"Fucking fantastic," I grunted as my foot twisted, caught up in the roots that were littering the only path of this god forsaken forest that wasn't covered with poison ivy.
This whole thing was ridiculous. And I was a moron for trying to go through the woods. I didn't even think that poison ivy grew in Georgia, nevertheless this close to metropolitan Atlanta. But, evidently, I was wrong about the whole thing. Apparently there were a number of things that I was wrong about. I'd been moving on a fast track since the outbreak had begun about three weeks ago.
I'd been sitting in my apartment trying to finish up my twenty page report on the construction and durability of the Ancient Wonders of the World when the announcement had popped onto the television - rudely interrupting the riveting episode of Jerry Springer I'd had on previously. I was a college kid in a cheap ass apartment that really only got the network stations. There was no way that I was paying more money for channels that I would barely get the time to watch.
It didn't matter. Soon I'd be out in my own place. Once I actually made more than a few bucks working at a run-down gun store dealing with clients that would sooner shoot me or jump my bones than actually deal with a woman that knew more about guns than they did. Once I was graduated I'd have an actual adult job where I would be able to pay for anything that I needed. No more midnight pizza runs because I couldn't afford my weekly groceries.
My thoughts of my money troubles were put on hold when a loud siren blasted from the television set. I jumped slightly, nearly knocking my laptop onto to the floor, causing damage that I certainly couldn't pay for. Glancing up at the screen, I saw that the White House logo had appeared. Just when I thought I would see the President making some statement, I was thoroughly surprised; it was the Secretary of Defense. I'd never seen him make a statement before.
With no inclination of what the problem was within fifteen seconds, I went back to my essay. The conversation on the screen was getting far too wordy for my liking. I would have turned it off, but I didn't want to have to hear my neighbors getting a little closer. I was cleaning up the grammar in my conclusion about ten minutes later when I heard the words that would forever change my life, despite not knowing it at the time.
"There are rumors that corpses have been reported as coming back to life and attacking the living. Very little is known at this point. All we can currently say is that you should lock yourselves in your home or find shelter, avoid windows and doors, and avoid all those who have been scratched or bitten. The military is sending out deployments to rectify the situation. Please remain indoors until further notice."
Snorting louder than necessary I turned away from the television and clicked it off. Silence it was. "World could use some cleansing," I muttered under my breath.
Despite my reluctance at believing the situation I felt that it was still better safe than sorry so I rose from my spot on the couch and threw the deadbolts on the door and the windows. They hadn't come with the apartment when I'd first gotten it, but I was more than a little paranoid about people sneaking into my home. I lived in a sketchy part of town and I had had my fair share of encounters with things that went bump in the night. Far too many for someone my age.
No less then ten minutes later my final essay for my college career was completed. I minimized my Microsoft Word document on my computer and went to pull up the Internet when I noticed something strange; the University page on the Internet wasn't coming up. The page wouldn't load and, after trying a few different websites, nothing on my computer was. The screen went blank after I tried to access my bank account and I growled darkly. Dismissing it to a low battery, I ran to get my charger. It still didn't work. The lights on the front panel wouldn't come on.
Shaking my head at myself, I knew that I would have to go to the library to get my damn essay turned in. But it was twenty minutes away and I only had ten minutes until the required submission time. That was what I got for waiting until the last minute. The worst part was that if I was late it meant that I would fail the class. And I was not paying another four hundred dollars to retake it.
The only other option I had besides taking the zero was to call my professor and pray that he was feeling sympathetic. Sucking it up, I pulled out my phone and I checked to see that there was no service. All I got were no bars. Of course there wasn't. Why would I think that anything was going to go right for me today? Trying to connect with my WiFi calling I was greeted with the same answer. There was none. The next thought that ran through my mind was that maybe the cell phone towers were out. It happened every now and again, maybe that would explain the sudden power outage.
No lights in the apartment were on seeing that it was still daytime. I tried the lamp nearest the table that I was working on, but it wasn't working either. Neither were the lights in the kitchen, living room, or bedroom. Complete power outage maybe? But how would that explain the WiFi? The answer; it didn't. They weren't connected, so how were they both out? Either it was a hell of a coincidence or there was something terribly wrong. Maybe I would be excused on the late essay.
