(somewhere in California )
“John, we have to get out of here,” Sarah said. “I’m serious. We have to get out of here. All the other families are packing. You know Susan from across the street? Her and her family have already left.”
Sarah was seated on the couch, hunched over and shivering.
I just can’t take the noise every night. The screeching, the howling… I mean how long are we supposed to sit here and think about what to do? How long is our food going to last?
“What about your parents, John? What about them? You haven’t heard from them in over a week. What about my parents? My mom’s old and frail. She needs help. We have to help them.”
John stopped pacing and sat down across from her.
“Sarah, look. We have to think about this rationally. How are we supposed to leave with Zack and Amelia? You want to set out on foot?”
“We have a car, John.”
“I know we have a car, Sarah,” he said. “That’s not my point. Is that car going to last us all the way through? Your family lives in Texas. My family’s in New York. You think we’re going to get there on one tank of gas? What happens if our car breaks down? We’ll be stuck with those things out there? Those zombies out there?”
“Those people aren’t zombies,” Sarah said. “They’re sick. They’re just sick. It’s from the virus.”
Typical Sarah, John thought. Her compassion overwhelmed her common sense sometimes.
“I don’t care if it’s a virus, if it’s a plague, if it’s demons,” he said. “I don’t care what they are. Those things are dangerous.”
“John, I understand that you’re scared and you don’t want to leave. But we cannot stay here. We have a limited amount of supplies. We have a limited amount of time to go. If we don’t leave now, we might never get another chance. At least if we go see my family in Texas, we can pick up my mom and dad, meet with my cousins and get a convoy of cars. We can then go to your family’s farm in New York. And then we can just wait until this whole thing blows over.”
“Blows over? What do you mean ‘blows over?’ Have you seen what is going on out there? Are you in denial? What is the matter with you? We have kids. Zach is 12 years old. Amelia is 8 years old. You want to drag these kids across countries with those things out there?”
“Yes, those things. Those things. Those things have names you know. They’re people.”
“Those things are not people, Sarah. They are creatures. They are undead.”
“Undead, John?” she said laughing. “Really? Is that what we’re going to tell the kids? Please listen to me. We have lots of food stocked up in the house that we can bring with us. We’ll get in the van and…”
Sarah tilted her head with a sudden realization.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but you’re going to have to leave your nice BMW that you worked really hard for behind, John. I understand you love that car, but if that’s the reason —”
“Please don’t be condescending to me right now. I’m about to lose it. My fucking BMW? You think this is about the BMW? You think this about some stupid hunk of metal? I’m worried about our kids. I’m worried we will be attacked by those undead things. Do you understand? We could die out there. We could die out in the middle of the road, and no one will ever find us. We could run out of food. We could be attacked by criminals or desperate people. We could be attacked by those things. We’ve seen them attack people, Sarah. Please don’t be so naïve, I’m begging you. This is not about a car. I don’t care about that BMW, okay? The only reason I have that car… Your dad reminds me every Christmas that he got me this job. I hate that damned car. That is not the reason why I want to stay. I want to stay because this is the safest place for us.
“We can go down to Laguna Beach. Those things aren’t going to crawl out of the fucking ocean. People are abandoning their homes down by PCH. We can take that road up and down when we need to. We won’t be stuck by the water.”
“That’s the point, John. We’ll be stuck with our backs against the water. Where are we going to go if we get trapped?”
“If our backs are against the ocean, then we can concentrate on what’s in front of us. If the zombies —”
“Again with the zombies? Please. This is not a dream. This is real life, John. There’s no such thing as zombies.”
“You cannot be naïve about this. You know I’m a rational person. Those things are not alive. I don’t want to tell you what happened yesterday across the street. The kids might overhear.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t want to get into this right now. I can’t tell you… I can’t tell you what happened to Patti.”
“What do you mean what happened to Patti? They left a few days ago.”
“Sarah, they never left. Patti’s husband got sick. When I went over there to see if they needed help, we went up to Dan’s room. Danny attacked Patti. He bit her in the neck. He tore out her… I can’t believe I’m saying this. Just listen to me. You don’t understand what is going on out there. I can’t tell you how bad this situation is.”
