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Love  &INfection

​UNEDITED

 Prologue 

Wednesday

Andrew felt his stomach drop as he walked toward the security check station. He was the only thing standing between GenTech and the truth. He had to get clear of this checkpoint. Squeezing his sweaty hand around his briefcase, Andrew decided to approach the more squeamish of the security guard’s.

Nancy was a new implant from
HowlTech, their parent company in D.C. Last year the company had some kind of incident that left Vincent Howl, the head, and founder, gravely injured. His young but brilliant nephew, Ian Howl, took over. The damage to the building was extensive that they had to relocate a good portion of its staff. Nancy, one such employee and she still wasn’t all that comfortable with the work they did at GenTech. 

“Hello Dr. Posner,” Nancy said with a big smile. She leaned slightly forward, exposing her low cleavage. He gave her a lingering look of appreciation before glancing at her ass that was squeezed inside slacks that were a size too small. The single desperation she emitted was like a cheap floral fragrance that you could find in any Buck-N-Go. 

“Nancy,” he said as he gave her a wide smile. “How are you today?” He handed over his briefcase and did his best to keep his eyes on Nancy’s.

Her eyes lit up. “I’m good. You going to Hap’s diner for lunch today?”

When she looked down and opened his briefcase, he took the opportunity to look at the other two security guards. Andrew turned his attention back to Nancy just as she lifted his thermos and shook it. He opened his mouth to respond but sucked in a nervous breath.

Nancy froze and looked up at him.

Andrew lifted his arm and began to cough into his shoulder. Just as he suspected, Nancy to a step back. “Sorry,” he said, feigning congestion by talking through his nose. “I think I am coming own with a bit of a cold. But, with all this crap we handle, who the hell can tell, ya know.” He gave her shrug. “Hey, how’s that cute little niece of yours?”

Nancy immediately sat the thermos back inside his briefcase then eased the open case over the table toward him. “She’s…she’s well.” She looked 
at his with a cautious eye, “Have a nice lunch, Dr. Posner.”


He didn’t close the briefcase. Andrew just pushed the side together and placed it under his arm. He smiled at Nancy again. “I’ll be visiting my brother in Baltimore for a few days. See you when I get back.”

“Ok.”

Andrew walked away. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Nancy spraying her keychain disinfectant where he stood. Laughing to himself, he hurried to his car.

He placed the briefcase in the passenger seat, started his car, then drove through the parking lot at a faster than normal speed. Andrew wanted GenTech in his rearview as soon as possible. That was on his mind as he followed the curving road left without yielding.

A horn blared.

Andrew slammed his foot on the brake and cursed before he ran into the left side of an electric car. He ignored the glare of the driver and looked to his briefcase and more importantly, his thermos that was now on the passenger side floor. Andrew leaned over to pick the thermos up but another horn jolted him into an upright position. He looked over to see that electric car was gone.

A horn went off again, causing Andrew to look in his rear-view mirror. A large truck was behind him. He couldn’t see the face of the impatient driver but he reminded himself that what he was doing was helping the good people of the world. Yes, the ungrateful assholes of the planet would benefit too but it was the for the people like his brother and Nany’s niece that he was risking it all for. 

            It didn’t take long for Andrew to pull into his driveway. He put his car in park then reached for his thermos. As he unscrewed the top, he thought of how easy it was to leave the lab with the virus. The very one that the news was unknowingly discussing every time they mention the strange illness that causes the citizen of a small town in N. Korea to attack one another like a ravenous animal last month.

            His didn’t sign up to kill innocent people and that’s why he needed to talk to Ian Howl. Their meeting was set for Friday so he had three and a half days to get to D.C.

All I have to do is, he thought as he stuck his hand inside the thermos.

“Dammit,” Andrew said as he felt a sharp prick.

Andrew immediately dropped the thermos and inspected his finger. On the tip of his middle finger, a small bubble of blood appeared.

 

The top must have dislodged from the needle at some point.

He stared at it for several heartbeats before he reached for his glove compartment and ripped it open. He scattered everything inside the small compartment until he found a small bottle of antibacterial gel.

