(Disclaimer for the Entire Story: I make no claim to the High School of the Dead franchise, universe, or any of its characters. Any of my own characters in this story belong solely to me, and I reserve all the rights to them.)
Chapter Zero: Brandt – The Infection
First, if you're reading this, you're one of the few still left alive. Why the heck you're reading at a time like this, I have no idea, but it's nice to know that someone will know what happened.
The night before everything ended . . . I stayed up late. It's strange, despite the chaos of that first day, I remember everything as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. Megan says it has to do with the effect stress has on the brain or something. All I know is that if we ever get out of here, I am so coming down with PTSD. We never thought it could get this bad, or that this is what America'd become. To be honest, I don't think anybody did. You go through all those safety drills – fire drills, earthquake safety, lockdown practices – but no one ever tells you what to do in case of an Outbreak. Kinda wish they had. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
My name is Brandt Marks. I wanted to write that. Make sure someone out there knows my name, that 'I was here.' Has to mean something, you know?
I'm a senior, as if that means anything anymore. Before the first Infection, I went to Westlake High, the only public school renowned for its inability to beat almost any other school in sports.
In was the middle of October when it started. You know, that time of year before Halloween, where every mall, supermarket, and thrift store gets ready to run the gauntlet that is the holiday season from October to December. I remember seeing one store setting up Christmas lawn art before Halloween so that early shoppers could pick up an inflatable Santa or a Rudolf with a glowing nose. Honestly, I'll consider myself fortunate to live till Christmas this year, and if I do, I'm more likely to get a box of ammo than the new X-box game. If they even make X-box games anymore. And if anything comes down my chimney, I'm fukcin blowing it to kingdom come. That's Rule 1: No taking chances.
Anyway, I'd just caught a ride from Megan Bennett to get to school. The Bennetts lived a very long way from school, so far they took them an hour and a half to make it on time. Luckily her Mom was awesome and gave me rides whenever I needed a pickup. Megan was that sort of girl-next-door type; insufferably cute, petite, with brown eyes set in a fox-like face, framed by chestnut hair with blond highlights set off by her permanent tan, which was quite the accomplishment for someone living in Seattle, the rainiest city in the world.
Waving goodbye to her mom, Megan and I trooped off to our first class together – English, taught by the dreaded Mrs. Barness. Imagine an overweight troll in flowered print, with a grey-brown bun perched on its head, and you'd have Mrs. Barness to a T. Her one blessing was her amazing inaccuracy at predicting the weather. The school saying was that if Mrs. Barness said it wouldn't happen, you'd see the weather change before the end of the day, as if it just wanted the spite her. The last time she told us it wouldn't snow, we got a week off due to a near-blizzard (by Seattle standards anyway) and the power went out for a week.
We were halfway through some essay on the magnitude of feminism in Jane Eyre, when the loudspeaker crackled into life.
All teachers are to begin lockdown procedures. This is a drill. We will be conducting random sweeps to ensure all procedures are being met. Students will please sit silently in the locked classrooms, away from the doors and windows, with the lights off. Again, this is a drill.
Moving quickly for someone her size, Mrs. Barness motioned for everyone to do as instructed, half-jogging-half-waddling over to the one classroom door to lock it shut. Immediately, the class began to do exactly what any group of middle-class American teens would do in that situation, disobey instructions. Laughing and joking, the class made its way to the back of the room, grateful for the excuse to quit the essay. The only one who wasn't acting as if this was no big deal was Megan, who was already sitting against the cabinets, her eyes drifting between Mrs. Barness and the door. As Barness tried to quiet the others down, I slumped down next to Megan, having to wave my hand to get her attention.
"Hey, what's up? I know you're the only one who actually studied for the test, but you could at least be a little happy for a break"
Taking only and instant to look in my direction, Megan shifted her focus back to the door, her eyebrows creasing as she stared at the three-inch wooden barrier. "They send out emails to the parents every time they have a drill planned, so no parent comes into the building during a practice evacuation and panics that he can't find his kid. Mom always tells us when there's one scheduled, so we know beforehand." Looking him straight in the eye, Megan said "There was no drill set for today. That's why Mrs. Barness is acting nervous, she knows something is wrong."
