“She Was Once A Proctector” by Andrea Carter

The summer sun is beating down hotter than ever. Bumble bees swarm the air and evening thunder storms travel through the clouds. A new day awakens me and all seems normal. I wake up later than usual and the first thing I do is turn over and reach for my phone. I receive a missed text after I turn it on. It is from Dan. He is my boyfriend of three years; we met in high school. He works at the Dairy Queen down the road. He never went to college because he was promoted to manager early on. He figures that nothing can get better than being a manager now, but I still try to influence him to go to the local community college with me. He doesn't want to hear any of that. His motto is "why pay money when you can make money." What a dork, but we are very compatible together. I return his text and give my parents a call about coming over. They don't answer the phone and Dan doesn't return to my text. I will have to go over to visit my parents later today, but first, I have some things to do.

I go out for a run through my apartment complex; just a short run because it is way later in the day than when I usually go out. As I am running back to my apartment I notice a gathering of my neighbors outside. They are listening to a radio someone brought out from their place. The radio announcer is talking about a virus. The man on the radio says that an unknown virus is spreading like a wild fire. New cases have been found in Southern states, but are moving up the coast line. It is moving too quickly to properly evacuate. I jingle the keys in my hand to unlock my door, run inside, and slam the door shut. I grab the remote off of the coffee table. I turn on the TV and there is a public service announcement on every channel. The TV reads:

Attention! An outbreak of an unknown virus has spread throughout the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico. No more news has been issued about the virus except for several symptoms that lead to serious abnormalities. The symptoms include: fatigue, severe headaches/migraines, loss of hair, skin deformations, and bleeding of the eyes. These symptoms result in a manic state, with increased strength, or death. You can catch the disease by coming in contact with the infected. It is said that the virus is airborne so stay inside and keep your doors locked. DO NOT go outside at all! Here is a video of some people in the Tri-State area who have become affected by this disease within the past hour. The camera crew died from coming too close to the victims that contracted the disease. Caution: the images you are about to see are graphic.

The video comes on and all I hear is screaming. The people with the virus move like the living dead. One of them is covered with blood and he moves too quickly to run away from. He grabs whoever is not infected and tears into their flesh and breaks their bones. He eats so fast while tearing deeper inside the bodies. His eyes are yellow and his pupils are red. His hair is stringy and is falling out. His muscles grow larger as he eats. You can see his black veins pulsing from under his white skin. He runs into a building to find more victims. The glass shatters and fills the speakers. It rattles the T.V. while they feast on muscle as blood pours out of their victims. Then they search for the next life to claim. The camera man captures one of the infected running towards him. The camera falls to the ground, leaving a fuzzy image on the screen.

Attention! Please stay inside and keep your doors locked. Plug up any air leaks that lead into your home and stay tune to WK5 News for any more updates.

I am in shock by what I hear and see. I can't stay here even though I should. I need to go to my parents' house to see if they are alright since they have not returned my phone call. I continue to call them on my cell phone as I go back outside. The gathering of neighbors has disappeared. I guess everyone is too terrified to stay outside, but I need to get to my parents. I feel like I need to vomit. My heart is racing and I am sweating profusely. My vision becomes obscured by my sweat and tears, but I need to get to my parents.

On my way to the car I finally get a text from Dan. He said that he heard about what is happening and that he is locking himself inside the building. What a relief that he is alright, but now I must focus on making sure my parents are alright.

The streets are clear as I travel way over the speed limit to my parents' house; usually it takes about fifteen minutes. I continue to run red lights through what feels to be a ghost town. I take a sharp right turn into their development. I almost hit a guy walking in the middle of the road. I swerve to miss him; thankfully I succeed. I check my rear view mirror and notice the guy still standing in the middle of the road and starring in my direction. Then he starts walking; his walking turns to a hustling gallop. He is chasing me. I reach my parents' house and bolt to the front door. It is locked and I left my keys in the ignition with the car on. I yell, "Mom! Dad! Let me in! It's Audrey!" The guy that was chasing me disappeared. I am worried that he is waiting for me somewhere, but I run around to the back of the house anyways. I cannot get in there either. I don't want to break a window so I try to climb up to the roof to the second floor. I get inside by climbing through my old bedroom window; I used to sneak out of my room so many times in high school so it will be a piece of cake. (The windows don't have locks on them, thankfully). I make my way up to the window, push it in and crawl inside. I run through my room and down the stairs while hollering for my parents. I still don't see them anywhere; they may not even be here. Finally, I find them in the dining room eating. "Mom, Dad, didn't you hear me at the front door?" They turn around and their faces are covered in blood. They are feasting on each others' limbs. Their pupil's fill their eyes and their face looks pale and decayed. They quirk their heads in my direction and let out a terrifying shriek. They start running after me and I dash to the front door. I trip and fall on the plastic runners over the carpet in the living room as (what used to be) my parents continue to get closer. I kick them away and run upstairs because I notice the front door is bordered up from the inside. I run back to my room and lock the door behind me. I stop with my back against the door and begin to breathe frantically; I start to cry. What is happening? This all seems like a bad dream. I hear my parents reach my door. The pounding on the door causes such a force to make me fall from against it, onto the floor. I crawl over to the window to escape, but our family cat crawls from under the bed. I look at her in relief, but she pounces on top of me and bites my arm. I scream in horror; I did not think that animals could catch the virus, too. I have just been bitten; I am going to change into one of those creatures!