But that wouldn't work, my professor was old and by the books. He would never allow a late paper, no matter what the reason. I slowly walked away from my couch and headed over to the control panel that was inlaid in the wall. No matter what switch I checked, nothing worked. Fear began to build in the pit of my stomach. I dashed into the kitchen and began to check my appliances. The refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave; nothing was working. With the heat of the Georgia sun flowing into my living room I could tell that even the air conditioning wasn't working. What the hell was going on?
Running back into the living room, and quite nearly busting my ass as I jumped over the coffee table, I saw that there were multicolored bars on the television screen - a surefire sign that there were no signals going out anywhere; there were no channels that were broadcasting, not even the audio.
In a last ditch effort, I ran to my kitchen counter and pulled out the old fashioned radio that I had gotten at a garage sale in case of an emergency. That didn't work either. There was no music or reports. Nothing on the AM or FM channels were coming through. The only thing that I could hear was an emergency broadcast that was very difficult to interpret.
My hands were shaking as I realized that for once in my life, I had no plan. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I always had a plan for anything that would be thrown at me. A hurricane? All good. Earthquake? Got it. But this time I had nothing. I wasn't even sure what was going on. All I knew was that I wasn't prepared for the dead to come back and eat the living.
Maybe this was a damned dream. But I was in control of my dreams. Right now I wasn't sure what to do. It wasn't really like I had any friends that I could run to, I wasn't really much of a people person; I tended to scare them off with my ever-so-charming personality. Family was even worse. I hadn't spoken to my family in years. I had no idea if the remaining members of my family were even dead or alive. And I really didn't care. They had never done anything for me so why should I do anything for them?
Trying to focus on something else, like my paper deadline that was rapidly approaching, I decided to see if everyone else was having the same problem. There was one person on my floor that I was even mildly comfortable asking for help. So I got up and left the apartment, taking my keys with me. I headed across the hall and gave a gentle knock on the door. It swung open almost immediately.
I was met face to face with my neighbor of the past four years, Carly. "Rain," she greeted, looking very shocked. Not that I was surprised. We rarely spoke, other than to exchange niceties on passing each other in the hall.
"What's up?" she asked, inviting me in.
"I know that we don't know each other that well, but -"
"Don't be ridiculous! We've been neighbors for four years. I'm happy to see you here. I knew that, at some point or another, you'd swing by," she chirped.
Happy as ever. "Listen, my computer is dead and I have my final paper due in about eight minutes. I was wondering if I could try using yours?" I asked.
"Sure! Come on it."
Carly swung open the door and I allowed me fully inside. I'd never been in her apartment before. It was a little bit nicer than mine, and hers had more things in it. I smiled awkwardly and walked over towards her computer. Carly logged it in for me and I plugged in my flash drive. But, just like mine, her Internet wasn't working. Carly was leaning over me and watching me work. She huffed and grabbed the computer from me, trying a few different things. Nothing worked.
"That's odd," Carly said. "I just tried it not long ago and it was working fine."
"Mine, too. Whatever. I'll just call Professor Woods and explain that I couldn't submit it. I've got proof that I tried. Thanks anyways, Carly."
"Sure thing." I turned to leave, but Carly called back to me before I could. "Listen, Rain, we're having a graduation party next week, and I'd love it if you'd come by. I know that you don't always like to hang out with us. Actually, you never hang out with us. But this is the time in life when we're supposed to have friends and enjoy ourselves. Swing by, even for five minutes. Having friends isn't a crime, you know? You need good people in your life."
"Uh, thanks. I'll think about it."
Giving me a quick wave, Carly ushered me out of her apartment and I traipsed back along the hallway to my own apartment. I dropped onto my couch and leaned back, staring up at the ceiling fan, imagining that it was spinning round and round. In reality, I wasn't going to think about coming to the party. My intentions were to graduate, get a good-paying job somewhere, and be left in peace for the rest of my life. Maybe meet some nice, boring, guy and have a normal, apple-pie life.
