DAY 17

I believe I mentioned that I like to play video games.  I’m sure that if I did, I also said that I’m not very good at them.  I tend to die, a lot.  But that’s the nice thing about video games; if you get killed, you can always start over.  I prefer the games that let you start over at the place you died, or at least from wherever you last saved the game.  I bring this up because you may have noticed that I skipped day 16.  Well, I didn’t so much skip it, as I spent most of it technically dead.

For the record, though this virus seems to have given me unlimited game play, unlike the games, I still feel pain.  I’ve heard people say that they have a “high tolerance for pain;” I don’t know exactly what that means, but I guess my threshold is quite low.  Or maybe it just depends on what it is that’s inflicting the pain.  For example (and now, speaking from experience): getting cut with a knife hurts more than with a piece of paper, getting bit by person hurts way more than getting stung by a wasp, and getting shot hurts a shit-ton more than all of the previous examples combined (the jury is still out on where a blow to the balls comes in at, that can be a pain on an entirely different scale).

So the smell from the rest of the building was seeping into my apartment, and I decided it would be a good idea to start getting rid of some of the bodies; at least the ones on my floor, and the floors above and below mine.  I did consider just getting out of the city and finding someplace more remote to live, but this place is familiar, I have electricity, and there’s no guarantee that anywhere else would be any better/safer/fresher smelling.  My plan was to put the bodies into the dumpsters in the alley behind the building and burn them.  I’m still relatively certain it’s a solid plan, once I tweak it a bit.

I started out yesterday morning by going down to the basement.  I found some plastic tarps that the super used when painting, and a couple dollies he let people use to move heavy furniture.  I also spotted the respirator he used when painting, and thought it would come in handy.  Back inside Mrs. Olmstead’s apartment, I was a little afraid that she wouldn’t still be there and only marginally relieved that she still was, I placed a tarp on top of the dollies, and then set Mrs. Olmstead onto the tarp.  Grabbing one end of the tarp, I pulled Mrs. Olmstead out of her apartment and into the elevator.  This system of getting a body to the dumpsters seemed to work well, but getting the larger bodies into the dumpster would prove to be a challenge.

I felt bad as I dropped Mrs. Olmstead into the dumpster, biting me wasn’t her fault; it was the virus that made her do that.  After a quick prayer, I went back up to my floor.  The couple that lived next door to me was dead, and the respirator did little to mask the stench.  They had died in bed, so I wrapped the sheet they were on around them, and pulled them onto the dolly.  The woman was relatively small, and I was able to get her into the dumpster without too much difficulty, but the man was just too big.  There was a fire axe in a case just inside of the rear entrance, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use it.

There was a window on the second floor almost directly above the dumpsters.  I pushed the dumpster over a bit, and then pulled the man back to the elevators.  After opening the window, I was able to lift the man up to the windowsill, which was much lower than the lip up the dumpster, and push him out.  I was starting to get used to the smell, but the sound of the wet thud when the man landed in the dumpster was more than a little disturbing.  I hit three more apartments, added five more bodies to the dumpster, and decided it was time to start burning them.

I pushed the dumpster with the bodies in it across the alley, and placed an empty one underneath the window.  Siphoning gasoline from a car isn’t nearly as easy as it looks on TV, and I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way a lot of things have been depicted on TV and in movies since the pandemic.  After drawing in a lungful of gas fumes when I sucked on the hose I had placed into a car’s gas tank, I came very close to puking.  When the gasoline hit the back of my throat on my third attempt, I did an excellent impression of Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

Back in the alley, I poured all five gallons over the bodies in the dumpster, took a couple steps away from it, and then tossed in a lit match.  The fumes from the gas erupted in a rather impressive fireball, blackening the bricks of the building behind mine up to the second story.  Flames and black smoke rose out of the dumpster, but it didn’t appear that there was any danger of setting fire to anything else, so I went back into my building to start filling the next dumpster.  When I returned to the second story window with another pair of bodies, I was disappointed to see that the fire was almost out.

I hadn’t realized how difficult it was to burn a body, but I guess that it makes sense since over half of our body weight is water.  Making use of the fire axe, I broke up some pallets and old furniture from the basement, and added that to the dumpster.  I made a mental note to start bringing flammable items down with the bodies, and got the fire going again.  Before going back upstairs, I waited to make sure the fire was going to burn for more than five minutes, and that’s when things went bad for me.