Andrew squeezed about half the bottle out over his finger. Then he unscrewed the small top and frantically poured the rest over his finger. He rubbed and rubbed the gel over the area the needle pricked his skin but he knew it was all over.

There was nothing he could do.

“I’m a dead man.”


Friday Three and a half days later.

Deputy Loring took his hat off and scratched his head. “You say Marty called this in?”

            “Yeah,” Sheriff Mortenson said. “He says he was out here reflecting with nature when he ran across it.”

Deputy Loring placed his hat back on his head. “Well, who the fuck would do some sick shit like this?” Deputy Loring asked as he leaned his head to the side to get a look at the face of the man chained to the tree. He was about to ask sheriff Mortenson something else but he felt a sting on the side of his neck.

            Deputy Loring swatted at his neck then held his gloved hand up in front of his face. “Damn mosquitoes.” He glanced over his shoulder at Sheriff Mortenson who was picking up something from off the grass. “What’s that?”

            The sheriff looked up them walked toward him. “Looks like,” he said as he held an envelope and letter up then pointed it at the dead man chained to the tree, “he may have done this sick shit to himself.”

            Deputy Loring took the letter the sheriff passed to him and read it. “Do not take me to a hospital or morgue. Contact GenTech immediately. They will know what to do. I did my best to keep it contained. So much for doing the right thing. I’m sorry. Tell my brother that I’m sorry.”

Deputy Loring eyed a mosquito on his hand that held the letter. He used his other hand to swat at it but missed. Sighing, he asked, “What the hell does this dribble suppose to mean?”

“Guess we need to do he says and called GenTech.”

“I hate that damn place. They fucking own this town.”

Sheriff Mortenson took off his hat and waved it around the dead man’s head. “Since they opened that lab, Loring, our little town has flourished. You’d do good to remember that. If you need help remembering, I am certain that boy of yours who benefits from that remodeled school and athletic can help you. Not to mention how nice main street looks compared to just five years ago.” He smacked his arm. “Let’s get this man down before the mosquitoes drain him.”

“Forget the mosquitoes. I’m trying to figure out what the hell ate his face up like that?” Loring looked around as he smacked his hand again. “The way he looks, somethings been feeding on him for months.”


Chapter One

Sunday

Akin

Akin moved his mouse over the windows opened on his laptop. One of those pages was the homepage of Bailer 
University. Go Bailer, he thought in an unenthusiastic tone as he glanced over at his television.

The Henry’s, a couple who ran a public access station and reported the local news, were down at Constitution High covering the summer carnival. Gary Henry was the victim volunteer for the dunk tank and Charlene was throwing the first pitch. What the two lacked in professionalism, the made 
up

with enthusiasm and high jinx.

Akin shook his head as he clicked the thumbs down button to the current song streaming on his music application. Then he clicked his toolbar to bring Jasmyn Saunders’ main social media page to the forefront of his monitor.

“Come on down to Con High, Summer Carnival is happening now,” he whispered the words of her current post. “Hashtag, Maddy’s Famous Crushed Sweet Ice.”

Dream, Arizona was a small town with less than five thousand residents and most of them loved social events like the summer Carnival. He knew it was the perfect time and place to catch up with his friends and Jasmyn before he left town again.  

Akin placed both hands on the keyboard to comment but his fingers wouldn’t move. Akin moved his eyes to the large image of Jasmyn below the carnival post he was about to comment on. Her hair, long single small plaits, were pulled into a single ponytail on the top of her head. She wore only a light gloss on her perfect pouty lips. Her almond skin glowed and her bright light brown eyes were full of that cheerful spirit she embodied.

Sighing, he placed his hand back on his mouse and was about to close the window when his notification chimed.

Jasmyn: You coming down for a few? It’s kinda dead.

Shit, he thought then answered: IDK, Myn.

Jasmyn: You have too. I haven’t seen much of you the entire summer. Then we’re gone, Akin.

Akin rubbed his forehead then swept his hand over his head. How was he supposed to tell her that he was avoiding her on purpose?

Jasmyn: Did I do something, Akin? Tell me.

Myn, he typed, you didn’t do anything. I’m just really busy lately.

