• Chapter 1: Bitten

    The crowd swarmed. Everyone was centralized on two girls. Cuts and slashes lined their arms. Their most notable feature was their transparent-blue, glowing eyes. Chains around their neck were attached to metal poles, held by armed guards. A guard was stationed on each of the girls and another two held guns pointed directly at them. They were held at bay, just barely out of reach of the crowd. The crowd cheered and screamed as the monstrous girls leapt and lurched at them.
    "Move out," one of the guards held a walkie-talkie radio and motioned for them to move. The guards forced the vicious females to move past the street. Guns drawn, they moved out of my vision.
    "That was a great zombie show," Randy said. He turned around to inspect another guy in a zombie costume. I glanced around at the many people in costumes around me.
    "Hey Randy, let's get out of the crowd," I called to my friend. Comic-Con was an interesting sight, but it had left me exhausted. I had been running around all day. I had seen hundreds of artists and an almost infinite amount of people in costumes. I recognized many of them, but I also had no clue about many others. Overall I had enjoyed my day.
    "Okay, we can go sit in the café," Randy said motioning towards the building directly behind us. We went in the opposite direction of the undead femme-fatales. Randy opened the door and held it open for me. I entered and looked around the room.
    "Huh, everyone must be following the show. Not a single person here," I said with a slight chuckle. We sat down at a small table.
    "Well it is a pretty awesome show," Randy smiled. His brown hair fell just short of his eyes. He wore a grey tank-top beneath a white unbuttoned shirt.
    "The make-up on those girls is really well done," I said.
    "Definitely professionally done," Randy said, holding up a business card. "Apparently they're selling some of their products down-stairs."
    "Want to check it out?" I asked. As I finished my question, Randy was cut-off by a series of screams. By now, people were flooding in from outside. Randy stood up from his chair. We stared in panic as the entire crowd ran from a danger completely unknown to us. The café quickly filled with people and many began to bar the doors.
    "Sir what's going on?" Randy asked the nearest man. He happened to be one of the first people to run inside.
    "I don't really know exactly. I saw a guy get bitten and some paramedics carted him off," the man said with a worried look on his face.
    "Bitten?" I asked, giving him a look of disbelief.
    "The guy who did it was crazy," the man said with a panicky look. He looked around, shaking with fear.
    "Get away from the doors!" a person near the front, by the doors shouted. I heard pounding on the glass doors. I grabbed Randy's hand and pulled him towards the escalators. I didn't want to find out what was outside pounding on those doors. I wanted to get away from what everyone else was too dumbstruck to run from. As more and more people began running for their lives, I began a full sprint down the moving escalator. The hall seemed so immense around me. The chatter in the room grew louder and people piled in. Word hadn't yet spread about the impending chaos. I was trying to outrun the word of panicked people. I was trying to escape before everyone fought each other for their own escape. We narrowly avoided the inattentive con-goers. I whizzed past a group of people with butterfly headphones, and leapt past a table full of convention pamphlets. A dozen tables filled with information about panels and events scattered my path. Randy ran closely behind me, his hand gripped mine tightly. We both knew something terrible had happened and neither of us planned on finding out what. I was thinking only of myself. I felt like all the other people around me meant nothing. Randy and I were the ones meant to escape. If I yelled, no one would hear me. If I spread the word, it would cause mass confusion and panic. The only logical decision was to run. I hurried around the corner and up the stairs. We found ourselves in a small, closed-off hallway. I let go of his hand and slowed to a walk.
    A security guard stood facing the opposite direction. She held a wireless walkie-talkie system. I crept up as close to her as I could without giving myself away. I listened carefully to what was going on.
    "The people here are lunatics. Biting each other? What are you talking about? I hate being stationed in the halls, nothing happens here," the guard spoke softly. I backed away quickly and grabbed Randy's hand again. I pulled him forward and we walked normally towards her. She heard our footsteps and ended her conversation with a sudden cough into the walkie.
    "Excuse me," I waved courteously at her. Her red curls bobbed on her head as she turned to face us.
    "Yes?" She asked, still slightly shaken by our presence in the hall.
    "I heard a man was attacked," I said, frowning innocently. "Is he alright?"
    "I'm sure he'll be just fine, kid," the guard said. "But I heard that some people went crazy down on the opposite side of the con," she spoke quickly and softly at the same time. Her words were difficult to make out.
