9 Days in Autumn
I was happy once. It seems so long ago now. Like some dream or old memory. It's funny how when everything is right in your life, you don't notice. And when it's gone, it seems so sudden.
But for me, it was sudden.
9 days ago, I was happy.
I woke up to the sun beaming in through a crack in the blinds. The light hit my eyes before I opened them and I felt its warmth. I slowly opened my eyes and rolled over and laid there for a moment staring at the ceiling before rolling back over and looking at the clock.
Hmm, 10am, I thought, might as well get my butt moving.
It was warm in the apartment, so I didn't bother putting a sweater on, I just stayed in my t-shirt and shorts. I stretched a little, and after made my way to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee; my life blood.
As the coffee brewed, I looked out the window at the beautiful day. The birds were sitting in the big tree outside the window, and the sky was a clear blue, except for a few clouds. It looked like a nice September day. And as the smell of coffee filled the place, I thought today was going to be a good one.
I made my cup of coffee, milk and sugar, and headed to the computer to check in on the world. I trolled around my usual sites; news, gossip, humor; and checked my email. Nothing major, so I decided to head into the shower.
I let the water warm up as I got undressed, and checked myself out in the mirror. I was still a little sore, but didn’t realize how sore until I got in the shower and the water hit my skin. I winced a little as the water stung for a second on my side, then it kind of numbed. As the hot water ran over my skin, I ran my hands through my hair and went over the events of last night again in my head. It was all so fast and almost a blur, how it happened. They had come out of nowhere, the infected ones, maybe from a side door, and within minutes everything in the club was panic. I tried to remember, to think of the details, but I was having a hard time focusing on anything specific, all I could remember was the panic, and then the pain in my side. I had hoped it would have gone away by now, but it was still sore, and even numbed by the hot water, I was still aware of it. And that’s when I started to feel sick.
The dizziness came over me in a slow wave. At first I thought it was because the water was too hot, which had sometimes made me sick or dizzy in the past, but it didn’t feel the same. I steadied myself against the shower wall, but decided I had better get out, before I passed out. I turned the shower off, wrapped a towel around myself, and sat on the edge of the tub for a few minutes. I felt dizzy and nauseous. This wasn’t good. Once the dizziness subsided a little, I stood up and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked a little pale, but other than that ok. I decided to go get dressed and head out to grab my usual Saturday morning breakfast from the little dinner down the street. Maybe that would help me feel a little better.
As I stepped out the front door of my building, I noticed the air was cooler than I had thought, but it felt nice on my face. It helped me feel a little bit better, though the sun seemed a little bright and hurt my eyes a little. I walked down the block towards the dinner, and something felt, off. It felt like people were looking at me a little funny, but I’m sure it was just in my head. As I waited to cross the intersection, a cute guy wearing a black hoodie smiled at me, and I smiled back. That convinced me that the idea of people looking at me funny was totally in my head.
I walked into the dinner and made my way up to the counter to order.
“Hey, Autumn!” called the owner as soon as he saw me. He was an older man, very friendly and open, and I had gotten to know him fairly well over the 2 years I had lived in my apartment down the street, and been coming in for breakfast every Saturday since I moved in.
“The usual?” he asked.
“Nah, I’m not feeling too hot this morning, maybe just the pancakes today.”
“You got it hun, sorry to hear you’re not feeling well, but my pancakes will fix that right up. Here’s a coffee while you wait.”
I sat down at the counter, and drank my coffee, and tried to shake the awful feeling I had. I couldn’t quite pin down what it was exactly, but it was just, there. Encasing me in its aura. I was really hoping having some food in me would help.
“Here you are then, and try to get some rest girl, you do look a little pale.” he said as he handed me my meal. And after paying I headed back home.
As I sat on my couch, eating my pancakes, and watching some cartoons, I did start to feel a little bit better. Maybe it was just the partying the night before and the empty stomach making me feel sick, I thought. I started to relax a little. And then I vomited on the floor.
I had never vomited so instantly before, with no warning at all. I sat taking a few deep breaths for a moment, and then noticed the red. And since I had only eaten pancakes and maple syrup, the only thing that could make the vomit red would be blood. And that concerned me.
I got my barrings and made my way to the kitchen, and had a drink of water. I just kind of stood there for a moment, trying to decide what to do. I knew I had to clean it up, that would be the first step. I got some supplies and started to clean up the mess. The blood in it wasn't that big an amount, but it was bright red. After I was done cleaning, I decided to lay down, and try to rest a little. To see if I would start to feel better. I grabbed my blanket and curled up on the couch, and drifted off with the sound of cartoons coming from my TV.