Jasmyn: You sure it’s not about Vince? I’m sorry. I…I’m really am.

Akin pushed away from his desk and got to his feet. “Fuck!” he screamed then punched his wall as he left out of his bedroom. He was rushing down his stairs toward his front door when his cell phone rang.

He pulled his phone from his front pocket of his sweatpants, glanced at the number, then answered, “Hello? Mom?”

“Oh my God, Akin. Honey, listen. Where are you?”

Akin couldn’t remember a time when his mother sounded frantic or even out of breath. Usually
,

she mother was the calm, never rattled one and his father was the emotional parent out of the two.

Wait…she sounded just like this when she told me Gramps passed.

“I’m about to head out to the carnival to talk to Myn. What’s wrong? Where’s dad?” he asked. He took a few steps back and sat down on the fourth step of the stairs. Even as he sucked in a deep breath, Akin’s thoughts were of his father. He knew he wasn’t going to be prepared for what she was going to tell him.

“There’s been an incident.”

How bad is he hurt?

Akin placed his hand on his forehead.

“You have to lock yourself in my office,” she said, “Do you know the keycode?”

“Dad’s fine?”

“This isn’t about your dad. We are both safe. Do you know the code?”

Akin frowned. Of course, he knew it but did he want her to know that he did?

“Akin!”

He jumped at his mother’s urgent tone. “Yeah, I know the code. What’s going on mom?”

“Have you been out in the past 24 hrs.?”

“I’ve been in my room splurging on junk food and video games for the past two days. You would know that if you and dad would actually come home some time. Why?”

“Listen to me, Akin. Do not leave the house. Go straight to the basement office, lock yourself inside. Do not open the door for anyone. Your father and I will come for you.”

“Why? Did something happen in the lab?”

“Akin, just do as I say.”

There was that urgency again but Akin didn’t respond. He got to his feet and stared at their front door.

Jasmyn.

“If something bad is happening I have to get Jasmyn.”

“Dammit, Akin,” she said then sighed. “Listen to me. In the office, there is a safe. Inside is three auto-injectors that look like an EpiPen. They may not be as effective. The new case…”

The sound of hushed conversation could be heard on her end. “Mom?” Akin said.

“Akin Neil Pratt,” his father said, “you get your ass in that office and don’t come out until we come for you or so help me—"

 “I can’t,” Akin said. “Not without her.”

“Akin, she may already be infec—”

Just as he placed his hand on the doorknob the call was cut off. Akin looked at the face of his cell phone. They’re safe, he thought. But if I call them back, they will try to stop me. He placed his cell in his pocket then ran to the basement door and punched in the code.

 

Akin didn’t know what he expected to be outside his front door but when he stepped out into the world but it wasn’t mass hysteria playing out. The sky was blue, puffy white clouds moved slowly, it was unusually cool for mid-August. Little Patsy from next door was riding her trike in her driveway. He heard a plane passing overhead. Mr. Homer, who lived next door to Jasmyn and her moms, was cutting his lawn.

As Akin hurried to his truck, he heard Mr. Homer coughing. Well, it was more like he was hacking up a lung. Akin glanced over at Jasmyn’s neighbor just as he placed his hand on his trunk’s door handle.

Is it something that’s airborne?

He opened his truck’s door and hopped inside and started it. He backed out of his driveway, waiting for the message to pop up that his phone was paired 
to the truck. When it did, he drove forward and said, “Call, Myn.”


Jasmyn

“You sure you can eat all that, Toby?” Jasmyn asked as she handed the little boy his crushed ice. She reached over for a few napkins and handed them to Toby’s mother.

            “Yup,” Toby said as he smiled up at her.

            “Thank you, Jasmyn. I’ll see you at the Night Lighting later this evening?”

            “Yes, Mrs. Walters. I’ll be there.”

            Mrs. Walters smiled as she walked away.

            Jasmyn picked up her cloth and wiped the counter where she spilled a little syrup. She then tossed the cloth into the sink and pulled out her cell phone. It took her phone to timeout for her to realize that she was staring at it, lost in thought. No response from Akin yet. After reading the direct message conversation for the third time, she brushed her finger over the screen again to make sure the screen didn’t timeout.

