“It’s killing me! It is killing me! Kerb! Save me already!” Irij shouted, as loud as his voice would allow him to.
“Hold a while. Let me heal myself”, replied Kerb barely able to hide his amusement. This was followed by a bout of sniggers from Ryan and Vic.
After a few more seconds of being gnawed at by a particularly vicious zombie, both Kerb and Vic came over to where Irij lay on the ground, with their guns blazing. After a few more seconds he was back on his feet watching several zombie faces explode in the face of his M16 Assault Rifle. After a further five minutes of screaming, shouting and shooting their computer monitors finally faded to black and started displaying their game statistics. Kerb had beaten them all, but apart from a slight annoyance at not being rescued sooner Irij felt satisfied with his haul.
It was nearly midnight and it had been pouring outside for hours, forming a steady source of white noise as the played together. Their sessions usually went as late into the night as their university schedules would allow them and that particular session was soon declared concluded by Ryan.
“Yep! That’s the last game for me. Have an early one tomorrow. I need to get up for that”, he said, shutting off his laptop.
“Sucks to be you. My lectures don’t start till late in the afternoon”, declared Kerb, with a smug expression.
“Well, sucks to be you since mine don’t last more than an hour” replied Ryan almost mechanically. Vic nodded his head smiling, expectant of a comeback from Kerb which never came. Instead Kerb just sat silent, staring quite blackly at the quite unremarkable stretch of wall over his monitor screen. After about a minute, during which the rest of them slowly ambled around the room packing their laptops, Kerb finally came around.
“You know, I wonder if it would actually happen…” he began.
“You wonder what could happen?” Irij asked him. He had a very peculiar expression on his face which he usually only had while talking about guns, weapons, and eating large quantities of food in an inhumanely small amount of time.
“A zombie apocalypse of course”, he said with a smile that made it sound as if he were discussing his vacation plans. “I mean, sure I know the scientific probability of it happening is slim, but I just wonder sometimes.”
“Wait. What do you mean it’s a slim probability? I thought it was an improbability. The dead don’t just get up and walk you know” said Ryan, turning from wrapping a power cable.
“No, no. He’s right. It can actually happen.” Irij said, smiling. They did not call him the wiki with legs without reason, and the idea of the human race dying and the world being destroyed somehow always seemed to interest him, irrespective of whether it happened with a boom, a rumble or a sizzle. “It’s just a matter of probability actually, like he said”.
“It’s not really possible. How can it be possible?” asked Vic, with a quizzical and slightly confused expression.
“Well, there are many possible scenarios. It also depends on what you could call a zombie. Zombies don’t necessary have to be ‘undead’ or do they? Magic is not the only thing that can create zombies, there are plenty of perfectly scientific ways in which it can happen” he replied, shifting his glasses.
“I suppose you’re talking about zombies being a result of something like a virus. Perfectly scientific indeed” said Vic, making sure that Irij was able to fully absorb every bit of sarcasm in his voice.
“You’ve seen too many movies. I am pretty sure that is the only place where we will ever see zombies.” said Ryan, who was now starting to shift towards the door.
“It only takes one bad virus mutation. Think about it. There have been many diseases which could result in zombies being created. If a virus had effects like rabies, which causes extreme aggression and madness I think we could safely say we might have a zombie outbreak on our hands.”
Ryan stopped at the door, turning and smiling and said, “Not everyone goes around biting others’ heads off when they are angry.”
“What about a state of excited delirium, though? With most of the brain reasoning functions dead and lots of adrenaline pumped into the bloodstream? That would qualify, I think.” said Kerb, looking at Ryan.
“Well, I’m going to let you go ahead and invent your brain-destruction virus. Meanwhile, I am going to sleep” said Ryan, shifting out of the door. Vic looked at Kerb, shrugged his shoulders, and followed Ryan out.
As soon as Irij was sure the others were out of earshot he quipped “Disagreeing with him is all you need to turn him into a rage monster.” Kerb, meanwhile, was unsmiling and looking at Irij rather apprehensively. “When was the last time you slept? You look like a zombie yourself. Keep this up and I’ll have to start keeping a katana by my bed”.
Irij opened his mouth as if to say something about the dagger he knew Kerb kept under his bed, but then stopped, shook his head and made his way back to his room. As he opened his door, he took a moment to look at his room carefully. Everything was as immaculately arranged as always. His bookshelf with alphabetically sorted movies, comics, and games; It looked like it should have been a part of a library. On top of it rested the most interesting part of the room; His kendo armour. He had been a Kendo practitioner since he was 12 and after 7 years of hard training he felt uncomfortable without it. He stepped into the muffled silence of his room, arranged his laptop cables as they were, and then moved to take some sleeping pills. His mind had been too restless for him to sleep peacefully for months, and the dark circles under his eyes were somehow still getting darker. His glasses did not help his appearance, but he had always felt compelled to wear them, even if it made little sense; His eyesight was immaculate.
As he finally turned the light off and tied his gracefully long hair into place, he sat for a little while staring at the pulsing light of the alarm system he had designed, smiling in the darkness. He had connected it to their home alarm system, as well as their oven. Ryan was often quite careless, and after a year full of fire alarms at night, especially after some of his late-teens escapades, Irij had decided to have an advance safety mechanism. In the pulsing light, he thought for a moment about Kerb’s zombie fantasies, and then lay down in his bed, waiting for the pills to take effect.