A loud crash sounded from outside of my window and I was jolted out of my thoughts. My heart was beating out of my chest as I ran to the window to see the most gruesome sight I'd ever laid eyes on. How the hell had this all happened in the few days that I'd been trapped in here with my research? This had to be a dream. There was no way that any of this was real.
Down on the streets a floor below me were people, or, at least, I thought that they were people, that looked like they'd crawled out of a horror movie. They were attacking civilians that were running for their lives. The things that crawled the streets looked almost like normal people. They were covered in dirt and blood with skin chunks falling off of their decaying bodies. Their eyes were a bright yellow and their teeth were black with some type of gunk. They walked with a strange limp, but they were fast enough to corner people.
I'd already seem ten or fifteen people get attacked. Just as I looked down to where I could get a better look at the monsters I saw a small girl, no older than ten, screaming at the door for someone to let her in. My fingers twitched at the buzzer on the side of my window for a moment. Just as I was about to buzz her in, one of the infected popped up on the side of the girl. To my horror, the dead woman bit into the girls shoulder, tearing out a huge chunk of flesh. I swore to myself that I would never forget that girls scream.
It was nothing like screams in horror movies sounded. I watched as a mix of blood, bone, and muscle mass was ripped away from the girl's neck and throat. I tore my gaze away from the window and covered my mouth to keep from screaming. Or maybe vomiting. Would she live or would she die? She'd probably bleed out if no one could get help down to her. Would she become one of them? What had happened to her parents? Was there a chance that they had been bitten before her?
Bracing myself to look out the window again, I turned back to the and forced the bile in my throat back down. On the streets below me were hundreds of the monsters that were eating civilians who were sprawled all over the ground. Some of the monsters were chasing down screaming and crying families who were attempting to flee. I jumped back when I saw the monsters banging on the doors of my building, trying to get in. The gates were strong, but if they were able to tear open the rib-cages of human beings, I knew that the fences would only last so long.
"Fuck," I muttered under my breath.
This was not good. I turned and dashed away from the window, bounding over my old couch and heading to my kitchen. My foot caught over the edge of my couch and I stumbled slightly, just managing to catch myself. I deserved it for trying to look cool. Despite being strong and in-shape, I was never the most coordinated person in the world.
Ignoring my slip-up, I ran into the kitchen and quickly began riffling through my cabinets, shoving the perishable food to the side. I grabbed a few water bottles, a canteen from an old camping trip, a bottle of iodine I'd always had for boil water alerts, canned foods, and a few Slim Jim's (for what reason I wasn't sure, I didn't even like them) and threw it in my industrial-strength Army pack that I used for school. I tossed my books to the side and snorted. Calculus III and College Physics. I wouldn't miss those.
Deciding that I had enough supplies to keep me for now, I sprinted back into my room I threw off my sweats, much to my displeasure. Very rarely did I bother putting on actual clothes other than to go to work or on an occasional date, which were always a waste of time.
Tossing all of my clothes to the side, I grabbed some of my hunting clothes and laid them out. I pulled on my pair of tight hiking shorts, an industrial strength belt, hiking boots with sharp spikes on the toes and heels, and a dark green tank top with a black hat. I pulled my long, straight, blonde hair into a ponytail and pulled it through my hat. Without thinking, I threw a few extra clothes into my pack, some for winter, just in case, and dashed back out of my room, tossing the pack onto my counter.
My mind was racing as I tried to think of what else I would need for my sudden departure. Slamming to a sudden halt, I realized the rampage from outdoors was now outside my apartment. Right outside of my door, not even ten feet from where I was standing I could hear the moans and hisses of the undead, and the screams of their victims. They were in the damn hallway. How the hell did they get up here?
As bile rose in my throat again, I was sure that I was going to vomit. The occasional bang would sound on my door and each time I would jump, fearful that they were about to break in. I assumed that they could either smell me inside the apartment or they had finished in the hallway and were looking for their next meal. Either way, there was no way I was moving from my apartment for a while. Not unless I was forced. I would just have to be ready when the time came to evacuate.
With nothing better to occupy my time until I could leave, I ran over to the second bedroom. I smiled at the one thing I could thank my father for; my endless supply of weapons. He'd always had a strange fascination with weapons, one that he shared with me. Perhaps he had known the end of the world would come one day. Despite the fact that I knew I would want to wait a while before venturing into the hallway, I still wanted to be prepared for a last minute departure if need be. I had to be careful. I was not going to die any time soon.