“He’s mad,” she said then closed her eyes tight and growled as she pushed her cell into her back pocket. “What was I thinking.?

It wasn’t as if she didn’t know what kind of guy Vince was. She knew his history. He was a jerk. “But, I guess I didn’t think he would be to me,” she reminded herself. Not like he was.

I should have known better.

Why she said yes to Vince when he asked her out she didn’t know. It wasn’t as if she liked him. She just figured that maybe they would connect. That Vince might be the guy she could fall for. And, he was nice. Well, she thought Vince was nice. He was Akin’s friend.

God, I should have never involved Akin.

“Stupid, stupid,” Jasmyn said as she pounded her palm on her forehead.

“What? You need something, Jasmyn?” Ms. Maddy asked as she entered the food truck.

Jasmyn looked up and shook her head. “Just talking to myself.”

“Well, you’re good until you start answering,” Ms. Maddy said then laughed as she left out of the back door.

“You want help,” Jasmyn asked. “I can get the rest and you can watch the counter.”

Ms. Maddy looked up. Her brows pinched together then she said, “I thought Akin would be here by now.”

“He’s probably on his way.” Or not, Jasmyn thought as she walked to the rear door and jumped down beside Maddy.

“What else do you need?”

“I got the ice and syrup, so we’re good on that front. We could use some more spoons and cups for the rush,” Maddy said as she held up the keys.

“I’ll walk over.”

“Thanks for the help, Jasmyn,” Ms. Maddy said and she bent forward then back as she groaned, “I don’t know what I would have done this summer without you. I ain’t no spring chicken anymore.”

Jasmyn raised her brow but didn’t respond. Ms. Maddy was like twenty-eight, was fit, and gorgeous. To argue the subject of Ms. Maddy’s youth versus her perception of it was pointless. Besides, she had other things on her mind.

Like, what to do about Akin. They’ve been friends for so long Jasmyn couldn’t remember a time without him. Having lived across the street from each other their entire lives, the two were basically related. They’ve grown from Akin pulling her hair and pushing her down as toddlers to him being her protective older brother.

Jasmyn fought the helpless feeling she constantly felt for the past couple of months and the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. It just hurt so bad knowing that the only guy who she could actually count on in the entire world, was avoiding her.

“Now, it will never be the same between us because of me,” Jasmyn said under her breath as she moved through the crowd. Lost in her own head as she walked toward her old high where the carnival supplies were, Jasmyn felt her phone vibrate. But as she moved to pull it from her pocket, she ran into someone.

“Uh, sorry,” she said as she looked up at the back of a man. She recognized the man immediately from his hat as Mr. Perry, the town’s grocer. “Mr. Perry?”

He barely spared her a glance before returning his attention back to what was happening in front of them. Jasmyn looked around, realizing that everyone nearby seemed to be focused on the same thing. Behind her, the carnival was in full swing.

Unable to see around the gathering crowd, Jasmyn slid between Mr. Perry and someone she didn’t take the time to look at. As she eased forward, the crowd seemed to back up and a collective gasp, allowing her a see what was happening.

“What the…” Jasmyn said then covered her mouth as she backed up into someone. A few feet away, in front of the Ferris Wheel, she watched in horror as Deputy Loring bit into Mrs. Swinton’s leg. Mr. Swinton lay on the ground, his body jerking uncontrollably.

Jasmyn’s first thought was to help her first-grade teacher. When she moved forward to do just that, someone pulled her back. She looked over her shoulder to see that it was Mr. Perry.

“We have to help them,” she screamed.

“Bill tried,” he said, “look.”

Jasmyn eyes moved over Mr. Perry’s shaky arm to his finger. A few feet from the carnage was Bill Davenport, one of the volunteer firemen. She couldn’t see any injuries but he was contorting on the ground just like Mr. Swinton.

Just as Jasmyn was about to chastise the crowd, her eyes widened and she covered her mouth as she watched Mr. Davenport jumped to his feet. His body twitched in such an odd manner a few times, causing some of the crowd to give him a wider berth. She could see his injury now. With him on his feet, everyone could see it. The right side of Mr. Davenport’s face and 
eye was bitten away. His eye was missing and the skin on that side was shredded.

