There’s a quaint little town somewhere in the distance, almost isolated from the rest of civilization. It’s a rather rural place containing a few hundred people and a small surrounding forest. Despite the small size of the area, the streets would always be bustling with folks running errands, working on outdoor projects, and being generally social. Now, those roads are empty. Well, empty of human beings, rather. You see, something has been spreading among us lately. A sickness that has left our community in ruin has fallen upon us, turning the world as we know it on its head. No, not a sickness, but something more. Something none of us could have ever imagined has emerged, consuming not only our humanity but the hope we once held as well.
When the animals began acting strangely, we initially tried our best to pass it off as nothing. We would catch the deer peering at us from the foliage. They never blinked, all they did was keep their eyes on anyone who passed by, tracking their every movement. When I found myself close to the woods, I noticed several eyes glued onto me. As I cautiously approached them, something seemed wrong. They weren’t even remotely afraid of me, holding their ground and continuously observing my movements. I stopped in my tracks, taking in the sight of the deer before me. Their bodies were scraped and bruised like something had brutally assaulted them. Their form was almost skeleton-like as a result of malnourishment. Despite their injuries, their face lacked any sort of emotion at all. It was as if they weren’t even aware of their condition. I silently backed away from the deer, their eyes still locked onto my every move.
The strange confrontations with the animals would progressively grow weirder as time went on. Rather than holding their ground when someone was close by, they would begin approaching the person. At first, their movements were methodical, and their eyes never wavered from their target. Soon enough, however, they grew bolder and their movements became faster. Some people would awake in the dead of night to find a pair of an animal’s eyes glaring at them through the window. Their faces would be pressed against the glass, breathing heavily on the clear surface. During these stages, their bodies were even thinner, their wounds more profound, and their eyes far wider than before. Their faces which had once been ripe with life now appeared sunken; their skin was stuck against the bone underneath.
I remember the first attack. Someone had gotten too close to one of the deer. His cries were heard, but help had not arrived in nearly enough time. When we found him, we saw the deer standing over his body, looking down at his corpse. A thick pool of liquid covered the man. It had a yellowish and black color which appeared to be a mixture of mucus and vomit. We witnessed the liquid, which we would later coin as the contagion, sliver into the man’s mouth, seemingly moving on its own. The deer noticed our presence and looked up at us. We could see the deer’s rib cage now, the bones protruding from its skin. The patches of fur on its back and stomach were messy and soaked with blood. Several people passing by stopped and took notice of what had happened. Some screamed with horror, while others gagged at the ghastly sight. I covered my mouth with my hands, attempting not to get sick at the vomit-inducing scene before me.
Everyone winced as the deer took a step towards us, and then another. Then, it dropped to the ground, dead. The two bodies were soon surrounded by the morbidly curious spectators, everyone either whispering or calling for help. Our small town had never witnessed such a grizzly sight, and we had an extremely small law enforcement presence since, well, nothing ever happened here. I looked at the man once more. His mouth hung open, his eyes nearly bulging out of their sockets. His body had been beaten and bruised, and his clothes had been torn from the several bites he had received. The mix of whispers and shouts all ceased as we took notice of a woman behind us. She didn’t say a single word. Instead, she simply pointed towards the forest, and our heads swiveled around to face the woods. Dozens of pairs of glowing eyes could be seen from beyond the underbrush. Everyone fell silent, but only for a moment. My ears were once more pierced by the shrill shrieks produced from the crowd as the deer erupted from the bushes and sprang towards us, moving impossibly fast given their physical state. We all frantically sprinted in the opposite direction, shoving past one another and making their way towards their homes.
I saw the deer pounce onto my neighbors and stomp down on their chests, snapping bone and tearing open their victim’s flesh with their teeth. The cries of those who were being attacked were quickly stifled by the deer crushing their throats with hefty hooves. I tried my best to keep my vision away from the hordes of monstrous animals attacking the people around me. I could hear heavy heaving as the deer projectile vomited the contagion into the orifices of its victims, and the sound of screaming began to fade as the sickly animals caught up with us. Most of our town was infected that day. Our few police officers fired round after round at the deer but to no avail. I do my best to suppress the memories of the outbreak. To remember them is to bring forth such a heavy dosage of anxiety that my entire body quakes with terror.
The human bodies that littered the streets wouldn’t stay deceased for long. I saw them lift themselves from the pavement and stretch their limbs. They stumbled around for a while before becoming stable and walking around town. When the infected are reanimated they act almost… normally. They converse with one another, and they’re able to function properly despite their injuries. Others even made phone calls to what I assume were their friends and family. The point was null though. After all, who would ever believe what was happening in this town? Certainly nobody sensible, be it family or the police.
