Authors: Scott Wieczorek
Byron: A Zombie Tale
By Scott Wieczorek
Copyright 2012 © Scott Wieczorek
Cover Art by Sam A. Hunt ( http://theusualmadman.net/ )
The following is a work of fiction; a creation of the author’s imagination. Any names, places, or events described herein are either fictitious, or have been used fictitiously.
Similarities to actual persons, places, or events are purely coincidental.
The following submission is an excerpt from a private journal, hereinafter referred to as ‘The Document,’ that was found by Pfc. Gordon Ames – U.S. Army, First Mobile Infantry, during the completion of a routine border patrol of the quarantine zone. The Document is attributed to Mr. Byron Marks, a young man who had been present near the epicenter of the undead plague which swept our Nation more than five years ago. The Document provides a first-hand account of the plague’s early days and constitutes the largest single repository of information ever found regarding the enemy. To-date, a grateful United States Government is still searching for Mr. Marks and his surviving companions, but has, as yet, been unable to locate them. Certainly, we thank him for the valuable information he has set forth here in the Document.
For the reader’s own sake, The Document has been minimally edited in order to correct minor spelling or grammatical errors. But the words are, otherwise, those of Byron Marks himself as he put them down.
Col. Marcus Sinclair
First Mobile Infantry, United States Army
The fall semester was well under way. I had to admit that I was satisfied with the first couple of classes so far. I mean, I hadn’t fallen asleep yet. That’s a good thing. Right? So, then the night’s little get-together was more than justified. We were all celebrating a good start to a new semester; celebrating the return of all our good friends. Hell, we were just celebrating. Did there really have to be a reason?
The campus bar was a dingy little hole in the wall stuffed into a far back corner of the Student Center. But, everyone was there that night. We couldn’t use the Frat House. Some damn fool, a friend of a friend of a friend who was never even invited, had gotten a little too rowdy last year and all of the Fraternities were thrown off campus. So, we all lived in campus housing and the campus bar was our new substitute.
The whole gang was there for the fun. Evan, a mousy waif of a guy with hazel eyes and light brown hair, was at a table in the far corner of the bar poring over some textbooks. John, who took great pride in both his beer belly and his ability to produce gastric pyrotechnics, was leaning against the bar with a beer in each hand. It wouldn’t be long before he did something to embarrass himself. He always did. The other musketeer was Tim.
How do you explain Tim?
You know how in every group of friends there is always that one guy who, for some reason or another, girls just flock to? I mean, yeah, he works out and all. But, it’s not like he’s all that built or anything. Well, that’s Tim. And, there he was at a secluded table with some underclass girl he had just met.
And then there was me. Well, let’s see… How do I best describe myself? Well, I guess that in a sense I am the hero of this unhappy tale. My name is Byron. I was a Junior at Colville College studying to become a captain of industry. Or, more likely, just looking to be gainfully employed once I graduated. My parents, my father in particular, had been insistent on my joining a fraternity during my freshman year. So I hooked up with these guys, and as they say, the rest is history.
All in all, I would have to say that they’ve been a pretty good crowd. I knew that frats could get a pretty bum wrap, but these guys were truly like brothers to me. And, for me, that’s something I never had.
I was an only child. My parents were both either too career-driven, or too much a bunch of spendthrifts, to take the plunge and have a big family. So, I never had the opportunity to pound on a little brother, or to take my little sister to the prom. But, in coming to Colville and rushing, I was lucky in that I finally gained an extended family.
I looked down at the two-dollar draught beer sitting on the lacquered oak bar in front of me mindlessly watching the bubbles in the head rise and break. A quick glance at my watch told me that it was getting near two in the morning. I took another slug of the brew and savored the hoppy aftertaste. I was beginning to feel tired and decided that I would have to call it a night pretty soon.
I took initiative, grabbed the handle on the mug, pounded back my final slugs of beer and slammed the glass onto the bar. It was time. Dropping a couple dollars next to my mug, I stood from the stool, turned, and waved to my friends. Unfortunately, John was staring at the bottom of his own mug while simultaneously ordering another. Evan was still buried in a book. And, Tim had his lips wrapped around that girl he had just met.
I slapped the bar and patted John on the shoulder as I walked toward the side door. “Night, guys!” For me, the celebration was over for tonight. “See you in class on Monday!” I’d said.
“Hey, Byron, watch out for yourself. I heard that some freshman got bit by a homeless guy last night.” John said with a bit of a chuckle. I looked at him and smiled. “Probably just some nut job whacked out on bath salts,” he continued, “just sayin’.”
None of my other brothers returned my wave, or my salutation. They were all too engrossed in their own activities to notice. The only other person who seemed to notice me leave was my roommate Cole, who was at the farthest point of the bar from the nearest patron.
Cole was a nice guy, if not a little on the socially awkward side. And, as far as roommates went, there was nothing more I could have ever asked for. He was the kind of guy who would actually wake you up if he knew that you were going to miss a class. In fact, there were more times than not that he had done just that. Plus, he had a massive widescreen TV, and the newest gaming console on the market. That helped to ease the suffering of sharing a room.
I stepped out the side-door to the pub into the cool autumn air. It felt good. My dorm was on the far side of campus from the pub. I had to cross by the art buildings, the new social work buildings, across a broad green, pass under a county highway, and finally hop-scotch the quad to get there. But, on a night like that, it would be a welcome one. At the very least, it would serve to keep me warm.
