Prologue: The World Is Dead
The first time Caroline Forbes figures the world is ending is in the middle of the night.
She's normally a heavy sleeper. It'll take a whole army and navy for her eyes to even flicker, but somehow she wakes up because of the faintest noise. It's not under her bed, it's not in her closet, it's not out the window. It's just outside her door.
She swings her legs off the mattress and slides into her slippers and starts for the door.
The noise stops. Silence so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
She locks her door just for safe measure. She turns around and crawls back into bed, settling back down on her pillow. Her eyes shut. Slowly she's drifting off again. Slowly her mind starts to shut down. Slowly...
There is an ear piercing scream coming from the opposite side of the hallway. She shoots up in bed, her heart beating in her ears. It's a burglar. Her mom. Why didn't the alarm go off? Oh, that's right. Her mom's the sheriff, why would they need an alarm system?
She pads across the room and gets her tennis racquet out of her closet. She picks up the landline and starts to dial 9-1-1, but she gets nothing. The line is dead. No electricity. Bastard must've cut off the power outside.
"For Christ's sake," she groans under her breath. Of all the people to rob, it has to be her family. It isn't like they have something of value.
But still. it's happening. She grabs her cell, and luckily there's a signal. She punches in the number and it just keeps ringing. Ring. Ring. Ring. No operator. She's waiting for an answering machine to come on, something, but nothing. Just eternal ringing.
Now she's panicking. She drops her phone on the bed and dashes over to the door, one hand on the knob and her other hand firmly around the tennis racquet. Her mother could be hurt. Her mother could be dead. But she didn't hear any struggling. Just a scream. A sharp shriek. Like surprise. Yeah. That's what it was. Her mother was just surprised. Not in pain. Not hurting. She just needs to open the door and get a good peek out of it. That'll confirm everything and she'll be able to help, even though there will be nothing to help with because her mother is fine. She is fine.
She unlocks the door slowly, anxiously listening to the click of the lock. She turns the knob and backs away from it. She bites down on her lip as the door cracks open, revealing the darkened hallway. Her mother keeps the hall light on during the night, but the power is out. Right.
"Whoever is out there I have a gun," she warns even though she doesn't. She wishes she did, but in all actuality, she doesn't even know how to shoot. She'll probably end up blowing her brains out if she pulled the trigger.
"I'm warning you," she says again. Her voice is shaking, her breath is rattling in her throat, her palms are sweaty and the racquet can barely stay in her hand. "I know how to use it."
And the award for Biggest Liar goes to Caroline Forbes. She's too scared to give her acceptance speech right now, though.
There is nothing but silence. She opens the door wider and reaches for the light flicker on the wall, but then she remembers again that there is no power. With her only source of light the tiny bit of moonshine that's coming out of her bedroom, she's basically completely blind. She takes a step forward, praying that the floor doesn't creek beneath her. But it does. Oh, how it does. If only Bill had uprooted the flooring like he promised when she was ten. Goddammit. Now she was going to be found out and gagged and raped and bound to the freaking furnace to rot until someone found her. Of freaking course. That's what happened in all those burglary stories, right? No? Well, she could be a little melodramatic.
She calls out a gun, warning that she has a gun even though if the intruder is watching her they can clearly see that all she is wielding a tennis racquet unless she somehow is hiding a gun in her nightie. She calls for her mother, but she doesn't answer. She just hears silence. She moves over to the banister and touches it before immediately snatching her hand back.
What the fuck is that?
Her hand is wet and sticky and she brings it to her nose and god! What the hell did this guy bring in that smells like rotting flesh and piss and shit? She wipes her hand on her nightie and tries to shake the stench out of her nostrils, but it's everywhere. Literally everywhere. She can't even breathe without it suffocating her. It's like a freaking corpse just decided to waltz on into her house and dance around a bit.
But there isn't any time for jokes. She has to figure out if her mother is all right, which she is. She keeps telling herself that. Nothing is wrong with her. She's just-
"Mom?" Caroline's voice is merely a whisper. A whimper. It's a little prayer to whoever is sitting up in the sky on a big throne because holy hell she needs a little heavenly intervention right now.
She's standing in the doorway, her heart is racing, and the room is so dark but she can see it. She can see it as if it's bright as day outside.
The bed, her mother's bed, is covered in blood and other things she doesn't even want to think about. There is blood everywhere. Everything she can lay her eyes on is covered in crimson.
