(nome de plume)
After we evacuated the Haven, everyone who had once been given the “Miracle Protein” which began the infection was rounded up and quarantined at a camp on Kodiak Island, far away from any human settlement. There were no guards; only cameras lurking on 24-hour cycles always with someone watching on the other end.
Missiles were placed in safe striking distance, ready to go on a half-second’s notice. Those inside the perimeter lived comfortably into old age. We few remainders began to feel safer when venturing out. The previous Infected had starved off and the only others carrying the disease were safely locked away. The more we ventured out, the more survivors we discovered—people from other states, other countries; some were old, some were young—and we all shared our stories of the infection.
I’m not sure if this increased our hope, or if their stories of horror built up our shields against mortality.
The more survivors we found, the more we felt that maybe we had finally won, that humanity had gotten back on its feet. Enough of the intelligentsia had survived that electricity slowly came back to life, but most of us spent time learning how to farm. In due time, we had lush crops and even accomplished local television broadcasts.
There was still no gasoline or oil, so everything was moved by horsepower, and I mean everything; letters, food, munitions. Everything that matters, anyway.
My brother Michael and I moved into Middle America once it seemed civilization was stable. The house we shared was small, but it was all we needed. When those television broadcasts came back online we were over the moon, but nothing was of interest. Until the premiere of Zombie Ultimatum, a reality show where it was kill or be killed.
We had watched the show in every season and found a sort of pleasure in watching strangers go to an unknown arena to fight the infected awaiting inside. They can choose to fight as a group or to take on the hoard alone, but all contestants are given a supply bag with a bottle of water, five granola bars, a first-aid kid, rope, a sleeping bag, and a handgun with three ammunition magazines.
Each contestant began in a random spot where they woke up to scavenge and survive, usually for between seven days and a month—however long it took to mow down the hoard to just three. Winners were selected by how much supplies they’d stored, how long they survived, and many undead slain at their hands.
Everyone watched it as though a new disease had stricken the species.
One day when I came home, Michael was sitting on the couch and I could hear the show’s theme music blaring from the set.
“Did I miss anything?” I asked midway through my vault over the couch to sit next to him. As I landed, he handed me a partially conquered bowl of popcorn and a fresh soda.
“Only that someone got bit, but they haven’t shown who yet,” he said back without looking away from the screen, “How was school?”
“Fine. At lunch we voted that James will make it to the top-ten. 1/3 bet that he’ll make top-three,” I said.
“School favorite?” he asked.
“I’d say so, but I don’t gamble—you know that.”
“Not unless it’s guaranteed…,”he mumbled into the cup of sizzling soda.
The TV showed two of the players a tall blonde woman and a red-headed round man. They were running in a building, down a hall of a hotel, trying each door with three different key cards they’d swiped from the abandoned office.
We soon found out that the pair was not very bright when the blonde one pulled a fire alarm. The hoard piled towards them down the hallway. They’d run out of ammo and we watched as the infected eventually broke through the door and flooded the room.
As the man fought wildly, his partner was pushed out of the window with the mitts of at least five infected hanging on to her. Then, one of the infected turned and faced the camera lens, blind as to what it was even looking at. I jumped up, knowing exactly what I was looking at—with single hairs clinging to his scalp and his skin turned grey and ashy, with sunken eyes and bare, decaying skin lay all across the unmistakable face of Thaddeus Haze, my father.
Michael and I were shaken to our core. I dropped to my knees in tears but Michael had a different reaction. He picked up the popcorn bowl and shattered the TV screen with a well-aimed throw. He picked me up by my shoulders and forced me to look into his eyes, his hands gripping my arms tightly.
“You remember the promise we made as a family never to let each other turn, and that if we did, it was up to each other to take care of it?” he said to me, sternly but with understanding compassion.
“You know that we have to take care of it, now,” he said.
“Yes, but I don’t know if we can do it,” I said back, still scared.
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you. Family always sticks together,” he said back, trying to build toughness in me.
As much as I had already been through, there was hell ahead.