Where did it start? Where did it all start?
Ah yes. Waking up, scared to death, not knowing what day or month it was and praying that I wouldn’t see those things again.
I woke up in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding, my body was electrified with energy. I rose to a crouch, ready for… for something. I don’t know what I was ready for.
I was in a white room with smooth walls, no discernible door. I wasn’t the only one there, though. Four others were lying on the ground around me, in various stages of sleep. Some were beginning to stir, probably because I jumped up and made noise. Others were still, not even a twitch out of them.
The one who sat up first, a boy with dark hair and light skin, squinted and rubbed his eyes as he looked around. Our eyes met, and his held the same questions mine did.
How did we get here? How can we escape?
And, of course, how did we escape everything up to this point?
I still remember the horror story that’d become my neighborhood. People succumbing to the plague left and right. Masks didn’t do much. Those of us who didn’t immediately show symptoms knew they’d come eventually, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
I remember my sister beginning to show signs. The way her skin slowly turned green, the way her eyes yellowed and the nervous ticks she had.
Another kid, a girl maybe about thirteen or fourteen, jerked awake and rolled onto her stomach, spilling the contents of her stomach next to her. Me and the other boy grimaced at the smell as she continued coughing.
“Hey, you okay, kid?” I asked, crawling over to her.
She shook her head and continued coughing. When she finally stopped, she shivered and wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve.
“That… might leave a mark,” she said, her cheeks heating up as she sat back.
I pushed her hair out of her face and put a hand on her shoulder. I squeezed gently and tried to give a reassuring smile. She reminded me of my other sister, the one… the one I didn’t know if she was still alive. “Could be worse.”
“Yeah, we could be getting eaten,” the boy pointed out, standing up and walking around. He put his hands on the walls and started looking for seams. “I’m Brian. Anybody have any idea how to get out of here?”
“I’m Sally,” the puker said. “No clue.”
“Better question.” A girl with dirty-blonde, messy hair sat up. She looked maybe seventeen. “How did we get here in the first place?”
“I’ll raise you this question,” Sally said. “Is he dead?”
I looked at the other one who still hadn’t woken up. The boy had dirty-blonde, light skin, and what looked like dried blood behind his ear. I crawled over to him and put two fingers against his neck, checking for a pulse.
His heart was still beating. His chest was rising up and down, but barely. I shook him awake and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when he opened his eyes.
“Hey, rise and shine,” I said as he sat up. “Are you okay?”
He grimaced and looked around at us as he put a hand to the back of his head. The grimace didn’t fade, but turned more into a look of confusion.
“Did… did one of you knock me out?”
“That would’ve been me,” the blonde girl said. “Don’t just walk into someone else’s house without permission. I thought you were a zombie.”
“Dahlia, zombies shuffle. I definitely did not shuffle,” he retorted, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head. “I think I’m seeing stars.”
“I think I found something.”
I stood up and walked to Brian’s side as he passed his fingers over something on the wall. It was a slightly-raised panel with a keypad. He raised an eyebrow at me and I shrugged, then began to tap on the buttons.
They glowed red, then orange, then blue. Seams across the wall suddenly appeared in blue as the door opened in front of us. I jumped back in surprise and nearly lost my footing, but Brian caught my wrist. I nodded to him in thanks and he gave a thin smile before we all turned our attention to the tall young man stepping into the room.
“So sorry to keep you all waiting,” he said. He had a thick British accent, light hair and skin and wore a navy-checkered suit. “I’m sure you all have questions. Follow me.”
“We’re not going anywhere until you tell us why we’re here!” Sally exclaimed.
He raised an eyebrow and gestured to the mess on the floor. “If you really want to stay in here with the smell, be my guest. Anyone who doesn’t can follow me.”
Needless to say, we all followed him out of the room into a long hallway with the same white walls and blue lines. Everything was so unbelievably clean, I was almost afraid that we were leaving black smudge marks on the floor.
“I’m Thomas, by the way,” the man said. “Last names aren’t exactly important nowadays but it’s Eaton, if you need to look it up later. I promise you, I mean you no harm,” he added. “Things have been hectic out there and the last thing I’m trying to do is make it worse. Ah, here we are.”
He stopped in front of a door and waved a hand over the keypad. The door slid open to reveal a large, spacious, concrete room. The walls were lined with computers and there were several chairs and tables scattered throughout, some covered with papers and others completely clean.
“This is where I’ll be taking questions,” he said, striding confidently inside and heading for a large monitor.
Hesitantly, I stepped inside first. Brian was close behind, with Sally and the other boy after and Dahlia taking up the rear. I’m sure we looked like a group of nervous school kids taking a tour of some scientific facility.
