I think I’m doing a bit better, the stomach cramps have eased off a bit so I’m hopeful! Still really tired but then what’s new there really! I’m going to try and get my next appointment with my GI doctor moved up anyway, if it’s just a lull or if it’s passing no harm in getting looked over!
Brad held his hands out to the fire, letting the warmth seep in. It probably wasn’t the safest idea they’d had but it was too damn cold, their options were to light a fire or potentially freeze to death. After a few minutes debate they decided the risk was worth it. They were far from any cities or towns and hopefully far from people. A lot of people were doing what they were, striking out for the wilderness, it was the safest thing they could do. The threat of changing was getting worse every day, they’d waited as long as they could then packed their car and started driving. They’d abandoned the car four days back, they’d run out of gas and the last few gas stations they’d passed had hand written signs saying they were out. Well, that wasn’t true, the very last one had a large sign proclaiming that there was still gas and to “Come on in for a bite!” that sign had seemed too suspicious to them both, so they kept driving. For Brad the strangest thing about it all was that to a casual observer they might not notice anything was wrong. You could gloss over the stores with dwindling supplies (they couldn’t seem to keep the shelves stocked no matter how hard they tried) or the sight of someone frantic and running down the street, hell you could even ignore the way that people would watch you out of the corner of their eyes. The news was useless, blathering on about celebrities and the usual fluff, like it still mattered. The internet was being censored, occasionally you would come across a post about a family member changing, about the way everyone was on edge, but almost as soon as it went up it was taken down again. Brad and Helena had hit the road after the last call from Helena’s parents, they’d sounded bright and cheerful, far removed from the quiet, anxious voices that they had heard previously. Brad’s own parents had gone over about a week back and had been aggressively inviting them over for dinner since.
They’d ditched their phones with the car, it wasn’t like they had anyone to ring, it seemed like almost everyone had gone over. Part of him wished it was all more dramatic, that the people who changed were flesh eating zombies or weapon wielding maniacs. At least then you’d have a chance, you’d know to defend yourself. They looked like normal people, acted like them too for the most part, but they were different, changed. He couldn’t explain it properly, even now, but there was a subtle wrongness to them, something that was just off. He hadn’t managed to pinpoint it, whether it was the way they moved or sounded or smelled. Sometimes it was obvious, the personality change or the sudden insistence at meeting up, but other times it was subtle. Subtle enough that you could miss it. So they’d did the only sensible thing and ran.
Helena poured hot water into two cups, neither of them particularly liked tea but they’d run out of coffee yesterday and hadn’t been able to resupply yet. They’d need to do it soon, their food supplies were dwindling rapidly, much faster than either expected, and they had no idea how to even begin hunting or foraging. Brad popped a hole into a can of spaghetti and put it beside the fire, it was only a few days and he was already sick of canned food, they had both thought themselves reasonably prepared and believed that they could pick up the rest on the way, it was only now he was realising how unprepared they really were. A branch snapped nearby, Brad’s head whipped around, a voice called out, low and frightened, “Hello? I’m sorry if I scared you but can we warm ourselves by the fire? Just for a minute, please, my wife is pregnant.” Brad glanced at Helena, she nodded slightly, “Yeah. OK. But don’t make any sudden moves.” They had no weapons with them, save for an old baseball bat, but the new comers didn’t know that. A man and woman emerged from the trees, the woman moved slowly, her large stomach protruding in front of her. Their faces were red and they were both shivering from the cold, both had light jackets on. “Jesus, you’ll freeze to death out here if you’re not careful. Where are you coming from?”
“Livington, it’s about fifteen miles east of here. We weren’t planning on leaving.” They sat down, holding their hands out to the flames. “My brother attacked us. We barely got out of the house.” he looked at Brad, “I just thought people were overreacting, that it was just in peoples heads.” his eyes were pleading, as was his voice, Brad thought the man was hoping he’d agree, tell him that it wasn’t really happening, that it had just been a mistake. “Do you want some tea? It’ll help heat you up.”
“That would be great, Thanks. I’m Patrick, this is Francine.” Francine nodded at them both and gave a half smile.
An hour later and they were all talking like old friends, Brad was surprised at how much he missed just chatting with people, without worrying whether they were still people. What ever was replacing people was sticking close to the towns and cities, carrying on their scheduled humanity, going to work or school, doing the shopping, they weren’t out in the wilderness. Patrick finished off his tea, his second cup, “We should probably get going. W just wanted to heat ourselves up and we don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense, you’ll catch your death out here. Besides us humans need to stick together.” Brad nodded, Helena was right, they’d be better off in a group. It would make keeping watch easier, bother Brad and Helena had managed to fall asleep the night before, leaving them entirely exposed.
Helena poured more tea into Francine’s cup, she clutched the cup tightly, enjoying the warmth radiating through her hands. “Thank you. You know I never thought I’d experience this again. Drinking tea with friends” she sniffed, Brad looked away awkwardly as Francine wiped away a single tear.
The muffled gasp woke Brad, he was groggy, how long had they been asleep? It was still dark out, there was a low moan, his first thought was Francine, that the baby was coming here in the cold, dark woods, he sat up and looked across the faintly glowing embers, who was supposed to be on watch? The fire shouldn’t have died down that much. He saw something in the dark, a hunched shape over where Helena was sleeping. He shot to his feet and charged at the figure, just as he took his second step another shape hurtled out of the darkness, knocking him to the ground. He landed hard, the weight on top of him driving the air from his lungs, it took him a second to make sense of the shape on top of him, it was Francine, her pregnant belly hanging above his face. She was holding him down, her hands wrapped around his shoulders with a painfully tight grip, she leaned down, an angle he would have thought impossible, then her lips were over his creating a seal. He felt something oozing into his mouth, he bucked and writhed as he felt the liquid moving, pulling itself down his throat. Suddenly there was pain, bright hot at first but quickly becoming dull and far away.
The next morning they packed their bags in silence, Francine and Patrick had left during the night. They shouldered their bags and started walking, they knew the woods held more people, they just had to find them.