Infection

Lawrence is searching the food stores. Or at least that’s his excuse for why he is where he is. Shawn and Nate are inside the food stores. But they aren’t pretending to search for Eric or Kelly. Instead, they are gathering as many supplies as they will be able to carry, while Lawrence is keeping watch. If anyone comes by he’ll have to deal with them, but he has no qualms about taking a life. He’s done it many times before in order to survive. It’s how he and his boys have lasted this long. They aren’t stupid like so many others. Staying in one place, setting up a community like the world is still the same is a death wish. The only real way of surviving is to stay on the move. But he would have liked to have stayed here longer, just so they could have slowly pilfered more of the supplies. With the arrival of the girl, Kelly, who has now gone missing, and the massive horde roaming the area he doesn’t think it wise to remain here any longer. The infected will overrun this camp, one way or another. He’s seen it before. He’ll see it again many more times before he finally dies. He’s even helped bring an end to a few enclaves over the last two years. He didn’t do it because of some personal vendetta, it was just survival. And in his eyes his, Shawn’s and Nate’s is more important to him than anyone else’s. However, he has to admit that this community are even more trusting and welcoming than most they’ve come across. Fools, Lawrence thinks as he hears a shuffling noise. Quickly he determines that it’s the shuffling of feet and moments later he is proved right as Kelly appears from out of the murky shadows.

Lawrence wonders why the girl is here. Does she know? She can’t know because there is nothing to know. Plus she’s been gone for hours. He doesn’t care why, but he has to know what she might know. And if she knows too much then she’ll have to be dealt with. Lawrence doesn’t like the idea of killing a child, but he’ll do it if it keeps him and his own safe.

“Oh hi.” Kelly says catching sight of Lawrence and smiling sweetly. She doesn’t know the man, other than his name, but she’s seen him around, usually with Carl. She doesn’t really know what Carl’s role is in the community, but Penny told her that Lawrence and his two sons, Shawn and Nate, are new here like she is.

“Kelly, we’ve been looking for you.” Lawrence says faking concern for the teenage girl. He notes that though she might be a teenager her personality seems to interchange between that of a younger child’s and of a girl her actual age. Don’t go soft. She could rat you out. You know that. Then what’ll you do. The voice in his head says as he looks at the young girl who is nearly a foot shorter than him.

“Oh really. I’m Sorry. I just needed some time alone.” Kelly offers with a glum look on her face.

“What happened?” Lawrence asks.

“Some boys were picking on me. I got scared. So I ran off.” Kelly admits with slumped shoulders. Her eyes focused on a point on the concrete floor between her and Lawrence.

“Is that where you’ve been hiding?” Lawrence questions as he points past Kelly to a dark alcove that would’ve given her a perfect view of the trios pilfering. He has to know how long she’s been here. It matters more than she knows, as he fiddles with the scalpel in his pocket.

Lawrence can’t remember where he acquired it, but since it’s been in his possession it’s served him well. He’s made sure to keep it sharp and it may even be his most prized possession in truth. In fact, it’s one of his only possessions. It strikes him as strange that he, a man who used to be a truck driver, now considers a scalpel as his most prized possession in the entire world. If anyone had said that such a thing would be the case to him before the infection broke out he would have called them mad. His most prized possession had, up until that point, always been his truck. It was his after all. He owned it and he loved it. He wonders if it is still sitting in the compound of his logistics business. He can’t imagine it to be anywhere else, but he still regrets leaving it behind. Though, he knows he could never have taken it with him. There isn’t much fuel left in the world, or at least he doubts there is. Plus a truck is a very large item to try and cart around with you. A scalpel by comparison fits in his pocket.

“Yeah. I like it here. It’s quiet.” Kelly says suddenly brightening up again as she looks up at Lawrence. But as she does she hears voices from somewhere behind the bald headed man. She cocks her head slightly to one side as Lawrence’s expression darkens. Kelly suddenly feels fear creeping back into her as she takes a step back. Something in her head is telling her to run, but she hesitates and her hesitation gives Lawrence just enough time to grab hold of her arm. His grip is immediately too tight and she struggles to try and break free so the pain will stop, but he’s too strong.

“How long have you been watching us?” Lawrence demands as he tightens his grip on the scalpel, ready to draw it from his pocket.

“Let me go. You’re hurting me.” Kelly cries as she continues to thrash about, but as she does Lawrence’s grip tightens. She lets out a shriek of pain in response to his vicelike grip on her forearm just as a sharp blade appears in his free hand. Kelly’s eyes go wide as the low light reflects off the shining metal surface of the scalpel. Her heart rate somehow manages to double. She would have thought that impossible as it had already been going ten to the dozen before.