I had a very odd dream. Everything had a red haze to it, like some kind of fog. I was moving very slow, while everyone around me seemed to be moving fast. I walked down the road, and everyone stared at me. It felt like I was trying to walk through some kind of thick sludge. My legs were heavy and hard to move. I reached out for a nearby woman to steady myself from falling, and she screamed and turned away. And just as I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, I got a searing pain in my head, and woke up with a start.
I sat straight up on the couch, in a cold sweat. The TV was playing some old movie, and it was dark outside. How long had I been asleep? I thought, and fumbled for my watch on the table. 8pm. I hadn’t planned on being asleep for so long. I sat up and turned the TV off, before getting up. I felt a little better, despite my very weird dream, and decided I had better try to eat again, at least to try to have some food in me today. I looked through my cupboards, and settled on a quick easy meal of rice, tomatoes, and beans. As I cooked, my mind drifted back to my strange dream. It felt so real, much more so than other dreams. And then as I stretched up to reach some garlic salt, I realized the reason it felt so real, as a sharp pain shot through my body, and I remembered what had happened the previous night, and that that was most likely the cause of how I had been feeling all day. This awful aching on my side. The terrible soreness that was starting to throb again. I stood for a moment putting pressure on it, trying to dull it a little, and as that seemed to work I finished making my dinner. I grabbed a DVD from the rack, some cheesy romantic comedy I’d seen a few times, just something I didn’t have to think too much about while watching, and ate my dinner. I managed to keep the food down this time, but I started to feel really tired again, so when the movie was finished I locked my door, turned off the lights, got changed, and got into bed. I lay there staring at the ceiling for a little while, going over everything in my head. I knew I wouldn’t reach any conclusions tonight, so I gave up overanalyzing it all, and just rolled over and let myself drift off to sleep. It didn’t take long. And this time, there were no dreams, that I remember anyway.
I woke up with a start from a loud bang at my door. And promptly let out a small scream as a pain shot through my side. I stumbled out of bed and made my way to the door. After looking through the peephole to see who it was that felt the need to wake me up so suddenly, I opened the door and greeted my friend Shelley.
“Wow, girl, you look rough.” she said as I let her in.
“Thanks, you’d look rough too if someone scared the fuck out of you by pounding on your door first thing in the morning.” I replied as I closed the door behind her.
“It’s 11am, not quite first thing.” she said and handed me a cup of coffee to settle my nerves. I sipped the latte and let the caffeine do it’s work. “So, how are you feeling anyway? I’m surprised I didn’t hear from you yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry, I had kind of a, day of rest. Mainly hung around on the couch.”
“How’s your side?” she asked, with a small look of concern. She had been at the club with me when it all happened Friday night. We had been dancing when they burst in and started attacking everyone. And even though that night seemed to be bit of a blur now, I remembered the scared looked on her face when the two infected guys had grabbed us. I remembered fighting them off her, and I remembered the sheer pain in my side when another guys teeth sunk in.
“It’s alright. I don’t think he broke the skin so I’m sure it’s fine.” I lied. I didn’t want her to be worried. His teeth had broken the skin. And there was blood, and an awful bruise.
“Can I take a look at it? I want to be sure you’re ok.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I’m fine. Nothing to worry about, just a little sore is all.” I didn’t need her seeing the horrible black mark on my side.
“Ok, if you’re sure.” she replied and I could tell my the look in her face she didn’t quite believe me, but knew me well enough not to push the subject.
Well sat on the couch and talked a little about that night, mainly just about how crazy it was and how it was getting a little scary that everything was happening so fast. The infection has spread quickly through town, and people were on edge. The news did it’s best to try to alleviate some of the concern and try to stop panic, with it’s daily updates since the start of it all a week ago, but most people were still very scared deep down. We just all tried to pretend it wasn’t as bad as we knew it was in our hearts.
“It’s spreading fast. I’m not sure I want to hang around much longer here. Greg and I are thinking of driving up to stay with some friends in the country. They have a cabin and enough supplies to be comfortable for quite awhile. You’re more than welcome to come with us.” she offered.
“I dunno, I don’t think it’s that bad yet. And besides I have some work I really need to get done this week. We have a big fundraiser coming up soon at work and they need me.” I was only half honest with her. I could probably get away with missing days and passing my work on to someone else, but I just didn’t really want to be trapped in a cabin with a bunch of strangers. I had only met Greg a few times, as he and Shelley had just started dating, and wasn’t completely comfortable with him.
