Stop the Rot ©
Paul Worthington

The adrenaline wants to carry me far, far away but the fear acts like nails through the feet and glue in the joints. I want to run but I cannot! The anguish and terror laden screams pierce my ears and send shivers along every synapse. The skin that covers my quivering bones has been transformed by protruding goose bumps, adding to the chill that grips me.

In my panic at the deterioration of the situation I hid in the nearest bush but branches dig at my form and thorns tear at the skin and flesh. Searing pain contorts my facial features into an unholy mask of twisted agony but I dare not move.

That night was long ago but it will not let me go.

We had been making the most of the balmy summer evenings by spending them at a secluded lake. We were a dozen strong with a slight male majority, a downside to those of us still single. After a quick dip in the crisp blue water our time was spent sipping illegally procured liquor and smoking as much home grown weed as possible, much like many other groups of 16-19 year olds. The summer had been one of the best but its end drew ever nearer and soon we’d be heading back to school or to university or even to begin military service.

Later in the evening a figure came stumbling through the woods, a dishevelled man we all took for a drunk or addict. He was all over the place and the grassy, uneven ground only hindered him further. Grunts and unintelligible moans spilled forth from his lips,we all laughed, assuming that he was too wasted to speak.

As he drew near some started to hurl lighthearted abuse and jeers in his direction. The sound of our voices enraged him or so we thought and his pace quickened until he was almost upon us. The slightly cruel edge to our laughter fell away to silence and turned to panicked screams when the drunk stumbled right into our campfire! Angry flames licked up his polyester trouser legs and also ignited the flowing ends of a white cotton shirt, we stood gawping as fire consumed his exterior. He did not cry out or attempt to move, he just stood there amongst the white hot embers and the crackling twigs.

The most mature of our group was a guy named Roly, he leapt at the drunk and tackled him out of the flames to roll him on the ground. A combined effort by the grassy surface and Roly’s body managed to put out the flames. We were about to run over and congratulate the hero when something truly awful happened. The drunk pinned Roly to the ground and sank his teeth into my friend’s face! Screams pierced the night as a chunk of flesh was torn away between the fiend’s teeth as he yanked his head away.

The glow from our fire bathed the attacker in an eerie light and we all saw that he was neither a drunk nor an addict. His face was drawn and bloodless and his eyes were milky white, he looked like a corpse! Some from our group ran to help but not me. I wanted to but I froze and when someone ran past and nudged me towards the bush I ‘fell’ in and stayed there, uncomfortable but hidden.

My friends tried hard but they were no match for the undead ghoul and once the bitten began to rise again, the fight turned to a bloodbath! It wasn’t long before they all turned and with no further victims they headed for the bright lights of our nearby town. I should have ran to warn them but leaving my sanctuary was not an option, at that time I was a slave to fear.

That terrible night was almost eighteen months ago but still it haunts my dreams and I suspect will do forever. My hometown is infamous these days for being the place where the conquest of the undead began, a conquest that has left us humans in the food chain and not at its summit! Our lives today consist of running, hiding and sometimes desperately fighting and it cannot really be called a life, it is an existence…nothing more!

None of my fellow survivors know where I am from and I do not dare to tell them for I think…no I know that I could and should have done more to stop it! If I’d fought instead of hidden or ran to warn the town then things might have turned out different.

All of us survivors have to work hard each day just to stay alive and each of us carries a heavy burden but none I suspect as heavy as mine!


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