Mark Taylor

I cannot remember a time when it was not like this. Hell just pretty much turned up on the doorstep one day and started knocking. The day it happened feels like it was just yesterday:
I awoke as normal and noticed it was darker outside than usual... I assumed it was raining, snowing even, being a March morning. I pulled back the curtains to find the world had changed...
As I looked out of the window, the curtains still gripped in my hands, my arms spread wide, my mouth dropped slowly open. The sky was a deep hue of orange, like an early morning sunrise, but deeper - darker somehow.
And the streets were full of people.
At first I didn't know what was going on, I mean there were people running to and fro, screaming, panic even. I supposed somewhere in my mind I thought the most likely answer was that someone, somewhere had pushed the big red button. Dropped the bomb.
But I found out later that wasn't it.
I realized I was still gripping the curtains and I had to make a conscientious effort to let them go. I was gripped with fear, I guess. I'd heard about fall out, and radiation... it didn't mean a lot to me, but I knew it was bad. Then I remembered that Daisy - my daughter - was in the next room. In retrospect I'll never forget nor forgive myself that she wasn't my first thought, but she doesn't often stay here. Her Mother thinks - thought - I was a bad influence.
I went through and pushed the door open. I don't know what I was expecting to see, but she was asleep, her arm draped over her face and she was making the lightest of snores. It made me smile slightly, before my thoughts returned to outside. Closing the door quietly, I returned to my bedroom and dressed.
I didn't live in a bad neighborhood, but I lived alone, in a small two up two down house, so I always tried to think of protection. I pulled the aluminum baseball bat out from under the bed, and went downstairs. I looked through the small window next to the front door. Jim - my next door neighbor - was standing on the grass between our two houses staring blankly into the crowd. He was wearing his pajamas and a robe.  I unlocked the door and went out, leaning the bat up against the inside jamb of the door. The law didn't like weapons in public.
I walked over to him and rested my hand on his shoulder, more to get his attention than anything else, and he jumped. He looked at me, wide-eyed. Then he looked through me. He just stared out into the distance. "Jim," I asked, "what's happened?"
He shook his head very slowly from side to side, his mouth slightly open, but no words came out. Then he looked over to his front door - it like mine, left open - and he pointed.
I didn't know why I felt the need to look.
I walked over to his door and peered through into the darkness. The curtains were all closed and the lights were off.
At first I didn't notice anything. Then, over the din of panic outside, from within the house I heard a noise. It sounded like dripping. You know the sound... plopping. I frowned and walked in. Jim's house was the exact mirror of my own in layout, so I knew where everything was. It sounded like the plopping was in the kitchen.
I pushed the door open and looked into the darkness.
An abyss... really.
I later found out it was Jim's wife, Shana. I didn't know how to explain it really, but she was smeared over everything. I'd heard there's what, seven pints of blood in a human body? Well, if that was true, all seven pints had been poured out and washed over every surface. The room dripped in red. There were bits of flesh stuck to the surfaces, the ceiling even. It was like a meat shed. Something out of a twisted mind. As my eyes focused I could see finger nails and teeth lying in the quagmire of butchery, along with splinters of bone.
I backed away, slowly at first, and then as the realization sunk in, quicker. I turned as I reached the front door and came face to face with Jim. He just stared at me. I pushed him away - out of my way - and tore back into my own house, and slammed and locked the front door behind me and grasped the bat.
I didn't understand.
I stood at Daisy's bedroom window, the bat in my hands resting on my shoulder, while she continued to sleep as civilization fell. I couldn't make out what the people wanted... what they ran from... but they scurried like ants in the red sunlight.
I watched Jim stand eternally in his garden, his mind broken perhaps by the death of wife.
It was as I stood there that I first saw one.
Jim stood in his front yard, vacant, and I saw old lady Doris from a couple of doors down - she was leaving by the looks of it, packed her bags and everything - and then there were all the other people. People screamed, a couple waved guns about. It had all turned to shit. The law was nowhere to be seen. By now I would have expected the army, at least. Then it leaped into view.
To this day, I can't tell you what it looked like.
You know when your shadow is cast on uneven ground? Mix that up with the static off an old TV. Something like that. They don't look real.
And you sure as shit couldn't see them at night.
I thought it was a shadow at first, paid it no attention, but the others - some I guess had seen one earlier this morning - rallied around. They formed a sort of circle around it. They pointed weapons at it. And it just sort of hunched there. I couldn't tell what it was thinking.
Didn't have no face, see?
Then Jim screamed. He screamed at it. His scream came all the way up from his belly and he charged at it. I didn't know if it was the one that got Shana - didn't know if Jim knew - but he wanted revenge... of that, I could be sure.
It pounced at him as he did.
And it passed right into him too. Like a shadow.
Jim stopped, and stood there, wavering slightly. Then he grabbed at his stomach. This thing was inside him. The noise that came from him was ungodly.
I'd never seen a man explode before.
Jim showered the crowd with bits. It even reached my lawn, the red and the gunk, splattered all over my grass. Left standing there was the thing.
And the people scattered.
That's when Daisy tugged on my arm. She asked what was going on. I told her we had to leave.
We packed a few things  in a backpack and hit the street. I didn't know where I was taking her, but I knew we had to go. The thought crossed my mind to take her to her grandmother's, but as we packed I’d listened to the radio. It was everywhere.
I guess I decided 'away' was important and 'where' wasn't.
I took her hand and we ran.
It only took me a few seconds to realize everyone was running in one direction. I didn't think about it at the time, and I just followed the pack... like a sheep. I didn't think that they were running from something. But when I looked back, there were three of them chasing us down like fox hunters. They were jumping from person to person, picking off the slowest.  My neighbors were dying in explosions of red plume, splattered across the street.
And us... the people I was running with... the human race... was being thinned out.
The panic was overwhelming. People screamed and shouted. Me? I just held onto to Daisy and kept running.
She stumbled, but didn't lose her footing, and I stopped to scoop her up into my arms - to carry her.
The crowd pushed me off my feet...
... and I was trampled.
I lost consciousness, I guess.
When I came to, the streets were painted red. I was covered in blood, and bits. And there were no things to be seen and no people.
That was six months ago now.
I've found a few other people on my travels. I learned to avoid the things by day, and stay silent at night.
And one day I'll find Daisy.