My eyes won’t open. I’m not talking about I don’t feel like opening my eyes, they simply refuse to open.
What the hell?
I feel strange, warm and fevery. Is that even a word?
Now my eyes flutter open. Where am I?
I can’t make my head move around, but I can see I’m laying on the front lawn outside my house.
That must’ve been a helluva party.
Why can’t I remember it? How much did I drink last night. I’m getting up. I don’t remember wanting to get up. I stagger on unsteady feet as if this is the first time I’m using them. Wonder how long before I kneel before the porcelain throne?
There’s my neighbor, Bob. He’s staggering too. I try to wave but my hand doesn’t move, I just keep staggering toward the house. We must’ve had the whole neighborhood over. I stagger up to the door and it’s hanging open.
Alright, who left the door open? We’re not paying to air condition the whole neighborhood.
That’s what I try to say, but nothing comes out. This is getting annoying.
All thoughts of annoyance turn to pure rage when I shuffle into the living room. It’s utterly destroyed. Couch overturned, chairs thrown into corners, the TV ripped off the wall.
What the... ?
Who the... ?
How did... ?
Those are all the questions that run through my shocked mind and die on my lips. One thing swirls around my mind and boils up into a cauldron of rage.
Jefferson Emmanuel Grady!
I try to scream, but only a low moan comes out.
I stumble through the living room, trying to stop so I could further assess the damage, but my newly self-guiding body has other ideas.
The kitchen is just as bad. The sink is overflowing, the refrigerator has been tipped over, and my mixer is laying in several parts on the floor.
That was a wedding gift!
My anger melts away when I notice the one minor detail that changes everything. There it is, on the kitchen table.
Is that blood?
A small puddle runs off the edge of the table and pools on the floor.
I shamble through the room of ruin.
Stop, no, go back!
I scream at my unyielding body. It responds by completely ignoring me.
What’s happening? Why can’t I control my body?
I shuffle back the hallway. Streaks of blood decorate the walls where the family pictures used to be. They all lay ruined on the floor. The blood bothers me more than the pictures. Whose is it? Why didn’t they go to the hospital instead of back the hall toward the bedrooms? Is someone bleeding in my bed?
I pass the bathroom and get a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. My body trudges past, but my mind freezes the image for me to see. It’s so horrible I don’t want to think about it. It can’t be real.
Kevin is sitting on the toilet, leaning against the wall, unmoving. He’s covered in blood.
I scream with every bit of motherly pain inside of me, but all that escapes my lips is a low moan.
Kevin! My baby!
I push and pull and punch and kick at my body to regain control. All of my effort yields only a brief pause, then I proceed towards the bedrooms.
It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real!
I chant over and over again.
It’s just a dream. Just a drunken stupor. I can wake up.
I turn into the master bedroom and everything falls horribly into place.
There’s a full-length mirror hanging on the wall, and for the first time today I’m able see myself. I pause in front of the mirror, wanting to see, but wanting to turn away at the same time from the sheer horror of it.
My hair is a matted mess, dried blood covers my mouth, my shirt is ripped nearly in half, exposing my left breast. But the most chilling sight is the large bite mark on my shoulder that radiates brilliant purple. The infection spread in dark veins outward from the bite. My eyes are glazed and red.
My body tenses. It turns slowly as though finished with this moment of introspection.
How can this be? I don’t remember anything. Wait, maybe...
I focus every ounce of my mind and think back to before this horrid tragedy.
Someone knocked on the door. It was my neighbor, Bob. He told us something was going on and people were attacking each other in the streets. Jeff thanked him and told me to take the kids inside. The cat. That stupid cat, ran outside and Alice chased after it. I ran after her and grabbed her and told her to run to daddy. That’s when it happened. Our doctor grabbed me. He tore my shirt. I whipped around and sank my knee into his groin. He didn’t react at all. His blood stained teeth lunged at me with incredible speed for a man in his sixties.
I screamed as his teeth sunk into my shoulder. Jeff screamed while covering the kid’s eyes.
“Get them inside! Keep them safe!”
I screamed to him. He hesitated, clearly torn between helping me and helping them.
I screamed as the infection began to take hold. He disappeared into the house as the light faded from my eyes.
My body is tense, like a cat on a hunt. I approach the closet door and rip it open. Jeff and Alice sit huddled together. I lunge at them. Jeff grabs me and shoves me back as hard as he can.
“Mary!” he yells. “Please don’t do this. It’s me. Come on, baby, can’t you hear me? Aren’t you in there somewhere?”
I scream back, trying with everything I have to hold my body back.
But I lunge at him again. He steps aside and I tumble to the floor. Alice screams. My head whips around and I crawl on my hands and knees towards her.
NO! You can’t have her!
I scream, pulling back on my body’s invisible reins as hard as I can.
It pauses for just an instant.
Jeff uses the moment.
“Alice, run to your room and lock the door. Don’t come out unless I come to get you.”
Alice jumps up and runs away from me. I hear her door slam.
I get to my feet and turn toward Jeff. He holds a gun in his hand. It’s my gun that he bought me a few years ago, a small .380 automatic.
“Please, Mary, don’t make me do this. Give me some sign that you’re still in there,” he says as he points the gun at me.
I’m here, baby. I love you, but you need to do it. You need to release me from this hell.
He hesitates as I shuffle closer.
I see the gun tremble.
Dear God, he’s not going to do it. I’m going to kill him, then I’m going to kill Alice, and who knows how many other people.
I’m almost within reach when I see a single tear escape Jeff’s eye and roll down his cheek.
“I’m sorry, baby.”
He pulls the trigger.