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Necrosis features a troubled young woman named Aimee, navigating her way through a zombie apocalypse. In a psychologically abusive marriage, and suffering from depression, Aimee finds herself identifying with the zombies more than the humans.

*This is a raw, unedited draft. Please leave a comment below if you'd like me to continue Aimee's story.

The door slammed shut on his arm, and she screamed. The sound echoed, pounding on my ears. It was too much for her, watching his shoulder detach and slide slowly from the socket as he kept coming; mechanically pushing against the furnishings tangled about his legs; rotting cords dangling, rasping eagerness fleeing his slack mouth.

 

The terrified woman hung on me, pulling me back, scanning the room for an exit, a weapon, a place to hide. She was inside when we broke the window and unlocked the front door, pushing our way in past the barricade of tables and chairs. Her, and four others, were all safely tucked away—until death followed us in.

 

Where? I thought. Mark had dragged me so swiftly off the street, there’d been no time to notice the building. Curious now, I glanced around at the interior; sunlit but dimmed by the drawn blinds. There was a sign on the wall. Nat’s Pool Hall.

I know this place. I used to come here in high school.

 

The owner’s daughter and I were best friends back then. We did our homework together at a booth in the corner, eating cold fries and laughing about boys while our moms got drunk after closing. Sam was the smart one. She was always destined to get out of this crap town. I was…different, then. Lighter.

Those moments weren’t so long ago. Why did they feel so faded?

Wait…

I stared at the woman trembling beside me. Pushing fifty, box-dyed blonde hair frizzed about her face, mascara trails staining her puffy cheeks—and recognized her. “Nat?”

Reality broke through the chaos. Her teary eyes squinted at me. “Aimee? Is that you?” She started to hug me, then screamed again as my husband lost his grip on the door. Thrown back, tripping over the table behind him, he landed hard on the floor. Without his  resistance, the door pushed open against the barrier just enough to let another wander inside. A third came behind him, bloated entrails dragging. The fourth and fifth moved in at the same time, jamming up the entrance. Gummy slivers of bloodless, putrefied flesh tore away as they mindlessly struggled to push through, slamming over and over into the threshold.

The one missing his arm broke free from the pile of chairs. His monotonous death rattle grew louder as he shuffled toward us. I stared at his gray coveralls, ripped and splattered with dark stains, and read the name stitched in white across the front pocket. Tommy.

A few days earlier, and he might have recognized it. Saying his name aloud might have given him pause, then, jarring whatever scraps of disjointed memory he had left. But he was too far gone now. Tommy didn’t exist anymore.

 

Clawing at me to move back, Nat yelled at Mark to do something. He yelled back, some unintelligible curse as he fumbled with the shotgun shells.

Panic had its grip on her tight. Throwing out pleas into the air for God to save her, she gathered what I took to be a family (a man limping so badly he could barely stand, a woman, a teenage girl, and a young boy) and scurried behind the bar. I watched them duck out of sight, envious of their fear. I wanted to be that alive, that invested in continuing to be a living, breathing, whole person. But I wasn’t. And I couldn't pretend anymore. I couldn't deny, I felt more of a kinship with the broken corpse, as he lumbered further and further away from his arm; an odd affinity that rooted me in place.

I’d been losing pieces for years. And like him, I kept going.

Mine was a more measured decline. My sense of self growing pale and worn like the sun-bleached daisies decorating the wallpaper in our shithole apartment. Hopes and dreams sloughed off as easily as his moldy flesh.

Countless times, I wished for it all to change, for anything to change—so deeply, I couldn’t help but wonder. Did I do this?

The misery I breathed out into the world. The mornings I woke wanting something to break the cycle, wanting the man sleeping beside me to wake up and realize how faintly I clung to life.

Was my unhappiness, my wish for it to end so profound, I condemned us all?

A shotgun blast exploded the face inches from mine. Jaw fragments pelted my chest, as the noise reverberated through me. Moldy, shattered strips of skin splattered mine, clinging to my dark curls.

Mark shoved me out of the way of the falling corpse and took aim at the others. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he shouted, keenly focused, as he fired again. “You freeze, you die. You know that.” Sparing a moment, he pulled the tire iron hanging from his belt and held it out in my direction. “Take it. Watch the windows. Protect those people. Do something! You’re going to get us all killed.”

Nat poked her head up from the bar, frantically gesturing at me to join her.

It was a terrible hiding place. I went anyway. There was something I needed to know.

I went around the huddled, whimpering family, and squatted beside Nat. “Samantha. Is she safe? She’s in Colorado, right?”

At the mention of her daughter, Nat surrendered to a sob. “Sam moved to Dallas last year. I spoke to her when all this…when it first started, but after a while…. Sam stopped answering. Now the goddamn phones are useless. I pray every night she’s someplace safer than this.” Nat flinched, crying out, as the shotgun went off again.

“Dallas? What was she doing there?”

Nat shook her head, gaping at me like it wasn’t relevant. She latched onto the distraction and answered anyway. “That high-falutin husband of hers opened up another fancy hotel. I’d been meaning to go see them. The kids are growing up so fast. They—” Nat froze. “Oh, Aimee, I’m sorry. I heard what happened to Clara. Such a terrible thing for a child to go through.”

A pang swept through me. Memory tightened my chest. Time had conditioned me to keep my response simple. They dropped the subject faster that way. “Thank you.”

“And you just barely out of high school when she was born. You think that’s what caused it? You being so young, and all?"

Swallowing, I shook my head. “I don’t think cancer works like that.”         

