About two weeks ago, according to the news and a lot of gossip, a virus appeared in the major cities of the United States. From there, it spread rapidly throughout the country. I’m not sure if it started here or somewhere else. The government stepped in with plans to stop the spread of the virus, but it was too late. By the time the bureaucrats finally decided what to do, it spread from the large cities to smaller ones until entire states were on blackout. The first states to succumb were California, Florida, Hawaii, New York, and Washington D.C.

At first, the virus looked like another strain of the flu. Then people started to die.  But that part wasn’t as strange as it became. The people who died? They woke up. I’m not kidding. They got up and started attacking other people.

Just before New York went into blackout, my math teacher’s wife came back to Wild Horse. She was visiting her family for the holidays. Everyone thought she was able to get out of the state before she contracted the virus. Everyone was wrong.

Mr. Abernathy brought her home a couple of days ago and she was already showing signs of being sick. She was even coughing up blood. By the end of the day, she was dead. Mr. Abernathy didn’t show up to school last week, which is understandable.

Yesterday, Mrs. Delany started getting sick. From what I understand, her husband was sick as well. I was in the classroom with her when she died.

She was giving us a lecture about flower physiology. Right in the middle of her lecture, she sort of stiffened. Her whole body straightened up like she was being shocked. Her eyes rolled up into her head. And suddenly she crumpled. It was almost like watching a piece of paper being wadded up from the bottom. Her legs folded up then her abdomen and finally her chest and she was down.

The whole class was in shock. No one said anything for what felt like an eternity. We just stared at her. Everyone seemed to be waiting for her to get back up but from where I sat I could tell that she was dead. I’m not sure just how I knew. Maybe it was that her chest wasn’t moving. Or the fact her body was completely still. Or possibly there was a spark that gave people a sense of life that was completely missing. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that she was dead. And that she died right in front of us.

Someone screamed. That first scream started a chain reaction until all of us were screaming and crying. Mrs. Delany wasn’t the most popular teacher, probably due to her subject mixed with a little bit of her stern personality, but she was someone everyone knew. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was, we would have reacted in the same way. Death can do that to people. Especially when the person was talking a second before they died.

Suddenly people were scraping their chairs across the floor as they raced for the door. It was pandemonium. The screams changed from shock to pain as students shoved, punched, stepped on, and kicked each other in their attempt to leave. Only a few students stayed in their seats. I was one of them.

Mrs. Donovan, the school principal, along with her evil cronies, piled through the throng of rampaging students only to freeze a few feet past the crowd. Their eyes roved over the last of the fleeing students, those of us who were still sitting at our desks, and the corpse on the floor. In a heartbeat, Mrs. Donovan was crouched next to Mrs. Delany. The secretary helped push the body over so that they could see her face. Mrs. Donovan’s fingers pressed against Mrs. Delany’s throat in an effort to find a heartbeat.

It was apparent that Mrs. Donovan wouldn’t find one. Her body told me what I already knew. She leaned back, pushing a stray gray hair back toward the bun at the nape of her neck, and looked at the remainder of the students. I don’t know why she focused on me, but when her eyes landed on my face, they narrowed.

“Cleopatra,” She started, considering me over the thick rims of her glasses, “what happened?”

I was painfully aware that all eyes were on me. Those of the lingering students, Mrs. Donovan, the secretary, the vice principal, and two teacher’s aides… they were all staring at me, waiting for an answer.

I swallowed, trying to force moisture into my suddenly dry mouth. “I don’t know.” Once opened, my mouth wouldn’t stop moving. “She was telling us about the flowers and she kept coughing. I thought she had a cold or something. Then she stopped. Stopped talking, coughing, everything. She just stopped. Then she straightened up, like she was getting hit by electricity and she dropped.” Tears gathered in my eyes, blurring the image of the gray-haired woman in front of me.

Mrs. Donovan straightened and nodded to one of the aides. He jogged from the almost empty classroom. After the aide left, she walked over to me. In an act of kindness I never would have thought her capable of, she put her hand on my shoulder and squeezed.

“I am sorry, kids.” She said, raising her voice like she did when we were in the gym waiting for one of her announcements. “Please come with me to the main office. You will be allowed to call your parents and arrange for rides home. Before you go home, I am certain the police would like to ask you some questions.”

My gut clenched at the thought of the police, but I obligingly got out of my chair and grabbed my messenger bag. I shoved my textbook into it before following my fellow students from the room, ushered by Mrs. Donovan and her cronies. I was fairly certain that the teacher dying would not make us exempt from the paper we needed to turn in by Monday.

