Alone, Part One
“Virulent Disease Spreading Through Manhattan! October 20th, 2013”
“Since October 12th this year, there have been over 400,000 reported cases of a new, unidentified virus, seemingly originating in New York City. Scientists have been called in from all around the country, including some of the top researchers from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. Not much information is currently known about the disease, but it does not seem to have a high fatality rate. Of the 400,000 cases currently documented, only 3,000 deaths have been reported.”
“The virus, (if it is, in fact, a virus. Scientists haven’t currently been able to classify it as viral as of yet), however, is extremely infectious. Simple contact, even just touching hands, can spread the disease. It also seems to be sexually transmitted, as well as being airborne and waterborne. The CDC has issued warnings to stay inside and decontaminate anything that has been outside recently.”
“‘We’re not quite sure what it is yet,’ says Dr. Edward Jenner of the CDC. ‘It could be viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, we’re not sure yet. We’re performing tests on every patient we have, but we haven’t been able to find almost any similarities between the cells in each. Some seem to be malignant, attacking host cells, while some seem to be benign, choosing instead to remain dormant. We’ve so far identified over 100,000 different genetic structures of the cells, all of them completely different. It’s not even as if one is, say, ABBC and another is ABBB. One might be ABBC, and the next is DFFE, while the one after is MNNO. We’ve taken to calling the disease ‘the Imperium virus.’ So far, we have been able to develop a basic vaccine that can protect white blood cells, but it hasn’t proven to be incredibly effective, only offering protection 40% of the time. It’s better than nothing, though.’ When asked about the possibility of this disease being the next Black Plague, Dr. Jenner declined to comment.”
“Common symptoms include chills, mood swings often angling towards depression, loss of energy, and sensitivity to light. In some cases where these symptoms are extreme, death can occur. If you believe yourself to be infected with the Imperium virus, most hospitals in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx have set up emergency response clinics, which are administering the ‘rough draft’ vaccine.”
Harry Conrad set down the newspaper, finishing the last of his orange juice. He glanced at the headline again, feeling slightly nervous, then stood from the table.
“I’m heading to work, Abigail!” Harry called to the other room, where his wife was drying her hair.
“Be safe!” she called back. “The roads are gonna be icy.”
“They always are in October these days, huh?” Harry said, pulling his leather jacket on. “I’ll grab some salt on the way home, clear out our parking lot.”
“The landlord’s supposed to do that, you know.”
“Yeah, well, we both know he won’t.”
Harry thought a moment, then went into the bathroom that Abigail stood in. She looked up at him in the mirror. Harry walked over and kissed her.
“What was that for?” she asked, a smile dancing across her face.
“Just felt like I needed it. See you!”
Abigail just giggled and went back to drying her hair.
Harry pulled up the hood of his light grey hoodie, then exited his apartment.
Harry taught at English at North March High School in Westchester, across the river and a little under fifty miles from his apartment in Manhattan. Going over the bridges out of the city took a while, as they were jammed with cars. Harry sat in traffic for two hours. Luckily, however, his first class of the day was 4th period, so being late to work wasn’t too terrible.
Getting there, Harry saw several large trucks with biohazard symbols on them. His mind immediately flew to the front page of the newspaper that morning. Regardless, he shrugged it off and went inside.
The halls were filled with students getting from one class to another. As he made his way to his classroom, however, he noticed several people in white lab coats and full-body bio suits moving around. Harry passed a colleague of his, Charlie Harper, and stopped him. “Hey, what’s with all the biohazard stuff?” Harry asked.
“They’re sending scientists to the schools around here to do testing for this ‘Imperial virus’ going around,” Charlie replied.
“Imperium…” Harry muttered, not sure why he bothered. “Never mind. Thanks for letting me know.” He nodded at Charlie, and went on his way.
He didn’t know it then, but that was the last time he’d ever speak to Charlie.
Harry sat at his desk, on his laptop. His 7th period class had just ended, and he was taking his lunch. However, he wasn’t at all hungry, so he was surfing Reddit.
After a few minutes of this, a scroller for the New York Times rolled across the top of his screen. “Breaking news! Victims of Imperium virus turn violent!” Harry felt a sinking feeling in his stomach, and he clicked on it.
