Gentle Bite.
Copyright 2009, 2018 by Raymond Johnson. Seventh edition.
Cover photo provided by Ivan Bliznetsov. (www.iStockphoto.com).

For Jubjub & Jess.

"I never knew what life was until it ran out in a red gush over my lips." - Anne Rice.

After recovering from a virus 24 year old Amanda finds herself alone and isolated. Her family, friends and everyone she once knew have gone, vanished from the face of the Earth. Where there were once people there are now blood hungry beasts that torment her nights while her days are spent trying to survive. As the years pass by she begins to realise her biggest danger is loneliness and is on the brink of insanity until she comes across a human/beast hybrid with a blood hungry thirst.

 

Chapter 1 - A Sleepless Night

Never had the night been so dark, pitch black in fact, with nothing but the glow of distant stars high above. There was not even moonlight to comfort the unfortunate, tortured souls below who screamed in turmoil seeking nothing but survival in a world full of despair. Beasts, creatures, monsters, zombies, vampires, whatever label given to those souls they were victims as much as I, they meant no malice, all they wanted was food. The problem was the most tastiest meal ran through my very veins.

My home, a tall sixteen-story building, was out of reach of their ability. They were incapable of basic tasks such as opening doors and navigating stairs, their hunger far stronger than their intelligence, with their frustrations manifesting as constant howling. They simply howled all night long, aware of my existence, driving me insane with fear and hoping I'll give up my sanctuary. I was tempted on many occasions, just to silence them and give myself peace for it had been getting far worse in recent years. I knew I was completely safe at home but fear had been twisting my insides, knotting my bowels and causing me to tremble. I knew it was only a matter of time before my gruesome demise.

That night I had woken from a terrible dream, or to be more accurate a wonderful dream, and had to face real life again which was a nightmare. I tried drifting off once more but couldn't. My eyes were heavy and my mind exhausted but my body simply refused to rest. I thought about jogging around the corridors of the block of flats I inhabited to tire myself out but they were pitch dark. It was hard enough even during the day but at night I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. In fact it was fear more so than the darkness that was stopping me.

With all the tossing and turning in bed I had to get up and get myself a drink of warm bottled water. I kept the bottles next to the kitchen sink and would always mime that I poured the water from the tap but alas water never came out of the tap anymore. I took a large swig, gulped it down then took a deep breath.

I even tried reading that night, I had plenty of books for they provided an escape from my nightmare, but I couldn't concentrate and had to stop after a mere few words. The howling grew louder distracting my every thought. I was quite sure that some of the sounds were inside my mind echoing back as they traversed around my head.

I needed some air so I opened the balcony door and stepped out. The gentle breeze blew against my face as I stood looking down at the beasts below, like shadows and ghosts fighting over which one of them would have me first, while my scent drove them crazy.

I took a deep intake of breath, re-entered my candle lit home and sat down covering my ears. I was lonely.

 

Chapter 2 - A Nice Day For A Walk

It was Saturday and time for my weekly trip out of my dreary home to do some grocery shopping. At least I thought it was Saturday, my calendar was six years out of date after all, but it felt like a Saturday and I needed some supplies.

I was short on tinned food, particularly my favourite spaghetti in tomato sauce. I was never a fan of it in the past but had grown accustomed to it over the years. In fact I was having to cut down in case they ran out at the supermarket, there was only a limited supply after all and I didn't want to venture to another part of town for my weekly shop.

It was a warm and bright spring day, not too warm but warmer than it had been. With it being so sunny I decided to wear my frilly blue layered skirt, white blouse, yellow ankle socks, and big chunky brown shoes. The shoes were a little tight and more than a little worn, but I still considered them to be my best pair and didn't feel ready to replace them. I disliked replacing things, I felt more secure with what I already had, with all my possessions acting as a security blanket keeping me safe from facing the future. I did regret not wearing my coat that day but it wasn't worth turning back to fetch it as I only intended to be out for a short period of time.

My ears had been hurting over the past few days so I intended to look for a chemist shop to see what I could get for it. I had absolutely no idea what I required so would have to have a good look around once I got there. I knew the cause though, it was the deafening silence of the daytime that made my ears more sensitive to even the slightest of sounds, even my shoes clomping against the pavement was giving me a headache.

