Short Story: I Don’t Feel Like Myself Today – Chapter 2

I could start at the exact moment I was infected. People often assume I was bitten. It doesn’t help that my neck looks like I was attacked by a swarm of teenage girls, all desperate to give me a hickey. Those marks are actually a result of an attack of a different kind, one that I will get to later. No, I was not bitten. I did not run into another Afflicted, pre- or post-death. It was something much more innocent. Something that I curse every day. Something that could only happen to me, I often bitterly think. Something stupid.

I am not going to start at that moment though. Let me take you back to a more innocent time. “More innocent” being relative to what we know now, as it actually wasn’t all that grand. CD was just beginning to rear its ugly head. The first reported cases were in China and India, where infection always seems to run rampant due to their high population densities. It was something of an enigma disease, at first, if I recall correctly. It presented two problems at the start: the obvious one of how to fight a turncoat and how to identify those who were infected yet not yet transformed into a zombie. Surprisingly, the solution to the first problem came relatively quickly. We can thank pop culture for that. Once doctors saw people who were unequivocally dead rise up again, they knew what they were dealing with, even if they couldn’t grasp it fully.

The second problem, well, that was a bigger problem. People would get bitten or otherwise infected with CD, but wouldn’t tell the doctors, or the doctors themselves were made victims and felt they could just shake it off. So these people would go back to their normal lives, maybe infecting others pre-death, but definitely causing havoc post-death. And this was sometimes weeks or months after the original case. A community would think it was finally in the clear, only for another case to pop up. On the news, the reanimation part of the disease was often glossed over, at least in America it was. They would mention that disposing of the bodies was a hazardous job and could cause further contamination, but never “The dead are rising.” The talking heads would just concentrate on the symptoms, which is where the term “Superflu” came from. So misinformation and just plain human pride helped spread the disease.

So with this backdrop, I was living my life. The news was reporting the first cases of Continuus mortis (or Superflu, HIWK, which stood for “Heck, If We Know”) in America and it seemed like a pandemic was highly probable. I was an office drone for a major business company in the greater DC area. There were always whispers in my office. Whispers that I was next up for promotion after I caught the accounting error that may have cost us millions of dollars. Whispers that the boss was banging the secretary. And whispers that there was an outbreak of CD in nearby Laurel, Rockville, Gaithersburg. Maybe even the First Lady had a case, or was it the Chief of Staff, or even the President? All this sound and fury signaling what? Something I should be concerned with? I was not concerned with it. Unless it was in my 500 square-foot apartment, it was out of my mind. Unfortunately, it would soon be in my apartment.

I was working late one night, as it seemed to become tradition at the time. That promotion that was being whispered always was after the next project, the next performance review. I was buckling down and down and down. I was driving home, maybe it was ten, maybe it was even eleven, I don’t remember. I guess it was before midnight, because the date on my bracelet is the day I was working late. I was driving home, a little bit tired, but okay. I was crossing the intersection of Route 1 and Central Avenue when I was blindsided, t-boned. I had the light. Green. It was not my fault. It was the other driver’s. He was drunk. My car went spinning, missing a light pole and ending up in a ditch. I didn’t blackout, so I remember the spinning. The lights going round and round. The glass shattering around me. When my car finally came to a stop, my vision momentarily went blurry, as if my senses were resetting themselves. I had cuts, some deep, some shallow all over my arms and face. My ankle throbbed. Yet nothing seemed broken, except maybe my spirit. Surely, I thought, this would cause a heap of problems, monetarily and stresswise, which I could not afford with work piling up. I slowly exited my car to yell at the other guy. Hopefully, he had insurance.

The other guy’s car, which was a Bentley, was crumpled in the front. As he climbed out his car, I could smell the alcohol on his breath from yard away. He looked relatively fine, physically, but mentally, he seemed to have been in crisis. He was ranting and raving about his wife. He thought she was cheating on him, that she seemed distant lately. OR that was what I could make out from his drunken slurring. He was stumbling around and I started to hear sirens in the background. Someone must have witnessed the crash and called 911, but not want to show their face. Helpfulness behind anonymity. I, maybe I was in a daze, wandered over to the grill of the man’s car. I had noticed something, it seemed like oil. At least, it looked like oil, it was dark in color and slightly congealed. The last part didn’t jive with me, so I reached out my hand to touch it. My hand covered in scratches and cuts. Touched an unknown substance. I think you know what it really was.

It was the man’s wife’s blood. He had run over her earlier in the evening, in a fit of jealous rage. But she wasn’t cheating on him. She just was going through the last stages of the living part of CD. When the mania sets in. The police would later find the upper half of her body crawling through the woods near her house. By that point, they had sent me to the hospital and home. By that point, I was already infected, I just didn’t know it yet.

When I went to the hospital after the crash, I was escorted through the corridors by a nice nurse. I don’t know if she was new, or uninformed, or the hospital just didn’t care anymore, but I peaked in through some doors and saw that it was true, the disease was right at my doorstep. I saw patients strapped to their beds, thrashing about. The mania. I think I even saw an orderly roll a cart full of decapitated heads in front of me. I am not sure, because my memory is definitely hazy of that night. I don’t know if that is the crash’s fault or the fact that I want to block those events out of my head forever. They ran a battery of tests on me, took my blood (using the cover of wanting to test for any drugs I may have been taking, for legal reasons), and sent me on my way.

As I got a ride home, I thought I had my epiphany moment. Maybe I was working too hard and this was a sign to slow down. While I was not happy about what had transpired, by the time I reached my apartment, I thought the worse was behind me. That was, until, the police were rapping on my door the next afternoon.

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