I picked up two pocket knives of mine, one that I had stolen off a bully from in high school and one that was designed like a motorcycle; a present from my father before everything had gone south and he'd changed. Rummaging lower in the drawers I found my grandfather's bayonet, one that he used in World War II. I'd taken it when he had died more because I'd always had an attachment to the old thing and the stories it held. It would keep me farther away from the undead than the pocket knives would.
Rummaging in the spare closet I took out a few of my guns and extra magazines. I grabbed the Beretta 92, HK, and Springfield; all well-loved guns. I also made sure that I had plenty of extra ammo for them, just in case this wasn't temporary. It certainly wouldn't surprise me. I'd just thought that something like this would come long after I died. From old age. Not from being torn apart by corpses.
Finally I turned to the back wall where my prized possession hung - my old hand-carved bow. The bow was about fifty years old and made of solid oak with delicate flowers carved into the upper and lower limb. I'd gotten it when I was on a family vacation in Africa by a man of the village that we were visiting. He had told me that it was a strong weapon for a strong girl. I smiled when I grabbed it off the wall, along with the sheath of arrows. I decided to bring a few extra arrow cases with me, as well as a small set of throwing knives. Thankfully I knew how to use everything.
What could I say? A single girl living in the city had to know how to protect themselves. Plus I had always liked sharp and pointy things. Guilty as charged.
Moving out of the room with my weapons strapped to me by their sheaths, I retreated to the living room once more. I probably looked a little silly as I pulled them off of myself, realizing that my sudden panic had gotten me to get up off of my ass but I still couldn't go anywhere. I placed the weapons on the table in front of me. At least I was well-prepared.
It sounded like the carnage had come to an end outside, but I refused to move from my apartment. Even if I made it out to my car, there was a good chance the roads would be blocked. I could be stuck if an attack came. There was still the occasional growl from the other side of my wooden door. There was nothing that I could do. I didn't care about my schoolwork and there was no way that I could watch television. So I picked up a book and read until I passed out from the sheer exhaustion of the day.
The next week and a half followed similarly. I hid in my apartment by day watching the streets; every day the undead were spreading out more and more. I assumed that they had already gotten through all of the fresh meat out there. They said that the military would be coming to save everyone but there hadn't been a sign of them. It made my stomach churn with unease. There was no way that they were coming. Not after so long. Not to a shitty little neighborhood like the one that I lived in.
It didn't matter. I knew that this was going to be something that I handled on my own. The days were rough enough, being able to see them. The nights were even worse when I couldn't see them. The noise was even worse. I would read by candlelight and eat as little as possible to ration the small amount of food I had. It was a horribly boring system but it was keeping me alive.
On the twelfth day after the first attacks, when I finally stopped seeing the large amounts of undead that I normally saw littering the streets, I made the decision that terrified me. I decided to attempt to make a break for the woods. Over the last few days, in the rare times that a blurry message over the radio, I'd heard reports occasionally that apparently Atlanta was a safe zone. They were caging in the streets and setting up shelters for anyone that needed a place to stay.
It was more than anything that was being done here. There were other safe zones in the United States, but Atlanta was the closest one to me. Just a few hours drive going around the speed limit. So that was my pathetically empty grand plan; drive to the woods and keep to the woods before making my way on foot to Atlanta. Where I would hopefully make myself a new home.
It would be a long trip. Probably two weeks or so. Maybe longer if I went slow. I attempted to unbolt my door as quietly as I could. It made a soft squeak and I grimaced before pushing it open the rest of the way and stepping into the deserted hallway. The smell was the first thing that hit me; it was horrible. It smelled like rotting flesh, which I guess would probably make sense.
Eyes watering, I turned the corner and held back the cry that threatened to escape my throat. Down the entire hallway were the rotting corpses of the neighbors that I had grown to tolerate over the past four years. Though I may not have liked all of them, no one deserved to die that way. Truthfully I hadn't liked any of them. But that didn't mean that I was happy to see them torn to pieces and knowing that your life was going to end. It wasn't a quick death and it sure as hell didn't seem painless.
