I'm surrounded by thick, soupy darkness. I blink several times, wondering if I've gone blind. Yet, shapes clutter the space in front of me. Hazy forms sway back and forth where they stand, resembling stalks of grass pushed by a gentle breeze.
The smells assault my nose. It's a mixture of rotting meat and spoiled milk and the familiar blend of salt and sweat. There are two new, unmistakable smells: urine and feces. Goosebumps spread across my bare arms, standing the hair on the back of my neck up.
The air feels damp, and moisture clings to my brow.
The longer I stand there, the clearer the shapes around me become.
What I thought were bodiless forms are infected, or rather what's left of them.
Directly in front of me, two infected lean against one another, staring at me. One is missing a leg that was broken off at the kneecap. His patella dangles uselessly from a gray string of tendons. Dried blood creates burgundy rivers down his other leg, gluing the remains of his pants to his ashen skin.
His friend, a female, has no eyes. Two empty sockets gape back at me, filled with what looks like a mixture of chewed skin and dirt. The skin of her face pulls down, giving her a weighed appearance. Her mouth hangs open, showing a row of teeth that are worn down to the gumline.
I turn away from them, gasping for breath. The hot air doesn't quench my burning lungs, but instead sends my stomach into somersaults. When I look up again, the numbers of infected have only increased, all staring in my direction, like I've just crashed their party.
I scan for familiar faces, eyes falling on several.
One of my father's old friends has a gaping open wound across his chest, teeming with maggots. A female classmate of mine bears a broken arm, crystal white bone protruding from her forearm. Her wrist bends down at an unnatural angle; patches of her golden hair are missing.
None of them move towards me. Instead, they just stare, emitting moans of pain, growls of madness, or groans of hunger. I never knew there was a difference in those three sounds, but the tangle of sounds and smells around me require that I pick them apart.
The moans are loud and short, climaxing into a scream before the wave comes crashing back down. Opposite of this, the growls tumble out in long, low volumes, stretching endlessly around me like ribbons. Groans blend the two together, filling my chest with loud, long terror.
When my eyes adjust completely, I push away from the door, stumbling and crashing to the floor at the feet of the first two infected. My right hand catches me before I fall flat on my face, but my left arm slips in something wet, twisting my body like a see-saw. The smell down by the ground is worse, until I taste it on the back of my tongue.
I look up to see what I slipped in and am greeted by a sea of body parts. My left hand disappears into a pile of arms, legs, and other unrecognizable extremities. Flies gather on the blue skin, feasting on the raw tissue and bone.
I jerk my arm back, pushing myself up in enough time to turn away before I vomit. The bile adds yet another smell to the menu, but I can't tear my eyes away from the chunky liquid.
Blood peppers the fluid. The virus has reached my stomach.
That means I need to hurry.
I stand myself upright, pushing past the two infected that greeted me. Each step I take requires careful thought, repositioning and wiggling my feet until they find flat ground. None of the other infected try to bother me, instead deciding to go back to their own business. They've figured out I'm not food.
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Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
"As far back as I can remember, I've been surrounded by water. The salt in the air even now makes it hard to breath, forcing me to squint. Sand clings to every inch of me, caking my pants and shoes. The wind from the ocean picks my hair up, sending...