Everyone within view seemed to have frozen in place. That was until Bill Davenport raised his head and let out a horrific screech.

Then he ran toward them.

Screams erupted from the crowd as people scrambled to get out of his way. Jasmyn didn’t resist when
she

was pulled away but she gave little effort to her escape because…

This can’t be happening, she told herself as she stumbled behind Mr. Swinton who had hold of her arm.

“We need to find…” Mr. Perry started but his words died out. He also stopped running which made Jasmyn run into his back.

She tore her gaze away from Bill Davenport who was attacking someone she couldn’t make out. Jasmyn briefly focused on Mr. Swinton. He was up now too, and he was running with his hands out toward the crowd of people running away. She looked to where Mrs. Swinton fell. She to was up and on the attack.

“Back up slowly,” Mr. Perry said.

Jasmyn felt her phone vibrate in her back pocket as she slowly turned only her head. Her gaze moved over Mr. Perry’s terrified face to what he was looking at. It took only a second for her to make sense of the situation. They were all going to die. 

 
Akin  

When Akin pulled onto Main Street it was an entirely transformed from the once serene place to one of all-out insanity. Familiar faces, most were people he actually interacted with on a daily basis, were running in all directions.

He glanced over at Frank’s furniture store as he sped by. It was engulfed in red and orange flames. The Diner, a place often hung out with his friends, seemed deserted but the streets were full 
and Main Street looked like Hell.

Akin jolted to his senses and quickly turned the steering wheel to the right to avoid running into a screaming woman who was being chased by…

“Toby,” he whispered as he stuck his head out of the window.

Akin looked out of his window at Toby who jumped on the woman’s back. As the woman spun around Akin reached for his door to stop Toby from attacking his mother when he froze. A sense of dread filled him as he lifted his foot off the brake and pressed down on the gas pedal.

I have to find Jasmyn first then...

He sped down the road, making a left onto the sidewalk at the intersection to avoid a pile-up of abandoned vehicles and people who were either attacking other or fighting for their lives. When Akin saw a small crowd running toward him, he realized he had a choice to make.

“Fuck,” he called out. He spun his steering wheel in their direction then came to a sudden stop. “Jump in the back,” he called. Only, he didn’t have to say a thing. As soon as the word ‘jump’ left his mouth his truck bounced as two people hopped on the bed. They two, a man and a boy, were helping two others who were on their heels inside. A fifth person, an older woman, was being followed by three attackers.

“Go,” someone said as they slammed their hand on the top of the cab.

Akin watched in horror as one of the attackers caught hold of the woman’s leg. The other two attackers ran past the struggling woman, straight at them.

“Go,” the person yelled again as he continuously slammed his palm 
on the cab’s hood.

Akin shook his head. There was nothing he could do. More attackers covered the struggling woman and the other attackers were closing in on the truck. He sped off again. His truck bounced as he drove it off the sidewalk and curve and onto the road toward the carnival. Akin pressed the sliding rear window button.

Akin glanced over his shoulder at a guy who sat down in the truck bed on the other side of the window then back on the road.

“Look,” the guy said as he tapped Akin’s shoulder. He pointed to a bus. In front of the bus, there were a few people with weapons, ushering people inside.

Great! Akin made a slight left then sped for the bus. Before he came to a full stop, the guy had jumped from the truck and was talking to one of the people, a woman who had her gun trained on him.

Almost immediately, the guy was unloading the people from the truck. Akin wasn’t sure how many people had got aboard but he was shocked that they were all children except for one. He watched the children board the bus, wondering if they would survive the day.  

The passenger door opened. Akin looked over when the guy was slamming his door shut. He frowned.

“You’re low on gas.”

Dammit, Akin thought as he looked at his gas gauge. He meant to fill up today.

“So, what’s the plan?” the guy asked.

Akin realized he didn’t have a plan. He couldn’t just go back home and lock himself in his parent’s office.

GenTech.

The lab had to be secured if his parents were safe. They had a security there and more than the three injectors he carried. It’s a plan, he told himself.

“GenTech,” Akin said.