“Alright. I would really like you to come, but I understand.” I think Shelley saw through my lie and knew that I just didn’t want to go, but she didn’t say anything about it.
“So, how have you been? How are things with Greg anyway?” I asked. And as she proceeded to tell me about her budding relationship with Greg, and all the little issues that people go through when they’re first involved with someone, I drifted back to thinking about my dream from yesterday afternoon. The red haze. The heavy feeling in my legs as I tried to walk. The look of fear on the woman’s face. It was really starting to bother me how vivid it had been. And before I knew it she had been chatting away for over an hour.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll figure things out. Some relationships are tricky at the start but once you get it sorted out it will be fine.” I said, as if I had been more intently listening than I had been. And she seemed to believe me. I didn’t like treating my friend like that, but my head just wasn’t in it today.
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. And I should probably get going, I have to pick up some supplies for class anyway.” Shelley said as she stood up from the couch. She was an elementary school art teacher and I knew she was committed to her job. Even on weekends.
“Hey, did you still need a ride to the repair shop tomorrow to pick up your car?” she said suddenly turning back to face me.
“Oh, no.” I answered “They said it won’t be ready til Tuesday morning now. So can you take me then?”
“Sure thing. It’s my day off anyway. We can grab breakfast and then head over there.”
“Great, thanks. I’ll give you a call tomorrow night just to remind you.” I said as I opened the door for her.
“Alrighty. Talk to you then. Take care of yourself girl, you look a little pale. Try to get some more rest if you can.” she said and waved as she walked down the hall.
“Yeah, I’ll try. See ya.” I replied and waved back, then closed the door. I was a little relieved she didn’t realize just how ill I really felt.
I went to my bedroom and got dressed. Despite how awful I was feeling I needed to go out and get some groceries. As I changed I took a look at my side. There was a clear impression of teeth, and the bruise had turned a black colour and spread. I winced a little as I poked at it, and it oozed a bit. I went to the bathroom and grabbed some gauze to cover it and I had another mini flashback to Friday night. I thought about how panicked I had been in the club after being bit. And how I had tried to hide it from Shelley so she wouldn’t realize how bad it was. I remembered rushing to the bathroom as soon as I got home and washing it feverishly and how it didn’t seem to want to stop bleeding. And how I had covered it with gauze and put pressure on it the best I could and laid down on the couch til I passed out. Then waking up a few hours later and noticing it had finally stopped bleeding and stumbling to bed.
Now it seemed like it would need to be covered again, and it made me feel a little better not having it exposed anyway. I finished getting dressed and headed out to the market down the street. I picked up some pasta to make for supper and headed back home.
When I got home I put supper on to cook and sat down to watch a bit of the news, for the latest infected update. They had some new information tonight, on how it was spreading quicker then they had thought, and gave some safety tips, mainly to avoid certain areas and try not to go out unless it was needed. And then they said something that sent a shiver through my spine. They said they had figured out how it was spreading. It spread from contact with infected blood, but also, from other body fluids, specifically saliva from bites. I kinda sat there in shock for a moment, while my heart seemed to stop. From bites. It resonated in my brain. I had been bit. But, that couldn’t be it right? I mean, sure I felt a little ill, but not like I was infected. Just a little, sick, from being bitten by someone. The news then went on to say that those who were infected seemed to show symptoms very quickly and deteriorate fast, some in a matter of hours. This made me feel a little more at ease, as I didn’t really feel like I was sick enough to be infected.
The sound of my supper sizzling on the stove grabbed my attention and seemed to snap me back into reality. I got up and grabbed my food, and decided to watch some silly sitcom instead of the news while I ate. And after I was done eating, I cleaned up, and decided to read for a bit in bed. As I read I started to get really tired, but tried to stay awake. Eventually my eyes won and closed on me and I fell asleep, only to dream about the red haze again.