“I wasn’t watching. I was hiding. I didn’t even know you were here.” Kelly adds as the blade of scalpel is waved right in front of her eyes by Lawrence, who snarls menacingly.

She needs to get away. She knows she does. But she can’t. Instead, she is stuck here. She doesn’t know what is going on or why Lawrence is acting like this and she doesn’t care. She just knows she needs to be somewhere other than right here as her body begins to quiver.

“You’re lying. Tell the truth. Or you’ll get cut.” Lawrence promises through gritted teeth as he puts the scalpel blade to her pristine cheek.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Lawrence hears Nate call. The youngest and adopted of his son could swear he heard voices, but it’s too dull in the store room for him to see much other than the outline of Lawrence.

“Get back to work will you.” Shawn orders irritated at Nate’s attempt at prolonging the job at hand by being lazy.

“Swore I heard voices.” Nate returns defensively as he looks at his brother and away from the corridor in which Lawrence is stood.

“No you didn’t. Now just give me a hand will you? We need to do this quick as possible. Don’t want us getting caught do you?” Shawn fires back. He doesn’t believe Nate has heard anything. He’s just stalling, he always does this and it happens right when time is the most sensitive. He wonders why they keep him around, but he knows the answer. Nate’s a big guy with a temper, once you get him fired up. And when that happens you don’t want to be in his way. Shawn has never seen anyone who has been able to best him in a fight. But still, his uses are limited, and that wouldn’t be so bad if he actually listened to orders properly. He doesn’t know why Lawrence lets him get away with it, but Shawn guesses it’s because Nate calls him dad. Shawn doesn’t. He refuses to, seeing as the man had been a ghost in his life growing up. He was more interested in driving his truck all over the world than raising his only son. In his youth that had bothered Shawn. It’s why he’d got himself into trouble with the police, but that’s all behind him now. In fact, he thinks, it’s behind everyone. There are no police anymore. This world has become the ultimate statement of dog eat dog and Shawn, Lawrence and Nate are the top dogs. They will survive. No matter the cost, he says to himself as he continues to pack a rucksack full of supplies. He isn’t even sure they’ll be able to carry all this, but somehow they’ll find a way. They always do. Plus it’ll keep them going for a while. Unlike the last haul which could only have been described as meagre, at best. As a result it had nearly cost them their lives. But all clouds have a silver lining, he thinks, as they ended up here.

This is more food and medicine than they have seen in over a year. This community really has managed to prosper where most have they have come across have only managed to survive, barely. Hell, maybe they’ll even survive us taking their stuff, he says to himself. He doubts it. None of the other enclaves they’ve raided have.

In fact, most in the wake of the missing supplies had turned against one another and he’s pretty sure the same will happen here. After all, nothing will ever replace a man’s suspicion of their fellow man, end of the world or not.

But as Shawn finishes packing the rucksack he hears a groaning sound. At first he simply shrugs it off, believing it’s in his head. But the groaning persists and it irritates him. He is sure that it’s Nate, but he doesn’t know why. It’s not funny and it serves no purpose, which is why before long he concludes that he can’t put up with it anymore without saying something.

“Can you stop that Nate?” Shawn rages.

“Stop what?” Nate replies confused at Shawn’s outburst.

“Making those groaning noises. You sound like one of the infected.”

“I’m not making any groaning noises.” Nate retorts defending himself from Shawn, who he is starting to think, has gone mad. He isn’t making any groaning noise. Why would he? It’s in Shawn’s head, he thinks as he shakes his own head in frustration. He knows Shawn is older, but he could at least treat him better. He isn’t a child anymore. He’s an adult, just like Shawn is. And Nate is sick of being spoken to like he isn’t worth a damn.

“Well you’re the only other person here.” Shawn spits angrily.

“Maybe it’s in your head.” Nate roars back no longer willing to put up with Shawn’s attitude.

“That’s bullshit and you know it! Just be honest, admit it and stop doing it!” Shawn bellows as he stares at Nate. He could just punch the younger man, even if he is bigger and could snap his bones without a second thought.

“Believe whatever you want to Shawn.” Nate fires back, only for Shawn’s eyes to go wide as he speaks.

“What?” Nate questions. He doesn’t get why Shawn looks terrified all of a sudden. Has he seen something? He can’t of, dad is keeping watch.

