I was at the fair when it happened, next to the old church. From what I can tell it started with a kid who looked sick. People started to gather around to help him and that’s when he turned. He didn’t do much damage by himself. Just a few scrapes, but that’s all it took. Then people started gathering around these new victims. This time it was people I knew: some of my old teachers, local faces. Everyone was so curious. They just wanted to help. Its human nature, I suppose. The fairgrounds were calm at first. There was a concern in the air; you could tell something had happened but nothing out of the ordinary. We all thought someone had just fainted. That’s easy to do in this southern heat. Then it got violent quick. All the new victims turned…almost at once. Everyone was confused. It caught us off guard. It was unexpected. Most people ran, but there were still a few who tried to help. A few good-hearted idiots. I started heading to the car. But I didn’t have the keys. Dad did. Where was he? I had lost him. People were running all around me, in every direction. Chaos. I needed to call mom too, she was back at the house, but I couldn’t stop to do that now. I had to get out first. I spotted a four-wheeler behind one of the stands. I made a dash for it. Someone got there before me. It was the pastor’s son, Jared. I had grown up with him. I hopped on the back. We headed towards the exit. There was a crowd of them ahead of us standing over someone. He was slowing down…why was he slowing down?
“That’s my dad…” he said.
“You can’t help him. Keep going!”
As we rolled to a stop, two of them came at us. I shook one off of me. Jared was running toward his father. I watched both he and his father get taken down. More of them had noticed me by this point. The four-wheeler was surrounded by them. I had no choice, I started running.
I traveled alone for a few months. But a few weeks ago I picked up this kid. He was about 12. I didn’t know his name. I don’t even know if he knew his name…he didn’t talk. I’m sure we had pretty similar stories though. He probably lost everyone in his group. He was probably orphaned, friendless. It’s lonely out here. You meet someone, they get sick, and you leave them. You don’t want to be around when they turn. You can’t stop for the sick, in this world.
We stuck to the woods. It was less traffic and more cover. I figured there was a better survival rate out here. I was hoping for some sort of life, though. I wanted to find people, maybe a town that hadn’t been affected. That was my hope.
One afternoon while we were traveling, I noticed that his footsteps weren’t as frequent as mine. The kid was falling behind. I looked back and he was holding his stomach. “…are you ok?” No response. We kept walking. I was getting hungry so we stopped to eat and rest for a while. He was still acting weird. That worried me and then out of the corner of my eye I saw him drop to the ground, clenching his stomach…
There was that lonely feeling again. I started running. Through the woods, trees passing by me on both sides, the ground crunching with every step. I don’t really even know why I was trying to stay alive anymore. The only thing I had was a single thought every morning: “I’m not running from anything, I’m running towards everything…I hope.”