The dream was the same again. Same red haze, same heavy legs. Trying to walk through the street. Not knowing where I was headed, just that I was going somewhere. And the look on people’s faces as the moved quickly past me. A look of fear. I walked past a store window and looked over at it. My reflection was a little blurry at first, but as I slowly moved closer I could tell something wasn’t quite right. And then I woke up. My alarm was yelling at me that it was 6am and time to get up and ready for work. I turned it off, and sat up in bed for a minute, trying to clear the fog from my head. I slowly got up and headed for the shower. As I ran the water I slowly took the gauze off my side and saw that the bruise had spread even more. And although it didn’t look much different, it was bigger. I got in the shower and made sure to wash my side thoroughly, even though it stung. I wanted to make sure I got it clean. I got out of the shower and got dressed. I sat for a minute at the computer and checked my email, before heading out to work. I waited at the bus stop outside my apartment building with a few other people who rode the bus with me regularly. A couple seemed to give me a strange look, but I tried to ignore them. The bus ride was a little annoying as every bump I felt through my whole body. I ached. I got off a block away from work and grabbed a latte from the coffee shop I usually stopped at. The barista commented on how pale I looked and I just told her it had been a wile weekend. She laughed and handed me my coffee. I’m sure her ideas of what went on were far from the truth. I took my coffee and walked to work.
“Happy Monday Autumn.” I was greeted with as I walked to my desk.
“Yeah, happy Monday Liz.” I muttered. Liz, the every perky Liz. Just what I wanted to deal with. I didn’t enjoy her on the best of days, and today I wasn’t up for dealing with her at all. I went right to my phone and checked my messages in hopes she would leave. And it worked. I hung up the phone and sat at my desk for a moment. Drinking my coffee and trying to focus. Monday’s usually went by fast and I was praying today would be no different. Nothing too major was on tap, just following up with some people for our company’s upcoming fundraiser. I could manage that. I went over my notes and made some calls and the morning seemed to go by quick with little annoyance.
“Hey Autumn, a bunch of us are going over to the Thai place next door for lunch, you in?” came a voice from my doorway. I looked up and saw Christa, a new girl who had been there a month and was trying hard to be friend’s with everyone. She was a bit too overeager for my tastes, but a nice enough person.
“Nah, sorry, I’m not really up to it today.” I answered without trying to hurt her feelings.
“Oh, ok.” she replied, somewhat hurt. She was the type to take it personally if someone didn’t want to accept her offer, no matter what it was. “Well, take it easy then. You look like you might be getting a flu or something.” and she wandered on to the next person to invite.
It was real nice how everyone felt the need to tell me how awful I looked. I decided to go see just how bad it was. I got to the ladies room and was thankful it was empty. I looked in the mirror at my face and suddenly remembered how I had tried to see my reflection in my dream and how “off” it had appeared. My face today seemed a little more pale than usual, and I did look like I was going to vomit at any moment, but people didn’t really have to tell me. I knew that I must look as bad as I felt.
I stopped by the lunch room on the way back to my desk and made some toast. Mainly to settle my stomach. As I sat there eating it I noticed the news on the TV. They were talking about more infected people and how the police were starting to have a hard time dealing with them all. And how a lot of people were leaving town or opting to stay home. Just then my supervisor, Jen, came in to grab some coffee.
“Not in the mood for Thai food either?” I asked her.
“Nah, I don’t have time today. We’re having a department head meeting in half an hour to decide if we can afford to take some time off while this craziness blows over.”
“Oh,” I replied, a little surprised it was getting to that point, “well, hopefully this won’t last long and things will get taken care of soon. I know the big fundraiser next month is a big deal.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it won’t be for long. We’ll send out a staff notice later this afternoon.” she said and headed out down the hall.
I finished eating and headed back to my desk. My headed started to feel a little cloudy and I had a hard time concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes. I had to force myself to pay attention. And I started to feel really sick. The staff notice was emailed out that afternoon. Work would be cancelled for the rest of the week starting the next day, and we were all the check our messages next Sunday to find out what would be happening next week. We would still be paid for the time we were off. I was kind of relieved as I could use the days off. I finished up what I could manage to, and headed home. The bus ride wasn’t as bad as in the morning, the pain in my side seemed to have subsided a bit.
I got home and changed into my pyjamas, since I wasn’t planning on going out anywhere. I sat down in front of the TV and decided to watch a little bit of the news, to see what was going on. There was starting to be more widespread panic and more infected running around the streets. Things were starting to get a little scary. I decided to watch a show about ancient Egypt instead, and order some pizza for supper. When I called the pizza place, however, I was informed they would be closing down for a bit and would not be delivering anything.
