“Holy crap, Noah are you okay?” Donovan rushed to his friend’s side but refrained from touching him. “It looks bad.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just--oh wow, this hurts.” Noah’s face twisted. “I need a first aid kit and, to uh, probably go to the hospital.”
“Right.” Donovan nodded. “First aid kit is in the bathroom. Vicky, help Noah. I gotta call the landlord before we go anywhere.”
Vicky glared at Donovan, her hands on her hips. “Wait, you’re going to the hospital with Noah?”
“Of course I am! Look at him, he needs stitches.”
“And when it was me in the hospital?”
“Would you shut up about that?” Donovan felt his throat tightening. His voice became higher and faster as he said, “Noah’s impaled on a piece of glass the size of a continent.”
Donovan heard Noah say, “It’s really not that big, and I don’t think it’s even that deep.” But he ignored it and continued on ranting.
“My apartment just became a split level, something my landlord won’t be very happy to hear, and I’m sure he’ll find a reason to blame me for it, especially if I don’t call him A-S-A-P. You’ve been a monster all night, especially to Noah, so now you’re going to make it up to him--and me!--by going to the bathroom with him, finding the first aid kit and doing what ever he tells you will help him while I call my petulant landlord!” Donovan tried to breathe but it caught in his throat. He propped himself up against the wall as the world started to spin, his anger was building but he pressed it down.
“Hey, babe, look at me.” Jasper put a hand on either side of Donovan’s face. They stared into each other’s eyes as Donovan focused on inhaling a long, steady breath. “You’re okay. Noah’s okay.”
“Is--” Vicky’s voice faltered, as if she were frightened of being yelled at again. “Is all of this... emotion because of your sister’s ‘prank’?”
Donovan started shaking. With all the commotion he’d forgotten about his family. They’re all dead, Donnie. That was what his hysterical sister said before he lost the call.
“I’m pretty sure you have a job to do,” Jasper said and Vicky turned to lead Noah to the bathroom.
Donovan started lowering himself slowly to the floor. “I needa lay down.”
“Okay, do what ever you need.” Jasper rubbed Donovan’s back as he pressed his face against the hardwood.
“What I need is to be alone.” Donovan rubbed his temple. “But that can’t happen right now.” He reached into his pocket for his cell phone and started to dial his landlord’s number but something distracted him. A scream, coming from downstairs. “Jasper! I think my neighbour’s hurt!”
“I don’t think he’s home,” Jasper responded. “He usually works nights.”
There was another scream, this one was louder. “It’s outside,” Donovan said, moving to the edge of his wrecked apartment. The power was out, a car had careened into the telephone pole, which had in turn created his new open air living room. Up and down his street, cars were coming to a halt, blocked by the accident--their headlights illuminating the otherwise dark scene. People were standing with each other on the sidewalks and in the street, staring around at the growing confusion. There were a dozen screams now, people were turning on each other. A child attacked her mother, a man was biting a woman’s neck, and somewhere in the distance there was the sound of gunfire.
“Jasper, what’s going on?”
“Get back here!” The forceful tone in Jasper’s voice made Donovan turn towards him. “It’s not safe.”
“Are you seeing this? This is crazy.” Donovan stepped forward again and the weight of his body shifted the tenuous balance of his crumbling home. The sound of cracking old wood split through the air. Jasper pulled Donovan back as what remained of the front of his flat tumbled down into the street. The crashing of rubble caused the attackers to turn from their victims and come shuffling towards the tremendous sound.
“What just happened?” Vicky poked her head out of the bathroom. “Did something else hit the house?”
“Vicky, get Noah!” Jasper was pulling Donovan into the hallway now. “We gotta go.”
Donovan tried to pull himself loose from Jasper’s grip. “Well it’s gonna be tough now,” he said, “The stairs are gone.” He gestured behind him. When the rest of his living room fell, it had taken his rotting stairs with it.
“I mean, really, it was bound to happen eventually.” Vicky shrugged. “You basically live in a condemned death trap.”
“It’s called character,” Donovan quipped.
“It’s called dilapidation. A telephone pole shouldn’t be able to do that to a house, should it?”