“Today, in Heller Hospital in Harlem, patients sick with what was originally thought to be the Imperium virus turned violent and attacked doctors and other patients. Heller Hospital recently had an influx of sick patients complaining of heat flashes, mood swings that tended to go to anger, and excess energy. Today, over 100 patients with these symptoms attacked others. Eyewitnesses say that the violent patients didn’t say anything during the attacks, instead only screaming wildly.”
“Additionally, the attacks were not what one might expect; instead of using any kind of weaponry against the victims of the attack, the attackers bit, clawed, and mauled. The military was called in shortly after the violence began, and all 100-plus patients were killed. The current death count of doctors and other attacked people has reached upwards of 200.”
“Since the attack, several survivors, as well as civilians and soldiers on the scene have begun to complain of similar symptoms, including heat flashes and anger. If you are suffering from these symptoms, you are advised to go to an emergency relief post immediately.”
“Shit…” Harry muttered. He took out his phone and called Abigail. The phone rang several times, then went to her voicemail. “Come on, come on!”
He closed his laptop and stood up. He had to know more about this. He put on his jacket, gathered up his bag, and left his classroom. Harry went down to the nurse’s office, passing the commons area along the way. From it, he could see, at the end of a hallway, the viral testing area set up. It had large, white machines, medical curtains, and IV stands. The whole setup seemed to extend into several nearby classrooms.
Harry arrived at the nurse’s office to find the resident nurse, Gary, present.
“Harry Conrad! Good to see you! What brings you down here today?” Gary asked, happy to have someone to talk to, since not many people had any reason to stop by the nurse’s office these days.
“I was just wondering what you knew about this weird virus going around,” Harry said, shifting his feet. He felt nervous, but he had no clue why. He was worried about Abigail, what with her being a nurse at Holy Cross Hospital, which stood not four miles from Heller Hospital, but he felt dread for himself.
“Well, I know that a few people with it just killed a bunch of people uptown.”
“You saw that article too, huh? Yeah, has me worried.”
“Well, I’m not gonna be of much help, but I’ll tell you what; the head virologist here today, Jimmy Koenig, is a buddy of mine. Let’s go talk to him, and I’m sure he’ll tell you what he knows.”
“Sounds good,” Harry said, smiling. “Let’s go.”
They left the office and headed towards the commons area. “Jimmy should be around the testing area,” Gary said. “We’ll check around there first.”
Harry said nothing. He felt a knot in his throat, almost as if he wanted to cry, but he couldn’t place any reason for it. He had texted Abigail twice, but she hadn’t responded. He’d try calling the hospital directly next if he didn’t hear back soon.
They got into the commons area, which was empty. Gary stopped, then called out “Jimmy!” A man in a white lab coat had just turned a corner out of the commons area, and hadn’t seemed to hear Gary. “He’s a little deaf. Let’s catch up to him.”
Gary picked up speed, and Harry began after him. However, as he walked past the hallways that led to the testing area, he felt his stomach drop. Harry stopped walking, then looked down the hall towards it. From the testing area, he heard noises that had no reason being in a school.
Shouting, cursing, and roaring. Slightly distant-sounding, and it was only because Harry was listening for it did he hear it. He took a step towards the sound, fear clutching his heart.
Suddenly, the roars got louder, and a door was thrown out into the hall, ripped from its hinges. A huge crowd of people, including students, doctors, and teachers, exploded into the hall, running at full speed towards the common area. Harry immediately could see that these people weren’t normal, and that they were like those that had attacked people in Heller Hospital. They sprinted down the hall, faces grey and contorted into a hellish roar, rage and contempt in their eyes. Several broke from the crowd and slammed against doors of other classrooms. As some got into them, Harry could hear the screams of students within as they were attacked.
“Doc!” Harry yelled, turning to Gary. Gary had stopped when he heard the door fly into the hall, and his face contorted in fear as he saw the crowd of people rushing towards them. “We gotta go!”
Gary nodded, and the two ran back towards the cafeteria. Harry was terrified, but he kept moving. He’d had to run farther and with less of a head start before, several times in Afghanistan during his service. However, it was nerve wracking.
Gary was already panting heavily. He was clearly scared, and in less control of it than Harry was. They had to get out quickly, or he wouldn’t make it.
As they got into the cafeteria, Harry began shouting to the students and teachers eating lunch at the top of his lungs: “Get the hell out now! It’s not safe!” Many looked at him quizzically, not immediately knowing how to react. Was this a joke? Harry only continued to yell warnings, but no one seemed to heed them.
