Section 1: Lost
They say that you're able to see the life leave their eyes as they die.
That is, of course, if they die with their eyes open, and, to be honest, I don't believe it. I think they just die, and their soul moves on to wherever it goes. I don't know if there is a Heaven, or Hell, or Purgatory. I don't know if there truly is a God, or many gods, and I probably will never know any of this while I'm alive. Which probably won't be for long.
I can't remember when everything fell apart. I don't remember the sirens, or losing my family and friends in the panic after the school let us out early. But I can still remember myself, my entire existence and timeline, which means I haven't been infected.
I can still remember when everything was normal. When I’d go to school every morning, dreading waking up, homework. Now I dread not being able to wake up. I know it’ll happen someday, probably soon. The pure luck of me being able to survive this long is incredible, but I have a reputation for being one of the not-so-lucky, end-of-the-stick kind of girls.
Then the outbreak happened. Nobody really regarded it as a big deal at first. It stays in Europe, we’ll be fine. My parents never thought it would reach America, much less destroy entire civilizations in a few months, weeks. The disease took a while to reach us, but flattened us in no time, which is honestly one of the most terrifying parts of this whole thing.
You know what the most terrifying is?
That I’m still alive.
And that I can still remember.
This disease doesn’t just kill you. It wipes your memories, makes a shell of you. Victims can’t remember their family, or breakfast, or, eventually, their own name. But they can remember how to kill, and an idea is implemented into their minds that their one and only purpose is to spread. They are just hosts, but are led to believe that they’re in control of themselves. I would feel bad for them, if they weren’t trying to infect me everywhere I went.
There’s an odd urge to let yourself become infected, just to see how it would feel. I want to know what losing your memories feel like, but that kind of paradox is the kind of thing that keeps me going. I might not remember these feelings, and I’d never be able to compare that feeling with the ones I have experienced in the past.
This disease does kill you after a while. I’ve never seen it advance stages in someone, let’s say, but I’ve seen the stages of the disease. You’ll just be sick once it infects you, slowly losing memories of everything - birthdays, people you know, and yourself. Then you’re almost like the living dead, walking around and barely ever making a noise, save for some groans and grunts. At the final stages of this disease, your eyes become bloody, the entire white of your eye filling with the substance. Blood pools under the skin, like the black plague, and some even have blood pouring out of their mouths. This stage is the most dangerous - not only are they devoid of any emotion, they’re armed to spread. Touching the blood of a victim is the easiest way to get infected, and they’re walking fountains.
The beauty and simplicity in this disease is intriguing and horrifying at the same time. These people end their lives similar to the way they started - no memories, no feelings - pure and utter helplessness.
What a terrible way to go.
It wasn’t always this dangerous. When they first found it in Europe, only two or three people were infected, and all was well. Then doctors became scared. Infected. Patients escaped quarantine, trying to get a final taste of freedom, unknowingly infecting dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. People lied to get on boats and planes, thinking that there was a cure in the countries they were headed to. I don’t know if that was something they actually believed or had to tell themselves, trying to convince their own consciousness that they would be fine. Either way, it didn’t work.
Everybody panicked. Somehow, a patient snuck into New York City, unsupervised and unannounced. It spread like wildfire, and the government tried shutting down the borders of New York, but to no avail.
At this point, my mom and dad packed up our belongings in our little Pennsylvania home and we started traveling. Teddy, my little brother, would cry all day, constantly inquiring where we were going. He and my mom had a special connection, and she’d answer, “Where we need to be.” He never truly enjoyed the reply, but it seemed to calm him just a bit.
My mom and I never had a link, a true bond. I didn’t like shopping for dresses with her or having a girl’s weekend. I’d rather stay with Teddy. I regret that deeply now.
Because she fell ill.
My dad tried telling us that there was no way she was sick. Now that I think back, I’m not sure he was trying to convince us; he was trying to convince himself.
