's 2012 Horror Write-off:

"Infestation: Viper"

Submitted by Olita Clark

>Be Jack Miller.
>The other guys on the team call you Lite.
>You know, cuz of your last name?
>And you guess you might be a little scrawny too.
>But you're only 14!
>You'll grow out of it...soonish!
>Anyway, a little over three weeks ago it finally started happening!
>The big one, the event you've prepared for your entire short life!
>Real, honest to God zombies!
>They're shamblers, not runners, which kinda sucks.
>And they're covered in these weird mushroom things.
>And it's not just people that come back but animals too.
>Hell, you even had a piece of jerky try to slap your hand to death once!
>But still!
>The living dead!
>You knew all those paint ball sessions and hours of Call of Duty weren’t a waste of time!
>Sadly, there weren’t to many in your  area.
>The news said something about the stuff that makes the zombies not liking dry places.
>And Phoenix, Arizona is just about one of the driest places on the planet!
>Thankfully the leader of your team, Jet, has a  real kick ass Jeep.
>You all met in the park one night about a week after “The Leak” and took off!
>Bill, aka Rocker, brought a bunch of his dad's guns and boxes of ammunition.
>Him, you, Jet and the quite kid Goggles have been cutting a swath of blood to California ever since!
>Man, for a nerd, Goggles sure can shoot!
>He has the highest kill count out of all of you.
>You think.
>Mostly you just drive through a town full of the infected and everyone leans out the windows.
>The floor of the Jeep is covered in bullet casings after a run.
>There's no time to go back and count bodies, but you're all pretty good at keeping track.
>It hasn't all been fun though.
>There's been a few adults who have tried to take your car.
>You only managed to get away by shooting at them.
>You would never kill a person.
>You're not a sicko.
>But it was self defense!
>Those warning shots that actually hit were just accidents!
>Anyway, it's been kind of a pain finding gas too.
>And food.
>And bullets.
>But it turns out you're a great scout!
>You always manage to find the gas stations no one else has hit yet!
>And Goggles knows the best ways to move around.
>Something about spending hours playing with Google Earth.
>Oh, and he's got a solar charger for his phone, so the GPS still works.
>Lucky bastard!
>Wish you would've thought to bring your mom's car charger.
>On seconds though, she probably would've blown up your phone begging for you to come back.
>Screw that!
>You can handle yourself.
>Hadn't you proved that these last dozen days or so?
>That's how many days in two weeks right?
>You think you remember one of your teachers saying something like that.
>God, you're bored.
>You press your face to the Jeep's window and gaze out at the dull landscape.
>Well, as close as it can get with the gas mask over your face.
>You all thought it was a cool idea to wear them at first, but it kind of sucks in practice.
>They're hot, itchy and hard to breath in.
>But you don't want to be the loser who takes his off first.
>Outside, there's nothing but fields of empty grass as far as the eye can see.
>No infected, no wrecks or buildings gutting by looters.
>Why the hell did you take this way again?
>Oh, that's right.
>All the major freeways have been jammed up by refuges and wrecks.
>The military has taken over the interstates for tanks and stuff.
>All that's left is these crappy rural back roads.
>You wince as the Jeep forges another bump in the dirt road.
>You can't take this anymore!
>”How much longer until we get to some action?”
>You try your best to keep the whine out of your voice.
>You're the youngest one on the team after all.
>All the other guys are 16 or 17.
>You're secretly grateful that they let someone like you come along.
>But you'd never say that out loud.
>Jet jerks a thumbs towards Goggles, who is sitting in the passenger seat.
>”I dunno, why don't you ask genius here?”
>Goggles taps a few things on the screen of his iPod.
>It got cracked a few days ago when you raided a gas station.
>Maybe that made him read the directions wrong?
>You were gonna kick his ass if he got you  lost!
>”It's going to be another half hour before we reach a town.”
>”You said that a half hour ago.”
>”And it was true, YOU just blew past the exit!
>”You didn't tell me to turn until we'd already passed it!”
>”That's a fucking lie and you know it!
>”Well what did you want me to do, run the damn car off the road trying to turn around?”
>”The road's not that narrow!”
>”Are we looking at the same fucking patch of road here?”
>You groan and flop back in your seat.
>You hated it when they carried on like this.
>Jet and Goggles were always fighting over who should lead.
>It hadn't come to blows yet, but it wouldn't be long before someone threw a punch.
>You have your money squarely on Jet.
>He was over twice the size of the brainiac.
>Jet had wanted to join the Army before the apocalypse happened.
>He'd been training every day since his parents got him a weight set for his 15th birthday,
>You bet he could punch a zombie's head clean off!
>Man that would be awesome to see!
>You guess it would be pretty awesome to see him beat up Goggles too.
>”Hey, what the fuck is that up there?”
>”What's what?”
>”Are you blind now as well as stupid?”
>”Heh, why am I asking that?
>”You wouldn't need those thick ass glasses if you could see.”
>You lean around Goggle's seat in order to get a view of the object in question.
>You accidentally elbow Rocker as you climb forward.
>He grunts but doesn’t wake up.
>Lazy fucker, not really good with guns either.
>But he knows a lot about zombies and survival.
>Everyone knows to shoot the undead in the head to kill them.
>But not one of you has a clue how to build a fire.
>Or how to build traps.
>Or a lot of things beside pointing and shooting.
>Rocker fills in gaps in your knowledge even Goggles can't cover.
>Sure, you guess  you could Google the info with Goggle's phone.
>But his stupid parents had gotten a really shitty service with huge holes in the coverage area.
>What if you needed to know something in a dead zone?
>Heh, dead zone.
>You made a pun.
>Anyway, the road.
>There's a thin black strip laid across it a few miles away.
>The Jeep's already begun to slow from maximum warp to a more reasonable speed.
>75 MPH, give or take a few.
>But Jet's not the type to stop completely and check the situation out.
>”Goggles, is this thing gonna fuck up the car when we hit it?”
>”I don't know.”
>Jet snorted “Fat lot of fucking help you are.”
>He stamped on the accelerator again.
>The car gave a brief whine of protest before its engine roared with renewed vigor.
>You're thrown back into your seat with enough force to make you cry out in pain.
>The  brakes scream.
>Suddenly the world fills with the sound of explosions!
>The Jeep whirls out of control.
>The world become a carnival of limbs and broken glass and spinning spinning spinning-
>Spinning another way falling to the side more glass something wet splatters for face so warm-