As the days passed by and the survivor’s resources ran low, some brave folks would attempt to sneak through town and to the stores to gather supplies. The infected wouldn’t even attempt to give chase to the looters, instead, they stared at them with their cold, dead eyes. Disturbingly enough, it seemed like the infected were completely aware of what was happening. They could be heard sobbing at times. Some even crumpled to the ground and angrily pounded their fist into the ground until their fingers bent backward and their hands tore open. They showed no reaction to the pain, however. Instead, their lack of feeling sent them into a further rampage. Before they could injure themselves more, they stopped. They sat there, motionless for several minutes, as something took control of their actions and prevented them from sustaining greater damage. I also saw the infected lose control of their movements as they attempted to exit the town. Something was keeping them there, and something was preserving their bodies as well.
A few days quietly passed, and the infected remained dormant and harmless. Their bodies grew malnourished regardless of how much they ate. I felt sorry for them in that regard. My body was growing thin as well, and I had been quickly running out of food. They were having their energy drained, something which was evident considering their sunken faces and colorless skin. Those who attempted suicide found it a fruitless effort. They simply wouldn’t die, and their actions were halted by what was keeping them alive. It was the contagion. I remembered how it slivered into the mouths of the infected. It moved on its own as if it had a mind. Some sort of primitive desire to remain alive. The infected, no matter how much food they consumed, grew thinner every day. The contagion was draining them of their energy until… until it was forced to move onto a new host. That’s why it was keeping them around. So it could take over their bodies and spread themselves further. It’s why the infected were allowed control over their actions unless they attempted to harm themselves or leave town. The infected who chowed down on every last morsel they could would only serve to sustain the infected even longer. They needed to feed, and they knew they had to be transmitted one way or another. I suppose they simply wanted to make their meals last as long as they could.
The infected appeared as drained as possible now, and although they couldn’t feel themselves degrading, I could tell they understood what was happening to them. They didn’t even walk around town or talk with each other anymore. They simply sat down and stared into the ground. They were hopeless and fearful, many of them bawling their eyes out for hours on end, filling the air with their distraught howls. Most of all, they felt helpless to stop what they knew would soon happen, and they understood that ultimately, they no longer had free will.
Tonight, an especially grim darkness cloaked the town, and the looters snuck out of their houses once more. I didn’t see the survivors, but as I witnessed the infected rise from the ground, I knew they were out in the streets once more. They saw the survivors, and they all turned their heads in their direction. Upon spotting the remaining survivors, they began treading toward them, slowly at first, then picking up speed. Soon enough their pace quickened to a full-on sprint, rushing the survivors as fast as they could. They were no longer my neighbors. The contagion was in control now, and it was starving. I refused to look towards the carnage. I didn’t want to be reminded of those memories I so desperately wished to forget. I don’t want to face this reality anymore; I just want to waste away alone. All I felt was complete despair. The bleakness of my situation infected me more than any contagion could have ever hoped to. There was no reason to even try anymore.
Although I blinded myself from the assault carried out by the infected, my ears were flooded by the sounds of the shrieks of pain and the snapping of limbs. I pressed my hands against my ears so tightly that my knuckles turned white and my fingers trembled. The sound of vomit soon overrode the screams, and I knew exactly what was happening. A new batch of infected were being produced. I heard the infected trying to bust down the doors of other houses in search of survivors. I fell to the ground and cried out in agony. My head felt as light as a feather and my mind went fuzzy. The world had gone to hell, and I’d soon go with it. The contagion has a primitive sense of survival and will do what it must to thrive within its host. Watching this happen with humans is different than seeing it occur to animals. They’re used as food for these creatures, and then when their usefulness is at an end, they are dispatched with haste.
I kept trying to ignore the hellscape outside. I could hear footsteps faintly approach the house I barricaded myself inside of. Was it an infected? Now, here I sit, staring blankly at the glowing computer screen in front of me. I’m surrounded by empty wrappers and food cans spread around the room, and I’m unsure of what is to come. The footsteps grew nearer, and then I heard pounding on my door. I don’t think I’ve got much time left, so I’ll have to wrap this up with haste. Soon, there will be no more survivors left in this wasteland. As the contagion realizes this, they’ll grow famished. I suppose they will spread out in an attempt to find more hosts to feed off. They’re fast and strong, and damaging them won’t slow them down unless you destroy them completely. The banging on the door is getting louder. Whatever is on the outside is getting through.
There’s no reason for me to run from this reality anymore. The door will come down at any second, and with it will come my demise. I have got to-
Someone broke through. A young man ran into the house and produced a petrified look upon observing me. It was a survivor, and he ran upstairs and out of view. I can feel the memories rushing back to me from the outbreak. Memories which hold a truth within them. A truth which I have long since attempted to deny. As my boney fingers tap against the keyboard, I feel my mind begin to fade away. I can’t run away now, and soon I will be no more. A foul liquid is working its way up my throat. I don’t have much time left, and neither does the young man inside my home. I get up from my seat, and I look down upon my thin frame with dismay. I think it’s time for me to go.
I feel… hungry.