It took several more hours before the police finally showed up. At first, it was just one officer who had to question several of us kids while Mrs. Donovan rounded up the other students who fled the room. It took even longer for more police officers to arrive and most of them looked exhausted. It wasn’t surprising, since last Wednesday sirens were being heard throughout town. There was an official curfew in place by the government at that point. People were only supposed to leave their homes to go to school or work. At breakfast, my parents told me that the government was considering cancelling the schools until the threat of the virus was gone. So maybe my paper wouldn’t be due.

By the time I was allowed to call my parents, I felt like I repeated my story often enough that I would be repeating it in my sleep. My throat burned and my voice was cracking from the interrogations. I would tell one police officer the story, then another would arrive and I would be asked to start all over again. I am pretty sure that by the end of the interrogation, every cop in the state heard my version of events.

There was no answer from either of my parents. Either the line would cut to a dial tone or the phone would be busy. Most of the other kids had left already and there was just me and one other girl. School let out shortly after the police arrived. After leaving another voice-mail for my parents, Mrs. Donovan herself offered to drive us to our homes. I really didn’t want to stay another moment in the school. But I also didn’t want to walk home with just my thoughts to occupy me.

In a way, the drive was worse. We were forced to listen to her take on the five stages of grief. According to Mrs. Donovan, we were both in denial. Maybe I was. I honestly kept hoping someone would tell me that it was a joke, and Mrs. Delany would be back to her usual stern self. At the same time, I knew what I saw and I knew it was real.

Finally, she pulled into my parents’ driveway. The other girl lived on a ranch well outside town. Neither of my parents’ cars were there. My parents’ bedroom windows were cloaked with curtains telling me that my dad wasn’t home yet. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and a painful lump formed in my throat.

Mrs. Donovan stopped me as I reached for the door latch. “Cleopatra.” Her face was grave but sincere. “There was nothing you could do to help Mrs. Delany. You understand that, right?”

Thinking of nothing to say, I nodded and climbed from her Explorer. The sound of the car backing up and speeding off down the road met my ears before I reached the front porch to the house.

Other than my border collie, Anubis, the house was empty. He snuffled at my legs as I stepped into the house. I leaned back to push the door closed and almost dropped my messenger bag into the turtle tank. Remembering that it was there, I turned into the living room and dropped the bag onto the couch before grabbing the turtle’s food from the shelf across the room. The doves in the hanging cage cooed at me as I passed them. Feeding the turtles done, I tried again to reach my parents with the house phone. Again, busy signals reached my ears.

After a few moments, I started thinking about what happened again. In my mind’s eye, I watched Mrs. Delany crumple to the linoleum floor, mid-speech. Sighing, I pushed myself off the couch and made my way through the kitchen and the dining room to my bedroom. Tossing my messenger bag onto my dresser, I turned on the stereo. I flopped onto my bed and tried to force my tense body to relax.

Anubis leapt onto the bed next me. As if he understood that something was wrong, he dug his way under my arm until he could curl up against my chest with my arm draped over him. I tried to concentrate on the lyrics and sounds that came from the speakers hoping to keep my mind on that instead of what I witnessed at school.

It wasn’t long before I heard the siren. I wasn’t startled though. Sirens happen, especially lately. It didn’t seem like an hour would go by without a siren or two going off. I tried to ignore it, but the sirens began to battle with the sounds coming from my speakers. I turned the stereo louder, trying to drown the sirens out and glanced at the clock on my night stand. It was a little after six.

I stared at the clock, thinking I was misreading it. My mom should have been home by half after five. I could hear a siren come up the road out front and stop right outside the house. I turned my music back down and straightened up, my stomach clenching with worry. Were the police coming here? Did something happen to my mom?

I waited for what seemed like eternity for the knock that would herald bad news, but nothing happened. After a few minutes, Anubis sat up. His ears rotated as he listened to something I couldn’t hear. Suddenly his head turned back over my arm toward the front of the house.

I thought I heard someone cry out, followed by the sound of a gun going off. The sounds launched me from the edge of my bed, slamming my finger against the power button of my stereo. The world went silent except from the sounds of the sirens. I couldn’t hear anything beyond them.

I can imagine now that the sirens were in response to people becoming seriously ill or dying. I mean, our town was not large by any means. I honestly don’t know the population number, but I know that it was one of the smaller communities in the state.

The local police force was manned by seven police officers in total. The fire department consisted of around ten people, and as far as I knew, there were only four EMTs to operate the ambulances. But from the continuous sounds of the sirens, it was obvious all rescue personnel were out dealing with what was happening.