As I walked further along the pavement I could see the supermarket at the far end of the street. It was a journey I had made many times before and felt at ease, but at the back of my mind was always uncertainty. I was often in fear for my safety. I glanced at my watch, it was still early, approaching 9:30am, but just as with the date I was never fully sure of the true time. Generally speaking daytimes were safe and the nights weren't, but even during the day there were shadows and dark corners where danger could lurk.

I looked up at the bright sky and the fluffy white clouds, they were moving quite quickly, a sign of bad weather to come perhaps. For a moment I thought I could see the exhaust pattern of a plane but realised it was just my eyes deceiving me, my eyes were dazzled by the bright light of the sunshine causing me to see what I wanted to see.

There were no planes, no trains, no cars, no bicycles, no birds, no sounds and no signs of life, anywhere. I was the last human being alive and I was petrified with fear deep inside the recesses of my soul but was covering it up with a normal daily routine. I was kidding myself that everything was going to be okay and this event was only temporary.

There had been a disease, a highly contagious virus that swept its way across the world killing most people almost immediately. Others became ill including me and were packed into overcrowded hospitals. My mother removed me which at the time I objected to but later realised was the best course of action, the hospitals could do nothing after all while the disease grew worse. Technically speaking it wasn't a virus. Doctors had been discussing it on television and explained how it didn't pass on from person to person directly, it was as though they had already been infected long ago in the past and were only then showing the symptoms. Human beings were turning into rampaging beasts with a thirst for blood. The changes were gradual. At first their skin would turn pale, almost white, their mouths and noses would change shape taking the form of a snout, their teeth would elongate like those of a big cat, then finally they would lose their minds completely, their humanity lost. Within three months the entire human race had disappeared, they were either dead or changed by the disease. While I had been suffering alone in my bedroom my parents and older brother vanished. I only became aware of their absence when my symptoms subsided and I regained my faculties. My pale white cheeks eventually regained their colour but my back was permanently deformed with a curvature of the spine. It caused me no discomfort but was unsightly, not that anyone would ever get to see it.

I had no idea why I recovered and everyone else didn't, but I knew it was very possible I was only partially immune and could relapse at any moment. My plan was to lock myself in my own home if that were the case, my animal brain wouldn't have the intelligence to unlock a door and I would slowly starve, that would be preferable to living my life as a bloodthirsty beast.

I looked down at my chunky shoes as I continued along the pavement then glanced at the cracked paving. Weeds already grew from between the paving stones as well as the tarmac on the roads. I wondered how such feeble plants were able to cause so much damage and I knew it wouldn't be too many years before the town would be taken back by nature. The view from my home would likely resemble a forest over time.

Some of the windows in the shops I passed were cracked or broken. Directly beside me on my right was a bookmakers while across the street on my left was a gym simply known as Ray's Gym. At the far end of the street just before it turned a corner was the supermarket I was heading for. Its windows were so damaged there were none left, although quite strangely one of the panes has fallen out completely intact leaving a perfect sheet of glass upon the pavement.

As I walked past a music shop I felt a slight urge in the back of my mind to go inside and take a look at the CDs, but I had no way of listening to them. I had no electricity and I couldn't use batteries anymore. Expired batteries only ever worked for a few seconds before dying out. I did curse myself for not knowing more about how to produce electricity. I had plenty of spare time to learn and could probably assemble some kind of generator, but I never had the urge. I used candles for light and heat, as well as a barbecue stove on my balcony, but they didn't compare to having proper electricity. I was hoping that it would all end soon, like waking up and finding out it was all a dream, or meeting other survivors and living with them. Until something changed I would just continue with my routine until my death. I wasn't afraid of dying I was only afraid of how it would come about.

In an instant I stood still, rooted on the spot, not daring to move. I heard a noise from across the street, the sound of someone inside one of the shops. I slowly turned my head and could see the doorway of a newsagents propped open by a scruffy brown backpack leaning against it. I then heard more noise as someone was rummaging around inside. Cautiously I turned my body and took a single step out into the road then stopped as I saw the figure of a person casually step out from the shop doorway.

My heart was pumping fast, my stomach tingling with nerves, it had been years since I had seen a real person and wasn't sure of what to do. I wanted to say something but hadn't spoken in such a long time I wasn't quite sure how. I often sang to myself at home but to actually hold a conversation would take a lot of effort.

