike a living target the walking dead do not care about being wounded. They do not pause to consider other options. There is no thought process that takes place. They just keep advancing. Sweat pored off me as I frantically fought. Finally out of room to maneuver I dove low between two of the dead. It was during that dive that one of them scratched me although I felt nothing at the time.
The second I cleared their legs I leaped to my feet and ran for my life. I did not look back, not daring to fall victim a second time. Once inside the house I bolted the door and collapsed on the floor and for some unknown reason I began to laugh! Can you imagine? Facing thirty or so dead and then falling into galls of laughter. But my hysteria died with a hiccup when I saw the thin bleeding scratch on my arm!
It was nothing really, thinner than a paper cut and not as deep. Regardless I poured peroxide on the cut, then liberally applied iodine and anything else I could find.
The next day the wound was red and swollen. I remembered I had two bottles of antibiotics in the medicine cabinet that the doctor gave me when I had my wisdom teeth removed two months ago. I read the dose and doubled it! I made sure I followed a strict timetable so no pill was missed. Daily I washed the wound with sea salt and warm water, and made carbonic acid by combining baking soda and white vinegar into a thick paste and applying it.
It worked! “Praise God and all his angels!” I shouted when the cut noticeably shrunk in size and the swelling disappeared, leaving just a thin scabbed line on my arm. The next day I began to feel feverish. My flesh also seemed to change just enough for me to notice. It turned paler and molted.
On the twelfth day I took a razor blade to on of the largest knobs on my arm. I was not surprised to see yellow ooze flow from the wound, nevertheless, I cried as I wiped off the foul smelling goo.
Day thirteen I spend with the shotgun loaded and the cold barrel between my chapped lips. I could not take my life! I could not pull the trigger! Even knowing that I would turn into a monster. It was my mother that stopped me in the end. I remembered the day she died, the day the cancer won. The day she spoke about how sacred life was.
Day fourteen I write this in a spiral notebook that I am going to seal in a dozen bags and tape shut with several rolls of packaging tape. Once that is done, I will place this book in a stainless steel box with the hopes that maybe, one day, someone will find this and understand the danger. Included is a medical transcript of what dad sent to me.
Will it be enough? I hope so. I must go now, I fear my end is near.
See Amazing new discover: Zombie Ants, article on my blog