Chapter 4: Edwin
I sat hunched over on a ripped bar stool, staring into the near empty refrigerator, really wishing for a sandwich with mayonnaise. Extra mayonnaise. But all that was in there was a jar of pickles (already opened), a gallon of 2% milk (three quarters of the way gone), and a partially frozen loaf of white bread (not yet opened). The riots had happened last night and all had been silent since then, but none of us had been able to work up the courage to run down to Saper's Grocery to pick up a few things, no matter how hungry we were. I didn't even know why I hadn't just chosen to go home last night instead of running in a random direction and hoping I found somewhere safe.
I hadn't been at the ceremony, but I'd been pretty damn close. Saper's Bar and Grill was only a couple blocks away and if I hadn't been paying the bill and on my way out the door I might not have made it out the door at all. Around 10:00 it seemed as if half the people in the room began to go berserk; throwing tables, screaming, pulling knives from the kitchen and attacking people. Some even began to…transform in a way that made their hair start to fall out, their clothes disintegrating off, their fingers grow to abnormal lengths…I shook my head, trying to clear away the image of one of the guests tackling a waitress and ripping chunks from her head until skull was scattered across the rug, blood staining the table cloths and plates.
"Still staring into space?" I looked over at Patrick, who had come into the room rubbing a hand over his stubble, pretending to look around the kitchen expectantly, even though he knew there wasn't any food. I shut the door to the fridge and looked over at him, shaking my head. "You sure you don't want to run on down to Saper's?"
"You sure you don't?" I asked, only half joking.
Patrick laughed, "Touché," he pulled a small rubber ball out from his pocket and began tossing it from side to side. "Think we should ask Maria again?" I shook my head. None of us would ever work up the guts to leave the building, I knew that. Although why that was, I have no idea. Out of the three of us, I'm the only one who saw anything…strange. The other two had just been witness to the screaming courtesy of their ears. How they ended up here I have no idea.
I walked past Patrick into the musty living room where the only furniture was a torn sofa, an old TV, a coffee table on a slant, and some scattered clothes that must've belonged to the previous owner. Just out of pure routine, I flopped down on the sofa, reaching for the remote, but then remembered that the TV didn't work. I mean, it worked in an electrical sense, but whatever channel you turned to only showed static, as if broadcasting had somehow been stopped all together. The DVD player still worked and if this apartment had any DVDs they surely would've been played. Sighing, I rested my head against the sofa, staring out the broken window at the horizon, the sun slowly coming up. It was faint, but I thought I heard a sound, a sound not quite human but still human enough to send chills down your spine.
I sat still for a minute, listening intently, but nothing was heard. The sound of the door slamming made me jump from the sofa, grabbing the remote, intending to through it. It was only Maria, though, smiling when she saw me tensed up. I knew it was only her, but I stayed a little tense all the same. Because it wasn't only her, it was her. Maria was beautiful, almost breath taking. Her red hair and tanned skin melted perfectly with her fiesta-style clothing, a mixture of bright oranges and yellows and reds. If there was any food in the kitchen, she would turn it into something worth talking about for years, not to mention the fact that she was one of the kindest people I knew.
I was broken out of my thoughts of Maria when I heard the sound again, a little louder this time. I got up and walked over to the window, officially opening it even though the glass had broken off in more places than one. It still wasn't easy to see, but slowly, light began to fall across the city, showing off the wreckage and destruction in all its glory. There's no way that one thing could've caused all this, there's just no way. Even now I had no idea where I was, only that I was somewhere in the city. Without a weapon. Cautiously, I leaned my head out to one side to try to see at a different angle, then turned around to do the same on the other side.
What I saw was a crowd- no, a pack- of creatures half running, half crawling in the direction of my building. Blood was drooling from some of their mouths, little strips of flesh still caught in between their fingers. I slammed down the window, knowing in the back of my mind that that wouldn't do much good. "Patrick! Shut all the doors and pull the blinds over as many windows as you can!" I started running over to the entrance to apartment, intent on going downstairs to bar and lock the door that granted entrance to the building itself. "Maria, go stay in your room!"
"What?" She stopped me half way out the door, "Why can't I do anything?" She was holding onto my arm now, preventing my escape. Because you're a woman, I wanted to say, but I didn't.