“Great, now what.” I muttered outloud as I hung up the phone. I looked through my kitchen and found some frozen chicken fingers. I put them in the oven, and grabbed some juice. When I put the juice back in the fridge I noticed some ground beef I hadn’t cooked with supper last night. I had forgot I had some left, and could have used that for supper today. Then something came over, me, and I pulled the ground beef out and stared at it. Just stared. And then suddenly I was ripping it open and shoving a handful of it into my mouth. It tasted so good. The blood. The freshness. I felt a little animalistic while I was eating it and when I was done I didn’t know what had come over me. I would have thought I would feel like throwing up, but I didn’t. I actually felt a little better. The buzzer went on the oven and my chicken fingers were done. I pulled them out and put them on a plate and went to watch my Egypt show. I ate them, but they weren’t as satisfying as the raw ground beef had been.
I was almost dozing off when I suddenly remembered I had to call Shelley. She sounded kind of down on the phone. I tried to pay attention to the conversation but found myself zoning out, just kind of drifting off, not quite daydreaming, but not really a part of the conversation. From what I could gather, Greg was getting very upset with all the news and wanted to leave tomorrow morning. I asked if they could at least drop me off at the garage to pick up my car and she said it would be fine, and that they would come pick me up first thing in the morning.
After I hung up the phone I decided I would go to bed. I wasn’t feeling as ill as I had earlier, but didn’t want to think that eating raw meat had made me feel better. I climbed into bed, and fell asleep fast.
I woke up from another night of the red haze dream. This time I made it all the way to seeing my reflection, and although I knew it was me, it didn’t feel like me. The face was very gray and the eyes were sunken and a milky white, with the area around the eyes appearing very red in contrast. I stared at my reflection for a few moments and then heard a scream behind me, and felt an impact on the back of my head. And that’s where the dream ended.
I got up and got ready, feeling like I was moving slower than usual. I looked in the mirror and had a flashback to my dream. My eyes were fairly red and I looked more pale than I had the day before. I didn’t look long because my phone rang, bringing me out of my daze. It was Shelley calling to tell me they were on the way to give me a lift to the garage to pick up my car. I quickly finished getting ready and headed downstairs to meet them.
Greg was kind of an arrogant man. One of those guys who thinks because he drives a Volvo that he’s better than me and my beaten up Pontiac. I got in the backseat and he made a point to tell me not to slam to door shut.
“Wow Autumn, did you manage to get any sleep last night? You look like you haven’t slept in days.” was what Shelley greeted me with.
“I got some, I think I am just run down from work is all.” I replied. I know she was concerned for me, but it annoyed me how she felt the need to comment on my appearance.
As we drove through the city the streets seemed very empty. I know the news had said for people to try to avoid going out, but this was a little beyond precaution. And it made me a little nervous and scared. At least Shelley and Greg were getting out. I should have decided to go with them.
When we pulled up to the garage it looked a little empty, and Greg asked me if I was sure they were open.
“Yeah, the guy said they would be, but that was on Friday. There’s a light on and the sign says open, so they must be.”
“Well, if you’re sure. Be careful alright.” he replied as I got out of the car.
“I’ll call you tonight. Take care of yourself girl.” Shelley said, looking a little worried, and they drove off.
I walked up to the door to the garage and noticed again how deserted everything seemed. I tried to open the door but found it locked. Odd, I thought. I knocked on the door, and then the window, but no one answered. I looked through the window and didn’t see anyone, but then I noticed some movement in the back of the shop. I decided to try to side door, maybe it would be open.
I walked around to the side of the building and found that door was unlocked. I poked my head in and said “Hello…” but there was no reply. I went in, and shut the door behind me. I saw my car sitting there, but didn’t see anyone around. I called out again as I looked around the shop, and again got no reply.
Then all of a sudden I heard a noise behind me, and I turned around just in time to see a mechanic coming at me with his arms outstretched and his mouth open. He was covered in blood which seemed to be coming from a large wound on his neck. He lunged at me and grabbed me by the shoulders, and it seemed like he was trying to bite me. I struggled to push him off and managed to back up a little. I ran around the side of my car, but he followed, stumbling a little over some power cords on the floor. I backed up as he regained his balance and came at me again. I was trapped between my car and the wall. He managed to get ahold of me again and I tried hard to hold him off. My right hand reached around behind me for anything I could use as a weapon. It finally found what felt like a large wrench and my fingers closed around it and my arm swung it hard, hitting him on the side of the head. It knocked him back a little, dazed, but then he came at me again so this time I swung with everything I had, hitting him square on the front of the head, and he stopped. He dropped to the floor and didn’t move. I stood there stunned for a moment while I let the wrench drop to the floor. What was going on? Was he infected? Was he trying to kill me? Had I just killed him?