>You can't feel your legs.
>You can't feel anything below your waist.
>Everything else screams.
>The scent of copper and gasoline assaults your nostrils.
>Your vision is blurred and unsteady.
>There's a large red hulk sitting a few yards away.
>Pale things peak through the gaps in its twisted body.
>Your brain struggles to make sense of the situation.
>Is that...the Jeep?
>Then what about the other guys?
>Are they...
>Shit, fuck them!
>What about you?!
>You carefully look down at your own body and moan.
>Your legs are crushed beneath one of the Jeep's doors.
>A puddle of blood seeps out from around the jagged edges.
>You can't move.
>You're trapped.
>Everyone else is dead.
>You want your mommy.
>You don't know how long you lay there and cry.
>You can feel yourself getting weaker.
>Blood loss.
>You'll be dead soon.
>But that's impossible!
>You're only 14!
>Kids aren’t supposed to die!
>It's not fair!
>You were just having fun!
>You were helping everyone, killing off those things!
>They-wait, what was that?
>Are you hallucinating?
>That sounds an awful lot like...footsteps?
>You twist your broken body as far as it will go.
>You see nothing.
>At first.
>But you smell something, oh yes.
>A musky aroma that overpowers everything else.
>No mater how many filters you put in, your gas mask could never block it out completely.
>It's one of them.
>You start to moan.
>”Oh God please no, God please save me no-”
>It shuffles into view.
>Its shrived, desiccated flesh is pulled away from the left side of its face.
>Bare skull grins crazily down at you.
>Those mushroom things are growing from where its eye should be.
>It's dressed in bit and pieces of a military uniform.
>City camo BDUs, standard issue boots, a grey helmet.
>Filthy grey tank top, stain with blood.
>It all hangs loosely off its bony frame.
>But that's not what you're focused on.
>Your eye catches on the band of shotgun shells across its chest.
>And the matching weapon hanging from its left hand.
>Its rather small; the tip of the shotgun drags along the ground as it shuffles along.
>The afternoon sun glints off a pattern of scratches on the stock.
>With an odd calm, you realize someone has crudely carved a single word into the metal.
>It reaches you.
>The smell is almost overpowering.
>You're sobbing hysterically now but no tears come.
>You're cried yourself out.
>You expect the thing to fall upon you and begin to eat you alive.
>What it dose instead is somehow worse.
>It lifts the shotgun with deliberate purpose and rests the end of the muzzle against your head.
>The good side of its face twists in a cruel mockery of a smile.
>In the split second before death you understand.
>It was a spike strip in the road.
>And it wasn't put there by accident.

-Be Viper.
-Is that your name?
-It must be.
-That's what the lines on your loud-noises-blood-stick means.
-No, that's a gun.
-The word is familiar.
-You've known the gun for as long as you can remember.
-You can remember quite a few dark times.
-Something in your brain offers a “number”.
-You're not sure what a twelve is.
-But you know it applies to the dark periods somehow.
-Your thinking is fuzzy.
-You weren’t always like this.
-But you're better now.
-Even if you sometimes have trouble with little things.
-Like “numbers”.
-Even if you're always hungry now.
-The things in your skin make you hungry.
-You know this.
-But they also make you strong.
-You're not sure what pain is.
-But you know it's a bad thing.
-You know you don't have it.
-Was there a before?
-It's hard to remember.
-It should be easier after you eat.
-Thinking is always easier after you eat.
-Maybe if you eat enough you'll remember pain.
-And before.
-But why remember before?
-This is better.
-Much better.
-With great effort you put the loud-noises-blood-stick-gun on the thing on your back.
-The thing keeps it on you when you can't hold it.
-You can't hold it right now.
-Eating is faster with both hands.
-You can't really see the Good Food but you can smell it.
-It's intoxicating.
-It's the best thing you've ever known.
-The smell tells you things too.
-About the Good Food.
-It was male.
-It was young.
-It had been living off a bad diet.
-It was wounded and scared.
-It made noises when it saw you.
-Your nose didn't tell you that last one.
-Your ears did.
-The sounds it made were sweet.
-They were bad.
-They made you hungrier.
-They made you want to turn your gun around and-
-The gun wasn't for you.
-It was never for you.
-That was the first thing you knew when you woke up.
-Don't point the gun at yourself.
-You wouldn't die.
-Even if you lost your head.
-But it would take a long time to come back if you lost it.
-Heads come back?
-That seems somehow strange to you.
-But why?
-That's how it's always been.
-Heads come back.
-Arms come back.
-Legs come back.
-Brain gets better when you eat.
-Skin and flesh get stronger when you eat.
-There was no before.
-There was no different.
-There was no Amy.
-You ease yourself to your knees and bury your face in the Good Food.
-There was no before.
-But if there was.
-This would be better.