Chapter Five: It's Spreading
They came across a set of stairs riddled with dried blood and debris. “It appears that this smaller staircase is still useable.” Tad sigh a breath of relief as Jonas and the others slowly stood beside him. Paulie felt Francine squeezing his hand tightly; he looked at her and gave her a reassuring smile.
“I’ll take a look what’s up there.” Jonas said, while making his way up the treacherous steps.
“Wait, I’ll go with you.” Diane quickly uttered, running behind him. Jonas face became slightly flushed as she approached his side, but he quickly noticed what was happening and quickly shook it off. She let out a soft smile and removed a few strains of hair from her face seeing how red his cheeks had gotten. They went around the corner, looking at the small piles of rubble on the floor. “It’s passable!” Diane shouted. Jonas began to move forward once he heard their footsteps walking up the stairs. He climbed over a steel rail and short hop down he started to make a clear pathway for Dennis when he heard someone gasping behind him. He quickly turned his head and saw a young woman lying against the rubble. Her left arm was pinned underneath a steel rail, blood pouring out of her eyes, nose, and mouth, staining her platinum blonde hair; she then looked up and tried to smile.
Before Jonas could say anything, Diane gasped “It’s Lucy! And she’s hurt!” they could hear the others racing towards them. “Hang in there Lucy!” Jonas cautiously looked over Diane’s shoulder with his ax tightly gripped, Lucy appeared to be groggy, her pupils dilated and skin almost grey. She slowly lifted her head and forced out a smile. “……..Di…an…e…”
“W-what Lucy…?” Diane leaned in closer, trying to hear what she was mouthing, but Jonas quickly grabbed Diane shoulder and pulled her back as Lucy spat out almost all of her teeth.
“KILL…” Click “ME…” Clack. Diane quickly turned.
“What the hell are you doing Jonas!” she snapped “can’t you see that she’s hurt!” Jonas was trying to calm her down as Tad and the others arrived. They saw her arm trapped by the steel frame… She kept repeating the same two words over and over again. ‘Kill me’; they all could see how delusional she was. Must’ve been hours since she had been pinned and she began to lose color in her skin.
Tad glanced over and chuckle seeing Jonas trying to calm Diane down and as soon as he realized that he was actually enjoying the chaos, he shook his head then looked over towards Francine. “We should move the steel frame.” He ordered and Francine rushed over to Lucy, not paying attention to the bruises slowly disappearing from Lucy’s face. Suddenly, the area began to shake violently and Jonas immediately pulled Diane closer to him, protecting her from any possible debris and instantly turning her red.
A steel air duct broke through the ceiling barreling down towards Tad and Francine; Dennis pushed himself off of Paulie and shoved the two of them back just before the duct hit them. Tad was speechless staring at the duct by his foot and then looked at Dennis who had a proud look on his face and he hated the punk rocker just a bit. “Fucking show off. I know he’s going to use this shit against me, ‘if I was left behind, you’ll be dead.’” A second later, Dennis said that exact same line and instinctively Tad wanted to bash his head in with the pipe.
Jonas quickly rushed over towards him and pulled him up before he began to survey the room, there was a growing could of dust that was making it difficult to see in front of them, above a few bent pipes and electrical wiring saved them from being crushed by a cement slab and when he looked down, Lucy was gone and his adrenaline shot through him like a raging river. “Everyone, keep your guard up!”
Click-Clack! Click-Clack! Jonas looked ahead and could see the dark silhouette slowly moving towards Francine. “Francine!” Jonas panicked, raising his ax. “Behind you!” Francine was still on her knees, trying to rub the dust from her eyes when she heard Jonas. She quickly turned her head, looking into Lucy’s black reflective eyes.
Click “Kill” Clack “Me!” Suddenly, Lucy bit Francine’s forearm. Tad jump back watching those sharp fangs bury deep into the skin as she let out a blood curling scream and for a brief moment Tad enjoyed watching her in agony. Paulie rush towards her, yelling out Francine’s name. Using all of his weight he punched Lucy’s face, cutting open her left cheek and causing her to open her mouth. Click-Clack! Lucy hunched down and smiled as the blood slowly dripped out of her open mouth.
