It all started with the frogs.
Marcie hadn’t been looking forward to this particular lesson. Not because they were going to dissect said frogs, but because she had a feeling that Connor was going to do something unpleasant.
She was right. Just after the teacher had distributed the frogs, pinned to their boards, Connor began to make loud comments to the class.
“A post mortem. We all get to experience that, when we die. Check out the way your intestines spill out. They stink, too.” There was a smile in his voice. Marcie made the mistake of looking around and Connor sneered at her, his nose ring flashing in the fluorescent light, his pale skin highlighting the deep blue-black of his dyed Mohawk. Mr Gothic, indeed.
“Be quiet, Connor,” said the teacher, and went on to instruct them on the first incision.
The frogs were cold from the fridge and their skin divided quite easily, but that was when things began to go wrong.
The prone frogs began to wriggle and their intestines did, indeed, spill out of their moving abdomens. The students that had cut too deeply could see the tiny reptile heart was still beating. Many cried out and stepped back.
“Imagine if this was you,” Connor said loudly. He must have swapped the dead frogs for live ones‑sick little man.
“Oh, that’s disgusting,” said one girl.
And then Carla ‘the fainter’ fainted, hitting her head on the leg of the next bench as she fell.
The teacher put her into the recovery position and then sent one of the boys to the office to get the nurse. Carla fainted all the time, so they weren’t too worried except for the knock to the head she’d received. She really shouldn’t have been in this class, but the teacher had insisted.
“The frogs! How can we let the poor things suffer like this?” cried another one of the girls, once the ruckus regarding Carla has passed. The frogs’ bodies were still struggling away.
Before the teacher could respond, Connor said, “All you need to do is use the scalpel and stab them through the heart. You can see the heart already, right?”
“No way!” replied the girl and several others voiced their agreement. They wouldn’t do it.
“You’re pathetic! Death is part of life,” Conner proclaimed. “You eat animals that have to be killed, don’t you? But you don’t want to do it yourself? Coward. Hypocrite.”
“Shut up, Connor,” Greg muttered.
This really wound Connor up and he stalked forward in his skull-covered black t-shirt, torn black jeans and heavy boots, “So, do it yourself, Mr Jock. Or are you a pussy, too?”
Oh, man, Greg’s going to over-react as usual!
Marcie started to move towards Greg, not wanting her boyfriend’s temper to get him in trouble again.
As she’d anticipated, Greg’s voice rose immediately and he stood up, his muscled body a contrast to Connor’s skinny form, “You’re such a loser,” Greg said, “Why do you always cause this kind of trouble? What’s wrong with you? Freak.”
Connor was really in his face now, “’Cause I live in the real world, you brainless dork-“
Marcie pushed in between them, “No, Connor.” She faced him, “It’s because you’re grieving your parents’ death,” she said, calmly looking him in the eye.
This shocked him into silence—no one had ever said this out loud. So she went on, “What happened to them was horrible and I’m so sorry. But now you’re pushing people away so you won’t care so much—so you won’t have to hurt so much again. That kind of pain must be unbearable.”
All he could do was stare at her, his mouth open, his face even paler than usual.
“But, Connor, it doesn’t work that way. You need people and you’re only going to make yourself lonely. That’s just another form of pain. Believe me, I know what that’s like. Don’t do that to yourself. Please.”
She then turned to Greg and smiled up at him, pleased that she’d defused him as well as Connor. He looked at her with a bemused smile and then he bent and kissed her.
By the time she turned back, Connor had retreated to the back of the class again and the teacher was circling the room, dispatching the poor frogs.
So much for that lesson.
But it didn’t finish there. Just two days later Marcie found a note left in her bag:
Cold, lonely heart, beating for one
Pushing away warmth and care
Anger and grief of the soul that’s undone
His face caused derision and fear
Till the Lover held up his reflection to him
And he saw blackened heart made unclean
Whom angels would spurn, she gave truth from within
His desolation now clearly seen
His wounded heart, now that it beats for two
Will no longer lash out like a knave
The brilliant beauty, Eden’s face, filled with truth, he’ll
Keep safe till he’s placed in the grave.
I swear I’ll keep you safe till in my grave.
