Chapter one: The nightmare arises
The beast sent one question pulsing through Will’s mind; would it find him?
The group of four stared in complete terror as they witnessed what was going on nearby. Some sort of decaying creature was leading the undead, screeching at them in what seemed like a bunch of nonsense roars. The mortifying brute was gigantic: its head rotated in almost every direction like an owl’s, skin drenched with blood, an arm reduced to bone and its remaining clawed hand was smothered in thick, pitch-black hair.
“What the fuck is that thing...?” Sean muttered, as quiet as he could, so he was not detected by the monsters ahead. “Will, you’ve been out here tons of times, got any ideas?”
“I-I’ve never seen that thing before in my life,” Will responded. “But whatever that freak is, it’s with them.”
The troop had taken refuge inside the ruins of an abandoned building. They were outnumbered, but they had plenty of ammo in case they were spotted and attacked. They’d been ambushed already and had watched as several people they knew were ruthlessly slain, no matter how hard they fought.
“Shit,” Lewis sighed to himself. “Seven dead already. If they find us, we’re done for.”
“Don’t think like that!” Mark hissed in response. “We’re armed. We can still fight. We have one thing they don't; guns.”
At that point, everyone snapped into silence. Freezing, as if they were rooted on the spot. The undead were now near. One wrong action - regardless of how small - would send a genocidal pack of killing machines towards them.
Will’s eyes were wide open, bloodshot, frantically scanning the area. No sign of movement over than the stomping footsteps growing fainter as the pack left. But something inside him denied it. Something was here. Something was going to leap at him any moment. He could sense it. But at the same time, he questioned it.
Many tense minutes passed before disaster struck. Somehow, they’d been noticed. A rotting, animated corpse crashed through the rubble, only to shot in the throat by Mark without hesitation. But many more had followed, surrounding them.
Whilst the crew started shooting the undead freaks down, Will noticed one getting close to Lewis and fired at it instantly. Seconds after, Sean screeched, a zombie pulling him backwards from behind.
Will and Mark automatically fired at it, smothering the carcass with bullet holes until it let go.
Minutes that felt like days passed but the number of assailants were shrinking unbelievably slow. At one point, when Will was reloading, however, something smashed into his side, the force of the impact knocking him away from the others. Sean tried to aim at what had struck his ally, but several more living cadavers immediately leapt in front of him, desperate to barricade him from his struggling friend.
The creature that knocked Will down was no ordinary zombie. It was one of the rare beasts that were occasionally seen, like the mutant leading the pack. They were all more feral than the rest of the dead. No one knew much about them, except for one thing; if you're unlucky enough to be one of the rare encounters with one, you're done for. You have no way of escaping without serious injury or a brutal death.
This one’s appearance was petrifying. Whilst it narrowly resembled an adult male, the beast’s left eye was missing, a blade roughly impaled into the socket, as if it had already fought someone. Its right ear was hanging by a thread and some sort of peculiar mould was growing off the right side of its torso, branching outwards, the edges of it rough and spiked, like some form of makeshift armour, appearing similar to mushrooms growing on a tree. Its hands were completely shredded of flesh, revealing bloodied bone smothered with muscles that twitched and convulsed with each movement.
Will aimed his pistol as beast charged at him and shot twice, but the beast didn’t even flinch, let alone fall. It pounced upon him, ravenous, jaws snapping, pinning him to the ground and knocking his gun out his hands. Will yowled in terror, desperately trying to force it away from him but the cannibalistic corpse was stronger than his grip and darted its head forward.
And then it bit him.
It chomped down, teeth sinking into his shoulder. Will screamed at the top of his lungs. This pain was something he had never felt before. It was like being stabbed and burned at once, the agony shooting through his body like lightning. The vicious soul then lurched its neck back, tearing skin and scrapes of flesh from its victim.
The pain was excruciating and Will couldn’t fight back another howl. Warmth begun to trickle down his upper body. Blood. It was streaming like a waterfall. Will mercilessly kicked his attacker in the stomach, which successfully seemed to harm them, as they groaned in pain before he gave his opponent a savage punch to the face.
The mutant jolted away and Will didn't hesitate to grab his weapon. He stood up and pulled the trigger. His attacker shrieked and writhed before convulsing violently, as Will proceeded to fire the entirety of the remaining bullets in the magazine at the vicious beast.
Afterwards, the monster went limp. Deceased for good. Soulless.
Will gazed up to see the rest of the zombies had retreated, thankfully. Surrounding them were a mess of flesh and bone, blood smeared all over the ground. Sean ran over to his wounded companion.
“Are they all gone?” Will asked, breathing heavily, placing his hand over his wound in attempt to stop the blood flow. “That thing-aghhh!”
“Careful. Take it easy,” Sean commanded, before examining the injury. “Oh, shit.”
“What?” Will responded, unable to hide the anxiousness in his voice. “Oh god, this bite isn’t going to turn me into one of them, is it?”
From the few victims who managed to survive a mutant's attack, each bite seemed to be different, but no one knew why. It was as if they were experiments, someone programming their bites to each have different effects. Sometimes you turned into a zombie, too. Sometimes it gave you an agonizing death on the spot. But, there was the chance you could live. But avoiding pain was not an option.
“I can’t answer that, bud,” Sean replied, shrugging. “I’m sorry.”
“You can’t?” A voice came from nearby. “But what if he turns? GODDAMMIT!”
Sean turned round and realized the voice was Lewis, who looked like he’d seen a ghost. Mark sighed and shook his head, murmuring to himself.
Then terror hit Will full force, but also as swift as a gunshot through a zombie’s head. His eyes widened, tears pricking his eyes. No. It couldn’t be true. Or could it? His mind was spinning with thousands of questions.
“Wait!” Will stuttered, but it was also a mix of a whisper and the sound of choking. “It can’t. You don’t fu-”
“It’s tough,” Sean interrupted. “But I can’t be certain if I can stop you from turning.”
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