Three small slits began to emerge from the side of her neck as the wound on her face quickly healed. Click-Clack! Her fingernails quickly turned black and began to grow. In a quick blur she leaped forward, Paulie narrowly missed her sharp talons swiping passed his face while dodging Jonas’s powerful swing. As soon as she landed, she leaped again. Paulie knew at that moment he wasn’t going to be as lucky again. He looked towards Francine and mouthed ‘I love you’. As Francine screamed out his name, Dennis called out Jonas and tossed a fire axe overhead. Soon as Dennis caught it, he quickly spun around and buried the axe deep into the back of Lucy’s neck.
Paulie looked at Jonas who was trembling and quickly ran towards Francine. Jonas looked over to Dennis and nodded with a very approving smile. Dennis nodded back and let out a small chuckle as his placed his hand on the bridge of his nose, but narrowed his eyes at the tiny tapeworms crawling all over Lucy’s teeth and quickly looked towards Francine’s arm.
Looking at the way Paulie and Francine was holding one another and constantly kissing caused Diane to look at Jonas. They all just narrowly escaped losing one of their own and this newfound awareness made them realized that not all of them will make it alive and she wanted, if only for a moment, to kiss him, hold him, and give herself to him.
Upon examining Lucy’s body, Jonas noticed a Timberland symbol branded on her right forearm. There was no mistaking the fact that Lucy was part of JT’s little cult. However, the brand appeared to be almost completely healed. Which meant that JT somehow knew that the infected had remarkable healing abilities and by using his Timberland medallion he would know who was infected as well as dictate who lives or not, a very unique way to use fear to control the masses, if the symbol was on your forearm, then you’re safe and if it’s not, then you are immediately dealt with. It was indeed a hard pill to swallow, but the severity to escape from this death trap only fuel their ambition even more as they continued onwards.
Ten hours earlier…
With a swift and mighty swing of the lead pipe JT was able to nearly decapitate his English teacher, Mr. Monroe. “I always hated your fucking ass.” He thought as the warm blood sprayed across his face and he couldn’t help but to smile. There was nothing wrong with Mr. Monroe. He was just as normal as every one of them, but in amidst of all the chaos, he was the only authority figure left and JT needed him gone. He wanted to be in charge. He knew he was going to eventually die and he felt like he deserved to feel like a king, if only temporary.
As his body fell limp on the floor several of his classmates screamed and jump back. An infected woman who began re-growing her missing nose and left arm and hunched down, Click-Clack! Click-Clack! And then lunged towards Denise and Susan as they desperately screamed “Fredrick, stop that bitch!!” JT screamed as he buried the pipe deeper into Mr. Monroe’s neck. “You’re nothing but a punk ass bitch. I always hate you.” He smiled, staring at the pencil thin ginger nervously rushed towards the infected, holding a ball pin hammer over his head.
“Get away from them, you bitch!” he yelled. The woman quickly spun around and back slapped him, breaking his neck with ease. Fredrick’s body smashed against a number of students who was frozen with fear. JT twirled the pipe in his hand and hit the woman’s forearm, causing it to gash, but she ignored him and JT stared at the woman’s forearm which was dripping with blood one second and completely healed the next.
“WH-what the hell!?” JT thought as he tried to once again hit the woman. Another student picked up Fredrick’s hammer and rushed towards the infected woman. JT watched this toothpick white boy smashed the hammer against the infected head, knocking her into the ground.