“Ok, just calm down. Tell me what happened to Patti.”
“I’m telling you she’s dead! She’s fucking dead! Her husband tore out her neck. What part of that don’t you understand? “
“Look, John. I know you’re scared. I’m scared, too. I’m especially scared for the kids, but we have to figure something out. Okay, so I don’t have a great plan. I admit this.”
She paused. It was hard to argue against him when she didn’t have any details to offer, but Sarah was always one to think with her gut.
“I know what you think you saw at Patti’s house,” she said. “But it could’ve just been that Danny was just grabbing at her. That doesn’t mean he ‘bit’ her. I’m sure he wasn’t attacking her. He was probably just hysterical from fever.
“I mean, that’s just not Danny. We’ve known them for 10 years. He’s the sweetest, most doting husband… Remember when she came home from that surgery and her daughter was helping her out of the car? Danny sprinted down the driveway to make sure she wouldn’t fall. Do you know how much he loves her? He would never hurt her. They’re like those old couples you read about, the ones that die within hours of each other because they can’t bear to continuing living without one another.”
“Sarah, they did die within hours of each other. He tore out her neck. I was standing right there. I saw the entire thing. He finally let go of her neck and…” John drew a shaky breath. “And I could see her artery gushing blood. She was squealing. Like a pig. But then all of the sudden, it stopped. There was a faint whistling sound from her voice box. I was too shocked to move.”
John let out a sigh of defeat.
“This isn’t a love story,” he said. “We are in grave danger. When Danny looked up, I knew that thing wasn’t him anymore. This wasn’t a feverish outburst. You could see it in his eyes. They were bloodshot. I mean, there were no whites to his eyes. He started snarling, growling at me, like an animal, but not like any animal you’ve ever heard before. It was like this.”
He cupped his hands around his mouth and let out a low, gravely groan. Sarah hid behind her hair trying desperately not to cry as her husband acted out the final moments of her friend’s death. Thinking it wasn’t getting through to her, John tilted his head and rolled his pupils up and creaked even louder. When Sarah looked up at his deadened expression, she startled and jumped back.
“John! Stop it! This isn’t funny!”
“I’m not trying to be funny, Sarah. That’s the sound he was making, okay? And he did that when he came for me, too. I just ran out. I ran down the hall toward the stairs, and it felt like he was right behind me. I swear his clawing fingers brushed across my shoulder at one point. But when I got to the bottom of the stairs, I looked back, and he wasn’t there.
“I wanted to see if Michael was home, but his bedroom was at the far end of the upstairs hall. I would’ve been cornered. I just got scared and ran.”
His head sunk to his chest. That split second decision felt like the weight of the world on his shoulders. What if that had been Zach or Amelia and a grown man ran like a coward instead of helping them?
“I came straight home. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to tell you. I didn’t want to scare you, I didn’t want to —”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“This plague is changing people, Sarah. It must be some kind of airborne virus. It’s travelling so fast. But I’m telling you, he sounded like a demon. He sounded like he was possessed. It was pure evil, the look on his face. He would’ve killed me, too.”
“So is he a demon or does he have a virus? It can’t be both, John.”
Unable to hold it back any longer, she burst into tears. Her shoulders heaved as she sobbed uncontrollably. She wondered if the kids were hearing this, but it was getting to real to hide anymore. John tried to reach out to comfort her, but she drew back and turned away. He placed his hand on her shoulder and tried to curl her up into a hug, but she resisted even harder.
“Don’t touch me,” she said between breaths as she tried to compose herself. “We need to go to Patti’s. I need to make sure she’s okay.”
Sarah reached toward the counter where her keys and cell phone were laying, but John’s strong hand darted out and grabbed her wrist. Their eyes locked, each gazing at the other with a fiery determination.
“I get it. You won’t believe me unless you see it yourself. But you’re not going there alone, and we can’t leave the kids here by themselves. I don’t know how to show you without putting us all in danger. And if Dan is still there? He’s going to attack us. He’ll try to kill us just like he killed Patti.