I went back to the living room and tried to call my parents’ cell phones again. Again, I left messages before trying their work phones, only to hang up on busy signals. It was during the second attempt to contact the retirement home where my mom worked when the power went out. The siren across the street sounded louder than it had only a moment before.

Anubis began to growl. The sound sent a chill over my body. Anubis almost never growled, unless he was afraid of something. But this was different. It was deeper and more menacing. He moved to stand in front of the door. His lips lifted to reveal glistening fangs. His hackles were raised, lining his entire back from shoulder blades to base of tail. And I could swear his tail was fluffed like a cat’s.

Something slammed hard enough into the door that several hanging pictures were dislodged and clattered into the turtle tank. I screamed and jumped away from the front door. Anubis’ growl deepened.

I edged my way to the windows at the front of the house, trying to see what was on the porch. But just before I was in position, a face appeared on the other side of the glass. I jumped back and my calves hit the coffee table making it scrape against the floor. I froze mostly out of terror, my heart thundering heavily in my throat. When I started to see the details of the face, I gasped.

The face belonged to a woman. A badly mutilated woman. From what I could see, something ate half of her face. Blood was still oozing from the torn skin. Her dark eyes were glazed and unfocused. She opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but she didn’t make a sound.

Instead, she dragged her face across the glass, her tongue whipping out to lick at it. She stood that way for several minutes, her head moving back and forth as she continued to test the glass. As she did, I tried to remember why she looked familiar. Then I had it. She lived across the street with her husband and mother-in-law.

Anubis growled again and I squeaked, promptly sitting down on the coffee table still resting against my legs.

The woman outside tilted her head before she opened her mouth wider and let out a strange shriek that chilled my entire body. She lunged for the window and somehow misgauged the distance, slamming instead against the wall closer to the door. The wall rattled again, but the pictures were already in the tank. I tried to remember how to breathe, still perched on the edge of the coffee table.

“Anubis!” I hissed, holding a finger up to my mouth. “Shh!”

I turned my back on her, my stomach feeling like it was going to shrivel into a prune. I knew it wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be. My mind was already doing the math. The news of the virus. The sudden deaths all over the country. The neighbor woman with her face eaten away. I wanted to turn my mind off before it came to the only conclusion there was. But it was too late.

Zombies.

Somehow, someway, zombies were real. Everyone in town was falling victim to them. The steady blare of the sirens, and the lasting power outage, were proof of that. But why wasn’t that being shown on the news? We watched the news while we ate breakfast and there was nothing about the people who died rising to eat the living.

It meant I wouldn’t be safe for long, even with Anubis and four walls to protect me. I knew from movies that sooner or later the zombies would get in, especially if there were more out there.

Slowly, I realized that though I could see the creature in front of my window, it didn’t seem to be able to see me. I was assisted by the light of the moon and the flickering light from the strobe on top of the police car. Where I was in the house was dark, but it almost felt as though it was more to it than the house being dark. I moved closer to the window, trying to be careful about knocking into anything.

After a moment, we were only a few inches apart. She went back to testing the window with her face and tongue, smearing the dark blood onto the glass with each movement. I was trying to see into her dark eyes, but there wasn’t enough light. She stopped moving and I stopped my mimic. She let out another shriek that sent me tumbling backwards off the couch.

I was suddenly sitting on the floor with my back against the hard edge of the coffee table. I guessed that she could probably hear Anubis growling, and maybe my breathing, but she wasn’t able to see where the sounds were coming from.

The first thing I needed to do was lock the door. There were two locks, the one on the doorknob and another twisting one further up. I needed to lock both of them. I didn’t know if the zombie outside would remember how to use a doorknob, but I wasn’t going to take the chance. Moving carefully toward the door, I tried to keep the woman in my vision. I stumbled into something that caused me to give a startled yelp. At the same time, Anubis turned and gave me a baleful glare and a threatening growl before realizing who I was. His tail instantly dropped as if he expected me to yell at him for his infraction. The woman vanished from the window. I reached out a shaking hand and patted his silky head as I maneuvered past him.

A second later, the zombie outside slammed against the door. I lurched back thinking the door would spring open with the force of the blow. It didn’t. I turned the lock as the creature struck at the door again. I twisted the bolt home and hoped that my parents wouldn’t need to get inside. I doubted that would happen unless they made it past the zombie on the porch.