“JT!” He hollered “Help me finish her off!” without any hesitation. JT jammed his pipe into the middle of the infected spine. Blood spurted out the other end as the ‘toothpick’ used the hammer the smashed the pipe through the body, immobilizing her and pinning her into the floor. Many of the other students screamed and cried as the infected woman wiggled on the floor, showing no indication of pain as she swiped and violently thrashed. This has been the nineteenth person JT had to kill within the course of three hours and he began to notice how easily it was becoming and enjoyable. He lifted himself up and slowly walked to the infected squirming on the floor. “Fucking disgusting” He growled, looking at the toothpick that helped him. He was tall like him. His brown hair parted so that his right eye was covered. “What’s your name skinny?”
“Um, T-T-Thaddeus McGee.” He quickly answered “My friends call me Tad.”
“Tad, huh?” JT let out a small sigh “Thanks Tad for the assist, at least you’re not a pussy like the rest of this bunch.” He turned to look at the large crowd of students looking at him awkwardly “anyone injured?” he looked around and everyone just looked at him silently for a moment.
“Nothing critical over here…”
“No problem here JT!”
JT looked over his shoulder and noticed one of the boy’s had blood all over his face. “You, come here!” he demanded. The young man nervously stepped out the crowd; he stood about five and a half feet tall with short dirty blonde hair and like many of the young men in his senior class, was wearing a white button down shirt and black slack.
“Wh-wh-what do you want JT?” he stuttered, trying to clean off his face. JT removed his necklace and pulled out a zippo lighter.
“I know you” he said placing his Timberland medallion over the flame “You’re Jeffery DiMatto, we have chem three together right?” Jeffery nodded very quickly, his eyes focused on the scorch marks forming on the medallion. “Give me your arm.” JT said coldly.
“What?!” Jeffery shouted, placing his arms behind his back and JT curled his lips which made him look like he was sneering at him.
“Those things tend to heal themselves rather quickly and this method is just to see if you’re not one of them.” Jeffery began to tremble as he stared into JT’s unemotional eyes
“Look.” JT placed his medallion on his own forearm and appeared unaffected as the sizzling of his skin echoed within the room. Many of the student’s stared at him with complete awe as the rest of them could not believe what they were looking at as he lifted the medallion “it’s pretty simple, right?” He raised his forearm, showing everyone the timberland symbol and let out a sinister grin “If by any chance this happens to disappear… Then by all means, just kill me.”
Jeffery just looked at the Medallion while JT hover it over the flame once again. The golden tree turned a bright orange color and JT began walking towards him. Jeffery tried to turn to run, but Tad grabbed him by the back of his neck and shoved him forward. “Tad please, I don’t want to do it!” Jeffery screamed while trying to fight him off. A few seconds later, more and more students began to rush over and tried their best to pull Jeffery’s arms, but he suddenly became strong. Holding back almost ten of them at bay, with little to no effort, JT rushed over towards Jeffery and placed the medallion on his face. Jeffery let out a loud scream and shoved him back, launching JT halfway across the room.
The entire room gasped and screamed while they watch the mark on his face instantly heals right before their eyes and before Jeffery had the chance to escape. Tad caved in the back of his head. JT sat up and let out a smile as the body fell limp onto the floor. Soon after, everyone was lining up to be branded by him. Tad was the first in line and JT branded his chest. A short time later he sent Tad and a few others to scout out the lower levels for supplies and survivors. However, he also gave Tad a specific order. “If you happen to find Jonas, bring him to me, alive. I want to settle a score.” Tad swallowed hard by this, but he figured since they all are going to die anyway, why not.
Tad only knew Jonas through reputation. A street smart, book smart charming boy who had an eerie gift of reading situations and people. A strong, silent type individual, who spew enlightenment and rationality whenever he spoke and after meeting him, Tad felt drawn to his intense presence and strong character. Yet, he knew that eventually he would run into JT’s crew and he would be forced to either take sides or perhaps, get rid of the two leaders and take everything for himself.
Francine just stared at the bite mark in complete shock as Diane carefully wrapped her forearm with a damp cloth “There’s alcohol in the storage room, we should disinfect it as soon as we get there.” She heard the panic tone in Jonas voice as Paulie constantly hovered over them. The look, that worrisome look plastered on his face wasn’t making her feel any better. Yet, that was the least of her worries. “It doesn’t even hurt… why it doesn’t hurt?” She looked over towards Jonas who was pulling the ax off of Lucy’s neck; he then kneeled down and said a short prayer before looking over at the others.
