Ten more minutes, and it’s all over. I won’t have to scrape through history with another C- for three months. Just pools, parties, and relaxing from here on out. A grin spreads across my face that even one of Mr. Hathles’ renowned pop-quizzes couldn’t kill. Just ten more minutes, until that ugly, red bell rings, and I’m released from this dank, stinking classroom.
“Johnathan Matep! Are you paying attention?” Mrs. Delsh asks. She is old and angry, her face a constant tomato, her eyes always bulging.
“Nope,” I reply. Who cares if I get in trouble? What is she going to do? Give me detention over the summer? I don’t think so. A few kids chuckle, but stop when Mrs. Delsh throws her icy glare around the classroom.
“You must think yourself very smart, Johnathan, but you’ve just received another two hours of school. I will see you in detention,” she says. Her chin waggles violently as she speaks, spittle flying from her mouth.
“Oh yeah? Well how do you plan on keeping me here? I wouldn’t stay for your ‘detention’ even if it were a plague center!” This strikes a chord with her. Her husband has fallen ill with the dreaded ‘Pale Plague’, a disease that came out of nowhere, and has already killed millions of people. Scientists are working hard to find a cure, but it’s unlike anything ever documented. Heck! They don’t even know how it spreads. People say it will take at least another decade of research. Five years too late to save the world.
Mrs. Delsh gives forth a blood curdling cry, and lunges for me. Her hand comes across my face, her ring catching my cheek. It leaves a small cut, and a large, red imprint of a hand. I’m knocked out of my seat, and onto the floor, where I stare helplessly up into the wrathful face of my furious teacher.
“You had better learn to respect your superiors, or bad things will happen to you,” She says, her eyes blazing. The bell rings as I scramble up to my seat. Everybody rushes out of the classroom, the girls screeching, and the guys whooping. Everybody celebrating, but me. I dodge behind two guys chatting, and make my way out of the room. I sprint for my dark green, mossy locker, and rip it open. Looking back through the crowded hall, I see Mrs. Delsh’s face, watching me. It instills such fear, that all I can think about is grabbing my backpack and running. I don’t even take my phone. I just run. Pushing through a huddle of girls gossiping about the latest songs, I finally find the door. I burst through it, and run the mile home at a speed that would make my gym teacher proud.
I see the welcoming façade of my home, a green door, surrounded by rectangular windows, small hedges beside an elegant stone walkway, a towering chimney tall and proud overlooking everything my parents have worked for their entire lives.
As soon as I arrive, I slam the front door shut and speed up to my room. I throw myself onto my bed and stare up at the ceiling, before surveying my room. Just a dresser, a cluttered closet, a nightstand, and a sea of clothes resting on the floor. I think back to when Mrs. Delsh was watching me. What scared me about her wasn’t the anger in her face. It was the lack of anger. It was like she knew something I didn’t. Like she knew something was going to happen. Like she knew we were all going to die.
The next morning I wake to the sound of sirens and screaming. I ran down the stairs, looking for my parents, who would no doubt be sitting at the table eating breakfast together, but they were not there.
“Mom! Dad!” I call, but I receive no response, save the wail of an ambulance as it hurdles by. What is going on? A flicker of light from the family room tells me the flat screen is on. I stroll into the room, hoping to find one of my parents asleep on the couch. No such luck. The dilapidated brown couch is devoid of anything save stains and age-old pizza crumbs. I turn my attention to the television. That’s odd. Normally my dad wouldn’t stand for the TV to be left on, especially if he weren’t even in the house. That’s when I see it. Rolling across the bottom of the screen.
The Pale Plague Strikes Again: Stragiston, Effusus, Morstead, Ignavuston, Tabesville, and Saevista counties are reporting high levels of contamination. Several thousand casualties and counting. If you are a survivor in one of these counties, please report to the nearest public high-school for evacuation, as soon as possible. Thank you.
My heart bursts. No. No. The plague can’t be here. It’s not true, I think, but as soon as the thoughts form, I know they aren’t true, but it’s all I can do not to break down and cry. How can this be happening? I sink into the couch, drowning in my disbelief, my sorrow, and my fear.
After several minutes I collect my thoughts and begin my hunt for my parents. I search all through the house, but I cannot find a trace of my parents anywhere, save the unmade bed-sheets, and bubbling Mr. Coffee machine.
I’m caught in thought when the door busts open, and four men, clad in black, and carrying rifles enter, guns swerving around the room, searching for an invisible enemy. One races up to me, still standing in the corner of the kitchen, too shocked to move, and pulls out what looks like an iPad with a needle attachment. Another one trains his gun on me, daring me to move, as the needle is inserted into my arm. The screen of the tablet flashes green. The man removes the needle from my bicep, and grabs me roughly by the shoulder.
“Let’s get going boy. We haven’t got all day,” he says, and shoves me out the door. I stumble, falling into another person. An apology begins to form on my lips, but is forgotten upon beholding whom I’ve fallen against. Vicious, oozing bite marks all over their arms, jagged, curling fingernails caked with dirt and blood. Long, wispy, white patches of hair missing from a deformed, greenish scalp. A mouth, with rows of needle sharp teeth. A vacant, hungering gaze, eyes with no color.
