So Bloody Poetic

Sunrise

The sun rises and I begin to cry.

Of course, my life was always so bloody poetic. How the gods love their irony; the morning of my last day on earth begins with the most stunning sunrise I’ve ever witnessed. Oh,  yeah, sure! Humanity is lost! Everyone will die alone, shit-scared and without dignity; but gosh darn it, isn’t the sky just sweet today? The subtle blend of hues one hundred years ago would’ve inspired Monet to paint! Today’s sunset is predicted to be equally lovely… but luckily for me, I won’t be sat here in this truck weeping over the fucking colour of it.

I thought I was gonna die last night. When the city walls fell, I was so sure of it. But as Zack got closer to the apartment, flocking to the screams like hyenas to carrion, I went primal. Guess it was the ‘fight or flight’, but I don’t remember any of it – just disjointed snapshots, as distant from me as someone else’s holiday photos.

A broken-down door, muddy with footprints. Staircase – too many floors to count. A coiled bullet belt, empty. Glass-stained streets. Rotting carcasses; a dead baby, stomach bloated. A water bottle, empty. The most beautiful rusty old truck.  AK47, empty.

I do remember clambering into the truck. I drove through the night, didn’t stop once. The people by the side of the road were exhausted, desperate, dying. They plead, beg for the lives of their children, pray out in a foreign tongue. But how do you know that they’re people? Don’t trust anyone. Let them in the truck, they could start coughing and before you know it you’ve got Zack riding shotgun. Don’t trust. Humanity died the day they got out the grave.

The stupid fucking sunset blurs before my eyes. What good did it do? Running away bought me extra time, but ultimately I’m just as screwed. By the time the sun sets, I will be dead; whether by dehydration, human hands or Zack bite, it doesn’t matter. None of us matter. I squeeze my eyes shut, feel hot tears on my cheeks. When I look again, the rainbowed sky is so gossamer-clear I can see the morning stars.

A sunset like that is a good final memory.

Her Dark Revenge

“I know you…” I realise slowly. Throughout this whole scenario, something has been bothering me about this man. Now I can finally put my finger on it. “Tell me; why is your face familiar?”

His face is painted with the stupefied relief of someone who has is saved when they thought they were dead. I’m in no mood for his worship – I would rather see him cringe. Seizing a fistful of his greasy hair, I yank his head back and the pale yellow light falls on his face. He whimpers and I repeat the question.

“Where have I seen your face before, old man?” His eyes brim with tears, and I am disgusted. How could anyone this weak survived so long? Shaking him, I angrily demand, “Answer my question!”

“I used to – to be on the TV – a lot. I worked in – the govern – government.” Even thought his stuttering speech, I can hear the pride. The self-bloated, gloating satisfaction of being high up the food chain.

My anger takes even me by surprise, flushing through my body like a wave of pure hear. I pull back his hair till he screams and press my blade into his throat. “The government,” I hiss, mocking and cruel. “What a worthless life. How useful was it, eh? Your knowledge of politics. Tell me, how did it help you fight off the plague? How did it help you organise your relief strategies? How did it help you SAVE THE REST OF US?”

I’m screaming now, spittle flying from my lips in a rage I can’t control. He’s lost the look of someone saved. The emotion in his eyes is exactly what I want to see, the drug to my addict’s heart. “It didn’t. Because when as the world went to shit, you and the rest of your hoity-toity rich and famous ran for fucking cover while the rest of us scum died like rats.”

I laugh, gesturing at the ruins surrounding us. My voice sounds so distorted in the echoes, so… inhuman. “Was this part of your grand plan? Did you mean for all of this to happen, for millions to die? And what about us, the survivors? Tell me, old man, was I part of your plan?” I crouch down, the tip of my blade pressed into the heartbeat throbbing in his neck.

“No… no… no…!” He whispers, although I can’t tell if he’s begging for his rat-shit life or answering my question. My anger is cooling down, turning hard and sharp. I grip the knife handle tightly, the blade gleaming so beautifully.

“You ran for shelter and left us to die. This is everything you deserve.” With one fierce stroke I slit his neck from ear to ear, a bloody gaping grin, and I walk away.

The body sits upright, his eyes open and fixed in fear. The dim yellow light throws darkness across his skin and the blood gushing from his ripped smile is black: as black as the night, as black as his eyes, as black as my heart.