Harry got halfway through the cafeteria, still shouting, but no one had moved. However, as he took in breath for another round of shouting, the first of the Infected crowd entered the sprawling room and began to attack people. Harry turned back, seeing people getting bitten, torn into, and just murdered horribly. This got people to start moving.
Screams and terrified calls for help replaced the loud talking and laughing that had been present moments before. Blood splattered the floor and tables as people were torn apart. Harry and Gary just kept moving.
As Harry got towards the opposite end of the cafeteria that he had entered, he saw his good friend and colleague, Katie, sitting at a table, reading a book with her earbuds in, listening to music. She hadn’t heard anything that had been happening.
“KATIE!” Harry yelled, somehow finding increased volume despite his raw throat. She looked up, a smile on her face at Harry’s voice. “GET THE FUCK OUT!” Her face changed to confusion, then fear as she saw the bloodshed behind Harry. She stood up quickly, ripping out her earbuds, and caught up with Harry.
“What’s going on?” she yelled, fear making her voice weak.
“This virus is turning people crazy, making them attack each other, and there’s a lot of them here! We need to get out!” Harry replied, taking her arm to make her feel safer, as she was clearly already terrified.
“Where? Where are we going?” she yelled, tears beginning to run down her face.
“I’ve got my car parked on this side of the school,” Gary said. “We can take that to somewhere safe!”
“Then let’s get there!” Harry yelled, his throat hurting with every word.
They exited the school, Gary yelling at students and faculty to leave, warning them of the danger inside. In the parking lot, several Infected people had gotten outside, tearing into people who had tried to escape. It seemed that the Infected who had escaped from the testing area hadn’t been the only violent people there; the virus spread like wildfire.
“It’s right over here!” Gary yelled. They piled in, Harry somehow ending up in the driver’s seat. Gary handed him the keys, and they began driving out. However, as they went towards the back entrance, they saw it was filled with military tanks and trucks rolling into the parking lot. Soldiers on the trucks were firing at Infected people who got too close.
“Can’t go that way!” Katie yelled from the backseat. “They’ll probably shoot us to try and stop the virus from spreading further!”
“Wouldn’t help them,” Harry growled, gritting his teeth and turning around. “This is already happening in the city, but you’re probably right about them shooting at us.”
They drove in silence, the roars of Infected and gunshots from soldiers struggling into the car. As they turned, the entrance they had recently left from came into view. Several Infected poured from it. After a second, they were blasted off their feet by a fiery explosion.
“What the hell was that?” Gary shouted in terror. He was clearly handling the whole situation terribly.
“They’re using the tanks,” Harry muttered. “If they’re shooting off tank shells in an a public area, that means this is really bad.”
As they passed another row of cars, Harry said “I just remembered: I have a gun and some supplies in my car. I’ll take that home.”
“Alright. I’m going to get the hell out of Dodge and head for my parent’s house in Philadelphia,” Gary said. His voice still wavered, but he seemed to be determined to be keep his fear under control.
Harry finally found his car, wished Gary and Katie the best, and got out. As he shut his door and began to his car, he heard another door shut behind him. Turning around, he saw Katie coming to him.
“I want to come with you,” she said, wincing as another tank round hit the school. “You’ve got military training, right?”
“Yeah, four years in the Marines,” Harry replied, throwing his bag in his car.
“That’s better than a school nurse. My house isn’t going to be any safer than yours, so I’m coming with you.”
“Fine, that’s fine. Let’s just go!”
They got into the car and pulled out. As Harry turned and began down the aisle, he saw Gary’s car behind him quickly surrounded by Infected. He heard Gary’s screams as the driver’s side door was ripped open, and Gary was pulled out and torn apart. Katie began to look behind them, but Harry quickly said “Don’t look,” and he drove off.
He took the main entrance out, and the street in front was clogged with cars. Infected had spilled out onto the street, killing many civilians in the same manner they had killed Gary. A truck with several soldiers rolled along in the median, the soldiers firing at Infected that were in view.
“Hold on to something,” Harry said, and then pulled right behind the military truck. He figured the truck would clear the way, and if he stayed right behind it, he’d be able to get out.
“Check the glove compartment,” Harry said, gripping the steering wheel tightly enough to make his knuckles go white. “I should have a pistol in there.”