Not by the way that everyone had been screaming. I made my way queasily down the hallway and made it to right in front of the stairwell when I felt my heart drop. It was certainly the most unnerving sight I'd ever seen. Carly was lying on the floor with her skin peeled off of her torso. Her guts, mostly half-eaten, were laying on the ground next to her. Though Carly had been way too bubbly for a sane person she had only been twenty-two, my age. It was unfair for her to go that way when she had so much of her life ahead of her. Hell, she'd even been engaged. And she had always been the only person to speak to me.
As I stepped over Carly's body saying a quick prayer, a terrible one at that considering that I hadn't been a religious person, I carefully pushed open the door. Luckily I made it down the stairs, out the lobby, and into my car without encountering any of the undead. Some were wobbling down the streets, but as I walked silently down the street, none were alerted to my position. I hit the engine to start my old Ford truck and the car quickly roared to life. Peeling out of my apartment complex, I was quickly down the road and gone from my old town.
Although there were plenty of things I knew I would miss about the old world - air conditioning in particular - speed limits would never be one of them. I had never been one for the rules and the speed limit was always one of my least favorites. Boy if I could count how many times I'd gotten out of a speeding ticket by batting my eyelashes, crying, and pulling down my shirt. Not that my girlish cries to police officers really mattered any more.
Roaring down the road at almost one hundred miles per hour, I only encountered a few undead. With the speed I was traveling, they were no problem. Most were close to the woods. Very few were lingering in the road. For the day I drove, and then, about thirty miles outside of Atlanta, I pulled off to the side of the road, unloaded my things, and said goodbye to my beloved car.
Gathering my supplies, I headed into the woods where I quickly pulled out the map of Georgia that I'd snatched in a gas station on one of my stops. I figured that it would take me about two weeks to get to Atlanta if I kept a reasonable pace with a few breaks a day to rest, eat, and sleep.
As I moved on that day, I encountered none of the undead. By the end of the day I was more bored than I could ever remember being. I had gone camping plenty of times by myself, but I always had things with me to entertain myself. Music or something like that, hell I would talk to myself. But now I had to be careful making too much noise. It was clear that they were attracted to noise. I would just have to get over it.
With a sigh I decided to settle into a tree that had a decent looking branch for sleeping. I easily hauled myself up into the tree, a habit I'd had since I was a kid, and tied myself and my supplies in. It wasn't comfortable, and I had sticks where they shouldn't be, but it was better than becoming a meal for one of the undead. After a few hours of silently griping to myself about how the apocalypse couldn't have waited until after I'd earned my damn degree, I'd tired myself into a well deserved sleep.
The next morning I woke with a start after a nasty dream about the undead and nearly slipped out of the tree. After roughly yanking myself out of the rope binding me to the tree, I found out why I had been startled. Below me were five of the undead clawing to get to me. The noises must have sunk into my dream. I took a few seconds to thank whatever god was out there that the undead couldn't reach me. Almost dead just because I had tried to get a good night's sleep.
After recovering from my near heart attack, I jumped up and grabbed my bow to take down the undead. Pulling an arrow out of my sheath, I nocked it and pulled back the arrow. I aimed for the first undead's head and took my time to steady my breathing. With a long breath I released and grinned as the undead fell with a thud to the ground. Using the well paid off archery lessons I'd had as a kid, I easily took down the other four at the base of the tree before packing up my gear and deciding to move on.
Bracing my knees for the impact, I jumped out of the tree; seeing as it was a short fall I knew that I would make a safe landing. Grunting as my heavily booted foot hit the ground, I smirked to myself, turned and began the walk toward Atlanta. However, before I'd even taken two steps, I heard a low grunting noise from directly behind me. I turned as fast as I could and shrieked when I realized it was one of the undead; a middle aged man by the looks of it.
Heart racing, I panicked and leaped backwards, grabbing for the small pocket knife that I had in a sheath. After scrambling to flick the knife open, cutting myself on the branches around me, I began to lash out at the approaching figure without aiming. After a few blind hits, I finally managed to hit it directly in the gut, spilling the black organs onto the ground. I gagged at the horrible stench, and in my moment of weakness I forgot my stance.