“Lucy wasn’t like this when all of this started.” The nervous tone in his voice painted a grim picture for everyone.
“I know.” Tad quickly spoke “This thing… is infectious… We know that the parasites originally were served as lunch to the crew and certain high end passengers, but now somehow it is spreading. Most likely it is spreading by either direct contact or through the water or maybe a different method.” Francine eyes widen and she looked at her forearm. “Francine, you were bit, there’s a possibility that you…”
“Direct contact…?! Is that’s the reason why it don’t hurt anymore. She bit me… Am I infected?!” She quickly glanced over her shoulder and saw Paulie looking at Tad with an angry glare, his nostrils began to flare and his fists were clench.
“She’s not infected you dick!” he shouted “Look, she’s perfectly fine!”
“Calm down Paulie!” Jonas snapped the boom from his voice went through them, causing all of them to jump back. “Those flatworms from what I could remember have to be ingested. They use the stomach acid to undergo a short pupa stage before traveling up the spinal cord.” Jonas stood face to face with Paulie “That means she’s not infected.” They both stared at one another for a moment; Paulie let out a sigh of relief and then smiled. However, Tad wasn’t convinced and he could see in Francine’s eyes that she wasn’t convinced as well and if they weren’t going to kill her when she do eventually turn, then he would have no problems killing her.
“There’s no telling how long the ship will hold.” Tad complained “some cruise ships has these suspended floors which separates the residential section from the main ship, I think it is called an independent action suspension. This allows the residential area to remain slightly still as the waves rock the boat and since were capsized every time a hard wave hit us or a lower level get flooded we’re having a mini earthquake.” Tad looked over towards everyone; his eyes seemed cold, distant for a brief moment, he then realized what he was doing and instantly came back to life “I believe this is why the ship hasn’t completely sank, but eventually the amount of water rising will force the ship to sink and this might as well be our tomb and we should just give up.”
Dennis looked at Lucy’s forearm with disgust “That fucking JT.” He sneered, hopping over the body “Just like Jonas said. That damn symbol of his gives him and his crew the authority to run around like it’s some sort of a witch hunt.” He saw the others looking back at him and he lowered his head. “I was terrified when those girls began killing the others while the rest of his crew cheered on. They are nothing but opportunist and parasites.” As he continued to rant on Francine slowly turn her head and looked at Paulie’s arm as he held her closely. She just stared at it and began to wonder how it tastes? Would it hurt if she tore it off? Could she tear it off? Maybe she’ll dig her fingers into his eyes first before tearing him apart.
“Hey calm down!” Jonas yelled at Dennis, snapping Francine out of her little trance and she couldn’t believe what she was just thinking. “Feed! Spread! kill!” She looked around her and she was about to ask if anyone else heard it when it happened again, but this time it was as if there was hundreds of voices in her head speaking at random. “Feed! Spread! Kill!”
“Even if anybody wearing that symbol asks, there’s no way in hell I’m taking his test.” Jonas gritted his teeth and spat on the floor “That wannabe hood rat is nothing but an opportunist and a sociopath.”
“But Jonas it’s a perfectly rational way to avoid mass hysteria from happening given the present circumstances.” Tad spoke firmly, watching Jonas giving him a sharp glare.
“Tad don’t” Paulie added, slowly removing his arm from Francine and moving his way in between the two of them “Jonas has a reason why he hates JT and I can’t blame him.”
“You know I always wonder why the two of you always hated one another since junior high.” Tad snapped “For crying out loud he stills call you fat and you haven’t been overweight since the tenth grade.” Jonas glanced over and Diana and then back at Tad.
“I have my reasons.” He growled and there was something in his voice that terrified him, but Tad wasn’t going to back off.