Katie looked through it, but only came up with gloves and car documents. “It’s not here!” she said, terror creeping into her voice.
“Shit, that’s right!” Harry snarled, hitting the steering wheel. “I put it in my closet last week.”
At that, Harry remembered how he hadn’t heard anything from Abigail, and pulled his phone from his pocket. Glancing at the road quickly, he pulled up Abigail’s number and called her. “Come on, Abigail, come on.” As the phone kept ringing, Harry grew more and more scared. “Pick up, goddamnit!”
The phone rang a final time, then went to voicemail. “Hi, this is Abigail Conrad. I’m not here right now, but leave a message after the beep. Beep!” Then, the high-pitch tone sounded, and Harry spoke.
“Abigail, I’m not sure if you’ve heard what’s going on, but you need to get home right now. The streets aren’t safe, people are going crazy and attacking each other. The National Guard is rolling in, shooting now and asking questions later. It’s not at all safe right now, and I need you home. I’ll be there in an hour.” He paused a moment, then said “I love you. Be safe, ok?”
He hung up, then dropped his phone in the cup holder. Katie turned to him, but said nothing.
They turned on a road, still behind the military truck, and saw a highway above them and to their right. It was clogged with cars as well, but they were moving quickly. Near them was an 18-wheeler. Harry saw it, and immediately felt nervous.
After several seconds, he knew why.
The 18-wheeler began to swerve erratically, then picked up speed suddenly. It broke the guard rail on the highway, and proceeded to fly off the elevated street right towards them.
“Harry!” Katie yelled, tears streaming down her face.
“I see it!” he yelled back. He braked, then swerved slightly. The 18-wheeler landed and skidded into the military truck in front of them, twisting and crushing the metal and the soldiers. Harry had to come to a full stop to avoid hitting the wreckage.
“Oh my god…” Katie whispered. “Oh my god! This can’t be happening, this can’t…”
“Stay here,” Harry said quickly, then got out of the car.
“Harry!” Katie yelled, but Harry shrugged her off and ran towards the wreckage in front of them.
Several soldiers had survived the hit, but were in terrible condition. One had been hit by sharp metal and cut in half, but he was still crying out a woman’s name. Harry wasn’t sure if it was his mom’s name, or his wife’s. Either way, Harry ran forward and found a dead soldier who was laying on the asphalt, his brains splattered on the sidewalk. In his hands, he still clutched an M4A1 rifle. Harry bent, ripped it out of his hands, then patted his vest and pulled out two spare magazines. His hands then went to the holster at the dead soldier’s right hip, and took out the M9 Beretta that sat in it. Now armed, Harry quickly returned to his car.
“Don’t ever do that to me again, Harry!” Katie yelled when he got back into the car.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I feel a lot more comfortable now that I’ve got weapons.”
“It’s ok, just-just get us to your apartment, ok? We’ll be safe there, right?”
“Absolutely. I promise, we’ll be ok there.” Harry patted her shoulder. Katie was shaking uncontrollably, and Harry wanted desperately to calm her down.
Harry tossed the rifle into the back seat, then stuck the M9 in a small compartment under the radio.
He put the car into drive, then drove away from one area of hell, and into another.
The streets of Manhattan, which had always been busy, were much busier now. Military tanks and trucks rolled about the streets, crushing cars and lampposts. Soldiers fired on the Infected when they saw them, but it was clear the Infected were winning. For every Infected that fell, several more took its place.
“How the hell is this happening?” Katie cried, completely sobbing now. She could see the hopelessness of the situation. It was all-out war here, and she was on the losing side.
“I don’t know. It’s like this all just happened at once!” Harry said through gritted teeth. He had never liked driving, and now he was swerving between stalled cars, corpses, living monsters, and tanks. “This hadn’t happened at all, then shit hit the fan everywhere at once!”
A tank fired at a crowd of Infected near Harry’s car, and the blast rocked it. Katie screamed.
“Hang on!” Harry shouted. He turned sharply, and went into an alleyway just big enough for the car to get through. He came out on another street, which was slightly clearer than the last.
“Is this happening all over the country?” Katie said between her tears.
“I don’t know,” Harry said quickly, trying to focus on driving. He swerved out of the way of an Infected that had half its face missing. It screamed and hit the driver’s side window, cracking it. Katie screamed again.