“Both of you, shut up.” Jasper was watching the living room. Donovan noticed that people were trying to climb over the rubble now, but they looked strange. Their flesh was pale and gray and their movements were slow and uncertain. He watched as one woman lost her balance. She fell into a splintering beam that pierced through her chest but there was no scream of pain. She turned her head up to look at him, not bothered by the weeping wound in her breast. She snapped her teeth and moaned, reaching her arms towards him. “Is there another way out?” Jasper asked and his voice sounded far away.
“Uh...” Donovan considered the floor plan of his apartment. “Unless you count windows, no.”
“No fire escape?” Vicky scoffed. “Figures.”
Jasper didn’t seem to notice Vicky’s attitude. He didn’t seem to notice anything but Donovan. “Which window is easiest to get out?”
“The attic? I guess. I mean, you could get onto the roof from there. Any other window you’d just Wylie Coyote out into a two story drop.”
“The roof, that’s good. We’re close enough to the neighbours to jump over.” Jasper looked outside again, scanning from right to left. “We could get right down the block even.”
“Why are we climbing over roofs instead of just walking on the street?” Vicky was still down the hall, she couldn’t see the terror outside. She sounded like she was trying not to lose her temper and Donovan thought maybe he had curbed her aggression with his little eruption. “Or, better yet, driving?”
“The woman on the news was telling the truth,” Donovan was surprised how rational Jasper seemed about it, like it was perfectly normal for him to plan high risk roof top escapes. “There are... zombies out there, a lot of them, so we need to go! Now!”
“Oh God, Heather!” Donovan rushed to his roommate’s bedroom but Jasper pulled him back.
“Get out of my way.” Donovan squirmed from Jasper’s grip and pushed open a door just past the bathroom. “Heather? Are you okay?” He groped the darkness with his eyes and heard her sickly moaning. He moved to the edge of her bed, reaching his hands out in the darkness to balance himself.
“I don’t like this!” Jasper hissed from the hallway.
Donovan could see the dark outline of Heather as she slowly lifted her body off the bed. “Are you okay?” Donovan repeated himself in a quiet voice but she only responded with a guttural moan. She sat up, her short hair matted with a day’s worth of feverish tossing in bed. She slowly got to her feet and reached out for Donovan, stumbling over the mess on her floor. He leapt forward to catch her but she wiggled in his arms, frantically grabbing at his body. She lifted her head and in the meagre light Donovan saw that her eyes were clouded and drool dripped from her mouth and chin. Before he could react to her frightening appearance, her teeth were plunging into the flesh of his forearm. The skin on his arm was tattered and bleeding. Pain was radiating from the wound in waves and it was so intense it made his head spin.
“Agh!” Donovan pushed her backwards and Jasper quickly leapt into action, tackling Heather as she stumbled away.
“The knife in my back pocket!” he shouted and Donovan instantly obeyed, freeing Jasper’s switchblade from its denim sheathe. “Stab her! Right there in the back of her neck!”
“What? I’m not going to kill my roommate!”
“Are you seriously going to argue this right now? Did you miss the scene on the street? Or what your sister said?”
“I just, I don’t understand how this could be happening!”
“Damn it!” Jasper turned, giving Heather the chance to wiggle free. She pushed him to the floor and climbed on top of him, drooling and grunting as she struggled to get her face close to his.
“Kill her!” Jasper’s voice was strained as he deflected Heather’s grasping hands. Her teeth came dangerously close to his skin as Donovan struggled to take action.
“Heather, why are you doing this?” Donovan begged, he looked at the blood seeping from his wound, then back down at his roommate. An angry, animalistic part of him wanted her to pay for the attack but he pushed it aside. “Jasper what if she’s just delirious?”
“Donovan?” Vicky’s voice came from down the hall. “What’s going on?”
“Stay back!” Jasper demanded, still wrestling Heather. He thrust all his weight against her and flipped her onto her back before perching on top of her. “Give me the damn knife!”
Donovan looked at the knife, then back at his groaning friend. “There’s gotta be another way!”
Jasper released a wordless torrent of rage before climbing off of Heather. Donovan felt an unexpected burst of fear as he found himself standing in the shadow of his angry partner. Jasper wrenched the knife from his hand and turned around as the sick woman tried to climb back to her feet. He plunged the blade into her temple and she stopped moaning. She remained in her position for a moment before crumpling to the floor.
“What the hell, guys?” Vicky said but Jasper pushed Donovan aside to slam the bedroom door. “What’s going on in there?” She pounded on the other side of the door as the lock slid into place.
