by Stephanie Plotkin
There was only one thing I knew: I wouldn’t, I couldn’t become one of them.
I panted, running faster than I ever thought my legs capable. Terrence already had passed me and turned his head to make sure I was still behind him. The pain in my arm radiated like fire, burning through my muscles and making it hard to breathe. “We…need to…stop,” I breathed, gasping. “We need to find a place….” I trailed off, barely able to talk through my shuddering attempts at catching my breath.
Terrence shook his head. “I always thought zombies would be slow! We’ll never make it far enough to find a place to hide.” He was already gaining so much distance from me, and I knew why he wasn’t anxious to remain close.
As we ran, I could hear the wails, inhuman and grating. I refused to sound like that. How could anything human make that kind of noise? I pumped my legs in panic – I wasn’t eager to join the mass behind me. I refused to look back and see the glazed eyes of my friends staring blankly back. Theresa, Jordan…practically the whole junior class of Spartan High was part of the mob following us.
My arm ached and now my neck felt stiff. The rational side of my brain kept thinking of infection: it scolded me for not immediately covering the wound in Bactine. Or going to the hospital. But there was no rational answer anymore. There was nothing anyone could do about a bite from the living dead. The only prescription was a bullet to the brain, and I wasn’t eager to follow doctor’s orders on that one.
Terrence turned a corner and entered an alley. There was a door with an old handle that looked like it hadn’t been touched in decades. “Through here!” He turned the knob but it wouldn’t budge. Terrence backed up and slammed his shoulder into the center of the door and it flung open, making him trip into the room. “Oh, wow!” he exclaimed. I followed him in and what I saw surprised me: a whole room full of dusty tomes, covered in cobwebs. It looked like a secret library. The me before all this would have been impressed, but the me now just wanted to sit down and rest. And I was hungry. I was so so hungry.
“Terrence, see if there’s anything canned to eat in here. I think I’m just going to rest against the wall.” I slid down to the floor, exhaustion taking hold. I tried to wipe the film from my eyes: it seemed like the room was fuzzy, like I was looking through warped glass. Terrence stared at me. “Well, what are you waiting for? The apocalypse?? I’m pretty sure it’s here!” I wanted to cry but my eyes weren’t cooperating.
He stared at me, his mouth hanging in shock. “What?” I asked. “I’m not having the best day, so if something is hanging out of my nose, I’d prefer you ignore it this once.”
“Carrie, are you ok? You look…funny.”
“Well, you aren’t looking so hot yourself.”
“No, seriously, your eyes look…weird. Like their eyes.” He backed up slowly and sat down against one of the many rows of books. “I know you were bit. I was there. I didn’t want to talk about it right then, but shouldn’t we talk about it now?”
“What’s there to talk about?” I asked. “I refuse to become one of them. Besides, we don’t know if that’s what’s going on here. You think all those people are zombies?? Like from the movies?” I knew the answer but I was stalling. Maybe if I convinced him that we were dealing with a different monster, he would leave me alone and I could continue to deny what was happening to me. “I heard you call them zombies, but there’s no such thing. I’m sure it’s a virus or something science can explain! I REFUSE to believe in Dawn of the Dead BULLSHIT!! It was a crappy movie anyway!!” At this point, I could feel the panic, I could feel the fear, but mostly I could feel the hunger. But I wasn’t about to tell Terrence that: he was looking down at his father’s pistol, the one thing he thought to stop and grab during our sprint through the streets. “I’m telling you, Terrence, I’m fine, just a little hungry and tired.” I held my breath, hoping he wasn’t about to turn that thing on me.
He looked up at me then. “You’re right, Carrie. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. We don’t know what…this…is. That horde of zom…I mean…people just freaked me out is all.”
“I get it, and it freaked me out, too. Why don’t you just look for something to eat, and I’m just going to rest for a minute.” I hoped he believed me. I wouldn’t become one of them. I refused to lose myself. I attempted to redress the wound on my arm to staunch the bleeding, but it seemed to continue to bleed as if the wound was fresh. I’d lost a lot of blood, and I was scared and tired. And so, so hungry.
“We’ll take shifts,” I started to say, but I couldn’t fight closing my eyes. “If you can just take the first…” I slipped into unconsciousness, and it was bliss. I was tired of fighting the fatigue. I dreamed of my mom, and my sister, and…
Terrence looked down at Carrie’s body, now limp as a rag doll. His hands were shaking. He had watched Carrie close her eyes, watched her fall asleep, watched her stop breathing.
He watched as her eyes began to open again, the film completely covering her once vibrant blue irises. He heard the sounds of moaning start up, and he instinctively took aim and pulled the trigger.
He wouldn’t let her become one of them. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t.
Stephanie Plotkin, or TeacherofYA as she’s become known to her readers and friends, is a high school English teacher and graduate of Grand Valley State University. When she’s not blogging about YA literature to help parents and teachers find appropriate material for their children, she’s reading YA science fiction and fantasy for fun. She also enjoys writing about herself in the third person for bios!
Please feel free to visit her blog at https://teacherofya.wordpress.com or say hi on Twitter @TeacherofYA. There’s also her Instagram, which is all about books, @teacher_of_ya.
When not talking about books, she’s writing them. One day she will finish NaNoWriMo and publish a bestseller. And become a millionaire. Not necessarily in that order.