Understanding (Horror)

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"Truth be told, I'm not sure any of them are actually dead."

Rudy took another picture, the flash harsh and white.

"What'd you say?"

I eyed the body beside me on the floor, one Mr. James Wents, swallowed.

"I don't know if these guys are dead."

He grunted. "That's an old joke, Frank," he said, taking another picture.

I blinked away the flash's after image, looked at the body from the corner of my eye.

Had his eyelid twitched?

"I'm serious, Rudy. I think this body just moved."

Rudy turned, looked at the body, then to me.

"Guy's a goner. That happens when someone stabs you through the neck."

The impressive puddle of blood beside Mr. Wents' head attested to his death, but it didn't change what I'd seen.

"We just gotta do the collecting." He tapped his camera with a latex clad finger, then paused.

"You feeling okay? You don't look so hot."

I, in fact, felt quite hot. I was sweating up a storm inside my disposable white jumpsuit, and my head was throbbing. I felt like crap, so this was all I needed.

It's a messy crime scene. It's just freaking you out.

I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, the taste papery through the mask.

I must have caught it from Joanne. She'd been sick when she got back from the convention in Cancun last week, and she hadn't gotten any better. Now she spent all her time moaning and coughing around our apartment. I'd tried to get her to see a doctor, but she'd refused saying it was some bug that would pass. If she felt the way I did, I seriously doubted it.

When I opened my eyes Rudy was still staring at me. I nodded to say I felt okay when Mr. Martin, slumped against the far wall, jerked his head to the side.

Oh, crap.

That hadn't been a trick of the light, he'd definitely moved. I took a step back.

Rudy stood and came closer.

"Easy there, don't tramp all over the evidence."

My foot rested near a triangular marker, the number eleven printed on yellow plastic beside a very bloody handprint on the floor. I carefully moved my bootied foot away.

Rudy kept looking at me, now concerned.

"He moved," I said, "Mr. Martin, his head moved."

He raised a hand to placate me. "M.E. pronounced all these guys, Frank. It's a trick of the light, you know how it is. Let's finish up and get some fresh air, okay?"

I heard a groan. It had come from the next room.

There were more bodies in there. We hadn't even identified them all yet.

"Calm down. Dead is dead, Frank. It's not like they're zombies or something," Rudy said and smiled at his joke.

I didn't smile back, I froze.

This is how it would start.

I saw it all. Mysterious deaths, strange behavior. No one believing what was happening. All it would take was the first infection.

Joanne. Patient Zero.

She'd been wandering around moaning all day and night. I'd even been sleeping alone since she got back. Our apartment wasn't that far away.

Oh no. She couldn't have...

But I couldn't deny my eyes. The handprint beside my shoe was the size of her hand.

I had to find her. As soon as they knew what was happening they were going to quarantine both of us, or worse. Maybe we could still get away.

"Frank?"

I turned and fled from the room, heart pounding. Rudy yelled something behind me.

I burst through the door into the hallway surprising the patrolman on duty. I didn't have much time, I could feel my body changing. Soon I'd be like her.

"Frank! Someone stop him! There's something wrong with him," Rudy shouted behind me.

A hand latched on to my jumpsuit. Panicked, I lashed out, struck someone. A cry of surprise. I bolted forward but another policeman stood in the hallway. Seeing his fallen partner he didn't waste any time. I tried to shove past but the room spun and I crashed to the floor with someone atop me. Pounding footsteps shook the floorboards.

"Get off me!" I screamed. "We have to tell someone or we're going to die! We're all going to die!"

No one got off of me, more hands joined them. The first patrolman, Rudy, and a medic, their faces flashing crimson and white in the lights of the ambulance outside.

"Hold him still!" Someone shouted and I felt a prick in my arm. Warmth flooded my veins.

"No!" I tried to say but my tongue was thick and the world was fading. Blackness swept in on me, the end fell.

As everything went dark I knew that was it. I was dead, or undead, and everyone around me would soon be as well.

So I was surprised when I opened my eyes to see hollow white lights and hear an electronic beeping nearby. I turned my head, took in the sterile tile and linoleum of a hospital room.

The door beside my bed swung open and a tall nurse in aqua scrubs walked in. She smiled at me then went to check my monitors.

"You gave us quite the scare, Mr. Burnett. The Mexican Goat Flu is nothing to mess around with. Glad to see you're feeling better."

I had to admit I felt better. My head still hurt, but my body felt cool again.

Turns out the Mexican Goat Flu is a nasty little bug. Gives you all kinds of things like a rash, headache, fever, hallucinations. Yeah all that good stuff. It'll kill you flat out if you don't get it treated. One of our neighbors had driven Joanne to the hospital just in time while I was at work. She lay recovering in the next room.

And the bodies? Yeah they were dead. Of course they were. I mean, what did you think this was, some cheesy Hollywood movie?

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