The sunshine was dazzling me even more so as my eyes dilated, fully focused upon the person across the street. She was female wearing high heeled boots and a ragged torn brown dress that had been repaired with patches of tape. Her hair was long and black, hanging down over her shoulders. As she bent down to retrieve her backpack she noticed me then without hesitation proceeded to hurry in my direction. As she approached I could clearly see her face. Her cheeks were clammy and pale. Her open mouth revealed both sets of her sharp elongated canine teeth on the upper and lower parts of her jaws. She was still human but it was clear she was in the process of turning. She may have been wanting to speak with me or attempting to bite, I had no way of knowing. Her eyes looked happy, she was pleased to meet me, but I wasn't about to hang around to find out what she wanted.

I ran as fast as I could down the street towards the supermarket, my legs had never moved so fast before and my muscles were pounding. I could hear the sound of my panting over the sound of my shoes as they hammered against the ground. There was a taste of blood within my mouth caused by the physical strain on my body. In almost no time I reached the supermarket then immediately turned right continuing down the street with no idea where I was heading other than getting away from that thing.

I eventually stopped running when I ran out of energy and collapsed to the ground while partly leaning against a bin. I took very long and deep breaths trying not to let the pain overwhelm me, my swollen legs had turned red and felt hot.

Turning my head from side to side I looked frantically all around me, she was nowhere in sight, she hadn't followed. I allowed myself to sit onto the ground and leant against the bin. I felt the urge to cry but knew that wasn't appropriate until I was back at home and completely safe. I rubbed my forehead while my sweat streamed down my face. I needed to regain my breath before I could attempt my next course of action. I had to decide whether to wait where I was, return home or go back to the supermarket. In my extreme state of exhaustion I wasn't able to think straight. I bit my lip for a moment as my thighs throbbed. I had never ran that fast in my entire life and hoped I would never have to do so again.

There was a chance the strange woman was probably like me, someone who had only partially changed then built up an immunity to the disease. She was certainly not a full beast and she had no fear of the daylight. But her fangs were fully developed and could easily tear through my flesh, even a partial beast was dangerous.

I remembered the television reports of the chaos at the time of the initial outbreak. There were scientists researching the creatures in an attempt to create a vaccine. It was said that the beasts required haemoglobin to live, they would feed by biting the victim, human or otherwise, on the throat piercing their jugular vein causing them to bleed to death while the creature swallows their blood. It was also said that if a human fights back the beast would bite chunks out of their arms and legs to weaken them. There were reports of the beasts feeding off each other when food was scarce. I hoped that was what they were doing over the years but their numbers still hadn't diminished. The scientists had no idea how quickly the human race would succumb and never had chance to finish the vaccine.

I stared directly down the bottom of the street where another road adjoined. I could see a figure waiting, it was her, she had followed by taking an alternative route. She spotted me and waved her arm from side to side.

I jumped to my feet and quickly ran back up the road towards the supermarket. I couldn't run as fast as before due to exhaustion combined with running uphill. I ran straight ahead across the pane of glass shattering it to pieces with my chunky shoes while I frantically waved my arms around as my ears popped from the high pitched sound. I then dived forwards through the gap where the window once stood. As fast as I could I ran to the back of the store and huddled onto the floor in the corner. I was in a panic and my mind was racing, if she saw me enter she was sure to follow. Beside me was a shelf containing kitchen rolls. While still in an extreme state of panic I waved my arms about franticly knocking them from the shelf then tried to hide behind them. I wiggled my body onto the shelf but there wasn't room to put any of the kitchen rolls back in front of me, I was still completely visible.

I was sure she had followed and was also sure she was going to kill me. I couldn't keep my emotions in check any longer, I kicked my feet and let out a muffled scream, then began to sob loudly. With all my might I gritted my teeth to hold back the tears but it was a losing battle.

I wasn't sure for how long I had been there, it felt an eternity but was likely only a few minutes. It was clear she hadn't followed or if she had was being very quiet.

Wiggling from side to side I managed to remove myself from the shelf and crouched down on the floor. I felt tempted to get the tinned food I had come for and head for home, but was still in fear of her waiting outside for me. I was then tempted to look for a knife. I knew the supermarket sold cutlery and cooking utensils so there was sure to be a knife around somewhere, but I then changed my mind. If the woman was a half beast I would stand no chance even with a knife, it would be far preferable to keep my hands free and not carry anything that had the potential to slow me down whilst running.

