BITTEN • by David R. Gilbert

I look down at the bite on my arm. I haven’t got long. They said on the news it can take a couple of hours or more, but no one knows for sure. I don’t think anyone knows anything for sure anymore.

It must be over two hours by now. I don’t know; it’s all a blur. I remember coming out of work and I remember seeing the guy as he lunged at me. I didn’t have time to think before he took a chunk out of my arm. Then I remember the hospital, and the carnage there. Then… then… man, that must have been two hours ago.

I hear her knocking but I can’t let her in. How can I?

“Please open up, Daniel,” she pleads from the doorstep. “Let me help you.”

“I can’t do that, Karen,” I reply, “just go.”

She’s quiet for a moment before she speaks again, this time her voice is quivering. She’s starting to cry. “Please.”

“Walk away,” I say, “you need to keep away from me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she interjects.

I’m pacing up and down the room. The pain in my arm has intensified. My fingers are going numb.

“Daniel,” she says as I hear her slump to the foot of the door.

It kills me to see her like this, but what choice do I have?

“Go away, Karen,” I say through clenched teeth. I sit down on the couch, my head in my hands. I can hear her crying from behind the door. I close my eyes.

I wake suddenly to a searing pain in my head and an overwhelming feeling of nausea. How long have I been out for? I must have blacked out. Where’s Karen? I feel drained of energy — like the flu but worse. There is a loud bang at the door. I turn to look. Again there is a bang, it echoes round the room and my head pulsates with the thunderous vibrations. Bang, bang. Please stop. The lock flies off and the front door swings open.

“Daniel!” Karen cries as she rushes into the room and joins me on the couch. She holds me tight in her arms. I smell the sweet scent of her perfume. “I’m sorry, baby, I had to go and get help. You weren’t answering me, and I…”

“Be careful, Karen,” a man’s voice comes across from the doorway. I recognise it as my neighbour from across the street, Jack Tallis. He walks into the room and closes the door behind him. The lock’s broken, but he uses the bolt at the top to keep the door shut.

“We need to get him to a hospital,” Karen says, cradling my head in her lap.

I try to protest, but my speech is slurred and the words are indefinable.

“Shush,” Karen whispers, stroking my sweat soaked hair.

“It’s too late for that,” Jack says.

“No,” Karen replies, her voice trembling, “you don’t know that.”

“Come on, Karen, you’ve seen the news. You know what happens when someone gets bit.”

He’s right. I look up at Karen whose eyes are reddened and her face is wet with sweat and tears.

“I’m not leaving him,” Karen snaps.

Jack walks over to us, “Look at me, Karen.” She lowers her head and starts sobbing. “Look at me,” he says and grabs her arm. She looks up at him. “It’s over for him, you know this. We need to think about us.”

She yanks her arm free and attempts to push him away. He grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her up close to him, sending me falling to the floor. Karen yells at him. I lay there and watch as he holds her in front of him. She’s crying uncontrollably. I can feel myself slipping away; I’m not sure how long I can hold out.

“Karen,” Jack says, “we need to go, now!”

“I can’t just leave him here like this, it’s not…”

“Karen.” Jack snaps. “I need you. I love you. And you love me, too. What else is there to think about?”

“Not now, Jack,” she says and looks down at me. I stare at her and feel something stir in the pit of my stomach.

“Yes, now. This is the time to decide. You couldn’t leave him before, but here is our chance.”

“I won’t… I can’t,” she says.

“Yes, you can,” Jack says. He holds her face in his hands. “He’s bit. It’s too late for him.”

I start shaking. A burning sensation rises up through my body and into my skull. I hear banging at the door, like multiple hands pounding the woodwork. Karen screams.

“Quick,” Jack yells, “out the back.”

“Wait,” I manage to say.

Slowly and painfully, I try to get to my feet. The banging on the door is getting louder. The wooden frame begins to crack. Karen moves toward me but Jack intervenes and puts and arm across her chest. Drawing on the energy charged by my burning anger, I grab hold of his arm and lunge at him. He stumbles back with my weight against him and we hit the wall. I bite into his neck and tear away a piece of flesh. He pushes me off and I fall to the floor. He’s holding his open wound, his eyes wide and startled. A spray of claret spews from his neck through the gaps in his fingers. Karen screams. His blood is in my mouth and it tastes sweet. He collapses to the floor. Karen tries to compress the wound on his neck with her hands as he starts convulsing. She’s screaming something at me.

The door bursts open, and the decrepit bodies of the walking dead come staggering in. Karen hugs Jack as they’re swarmed on by the zombies whose hands and teeth tear and gouge at the flesh of the living. I sit and watch as they feast, while my sadness is replaced with an insatiable hunger.

David R. Gilbert says: “I am a writer of fiction in various genres, and an avid reader. I live in Coventry, England, where I spend most of my time being a dad, and the rest of my time being a writer.”

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