Finally, after several minutes of hectic driving, Harry got to a street that was two blocks away from his apartment. It was clogged with cars.
“Shit,” Harry muttered. He pulled away and circled around, getting to another street that wasn’t far from his apartment. This one was clogged with cars, too. He could see from here that the other side was also too full to drive through.
“What are we going to do?” Katie asked, holding herself tightly.
“Walk,” Harry said grimly, then grabbed the M4 from the backseat. He killed the engine and stepped out. “You know how to use this?” Harry asked, holding the M9 out to Katie.
“I’ve never touched a gun in my life. I’d feel a lot better if you held onto it.”
Harry began to say something, but shook his head. There was no point. With his luck, Katie would shoot at an Infected coming up behind him, and hit him in the back.
He tucked the M9 into his waistband, leaving the grip hanging out, and put the sling around him in a way that, if he had to drop the rifle and go for his sidearm, the rifle would still be around his chest instead of on the ground. He turned the safety off, set the fire mode to auto, then looked to Katie. “Stay right behind me, ok? Watch our backs, and let me know if anything gets too close. I’ll keep us safe.”
Harry raised the rifle, putting the sights in front of his eyes but keeping both eyes open. He hunched over slightly, as he was taught in the Marines, and he moved quickly but carefully.
They got a ways down with no problems. An Infected stumbled out of an alley, immediately crying at Harry, but it was put down with a bullet to the chest. “Damnit,” Harry muttered, having aimed for the head.
They got within a block of Harry’s home when it happened. Three Infected came from behind a car, and Katie screamed. Harry killed them without much trouble, missing once or twice, and when Katie was still screaming after they were dead, Harry turned and saw Katie being attacked.
She was still standing, but an Infected was biting her shoulder, teeth going deep. Her left arm had already been torn into and, as Harry raised his rifle up to shoot it, the Infected bit into her neck. Katie only screamed, her sound filling with blood.
Harry pulled the trigger, but it clicked. Instead of reloading, he swung up with the rifle, hitting the Infected in the head with it. It crushed the Infected’s head in, but the rifle cracked in half and broke beyond use.
The Infected now dead, Katie fell to the ground. Harry knelt down next to her, already seeing she wouldn’t make it. The bites were deep, the bleeding was intense, and he was sure whatever germs had gone into her would kill her. Regardless, he picked her up. “I’m getting you out of here. Abigail’s a nurse. She can do something for you yet.”
“Harry…” Katie started weakly, but Harry paid her no heed and began walking towards his apartment. Luckily, he encountered no more Infected. Far off, he could hear the bullets from soldiers and screams from Infected. As well, he heard the bullets slowly dwindle in number, and the screams grow.
“Harry…” Katie said again, but Harry cut her off.
“I don’t want to hear it. You’re gonna be ok,” Harry growled, his voice wavering. He didn’t believe it himself.
“No, I’m not, and you know it. Don’t bring me inside to your wife; we don’t know if I’ll go crazy, or if I’ll spread it to one of you.” Her voice was weak, tired, and she gurgled slightly; she had a lot of blood in her throat. “Just leave me.”
“Katie, listen to me-”
“You listen to me, Harry. You need to keep Abigail safe. I’m only a danger.”
Harry didn’t say anything. He knew she was right.
“Just set me down somewhere, then go.”
“Do you want me to, you know..?” He nodded towards the pistol in his waistband.
“No, I couldn’t ask you to do that. I’ll be fine. Really.”
Harry wanted to say something else, but he couldn’t. He choked up. He’d known Katie for a year, and she had always been so nice and helpful. He couldn’t believe that she was going to die such a savage death.
He turned off into an alley and carefully set the dying woman down. She grimaced slightly, but put on a weak smile when she looked at Harry.
“Thank you,” she said, clearly very close to death now.
“I didn’t keep you safe,” Harry replied, looking at his feet.
“You tried, and that’s what matters. I wouldn’t have made it out of the school if it hadn’t been for you.”
Harry nodded, held her hand a moment, then stood and walked from the alley. Not three minutes later, Katie was dead.
“Abigail!” Harry called as he opened the door to his apartment. “Abigail!”
“Harry?” she called from inside, then came into view.
“Oh my god,” he whispered, running forward and holding her.
“I went home as soon as I saw your voicemail. Cell towers near the hospital went down because they were flooded with calls, so I couldn’t call you back.”