“That’s not good enough Jonas!” Tad tried to raise his voice, but immediately took a step back when Jonas flexed his muscles. “Hell, you were almost expelled a few weeks ago for beating JT into a bloody pulp and for what? Reputation, old beef. We need to be in a united front.”
“I rather die or see him dead before that!” Jonas softly spoke, but it was clear that he wanted to scream so badly. “JT is nothing but a over privilege brat who is just used to getting his way all the time.”
“And that is why you hate him?” Tad laughed, “That seems pretty petty if you…”
“He tried to rape me!” Diana shouted, instantly quieting Tad and Jonas gave him a dirty look before moving towards her. He wrapped his arms around her and softly began brushing her hair with his fingers. “It happened at prom. I was wearing this light pink short dress with these sparkling sequences. I had my hair made into this cute bow and I had on body glitter all over my neck.” She looked up towards Jonas and forced out a smile.
“Jonas had another fight with Carol and we went as friends, but…” Her face blushed “I was planning to make it into something more that night.” This caused Jonas to look away and take a step back. “About an hour into the dance, I pulled Jonas out of the gym and dragged him into the girl’s locker room.” Her eyes began to water as she looked over to Jonas who was rocking from side to side. “I was about to tell him how I felt. How I wanted to be with him, how Carol didn’t deserve him when JT and his boys came strolling in. JT had this stupid smug look as he looked at the two of us. He felt untouchable as bullies often do. Especially considering around this time, Jonas was one fight away from getting kicked out of school.’
’His friends grab Jonas and pinned him against the wall. They took turns punching his stomach as JT held my neck tightly and began to fondle my breast. He had that smug smile the entire time. Jonas screamed for him to stop, but he didn’t. ‘You need a real man’ he whispered. The liquor breath nearly caused me to throw up, but when I felt his hand running up my leg, I began to fight back with all of my might and he slammed the back of my head on the locker. I could feel his fingers.” Her lips began to tremble “touching me and then Jonas just snapped.’
’He broke free and began to beat JT until he was unconscious in which JT pissed and shitted on himself. Jonas continued to beat him; all but one of JT’s friends ran to get help, the one who stood behind stopped Jonas from killing him.” She looked at Paulie “Of course because who JT parents are on the school’s board of trustees swept it under the rug, gave my parents shut up money and tried to get Jonas arrested and expelled, but somehow that gotten thrown out because on that following Monday, Jonas entered the school with this smirk and JT was terrified. Then it was announced that the senior class were going to this ship.” Tad swallowed hard and tried to process what she told him when he heard the feint multiple clicking sounds.
“Those things are heading this way.” His voice was almost in a panic, but Jonas placed his finger up and everyone kept quiet until the clicking disappeared.
“We have to assume that every person with that symbol is our enemy.” Paulie calmly spoke, looking into Tad’s emotionless eyes “by that same train of thought, we also have to assume that this symbol have been made for the sole purpose of thinning the herd.” Tad took a step back and clenched his fist, thinking back earlier in the day when JT came up with the idea of branding everyone and felt like a fool now knowing that this was probably the case. “We’ll have to be extremely cautious of them, just until we know they are safe to approach.”
Tad nodded as he thought about the dead classmates in the storage room which now it served as a message to those who refuse to join JT. “I understand what you are saying Paulie, but we still need to do something like that in order to protect us. Otherwise, paranoia would make us all try to kill one another.” He looked at Jonas “And you know I am right.” This was almost too much for any of them to grasp. A capsized ship filled with people infected by a singular parasitic flatworm that turned its host into a murderous, ravenous monsters, as well as the possibility of fighting against people who some of them once called friend in order to escape from this sinking coffin. They all knew what Tad was suggesting, that in this kind of helpless situation… Where they’ve been driven into a corner, but deep down in their heart of hearts, they shouldn’t make the same choice as JT. Up to this point they could tell who’s infected by the noise they make when they breathe, but finding out who was infected before they turn will proved to be a danger on its own, because paranoia would eventually tear them apart.