Thomas tapped at one of the keys and brought up a video. “This will probably clear up some of your questions.”
The video started playing and we were all transfixed by the footage. It was from some kind of helmet camera, and we could hear someone’s heavy breathing as they sprinted through rundown buildings. It was Sally that pointed out the gun that the helmet-cam owner was holding.
“Why does he have that gun?” she asked.
Dahlia snorted and put her hands on the smaller girl’s shoulders. “Honey, you know what kind of world we live in.”
“No, I mean, why does he have that kind of gun? It’s military-grade. You can’t just get that kind of gun,” Sally pointed out as she scrunched up her face. “My dad would’ve killed for that kind of gun.”
The soldier came to a stop at a door. We could hear the shouts and scuffling sounds coming from inside through the soldier’s helmet. The soldier took his gun and bashed the door in, then shot at the six or so zombies that were inside. The shouts ceased as a man, bleeding from several wounds, stumbled towards the soldier.
“It’s too late for me,” he panted. “But please… my daughter…”
“That’s where we picked up you,” Thomas said, gesturing to Sally. He had a sad smile on his face as he paused the video and zoomed in on a small, grimy face. The smile hardened as he looked Sally in the eye. “I wish we would’ve been there sooner.”
Sally swallowed hard and nodded, brushing away a tear that’d trickled down her cheek. “Me too.”
Dahlia wrapped her arms around the girl as Thomas fast-forwarded to the next clip. This one had witnessed Dahlia dragging the unconscious boy up the stairs as a zombie howl started. The soldier dashed up the stairs and grabbed the boy, throwing him over his shoulder and telling Dahlia to follow him.
I realized I recognized the voice and glanced at Thomas. His eyes met mine and I quickly looked back to the video footage. He laid the boy in what looked like some kind of transparent container and put a lid over it, then motioned for Dahlia to get in an empty one. At first, she argued, but then the zombie howl started again and she quickly complied.
“What are the glass coffins?” Brian asked wryly as the video showed them lifting up and away from the incoming zombie hordes.
“Full-body scanners and disinfectants,” Thomas replied. “I had to knock you out to get you in one. Might have a nasty bruise on your neck later, by the way.”
“They’re actually really sophisticated technology,” the nameless boy added. “It’s mostly nanotechnology that gets into your system and basically cleans you up as much as possible.”
“More than that,” Thomas said, readying the next clip, “it’ll monitor almost everything in your body. Mood swings, paper cuts, sore pinky, it knows. It can’t cure cancer yet, though,” he said with some remorse. “I’ll let you know when we figure that out. Also gives you a nasty bit of amnesia for a few hours.”
The next clip showed an angry Brian desperately fighting for his life. I couldn’t tell if they were fully-turned or not, but these zombies didn’t have the same green-yellow eyes and half-rotted skin that most did. Sally covered her eyes as the Brian on-screen bashed a head in with a metal pipe, while the soldier trying to save him fired bullet after bullet into the fray of zombies.
“Half-turned are the most dangerous,” Brian muttered.
“Why is that?” Dahlia asked softly.
Brian shrugged. “They’re the most unpredictable. They might trip over nothing and not be able to get up, or they might be able to scale buildings.”
“You could empty an entire clip into them and they still wouldn’t go down,” Thomas added, his eyes glued to the screen as the soldier grabbed a long butcher’s knife and started chopping at the horde. I steeled my stomach as blood spattered the camera and obscured some of our view.
“Is this really necessary?” the nameless boy asked.
Thomas sighed and fast-forwarded to the soldier grabbing Brian’s arm and pulling him behind. Brian’s protests went unheard as another bone-chilling zombie howl filled the air. Soon, Brian was sprinting next to him towards a transport.
“Get in!” the soldier exclaimed, jabbing a thumb at an empty ‘glass coffin’. He turned away from Brian and held his gun ready as zombies started to rear their ugly heads from through the rubble.
“I am not getting in some glass coffin—”
The soldier spun around and landed a solid chop where Brian’s neck met his shoulder. Brian’s eyes rolled backwards into his head and the soldier caught him as he fell. The sound of incoherent grumbling filled the speakers as he none-too-gently dropped the boy into a ‘glass coffin’ and closed the lid.
“Let’s get going!” he ordered, and the transport lifted off.
Thomas started fast-forwarding again and glanced at Brian. “Really, I am sorry about that. Heat of the moment, zombies chasing after us—”
“I get it,” Brian said, waving a hand in dismissal. “Boxes for people just make me nervous. And that amnesia thing—”
“It’s why I’m showing you these,” Thomas interrupted him, glancing at me. “You have to remember some things, even if you don’t want to.”