It screams. It reaches for me. I can’t move. It grabs me. It’s mouth opens. It’s getting closer. Closer. Closer. I close my eyes, and wait to feel the teeth clamp around my neck, the arms to rip me to pieces. But suddenly a gunshot. I open my eyes to see the limp body of the creature falling away from me, a pus filled hole, oozing across its forehead.
“Kid let’s go! More of ‘em could show up any second!” I sink to the ground, unable to comprehend what has just transpired. I feel myself picked up, and thrown into the back of a matt black van, on top of several other people. I panic. There are more of them! I push myself off, and start swinging wildly. I’m tackled, and brought to the floor by a large man.
“Get a hold of yourself kid!” He screams, spittle flying in my face. I struggle beneath him, and feel a fist come hard across my face. Pain explodes on my cheekbone, and the dimly lit van grows darker, then disappears altogether.
When I come back to my senses, I am being carried out of the van by the man who hit me, and another one of those black clad men with rifles. I see my school over the one of their shoulders.
“What is going on?” I ask. They drop me to the ground, and I stand.
“The end of the world,” the big guy says and begins walking to the front doors of my school, “My name is Buc. We’ve been hit with the plague, but it doesn’t do what the government would have you believe.” I jog to catch up with Buc, and we walk to the front doors of the school.
“It doesn’t kill people?”
“No. It doesn’t. It turns them,” he replies, his eyes darkening.
“What do you mean turns them?
“It doesn’t kill people. It turns them into… Horrible creatures. Horrible, murderous creatures, that kill and eat normal people.”
“WHAT?!” I stop walking. Buc stops too. “Is that what attacked me earlier?”
“Yes. It would have killed you.” Buc resumes walking, and pushes open the doors to Tabesville County Highschool. I follow him in unsuspecting of the carnage that will result.
The room is packed with people, all pushing their way through to their assigned rooms. Buc and I receive ‘Cafeteria’, and are escorted by another armed man, to a large white room, with tables folded against the walls. At least thirty other people are also lounging around the room. I look around, searching for my parents, and find them, my mom slumped against the wall, and my dad kneeling beside her. I dash over to them.
“Mom! Dad!” I call. My dad looks up at me, but instead of relief at my survival, I find myself looking into the blank eyes of a beast. My mom moans, and stands up. Her stomach is missing.
I scream, and everyone looks at my parents and I. They scream too when they see my mother charge, searching for someone to eat. A man slips, falling to the ground, and what was once my mother collapses on him, biting and tearing at his flesh. My mom releases the man, searching in search of a new victim, leaving him writhing and screaming on the ground. But suddenly, he stops. His eyes close, and everything about him is serene. Then his eyes fly open, and he releases the most horrifying scream I have ever heard. He sits up, his head doing a 180 to face me. Another scream. He gets up, and throws himself towards me, and knocks me to the ground. Flops on top of me and tears at my face. A greenish goo lands on the side of my face and the man’s eyes bug out. He grabs my arms, and holds me down, his mouth gaping open poised to end me. But then he is gone. I look to my side, and see Buc, beating on the thing, punch after punch, hook after hook, until its head goes flying, mouth still biting, hoping to find another victim.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” He yells, pulling me off of the ground, urging me to run. We race out of the cafeteria doors, and midstride Buc snags the rifle of a fallen soldier.
“RUN!” Buc screams at the lines of people waiting to be assigned a room. Like a great stampede, the whole crowd turns and runs, shoving their way out the door. Everyone is running as fast as they can. But they aren’t fast enough. The beasts take people down, one by one, the hundreds of people dwindling down to a mere fifty in less than a minute. I know Buc wants to go back and help people, but it would be hopeless. There are too many. The only hope for our own survival is to run. Buc fires over his shoulder, and gets one, but misses three others. He stops. Not enough ammo to be taking pot shots. Buc and keep I running, side by side… Until we’re not. Buc goes down.
One of the creatures crawls onto him. Buc’s gun lies on the ground, just out of his reach.
“Johnathan!” He yells, “Help me!” I pick up the gun. The creature screams, and pauses, ready to tear apart Buc, the man who has saved me from such a fate more than once. I train the gun on the thing, but I can’t do it. Fear rises in my throat, as I glance over the sights to see nearly one hundred zombies closing in. I have to take the shot. I have to do it. I have to save Buc. My finger tightens on the trigger as the animal turns to look at me. I peer into the eyes of Mrs. Delsh, eyes bulging, mouth gaping, needle teeth dripping with blood. Fear overwhelms my senses. I can’t do it. I drop the gun. Mrs. Delsh clamps her mouth around Buc’s neck. He screams, with unimaginable pain, as my teacher rips him apart. I run. As fast as I can.
The ghastly horde of zombies is closing in. I hear a feral yell as the first of many dives for my legs. It misses. Another swings for my shoulder. I feel a long gash torn through my shirt. I know running is hopeless. The army of the turned will catch me. Nothing I do will stop my inevitable fate. Nor the fate I have set for others. I let myself fall. I let the horde consume me. I give into fear. I’m a coward. I must die.