Marcie sat at her desk stunned as the chemistry teacher droned on.
It was beautiful poetry. She’d always known Connor was clever with words. That wasn’t the problem.
Oh, my goodness! What am I gonna do?
She hid the note in her pencil case. She’d better make sure Greg didn’t see it—he’d go ballistic.
Marcie pretended to listen as she pondered her dilemma. By the end of the period she’d finally decided: she’d do nothing.
It was only when she got home and looked again at the note that she saw there was something else written on the back:
I’m sorry to have to tell you, but Greg is not faithful to you.
Marcie felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.
It couldn’t be true could it? Marcie couldn’t sleep that night and ignored the usual late-night texts from Greg.
The next morning, her mother was sick and stayed home from work. Marcie took the car and drove herself to school.
She ignored both Greg and Connor in the first period biology class—the truth of either claim was too much to deal with right now. She was going to talk to Greg over lunch.
It was during third period’s physics class that it happened.
The noise from the neighbouring room got over-the-top, with the occasional thump on the wall, so their teacher went to investigate.
Soon after she left, there was an almighty crash out in the hallway, which made everyone jump and look up. Then there was a thud on the door and it swung inwards a little and stayed there.
Little Amy, the Chinese geek in the front row, got up and went to investigate.
After a moment of speechlessness, she began to scream hysterically, but was cut off when a form flung itself through the door and on top of her.
Once it had torn a strip out of her face with its teeth, it looked up at the horrified class.
It was the headmaster. His skin was discoloured, his eyes milky-white over the faint blue circles of his irises. His limbs bent in all sorts of inhuman directions and his jaw was covered in blood.
Amy’s body began to twitch as the headmaster eyed the nearest student like he was looking at his next meal. Which he was.
The next few minutes were utter bedlam. Every student turned this way and that, looking for a way out. Marcie saw Amy’s body fling itself upright and become the second distorted pursuer.
The only ways out were the class door, the fire exit at the back and the windows. But they were on the second floor. The attackers, increasing in number with every bite, slowly ate through the clump of students endeavouring to push themselves through the fire exit at the same time.
By some miracle Marcie stayed out of view until there was nothing between her and the main room door. Then she made her move.
Sprinting for it, despite slipping in the blood on the floor, she managed to get out into the hall and quite a long way down it before she attracted too much attention from the multitude of what could only be termed zombies crashing about out there. She turned into the nearest classroom, bolted the door behind her and then leant against it as she searched the room she’d entered.
Oh, thank God!
There was Greg, his back to her, his strong shoulders broadening in a deep breath before he looked to see her…with his milky-white eyes and blood-soaked jaw.
Marcie’s heart dropped.
She checked the door. The window showed several zombies pressed up against it. Greg was between her and both the fire exit and the windows.
No way out.
Holding out her hands, she pleaded with him, “Greg, please don’t!” as he headed towards her.
She was suddenly jerked upwards by her clothing and right out of Greg’s way towards the ceiling. He was left pawing the empty air beneath her.
Drawn up through the missing tile, she was placed gently on a nearby metal girder. She clung to it with all her might and turned to see who her saviour was.
Skin even paler than usual, his blue-black hair almost disappearing in the darkness of the small cavity they hid in, Connor looked back at her…with his eyes milky-white over the nearly invisible green discs of his irises. There was a bite mark on his discoloured arm.
Marcie stopped breathing, her body going cold in fear.
But Connor did not leap over and attack her. He hadn’t bitten her—he’d lifted her out of the way.
He remained where he was and stared at her before lifting his twisted hand and pointing along the girder she sat on.
Marcie blinked. Connor grunted and pointed again.
Not believing what was happening, Marcie looked and then checked back to make sure he wasn’t just tricking her. The girder led through the ceiling to the other parts of the building.
He pointed again and his grunt conveyed more urgency.
Marcie began to crawl along the girder and Connor followed her. In this way, they made it about halfway along the length of the building.
Down below Marcie could hear the occasional scream of fear, but mostly there were grunts and cries of feeding, running or fighting. She was glad she couldn’t see what was going on.
Neither could they see her. She crawled as quietly as possible in the dusty, dim light that bled through from the rooms underneath them.
