Chapter One--December

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Please God, please God, no. Please no. Please, please, no. I can hear my whispered pleas becoming a whimper, and I will myself to be quiet before I start screaming. I can't let her hear me. Phil pushed me out of the way, told me to run, but I can't leave him, not to fend off that lunatic. Looking for anything that can help me, my eyes land on the two-foot long lead pipe next to the dumpster. It's like a sign.

Grabbing it, I turn to run back and put a dent in the crazy bitch's face, to help Phil, but when my eyes meet his, all I see is his pain before his neck snaps between her hands on either side of his head. As her teeth tear into Phil's neck, his blood spraying the surrounding air, I sink down next to the dumpster.

Please God, please God, no. Please no. Please, please, no.

Phil was just being nice. He wanted to help. People did that for one another, right? Especially now when so many people were dying. Were dead. The woman had been walking around, almost as if she was lost. She was hard to miss since there was no one else around. The streets were deserted, and the air hummed with an unnatural silence in Whitehorse, a city that had always buzzed with activity.

We could see her matted, brown hair, her breath heating the cold air near her mouth, her soiled jeans and her torn, thin, long-sleeved paisley shirt as she walked this way and that, her feet bare and bleeding on the snow-sprinkled concrete. She didn't even seem to notice as she walked through the shards of glass from the broken window of the grocery store, the window Phil broke so we could get some food, before moving further off.

"Hey!" Phil called out to her as we stepped through the window and into the small parking lot that butted up to that of the fitness center next door, our arms laden with an assortment of meats and canned goods we planned on taking back to our apartment. "Are you hungry?"

Phil and I were Survivors. Of course, at the time, we didn't know exactly what that meant. All we knew was that we had both gotten sick, unendurably sick it felt and then it was over. And, except for each other, everyone we ever knew and ever loved were dead. Phil said it was because of our bond, our true love. He was my other half, and I was his.

He must have woken up before me because he was bathing my forehead with a wet cloth, concern etched on his brow and in his eyes as he cradled my head in his lap. "Baby," he whispered, "Come on, babe. Just open your eyes. Come back to me. Please, God, help her. I'll do anything. I love you so much, Nora, just open your eyes." And I did. The tears falling down his cheeks almost undid me, and I felt my own tears well up, pooling at the corner of my eyes, sliding down onto my temples and into my hair as he held me against him, thanking God. Thanking me...

Phil had asked her if she was hungry, and she turned and looked at us as if she was actually seeing for the first time. Her eyes were unfocused though and blood shot. She looked like she hadn't slept in a week.

"Hungry?" She asked as she started to shuffle toward us. "Hungry, hungry, hungry," she prattled, a huge grin spreading over her face. She swiped at her mouth, as if she was looking at the biggest feast she had ever seen, and she hadn't eaten in a year. And that's when we started to worry.

"Um, get behind me, Nora," Phil warned, his warm hand on my arm gently nudging.

"No, Phil," I started to argue. "Look at her. There's something—Hey! Stop right there!" I yelled, my brows furrowed, as the woman's shuffle became more of an awkward loping gait. "Just stop!" But it was as if she had gone deaf in that moment. She didn't even blanch at my cry. "Hungry, hungry, hungry," she croaked, the word a mantra, her eyes fixed on her target—not the food, as we thought—the man who had called out to her in the first place. Phil.

The next moment was a blur as she ran into Phil, spilling the food from his hands. She reached up and swatted his face, and dropping the food in my own arms, I grabbed her hand, attempting to stop her from assaulting him. Her eyes focused on me for half a second before she lost interest and shoved me, her strength, much more than I ever thought she could possess, coursing through her arm and pushing me away as if I was nothing more than an annoying obstacle in her path.

"Nora, run!" Phil called to me as he held her at arm's length, trying to turn her around so he could trap her arms behind her. "I got her, just go," he grunted, the last words he'd ever say...

"I'll get help!" I yelled as I staggered away, looking for anyone, anything.

"I'll get help. I'll get help," I whisper now, my sobs uncontrollable. Please God, please God, help me. Help him! Please help. Please, help, please, please.

It wasn't more than two days ago, when he had run that wet washcloth back and forth over my forehead, blowing on my skin to cool it while praying to God to spare me, and now, behind a fucking dumpster, I'm praying to the same God to spare him—this absolutely wonderful man, my soulmate, my reason for living. But this time God isn't listening. What am I doing wrong?

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