The Quarantined City
The Quarantined City
I sat up slowly, my eyes squinting from the harsh light of the afternoon sun. My eyes closed once again, unaccustomed to the light but the images were burned into the darkness by flashes of light. I opened them again, growing used to it but the images still flashed in the corner of my eyes. My whole body ached and protested even the tiniest of movements. Gingerly I placed my hand to my head and when I pulled it away there was blood smeared on it.
Frantically I tried to wipe it off but when I looked down I realized I was covered in the red substance. It had dried into the fabric of my clothes. My shirt, or what was left of it, was torn to shreds. Holes and tears was all that was left of my shirt. My leggings fared no better. There were lots of little cuts all over. A piece of glass was still stuck in one. I dug it out, gritting my teeth from the pain. One arm was tightly wrapped in white medical tape, although it was so red, I doubted it had ever been white.
I was untying the tape before I really thought it through. The smell hit me before I had even unwrapped a section. It was a pungent smell and my skin crawled and all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I kept going, my pace increasing as the smell grew worse. Finally I had it off and the bandage slipped through my fingers when I finally saw what it was hiding.
Two deep cuts. Together they almost formed a circle. Bits of torn flesh and muscle still hung on and blood and pus oozed from the cuts. It was infected. I knew that much. Whoever did this wanted to cause as much damage as possible. I whimpered when the pain finally registered in my head. It was a throbbing mess. I took some of what was left of my shirt to rewrap it. The pain didn’t go away but at least now I didn’t have to look at it.
I was sitting in a bombed out alcove. Four brick walls surrounded me but bits and pieces of the walls were crumbling. Bricks were littered all over the ground along with broken glass, rotten food, and blood. And I apparently spent the night on a huge pile of the stuff. The wall in front of me was about chest high so with some effort I could probably climb over it. It must of been my way in so I had to be able to get out.
Why had I chosen to sleep here though? What happened to my arm? Where was everybody? I knew I had been with someone not too long ago. But I couldn’t remember who, or why, or even where I was.
I knew I was in a city. The skyscrapers around me told me so, despite being in the rundown shape they were in. It was a city. And a city was full of noise. But it was so silent. I couldn’t hear anything, no cars, no people, and no animals. Goosebumps danced up and down my body. The silence was eerie.
Unnerving. It made me edgy. My air was always filled with some sort of noise. But now all the comforting sounds of home were gone. And I knew only something big could cause a city to shut down like this.
Gradually, using a dislodged brick in the wall I had slept against, I pulled myself up. Bones popped and sore limbs stretched. Every muscle was sore and aching and refused to cooperate. I wanted to collapse back to the ground. Someone had to come along eventually right? I had a feeling no one was going to though.
I may not remember a thing before right now but my body says otherwise. I wear whatever has happened. Despite being sore, there was strength in my muscles. I have been fighting in a war I now know nothing about. Somehow though, I knew something. Help was not coming so I had to get to it. I stumbled to the wall, pulled myself over, and landed on my back on the other side.
I gasped when something sharp dug into my back. I sat up quickly and groaned from the movement. I turned my head and saw I landed on a brick. I was sure a bruise would form on my back, although I would just have to add it to the list of injuries I was developing. I stood back up and got my first good look at the city.
Tears pooled in my eyes. What happened to my city? There was destruction everywhere I looked. Buildings were in a state of collapse, cars were stuck in the middle of the road and sidewalks, and broken bodies were everywhere. I gasped, struggling to breath. I had to look away. On the horizon there was big bellowing stacks of smoke rising into the air. It looked like a war had torn through here.
And about three blocks down, there was a wall. It was a few stories high and expanded to the left and right. If I had to guess, which I was, I’d say it probably went around the whole city. I had a feeling that I wasn’t actually guessing though. The wall was familiar to me. At the top of the wall there were abandoned turrets. The guns hung there, sunlight reflecting off of them.
All of this seemed familiar. But I don’t remember seeing any of it before. Trying to think of anything before I woke up this morning gave me a terrible headache. Why was the wall there? What had people been trying to keep out? No… the turrets were pointed in. What had they been trying to keep in? I had a feeling I already knew but I was going to find out, and soon.
I started walking towards the wall. The air grew thicker and harder to breath. A horrible stench waded towards me and I gagged. It was awful. I brought my arm up to cover my mouth and coughed. I had to lean against a building for a moment and I caught my reflection in the glass.
Who was that girl staring back at me? Was that really me? My hair was covered in dirt and knots and there were patches that were completely gone. Like someone had grabbed a fistful and then pulled. Was my hair black or red? My eyes were bloodshot and had a yellow tinge. It was really light though and it seemed to be fading. And the tears that seemed to be permanently lodged in the corner of my eyes, were not tears. As I looked one leaked out and left a trail of red in its wake.
I wiped it away in a panic. I noticed one other thing. There were scars. My cheek, neck, collarbone, shoulder, chin- everywhere. It was the same scar. Two little lines, almost forming a circle. Almost all of them were still an angry pink but a few had faded some. What happened to me? Was I someone’s chew toy?
