“On Tuesday, October 26th, Mary Ann Summers went in as a test-trial patient for a coronavirus vaccine produced by an unnamed pharmaceutical company. At 9:48 AM on Wednesday, October 27th, the hospital staff were unable to revive her due to unexplained complications.At 7:52 PM, she was seen wandering the hallways of the local hospital very much alive.
By 11:13 PM, all the corpses from the hospital morgue had gone missing…”
Terrell pulled into an open parking spot in the garage adjacent to the community hospital, speakers thumping with the week’s top hits. He started humming the melody as he turned off the engine and popped open his door. It was a warm night for the season with a slight breeze bearing on it the stench of something rotten. Glancing around, he spotted the overflowing garbage bin several yards away next to the elevators. Terrell wrinkled his nose, suspecting he had located the cause of the stench and looked away.
Walking around the back of his car, he spotted a woman dressed in a hospital gown, standing two cars away from him. She was facing the other direction as he opened the passenger door. His mom, a nurse at the hospital, was working the night shift, and despite a 10-page essay Terrell had to turn in at midnight, he’d agreed to bring her something to eat. Still humming, he bent down to scoop up the brown take-out bag from the passenger seat of his car.
He didn’t see or hear the girl approach. Instead, one moment he was standing upright, and the next something slammed into his back, buckling his knees.
Shouting in surprise, Terrell’s legs gave out and dropped him to the hard concrete so hard he felt the sharp, shooting sensation of pain ripple up his spine. Long fingers grappled around his face and neck as a loud, growling sound roared in his ears. The smell of rotting flesh overwhelmed his senses making his eyes burn.
Panicked, he tried to shove the attacker off, but his attempt to fight back merely made the person latch onto him tighter. Pain lanced through his veins as he felt what must have been teeth clamp down on his left shoulder. He cried out again, unable to push to his feet.
Instinct alone had him grabbing for the baseball bat he kept on his car’s floorboard for after school practice. His fingers missed the wooden handle by an inch as his attacker bit him again, this time on his neck. Twisting under the writhing mass assaulting him, he managed to grab the bat and swing it behind his head to where he imagined his attacker’s would be. There was a loud wail, and then the weight of his attacker dropped off him. He shot to his feet at once, noticing that his white shirt was quickly turning crimson with blood.
His attacker – the woman who he had noticed a few moments before the attack – lay on the ground, grunting and struggling to rise. The hospital gown she wore was torn and hung haphazardly off of her shoulder, exposing an oozing sore. With growing alarm, Terrell observed that the majority of her skin was marred by blistering spots or places where the flesh had turned putrid. He couldn’t believe the first thought that popped into his head as the woman finally managed to drag herself upright.
She’s a zombie.
His next thought was more conceivable.
But that’s impossible. Zombies don’t exist.
As if to prove him wrong, the woman shuffled around to face him. Her eyes were glazed over with thick white films as she peered at him for several breathless seconds. Then she lunged.
Terrell felt her fingertips brush his arm as he dodged to the side, swinging the bat at her. It connected with her arm, and he heard bones crunch. But the woman – no, the zombie – didn’t seem fazed. She came after him again, broken arm hanging limply at her side. This time Terrell didn’t wait around. He took off at a dead run for the elevators and was mercifully inside before the creature could attack him again.
The wounds to his shoulder and neck were still bleeding, his hands shaking as he fumbled to dial his mother’s number on his cell phone. As the elevator started to travel upward, he knew that he should have been dialing 911, but the adrenaline crashing through his veins singled out one concern: his mom’s safety.
The elevator doors dinged open right as the phone started ringing. Terrell stepped out into the hospital hallway, phone to his ear, baseball bat tucked under one arm.
His call went straight to voicemail. He hit redial, rounding the corner of the hallway. Again it went to voicemail.
“Come on, come on…pick up, mom!” he muttered, approaching the nurses’ station where his mother usually worked.
No one was there. In fact, as Terrell began to look around, he noticed that the hospital was eerily empty. Quiet. Still. Three things that could rarely be said of any hospital.
Pocketing his phone, Terrell moved past the deserted nurses’ station and peeked into the closest patient rooms. The bed was vacated, blankets, and monitors discarded in a tangled mess as if the occupant of the room had left in a hurry. Continuing down the line of rooms, he found the same scene in each.
At the end of the hallway, Terrell stepped into another elevator and pushed the lobby button. He was no longer sure if he was awake or dreaming. The entire situation felt too…staged. Zombies weren’t supposed to be real.
None of this is supposed to be happening.
The elevator came to an abrupt stop at the lobby level. Its doors sliding open sluggishly as Terrell hesitantly peered out, still holding the baseball bat close.
He was once more greeted with an unfamiliar silence in the hospital. Stepping into the lobby, he spotted the first person since the zombified girl in the parking garage.
“Hey,” Terrell called out, not wanting to get too close in case the person turned out to be like the girl. “Where is everybody?”
The man standing on the other side of the lobby glanced at Terrell, face ashen and eyes wide. He was wearing nurses’ scrubs. “They’re outside,” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Wait, everyone’s outside?” Terrell frowned. He didn’t think anything but a fire would warrant a hospital-wide evacuation, and if there had been a fire, he was sure he’d hear alarms and sirens.
The man shook his head, a finger held to his lips. “No, they’re outside.”
Confused, Terrell walked across the lobby floor to where the man was standing. Together they looked out the large windows overlooking the front hospital parking lot. Terrell’s heart dropped in relief when he spotted his mother among the crowd of doctors, nurses, and patients gathered just beyond the front door.
“Mom!” Terrell shouted, lunging forward.
The man at his side grabbed for Terrell, hand clenching around his arm like a vice, stopping him. “No,” he whispered when Terrell tried to struggle free, “You can’t go out there. They’ll eat you.”
“What?” Terrell frowned, following the man’s gesture to the windows. What he saw stopped his heart cold.
His mother stood in front of the nearest window looking inside at him. Her eyes were glossy with the same white film as the girl in the parking garage. In fact, to Terrell’s horror, he realized that every one of the doctors, nurses, and patients peering in at them through the window had the same glazed look.
“They shouldn’t have taken the vaccine,” the man holding Terrell in place said, “It made them like this.”
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Brianna Connors & Derek Archer Co-Editors