Authors: Rachel Higginson
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
A Novella Series
By Rachel Higginson
[email protected] Rachel Higginson 2013
This publication is protected under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws, and all rights are reserved, including resale rights: you are not allowed to give, copy, scan, distribute or sell this book to anyone else.
Any trademarks, service marks, product names or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms.
Any people or places are strictly fictional and not based on anything else, fictional or non-fictional.
This would not exist without you.
Just like so many other things.
706 Days after initial infection
For the first time since the initial vaccination turned that unsuspecting human into a flesh-loving-cannibal with the power to infect and destroy anything it nibbled on, I missed silence.
In fact, currently I craved it- I was almost desperate for it.
For the last two years, I’d been frustrated with the lack of background noise: The way traffic didn’t buzz or honk outside my window, the way planes didn’t zoom above my head, there wasn’t neighborhood kids laughing or screaming as they ran around the yard, not even the animals made sound these days. They seemed just as cognizant of the constant threat looming over them as humans did.
The constant, forced silence disconcerted me, sent my head spinning and my ears ringing from the sheer intensity of it.
I hated it.
Believed it would be the official end of my sanity.
Until it went missing, replaced with the incessant groaning of hungry Feeders banging on the door just a few feet from where I pretended to sleep.
They were everywhere- or it seemed they were. I hadn’t been able to look outside since the initial moments Kane and I had locked ourselves in the safety of this bunker. But the slamming of their fists against the heavy metal door and the ungodly screeching as their elongated fingernails scratched in a desperate attempt to reach us, echoed through the small space that had turned from safe haven into claustrophobic prison hours ago.
I rolled my head to the side and squinted into the darkness just to see if I could make out Kane’s figure sprawled across the couch. We were trying to “conserve” every battery and resource we had, so we’d decided to turn everything off when we went to sleep.
We hoped help would be here soon, but planned for if it wasn’t.
Now, I felt the heavy darkness settle over me like a coffin with only the pounding fists to occupy my racing thoughts and increasing paranoia. I focused on my breathing, struggling to make it even, frantic to calm my hysteria.
“Reagan,” Kane called through the distance. He felt miles away, he felt light years away. In this moment he represented safety and protection. I hated that I started to see him as something other than a monster, but I was helpless to stop my emotions from abandoning me in favor of grasping at anything to bring reassurance. Kane was all I had right now. And he had saved my life. That meant we were bonded in some unbreakable way. There were thoughts I should be feeling and there were thoughts I shouldn’t be feeling cartwheeling through my brain and tangling together in an impossible slew of confusion. I would sort them out later. When I was firmly out of this shit storm.
“I thought you were asleep.” Honestly, I hadn’t known either way, it was too dark for me to see and too loud for me to tell by his breathing. But the way he said my name was like this invitation into some deep thought on his part, so I was deflecting.
My pathetic attempt at controlling the conversation was bulldozed when he said, “We are going to be alright.”
I heard myself whimper in response and forbidden tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and tracked hotly down my temples, only to slide down my jawline and pool in the curve of my neck. I didn’t bother to wipe them away. I didn’t even want to acknowledge they were there or that this impossible predicament had gotten me so worked up.
I was used to close calls and living seconds away from death. I was used to the constant threat of Zombies and danger and going from relative safety to fighting for my life in a moment. I got through by an insane talent for compartmentalizing and adrenaline- the two most important skills for any emotionally unbalanced twenty-year-old trying to survive the end of the world.
What I was not used to was not being in immediate danger while it hovered angrily outside my door. My current situation was filled with almost danger- not enough risk to get my adrenaline up and pumping but just enough to remind me I was in no way safe.
Feeders separated by only a door. A bunker that was only supplied for the short term. And Kane.
I mean, what the f was I even supposed to do with Kane?
All of it worked together to put me on edge, built up this pressurized anxiety that cut off blood to my head and strangled my lungs until I was positive I would pass out.
I almost wanted to pass out. Then at least I would stop thinking.
“Reagan,” Kane repeated in a rasping voice, thick with sleep or sleep-depravation- one of the two. “We’re fine. We’re safe. You need to calm down.”
“I know,” I panted. “I’m trying.”
“They can’t get in here.”
“I know.” But I agreed more to hear myself say it than because I actually believed it. “I know they can’t get in here.”
I heard his bedding rustle until I deduced he sat up. “Say them. Say your fears out loud.”
I choked a little on my spit. I wasn’t ready to be psycho-analyzed by Kane of all people. “What?”
“Say your fears out loud. Get them out of your head. Let yourself hear how ill-founded they are. You need to say them. You’ll feel better, I promise.” He sounded so confident I really wanted to believe him.
And he made sense. I took a deep breath ready to spill the worries that felt like cement blocks strapped to my feet while the ocean of doubt and uncertainty pulled me under until I couldn’t breathe, until I couldn’t live.
I hesitated at the last moment, knowing this same exercise would bring Kane and I closer together. I wasn’t so lost in my own fear that I didn’t realize what kind of trust this would breed between us.
“I’m going to turn the light on,” he warned from inches away.
I gasped and whipped my head to the side of the bed he stood on, tensing with more unfixable fear than I knew what to do with. My hands gripped the musty quilt underneath me tightly and I pressed my lips together in an effort to pull my expression together just as Kane turned on a battery-powered lantern.