After a few more attempts of trying to break the door in, the zombie gave up. I watched it stagger down the steps and through the gate. It headed for the street before vanishing from my field of vision. My whole body seemed to relax the moment she vanished and I sagged limply against the door.

Anubis stopped growling and sank to the ground with a sigh of his own. He stayed near the door as I fished the pictures from the turtle tank and put them on a bookshelf. I would dry them later.

I settled myself on the floor next to Anubis, bracing my back against the wall across from the front door. I patted his head again. “Good boy.” I whispered, stroking the smooth fur around his ears. He rolled his eyes to look up at me, his muzzle settled between his front paws.

I needed a plan. I stared at the door, my fingers entwined in Anubis’ fur. It was while we were seated like that that I noticed the crack in the door frame. It wasn’t very apparent, but it was definitely there. I wouldn’t be able to stay in the house for very much longer if the zombies kept pounding on it.

I also needed to figure out what was going on around town. Was I the only living person left? Were there others? Then there were the zombies. Were they like the zombies of the movies? Mindless, flesh-eating things that shambled around until prey came within their grasp? Would they be able to run? Did they think? Remember their past lives? And what about my parents? Were they ok? Would they come for me? Or would they wait at their work for me to come to them? Did we have a planned meeting spot in case of town-wide emergencies?

Everything seemed so unreal. Maybe I was dreaming. If so, it was a really messed up dream. I pinched my arm to see what would happen. Other than the brief flash of pain, nothing. The world didn’t fade and vanish. There was no blurring of the scene, or me sitting up in bed and yawning. It was real. My stomach clenched tight enough that I gasped. What was I supposed to do?

Anubis and I sat like that for a long time as my thoughts went in ever growing circles. My fingers twisted into the soft black and white fur of his neck. The siren across the street was starting to become annoying. But I doubted that there was anyone left, besides me, who would be able to turn it off.

Somehow I fell asleep. The sound of something thudding against the back door jerked my head from my chest. For a moment, I couldn’t remember what woke me up or why I was sitting on the floor in the living room. Anubis was gone. The sound of his growls told me where he was, though. When the zombie struck the back door a second time, I was on my feet and racing for the rear of the house.

Somehow, the door was starting to open as I reached it. I threw myself at the solid white portal and the impact jarred the breath from my lungs. Fighting to breathe, I fumbled the chain between numb fingers before I slid it home. A split second after I did, the door was shoved open hard enough that I stumbled several steps into the dining room.

A pale hand appeared in the gap between the door and frame. It moved like it was either trying to grab something or searching. The nauseating smell of blood and meat gusted into the room causing me to cover my mouth as my stomach heaved.

Anubis went wild. Fierce barks erupted from his slight frame, broken only by thunderous growls. Almost as if he realized that his warnings were going unheard, he launched himself at the hand. His teeth sank into the flesh and he hung while the hand still groped around. The zombie didn’t seem to notice at first, but then the hand started jerking, almost like it was trying to shake Anubis off.

The zombie on the other side of the door let out a piercing shriek. It was the woman from the front porch. She jerked her hand, trying to pull it back through the door. Anubis’ head stopped her hand from slipping back outside. His head crashed against the frame several times before he released his grip and dropped to the floor. The moment the hand vanished, I threw myself against the door, snapping it closed. I twisted the lock on the doorknob as quickly as I could.

The zombie was still shrieking behind the door, but it couldn’t get in. Relief and exhaustion warred for possession of my body.

I don’t know how I managed it, but I stayed up the rest of the night last night. My eyes feel like they are on fire as I write this. I see the sun coming over the mountains and I can’t help but feel a sense of hope. Maybe I can get through this. Maybe I will find my parents and we can find others. Maybe there is a place that is completely safe, where we can go and survive the apocalypse.

I doubt I’m that lucky.

Go Back to Cleopatra’s Journal – or – Go to Day 2

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Comments
  1. rmactsc says:

    Looking forward to reading more.

  2. cb says:

    Reblogged this on Contrafactual and commented:
    Another serialized zombie novel I am reading …

    cb

  3. cb says:

    “The staters were based in the same town my dad worked in.”

    State Highway Patrol

    Colorado uses the term staters I guess Montana this too. Texas and Florida don’t. I wonder how many states use this term.

    • Cat Reyes says:

      So do Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, etc. Most western states. I lived in Oregon most my life. The story is based in Montana. So the characters are going to use the regional dialect. 🙂 Actually, many of the cop shows that I watch use the terms ‘staters’ and ‘staties’ interchangeably.

  4. How did I not find your blog sooner?
    This is amazing!
    -Blaze

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