In her haste, Tess missed her turn home. She turned right on the next street. Hair on her entire body bristled by what she just saw. They were people, and yet they weren't. Were they sick? Questions and grotesque images swirled in her mind as she trekked on. What the heck happened here?
Tess approached an older building built mostly out of limestone and granite.
High Peaks Community Church. It had the typical look of any church with a white steeple. Shouldn't all churches have one? Mom and Dad once were very involved in this church when she was a young girl. Dad a deacon, and Mom a Sunday school teacher; but they dropped out of membership due to being "burned out." Whatever that meant, Tess shrugged as she trudged onwards. She quickly glanced at the structure, and slowed her pace.
Someone stood in one of the long windows. Tess stopped and looked again. It was a man. Could it be the church's minister? Perhaps he could provide her with answers she so desperately needed.
Letting out a shaky breath, she went up the cemented steps, and turned the large door latch. It opened.
She peered in. Everything looked clear so she entered. She found the man before the sanctuary as he sat in the front pew. She cautiously approached him.
When she was only a mere foot away, it was evident that he was sick from something. His breathing was raspy and irregular. His dark hair was wild and unkempt; his body convulsed with spasms. He kept trying to sit straight, but his back would hunch back over. He glanced at her, his dark eyes half-closed.
"You -- you should not be here, child," he said.
Tess remained steadfast. "I need answers. What's going on around here? Where did everyone go?"
He held an incredulous expression as he stared up at her. "Y-you do not know?"
Tess shook her head. "No. I've been sick with the flu."
"Flu?" He fought against another violent shudder. "May be what saved you ... but not for long."
"I don't understand."
"The Russians ... Chinese ... they are responsible for this," he wheezed.
Tess remembered hearing the breaking news report on the TV several nights ago. Fleets of ships just offshore of Alaska. Okay, that part made sense. Somewhat.
"They -- they must have used some kind of an EMP weapon to knock out our power grids," he continued. "Then launched a biological agent upon us ... causing us to either turn on each other or die horribly!"
He held out his arms. The skin was peeling, revealing mucus-muscle mass underneath. The sight nearly caused her stomach to heave as she turned her face away from the grotesque sight. "Once they know we're all dead ..." He took a painful breath. "They will launch an invasion by land!"
"How do you know all of this?"
"I know!" He said. Suddenly he slid to the floor in convulsions. White saliva foamed at his mouth as he ground his teeth together. Tess moved towards him.
"G-get away from me!" he said.
"I want to help," she replied.
The man began to cough, which turned into hysterical laughter, and then he began to sob. "It's too late." He paused as he struggled to sit up. "My wife ... she was also sick ... like this." He leaned his torso against the steps of the stage. "I tried to help ... but then she attacked me ... now, I'm sick."
His breathing grew more shallow as he closed his eyes.
"I'm going for help." Tess replied and turned to leave. "Help from whom? The military already came through here days ago." His voice grew more hoarse. "A-at first they took the sick to the hospital. Nothing they did helped. The sick ended up infecting the uninfected. Military then c-closed the hospital, and began k-killing all the sick." He took a short pause to catch his breath. "Before they finished, they l-left." He turned his dark eyes up to her. "There is no help."
All the flags and x-markings now made sense to her, and those people, er, things in the grocery store.
Suddenly, a cold feeling filled her innermost being. It was them. The military killed her parents. Tess wanted to slide to the floor, and curl up into a ball and weep. Instead, she shook her head as if to try and keep the tears at bay.
"What should I do?" she asked.
"Do?" The man grunted. "You can do nothing but run. Get away from here as far as you c-can."
"And go where? If the Russians and Chinese are going to attack us, where would I go to be safe?" Tess placed a hand on her chest as if to try and calm her racing heart.
"Mountains," he wheezed. "Hide in the mountains."
Suddenly, his body jerked up and then to the side as he convulsed violently. And as quickly as it began, he grew still.
"Mister?" Tess inched closer and studied his chest. It no longer moved.
She was alone.
All of a sudden, the door from the back shuddered as if something slammed against it. Tess jumped. She stared at the wooden structure. That something behind the door was growling as it clawed and pushed against it. She quietly stepped back and towards the front entry-way while keeping her eyes fixed on the back door.
In the next instant, the door splintered as a human-like form smashed through. What appeared to be a middle-aged woman now scampered into the sanctuary on all fours, her appearance more animal-like than human. Her back hunched as her dark black eyes glared over at Tess, who discovered her feet frozen in place.
Oh, no ...
The creature had started towards Tess when it halted by the dead man's body. It bent down and sniffed at his head, and down to his neck. Its mouth opened and it sunk its teeth into him with a sickening sound as it tore at the flesh. The sight of all the blood forced Tess to tear her feet from the floor. She rushed to the front door, and slid through and out. She frantically glanced around, and ran.
She had no idea where she was going. All she knew was that she had to get away from there.
Finally, inside her own house, Tess slammed and locked the door. She dropped the backpack, and slid down to the floor. Shadows danced throughout the house with the sun low in the sky.
Tess buried her face in her hands.