I made a mistake in my last post. I thought that Harvester of Sorrow was the last short story I wrote and the last contest entry. I actually wrote a story back in August as well, for a competition where phobias was the main theme, taken from a long list of them. As you can tell from the title, I chose necrophobia as the theme and rushed out a story just before the deadline. I thought that I had an original idea in the story, but I was beaten to it and apparently more than once. Ah well…
Fear saved my life, but overcoming it kept me alive for longer. When the outbreak was announced I was prepared. I don’t live in a major city, so I did not become overwhelmed by hoards of panicking civilians or swarms of the infected; I had time to get ready, when I wasn’t panicking. I’ve always kept to myself and this extended into the way I kept my home; I had my own water storage facilities, my own power supply, food stores, anything you could think of which would allow a person to live for several months whilst cut off from any form of civilisation. Civilisation was gone. The streets belonged to the dead and to those who would take advantage of any survivors.
I spent the first few days barely moving. I found a small hiding place and waited for it all to pass me by, listening to the radio in order to find out what was going on. There are many rumours of where it started and how it got into the country, but those details are trivial – survival is the focus. What I do know is that it was not caused by voodoo, or a virus, as most films would have you believe, but by a parasitic fungus which acts fast. The parasite kills the host, then uses their bodies to spread and reproduce. They don’t move quickly, but the infection spreads with ease. It was first thought that you would need to be bitten or scratched in order to be infected, but sometimes it is enough for their fluids to end up on your skin or clothing, which can even happen with a simple touch. The early days saw a lot of people taking to the streets with weapons, mostly cricket bats and golf clubs, but this only helped the infection spread quicker. Some of them explode in the heat, releasing spores, or so I figured. Most sources of water were contaminated, infecting people who tried to ride out the epidemic in the safety of their homes.
I’d prepared for this event for years, but not due to some incredible foresight. It was my worst nightmare and I had to make sure I could survive, for I knew I would panic when the time came. I just hid. I spent most of the time frozen, even wetting myself rather than venture out of my hiding place. But eventually survival instincts took over and I at least had to make use of my stores; otherwise I would starve to death, making all my preparation pointless. I had a plan – load up a car full of supplies and get to the coast where I could steal a boat and get to an oil rig. I figured that the infection might not have spread there. Between my moderately secure home and the coast would be bands of survivors, mostly criminals busy looting, so I had to be quick. But worst of all were the dead and the undead.
I spent the night sorting out supplies for the trip, as I didn’t dare travel whilst it was dark. At first light I went looking for a car and finally saw what I feared. It wasn’t moving, it was just lying there. I froze. I tasted vomit in my mouth and could hear my heart pounding. I couldn’t move except for the violent trembling of my hands, over which I had no control. There was the object of my phobia, a dead body. I’d feared them for as long as I could remember and could not explain why. Fearing corpses was never really a problem, not until they started doing things which the dead should never do. They were walking, attacking, spreading. I hadn’t seen any of the animated corpses, as I’d stayed well hidden. The unmoving body had me transfixed, until I heard a deep moan and some shuffling behind me. Instinct kicked in and I ran towards the nearest car, which fortunately had a door wide open. I tripped over my own feet, smashing my head on the pavement, and the zombies were closing in. I saw my blood trickling onto the path, as the inanimate corpse opened its eyes and started crawling towards me, emitting the most awful guttural noises as it scrambled desperately.
I forced myself to my feet and ran as fast as I could to the car, slamming the door with only seconds to spare. It was safe in the car, or at least would be for a short amount of time. It gave me a chance to catch my breath and work out how to hot-wire the vehicle. As soon as I got the engine running I only had one thing on my mind – it was time to put my fears behind me. I took great pleasure running them down, making sure I reversed over their heads with a sickening crunch, splattering brains everywhere. If I let my fears overcome me again, I would not make it to the coast. I needed to get there. I needed to be brave.