Playing football on the indoor practice field after class, as is our wont; serious stuff. The ball’s kicked deep along the right sideline, some old guy passing through the gym fields the ball and starts running straight toward me. Big old bastard in street clothes, must be middle-aged but no doubt played college ball when he was young. Got that look about him; fearless. Gonna show us what’s what, bust ass, take no prisoners. Meet him head-on, up-end him, dump him on his back. He sits there shaking his head, and I help him up.
“I don’t feel so good” he says. Not about the tackle, more like explaining why I was able to bring him down so easy. “Better come with me” I tell him. The hospital’s right outside the side door of the gym, one of the reasons people are always cutting through here. Or else they’re lost, wandering around campus. The big guy’s got his whole family with him; wife, son, pretty teenage daughter, and little baby all wrapped up tight. Maybe touring the place or who knows, not my concern. I take him to the exam room and leave ‘em there, the whole lot of ‘em.
Check back a bit later, and man was he right. The guy’s lost about two-thirds of his body weight, clothes all wet with sweat, sagging on him like a corpse; same for the wife and son. The three of ‘em sittin there looking like death, knowing its coming, with the nurses attending to ‘em. I grab the daughter to get her oughtta here, and outside on the grass she drops the little baby like doesn’t wanna have anything to do with it. I pick up the kid, all wrapped up tight, unhurt, hand it back to her and tell her we gotta get going, no time to fuck around.
See a couple a black guys hauling ass in a two and a half-ton truck, just the cab and frame and a wooden make-shift box where the truck bed would normally be. Looks like the closest thing you could find to a homemade tank that they just commandeered from someplace. They slow up, yell “come on!” and me and the girl and little baby hop in the back. The guy riding shotgun jumps up on the frame behind the cab, throws a harness over his shoulder, says “you better buckle in.” Hands me some sort of little harpoon-like thing with pinchers on the end.
We go tearing outta there, screaming down the sidewalk, hit the four-lane street, ram anything everything that gets in our way, just to be moving fast as greased lightning now and never gonna stop. Driver laughs back through the open window like aint got time to worry about it. “Hold tight” he says, ginning at us. Then I see what the other guy meant about buckling in. Some kinda flying creature comes up on us from behind, the black guy lets loose on a tether sails back toward the creature and snips a vein in its neck with the pinchers. The thing falls dead behind us and the black guy slings himself back to his position.
A couple of the creatures come at me from the front, I fend ‘em off with my forearms, but can’t get a clear shot to use the pinchers on their necks. Black guy looks at me and nods, “you’re doing good” he says. By now the sky’s all covered with the creatures and all over the ground too, people running like mad everywhere screaming, dying, like a mass stampede at the end of the world. And looks like all the flying creatures are headed straight for us.
Driver rams the truck through a metal fence and propane storage tanks going ninety miles an hour not slowing down, and behind us a huge explosion of gas fire flames and black smoke covering everything you can see. “They don’t like that” he yells back to us, like some kind of fleeting victory in the midst of hopelessness. Gotta hand it to these guys though, they’re the only ones who seem to know what they’re doing.
I sit down in the wooden truck bed beside the girl and take hold of her hand. The black guy with the harpoon looks at me suspiciously. “What’s the deal” he asks. Like he’d made the girl for himself and now he’s jealous. The girl’s fingers are icy but she squeezes my hand like she’s talking to me. Saying “protect me now; care for me.” And I squeeze her hand tight, like to say “yeah, sure…or maybe we can roll in the sack, or something.” Sweet kid, though, so pretty and not like she’s scared or anything, none of us are. Aint got time for that.
The driver keeps going fast as a streak, crashing through anything in front of us, hell bent on finding someplace safe. Finally stops at the back of ice cream warehouse. “Gotta stock up” he tells us “they hate this stuff.” He jumps out and starts grabbing up gallon containers of yellow cream-colored ice cream. Me and the girl dip our heads into a big trough of the stuff and suck it out clean. The other black guy looks down, says “hey, what about me.” I grab a little container, fill it up and hand it to him “a couple a pints be enough, right?”
“Shit!” he says. But I don’t get his problem “here, take it” I tell him, reaching the container out to him.
Before he can say anything a couple of the flying creatures hit me in the back but keep on going. “They get you?” he asks. “I dunno…I think so.” We find the other guy inside the warehouse looking for more rations. Then outta the shadows come the leaders of the horrible flying creatures; three of ‘em. Some hideous looking female thing and an old rotting corpse swarm on top of me. I snip at their necks with the harpoon-pinchers but they easily dodge away while grabbing at my arms and face.
“Get out, go! Now!” I yell to the black guys. They grab the girl and the baby and make a run for it. A ghoulish creature with no skin over his oozing crawling flesh appears at my side. He’s the leader of the whole bunch. I stick the harpoon into his chest and he laughs at it, his exposed flesh moving on its own to avoid the pinchers. Then he licks at me with his snakelike tongue. Then they all vanish.
I run outside, early evening now, just getting dark; the streets awash in people running from the monstrous creatures. Most of ‘em have already been caught, bitten, become like the flying creatures, and are attacking the remaining humans. You can’t tell ‘em apart so nobody knows who’s what. Some kid in somebody’s front yard throws me a can a beer.
“You one of ‘em?” he asks. “I dunno” I tell him. Pop open the beer and drink it down, then float off high high up into the air; way way up above everything with all the flying creatures and the other humans who’ve been turned.
It is so awesome here. So all powerful feeling and completely in control of everything. I look around at all the creatures up here and all the people running everywhere down below, all the houses and buildings, seeing all of it at once. Understanding all of it. The feeling so overwhelming and so easy now. I begin to sing “bo oo ooo de layyyy ree uhhhh uuuummmmm” my voice booming out into the whole of the sky and everything beneath, so high-pitched and clear, exploding like thunder. The sound of my voice covering everything like a blanket, like a Latin chant at high mass echoing off the high
cathedral walls ‘til it’s all that can be heard felt or thought, sung by a choir of angels, and the other humans joining in with me like a chorus.
I drift back down toward the ground just above the humans and creatures there. They speak at me and reach up for my legs but I’m always just barely above their grasp. But I have to go now, to find the others, the black guys and the girl. I gotta get to them and
Mikael Covey runs Lit Up Magazine. Clink the link at the side of the page.