An epidemic is spreading. An epidemic that nobody has ever seen before, that nobody was ready for. It doesn't just kill people; it evolves them, wipes them into shells and reinvents them into machines to spread this disease before painfully removing them from the Earth.

Ebony Wilson has lost her mom to this plague, and has lost the rest of her family in the chaos. Unsure of where they are, and what steps to take when she finds them, whether they're infected or not, she works day by day to make it through this. To make it up to her mom and to find her family.

Will Ebony keep her head long enough to make it through, if this epidemic ever ends?


17. Chapter 17

    It feels like weeks, months, when Cody tells me that only a couple days have passed.  I have no real indicator of the time or date, just the sun outside and when the moon rises to greet it.  The house does not have any windows, but during sunrises and sets, an orange glow flows into the room through the cracks in the door and walls.  I’m usually asleep for these, however, and even then it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset.  The house is always so dark, even with Cody’s candle blazing on the dresser most of the time.

    Sitting up for one of the first times one day, I pop the question, “How long has it been?” and Cody explains to me that he found me a few days ago, which genuinely surprised me, to the point where I had to let myself lie back down.  I’m still incredibly weak, gaining my strength little by little.

    What felt like a couple days after that - in my perspective, it could’ve just been a couple hours - Cody brought me something warm, waking me up gently.  I pushed myself up against the wall into a sitting position, panting, and he placed a spoon in my hand and a steaming bowl of soup on my lap.

    I was starting to have the ability to keep down foods, eating more and more.  Cody explained that it was a great thing to be eating as much as I am, and to be hungry as well - it means I’m healing.  I can feel myself gaining energy as I consume the food he brings me, gaining strength.

    The soup is delectable, some of the best food I’ve had in ages.  It’s plain old chicken noodle soup, but it is still irresistible.  The warmth of the broth spreads throughout my body, starting at my fingertips, heading up my arms and legs.  It creeps up my spine and into my heart, my core, and my entire body is warm, for once.  Before the soup, I always feared that I would be perpetually cold.

    When I’m finished with the soup, Cody sits on a sweatshirt of his on the floor of the shack.  He’s crossing his legs, his head tilted up towards me eagerly, as if he’s waiting for me to speak.  After a little while, I acknowledge him.  “Thank you,” I tell him gratefully.

    Cody waves his hand, saying it’s fine, and then takes a deep breath.  “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.  That’s one of the last things I aim to do.  But I wanted to ask you a few questions, just to get a better feel for this whole epidemic, the infection, everything.”

    I ponder his offer for a bit, trying to see if it will be too much of an unpleasant reawakening of my former memories that are slowly fading.  I guess I’d better tell him before they all slip away.

    “Go ahead,” I answer finally.

    Again, he takes a deep breath, then leans over and reaches for his dark blue notebook on the chest of drawers.  “Where were you when you were infected?”

    I have to think, hard, but I finally remember.  “My family was all dead, and I didn’t want to stick around there, didn’t want to be forced to see their faces in all of the pictures around my house every day.  So I ran, I went out into the woods and started to run.  I think I got cornered, or maybe I saw a creature of someone I used to know.  Either way, I got trapped and was scratched at, and it infected me.”

    He scribbled something into his notebook as I was talking, then moved on.  “Can you remember how long it took for you to forget pretty much everything?”

    “Not really.  I think it was a couple days.  I was just out in the woods, suffering, getting sicker and sicker.  All of my memories started going almost instantly, and I couldn’t remember the tiny little details.  Then the huge events started to go, and eventually I couldn’t remember my name.”

    I’m scared that one of these will be the wrong answer.  That I’ll say something and he’ll become angry, or frightened, or depressed.  I don’t want to trigger him at all, but there’s no way of truly knowing if what I say is right.  He is nearly expressionless as he writes.

    “One more for now,” he tells me, finishing his writing.  “How long do you think you were infected?”

    I act like I’m trying to think about it, but it’s no use.  I can barely tell time now, let alone when I was trapped inside my own body.  Eventually I realize that it had to be more than two days - I can specifically remember two separate nights of walking - but it can’t be more than a week.