Shrugging, I tried not to imagine some druggie with a gun staggering through the halls, and said "It's probably nothing. Maybe your mom forgot or didn't get the email. And even if there is a reason, it's not a big deal. The last lockdown we had was because someone dressed all in black walked too close to the school. Turned out it was a frat boy dressed as a ninja who'd gotten lost on his way to a party. Plus, the doors here are thicker than most walls. No one's getting through here."
Of course, that was the moment something decided to ram, very heavily, and very solidly, into the classroom door.
Shrieking, half of the girls jumped against the nearest wall, half of the guys quickly following suit. Mrs. Barness herself huddled into a corner, all semblance of control lost. Whatever it was hit the door again, and again, slamming into the door in an almost rhythmic fashion. The door shuddered under the pressure of the blows, shaking in its frame. Finally, the wood around the lock broke, and the door flew open, the creak of the hinges swallowed by the shrieks of the class.
The first thing I remember thinking was 'What is that smell?' There's a particular odor to an Infected, a combination of old barf, urine, and rot. The thing walked into the room, dragging its left leg as if injured. Seeing an opening, I did the first thing that came to mind – I hit it with a chair.
First, I want to say it wasn't as stupid as it sounded. I mean, you hear about crazy people coming into schools periodically and shooting up classrooms. Adults always talk about the kids who lie down and play dead – the ones who are smart enough to not get killed. I dunno, I just always felt that if someone had done something right off the bat, if someone had a chance to get behind the guy and take him out, they should have. I mean, I was right next to the door, and there was no way anyone could have seen me in the low light. So I grabbed the nearest metal chair, and smashed him over the back with it.
"Brandt!" exclaimed Mrs. Barness in shocked tones, relief warring with horror on her face. I dropped the chair, seeing the blood running down the length of the leg. The guys started crowding me when one of the girls shrieked again. Grabbing chairs as if to copy me, the guys got ready to swing at the next target, wanting to join in what they saw as heroics, but nothing had come through the door. Following the pointing finger of the screaming girl, we all saw what had scared her, and nearly screamed too.
The guy I'd hit was getting back up.
Now I like to think of myself as being a rational and calm person who acts cool under pressure, but I can honestly say that freaked me out. Seeing a guy get up, a huge break in its spine where the chair had hit him, drool and blood pooling along his face, and a huge gaping hole in his neck where it looked like someone had bit him, I was pretty freaked. Then, the thing runs forward and takes a bite out if Mrs. Barness. Oddly enough, people die really quickly if you take a chunk out of their neck. She went out with this odd look on her face – not scared, just . . . surprised I guess. Still, not even she deserved to out that way. I remember hearing the girls (and half the guys) screaming and running out the door like lemmings off a cliff. The fact that Mrs. Barness then got up and started coming towards us probably didn't help either. Her skin had gone all grey, her eyes misting over and foam and blood running from her mouth. The gaping wound from her neck oozed blood, slowly, as her heart stopped beating. At a certain point, your body just floods with adrenaline and you do things on instinct that you wouldn't or couldn't do normally. That's the state I was in right then. So were all the guys standing near to me, what with having seen me break the creep's back and then have him stand back up, bite the teacher, and start lurching towards us. So, logically, we all did what any normal people would do in that situation – every guy who could grab one hit him with a chair. Okay, we weren't thinking clearly, but hey, it kinda worked.
Anyway, I think we broke most of the bones in the thing's body, 'cause it was still moving and all, but it was having a lot of trouble getting more than a few inches. Someone, it might have been me, got in a lucky blow to Mrs. Barness's skull, and she collapsed. Still, considering that the first one still wasn't dead, we all . . . well . . . we screamed like little girls and ran like shit. Not something I'm proud of. Halfway through the door, I hear Megan shriek. Turning, I see the original grabbing her leg, pulling himself forward, his mouth opening and closing. Grabbing the fire extinguisher from the side of the room, I brought it as hard as I could down onto the thing's head, crushing it like an over sized grape. Grabbing Megan by the arm, we bolted for the nearest staircase, and ran into a mass of people trying to get out the same way. Even over the noise in the hall, we could hear the announcements going, "Attention all students and teachers! There is a violent struggle occurring on the school grounds. Students are to stay with their teachers and follow their instructions. I repeat, there is a violent struggle occurring on campus groun . . . Wait. What are you doing? Oh God, no! NOOOOO! Ahhhhh! Help meee . . . ." Shocked, the mass of people froze at the screams, sudden realization of what was going on dawning on everyone. Hearing screams from below, everyone tried to force their way back up, pushing us ahead of them as wave upon wave of panicked high schoolers and staff roared past us. Seeing one of the janitor's doors that led to the roof of the school, we ducked in there, locking the door behind us, and climbed a ladder up to a hatch that led onto the roof. Helping Megan out, I looked around; trying to see what was going on.