“What about Michael?”
“Michael,” he said thoughtfully. He started nodding his head. “Michael probably has it, too. When I was there, Patti told me he was coughing. That’s how Dan’s started, too. They were coughing up blood. I think this is contagious, Sarah. No, we can’t go over there.”
A shrill scream ripped through the house. It was from the kids’ room. John and Sarah darted out of the kitchen and wound their way through the house to get to the bedroom in the back corner.
“Shh! What’s wrong? What’s going on? Are you guys okay?” they whisper-shouted as they each ran to hug their kids.
“I saw a shadow, Daddy,” Amelia said in her little raspy voice. “It looked like a man.”
“It looked like he was going to break the window!” Zack said, his eyes wide and nostrils flared.
“Shh!” John whispered. “Everyone be quiet.”
John pushed everyone toward the floor. They hid along the side of the bed hoping the view from the window was blocked. Amelia whimpered. Her bottom lip was quivering pitifully, like it always did before a loud fit. Zack reached his hand up to grab the little blue pony at the head of the bed. It was Amelia’s favorite stuffed animal.
“Get down!” John whispered hoarsely.
Zack’s hackles rose at the anger in his father’s voice. He tossed the pony to Amelia, who wrapped it up in her arms and began sucking her thumb.
John looked up at the wall in front of him. He saw the branches of the trees form a shadow, slowly swaying up and down with the howling wind. There was so much movement. Hes eyes darted back and forth unable to determine where to focus. And then he saw it.
It crept slowly from the left side of the window frame’s silhouette on the wall. It paused. The leaves crackled and popped as its steps continued. The all-too-familiar gravely groan creaked out into the night. Sarah looked at John, who nodded his head. That was the sound.
The shadow rolled past as the gasping breaths and padded steps faded out. They waited in tense stillness for 10 minutes. Finally, John let out a silent sigh of relief, but he knew the worst was yet to come.
“We need to fortify the house,” he said. “We can start by boarding up the windows.”
“Fortifying the house?” Sarah said. “Were you not listening? I don’t want to stay here. I want to leave. Let’s pack the food and get everything in the car. Kids, go grab your backpacks and get what you need. Your toothbrush, your clothes, whatever you can fit. Zack, help Amelia look for her things. I’ll grab the flashlights and water. We’ll load up the van and go to my parents’ house.”
“My God, Sarah, will you stop with the —”
Their heads snapped back to the window in unison, but there was nothing there.
“Daddy! What was that?” Amelia cried.
“Shh!” the other three said.
A loud gurgling sound filled the silent house.
That wasn’t from the window, John thought. His breath caught in his throat. Something’s in the house.
"Shhhhh" john said to sarah.. grab both of the kids hands and walk slowly behind me. Its in the house! Were going to make a run for it. When i say run dont stop.. amelia , zack, listen to daddy. When i say run you run as fast as you can to davids house. Were all meeting there. Okay lets go.
As john slowely stepped into the living room with sarah amelia and zack behind him making there way to the front door. There it was..
A vicious female zombie standing by the doorway looking straight at them with her deep set red eyes.
Frozen in place john said nothing.
The zombie looked at sarah and screamed
" Your all going to fucking die"
Im going to rip your heart out sarah, im going to rip your whoring heart out!!
with a scream the zombie with her arms extended longed towards sarah..
John stepping in the way shoved the shrieking zombie causing it to lose balance and falling to the ground.
John motioned for his family to run while he kept hes eyes on the nightmare that was in front of him. The zombie twisted its neck in an almost impossible way towards john and laughed with a demon like voice..
" Do you know what she did? do you know what your whoring wife did?
suddenly the demon seemed content with looking into johns eyes.. a slight demonic laughter filled the sound of silence.
God.. why have you forsaken us" john said with a sound of resignation..
"god? there is no god here" the demon replied.
John backed away slowly while keeping hes eyes on the demon. The demon just sat there looking at john content with the horror it had brought upon him.
John stepped back through the door way and shut the door. the hairs on the back of his neck portrayed the deep terror that john knew was coming for them.