“Why?” the guy asked.

“My parents called me,” Akin said as he peeled off. “Said they were safe in the lab.”

“The lab is in the other direction,” the guy said.

Akin looked over at the guy then down at the guy’s hands. In them was what looked like a semi-automatic gun. It occurred to him that this guy could shoot him and take his truck and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Got it from the lady. She said we should shoot them in the head like you would a zombie.”

Akin frowned the said, “Zombies…”

“Yup,” the guy said. “So, where we headed first?”

Akin raised his brow but kept his eyes on the road. It seemed as if his passenger liked the idea of going to the lab. “I have to get someone first,” Akin said. He turned his wheel, jerking his truck out of the way of an oncoming car. The driver of the car was fighting two of the…zombies through his driver’s side window.

“Damn,” the guy said, dragging out the word. The guy mumbled something under his breath.

“What?”

The guy looked at him then he turned his attention to the front window. “Oh, just reminding myself of something my brother always says. That you can’t save everyone.” He shrugged then said, “Names, Cory.” He offered his hand.

Akin looked down at Cory’s hand. He gave it a quick shake then turned his attention back to the road. He tapped the green phone icon on his dashboard. It usually wasn’t hard to switch his attention back and forth, from the road to his dash but with everything gone to hell, he had to be cautious. Then tapped the last called number notification.

The line connected before Akin heard the line even ring. He heard some noises on the other end that almost made his heart stop. “Jas?”

“Oh my God, Akin!”

Jasmyn. Akin sucked in a breath. Thank God, he thought as he blinked several times and rubbed his head.

“People are killing each other,” Jasmyn whispered.

Akin sighed as the sound of her voice enveloped him. “Where are you?”

“We’re hiding beneath the bleachers on the field.”

“Hold on,” Akin yelled. He swerved to avoid a zombie who was running toward his truck. The truck caught the side of the zombie, causing the thing to spin out of the way.  Akin made a sharp right. His truck skidded and swerved as two of his wheels came off the road. “Shit,” he said as he gripped the steering wheel and tried to straighten out. The truck tip on one side before it fell back to all four wheels. He ignored Cory’s cursing as he floored it.

“Can you get to someplace safe?” Akin asked.

“I’m scared to move, Akin. I can’t get to my car, the parking lot is overrun,” she whispered.

“I’ll be there in two minutes. But if you can get to safety, don’t wait for me.” Akin pressed the disconnect icon. He slowed as he turned onto Driscol drive. The street was lined with beautiful homes and manicured lawns. At first glance, the street seemed to have escaped the fallout the rest of the town was embroiled in. But as Akin past the houses, he noticed that it hadn’t escaped a thing. What he was seeing was the deadly aftermath.

Akin picked up speed as he drove toward Mr. and Mrs. Baker’s home. Their yard was one of the few that wasn’t fenced in. It led to the back of Ennis High School where the fields were located. As he drove up over the Baker’s sidewalk, Akin glanced up over tree line at the huge Ferris-Wheel that sat above the mayhem. He drove through the yard and between some trees to get to the open grass area that bordered the track and field.

The carnival was to his left, away from the football field in an empty grass lot the county used for flea markets and other such events. Akin believed Jasmyn when she said the parking lot was overrun. The carnival was right beside Ennis high and middle schools and used both of the school’s parking lots for event parking. The carnival meant more people and that meant more zombies.

“To your right,” Cory said as he pointed.

Akin looked to his right. Several people were running from where the bleachers were located. Behind them, a group of zombies was in pursuit. One of the people running was Jasmyn.

Akin floored it, kicking up patches of grass and dirt as he beelined toward them.

“Someone’s holding the door open,” Cory said as lifted his gun from his lap.

In the distance, Akin saw someone was holding a back door of the high school open and was waving the runners inside. Another person held a bat, prepared to fight off the zombies.

“I can’t get a clear shot,” Cory said.

“I’m going to run those things over.” Akin looked at Cory.

Cory nodded. “Do it.”

 

Jasmyn

Each breath Jasmyn sucked in burned her lungs with every step forward as she ran for her life. Her chest felt tight and her body shook. It was a shame that the desperation she felt to make it to the door wasn’t converting into energy. But she pumped her arms and pushed forward.

