Just as in her dream, when Vanessa woke up she was ravenously hungry. It was dark out. Vanessa had no idea how long she’d been asleep because the clock beside her bed was off, and the street lights were out.
She fumbled around on her bedside table looking for her phone to see what time it was, but the battery was dead. Her iPhone battery usually lasted a whole day and it was still plugged into its charger. It didn’t make sense that it was dead. It was before noon when she got back to her apartment, and she had a fuzzy recollection of putting a bandage on her leg. When she took the bandage off, there was no sign of a cut, although she was covered in blood almost from head-to-toe.
Despite her fever and the fact that her everything hurt, all she could think about was food. She walked into the kitchen to look through the pantry. She reached for the door as she’d done a million times before and tore off its hinges. Vanessa stood there for a moment wondering what the hell just happened, still holding the door in her hand. It was only a moment before her stomach reminded her of her mission.
She ate an entire box of strawberry flavored cereal bars. All she could think about was getting her hands on more. Only when she said it in her mind, it came out like “ser-ral bar”, as if she was 3 years old.
After the bars, she ate Honey Nut O’s. All of them. And then she tore through the cans of Ravioli’s, not even bothering to heat them up. She ate her way through her entire pantry. Every single item of food she had, this hunger was insatiable.
She showered, cleaning off the blood and gore, and tossed her entire outfit from the day before into the trash, shoes, socks and all. There wasn’t much to do in her apartment without power. Her laptop was fairly useless, but she did manage to get enough charge into her iPhone to power it up and see that before it died she’d received eighty-seven text messages.
She slowly scrolled through the texts. None of it made sense. Her mother texted her twenty-two times, wondering if she was okay. The panic was evident, the last text she got from her mom said “I love u. Stay sage. Zombies here.” She assumed her mother meant “stay safe,” but what the hell did she mean zombies? She hoped her family was safe.
Vanessa laid her phone on her chest and sat back in her chair to think. It made sense. She wasn’t a fan of horror movies, and hadn’t ever watched a zombie movie, but she knew what a zombie was. They ate people. They were dead, but still walking around. The more she thought about it, the more it fit.
The rest of the text messages were from friends, telling her to come to their house, or to Walmart. One text from her old high school boyfriend Jerome, said to come back to her home town. Jerome was setting up a safe zone at the Home Depot in Atlanta, and said “I’m going to need women.” She remembered why she broke up with him when she left for college five years earlier, he was a pig.
She fell asleep in the chair. This time her dreams were filled with a man shouting= and a little boy. The man’s name was Victor. He was giving orders somewhere in Virginia. Zombies were coming up the front lawn of an old plantation, heading towards a huge white mansion on a hill. Victor was defending the house, desperate to keep the little boy safe.
When Vanessa woke up, she was ravenous again. She’d eaten everything in her apartment the day before. It was daylight, and she realized she was still naked from her shower. “Get your head together, Nessa,” she said out loud.
She slid on a pair of shorts and a tank top. Vanessa had thrown her shoes away so she was stuck with her old sneakers. When she pulled the laces, they shredded in her hands. She ripped the eyes right out of the leather shoes.
“What the hell. They can’t be rotten, they’re not that old,” she said, talking to herself again.
She laced them as best she could, being very gentle with the short shoe-laces and stepped into the hallway. She knocked softly on her neighbor’s door. Her knocks sounded like the police banging on door, loud booms in the quiet hallway.
She could hear her neighbors banging around in their apartment, but they weren’t coming to the door. Vanessa reached up to knock louder. When she did, the door splintered and flew off the hinges into the apartment. She looked at her hand, and it slowly dawned on her that this couldn’t all be coincidence. Her pantry door, her shoe laces, this door. Those things were not weak, she was strong!
She stepped into her neighbor’s apartment, calling out, “Hello? Is anybody in here?” Beside the dining room table, a full ten feet inside the apartment, Mrs. Johnson was laying on the floor. A splinter of the door as big as Vanessa’s hand was protruding from her forehead.