Donor

Donor

Through the car window, the streets flash by. The houses tower skywards, leaning towards me with menace. They are identical to every other house I’ve ever seen.
In every year I’ve lived, I’ve made this journey twice. Once on my birthday and once six months later. I only see this town twice a year, but it never ever changes.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and it is a special occasion. This trip is unlike all of those before.
I have not changed – I am the same person I was yesterday. I am no wiser, no more mature, no better than the seventeen year old me.
There is only one distinction, and this is not visible. It is law.
As of 7:29 this morning, the exact minute of my birth so many years before, I finished being a child and became an adult.
If I were a Recipient, I would now be old enough to drink alcohol. With permission from the government, I would now be entitled to marry – travel – have children.
But that is not my life: I was not born as Recipient. I was born a Donor.
The car stops at a red light, the momentum pushing me into my seatbelt. My driver snorts, tapping his foot on the accelerator impatiently. I dislike this man. He stinks of greed and nerves. If he was allowed, I know that he would like to drive the car too fast, push it screaming down these grey streets. But he cannot risk my health by dangerous behaviour. I must be kept in perfect condition for the procedure. And he does not like me for this.
I turn my gaze away from his dripping skin and stare out the window. The houses in this street stand shoulder to shoulder, all the same ghastly shade of dead-flesh grey. They all have the same front door, the same curtains, the same windows in the same places. The only way you can tell them apart is the numbers on the doors.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and today I will undergo my first operation.
It’s nothing major; not my heart, lungs, or a whole limb. It’s my eyes.
To be precise, the lenses and corneas from both eyes are needed by a Recipient girl. Her name is Farida. I am the same blood and tissue type as her but more importantly, my eyes are the exact shade of blue that she desires to have.
She is thirteen years old and has decided that she looks unattractive in glasses. She wants to be pretty, and I am here to fulfil this wish.
I have been told, time and time again, how lucky I am. How lucky that I am wanted – how blessed I am, that my eyes are such a beautiful shade that they are desirable. How fortunate I am that I am popular enough to have another procedure scheduled, in six months time, for my kidneys.
I do not feel lucky.
And although this is my purpose in life, I am resentful of a thirteen year old girl called Farida. Why must she have what isn’t hers? Why does she feel the need to have different eyes anyway? Who taught her that taking someone’s vision – just so that you could be more pleased of what you see in the mirror – was morally right?
But blaming her is unfair. It is like shooting a private for a general’s war crimes.
She could not help being born as a Recipient, just as I couldn’t help being born as a Donor. It isn’t her fault that her whole life has revolved around superficial beauty and selfish desires, in the same way that my life has thrashed into me that I am nothing, that I have no self, that I have no worth except as a supply of material for Recipients to use as they wish.
Through the smeared glass of the car window, I watch a vast building as it swells above the endless sea of grey housing. Its massive, like a mountain dropped in the centre of this town. I climb out of the car, staring up. My neck aches at the height – surely it must rise all the way up into the clouds. The driver pushes my back, and we enter the hospital building.
Today is my eighteenth birthday, and today I will lose my eyesight to a thirteen year old girl called Farida.

Happy birthday to me.

Priority Call

PRIORITY CALL, PRIORITY CALL.

White noise. Turning, blank look at the TV screen. What’s happening?

PRIORITY CALL, PRIORITY CALL. CALLING ALL PERSONNEL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Tense, tight, constricting. Clammy hands, reaching for comfort.  It can’t possibly be-

WE HAVE A CONFIRMED CASE OF KOSONG-NI IN THIS COUNRTY.

Terror. No breath to gasp, eyes wide, hammering heart. No.

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. ALL PERSONNEL MUST WEAR FACE MASKS AND BIOHAZARD GEAR AT ALL TIMES. IF YOU OR ANYONE CLOSE TO YOU BEGINS TO SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF KOSONG-NI, IMMEDIATELY BEGIN QUARANTINE.

Throat too tight to swallow. No. This can’t be happening. Wrapped in my mother’s arms, but not safe, not any more. No, all safety is gone. This disease can get through locked doors.

IF YOU HAVE A CONFORMED CASE WITHIN YOUR DWELLING, NOTIFY YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES IMMEDIATELY. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU LEAVE YOUR HOUSE.  I REPEAT, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE.

Lies whispered in my ears. It’ll be okay. It’ll be just fine. We’ll survive this.

We won’t. There is no cure.

THIS IS THE END OF THE RECORDING. PLEASE STAY CALM AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

We’re all dead.

More Quotes from ‘Warm Bodies’

“We cast our votes and raised our leaders, charming men and women with white teeth and silver tongues, and we shoved our many hopes and fears into their hands, believing those hands were strong because they had firm handshakes. They failed us, always. There was no way they could not fail us – they were human, and so were we.

It didn’t take much to bring down the card house of civilisation. Just a few gusts and it was done, the balance topped, the spell broken. Good citizens realised the lines that had shaped their lives were imaginary and easily crossed. They had wants and needs and the power to satisfy them, so they did. The moment the lights went out, everyone stopped pretending.”

Quotes from ‘Warm Bodies’

I look into Julie’s face. Not just at it, but into it. Every pore, every freckle, every faint gossamer hair. And then the layers beneath them. The flesh and bones, the blood and brain, all the way down to the unknowable energy that swirls in her core, the life force, the soul, the fiery will that makes her more than meat, coursing through every cell and binding them together in millions to form her. Who is she, this girl? What is she?