“But you’re safe, and that’s all that matters.”
Abigail was silent.
“What?” Harry asked, fear creeping into his voice. “What is it?”
Abigail said nothing. A tear ran down her cheek. Then: “I have it.”
According to the doctors at the hospital, the Imperium virus technically had two different strains: one they called the “death” strain, and what they called the “rage” strain. The death strain was dominant, meaning if both strains were present in a host, it would take over. Symptoms of the death strain included depression, severe chills, and complete loss of energy. After a few days of being sick with it, the host will die. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
The rage strain was new. It seemingly popped up the day before, and was spreading like wildfire. Symptoms included heat flashes, a lot of excess energy, and intense anger. After a short period of time (the longest current report was seventeen hours, the shortest was thirty minutes), the host would essentially lose their mind and become extremely violent. Scientists called it a more dangerous and contagious form of rabies.
Abigail was sick with the death strain. She had felt very cold since about halfway through her shift at the hospital, and she also felt exhausted. Depression had also seemed to kick in.
“You’ll be ok,” Harry said, putting another blanket on Abigail as she lay in bed. “They’ll figure out a cure, and you’ll be just fine.”
Abigail didn’t say much. When they said loss of energy was a symptom, they really meant it; Abigail was often too tired to speak. She had to be hand-fed, and she laid in bed for the rest of the day.
Harry began to lose hope.
October 21st. Harry sat in front of the TV as the news went on.
“With the recent outbreak of a rabies-like virus with cases reported in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and as far as Chicago, the country waits to see what comes next. The president has reportedly mentioned the possibility of declaring martial law in New York. The New York National Guard and the Army have been deployed in high numbers to the city to control the Infected population, but the reported losses of soldiers is staggering.”
“Scientists, including those from the Centers for Disease Control, are still working on a cure, but they seem to see no solution in sight. Since the recent outbreak of the rabies-like strain, the temporary vaccine is no longer viable. The success rate of it working has dropped to around 2%.”
“Military officials are advising everyone to stay indoors at all costs. If you believe yourself to be infected with either strain of the virus, try to physically distance yourself from others to avoid infecting them. Stay safe, New York.”
Harry stood up and left because the TV then went back to the same recorded speech of an Army colonel saying how things were going to be ok that had been playing all day.
He went into Abigail’s room, where she was laying under enough blankets to make you sweat in the Arctic. Regardless, she was still shaking. Harry walked over to her and knelt by her face.
“Hey, darling,” Harry said softly. “Can I get you anything?”
“I could use some aspirin,” Abigail said weakly.
“I’ll be right back, then.” Harry stood and went into the bathroom. He searched the medicine cabinet, but found nothing of use. “Goddamnit,” he muttered.
He returned to Abigail. “We don’t have any aspirin left.”
“That’s ok, Harry. I don’t need anything else.”
Harry nodded sadly, then left. He wanted to help her more, but there was nothing else he could do. He went into the kitchen, hoping to find something to eat, but remembered he had planned to go shopping the day before. All he had left was a few pieces of bread, condiments, a frozen dinner, and a few bottles of water.
Harry thought for a moment, then decided he had to go get supplies. He found the M9 he had brought home, then set it on Abigail’s bedside table with a note that said “Went to get food. Use this if you need to. I love you.” on top of it. He then retrieved his M1911 that he had taken out of his car to clean. He put his holster on his hip, put on an extra sweatshirt, slung his bag over his shoulder, then left the safety of his apartment.
In one day, New York City had become a warzone.
Immediately outside his apartment, Harry found several dead Infected and civilians. Among the corpses were a few extremely mutilated bodies, no longer looking like they were ever human to begin with.
He moved down the street slowly, in no rush. Harry had his M1911 drawn but lowered. He got down the streets, a corner store seven blocks away the destination he had in mind. He cut through alleys when he could, but he encountered little resistance. The occasional Infected wandered into view, but they were always too far away, and they didn’t notice him.
Harry moved out of an alley, then stopped. On the street corner, a man was standing on a milk crate, a megaphone in his hand. He hit the speaking button, which let out a high-pitched squeal, then he shouted “Children, lend me your ears! God’s judgment is upon us this day! Repent your sins, for I know you have them, and allow God into your life, or you will die a most horrible death and burn in Hell for all time! Open up your heart, and God will give you salvation!”