I still have my strength so I grab the rabid cat. She bites and scratches me when I pick her up so I throw her out the window. I probably shouldn't have thrown her out there because I need to go back outside to my car. I climb back down, out of the window, to the front driveway and back into my car. I see my cat waiting behind the bush. She pounces onto the hood when I hop inside my car, but she gets thrown off as I back out of the driveway. As soon as I get her off, the guy, who was chasing after me, returns in my rearview mirror. His speed picks up as I accelerate even faster. His arms are flinging around in the air and his mouth is foaming red. He is catching up to me. I fly past an onlooker who, instantly, blows a tire. He pulls off to the side of the road as I drive past him without any intention to stop. He appears to be screaming NO and he hits the steering wheel. The guy chasing me notices this man on the side of the road. He loses interest in me and goes after his new victim. I cannot see anymore in the mirror; I don't want to see anymore.

Now I avoid anyone in sight. I don't know what to do. I am going to turn zombie like. I don't feel any symptoms, except for again feeling sick to my stomach thinking about my parents. I don't know if they are dead or alive. They seem to be pretty much dead because I don't know how they can come back from this.

My phone rings and I answer. It is Dan, "Audrey, Oh my god, you are still alive!"

"Dan, my parents! Oh god, my parents!"

"What? What happened? Are you alright? Please tell me you are alright!"

"Dan, my parents turned into one of those things. Oh my god Dan, I am so scared; I don't know where to go. I don't know where to go! AHHH!"

"AUDREY! What is happening?!"

"Everyone is one of those things! Why is this happening? Why?"

"Audrey! Listen to me! Come here. Please come here. I need to see you. Everything seems safe here. Please."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. I need to see you Audrey. I have to."

"Ok. I will come there. I love you so much!"

"I love you too. Come around to the side cake door…Please be careful!"

I continue to drive as quickly as I can. People come out of their homes, onto the side of the road and try to stop me for help, but they look so sick. Their eyes are bleeding and they walk very strange.

I arrive to Dairy Queen and get out of the car so fast because the car is still slightly rolling. I run up to the cake door and knock as hard as I can. Dan comes to the door and grabs me to bring me inside. I take a deep breath and hug him. "I missed you so much. I can't believe what is happening. It seems like a bad dream." I sit down on the floor and bring Dan down to sit with me. Suddenly, I become sane as I stare into his eyes. I take a deep breath. "I got bit, Dan." His eyes widen and he begins to cry. "I shouldn't stay here long, but I just had to see you one last time. I know those things are coming. They like the smell of fresh meat. This is not a safe place to stay. You have to get out of here."

"I am not leaving without you. I don't care if you turn into whatever they are. I want to be with you as long as I can."

"You have to go, please. I don't know what will happen to me."

I hear a strange noise and go to the window. A football stadium sized crowd, of what looks to be infected people, is running down the road right to this location. "We have to go now, Dan!"

We head back out to the car to outrun the crowd. We drive down the road and a group of them jump out and run into the car, causing it to spin out. My heart races out of control and my vision becomes blurry. I wipe my face and my hands are stained red. Dan looks at me, frightened, like I have on a Halloween mask. I get out and come face to face to one of them. It runs past me to Dan. No! I grab it and throw it over the car. I feel a sudden power boost. My heart pounds harder and I feel stronger each second. Dan gets out of the car and runs away. I run after him and call out for him to come back. Why is he leaving me? I guess it is everyman for himself. As I am running my senses become stronger; I can smell Dan even though he is almost one hundred yards away from me now. I cannot see too clearly, but I can follow the scent of him.

I discover him hiding under a bridge and I go down to him. He tries to hit me in the head with rocks. "Stop it! It's just me, Audrey!" He crouches down, covers his eyes, and begins to pray. I look around and see rustling in the bushes. Two infected people come running out and I run into them to stop them. I grab one by the neck and bite him. He falls on the ground as I trip the other and slam a larger rock into his head. His head bursts open and oozes blood. The other one on the ground feeds off of the one I just smashed in. I turn around and Dan is gone. I still have his scent so I chase after him because he needs my help; he needs to be protected. The crowd from the road that first chased us comes from behind and starts running alongside me. Together, we find Dan fleeing into a building. I catch up to him; his smell becomes more intriguing. I outrun the others to chase him down faster. I want this fresh one to myself.