ave / stories / You are on your own ch.2

Aurelia Sapp. Loved animals, but her parents never allowed her to have a pet. Something about responsibilities, and taking care of someone that depends on you. Did aikido - lots of good it did her. She made a couple friends at practice, though, which introduced her to punk rock. Not sure I would describe Queen and Daft Punk as "punk rock", but hey, she also had Muse and Nine Inch Nails, so at least it wasn't that bad. Chargers were hard to find and I didn't know how to build a generator, but at least there were enough batteries to be looted, and the little bugger could fit a triple-A if needed, so I didn't have to hold back.

It took me two days to read through her diary. At night I had nightmares, whether from the loss of life or from the insects I didn't know. I could have probably been done with it a lot faster, but I opted to take it slow and take it all in. I was the only person who was ever going to know her story, the least I could do was pay attention. By the end, my toast spreads had run out, and I had broken out the jar of onions. I had more non-perishables in storage, but going out to look for food seemed like a good distraction from all this, a moment to process as I biked around the countryside.

The weather had gotten dark and gloomy. I found it ironic - so had I. She had found friends, nice people that she didn't understand, that could show her so much more of life than her rich, stuck-up parents could. And then, locked away in a basement, without the light of day for weeks, the loneliness and anger. In her last entry, she bitched about how bland the beans tasted compared to those at a restaurant. No heartbreaking poetry, no deep philosophical quandries about the meaning of life, or what all this shit was supposed to be. Fucking beans.

I spotted a white spot on the horizon. I had to squint a bit - moody as the weather was, it was hard to make stuff out. I had remembered to bring a pair of binoculars this time - they were useful. I stopped the bike next to one of the familiar car wrecks and pointed.

Ah, damn it. It was one of the shrooms. Zombies had been progressively getting weirder, mixing with whatever other forms of decay they could find around here. A while ago, I had found one at a gas station. It had electrocuted itself to death, and then come back. It was a smoking husk, a black cloud trailing behind it. My ears had rung and eyes had stung for a day afterwards. Shrooms, on the other hand, they were just annoying. They were slow buggers that stalked across the wilderness, spreading a blanket of white mycelium wherever they went. They weren't that hard to deal with - you just needed a lighter -, but they never stopped coming. And you had to clean up after every single one . . .

Deciding not to question my will to live and persevere, I put the binoculars back in the basket and pedalled off towards the spot. They didn't even make a show when they burned down. I doubted they would overrun me if I left them unchecked - it was mostly just annoying to have that sticky white stuff everywhere. Unfortunately, it fed on decay, and the zs seemed to fit it like a glove.

The bike was somewhat unruly when off the road, so I left it about halfway through and continued by foot. No one was going to steal it anyway. Bat on one shoulder, I approached the shambling lump, mummified in white strings . I could have set fire to the field around it, but with the clouds, it would have been hard to find anything to use as firestarters. It probably would have gone out quite quickly as well. At least I could be sure the fire wasn't going to spread. The fungus usually burned down before any of the surrounding vegetation could catch fire, but it never hurt to be careful.

I wrapped some packing paper scraps around a stick, approaching the creature. I couldn't light it too soon, or it would sense the heat and stink. I should safe - with the moisture in the air, my smell wasn't going to spread.

On the other hand, I had been biking . . . and had not changed clothes in a while . . .

Under the layers of white cilia, a pair of hollows turned towards me. Shit. Fast as I could, I lit the lighter and brought it to the impromptu torch, fumbling and dropping it in the panic.

"Shit!" I heard my voice tremble. Panic was never good. Abandoning the tried-and-tested, I grabbed my bat with both hands and swung at its head. It caved in like a paper-mache balloon, a billion tiny spores poofing out in the wet air, spreading around me faster than should be possible. I closed my eyes and ran for my bike, the skin on my face and arms itching as if a thousand tiny starved insects had crawled upon it and were biting everyplace they could. I was flailing around, screaming, get them off, get them off! I didn't give a damn about the z anymore, just make the itching stop!

Some minutes later, I come back to my senses, bent over in the grass, coughing my lungs out. My hands are two red pillars of blisters that feel like they are on fire, and my face doesn't feel much better. I am choking, not able to get a breath in before the fire in my lungs makes me cough it out again. The lack of air is probably what made me break out of the panic, my vision fading in and out of consciousness.

Fuck. This isn't good.

The z could wait. I have to get home. I have medicine, I have stuff that can help with this nightmare. Fuck, my arms hurt. I grab for my bike. I can't feel it - I can barely move my hands. Fuck. The adrenaline must be the only reason I am not curled in a ball on the ground right now. I have to get home.

I leave my bike there. The binoculars, the backup pistol, my bat - I can get them back later. I have to get home. I get into a slow jog - it's not far, and it keeps me distracted from the numbness creeping in my arms again. Whether from pain, nausea, lack of breath, or some nasty side effect of the spores, but it feels like an instant before I am stumbling through my improvised fence, shouldering the door open and shambling for the kitchen corner.

Medicine. Lower left cabinet. It takes me a couple tries to get the drawer open, and when I do, it dislodges and spills blisters and bottles all around me. Shit! I stumble through the mess at my feet, fishing out the things I need. After struggling with the plastic and aluminum wrappings for a while, I almost fly into a rage again, taking the whole wrappings in my mouth and chewing on them until I feel the bitter codeine and tramadol spread in my mouth. Face numb as well, I follow them with a glob of royal jelly I kept safe for special occasions, and stumble off towards my bed. I get under the covers, closing my eyes, warming up, and listening to my labored breath, trying to fall asleep. I might be feeling like shit, but one thing I've learned is that the human body is very resilient. It took a lot to turn. And I wasn't dead yet.

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