01:

The beginning of the end

It was like watching a movie. Everything you've ever known was gone. People were screaming, crying, and fighting each other. It was like a living version of a horror flick. I didn't want to believe that this was happening. I wanted to close my eyes and wake up to my normal life. I never thought I would miss my old bartending job, my old ridiculous college classes, or my redneck, racist best friend Merle.

At first, my family holed up and survived the week. It started as a few people getting the 'flu' – fevers shot up, people hallucinated, and eventually died. But that was the problem. People weren't staying dead. Worse than that, they were feeding on the neighbors. It was terrifying.

My mom was one of the first to be bitten. Our neighbor Clyde came limping over while mom was hanging the laundry. Mom always had a weak spot for Clyde. He was attractive for his age. He always kept his hair colored light so you couldn't see his grey coming through. That's what I remember most about him. Merle always said he was one of those queers running around. I knew that was inaccurate because he was sleeping with my mother. I only just figured that out when the 'flu' epidemic happened. I walked in on Clyde getting dressed and trying to sneak out of my parent's window. I was furious with my mother and never truly forgave her. I hated Clyde ever since then. I watched as he limped over to my mom and grabbed her. I was shocked to see him grabbing her out in the open. Didn't he even think of how my father would feel if he saw them? Clyde leaned in and nuzzled my mother's neck. At the time, I was outraged. I couldn't even stand to look at my mother. I had no idea Clyde was truly trying to eat my mother's flesh.

That's when the fever started.

I went on a run. My family needed food and I was the quickest. I ran track for three years in high school. I was good enough to get a scholarship to Georgia State University. But I turned it down. I settled into a job as a bar tender after I turned twenty-one and paid my way through two years of a local college. I was going to graduate soon, open my own rehab center. I wanted to be a substance abuse councilor. Merle inspired that dream. I hated watching him struggle with his addiction to every form of drug.

When I came back home, my mom had died. And just like everyone else, she didn't stay dead. It was horrific. She was a flesh-consuming monster. Ever since I caught her with Clyde, I thought she was a monster. I called her a monster over and over in my head. I wanted to make her pay for what she had done to our family. But seeing her now, pale and hungry for human flesh, I longed for my mother. I longed for the woman who put her dreams aside to take care of my little sister and me. She wasn't a monster before. She was just a woman bored with a marriage she had taken early in age. She was a woman who made a mistake.

I struggled with her for a few minutes. She was clawing and snapping at me like a wild animal. I couldn't kill her, though. I looked into her eyes and still saw my mother. I threw her off of me and dashed for the kitchen. I could at least defend myself in the kitchen until I could get out the back door.

My mother chased me to the kitchen. She was much slower than me, but she was still able to grab at my clothes from time to time. I slammed the kitchen door and locked it before she could follow me in. I could hear her pounding on the door, moaning in what sounded like pain.

My plan was squashed when I entered the kitchen and saw the two lumps beside the kitchen table.

I didn't want it to be true. I begged God for this all to be a dream. I wanted to wake up and realize I've been dreaming this entire time. But that didn't happen. I was living this horror. I knew what I would find when I flicked the kitchen light on.

My father and my little sister were lying on the floor, both bleeding heavily from their necks. I broke down. Did my mother do this? How could she take everything from me? Cassie was only fourteen. She hadn't even lived life yet. Now she's gone. I'll never see her again. I'll never see my dad again. I couldn't handle it.

I heard my mom banging on the kitchen door, moaning in hunger. I knew that threat was real. What I didn't realize – my sister and dad were about to reanimate into the same demon.

It started with a twitch. A small flicker of Cassie's finger was all it took. She was up on her feet and hungry. I was in shock. I couldn't defend myself against my little sister. She was the only thing that mattered to me in the world. How could I possibly hurt her? So I did the only thing I could think of – I closed my eyes and waited to become one of the walking dead with my family.

Just as my father was waking and my sister was coming toward me, the back door opened and a hand pulled me out of my house.