Smoke was rising from all over the place as screams echoed across the school grounds. I looked over at the soccer field just in time to see three of those 'things' jump onto Mr. Geldwin, the P.E. teacher. Watching in horror, I saw as one of 'them' bit him and he screamed, blood pooling from the wound in his neck, until he collapsed, dead. And then, he got up and started wandering towards the school.
"What's going on?" shrieked Megan as Mr. Geldwin, or what used to be him anyway, joined a group of 'them' moving towards the school. Screams erupted as 'they' fell onto students. Megan and I stood up there, safe, as we watched them turn whoever they caught into monsters just like them. Within minutes, hundreds of those things were wandering the school grounds, looking for anyone stupid enough to give themselves away. Looking at each other, we knew there was only one thing they could be, yet neither of us said it. We just stood there, hoping against hope that if we just didn't say it, they'd all go away. To be straight though, I'd guessed what they were as soon as they first one had stood back up – zombies. I mean, there are thousands of movies about zombies, but they never seemed as bad as this. Maybe it was the smell, the rancid waft of rotting flesh that did it, or the way they tore strips of flesh from the bodies of their victims. Whatever it was, there was no sign of it ending any time soon. And we were stuck, on a roof, with no food, water, or shelter. Yeah, we were screwed.
Flipping open my cell phone, I dialed 911, only to get a computerized message that "This is a recording. We at the 911 emergency line are held up at the moment. If after calling again, we still can't receive you call, please wait and call again later. Again, this is a recording . . . ." Swearing, I tried calling anyone I could, but none of my calls went through. Heck, anyone who could still answer their phones was probably too busy to bother.
"You get anyone?" asked Megan, who had her own cell held up to the side of her head.
"No. Not even 911 is answering. Everyone and their dog has to be calling them about the fact the dead are getting up and walking. You?"
"I'm trying to get through to my mom. She works from home, she might not even know what's going on yet." Looking down at her phone, she scowled and clicked it shut, "There's no bars anymore. Either someone ran into a cell tower trying to get away from those things, or they're managed to take over a power plant. What now?"
Collapsing onto the roof, I stared up at the sky. For the end of the world, it was sunny and clear without a cloud in the sky. Considering how often it rains here, the chances of it being sunny on the day a zombie plague breaks out were about as high as the Mariners winning the World Series. Almost as if someone up there wanted to make sure we got to see the whole thing. Basically one giant middle finger straight from God. Great. "We need to think," I said, half-hoping that if I said it aloud, it'd get a little easier, "We're being attack by zombies. We're stuck on the roof of the school, with no food, water, or electricity."
Grabbing Megan's hand, I dragged her across the roof, moving towards the other end of the school.
"What are you doing?" she asked, only a slight crack in her voice indicating how scared she must have been.
"We can't stay up here forever," I answered, "We need to get the heck out of here and find out what's going on. That, or find some food and a better place to hide." Jumping down from a three foot ledge, we made our way across the roof of the main hall to the top of the lunch room. Carefully stepping onto the curved dome, we slowly made our way cross the metal girding, crawling for fear of falling to our deaths. We finally made it to a flat section again, managing to make it all the way to the auxiliary building. Clambering over the roof, I looked up in time to see a flight of jets streak off towards downtown. As I watched them streak overhead, I wondered – what was the rest of the world doing right now? Probably trying to figure out how to nuke each other. Climbing down another ladder, we made it into another Janitor's closet. Peeking out from behind the door, we found the hallway deserted. Moving as quietly as possible, we moved down the hall towards the shop class. I mean, come on. During a zombie attack, where better to go than the one room filled with sharp implements and power tools? We'd made it about five feet down the hall before we heard rustling behind us. Breaking into a run, we heard them coming after us as we bolted for the door. Finding it unlocked, we dived inside, slamming the door shut behind us, only to find that it didn't lock without a key. We were royally screwed.
Our world as we knew it has been completely destroyed.