The alarm bell sounded like it was coming from a distant dream but grew cacophonously loud in a hurry. Somehow he still felt tired, even after sleeping for—Had he even slept? It all seemed to be a short while since he lay in his bed to sleep. But the alarm was ringing so it must already have been noon, and that meant that he had to go to his lectures. He ambled out of his bed half-feeling his way to grab his jeans, eyes still straining to adjust to the sunlight filtering through his blinds. The house was deathly quiet, which meant that the rest of its inhabitants were either asleep or away on lectures themselves. He will have to wake Kerb again, like most of the days. They had met on the first day of them starting university and had been friends since then, taking their courses together and working together as lab partners. After jumping into his jeans Irij walked out to Kerb’s door to find he was still sleeping. Taking his mobile phone out, he typed in a sequence into it and a second later he could hear the loud sound of Kerb’s own safety alarm going off.
“A good morning, Jack!” he said aloud, to the door. He heard Kerb curse and move across his room. Kerb came out of his room fairly quickly after that , so only five minutes later he was on his way to their lectures, still chuckling at Kerb’s annoyance.
It was only by the time they reached the heart of their university campus that they realized something was out of place. No one seemed to be there. It was the middle of spring, and rain or not, with the pink petals falling off the flowers the centre of the university campus was always a favourite for students and staff alike. But right now, it was deserted. “Why is there no one here? Is this a holiday I am unaware of?” said Irij, looking back at Kerb.
Kerb looked confused himself. He took out his phone to check the date, and then shook his head. They tried to go into the four-story building that was their electronics lab, only to find it locked. “There is an email”, said Kerb, checking his phone. “It says there has been a virus outbreak and we are advised to stay home”.
Irij laughed hearing that. “Well, as long as it’s not a zombie virus, we now have more time for our Hover project!”
Kerb did not look too happy hearing that. “Probably bird flu or cat flu or something of the like. Let’s go home” added Irij, slowly.
By the time they were halfway home, the hover project had been driven out of Irij’s mind. To make up for manual activation of Kerb’s alarm he proposed a little more of game time. He tried calling Ryan and Vic to get them on board as well, but did not manage to get through to them. They were nearly home by the time the Police Sirens became too loud to ignore.
The streets had been more crowded than usual on their way back to their flat. Since their flat was fairly close to the city centre, it was often crowded but there was an unusual rush and panic to the way everyone seemed to be buzzing around. There were a lot of worried faces and the tension was starting to grow on the two of them. “Don’t these people realize there have been as many fatalities from ordinary flu, than there have been for bird or swine flu? Some people just need an excuse to panic”, said Kerb. But even he looked a little worried.
“Oy! Is that you, Kerb? Irij?!”
They turned and saw Ryan and Vic, both running towards them. They were carrying huge bags. “What’s wrong? What’s happening?” asked Irij when they were close enough. It was only after he noticed their expressions that he realized that they were clearly distressed. “Is everything fine?”
“I don’t know, but there has been an outbreak. We don’t quite know – but unless I am mistaken…” Vic looked like he was in a hurry. “Let’s just get to home. Quick”.
Both Ryan and Vic started running, and much as they were puzzled, both Irij and Kerb knew that they had to follow. It was hard, both Vic and Ryan being taller than they were but they got to their flat within five minutes, going past a lot of people who looked as worried as Ryan. At one point Irij thought he heard someone screaming, but he never stopped to look. He was too curious about what had the other two so worried. By the time they got to their building, they were all breathless after their near-sprint. Vic looked like he would faint, but Ryan did not seem weary at all – He was not on the university football team for sitting around. So it seemed overly dramatic to Irij when he sat down on the stairs to their complex holding his head.
“I saw… a man… beating another man… to the ground.” He said slowly, as if measuring every word carefully to check if it made sense.
“Two men fight and you start acting like a sissy. I always thought Vic would be the one–” broke out Kerb, but stopping quickly looking at the look Irij gave him.
“The man… was chewing… on the other man’s face. He was eating it, Jack” continued Ryan, still breathing heavily.
Kerb had started laughing, now though. “Not too far from April, now I guess. What? You think it was a zombie?” he said, almost breathless. Ryan didn’t take his head out of his hands though, so seeing the situation he turned to Vic “Come on. Where is your usual sceptical self? Who are you, really? Talk some sense into this guy. I think I will throw up if I see him crying”
“Have you not heard the sirens? There are reports of zombie-like creatures all over the city. You have to-”
Ryan never got to finish the sentence. They heard a chilling scream from the floor above them. They all gave each other a serious look and then jogged upstairs cautiously. Halfway up, they saw their neighbour’s wife. She slowly staggered past them, crying silently, oozing flood from her neck. She went past them almost as if she hadn’t noticed them standing there staring at her and then out onto the street, where she collapsed. Ryan moved to help her, but before he could take two steps they heard an animalistic growl they would never be able to forget, for as long as they lived. They turned, going slowly and cautiously up the stairs. As they arrived at the landing, they found their neighbour’s flat door flung wide open, and him sitting on the floor of their lounge. His blonde head was covered in blood, and there was more of it dripping from his face. It looked like he was chewing something. He shifted slowly, turning to look at them with hollow eyes. It was then, that they noticed the tiny body in his arms, no bigger than a toddler.
The blood spattered, half-eaten body, of his year-old son.
Salman Shahid Khan
Copyright : : Salman Shahid Khan. All Rights Reserved