With extreme caution I very slowly crept over to the supermarket doorway and peeked through the cracked glass. My heart sank when I saw her in the distance looking in the shop windows, most likely searching for me. That was the direction for home so I would have to find an alternative route. With her being some distance away I wasn't in any immediate danger so was able to keep calm, with my eyes still fixated upon her, as I walked over towards the window and climbed back out into the street. I headed back down the hill, luckily she hadn't spotted me.

I had to fight my urge to run while saving my energy in case I saw her again. I walked closely by the buildings on the right hand side of the street. Somehow I felt safer with the buildings beside me and I touched my hand against them as I walked by. I was going to have to make a big detour and circle the entire town to get back home but it was the only way to be safe.

I decided to cross the street then take the next turning to create a larger distance between us. As I stepped into the road I took a quick glimpse back up the hill toward the supermarket then froze to the spot as I saw her standing in the middle of the road staring directly at me. I sensed she was stalking me like an animal being led into a hunter's trap. I stared back at her and for a few moments we both stood completely still waiting for something to happen.

She slowly started walking in my direction.

"GOWA... WAY!" I screamed at the top of my voice.

She immediately turned and bolted, maybe she was afraid of me. I wished I had done that in the first place.

 

Chapter 3 - Warm Breath

Things didn't go quite according to plan. I headed down the streets that led to the outskirts of the town then tried to circle the town centre making my way home on the other side but I managed to get myself lost. I knew exactly where I was but not in relation to where I was heading. I didn't want to risk turning back in case that creature was waiting for me.

The sky had turned grey and it was beginning to rain. If I didn't find my way back home before dark I was going to have to risk breaking into a house and hope there were no beasts inside, that would be preferable to staying outside where I would stand no chance at all.

As I continued down the street I noticed some pieces of paper resting upon the ground. I didn't take too much attention of them but then noticed they were photographs. One of them was a portrait photo of a small boy looking smart with a crooked smile, it looked like one of those school photos that were always too formal that no one really likes. I was then reminded of when I was back at school. It was just a few days before I left school that the outbreak occurred, I remembered it like it was yesterday, the years since had passed awfully quickly. The other photo was too smudged to see clearly.

The rain began to fall more heavily and the sky darkened further. I placed my hands over my head and sped up my footsteps. To my right was another street that led to a bus shelter so I decided to head for that and wait for the rain to stop. I broke into a run as the rain began to pelt down with force soaking my hair and pouring against my face. I proceeded to rub my forehead but couldn't prevent the water dripping into my eyes. I would be soaked through in next to no time so had to get to shelter fast.

"Argh!" I let out a short yet painful moan as I slipped twisting my foot into an awkward position. Luckily I managed to steady myself and never quite fell completely onto the wet ground. As I began to walk I felt a seething pain in my ankle, it didn't feel broken but it was certainly twisted. I had to limp slowly as I continued towards the bus shelter.

The sound of the rain was hurting my ears as it continued pouring down. There was then another sound that caused my insides to twinge with fear, it was a growl from a beast. I was sure it wasn't dark enough for them to be out, it was quite possible the sound was coming from inside a nearby building but I couldn't be certain. I continued ahead slowly while listening with great care. I could feel my heart beating fast.

Both sides of the street were lined with factory buildings and warehouses. To my left was a metal stairway that led up into total darkness, while to my right was a door arch that contained no door. I wasn't sure where the beast sound came from it may have been left, right or ahead. To be safe I turned around and headed back in the direction I had come from.

I continued limping slowly then forced myself to run when I heard two beasts growling. The echo caused by the tall buildings made it difficult to know exactly where they were coming from but I was sure they were behind me. The pain in my ankle shot up my right leg and I held my scream inside as I attempted to run at full pelt. I suddenly slipped again and grazed both knees and hands against the ground. As I stood myself up I saw a large group of beasts behind me. Each creature was pure white, completely hairless, and standing on all fours. Their backs were arched with jagged bumps leading down to their tails. My eyes stared fixated upon their teeth as I attempted to move backwards, I imagined what it must feel like to have those sharp elongated fangs tear into my flesh and to be eaten alive. My legs were like jelly and simply refused to move. I collapsed to the ground in a heap. I struggled with my body forcing it to move but it was frozen to the spot. I couldn't understand why my own body had betrayed me.