The trip began uneventfully; a regular leisurely stroll. It was the weekend, and the campus was fairly empty. I was surprised that there weren’t even that many stragglers making their ways either to or from one of the many campus parties that were certainly still underway at this very moment. There was something about the stillness of the night that struck me as odd. Maybe it was that last beer I’d had, or the parting message John had bestowed as I’d stepped out of the pub. Whatever it was, something didn’t quite sit right with me. For the first time in all the years I’d been matriculating here I was suddenly nervous about crossing the campus alone in the dark.
I quickly scanned the darkness and saw the glowing blue lights in the distance that signified the campus emergency call boxes. This provided me a little bit of comfort, but not much. I decided to hurry my pace and stepped faster toward the tunnel passing beneath the county highway.
Given my current apprehensions, the tunnel appeared as a well-lit beacon of hope and safety in the oppressive darkness of the night. I shivered. Though, I couldn’t tell if it stemmed from the actual temperature, or just my growing unease. The feeling of discomfort would not let up one iota.
As I stepped into the tunnel my hurried footfalls echoed loudly throughout the tiled structure. But, as I began to see the other side, I started to slow my pace. My heart started beating hard in my chest. There, on the far side of the tunnel, leaning against the left wall just inside the entrance was a grime-covered crumpled heap of a person which I’d initially taken to be a carelessly discarded pile of rags.
Was this the homeless person John had mentioned? Was this the crazy who had attacked the freshman student? I suddenly longed to find another way across the campus. But, the man’s face jerked upwards and his head snapped in my direction. He must’ve heard my footfalls echoing through the tunnel.
His filthy bulk began to shift from its perch against the tiled walls leaving a smudge of something foul where they had touched. He tried to talk, but I couldn’t quite understand the guttural utterances he’d proffered as words. I thought it’d sounded like “Hey” or “Hello” or something like that. But, could just as easily have been an inadvertent groan or any other monosyllabic word.
Stopping dead in my tracks, I decided that I would, in fact, find another way across the campus. I could hear one of his feet drag against the tunnel’s cold concrete floor as he began walking toward me. Though, to say walk is kind of a generous description for the stiff shambling gait. And yet, despite the man having what appeared to be an evident disability he was, in fact, quite fast. He closed the distance between us in a matter of seconds.
The paralysis which had undertaken me when he began walking suddenly broke as I was assailed by a putrid odor worse than I could ever imagine. The sulfur bomb that one of the chemistry majors had set off in the dorm earlier this year paled in comparison to the stink which now beset itself upon my olfactory senses. It reminded me of when I’d once found a dead deer on the roadside while walking near my home.
I turned abruptly and tried to walk quickly away, broadening my pace as far as it would go. But, despite the man’s awkward disability and my best efforts, he caught up to me in no time.
I felt his hand touch my shoulder and spun around quickly, shoving both my hands against his chest in an attempt to push him away. “Get off me, creep!” I screamed at him. To my shame, I had to admit that in the heat of the moment I had lacked the forethought to bolster my male bravado with a deep tenor to my voice. The fear coursing through me and the cold air did not help either. My voice came out in a broken alto that reminded me of either an eleven year-old boy, or a giddy teenage girl shrieking in agitation.
My words, apparently, had no effect on the man for he again stepped into my personal space. I shoved him a second time much harder and screamed at him again. He stumbled back a few paces. But, he his persistence was not deterred by my warning in the slightest and he repeated his advance toward me.
I tried to spin again, but his hand caught the back of my sweatshirt. I was so focused on making forward momentum that his grasp on my clothing actually tripped me up, causing me to slip and fall backward. As I came down upon the ground, the man fell forward on top of me. I tried to crawl away, but he kept grabbing at my legs.
Suddenly, a burning hot pain seared through my right calf!
Good GOD, what the hell was that
? I remembered thinking. And then, it dawned on me all at once that the crazy bastard had just bitten me. My attempts to crawl away suddenly turned into vicious kicks at the man’s face. I kicked him several times and he ultimately released his grasp upon me. I took this opportunity to jump up and run as fast and hard as I could.
I could feel something warm and wet dripping down my right leg. He had bitten me and drawn blood. Goddamn it! What the hell was wrong with this guy? It hurt like hell, but I wasn’t about to let a little bit of pain stop me from getting away from him.
I ran at a full tilt until I reached the exterior door to my dorm. My one quick glance back during my sprint informed me that the crazy bastard had decided not to follow me. So, at my door I fumbled my keys, opened the door, and slipped inside. I ran up the stairs, leaving a trail of blood as I went, and let myself into my dorm room. I slammed the door behind me and stepped into the bathroom, grabbing the first towel I could find. I didn’t care if it was Cole’s, or mine, I needed something to hold against my leg to stem the flow of blood.
Hobbling back out of the bathroom, I crossed my dorm room to try and grab my cordless phone. But, the room began to sway and spin around me. I decided to sit down on my bed and elevate my foot to try and get the bleeding to stop. I would call 9-1-1 in a few minutes once it was under control.
I looked at the towel, pulled it away slightly to see if the bleeding was slowing and was surprised to see that it looked as though it was saturated with blood. Whether it was just the sight of the blood, or actual blood loss, my faintness gave way to nausea. The last thing I remembered before I was swallowed up by inky blackness was the sharp acidic bite of bile burning its way up my esophagus and spilling out through my lips. And then, it was dark…