At one point, she felt a tap on her shoe. She turned to look at Connor. He was lifting one of the tiles out of the way. First to look, then he put it to one side and pointed down as he looked at her.
He wanted her to go down. Okay.
Marcie checked the room. It was empty. There was a teacher’s desk immediately below them, so it wasn’t far to jump, once she’d lowered herself down as far as she could. She didn’t want to attract attention with any noise.
Stepping carefully down onto the neighbouring chair, she held the edge of the desk and placed her other foot on the floor.
There was an almighty bang that frightened her out of her wits. Replaying it in her head, she realised it was a gunshot.
She watched Connor nimbly climb down and stand in front of her for a moment. He looked awful.
“I’m so sorry, Connor,” she whispered.
His head leaned to one side as he gazed at her with those horrific eyes.
His head jerked as he held up his hands and regarded them for a moment. The nails were jagged and uneven, sharp and pointed in places.
They were in the art room. Connor turned and made his way, on those impossible limbs, to the guillotine.
Lifting the blade with one hand, he put the other under it and pushed it down, severing the fingernails entirely before Marcie could stop him. He then repeated this with his other hand and the two thumbs.
Surprisingly, he didn’t bleed.
Why did he do that?
The sound of gunfire increased in frequency. Perhaps someone outside was starting to fight back.
Connor came back to Marcie and, grabbing her arm, pulled her towards the window. He opened and climbed through it. Leaning back into the room, he picked her up and, clinging inhumanly to the pipes and struts, lowered her safely to the ground.
There were spots all over her clothes now, where his fingers had touched her—but none on her skin.
They moved to the corner and peered around it.
There was a bank of army vehicles halfway up the school’s driveway. Behind these were soldiers firing at anything that came out of the buildings. Zombie bodies lay randomly just outside the main auditorium doors. Guns killed them, it seemed.
Connor backed Marcie up and took her over to the neighbouring building. Perhaps he was trying to find another way out.
But just as they were approaching the far corner of the woodwork building, a pair of soldiers appeared.
Three things happened at once: their guns swung around to point and fire; Marcie screamed, “Don’t shoot!” and Connor stepped directly in front of Marcie.
Only one soldier let off a round, but it hit Connor in the chest. He dropped where he stood.
They had to pull her away from Connor’s body. She didn’t want to leave him.
It seemed the epidemic had hit the city suddenly and started quite close to her school. Her mother was lucky to have been sick and away from work, where the loss of life was 100%. Marcie and she were reunited later that day.
With so many deaths to deal with, there were no less than three graveside ceremonies happening nearby when Connor was buried. Marcie went along to join Connor’s aunt with the priest and the gravediggers there to lower him in.
Marcie read Connor his poem and thanked him. His aunt was beside herself with grief, poor woman.
They dedicated him to the earth and were about to pull out the coffin’s supports when there was a loud cry at the closest of the other funerals, and then a scream of terror.
One of the mourners had succumbed to the infection and the rest were fleeing for their lives. The first zombie ran down one man then another as the party at Connor’s graveside stood frozen in horror.
It was only when he turned his milky-white eyes on them that they realised their own peril.
Hoping he would chase the others, Marcie hid behind Connor’s coffin and waited.
She heard rapid footfall in all directions. She couldn’t tell which one was the zombie.
Slam! The zombie landed on Connor’s coffin lid and peered hungrily at her. She was to be his next victim.
But his body went flying backwards as the coffin lid exploded off the coffin. Connor’s arms and legs, in strength unknown in life, pushed him a dozen metres away.
Connor’s hand, even more discoloured now, clamped down on the ragged edge of the coffin as he sat up and looked at Marcie with his milky-white eyes.
I swear I’ll keep you safe till in my grave.
[Sorry it’s been so long since my last post—I’ve been writing a new novel with NaNoWriMo (see nanowrimo.org) It’s going pretty well]
[Thank you for reading my work! If you like this, there are more when you click on my name at the top. Please remember you can follow me and/or enter your email address in the space for it in the menu (the lines at the top right of the screen) then you will get all my posts in your inbox. I appreciate feedback, too, so if you do like this—or have helpful suggestions—please take a moment and leave a comment below.]