Glancing at the time on my phone, I jump from my seat.
” 3:50, damn! I’m late, late, late.”
I’ve been glued to my computer, editing the last draft of my novel. It’s still crap, but it’s grammatically correct crap now.
Gathering my keys and wallet from the kitchen counter, I run out to my four-door truck and in seconds am rushing backwards down my driveway.
A small double bump and my breath catches; I’ve run something over. Through my windshield I can see a mutilated lump of bloody flesh that doesn’t greatly resemble any animal, but I can guess. “I told you George.” I say and shake my head. The bloody mass of what I’m thinking is my neighbors cat is nowhere near able to be saved. It’s obvious I wasn’t the first to squash it and I’m already late to pick up Allie from elementary school. Her teacher, Mrs. Meyers gives the most condescending lectures when you pick up your kid late. I realize it sets a bad example, blah, blah but sometimes adults get busy. Am I a horrible father for losing track of time. Maybe I am, but I’m the only one Allie has. George’s cat can wait until I return.
There are more people walking around than usual for our small town. A festival going on that I hadn’t heard of maybe. I have to watch the speedometer carefully and fight the instinct to gun it the whole way.
When I reach the school parking lot I see it’s a mess. Cars are parked haphazardly and there’s no one around. The hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. I park on the street and run to the office, where they keep the kids with tardy parents.
“Allie, Allie! Hello….anybody?” No one answers or comes from the back office, it’s deserted.
I run out the door and down the walkway to Allie’s first grade class. Peeking through the slim rectangular window, I see movement and knock loudly, hard enough to hurt my knuckles. I’m now frantic to find my daughter and the fear is beginning to pinch at my gut.
“Allie! Is that you in there? If it is open up, it’s Daddy!” I bang my fist once more. It sounds like something bounced off the door from the inside. I peek again and see Mrs. Meyers. She isn’t well at all. The large woman is backing up for another go at the door and I think she may hit the push bar in the right spot this time. I back away.
I hear “Daddy!….DaaaDeeee! whispered loudly from the bathroom door across the walkway. I see Allie’s tiny arm come from behind the door and she gestures me over as I am sprinting closer. I push open the door and snatch her up into a fierce hug. I pull back to look at her face and make sure she’s okay. She smiles at me but her eyes suddenly go wide and her mouth drops, “Daddy!”
It’s all she’s able to say before rotund Mrs. Meyers plows into my back. We all fall forward onto the chipped linoleum floor. I land with my arms extended to keep myself and the old lady from crushing my baby girl. She scoots out from under the pile and I throw my elbow back at the woman. I get her in the mouth and her teeth scrape my elbow. Allie crawls out of the bathroom and stands outside watching as I roll to my back attempting to dislodge her. Her teeth latch on to my shoulder as I pull away from her, it is a scrape and a pinch. I run out to Allie, pulling the door closed behind me. Within seconds she is hurling her weight at the steel door. I take a deep breath realizing that it will never open unless she pulls and with whatever has happened to her, she now lacks the smarts it takes to pull open a door.
“Why’s Mrs. Meyers so mad at you?” Allie asks, visibly shaken.
“I don’t know baby, but we should get home and make you an ice cream huh?” She shakes her auburn curls with an exuberant yes. I run with her in my arms, down the hall, through the gate, and out to the safety of my truck. In the run to my vehicle, I did see one adult walking slowly down a hall as I passed, but their back was turned and I had the feeling I didn’t want to catch their attention.
Allie dutifully straps herself into the booster seat directly behind me and I take the time to check the bite on my shoulder. A giant sigh of relief escapes when I see no blood or broken skin, just bruising. “Thank god!” I say and adjust the mirror so I can see my babies face. “Are you okay? No one bit you or hurt you or anything?”
She shook her head “no” and picked up the doll that she had left in the backseat this morning. I take a deep breath and turn towards home. I pass three blocks and the adrenaline wears off, It makes me feel really drained. I have to fight to keep my attention on the road. Luckily we only live two more miles away. I’ll get an energy bar when I get home and be right as rain. Then figure out what the hell is going on. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was zombies. But that’s ridiculous.
I tried to get my wife on her cell but the lines were busy, all ten times. I was feeling worse. An incredible thirst hit me and I attempted to reach for my water bottle but my fingers wouldn’t work well enough to get it open. I am surprised to see that we have made it home. I don’t even remember pulling into the driveway. I pushed the shifter up to park and attempted to get my seat belt off. My fingers won’t do it. Soon I can’t move my arms. “Daddy are you getting out?” I couldn’t turn my head to look at her. “Daddy, you look funny. Like the teachers did at school.”
I’m so sleepy. Sleep. Sleep, yes.
I awake and growl at the window, as Allie slams the back door. She shouts at me through the driver’s window, “If you’re gonna stay in there and be mean, I’m going next door to Miss Kim’s for a popsicle.”
I’m in my body, but I don’t have any control. Getting out of the car is easy, but my body doesn’t listen. Soon after Allie goes to our neighbors house, Kim walks up and watches me through the glass. My body lunges at her. I can’t stop it from making awful growls or keep my teeth from snapping. One of my fingernails pops off as I claw at the window. She opens the door, and inside I scream, “No! Don’t!” but nothing comes out. In the next second I am relieved, because she has a gun. Kim will save me from…