“Oh shit! I killed Mrs. Johnson!” Vanessa screamed. She ran over to the corpse, and knelt down. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s going on!” She broke down and cried, rocking back and forth holding Mrs. Johnson’s head. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” she said over and over.
After several minutes, she looked down at Mrs. Johnson. Her eyes were covered in a yellowish goo. She was covered in blood, and there were bits of meat in her teeth. Vanessa skittered back and got to her feet.
She found Mr. Johnson’s remains in the bedroom. It appeared as though his wife had eaten him; there was very little flesh left on his corpse. Vanessa ran to the bathroom and threw up. The sight was horrific. She ran back to her apartment, locked the door behind her, and spent the afternoon thinking about what was going on.
Vanessa didn’t have any idea what to do. All she knew was that she was hungry, and couldn’t bear the thought of going to the grocery store. If anyone was alive to sell her some food, she’d still have to get through all those zombies to get there. She thought about going to Atlanta. It was a five hour drive, but one she’d made hundreds of times going from school at The University of North Carolina to her parent’s house in Alpharetta. Even with her phone charged by her laptop, there wasn’t any signal, likely the cell towers didn’t have power. Perhaps outside of town there would still be some working towers. She struggled with what to do for the better part of the day. Ultimately, indecision kept her frozen. She worried so much about doing the wrong thing, she didn’t do anything.
Finally, hunger drover her out of her apartment. She tiptoed out her door into the hallway; back to the Johnson’s and raided their unit. Their refrigerator was still cold, so back at her place she started with their refrigerated goods. Over three hours, she ate everything in their refrigerator. Two dozen eggs, a pound of butter, almost an entire gallon of whole milk, two blocks of cheese, half a dozen yogurts. She even ate the pickles.
She slept that night in short bursts. At first, every time she closed her eyes, she saw Mrs. Johnson, laying dead on the floor. Sometime in the middle of the night, her fever spiked one more time. She woke up freezing cold, even though it was almost eighty-five degrees in her apartment. Vanessa stumbled into the bathroom to take some more Advil, and crawled back into bed. Just before daylight, she woke up again, ravenously hungry.
She sat on the couch with a jar of peanut butter and a jar of strawberry jelly, dipping spoon-fulls of each and figuring out what she wanted to do. As she took the last bite of peanut butter, she decided to go to Atlanta. Jerome was a jerk, but he was smart. He would know what to do. She was petrified to leave the safety of her relatively secure apartment, but her food wouldn’t hold out here, and she was already going stir crazy. Vanessa was not someone who did well with long periods of time by herself.
She spent all day gathering supplies for the trip. She went door to door, knocking on each, and then putting her ear to the door. If she heard any sound inside the apartment, she moved on to the next one. At the first empty apartment, she stood outside for several minutes thinking about what she was going to do. Technically, it was breaking and entering, but this was a crisis, she rationalized. When she finally gathered the courage to break down the door, she aimed her foot right at the center. She stepped back, and kicked as hard as she could. Her foot went straight through the door, punching a hole in the steel door.
When she pulled her leg back, she cut a long gouge deep into her calf muscle. Pain shot through her brain, but it was quick. By the time she sat down crying, she realized her leg didn’t hurt. When Vanessa pulled her hands from the cut, she was astounded to see the cut close before her eyes, as if someone pulled a zipper up the length of the trough. By the time she stood, there was just a faint pink line up the back of her leg.
Vanessa stood next to the door in shock. She looked back and forth at a chunk of her leg stuck to a jagged piece of metal and to her calf, fully healed. “What the hell is going on,” she said out loud. The sound of her voice carried down the hall and stirred up the zombies in several apartments. They banged into their doors. Vanessa imagined them clumsily bouncing around inside in an attempt to get to her. The noise motivated her, this time she kicked ‘softly’ right between the knob and the deadbolt. The door swung inward violently, ripping one of the hinges from the jamb and embedding the knob in the wall.