It may have been the black smoke that first got their attention, and it was likely the racket I made breaking up the pallets and furniture in the alley that allowed them to find me.  The car turned into the alley, which is a little over 200 feet long and stopped about 50 feet from me.  There were three of them, two men and a woman.  They got out of their car, and they were all armed.  I was actually happy at first to see other survivors, and it didn’t even occur to me to be scared.  I don’t know if it was because I was holding the axe, or if these guys were just assholes (it turns out it was the latter), but when I took a step towards them and started raising my hand to wave, the woman raised her gun and shot at me.

Her first two shots missed, but the third hit me in the leg.  It was like someone had just kicked it out from under me, and I fell down.  I’ve heard people say, though this may have been something else from a movie or TV, that when they got shot, they didn’t even feel it at first.  Well, I definitely felt it; when a hunk of metal rips through your skin, and muscle, and slams into a bone, it hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.

So there I am, lying on the ground, leg in agony, and I heard one of the guys ask, “You think he has anything worth taking?”

“Probably should have asked him first,” the second guy replies when they’re almost to me.

Then the woman says, “Screw you, he can still talk.  And I bet you he’ll be much more willing to now.”  Then she kicks me in the leg she just shot.  Needless to say, I screamed.

“You living in this building?” the first guy asks me.

“Yes,” I replied through gritted teeth, “what do you want?  Why did you shoot me?”

“We want anything you might have that’s worth taking.  Particularly guns or ammo, if you have them.  And she shot you because she’s a bitch.”  The second guy laughed at that.

“I could be a whole lot worse,” the woman replied.  Then she looks down at me and says, “Just give us what we want, and maybe you’ll get out of this alive.”

“The whole fucking city is free for the taking,” I shouted, “why are you doing this to me?”

She shrugged and said, “Because I can.”  Then she shot me in the stomach.  The pain was excruciating.  I wasn’t even able to scream, though I wanted to; it wasn’t like getting punched and having the breath knocked out of you, it was more like my brain was so overwhelmed by pain signals that it couldn’t operate any of my other bodily functions at the moment.

“Jesus, Wendy, how about we find out where he keeps his shit before you kill him.”

“He ain’t dead yet.”

For a second, right after they stopped talking, everything got perfectly quiet; there was no wind, no birds were singing, even the fire in the dumpster stopped crackling.  And then there was a scraping sound, like rocks rubbing together.  It multiplied and grew louder.  I saw the second man’s eyes go wide, and he pointed towards the opposite end of the alley.

One whispered word came out of the second man’s mouth, “Horde.”

The other two looked to where the man was pointing, spun on their heels, and sprinted for their car.  The second man looked down at me, and for a second it looked like he was going to try to help me up, but then he looked back down the alley and took off after his friends.  I managed to rise up onto an elbow and look back down the alley to see what had scared them so badly.  An engine roared, tires squealed and I tried my best not to piss myself.

I don’t know how may zombies were coming towards me, from my vantage point, lying almost prone in the alley, I could only see about three deep into the horde, but I wasn’t really up to counting anyway.  Fear temporarily overcame the pain, and I began dragging myself to the back door, which fortunately wasn’t far away.  I got through it when the horde was still about 30 feet away, closed it and managed to get it locked before my strength gave out.  The back door is heavy steel and the zombies obviously weren’t able to get through it.  I never even heard them trying because I passed out shortly after getting it locked.

I woke up about 30 hours later, covered in dried blood and, again, other bodily fluids.  My leg was still sore, but I was able to walk on it, and I still have quite a bit of pain in my stomach, though that hasn’t ruined my appetite.  Those three people haven’t come back yet, there are still a lot of zombies around the building, though they’re slowly wandering off.  I’m sure they assume I’m dead, but I’m also guessing they’ll come back at some point to check out the building.  I’ll have to come up with a nice welcome back for them.




About scottamehlman

Scott A. Mehlman was born and (mostly) raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Having earned both a BS and an MBA, Scott has tried his hand at a variety of jobs without finding one that truly satisfied or engaged his creative impulses the way writing does. He has published his first novel, The Immortal and The Dead, which is the first book in The Immortal Virus trilogy and continues to work on the JAEGER e-book series.

Posted on October 14, 2013, in Fiction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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