I saw something move in the glass behind me. I turned just as someone ran into me, forcing us into the glass. It gave way and we both tumbled into the building. The smell was the first thing I noticed. It smelled like road kill, the smell it had after sitting out in the sun for days. And poop. Road kill stench and poop. And then I got a look at his face. And screamed. He had a little hair but I saw clumps of it fall as I struggled to get him off. His eyes were yellow and blood dripped from the sides. His skin was an ashen grey and it drooped. Like gravity had taken a huge toll.
He moaned and gurgled and lunged towards me, his jaws open. I had one hand underneath his chin, keeping his head away from me and the other hand was sweeping the floor for any type of weapon. I gripped a rather jagged piece of glass in my hand and ignored the pain as it cut into my skin. I plunged it into his head just as his skin gave way. With a sick pop his face came off in my hands.
I screamed and with strength I didn’t know I had, rolled him off of me. I stood up and then vomited. He laid on his back, a piece of glass sticking out of his head. Red, bloody muscle was all that remained of his face and the part that had fallen off… was a few paces from his head. I wiped my hands on my leggings and stared wide eyed at the man. He didn’t move.
I threw up again.
I rushed out of the building, tripping over my own feet when I made it out on the street. It seemed brighter. And hotter. I struggled back to my feet and ran. I had to get to that wall. I had too. Something grabbed my arm and I spun around forcing my arm free, almost falling to the ground again in the process.
Another man was standing a few paces from me. His mouth curled up into a cruel smile. His face was missing patches of skin and his upper lip was gone. His teeth were an ugly yellow stain, much like his eyes. He had stuff stuck in his teeth and I didn’t think about what it might have been. He was also missing his nose. I thought of Face-less and thanked god when I didn’t have to urge to puke again. Nose-less took a step towards me and I blinked, taking a step back.
“You have such a pretty nose.”
The gravel, gurgling voice stopped me in my tracks. I was frozen, staring wide eyed at Nose-less.
“I’d really like a nose again.”
He lunged towards me. Screaming, I leapt out his way. He nicked my shoulder and I stumbled a few steps. I turned to face him and I saw many more people. They were spilling out into the streets, from all directions. All of them were moaning, a few were screaming, and they kept getting louder. There were so many.
I yelped when teeth sunk into my arm. I reared my arm back and hit Nose-less in the head. I swore and gripped the bite. It was on the same arm as the other one. I backed away from Nose-less, unsure of where to go. These people were swarming, coming in from every direction. None of them were close yet though. Only Nose-less.
He came after me again, mumbling something about his nose. He reached for mine but I danced out of his reach. I was trapped. I had nowhere to go. I could evade Nose-less all I wanted but the others were going to reach us soon. I was going to die. My mind was racing. There had to be an escape route. There was always an escape route. But there was nothing.
I looked up to see someone on the wall. He kept yelling ‘Survivor’ and more people started to appear along the wall. I stepped out of Nose-less’ way again. I looked back up when I heard someone yelling.
“Over here! Over here!”
There was a guy, waving his arms back and forth. A rope was being lowered. Only Nose-less was between me and that rope. I ran past him but he was quick enough to grab my shoulder, yanking me back. I swung my uninjured arm wildly, hitting him. His grip loosened and I lunged forward, away from him.
I was only a few feet from the wall but I was gasping. The rope had just reach me and I grabbed it, pulling myself up. I pulled myself up several feet when something grabbed my foot and pulled. I slid down the rope a few inches. It was Nose-less. I kicked out at him, knocking him away. I glanced behind me and saw the others were fast approaching. They were moving faster, like they realized I was going to get away.
I climbed faster, but my arms were getting tired, especially my one arm. There was a steady stream of blood and it hurt like hell. Half way up the wall I knew I couldn’t go any further. My arms were shaking and they felt like rubber. I was barely able to hang on. I let out a sob. I was so close. I needed to be here and I was so close. He said they needed me. He said I had to live.
“Pull her up! Pull her the fuck up!”
There was a memory of man. He wore full army garb. He came into this city. To get me. To get me out. He had a whole team at the start. He said he lost half of them an hour into the rescue mission. And then another two the day they found me. The last of them died when we were within a day’s walk to the wall. Just one more day and we would have made it. The man was bitten. He looked at me and then blew his brains out. Without a second thought. I watched the light fade from of his eyes. He died for me.
He said I had to live.
Someone was yelling. I glanced up, shaken from my stupor. The man on the wall was reaching out. I reached out, gripping his hand with my life. The moaning was louder. There was a hoard at the bottom of the wall and still, I saw more joining. I gulped. Why hadn’t he pulled me up? He was staring at the bite. The new one. He met my eyes only for a moment but I knew.
“No! No no no, please don’t! Please!”
“Let go of the ropes!”
I gripped his hand with both of mine as the rope slid down the wall in one fluid motion.
“Please! It doesn’t kill me! They bite and I don’t die! Please!”
“Wait! Wait! It’s her! Someone grab her! We need her!”
It was a new voice, pleading for my life. But he had already let go. My hands slipped from his even as he tried to grab me again. They were all yelling and scrambling along the wall. But it was too late, I was falling. Falling back to the dead’s outstretched hands. I screamed.
He said I had to live.