Following the footprints takes a surprisingly long time. I can only shuffle, unable to tell my feet to move faster. We lose a couple more in our small swarm, some just wandering off into the forest. A building finally comes into view, a large, square building with a flat roof, and the rest of the creatures with me leave. It’s only me now.
I continue on, heading sluggishly towards the building. It tugs at the corners of my mind, something that I have a feeling I used to know. I wish I could remember, wish I could talk and move by myself and be human. At this point, I’m not human. I’m a creature, just like the creatures that followed me here and left, creatures not deciding for themselves. They have no free will, but I wonder if they’re the same as I am, just a consciousness. They can think, but they can’t do anything. I want to know, somehow, if they are trapped inside these useless bodies. I wish they could give me a sign.
I look to my right and I see a pile of bodies, greying creatures, all dead. Some have blood all over them, visible wounds, and what looks to be bullet holes in their foreheads.
They’ve all obviously been killed recently, maybe a few days ago. They’re all piled up against a barrier on the highway, with the footsteps I was following leading to them, then away from them and towards the familiar building. I keep going.
When I reach the building, I notice that the closest doors to me, the doors that the footprints lead to, have ropes across them, with empty cans on them. There’s another set of footprints that lead to another door, and I follow them.
I enter through the large door, which is slightly open, pushing it limply with my body. I hear slight voices and footsteps and head towards them.
There is a gymnasium, the door to it roped off, similar to the other door I had seen. There are cans on it as well.
Inside the large gym, there is an older man, presumably a father, and a younger boy, his son. A teenage girl is there as well.
The older man’s clothes are tattered, and he looks very tired, but not exactly sick. He has a stubbly beard growing. It’s obvious he’s been through a great deal of hardships. Considering that there seems to be no mother figure with them, maybe his wife died early on in the outbreak.
The boy, very young, has laugh lines on his face. I know that he used to be happy, but now he spends his days thinking - like I do - if we’ll ever make it out of this. He’s still smiling, a very small smile, but only when his family looks at him. That makes me want to feel sad, but I cannot feel sad. I can’t remember sad.
The girl is tough as nails, badass-looking, and altogether looks like she knows what she’s doing. She’ll kill you if you get in her way, that’s how she seems. Something about her tugs at my mind, but I try to dismiss it.
She’s saying something, a low mumbling, and I can just make it out. “We can stay here for a bit, but not for too long. If it starts to get overrun, we have to leave. Understand?”
Both the boy and the older man nod, the older man looking a bit sad - no, overwhelmed. Everything is just hitting him hard, and he didn’t seem to believe everything that was happening until recently. I’ve seen it happen before, and it’s devastating.
I try to stop myself, willing in my mind to stop myself from moving forward, but it’s of no use. I stumble ahead, tripping over the wire with the cans. It makes a huge banging noise, and they all look over at me in fear. I may be mistaken, but for the first time since I started losing my memory, I feel.
I feel frightened, just a small pang of fear that spreads, and my body, for once, does something I would also like to do - it heads away from the danger, away from the girl pulling out her knife.
I round the corner and hear footsteps approaching, but then they stop. “Yeah, we really should head out soon. There’ll be more coming,” I hear the girl shout over to her family.
I continue moving, down the corridor and out the back door, then heading around the school.
I know that the family inside the building will most likely be moving out sometime soon. I yearn to touch their skin, and that is my only need, my only task - to touch the living. I don’t know if I’m going to wait them out or not, but if I could control myself, that’s what I would do.
Of course, if I could control myself, I wouldn’t want to touch them in the first place. I know how awful this entire experience, this epidemic has been for humans, including me. I don’t know what I felt before I became sick, or who I lost. I can’t remember anything like that. But I know that everybody has lost somebody, and everybody is terrified.
Hearing rustling to my right, off in the woods, and I see a few shuffling, moving shapes. They’re creatures like I am, heading towards the school. I wish I could tell the family to get out, start moving now, but I have no way, no method of communication.
I then see another shape moving quickly through the trees. It is dark, and not shuffling at all, so it must be someone alive.
Heading to follow it, I shamble into the woods, forgetting about the family. It continues to stop, then hop to another tree, facing my direction. It looks as if it’s wearing a hood or some kind of long overcoat. I can see the bulge of multiple weapons in multiple sheaths, and it is wearing some kind of sneaker, as I can see the arch of the shoe where it doesn’t touch the ground.
I want to tell myself to stop, don’t move further, it’s not safe. I’m pretty sure that this person wants to kill me - if they don’t, they must not have experienced any part of the epidemic. I can’t stop myself and keep moving forward, towards the shape. As it hops from tree to tree, I turn to follow it, moving along slowly.
Stop, I think. Stop moving. You can get out of this if you just stop. Please stop.
Walking forward, some light falls onto the subject. It looks like a teenage boy, brow furrowed, with a bit of stubble growing on their face. I am close enough for him to shoot me exactly where he wants to, or throw a knife at me without ever missing, or whip me, if that’s the kind of weapon he uses. I realize again that I’m scared.
I’m scared of dying, even though I’m pretty much dead already.