But that's not the surprising part. It's not the part that makes her nearly piss herself. It's not the part that wishes she could have paid a little bit more attention to Jeremy Gilbert playing those god awful video games. It's this part where she's looking down at some inhuman monster devouring her mother senseless. Its head is buried deep in her mother's gut, Liz's eyes are open and vacant. Gone. Empty. Her hair and face are covered in her blood and her lips are parted as if she was just about to say one last thing, but couldn't get it out.
Caroline's throat closes as she watches this thing feast on her mother. This monster. This creature. This...person. She should run. She should turn around and run back into her room, lock the door and climb out the window. She should get in her car and drive to Elena's house. She'll know what to do. Elena always knows what to do, even if it isn't exactly the best plan. It's an idea and ideas are better than nothing.
But Caroline can't move. She's rendered completely immobile. She can't tear her eyes away, she can't breathe. She can't register what she's seeing because it can't be real. It's not real. Things like this don't happen. They only happen in movies. In Dawn of the Dead and Resident Evil. They happen in Hollywood on a set. They happen in someone's basement as they create the final touches on the next successful video game franchise. They belong in publishing buildings in a big city as a guy draws his heart out, pouring all of himself into every tiny little detail from the gnashed teeth to the milky white eyes.
The sad thing is that everything she can remember from that world has it pinpointed. Right down to the sunken eye sockets to the greasy hair and rotting flesh. It's so surreal. She's waiting for the cameramen to jump out of the closet and for this zombie to get up and start laughing and for her mother's eyes to blink. Caroline wants to start crying because of how good they got her. How terrible, yet perfect this joke is.
But it doesn't happen.
She drops the racquet.
It notices her presence.
A deafening noise leaves its mouth as it gets ready to lunge for her, but Caroline bounces back into the hallway, slamming the door shut in front of her. Her heart is going to explode, she's going to have an aneurysm.
She's going to die.
She never takes her hand off the knob, but the animal is clawing at the door. It buckles in, pieces of wood fly at her. She winces. How did it even get in? Why didn't it go for her first? Her room is closer to the stairs than her mother's. She should've been the one. She can't survive this...whatever it is. Not without her mom. Not by herself.
The door buckles in again. Her stomach wretches. She's going to be sick. The smell, the look, her mother. God, no. Not her mother. Not her. Anyone but her. No no no. She is not alone in this world. Caroline is not by herself.
But she is. She so is and she can't deal with this. She can't deal with the world ending and her mother being gone and being alone and having close to no survival skills and not knowing what the hell is going on and knowing that no one is here to help her. No one's going to come save her.
A large chunk of the door breaks open and the infected creature has plunged its arm through, trying to get to Caroline. She lets go of the doorknob and retreats backwards to her bedroom, her eyes never leaving its arm. It tears, hisses, screams, shrieks. It smells her. It smells her fear.
She shut her door and scrambles to push her dresser and vanity and nightstands in front of it. She crawls up on her bed and hugs her knees to her chest as its incessant screeches become louder than a bomb going off. Louder than a fire ripping through a small forest. Louder than her breathing and her heart in her chest. Tears roll out of her eyes as the noise gets closer and she hears it just outside her door.
It's a wail.
It's a plea for help.
It's a hunger.
"Please just stop," she cries. "Leave me alone!"
One of the nightstand topples over.
Caroline runs into her closet and slips out of her clothes, changing into jeans and a long-sleeve shirt even though it's the dead of summer. She puts on a hoodie and zips it up, pulls the hood over her head and ties it tight. She laces up her Chuck Taylors as tight and as high as they can go.
The other nightstand falls.
Quickly she runs over to her window, jumping up to break down the curtain bar. She rips the sheer fabric off and thrusts the bar through a belt loop and opens her window.
The world outside is dead. The air is thick with grief.
The second time Caroline Forbes figures the world is ending is when she climbs atop her roof and sees her town up in flames.
A/N: Please please please be honest with me! I wasn't supposed to start this until after I finished my other fics, but I'm in the middle of reading a zombie book and I just had so much inspiration to put our favorite characters into a similar situation. And when the muse strikes, it's best not to ignore it. So, please tell me if you want to read more and if this prologue actually interested you even in the slightest. Every little bit counts. Thank you so much!