“Don’t look back,” a woman holding open the back door to the gym screamed. “Run!”

 

Over the sounds of screams, growls, yelling, and all-out confusion, Jasmyn heard the sound of a truck barreling toward her. Akin. The sense of relief filled her and the urge to turn around hit hard.

He said to get to safety, Jasmyn told herself as she continued to run.  

It was the sound of a loud bump and the sound of brakes grinding caused Jasmyn to look over her shoulder. Akin came for me. A couple of her fellow survivors passed her as she slowed. Jasmyn came to a complete stop and turned in time to see Akin climb out of his truck.

“Run,” Akin yelled as he ran toward her.

Jasmyn was so happy she took a step toward Akin. She was about to run for him when a loud sound made her freeze in place. Jasmyn covered her ears and ducked as she looked at the guy running behind Akin. He was pointing a gun at…

Another shot rang out.

That was when Jasmyn looked to her right. Two attackers were still on the ground but one was still on its feet and it was running straight for her. She stumbled as she turned back to the opened door. She fell to her knees but scrambled back to her feet and took off. But the thing was fast. She felt it as it closed the distance.

Voices. She heard her name. She heard Akin’s tortured cry for her to run. She heard her heart beating. And she felt when the thing took hold of her hair. Her eyes met with Mr. Perry’s as she made it through the doorway. Then her world shifted.

“No, no. Let go of me,” Jasmyn screamed as she was tackled to the floor just inside the gym. She hit the floor hard as her and her attacker slid across the floor, a few feet away from the door. Jasmyn grimaced as fingernails clawed at her bare thighs. The next thing she knew was she was being dragged across the floor by Mr. Perry. She kicked her legs to untangle the hands that clawed at her.

“Did it bite you?” someone yelled.

“If she had, she wouldn’t be standing this soon,” Mr. Perry said.

Disoriented, Jasmyn climbed to her feet. She heard shouting. Someone was yelling to close the door. Another person was yelling ‘why’ over and over again. Someone else was yelling ‘shoot them’.

Them?

Jasmyn looked 
around her, trying to process what just happened. She recognized a few of the faces immediately. Connie, Vince, and Greg were all in her graduating class.

A loud blast cause Jasmyn to jump. She gasped as she turned her attention to what made the god-awful sound. That’s when she saw the guy with the gun. She followed the guy’s outstretched arms downward.

“Akin!” Jasmyn screamed. She moved forward, her only thought was to help her friend. Akin was on his side in the fetal position, shivering uncontrollably on the floor.

“Don’t,” Mr. Perry said as he held her back.

“Shoot him,” Vince yelled.

“NO!” Jasmyn said as she struggled to get to Akin.

“Shoot him,” Vince yelled again as he moved toward the guy.

Jasmyn watched the guy in horror, waiting to hear that horrid sound again but to her surprise, the guy pointed the gun at Vince.

“Keep yelling out orders at me and you will be who I shoot next,” the guy said.

There was something in the stranger’s eyes that told Jasmyn that he meant it. Apparently, Vince thought so too because he took two steps back.  

As his body jerked, Akin’s tortured eyes met hers. “Stay back,” he growled as his body continued to jerk. He moved his shaky hand into his sweatpants pocket. When he pulled it out he had a tight grip on some kind of tube. In a wide arch, Akin swung his fisted hand over his chest and jammed what looked like an EpiPen in his arm right above the damaged flesh.

“What is that he just injected into his arm?” someone asked.

“He’s going to turn,” Vince yelled. He readied the bat he held.

A girl Jasmyn didn’t recognize raised her bat too.

Jasmyn knew it. Akin was going to turn into one of those things. “Akin,” she whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

If I had paid attention. He got that thing off of me and was bit…because of me.

Jasmyn covered her mouth with her hands as she stood there, helpless as Akin’s body stretched out like a stiff board. His eyes widened then an ungodly screeched came from his mouth. She covered her ears as she looked up at the stranger. His face was one of concentration as he aimed the gun at Akin. He seemed conflicted.Then, Akin passed out cold.