She nervously looked around the mangled corridor while carefully removing a large glass shard out from the bottom of her foot. Winching at the pain while spitting on the wound, trying her best to clean it before she closed the gash as tightly as she could and sealed it with Krazy glue as she focused her eyes on a body of a young man who died trying to protect her; but she said a silent prayer before pulling out his shoes in order to put them on.
They were a size too big, but it allowed her to travel safely through the ship. When all hell broke loose she was in the spa, her masseuse was setting up her station when the masseuse suddenly threw up on the floor, screaming in pain. She shot up from the table just as the masseuse’s skin turned grey and the eyes, pitch black. She was able to run out of the room and shut the door, just at it lunged at her. Then everyone began screaming, followed by that clicking sound. She ran for dear life, naked and afraid. That was where she ran into the young teenager and moments later, the ship shook violently again and again and again.
She looked out of the porthole and noticed they were getting hit broadsided by large rogue waves one after another. But the sky was partially clear. “It’s a white squall.” The teenager said to her as he removed his shirt and handed it to her. “What’s your…” Suddenly, the ship began to tilt over and her ears began to ring by the magnitude of the high pitch screams. She looked up as the teen grabbed her and tried his best to shield her as they tumbled about until the ship was fully upside down. When she looked up her eyes locked onto a woman who had blood running down her face from a gash in her nose, it was possibly fractured. Older couples were collapsing on the ground, they were so tired. Then the sounds started. Click-Clack! Click-Clack! Click-Clack! At that moment the slaughter began.
The teenager took her and the both of them rolled into a small janitor’s closet where he locked the door and they waited in silence. During this time she introduced herself to the young man. “My name is Luana.” Her thick Portuguese accent made it hard for him to understand, but he gave her a soft smile.
“Alexander.” He nervously spoke, staring at her naked body and she quickly tried to cover up her exposed body parts with the shirt, but he picked up several towels and handed it to her and he remained quiet. A few hours went by and fear turned into lust and she threw herself into the Alexander’s arms. She figured if she was going to die, she was at least going to have sex. They would’ve stayed there, but then the water began to rise, forcing them out in to the dangerous halls. The entire time, Alex was carrying her and she felt safe in this boys arms. She was only five years older than him, but she thought if they get out of this alive, she would like to spend the rest of her life with him.
The ship shook violently and the ceiling above them collapsed and he threw her ahead of him, just as he was crushed. Luana cried, thinking about the handsome boy who saved her life. She short stopped and looked behind her. She hasn’t once come across those things, but she could clearly hear them. Click-Clack! Click-Clack! And they were getting closer.
Jonas and the others were able to take a short break in one of the rooms where they found bottled water and several bags of fruit snacks. Francine took several deep breaths as the voices were staring to become somewhat unbearable, but after she was able to drink some fresh water, the voices suddenly stopped. However, the pain in her stomach kicked in and she grasped onto the metal pipe next to her, bending it in the process. She nervously looked around to see if anyone noticed what she had just done, but they all were in their little worlds. “How long do you think we have?” Dennis asked as he hobbled towards the corridor. “You know, until the ship fully sinks in.”
“Truthfully, there’s no way to tell…” Jonas looked at everyone, “It could be one hour or ten. This ship has a unique mobile construction… With the residential section separated from the man body. Where we’re trying to get to is the suspension floor. This has all of these gears and large metal cylindrical pillars that percepts and compensates movements of the main body, decreasing the rocking of wave for the residential section and helps eliminates sea sickness. Basically, it pumps the water back out to keep as a counter balance and I think that system is still in operation which is why we haven’t fully submerged yet.”
“But even so… Once the amount of flooding in the lower levels become too much, we will start sinking for sure.” Tad’s voice sounded almost hopeful and for the life of him, he had no clue why. Francine slowly removed her bandage and was about to water her wound when she noticed that it was completely healed. She looked around and quickly rewrapped her arm, hoping that no one noticed.