Even though the light was dim and hardly intrusive, I still had to squint against it until my eyes adjusted. Kane seemed extra imposing as he loomed over me, his face still cast in shadow and his bare chest gleaming in the low light.
I scrambled to sitting just to put us on more even ground.
He took a step forward and set the lantern down on a small bedside table, then stepped back. He crossed his arms across his chest, forcing his biceps to bulge. Yes, he had a gorgeous chest for a crazy person. But honestly, right now, he looked like a naked version of the Headless Horseman since everything past his collarbone faded into black.
Somehow he seemed safer as the Headless Horseman.
Did that make me Ichabod Crane or Katrina Van Tassel?
Probably Katrina since I was the one being hunted by Kane.
So…. that meant I got Johnny Depp in the end, right?
Oh gosh, what had happened to Johnny Depp?
Was he dead? Feeder? Running a settlement of his own? Could Captain Jack Sparrow just blend in with the Feeders and live out his life peacefully and undisturbed?
“Reagan,” Kane raised his voice a little to get my attention.
“Huh?” I looked up from my dazed reflection and shook my head out. I needed some sleep- obviously. I didn’t have time to worry about Johnny Depp and his ability to make guy liner look sexy. I had bigger issues to deal with right now- like possibly my disappearing sanity. “I think I have cabin fever. Seriously. This place is getting to me.”
Kane snorted a laugh. “We’ve only been here for a few hours. You’ve been in a lot worse situations than this.”
“How do you know?” I demanded a little frantically.
“Uh, the first time I met you I held you at gun point, then forced you to move into my house while I had your boyfriend imprisoned. That seems like a pretty scary scenario.”
“He wasn’t my boyfriend.”
Kane paused for a beat before saying, “Hendrix. I had Hendrix imprisoned.”
“I know who you meant,” I rolled my eyes. “I mean, he wasn’t my boyfriend at the time. He’s still not my…. I mean, that sounds a little juvenile right? He’s just…. we are….”
Kane digested this with a palpable intensity that made me regret every word I’d uttered for the last two minutes. Damn it, how did he do this to me? Unsettle me so very much?
“Well whatever you two are…” He trailed off, seeming to get a little flustered. I bit back a smile thinking it was kind of adorable that perfectly controlled Kane became harassed whenever I talked about Hendrix. He cleared his throat, “That wasn’t my point. I watched you jump out of a moving van and throw yourself into a horde of Feeders. Earlier today you saved my life by flying through the air like Last of the Mohicans. Even I’m afraid of you.”
I couldn’t hold back the smile any longer. “Yeah?”
“Completely terrified.” He sat down next to me with a relaxed expression and a crooked grin. “You’re a force of nature, Reagan. The undead quake in fear of you.”
“Is that what they’re doing now? Quaking? In fear?” I asked dryly.
He nodded his response and his grin grew into a huge, genuine smile. “Definitely.” He reached out and gripped my triceps with his middle finger and thumb and jiggled my arm playfully. “What are your fears? Say them out loud. Make them go away.”
I thought it over for a little while and swallowed back the greater fear of opening up to Kane. I could do this. And I could do it without getting emotionally involved. This was about survival- about surviving the night and surviving Kane. Finally, I took a big breath and confessed, “The small space, I feel like the walls are closing in on me. And I’m not claustrophobic, but the ceiling is low, the darkness is oppressive and everything smells like mold and wet dirt. I’m trying not to be a whiner, because obviously without this place we’d be Feeder food and I’ve definitely stayed in worse places than this, but I don’t know, it feels like too much all at once, you know?”
“I do know.” He squeezed my stupidly defined muscle and encouraged me to continue. “What else?”
“The sound. I
that I can hear them. It’s…. disconcerting. My imagination is running wild with the possibilities of what’s out there. There could be hundreds by now. And I just picture them crawling over each other in an effort to get to us, eating at each other…. eating the dead we left behind. In my head, it’s perpetually night time out there and Feeders fill every space of the woods between us and the storage complex. I imagine that Hendrix will never be able to get to us, that whatever progress he makes will be erased by the endless supply of Zombies clambering for us and for them. I see him getting swallowed up into the masses, his body disappearing into hundreds of grotesque arms, tearing him apart, feasting on him until there’s nothing left.”
Kane cleared his throat, obviously surprised by the vividness of my fears- or maybe even he thought I was losing my mind. That was
a good sign.
His voice cracked a little as he asked, “Anything else?”
“Yes!” I was on a roll now, admitting my laundry list of fears like verbal diarrhea. “I’m afraid that we set into motion something that can’t be stopped. We brought all this attention on us and now Feeders are teeming in from everywhere. Soon, they’ll attack the complex and we’ll be trapped in here, completely safe while our friends, family and the people that were good enough to take us in and feed and clothe us are massacred. I’m afraid that the people I love most in this world are going to die while I do nothing to save them. I’m afraid that I’m the reason that they are in danger. I’m afraid that even if they can protect themselves they will never be able to get to us- that we’ll be trapped in here until our food and water runs out and then we’ll do something stupid in an effort to survive and I’ll become a Feeder. There’s almost nothing I’m more afraid of than becoming a Feeder.” I paused, sucking in a much needed breath after all that. “And mostly, most of all… I’m afraid that because of all this I’m going to trust you. I can’t trust you Kane. I