She is everything. Her body contains the history of life, remembered in chemicals. Her mind contains the history of the universe, remembered in pain, in joy and sadness, hate and hope and bad habits, every thought of God, past-present-future, remembered, felt, and hoped for all at once.

*

‘I like writing,’ I say like a confession. ‘So… I guess I want to be a writer.’
Nora tilts her head. ‘Really? Do people still do that? I mean, is there still like… a book industry?’
‘No… not really. You’re right, it’s dumb even for a fantasy. Colonel Rosso says only about thirty percent of the world’s cities are still functioning, so unless the zombies are learning how to read… not a great time to get into the literacy arts.’
‘Shut the fuck up, Perry. People still read. Who cares if there’s an industry behind it? If everyone’s too busy building things and shooting things to bother feeding their souls, screw them. Just write it on a notepad and give it to me. I’ll read it.’
‘One book for just one person,’ Nora says, looking at me. ‘Could that ever be worth it?’
Julie answers for me. ‘At least his thoughts would get out of his head, right? At least someone would get to see them. I think it’d be beautiful. It’d be like owning a little piece of his brain.’

Quotes from ‘The 5th Wave’

But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way.

I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing.

Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity.

And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

*

She reaches up with bloody hands and pulls the rifle from my grip. I feel myself falling into a completely different kind of wonderland, where up is down and true is false and the enemy has two faces, my face and his, the one who saved me from drowning, who took my heart and made it a battlefield.

She gathers her hands into mine and pronounces me dead:

“Ben, we’re the 5th Wave.”

*
Cassie told him the hospital was broken, just like the TV and the lights and the cars  everything else.
“Everything’s broken?” he asked Cassie. “Everything?”
“No, not everything, Sams,” she answered. “Not this.”
She took his hand and put it against his own chest, and his pounding heart pushed fiercely against his open palm.
“Unbroken,” she said.

“Of What Remains” extract #1

The inside is even worse.

The signs of a struggle are everywhere – smashed vases, ripped furniture, torn curtains. Shards of glass lie like ice over the soiled carpets and a foul odour of mould and rotting food fills the house.

Alex is searching through the rubble almost robotically, without emotion, the only clue to her rising panic the wild look in her eyes.

I hang back, gazing at the debris. My eyes are on Alex as she continues to rifle through the heaps in desperation. I can’t help but feel sorry for her, despite knowing that she would rip me apart if she ever felt my pity. I can feel her tension building like storm clouds.

Turning away, I clamber over an overturned desk into a study. The window is a gaping, jagged hole and a bitterly cold wind blows through the room, making me shiver. I shine my torch around the room, searching for survivors, when the beam of light falls across and armchair and I freeze.

“Alex,” I call, softly.

She hurries over, frantic. “Have you found someone? Who is it?” She snaps her head back and forth.

I wordlessly shine my torch on to the armchair. Beside me I hear Alex gasp, the air roughly sucked in between her teeth.

Scarlet red – burgundy red – crimson red, soaked deep into the fabric. A chair dripping with blood. Someone had sat there, on that seat, someone that was bleeding profusely. Enough to turn a light green armchair the colour of old rust. I can smell it now, and I feel slightly sick.

Alex let out a strangled sound.

“No.” She stepped forward. “No, they’re fine.” She took a deep breath. “They’re not here, but they’re fine, they escaped.”

“Alex.” I spoke quietly

“No bodies means no deaths, they’re just in hiding, they’re fine.” She continued as though she hadn’t heard me, her words beginning to blur into one panicked rush. “I’ve just got to find out where they are, so we can meet up. It’s all good.”

“Alex!” I said, more forcefully.

“If the gangs had taken them, they would have left their sign on the wall, and they haven’t, so they’re safe.”

“Alex!” I screamed her name. She turned, her babbling cut short, shocked by the volume of my voice.

“Even if the gangs don’t have them yet, this is bad,” I pleaded. “Look at this. Look at that blood. This is too much for us, and we can’t go after the gangs alone. See reason, Alex!”

There was a moment of silence. Then the storm clouds broke. Fury twisted Alex’s face and she stepped towards me, threateningly.

“I’m not going to give up on them! We came all this way to find them, and we’re  going to keep looking, you hear me? They’re my family!”

“If you get killed too, that’ll prove nothing!” I shot back.

“If they’re dead, then I don’t want to live!”

My eyes widened. Her anger fell away as quickly as it came, leaving an expression of absolute exhaustion. Her voice was broken, soft, and she spoke to the floor.

“I’ve… I’ve lost enough. I can’t – not anyone else. They’re all I have left. Please.” She looked up, and the loneliness in her eyes making her look like a child. “Help me find them.”

She has always been strong, the survivor, the girl that lost everything but stood tall. I envied her strength, her tenacious attitude. But who is she really? An orphan, traveling two hundred miles on foot in search of any surviving members of her family, completely alone in a world at war with itself.

Alone – accept from me. I looked at her and smiled, hesitantly.

“I’ll help you find them.”