The beasts grew closer. Their big heavy bodies made them slow movers but there was nothing I could do to get away from them.

Suddenly there was a sound of footsteps behind me, very heavy footsteps running extremely fast. In a flash I saw something pass by and push one of the beasts throwing it against the bus shelter smashing its body though the glass. Then in almost an instant another beast was flung pushing it against the others knocking them down. It was the first time I had ever heard one of them scream in terror. More beasts came out of the arched doorway as my rescuer came towards me and bent down at my side. It was her, she must have been following me all along. I put up no struggle as she picked me up in both her arms. She hesitated for a moment as if to think of where to go, then ran up the metal steps that led to total darkness with me still in her arms. I could hear the beasts behind us growling with intense rage.

The steps led to a corridor on the right but I had no idea what was beyond, there may have been more beasts hiding in the darkness I had no way of knowing. The woman placed me down and I felt myself sitting on something, possibly a box or bench, then she sat beside me. I felt her arms wrap tightly around my shoulders and her warm breath against my throat. I closed my eyes and awaited the inevitable, I just prayed it wouldn't hurt.

My head was spinning and I felt myself floating in nothingness. There was no pain whatsoever. I imagined I was being eaten alive at that very moment but my brain spared me from having to experience it. I thanked myself and wondered if there was an afterlife, even if there wasn't at least I was now at peace.

The sharp pain in my ankle reminded me that I was still alive and I actually felt annoyed that she hadn't killed me yet. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see her kneeling down in front of me fetching things out of her backpack. I stared intensely willing her to hurry and get it over with. She pulled out a thermos flask, placed it onto the floor then removed the cup and unscrewed the lid. She poured some of the contents into the plastic cup then lifted it with both hands. It was too dark to see what kind of beverage it was, it could have been tea or coffee but I imagined it to be blood.

"Are you going to kill me?" I whispered.

She ignored my words and held up the cup offering it to me. My body was shaking and couldn't move let alone hold a cup. She paused for a moment waiting for me to take it then leant forward pressing the cup between my lips. As she tilted it into my mouth I tasted very cold and stale tea. I didn't like it and was in no mood to drink anyway but I didn't object and swallowed.

"Thank you," I whispered as I managed to hold onto the cup before taking another sip.

I had no idea how old the tea was, it could have been a day old or years old, there was no way to tell.

The woman picked up a packet of crisps from the pile of things she had taken out of her backpack, then after opening them proceeded to hold them up for me to clearly see what they were before placing them down beside me. As she continued fiddling inside her backpack I ate one of the crisps then thanked her again.

She retrieved a cloth and placed it down in front of her so she could kneel without touching her bare knees against the hard ground. She rested her chin on her hand and looked up at me as I looked down at her while holding the cup of tea in both hands. I quickly gulped it down then ate another crisp. I was sure her behaviour was just some kind of ritual before feeding on me for she hadn't drank any of the tea or eaten any of the crisps herself. I was probably her meal.

"Are you..." I said, "Are you going to bite me?"

She tilted her head to one side but continued to stare. Her eyes reflected slightly, they were human eyes but I didn't sense a human mind behind them.

Her body twitched as we heard another growl from the beasts. She then leant sideways, looking down the steps, then sat back up and continued staring at me. No doubt the beasts were still waiting at the bottom of the stairway. I didn't even have the option of running despite my injured ankle.

"If you are can you... hurry please," I said as I began to tremble.

She stood herself up, moved the packet of crisps to one side and sat down beside me. As she leant forward to pick up the cloth from the ground I noticed her back was deformed with a curvature of the spine similar to my own. She gently started rubbing the cloth against my head in order to dry my hair.

"Can you talk?" I asked.

She didn't respond and continued wiping my hair and face. As I looked at her she responded with a smile revealing both sets of her jagged canine teeth. I would have stood no chance if she had chosen to bite me, her teeth were more animal than human. There was also a smell about her too, a metallic rusty kind of smell. I probably smelled bad too if not worse.