The undead man took the opportunity to throw its entire weight onto me knocking me onto the ground of the woods. Its guts fell onto me and I had to fight back my scream. I yelled at the disgusting scene and began to thrash my knife at the undead and to my surprise nothing was stopping it no matter where I stabbed. The heart, lungs, spine, side, stomach, or neck - nothing did anything to it. With its jaws almost around my neck, I let out one last long scream and drove my knife into the top of its head.
The struggles on his end stopped and he slumped forward on me. Out of breath and terrified I made the only obvious conclusion; to kill them once and for all you had to destroy the brain. It made sense. They clearly weren't using much else. Shaking and pulling myself up, all of my previous cocky attitude gone, I vomited up the small dinner I'd had the night before. At least I'd made it this long before I'd finally emptied out the contents of my pathetic dinner of canned corn.
I got up to my feet and wiped the rest of my vomit off of myself. It hadn't exactly been something that I was expecting. Staring down at my bloody torso, I shook my head and quickly peeled off the green tank top I was wearing in exchange for a blue one, throwing the green one into the trees. Shakily, I grabbed my things and began off in the direction of Atlanta once more.
The next two weeks went by in a similar fashion. Every day I would sleep in a tree and pray that I woke up the next morning. I would check the area for the undead, eat a small meal, and get walking for Atlanta. Though now I was much more cautious; even the slower and smaller undead I took seriously. I quickly learned that they were sensitive to noise and smell. The only way to kill them was the brain; just the way that I'd figured after my first fight with them. Body shots would slow them down, but not enough. If they were in a pack, you had to make only head shots. Misses were dangerous.
So was the boring, depressing, and gruesome story of how we got here, to me complaining about the roots in the path. I was so irritable because I could see the rooftops of Atlanta now and I knew that my safety was so close. I couldn't help but smile and think to myself that it was so close to being over. I would get to the city where someone would ask me if I was alright or if I wanted a bath. I would be able to make real friends. I would finish up my degree once this thing was taken care of and I would get a good job. I would have the life that I deserved.
Pushing the branches apart, I finally looked over Highway 81 and saw what looked to be a deserted and ruined version of Atlanta. It was supposed to be a safe zone. From the looks of it, Atlanta was deserted and had been for a few weeks. When I took a closer look at the city I noticed something strange. It looked as though the city had been burned. The rooftops were charred and the windows looked to have been blown out on most of the buildings. The ones that were still standing, that is.
They had bombed the city. Who the hell had bombed the city? Certainly not the undead. They couldn't function more than basic actions. After a few moments it hit me; Atlanta must have been bombed. And it wasn't on accident. A bomb was the only thing that would make the city look that way. The undead must have somehow gotten into the city and to prevent the disease from spreading, they'd bombed the city, ignoring the innocent lives they would lose in the process. How could they do that?
"What now?" I mumbled softly to myself. I had no one, no place, and no purpose.
I sat staring at Atlanta for what must have been hours. For a while I started to think that a bullet might be a welcome sight. After turning the loaded gun over in my hand a few times I thought back to the many times in school when people said that I would never amount to anything. When my father had told me that I would never make it on the day that I had left home. Oh yeah, I'll show you, I thought as I slipped the gun back into my holster, ashamed that I had ever thought about killing myself.
That was not something that I was ever going to do. I was better than that. No, I'm not dead for a reason. There had to be a reason that I was still here. With my new-found confidence, I stood up and faced Atlanta. I'd find food, shelter, and in the morning I'd start a hunt for somewhere to live, a place to make a new life. A place where I could find better people than I had had in my old one.
It was everything that I deserved and it was everything that I knew that I was going to get. My life wasn't going to end yet. There were still so many things that I had to do. And with that last thought, I shouldered my pack and headed toward the ruined city, without knowing at all what awaited me there.
A/N: Hey guys! I'm kind of going through a total rewrite of the story, because I really have drastically improved on my writing style, and I want it to show in my original work. So be patient with me while I try and rewrite the majority of the story. The main story will remain the same, just so you know, but it will be fixed up. Please review! Until next time -A