"Just," I couldn't think of anything to say as the shrieks and strangling sounds became louder, now accompanied by the scratching of claws against asphalt. "Just go, okay? Hide!" I yanked my arm away and ran down the stairs, heading for the door, seeing the lock just ahead. As soon as I touched the lock I watched in horror as it fell off the door and into my hands. The sounds were getting louder now, tension building up inside me, sweat suddenly springing from my forehead and soaking me all over. I looked around frantically until I spotted a desk in the front hall. I grabbed hold of it and groaned inwardly when the legs began to shake, obviously not stable. I placed it against the door, hoping for the best, before running back upstairs again.
Maria and Patrick were both in the living room, Patrick pacing back and forth in front of the window, Maria just standing there with her arms crossed, her head down, eyes narrowed. "What are you guys still doing here?" I asked, not sure where I was going with this, "Why aren't you hiding?"
"We can't just hide," Patrick became incredibly serious all of a sudden. He walked over to me and put his finger in my face, "We can't just follow your orders! We can't just let those zombie things overrun our home! They took away our food!" I cringed when "food" came out in a high pitched squeal. I could see his face turning red as if he were either struggling to breathe or refusing to.
Maria came up behind him and I felt more than a twinge of jealousy when she put her hands on his shoulders, coax him away from me, trying to calm him down. "It's fine, Patrick. Just chill," she was repeating over and over until he seemed to calm down. She looked over at me and gave me a questioning look.
"It's those things," I said, suddenly out of breath and sweating even more. "Those things from the restaurant. Don't look!" I called out sharply as I saw Maria turning to go look out the window. She glared back at me and looked out anyway. Furrowing her brow, she turned back to look at me, looked back out the window, and back at me again.
"Are you sure they're those things you described? They look like people to me," Maria turned her face back to the window again.
"What?" I walked over to stand next to her and looked out the window, seeing that she was right. What I had thought were the creatures from the restaurant were people. Bloodied, crazed, dirty, violent people holding guns, bats, axes, even mallets, but people all the same. They were thrusting their fists and weapons in the air, screaming incoherently. Blood was splattered on most of their faces, their clothes torn, their teeth stained. They had all gathered around the window, in the patch of ivy that surrounded the building. From behind us I could hear heavy breathing, and I turned around to see Patrick, sitting on the couch with his head in his hands, his hat thrown carelessly on the floor.
"Hey, Pat," I took a small step toward him, "You okay, buddy?" He didn't respond at first, the only sound coming from him being a groan. His head snapped up suddenly as the roar of the crowd seemed to grow louder.
"I can't go on like this!" He screamed, standing up and tilting his head back to the ceiling. Patrick brought his gaze over to me, "Do you want to die like this?" He began foaming at the mouth, "Do you?" He pointed at Maria, who shook her head in a mix of fear and confusion. His breathing hardened, the people below yelled louder, some banging the metal bats against the brick walls of the building. "I see the red, I can feel the darkness coming. It's all over, don't you see?" Patrick was clutching his head again, his feet in a wide stance. "I'm coming, my friends! I'm coming!" Pushing me out of the way, he ran for the window, throwing it up and in one swift motion propelled himself off so that he'd fall back into the crowd bellow.
"No, Patrick! No!" I stared in sadness and anger as Maria grabbed onto his shirt, keeping him just above the hungry crowd below. Tears began to fall from her eyes as she caressed Patrick's face in one hand, "I love you, I do, I wish we could replay our life together, don't die," it came out so fast and muffled with tears that I could barely make out anything she had just said. But I had, and it was enough. Patrick's pupils started to become a little less dilated, his grip relaxing slightly on the bricks on the outside wall. The volume of the crowd's yelling started to go down a little. But my hot, angry blood was still roaring in my ears.
I ran over, pulling Maria away from him, and raised my leg, bringing my foot down hard on his stomach, knocking the wind out of him and sending him tumbling into the now deafening crowd. I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall as the yelling stopped for a moment to be replaced with the sound of chewing and the tearing of flesh. Maria just stood there stunned, a tear still on her cheek. Like a spooked cat, she took off into the kitchen, coming back with a rusty cleaver, her eyes narrowed to slits boring right into me.
