zombie story (chapter 1: part 3 of 4)
I opened my eyes to what I could only describe as… a bedroom. I looked around bleary eyed and confused. Dim orange light poured in through the thin white curtains. It was that transitional point in which it could have been either dust or dawn.
I was lying in a bed. It was freshly made; the white sheets over me were clean and firmly tucked in on the sides. Looking past my feet I could see a dresser sitting comfortably between an open closet, and a closed door that I would assume opened to another room or a hallway.
I thought back to the alleyway, “Maybe I dreamed the whole thing. It was all just a bad dream.” That must have been the case. My head was pounding, I ran my hand across my face and rubbed my eyes in a vain attempt to ease the pain.
I turned to the side and saw a familiar face, a very familiar face. The young woman from my dream was sitting in the corner in a wooden chair; her head leaned against the wall as she slept silently. She had long dark curly hair that looked somewhat askew. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I’d seen her before.
I sat up in the bed as quietly as I could to avoid disturbing her, but the moment I began to move her eyes snapped open and darted around the room until they came to rest on me. Her eyes were bloodshot and looked like she hadn’t slept in a month. She cracked a half smile that looked like relief, “Oh, you’re awake.” She said in a hushed sleepy voice.
“Yeah, what happened? Where am I?” I said, giving in to the probability that I had not been dreaming everything up. My voice croaked out as if my throat were coated with sandpaper.
She put her finger to her lips, “Shh, you have to keep quiet. Just whisper.” she then ran a hand through her hair and thought about the next words she was going to say. “Well… we were being chased, so we took a shortcut through the alley. We came to a dead end, that fence, and we had to climb up here. You fell off the ladder… I thought you were dead…” her voice trailed off and her eyes swelled with tears which she quickly wiped away.
“Ok” I began, “I’m feeling a little confused about some things… well everything actually. What were we running from?”
She reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out a small pen-shaped flashlight. She leaned over and focused the light into my eyes. The light made me recoil, “What are you doing?!”
“SHUSH!” her voice came out stern yet quiet, “you have to keep your voice down.”
“Who are you?” I blurted without hesitation.
She paused and stared at me, not sure what to say, “It’s me… your sister.”
I focused on her. “No you’re not…” I was suspended in disbelief. She looked a lot like my sister, but much older.
“Yes I am.” Her voice came out at a normal speaking volume; she caught herself and lowered her voice back to a whisper, “Yes I am. It’s me.”
I let several moments pass before I spoke again, my mind reeling in disbelief, “My sister is fourteen. You look like you’re twenty.”
“Rick,” she said and then paused, her face seemed to say she understood what was going on, “I am twenty years old now. I was fourteen 6 years ago. You have a concussion and you’re obviously confused. You probably have amnesia.”
I thought about this for a moment, “Ashley? Is that really you?” I paused, “Yeah that would make sense, even if it does sound completely ridiculous.”
“Anyway, we’re in an apartment building on the south side of the city.” Her sentence was cut short by the sound of the door opening. An older man with very short grey hair walked through the door into the room. He was about 5’6” or 5’8”, but had a solid build to make up for his stature. He was dressed in black tactical gear and had an M-4 assault rifle slung across his chest. He appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties and had a skin texture that suggested he had seen plenty of days in the sun.
“Ah, you’re awake, good.” The older man moved into the room and closed the door behind him. “I brought you some water”. He handed over a small plastic bottle. I gingerly accepted the water and started drinking it. It tasted great considering how warm it was and the fact that the bottle looked like it had seen better days. The plastic was scuffed with dirt, and the label was torn off. “We have plenty of water, so drink up. There’s nothing water can’t cure.”
“What about Hyponatremia?” I said. I then realized that maybe I shouldn’t be a smart ass in this situation. I wouldn’t want to make this guy mad.
The old man cracked a friendly smile, “You mean the electrolyte disruption caused by hyper-hydration, the potentially fatal condition caused by drinking too much water? Yeah, I suppose drinking more water wouldn’t be good for you. Nice try, but I’ve been playing ‘stump the chump’ for a long time Doc. But that was a good one though.”
“Doc? What, is that my new nickname or something?”
“Not really, doctor just doesn’t seem to flow that well.”
“I’m not a doctor though, I don’t get it.”
He turned to Ashley with a confused look on his face, “I thought you said he was a doctor?”
“No, I just started med school…” I began.
Ashley spoke over me “… he is a doctor, he has a slight case of amnesia and doesn’t remember the last couple of years… more or less.”
I spoke quietly to myself “Wow, I finished med school?” for a moment I actually felt proud of myself.
“He’s also a little confused. He has a concussion.”
The old man stared at me in contemplation, “so, we have a doctor who doesn’t remember med school…” he let the sentence drop off. His expression and tone of voice dictated disappointment.
“It will come back to him soon, generally amnesia is short term, and as long as there is no serious brain damage, he should recover quickly. Might take six hours, might take a few weeks. It’s hard to tell.” Ashley retorted. She was twirling her hair around on her finger like she used to do when she was younger; it usually meant that she was worried. She never took stress very well, when she got upset at school she would often spend the day crying in the nurse’s office. She seemed tougher now, but it was just a rouse.
“Look, I’m not going to lie,” the old man started, “we need a doctor, and if you can’t get your **** together, then you’re just dead weight to us.” He focused on me intently.
Feeling the pressure of the situation, I said, “I’m not sure I understand what’s going on. Why do you need me?”
“Look kid, I can’t lead you by the hand here… so why don’t you just come see for yourself.” He said as he motioned to the door. “By the way, I’m Chief Blisk. I’m a Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army.” His voice was coarse and hushed, but each word came out with confidence and clarity. I got out of bed and shook his hand, then followed him into the living room. In this room I saw a few wooden chairs arranged in a semi circle and the couch was propped up against the door, which I imagined led out to a hallway of some sort. Also in this room were two other people dressed in the same black tactical gear; one sitting next to the window with his foot propped up on the window sill, a bolt action sniper rifle rested between his knee and his shoulder; and the other person sat on the floor reloading magazines. “Let me introduce you to everyone, since you don’t remember.” He said, motioning to the one sitting next to the window, “That’s Sergeant Mike, our sniper. The quiet one on the floor is Sergeant Varland. He is the one who rappelled down the fire escape and pulled you up.”
I looked at Varland; he had the same sort of gruff appearance as Chief Blisk, only a few decades younger. “Thanks for saving my ass, I would have been dead for sure.” I said, making an honest attempt to sound grateful. He didn’t look up from his task, just nodded, appearing to be far too focused on his repetative task.
Mike spoke up without turning away from the window, “Don’t takes it personals, he just doesn’t talks much”. He spoke with a noticeable eastern European accent. I couldn’t tell which country exactly, my knowledge of such things were limited to movies.
“Come over here and take a look.” Blisk gestured to the window. I walked over and peered out. What I saw below made a chill run down my spine. Below us in the alley there were thousands of people surging back and forth. They looked to the sky and yelled, pushing each other back and forth in an angry mosh that looked like a stormy sea. An orange light came from below and I could feel heat on my face, I peered closer to get a better view. I saw the dumpster below us engulfed with flames. Seeing that the flames had caught my attention, the old chief explained, “We set the dumpster on fire to keep them from climbing the ladder. It’s not going to burn forever though.”
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