But Shawn can’t answer. Terror is stopping him because as Nate spoke he heard the groaning again. That means it isn’t Nate groaning and if that’s the case, which it clearly is, then they aren’t alone. Shawn looks to the periphery of his vision as he realises that the groans are coming from off to his left. Shawn gulps audibly and that worries Nate. The younger man doesn’t understand but he never gets to say anything else as Eric leaps out of the darkness towards them. Strands of spittle hang between the teeth of his upper and lower jaws, his eyes are crazed and his skin overly pale.

Eric slams to the floor with Shawn and Nate below him moments before he sinks his teeth into Nate’s bare forearm. Nate roars in agony as Eric tears his head back violently, ripping a chunk of skin from Nate’s arm. Blood, crimson and glistening, immediately spills from the wound as it begins to soaks the remainder of his arm and then drip to the concrete floor below him.

Shawn screams in fear as he tries to back away, but he’s too slow and Eric manages to grab hold of Shawn’s ankle. Shawn kicks furiously, cursing as he does. He knows Eric is infected and that he has to stop the monster from sinking its teeth into him. However, his kicks do nothing to deter Eric’s relentless desire to spread the infection. In fact, Eric absorbs Shawn’s kicks and sinks his venomous teeth into Shawn’s ankle. Shawn howls and begs, but it’s too late. He’s been bitten, but he refuses to surrender as Nate’s body goes into an extreme form of anaphylactic shock. His body begins thrashing side to side as he fights to breathe, but can’t. His tongue and throat have already swollen to the point that his throat is the size of a pinhead. As a result his face has turned purple as he claws pointlessly at his throat. His pulse has sky-rocketed as his heart beats so fast it is in danger of bursting from the strain before suddenly his body goes limp and his eyes begin to glaze over, while Shawn continues to scream for help.

“What the…” Lawrence exclaims hearing the screams from behind him. He has no idea what is going on, but Shawn and Nate need to stop. If they don’t they’ll all be found out, he thinks as he turns to look over his shoulder while still keeping a tight grip on Kelly’s arm. But what he sets his eyes on horrifies him.

Nate is splayed out on the floor motionless while Shawn, who is lying down alongside him, is convulsing violently.

“Shawn! Nate!” Lawrence roars confused and terrified.

Lawrence doesn’t know what has happened, but he has to help them. Before he can do anything however, he feels Kelly’s arm break from his hold.

That can’t be possible, he thinks as his head whips back round to look at the girl. His eyes go wide as he finds that he is not stood face to face with a teenage girl but a monster. Her teeth are bared and her face screwed up into a visage of hunger and uncontrollably rage. She’s infected, Lawrence thinks as Kelly throws herself at him. He tries to slash at her with the scalpel but she’s too fast. Lawrence can barely believe the speed at which the girl can move, or the strength that she possesses. This isn’t right. Infected don’t move fast and they aren’t strong. They’re shambling and possess entirely normal strength. So what is she? Does that matter now? A voice in his head screams. No. He decides that it doesn’t as he tries to fight back and break free, but Kelly is much stronger and simply forces him to the floor using her body weight to slam hard into his chest.

Lawrence topples and his head bangs painfully against the concrete. Stars fill his vision, though not enough to stop him from glimpsing the sigh of Kelly sinking her teeth into his neck. He screams for mercy, but it’s too late. The deed is done. He’ll be dead very soon and shortly after that he’ll return as one of the mindless infected, he knows that. He just refuses to accept it as his body goes into convulsions while he fights to breathe.

Lawrence doesn’t last long and soon his heart stops. No one heard his screams for help, or those of Shawn and Nate. Instead, he rises again a few minutes later now a member of the infected and as he does Kelly, terrified and confused, runs off to hide.

Kelly doesn’t know that she is the cause of the infection. And that the very drug that she was given to her as part of a drug trial not only cured her cancer, but caused a change in her that means that when she is at her most afraid she changes into a monster. The monster within her has only one purpose and that is to spread the infection. So while Kelly was in a coma the drug was rolled out to other test groups due to its apparent universal success in being able to cure all forms of cancer.

At first such a thing had been true. The drug had eliminated all forms of cancer, but the lives of those administered with the drug were short lived and before long each and every one of them, bar Kelly, died.

However, they didn’t stay dead. And while Kelly remained in coma, her body slowly healing, the other test subjects rose. But they could no longer be called human. Instead, they were husks that served as vessels for the infection which is transmitted through saliva that enters the bloodstream after the venom coated teeth have created a wound and weakened the victims’ immune system.

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