I felt her hand rest against my shoulder as she stood up then knelt down in front of me again, positioning the damp cloth under her knees once more. She continued to stare with her gaze firmly fixated toward my face. As I looked down at her she reminded me of a puppy asking for something but not having the ability to say it. Was it possible she was wanting something from me?

I hesitated for a moment, she may have been wanting permission to eat me, I needed to be careful with what I said.

"What do you want?" I whispered, "You need to talk."

She moved her face closer to my knees. She couldn't see the blood in the near darkness, she must have smelled it. She cocked her head sideways and looked up at me again.

I let out a deep breath the moment I realised what she wanted. I nodded my head and closed my eyes then felt her tongue lick against my right knee. She gripped onto my leg tightly with both hands as she lapped up the blood, the roughness of her tongue causing it to bleed even more. She was a monster after all. With my eyes closed tightly I gritted my teeth and prayed she wouldn't bite. After about thirty seconds she stopped then started on my left knee in the same fashion. When she finished I opened my eyes and saw her still kneeling but staring at the floor. My knees felt as though they had been rubbed with sandpaper and stung badly. I tried to cover them with my skirt but it wouldn't reach.

As she stood up I caught the reflection of tears in her eyes. She sat down beside me and rested her head against mine. The sounds of her sniffing followed by an occasional gulp clearly indicated she was weeping. My emotions where all over the place and I began crying too. I was feeling sorry for her but still afraid for myself, I was crying for us both. She lifted her head and saw my tears then nodded as if acknowledging that she understood. She then stood up, leant forward, put her arms around me and pressed her cheek against mine causing me to cry even more so. Crouching back down onto the floor she picked up the flask again then proceeded to pour out another cup of tea.

Another growl of a beast could be heard but it sounded distant, neither of us reacted to it. As I began to calm down I felt a kind of euphoria, a kind of warm feeling inside as though I had made a new friend. Maybe she was aware that she was half beast and didn't like it. She was certainly strong by the way she had dealt with the beasts earlier, and she had intelligence, she wasn't just acting upon instinct alone and she was clearly aware of her actions. But was she able to control her beastlike urges? She had a taste for blood, was she tempted to attack me or was it something that never even crossed her mind? Was I safe with my newfound friend or was I still in extreme danger? I wasn't sure.

She handed me the cup of tea so I responded by thanking her then took a sip. She sat perfectly still while looking up at me. The sound of the rain could be heard outside. It had been raining all along but I only just noticed the noise of it bouncing against the tin roof.

"My name's Amanda," I said, "What's your name?"

She didn't respond or even react in any way to my words. I sniffed and wiped my left eye.

"Do you understand?" I continued, "Nod if you do."

For the slightest moment I thought she was nodding but she was only adjusting her kneeling position.

"Okay, well don't worry," I said, "If you do understand me inside I just want you to know I want to be friends. I'm like you, we were both infected but I'm just not as far gone as you. You're still more human than... You're not a real monster!"

I handed her back the cup of tea which was still half full, she took it from me then placed it down. She then picked up the packet of crisps again and sat down beside me. I thought for a moment she was about to eat them but she handed them to me. I took out a handful and began to eat. I wondered how I could possibly be friends with someone who feeds on blood. I imagined what the future would be like if we did become true friends, then wondered if she would ever regain the ability to speak.

The sound of the rain was still heavy and I could hear dripping water coming from somewhere. It wasn't until then that I remembered the pain in my ears. Somehow with all that went on the pain had subsided but as I began to relax it had returned. It felt like a headache forming around the base of my ears that grew with intensity by the sound of the rain. My head started to throb as the dripping water grew louder. Each drop was forming a larger puddle and causing a larger echo to sound back. It wasn't loud at all, it was my sensitive ears focusing upon it. I closed my eyes trying to clear the sound from my mind.

I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. My head felt hot and my body ached.

 

Chapter 4 - Time To Go

Upon waking I found myself leaning on my new friend using her left breast as a pillow. She had her arm around me in a tight hug and was fast asleep. Her gentle snore was quite pleasing and proved that she was capable of making noises vocally so maybe one day she could learn to speak again. I felt completely relaxed in the position I was in but it felt inappropriate to lean on her in such a way, so I changed position. She was quite a heavy sleeper and didn't react to my movement.