    I explain this to him and again he writes furiously.  When he’s finished, he yawns, prompting me to yawn as well.

    “We’d better get some sleep,” he says, and I lay down on the cot.  He takes some of his extra bags and clothes, as well as one of my sweatshirts that I allowed him to borrow, and creates a makeshift bed.  It doesn’t look too comfortable, but when I insist that I help him in some way, he assures me that he’s fine.

    His “bed” is off to the side of the house, pushed up against the wall and the chest of drawers.  It takes a little while, but I hear his breathing slow.  Looking over at him, it’s certain that he’s asleep - his arm is across his chest, and he is contorted in a way that he wouldn’t be if he were awake.

    I take the time that I have now to slowly push myself up on to my feet.  I fall back down on the bed a few times, but I’m alright.  It takes me a while to right myself when I fall back.

    I finally stand, dizzy.  Supporting myself on the walls and bed with my hands, I slowly walk over to my bag, near the head of the bed, lying on the floor.

    Bending down is probably the worst part.  My entire back and upper thigh shoots up in an electric shock of pain, but I clench my teeth to keep from crying out.  It’s difficult, but my fingers skim the bag and I am able to hook it and swing it up over my shoulder.

    The door opens with a creak and I fear that I woke Cody, but he snores loudly.  I pull the door the rest of the way open, enough to be able to get my body out, and tiptoe through it.

    Like that, I’m out.

    I don’t know where to go or why I’m doing this.  I’ve been trapped - not really trapped, more like temporarily stuck - in this hut for days now.  I want to get out, see the things that Cody is so interested in, obsessed with.

    My legs are extremely wobbly and I’m light-headed, but I keep moving.  I head out, away from the hut, not knowing truly where I’m going or in what direction, but knowing that I’m going somewhere.

    Walking becomes incredibly tedious after a little while, so I take a break next to a tree, sliding my back down it.  It feels nice to sit, but I feel unsafe and uneasy out in the open like this.  When I muster up the strength and courage to keep going, I prop myself up and continue on in the same direction.

    The moon peeks out above the trees every once in a while, catching my eye.  It is beautiful tonight, a full moon, and I am thankful for its illuminating glow over the land I walk on.

    I hear footsteps to my right and spin, tensing up immediately.  I try not to make a sound, try not to breathe.  I’m afraid that this thing can hear my heartbeat, racing, pounding against my chest.  It growls, and I jump a little bit.

    The creature standing a few yards away from me is what Cody called a “Bloody”.  Its eyes are red and it has blood dribbling down its chin.  It is very creepy, eerie, and I am mesmerized looking at it through healthy eyes.  I don’t see it as just a thing anymore, I see it as another living soul who is trapped inside their own minds, just a conscience.  So mesmerized by it, in fact, that I nearly forget that it has the potential to kill me.

    I try to run, hobble away from it as fast as I can.  The footsteps behind me are always there, but they start to fade out.  When I can’t seem to hear them anymore, I turn to look behind me.

    There is no creature following me, not that I can see or know of.  Panting, I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

    My head is spinning, as is my vision.  My legs are wobbling, the knees weak, and they are in so much pain.  Replaying the encounter in my head, I realize that I could’ve died.  I was close to death - I still am in a great amount of danger - and Cody wouldn’t know.  There would be no way of knowing unless he found me out here, either my body or my ‘creature’ again.  A wave of guilt rushes over me - this was a mistake.

    Turning to head back, I realize that I zigzagged when the creature was heading towards me, gaining on me.

    My mind is racing, trying to figure out how I got here, which way I came, which way the moon was rising up in the sky, but it doesn’t help.  I’m lost.

    I start to become even more dizzy, waves of it washing over me.  I feel the color in my skin drain, my ears burning, and I try to take a step but end up falling to the ground, hitting the layer of leaves.

    Before my vision goes black, I don’t know if it was a hallucination or not, but I could see my mom, dad, and sister standing above me.

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