“You can’t say anything about this bite.” Jasper’s voice was low as he wrapped Donovan’s arm with a shirt from Heather’s drawer.
Tears choked Donovan’s words. “You’re scaring me,” he said in a small voice as he looked at Heather’s body.
“It isn’t even a bite, get it?” It didn’t seem like Jasper was listening, or even like he could listen if he wanted to. He was in a strange place Donovan had never seen before. A place that was commanding and overbearing. “You just... You cut yourself with my knife, you know, in the struggle!”
“What? You just saw-”
Jasper put a hand over Donovan’s mouth and he felt that same feeling of fear explode in him again. “I don’t know what’s going on but I’ve seen just as many movies as you. If these are... zombies,” he shook his head as he spoke, “then the others might get worried that you’ll turn into one of them and that won’t happen!”
Donovan pulled Jasper’s hand from his mouth, “What if I do though?” he asked, tears flowing freely from his eyes.
“You won’t.” Jasper touched Donovan’s face and leaned in to kiss his forehead. “I promise.”
Donovan pulled away, a look of scorn painted thick on his face. “You don’t get to act like... like... like this and then try to kiss me!”
“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to protect you.”
“Well the way your acting I’d think you’re the one I need protection from!”
“No, you need protection from that mess out there!” Jasper motioned from the window to Heather. “From that!"
"She is my friend!”
“She was, now she’s just one of those things on the street. She’s one of the things that may have just killed your family!”
“How can you be so sure?” Donovan tore his gaze from Heather’s body. Through the window he could see a woman being attacked in the street by two limping children. “Besides, if she’s a zombie then why are you telling me this bite--”
Jasper cut Donovan off with another angry sound. He was standing over Donovan again, a hard finger against his skinny chest. “It’s a cut!”
Donovan was beginning to feel like a scolded dog, which made anger bubble up from inside his fear. All he could do was let it fill him and then flow out into the room. “What ever!” He screamed, he could hear Vicky pounding on the door, calling to be let in but he was focused on Jasper now. He felt like the anger was billowing off of him and as it filled the space his vision paled. “I don’t care what the hell is happening out there, or who got hurt. You do not get to intimidate me like this do you get that?”
“Uh...” Jasper nodded, Donovan could see he was holding back his own tide of anger. “Okay, I’m sorry.”
As suddenly as it had taken hold of him, Donovan’s rage dissipated and the room seemed to clear. “Thank you,” he said, and straightened his shirt. “So... why are you so sure I won’t get turned by this bite?”
“I can’t explain it, I just know you won’t.”
“You can’t explain!” Donovan’s posture suggested that he was about to release that vision clouding anger again but Jasper held up his hands in a submissive and pleading sort of way.
“Don’t you think we have more important things to do than talk shop about what may or may not happen with these supposed zombies? Like, get Noah to a doctor?” Jasper had always been good at changing the subject.
“Noah? What about me?”
“I’ll take care of you, just don’t worry the others by telling them.”
The two men remained silent for a moment before Donovan finally looked away, “I won’t say anything.”
Jasper moved to open the door. “Good.”
“Why is everyone always yelling!" Vicky said. Then she seemed to notice Heather’s body. “What happened?”
“Heather was one of them,” Jasper said, cutting off Donovan’s unspoken reply. “She attacked us.”
“And you killed her?” Noah entered the room and knelt down beside Heather, feeling for a pulse.
“She’s got a knife sticking out of her head!” Vicky’s annoyed voice cut through Donovan even worse than before. “Do you really needa check her pulse?”
“We didn’t have any other option.” Jasper continued speaking to Noah as if Vicky hadn’t said a thing. “Have you seen what’s going on out there? Do you really wanna be trapped in an apartment with one of those things?”
“Donovan, are you okay?” Vicky turned to his bandaged arm and he remained silent.
“He just cut himself with my knife, don’t worry about it,” Jasper pulled Donovan closer and left the bedroom.
“You should let me look at that,” Noah followed the two of them but Jasper turned on him.
“He’s fine. I’ve got this. You just take care of yourself.” Donovan was sure Jasper wanted to sound concerned about Noah’s injury, but it sounded more territorial than anything else. Maybe that was just the lingering effects of their argument.
“But it could get infected, just let me wash it up and bandage it properly.”
“Leave it alone!” Jasper’s eyes flashed a warning as he led Donovan towards the stairs to the attic.