The rain had stopped and I could see sunshine lighting the steps to my left. The corridor was still fairly dark but not as dark as before. I sensed that I had slept for a long time and it was quite possibly the following day. My watch confirmed my suspicion, it was 7:30am, I had slept for at least fourteen hours. It was understandable when I thought about all the events that had passed. I was astonished as I thought back to how fast I had been running, maybe I had an enhanced ability that I never knew I possessed in the same way that my new friend had extra strength. It would be unlikely that there would be any beasts about at that time of day so the journey home would be of no peril, but I didn't want to say my goodbyes to my new friend, I wanted her to return home with me. With no fully human people left in the world I was alone but at least I now had someone, even in her half turned state she was still a person. I thought about the future again and what it would be like if we lived together, I then thought about meal times, it was going to be complicated. I did need the company though so even if I had to sacrifice a little of my own blood it would be worth it.

I looked down at her backpack and the contents spread over the floor. A thermos flask, its cup, a half eaten packet of crisps, a damp cloth, an unopened packet of tissues, a pair of glasses, a key ring with no keys, crumpled newspaper and a photograph of a small boy, in fact the very same photo I found in the street earlier, she must have picked it up. The backpack also contained two front pockets that were bulging with contents. I wondered if she had somewhere that she called home or if the contents of her backpack were everything she owned.

She made a slight noise as she repositioned her body but was still deep in slumber. I stopped leaning against her and sat up fully then moved her arm from my shoulder. As I did so I caught a glimpse of an earring back on the reverse of her ear and yet there was no earring on the front. I imagined it must have broken off and the metal clip was still inside her lobe. Her lips looked quite strange as they bulged out not fully able to contain the long teeth inside. She had the teeth of a beast but not the accompanying snout, it must have been a constant source of pain for her. From what I could see in the dim light the colour of her face was normal apart from her pale cheeks, that could easily be remedied with makeup if she let me do it. Her dress was damp and threadbare, she was probably wearing that before she became infected and had never changed it. She did have the intelligence to repair the holes though albeit with a haphazard approach. It looked like brown parcel tape she used to patch it up. I had plenty of spare dresses I never wore that she could borrow, she looked the same size as myself. The thought of us going clothes shopping together felt appealing. I then wondered about her age. I was 24 but looked far older with all I had been through, but I could not even hazard a guess as to her age. She may have been anything from 20 to 50, I simply could not work it out from her features. She was probably fairly young though based upon her choice in clothing. No one would wear a backpack with a red dress so she likely got that later. I started to think about her family, they had either died or become beasts, I wondered if she witnessed that. She was most likely fully aware of what she was and may still possess memories of her human life. I wiped a tear from my cheek, I felt so sorry for her, she must have been so lonely.

"Val", I mimed with my lips.

The key ring among the pile of items scattered upon the floor contained the name Val. I leant forward and picked it up for a closer look. I hoped it was hers and not just a random item she had found in the street.

"Your name is Val," I whispered as I looked toward her.

I smiled.

She still remained fast asleep. I gently stroked the hair away from her forehead and touched her cheek. I felt nervous about doing so but plucked up the courage, her skin felt warm.

"Mm," she responded.

In an instant her eyes blinked wide open and she stared at me, I quickly pulled my hand back. She leant forward and started looking from side to side then back toward me. She smiled displaying her distorted teeth. It was disturbing to look at but I knew she was happy.

"Is your name Val?" I asked just to gage her reaction.

She didn't respond.

"Well from now on you're Val," I said.

She immediately stood up then knelt down retrieving the items from the floor and putting them back into the backpack. I quickly knelt down and started helping. For a brief moment she paused wondering what I was doing but then let me and we continued putting the items away together.

"Do you have anywhere to go Val?" I asked.

After a slight pause to give her a chance to respond I then added, "You can come and live with me, I've got plenty of room and we'll be great mates."

Once all the items were back inside the backpack she stood up and lifted it over her shoulders.

"Let me help," I said as I stepped behind her and made sure the straps were securely in place.

She turned around to face me.

"Let's go," I said with enthusiasm.