    "What do you mean?" Randy butted in. He asked the question casually, but I could sense the urgency in his voice. We both needed to know what was going on.
    "From what I heard, a bunch of people went cannibal on started ripping off people's flesh," she gave a slight chuckle. "I'd stay away from that area. They won't let you in anyways."
    "Will do," I said, walking past her. After we were out of ear-shot, I pulled Randy close to me and said, "Dark humor on that one, I guess that comes with the boring job," I muttered. "Let's get out of here. This con sounds like it's getting dangerous."
    "Agreed, but I have to take the tram home," Randy said with a nervous hint to his speech.
    "I'll walk you there," I volunteered bravely. Randy led me to the nearest door leading outside. This back exit seemed strangely lacking in occupancy. All weekend we had seen groups of costumed kids huddled in corners talking. There was not a single child or even the rare adult.
    "It's stranger that there's no one here," Randy said, narrating my thoughts.
    "Let's get you to the tram so I can get back. I want to get the heck out of here," I said. Randy and I walked side by side to the crosswalk. Cacti lined the gravel beside the sidewalk.
    "Wow, look at those costumes! They're almost as good as the ones we saw in that show," Randy said pointing across the street at a pair of men. Their clothes were torn and they were covered in dripping wounds.
    "Pretty well done. The blood dripping from their arms looks awesome," I said. I loved the concept of zombies; I had been watching horror movies since I was 9. The 'walk' sign flashed in the crosswalk. We crossed and passed the pair. One reached his arm out and snagged a hold of my shoulder. He pulled me back. "Get off me you creep!" I yelled and shoved him back. He staggered back and fell onto the sidewalk. His partner crept forward at us. Randy pulled me away and we ran to the nearest tram stop.
    "Scary," Randy said, out of breath. He inserted a dollar coin into the automated ticket machine and received his ticket.
    "I'm going to head back," I said, checking the time. "5:02," I muttered. "You're gonna be alright without me, right?" I asked.
    "Yeah, I'll be fine," Randy replied. I hugged him and turned to leave. "You be careful too."
    "I will," I said and continued on. I walked slowly towards the convention, trying to regain energy. I check past every corner, trying to avoid everyone in zombie attire. I avoided the creeps for the most part and reached the front entrance. Surrounding the doors was a mass of people dressed as zombies. I heard my ringtone and felt a vibration coming from my phone in my pocket. I reached in and pulled it out. I caught a glance of the entire group of zombies staring directly at me.
    They all lurched towards me and I tried to scream. I was terrified of this mob. The words 'help me' were caught in my throat.
    "Stop!" I yelled. Their movements grew faster. I turned to run, but my foot was caught by a young girl. Her eyes glowed blood red and she clawed at my jeans. She bit at my leg through my pants and I could tell she had broken the skin. I kicked at her and screamed in pain as she continued to sink her teeth into me. I kicked and kicked until her face was blooded and bruised. She dropped her grip on my leg and I ran for my life. I flipped open my still-ringing phone.
    "Hello?" I asked frantically.
    "Nate?" a girl's voice asked.
    "Yes? I said impatiently. I tried to be calm despite my pain.
    "It's Miranda. I've lost Jessica. Where are you?" Miranda asked me, unknowing of the danger I was in. I could hear the noise in the background of the call.
    "I'm being chased by a mob. Get Jessica and stay there. I'll find you both," I called into my phone and hung up quickly. I tossed the phone into my pocket and kept running as swiftly as I could. The mob was close behind, but I was putting some distance between us. I turned down an alley that led to the service entrance into the convention center. I hopped up onto the first bar of the gate and climbed up the rest of the way. I leapt down and caught myself. I landed on my injured ankle and cringed with pain.
    I checked carefully around the enclosed area for anything resembling a zombie. The pain finally hit me full-on. The adrenaline rush had worn off and I could feel the searing in my ankle. I ripped up the bottom of my T-shirt to use as a bandage. I lifted my pant leg up to get a closer look at the bloody wound. A piece of flesh dangled precariously on a strand of still attached skin. I lifted it into its original position on the back of my ankle and tied it up with the rags.
    "That hurts like hell," I groaned in pain. I began to wonder what was going to happen to me. I was bitten by a zombie. Would I change like the rest had? If so, when would I turn? Sick thoughts filled my head. Would I see what I did as a zombie? Would I enjoy being undead? Was the taste of flesh an acquired taste?