Harry rolled his eyes. These doomsday preachers came up every time the end of the world was predicted. He figured it’d be no different now, but he was still annoyed by it.
He looked on at the preacher as he continued to speak. However, he was cut short as several Infected, around twelve or so, descended upon him in a rush and began to tear him to shreds. His screams echoed around the walls of the buildings. After several moments of screaming, crunching, and slurping, the Infected stood and ran in the other direction, looking for more prey.
“Some kind of salvation,” Harry muttered grimly.
A half hour later, Harry was almost home. He had arrived at the corner store without fighting a single Infected, and had gotten the supplies he needed. Hoping that the route he had taken was still clear, he went the same way home quickly, jogging through the streets and running through the alleys.
Harry was running through an alley when he stopped to take a breath. He was close to his apartment, but he needed to rest a moment. He leaned against a wall, breathing heavily. The sweat on his forehead began to freeze in the 25 degree weather.
After resting enough, he began moving again. However, after only a few steps, an Infected popped out from behind a dumpster. It knocked Harry to the ground before he could react.
The Infected bit at his face viciously, blood and drool dripping from its lips onto Harry’s face. Harry was grimacing, his face turned away. His left forearm was against the Infected’s neck, keeping it at bay. Neither was making progress against the other.
Then, after several seconds of struggle, the Infected changed its target and instead bit Harry’s left shoulder. Its teeth sunk in deeply, and Harry screamed. With the pain came a surge of adrenaline, and Harry was able to flip the Infected up and over him. Quickly, he stood up and crushed the Infected’s head in with his foot.
Harry clutched his shoulder, blood seeping from the bite. He was doomed, infected. He was surely going to turn soon.
He staggered back towards his apartment, feeling every individual drop of blood leave his body. He was in bad shape already.
Harry got to the intercom outside and rang the bell for his apartment. The intercom played over the phone speaker, so Abigail would be able to hear what he said next without picking the phone up.
“Abigail… I’m sorry. I got bit, and I don’t want to get near you in case I make you worse, or if I… if I turn, which I think is going to happen. I’m leaving the supplies I got outside the building. Get them when you can.” After a moment, he quietly added “I love you,” then took his finger off the button.
Harry dropped his bag by the door, walked across the street, and collapsed on the ground. He ripped off a sleeve from his sweatshirt and wrapped it around the wound. The bleeding stopped soon enough, and he figured the blood loss wouldn’t kill him.
But he knew he’d be dead soon anyway.
Three days passed. However, to Harry, it felt like years.
He swam in and out of consciousness, feeling his life leaving him. His shoulder wound burned, and Harry realized it was infected with bacteria and was turning purple, but he stayed aware of things.
Harry saw Infected stumble in and out of view, but they paid him no attention. They occasionally glanced at him, but growled and went on their way. Harry figured they saw him as one of their own by now.
He waited to turn. Lose his mind and become a crazy, drooling monster. But he didn’t. He stayed in control of his mind.
However, whether he became a monster or not was something he would soon struggle with.
As the sun began to set on the third day, Harry opened his eyes. He felt groggy, his throat was dry, but he was still aware of his thoughts.
He glanced at his watch weakly. He saw the date was October 24th. For a moment, he wondered why that felt off to him, but then remembered he had gotten supplies on the 21st. He looked around. He felt the same. He didn’t think he had turned.
Unsteadily, Harry stood. His legs were weak, and he was exhausted, but he could walk.
He rushed back into his apartment, struggling up the stairs. It seemed to take hours.
When he finally got into his apartment, he went straight to Abigail’s room.
“Abigail!” he gasped weakly, his throat raspy. “Abigail, I’m ok! I’m alive!”
Abigail said nothing in response. Harry stumbled over to her, and then collapsed beside her.
Peeking out from under the blankets was Abigail’s face.
Her cold, lifeless face.
Harry’s heart filled with horror, then he began to cry. He had known there was nothing he could do to save her, but he had wanted to be with her when she died. How terrified was she, dying by herself? What an awful fate is that?
Harry Conrad held onto the lifeless body of his wife, the only person he had really ever had in his life. He cried and wailed, his voice sounding no different from the Infected’s outside.
This is when Harry truly lost hope. This is when Harry first became alone.
Read Alone, Part 2 here.