I hobbled over to the steps slightly limping with my sore ankle, I didn't think it was serious but it was still quite painful. I would have to walk slowly and take extra care. I slowly took the first step then the next but Val suddenly pushed past me and stood in front blocking my path. In an instant and with little effort she had picked me up, her hands supporting my bottom while my legs dangled around her waist. I gripped her shoulders tightly as she clopped down the wooden steps in her high heeled boots. I was amazed anyone could navigate stairs in such footwear let alone carry someone at the same time. We were both the same height and probably similar in weight but I seemed like a child in how easy she was able carry me.

As we reached the bottom step she looked from side to side as to check it was safe. It was daylight and bright so no beasts were around. She then continued to walk up the street with me still in her arms. I couldn't believe that she didn't put me back down for it was going to be a long journey home across town. I was sure she couldn't possibly carry me the entire way. Maybe that wasn't her intention, she could have been taking me to her hovel to eat me, I dismissed the thought.

The sensation of being carried in such a position for over an hour felt bizarre, she never stopped for a single moment for the entire journey and had no signs of exhaustion whatsoever. whereas I was feeling cramp in both legs and had an aching back.

As we approached the hill leading up to the supermarket I readjusted my position catching a glimpse of her open mouth and the fangs inside. I doubted if I would ever get used to seeing those, if I did it would take a very long time. I also caught a whiff of that metallic smell again, it was probably her breath.

We turned the corner at the supermarket then down the street where we had first met. I was facing the opposite direction but knew where we were, my home was at the far end of the street, our journey almost over.

Val stopped in the middle of the road next to the newsagents. Bending forward I slid out of her hands and stood in front of her. I hobbled a few steps back, then forward stretching out my arms high up into the air trying to remove the ache from my back, while Val appeared to be perfectly comfortable with no signs of discomfort as she stood in front of me. She smiled through her gruesome fangs again, I smiled back.

"Um..." I said, "Do you have anywhere to go? I live just there in that block of flats, you're more than welcome to stay with me."

There was no reaction.

"I've got plenty of room and I'm..." I instantly stopped speaking as I saw Val open her mouth in an attempt to talk. Nothing came out but I definitely saw her lips move.

I grabbed her wrist and squeezed it firmly.

"You'll never be alone again, I promise!" I said referring to myself as well as Val.

 

Chapter 5 - We'll Work Something Out

Three months had past since Val moved in with me and I had never been as happy as I was in such a long time. My life had been on pause ever since the outbreak but I was only now beginning to accept the situation and getting on with my life. I had even purchased, for free, a new pair of shoes and didn't have to wear my tight chunky ones anymore.

Val was still incapable of speech and didn't understand a word I was saying but she clearly possessed the memory of what speech was and on many occasions moved her lips silently. I would read to her each evening while she sat listening to my voice. She was in the habit of kneeling on the floor beside my feet instead of sitting on the sofa. It would only be a matter of time before she learnt to speak again.

Her pale cheeks appeared to be getting their colour back, maybe living in a warmer environment instead of being outside in the cold had an effect. At one time I did try to put blusher on her face but she couldn't comprehend what I was doing and kept pushing my hand away. Her face was sensitive, her teeth caused problems pushing up against her cheeks making them painful. I wished I was able to help her but there was nothing I could do about it.

As for her intelligence she was improving. I had a suspicion that she was fully aware of everything going on around her and was just as intelligent as she was before she was infected, but there was a mental barrier not allowing her to express what she was thinking. It was clear she felt frustrated at times and I made sure to remind her that I was aware she was still in there trapped inside her mind.

She often smiled and it was clear she was a lot happier and better off living with me than how she had lived before. At one point I was sure she laughed when we tried on new dresses replacing her old tatty one. She loved dressing up but never liked looking at her reflection in the mirror, I would verbally tell her how great she looked and hoped she understood.

I couldn't persuade her to eat normal food. The supermarket had supplies of tinned meat but it wasn't bloody enough to satisfy her needs. There was no way of asking what she used to eat. I suspected she used to hunt the beasts but aside from the danger to herself the beasts were once human and I didn't like the idea of her feeding off one. Instead I let her feed from me. I knew she gained nourishment from the haemoglobin found in blood, some of which I could supply from my own menstrual blood and urine, it sounded disgusting but there was no other way. As for the rest I allowed her to give me gentle bites on a less sensitive part of my body. I gained a lot of red marks caused by the puncture wounds but no permanent scars.

The beasts still howled at night keeping us awake but I was no longer living in fear for I now had a reason to live.

THE END.

 

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