 

I was saved from her reply as Mark barked at me. “Aim! Get out here and cover me. I need to barricade the door. There’s more of them out there sniffing around.”

 

Leaving the tire iron with Nat, I stood and left the bar. The corpses that had been on their feet minutes before, now littered the floor, missing chunks of their heads.

 

Mark held the weapon out. I took it from his grimy hands and steadied my aim. He barely glanced at me as he moved off and kicked the door closed. Running a hand through his shaggy brown hair, his darting gaze scoured the room for heavy furnishings.

 

Would he look at me if I looked like them?

They were all he saw now: the dead.

It was harder for him to see me. I was only dead on the inside. Their decay was visible and stark. You couldn’t pretend they were anything but walking casings of putrid flesh and bone. You couldn’t ignore their wounds. Neither pretty words nor apologies would fill the hollows where noses and ears once sat.

Killing them gave Mark the one thing he needed most in this world: a target.

Surviving gave him something he never had: a purpose.

He never once hesitated to pull the trigger, as if he’d forgotten what they used to be. To mark, they were only the dead. They were always the dead. Maybe it was easier for him that way, to see them as less than people. Yet, some might have been aware only moments before—because it didn't happen like in the movies.

Corpses didn’t crawl from their graves or jump off morgue tables. This wasn’t some biblical rapture, demonic spell, or toxic waste dump that reanimated the dead. A simple virus mutated to attack the living, killing off cells and tissue, decomposing healthy people bit by bit. By the time the doctors realized what was happening, it was too late. There were no warning signs, no early symptoms. The body simply began to degrade.

 

The initial change from infected to feral was a gradual process, as we rotted away, aggression set in and organs ceased functioning. But that last final stretch, that slide into death and rebirth, abolishing whatever crumbs of human consciousness remained, was like the flip of a switch. One moment you were someone’s mother, daughter, or grandfather. The next… 

 

It didn't hurt, or so they said. The virus disconnected us from the pain early on. When your heart finally stopped beating you went on like it didn't, driven by some base need to exist.

Another thing we had in common.

Mark was attempting to push one of the pool tables over in front of the door. He threw off his jacket and called out. “Help me with this.”

 

I went over and rested the shotgun against the wall. Nearly half his weight, I struggled to pick up the other end. He lifted his side and we managed to move the hefty pool table over in front of the door. We piled chairs and barstools on top, knowing it was pointless. If the door broke, they’d climb over the pool table. A few wooden chairs wouldn’t make a difference.

Mark ran an arm over his forehead, clearing away the sweat. “How many shells we got left in that backpack of yours?"

“Half a box, maybe?” I shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

 

“Well make sure. I don’t want to spend the damn night here if we don’t have to.”

 

I turned, looking for the bag.

 

“What’s wrong?” he said.

 

“I…I don’t know where it is.”

 

“What do you mean, you don’t know where it is?”

 

“I must have dropped it."

 

“Son of a bitch, Aimee. All our shit is in there. Dropped it where?” Mark went to the window and looked out through the blinds, as if he might see it. “I ask you a question. Dropped it where?” he said again, glancing over his shoulder with a pinched-brow look I knew all too well. “Think, damnit!”

 

There was a time I would have flinched at his tone, feeling it wash over me like a wave, drowning my reply, pushing me down. Now, strangely, I felt nothing, as I thought back to our flight through the streets. “The dumpster on Franklin Street. We hid inside Karl’s shelter.”

 

“The homeless guy’s cardboard box?”

 

“He doesn’t like it when you call it that.”

 

“Really? Well I don’t give a shit what he likes. The asshole’s probably dead, anyhow."

“The strap got caught on something. I took it off. I must have forgotten to—”

“Son of a bitch, Aimee, that’s two streets over. I don’t know what goes through that head of yours, girl, but it ain’t nothing good. We’re all going to die here because of you. We’re going to end up like them.” He jabbed a dirty finger at the door, trying to shame me, to make me afraid. But death hadn't scared me for a long time.  Becoming like them didn't scare me. 

I already half there.

It was the family who didn’t deserve it. And Nat. She was a lush and a thief. Sam and I used to watch the woman help herself to a tip from the wallets of passed out customers all the time. Chances were, she was no different now. Age didn’t bring wisdom to everyone. But Nat was always kind to me. And no matter that we hadn’t talked in years, I loved Sam once. I couldn’t let her mom die because of me.

 

 “I’ll go get it,” I said. “One person can slip through easier than seven.”

 

“You?’ Mark laughed. “You’re going to go through that?” He jabbed his finger at the door again, bucking and bowing as bodies slammed against the outside. “You wouldn’t last two minutes on your own."

“There’s a back door though the kitchen. If the alley’s clear, I can sneak out. I’m small and fast. I can be back in twenty minutes.” I caught Mark’s disbelieving stare. “I can do this. If you can hold the place that long.”

He straightened, rising to defend his questioned masculinity. “’Course I can. You just bring those shells back as fast as you can.” He grabbed my arm as I turned away. “You get bit, don't come back.”

It was an appealing thought if his was the only life at stake.

I yanked out of Mark's hold. Ignoring Nat’s questions as I hurried past the bar, I pushed the door open and entered the kitchen. Built only to accommodate the usual bar food, the space was small and cramped. Appliances were on one wall, opposite a cluttered work counter. In between: a freezer and shelves stocked with supplies. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad place to be if we secured it better. There was clearly enough food for all of us. What was there to go back to in our apartment?

 

Nothing.

There hadn’t been for a long time.

A long-handled carving fork sat on the counter. I snatched it up and headed for the door.