After two floors of searching, she’d been through four different apartments. Each time, she left a list of what she’d taken, and her name and phone number. The last thing Vanessa wanted was for anyone to think she was a thief, so she left a short apology and a promise to pay the owner of the apartment back.
In the third apartment, she found an aluminum bat. She had never fired a gun before. She found a revolver in one apartment, but left it behind; she didn’t even know how to put the bullets in it.
Once again locked safely in her apartment, Vanessa took a cool shower, using the last of the water in her water heater to wash and shave her body. She knew it was going to be a while before she could shave again, and having all the hair removed from her body made her feel clean and fresh. While toweling off, she looked at herself in the mirror. She hadn’t ever been this fit. Her abs stood out under her olive toned skin, and her thigh muscles were defined. She hadn’t ever been fat, but she wasn’t a gym rat either. To test her strength, she dropped her towel on the cool bathroom floor, and laid down on it. In one easy motion, she did a push up. It took no effort.
The next time, she pushed a little harder and rose almost a foot off the ground. One last time, she pushed up slightly harder and launched herself to her feet.
Not satisfied, she decided to try a few other things. One finger push ups were a breeze. She stood up, and found she was able to balance herself on one toe. Then she did several squats on that one toe, all the way down until her butt rested on her heel, and back to standing required no effort at all.
She looked around her apartment for something she could use to see how strong she was. After scouring the apartment for several minutes, she picked up her bathroom scale and held it vertically. She put one hand on the bottom and one hand where her feet normally went, and pressed, as if putting her palms together in prayer. Her breasts rose slightly as the muscles underneath contracted. She saw the dial go around twice before the scale’s housing bent. That was the equivalent of five hundred pounds.
Vanessa tossed the brown and tan towel over the chair in her bedroom and slid in between the cool sheets of her bed. The fever from the night before hadn’t returned, and she didn’t seem as hungry. Thoughts about the day’s events plagued her. Her mind replayed the gouge in her leg over and over. How had she healed so quickly? How had she put her foot all the way through a steel door? How was she so strong?
She fell into a deep sleep and dreamed again of the man named Victor and the old white house. It seemed like he was making plans for defense against something big. Victor was a guy who knew what to do. He seemed to have it all together, which was something Vanessa was desperately in need of. This Victor was fortifying the house, building wooden walls and barricades. When she woke up, she knew it was time to head for Atlanta. Jerome was a complete asshole, but he was the only person she knew that might still be alive. She wished the man she’d been dreaming about was real; she was haunted by thoughts of the army of zombies Victor seemed to be preparing for.
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About the Authors
Kirk Allmond started writing the first bestselling What Zombies Fear novel in 2010 as an online story as part of his website The Zombie Preparedness Initiative. When the idea to write a novel struck him, he took his own “Zombie Apocalypse” plan and turned it into a story. That story has now spawned six novels and two short stories, and is showing no sign of letting up.
When he’s not writing or talking about zombies, the Michigan born writer holds firmly to the southern roots of his family. He grew up in Chicago IL, and Roswell, GA. Kirk has an amazing little boy who was born in 2007, who is the basis for the character Max in his novels. His time growing up in the south with his grandparents taught him the value and skills to live off the land. He is an avid outdoorsman, loves hunting, fishing and backpacking. When he’s not honing his survival skills, Allmond is often found sitting at a role-playing game table, either as the GM of his own Zombie Apocalypse role playing game or as a participant in games run by one of the members of Grown as Gamers, the premier podcast for all things geek and pop culture.
Laura Bretz has been immersing herself in fantasy lands, apocalyptic settings and all things impossible since she was a child. Pretending to survive in a post-apocalypse world set fire to her imagination and teaming up with Kirk Allmond and “What Zombies Fear” finally gave her an outlet to express and bring her characters to life. Graduating with a focus in interior design has given her an excellent eye for detail. Combining her love of painting and attention to detail is what allows Laura to create vivid pictures with words. When she is not obsessing over tenses and punctuation, Laura is usually spending time with her dogs Marty and Teddy, painting, or singing with her local Sweet Adeline’s International chorus in south-central Pennsylvania.