He told us it was just the flu, or a cold, but she became worse by the hour. Eventually we figured out how - she had stopped and retraced our trail a few days back, heading back to help out a man who was lying sick, but stated that he was fine, just had the flu. I can remember the man’s face and hands, and on his pointer finger there had been a dark spot - a blood pool. I wish I had spoken up, but I didn’t know she was going back to help that man. We passed ill and injured people every ten minutes. When she came back, it was too late.
I remember the final few days with my mom. Dad had set up a lean-to, a small tent-like structure to shelter her from the elements while she suffered. She forgot my birthday, and when she married Dad. Then she started forgetting who we were - she knew we were connected to her in some way, but she couldn’t place a finger on it. Her fever was raging, and I think she was experiencing hallucinations as well, because she would talk to entities that were not present, hold objects that we could not see.
She forgot our names. Began to get angry when we were near her, telling us that it was rude to stare and to get lost. Slowly, she forgot my dad, and then couldn’t remember anything about us. Watching this happen felt like being stabbed in the gut. Every word she said was another knife.
The guilt caught up with me, and I wailed when I realized that we had never been as close as some mothers were with their daughters. I would give anything to be able to redo my childhood, interacting with her more. Every day some regret flashes in my head and I want to curl up and just disappear. I wish I could stop existing, without the pain of dying. Just end.
But I have to carry on, for my mom. For Dad. For Teddy. Especially because they’re out there somewhere, alive.
I just have to find them first.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Before all this happened, I used to play at this one park near my house. It was colorful and pretty big, but almost never crowded. It was my favorite place to go, and I could walk there from our house. When Teddy was born, I got to take him over there and we’d play games all day long.
There was a library near the park, and when I was old enough, I was able to volunteer there. The library was my second favorite place to go.
It was very regal, but welcoming. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, but there were comfy beanbag chairs all throughout the rooms. It was colorful - rainbows on the walls, bright colors and scenery painted on the ceilings. There was so much technology there too, but it didn’t take away from the books.
I knew my way around this library so well, it was almost scary. You could blindfold me and I could still tell you where my favorite book and mural were located, and where Teddy’s favorite place to sit was. My library card would often become so beaten up, it was unusable, because of all the times it was swiped and scanned. I would read books to Teddy until he got tired or my throat started hurting from talking, take him back home, and head back to read some more.
Volunteering at the library was easily my favorite activity. Whenever I had some time, after school or over the weekend, I’d read to children, shelve books, and help process new arrivals. The librarian, Mrs. Finch, was a younger woman with a passion for reading almost as prominent as mine, and we would recommend books to each other as we shelved. It was perfect.
The library burnt down one summer. Somebody had left a candle burning overnight and a few books caught fire, spreading through the shelves and the carpet. Nobody was hurt, and they were able to stop it, but not before it destroyed nearly the entire collection. Books that we were able to scavenge were either charred or ripped, rendering all of them unreadable. I was devastated, and so was Mrs. Finch.
She tried to raise funds to start a new library, have people donate some books. People were excited, and promised to help, but almost nobody did. I donated so many of my old books, and so did Teddy, but it barely made a dent.
I visited the library before we left. It was still a pile of ashes and rubble, with a few stumbling footprints. I found a few books with their covers still intact, and the sight of these destroyed novels almost killed me, especially seeing the ones that had been my favorites. I walked around the rubble, running my hand against the seared walls that hadn’t crumbled. I still knew where everything was located, remembering the layout in my mind.
Honestly, I’m glad to say that the library, one of my favorite places, wasn’t destroyed by this disease.
As for the park, it was colorful as well, with a few different sets of monkey bars and slides. There was a climbing wall, and a little house-type structure where Teddy would go to pretend to play house, him being a grown-up man and me being his daughter or sister. His imagination would run wild, him saying that he was a dragon fighter and the only way to kill them was to climb over all of the structures in the park, but he could only do it if his sister or daughter was with him.
I was sad to see that it’s completely overrun. So many Infecteds have become trapped in the playground equipment, tangled in the monkey bars or under the formations. There’s a low-standing fence around the park, so I was able to approach it without being too afraid. Before leaving, I scanned the faces of these monsters. My heart sank when I recognized a couple of them.
* A/N *
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