"I hate you!" She screamed, and I barely had time to react as she ran at me with the cleaver held high above her head. "I loved him! I loved him!" Blinded by tears, Maria's aim was terribly off, but it was enough to scare me into ducking and moving out of the way just the same. I hopped back and forth between my left and right foot, moving backward as I did so, Maria swinging the cleaver in huge arcs, nearly missing my abdomen.
"Maria," I put my hands up in a defense state, "It's just me. Calm down, baby," Wrong words. A shot of pain shot up in the form of dots that covered my eyes as I realized that Maria has grazed my left wrist, enough to let me feel the warm sensation of blood trickling down my arm. Forgetting any affection I might've had, I lunged for Maria's wrists, grabbing them tightly, the two of us engaged in some sort of demonic dance. I was struggling to get hold of the cleaver, Maria was struggling to hold on to it and swing it at me, and I didn't realize how close we were to the back window until it was too late.
With one final knee to the gut, I sent Maria tumbling out the window, cleaver and all. The crowd had gone, so instead of hearing the chewing sound I knew I'd have to get used to, I heard that sickening thump of a body hitting earth. Cautiously, I looked out the window. Maria was lying face up, her right ankle twisted all the way around, her mouth still wide open with a little blood trickling out of it, and worst of all, the rusted cleaver that had somehow landed right in the middle of her forehead, cracking her head open and leaving a river of blood to divide her face. A few feet away lay…something that must've once been Patrick but was now only identifiable by the clothes that were still intact and the hand that was still there, fingers bent as they were when he was holding onto the building before I finally pushed him to his doom. Out of jealousy. I slowly closed the window and walked over to the sofa, flopping down, hoping I would sleep for an eternity.
My eternal sleep was broken ten minutes later by the sound of a door being thrown open, wood splintering and fly across the room. I froze, unable to move, the sweat coming back, as I heard heavy, yet fast, footsteps coming up the flights of stairs. It was now probably 6:30 and hardly any light was reaching my place in the living room. It didn't take long for the door to the apartment to be thrust open, revealing a figure in bloody clothes and blood caked hair, something sticking out from its head. As the figure moved out of the shadows to face me, my suspicions were confirmed, knowing that I was facing Maria.
Slowly, she reached up and tried to pull the cleaver out of her head, but it wouldn't budge. So she grabbed hold of the handle with both hands, jiggled it violently, and finally pulled it out, splattering gray flecks of brain matter and even more blood onto the wall and the coffee table. What was more horrifying were the countless red blemishes that were now covering her body, turning her perfectly tanned skin an angry pink. Every few seconds, one would swell up more and then pop, oozing some weird yellow liquid that I was almost certain wasn't pus.
She walked over to sit beside me on the couch, smiling. I tensed up and couldn't help looking a little disgusted when she put her infected arm around my shoulder, sitting so close that there was no longer any room between us. "I knew you always liked me, Edwin," her voice was slightly raspy, but still at the same pitch it had been when she had been…normal. "You know that ivy down there? The stuff you threw me in?" I shook my head, not remembering anything about her landing in ivy. She shrugged, "Well, it's poison," Maria traced a finger down the side of my neck, making it tingle.
"Go ahead," she gestured to the arm that was around my shoulders, "Scratch it for me. I dare you," she winked a wink that was only possible for a corpse to make. I glanced up at her head wound, very close now, and I discovered that I could see directly into her skull where bits of brain remained clinging to the broken bone. There was literally nothing in there.
More disgusted then scared now, I slowly turned my head over to her arm, at the pulsing red bumps that seemed to be coming up everywhere. I squinted slightly and reached out my hand, but as soon as my finger touched one of the biggest red bumps the size of a golf ball, it exploded onto my face, covering me with dark, sticky yellow bodily fluid that seemed to slowly ooze down my nose. My breathing was shallow now, shaky, as my eyes crossed to stare at it. I looked back at Maria, who smiled, and then moved in to lick the pus off of my face. She laughed when some of it dripped into my gaping mouth. I started to gag, but then relaxed, not knowing exactly what was coming over me.
In twenty minutes Edwin had discovered one more thing he liked about Maria, dead or alive. Her pus tasted like mayonnaise.