Name, he had a name and he knew he should remember it but it was gone, lost in all the fog that invaded his mind. The sun reflecting off the surface of the water had blinded him, mesmerized him, and he remembered, somewhat, that he had stopped to look at the glimmering water and now the sun had gone down. His name, he had to remember it because that was important. But he was hungry. He was thirty and the river was just over there but it was hunger that drove him. He tried to stand upright and nearly fell. His name! He stopped shuffling and put his hands on his face but he couldn’t feel his hands, or his face. He looked at his hands but they were just images, foggy, distorted, cartoonish looks specters. What had happened to him? Where was he? What was his name?
The urge to eat pushed him forward. He couldn’t see very well at all but it seemed to him he could smell everything more acutely. Blood; there was blood in the air like pollen in the Spring. It was everywhere. He stumbled forward and stopped. The smell of blood overwhelmed him. It was like trying to find the source of fire in a burning building. The whole world smelled of blood. The sky rained blood down in waves of scent that left him lurching one way and then the other.
There was a scream.
His hearing was also more acute and before he realized what he was doing he had turned towards the sound and began moving. Faster, faster, faster! He had to get to where the sound had come from but his body could do little more than a drunken walk. There was something, someone, running towards him, screaming, and he reached out, tried to grab the sound and the smell but it flew past him at a speed he could not comprehend. His body turned, nearly fell, and suddenly he realized there were others like him, and he knew he had to get there first. They all moved as he did and the scent and the sound drew further away.
But what was distance and time? The smell could not outrun him or those around him and no matter how far away it went it stopped and made noises, gasping and rasping noises, and somewhere in his mind he realized that the stops were coming more frequent. The smell was closer, the sounds were closer, and the thing in front of him struck back with some object and nearly decapitated the one next to him. Another fell, and another, and another but his right hand grabbed the scent and the smell and it fell underneath him. Warm soft smell and food filled him as the world thrashed and screamed.
He lay still and sated as the sun came up. During the night there had been more screams and more scent but he did not move. Now, he rose again, and listened. There were screams. There were smells. He shuffled off to find them and his name was no longer a concern.
Brian could not believe what he was seeing. They were everywhere. They came from every side street, every building, they climbed out of windows and they did not care if they were shot, beaten, or killed. They were like fireants. Brian stopped to breathe and realized that stopping meant they got closer. He could run a five minute mile. He could run a marathon. He was a black belt in Kung Fu. He was an expert with a rifle. But he had to stop running to reload. He had to wait until they got close before he could fight them. And there were hundreds of them, perhaps thousands, maybe even millions of them. He didn’t realize there were that many people in Valdosta. How could there be?
He thought back to the traffic on Friday nights when there was a football game. Yeah, it was that bad then but how many people could there be? Brian took a deep breath. Okay, there were likely eight thousand, maybe ten thousand people at the University, and damn. He was within a mile of the University. Then there was the Mall. And then there was everything in between those two places. Brian had outrun the mob behind him but running created noise and noise seemed to attract them. He saw a ladder leaning against a house. Why the hell not? He went up on the roof and pulled the ladder up behind him.
He could hear them below, shuffling and growling, looking for him and Brian felt like as long as he didn’t move maybe they wouldn’t see him. They traveled in groups of twenty, maybe more, Brian counted them, and he realized they moved constantly. On the upside, those below him would move on and forget he was here, maybe, but on the downside, they was always more walking around. Brian took another deep breath. He couldn’t be the only one left. What in the hell had happened?
Brian jumped. Someone was knocking on the roof, from the inside, and it startled him. He made sure the ladder would fall and looked for some way inside the house but the roof was solid. As he walked around, whoever was inside would knock on the roof. Finally, he heard knocking on one side of the roof. He looked over the edge and saw a louvered vent.
“Who’s there?” Brain called out.
“Help me!” a man’s voice said. “I’m trapped in the attic. They’re in the house!”
“I’m trapped on the roof,” Brain told him. “I’m Brian.”
“I’m Mark.” There was silence. “Do you have a gun or something?” Mark asked.
“I did but I ran out of ammo,” Brian told him, “what the hell are those things?”
“Can’t say.” Brian said look out over the yard. Damn, they had heard the talking. There was a mob of them showing up now. “We have to stop talking. They are drawn to the sound.”
Brian waited until the mob below thinned out and he slowly slipped the ladder down onto the ground. The guy had said those things were in the house so he had to work fast. He had seen a shed behind the house and maybe there was a sledge hammer there. It was no more than twenty feet from the house to the shed but it felt like forever. Brian slipped the door open and smiled. Whoever lived here was well stocked. He picked up the chainsaw case and looked inside. Great! There was a small can of gas and some oil. Better! He took an axe just in case. He had to make two trips to get everything up but the creatures seemed to be gone for now.
“Come and get it!” Brian shouted once he was back on the roof. He pulled the cord on the chainsaw and it fired up on the first pull. “Back away, Mark, and I’ll get you out.” Brian made two cuts with the saw and then to save gas, pounded the cuts open with the hammer. Once the dust settled a small thin man of about nineteen crawled out of the hole in the roof.
“I’m Mark Waters” the man said and held out his hand.
“Brian Hallstead” Brian said as they shook hands.
“Looks like we have company, Brian,” Mark said and as they looked out over the yard there seemed to be thousands of the creatures.