I sit there with bated breath.
"Sir, open this door," the man on the other end repeats. He sounds impatient. Human. Alive. It doesn't make me any less anxious. My fingers twitch, I hardly notice beyond the click on the desk. I begin to overthink the words spoken. Was it my imagination that made the tone of the man's throat rise?
I creep closer to the door, footsteps silent; I'd long since foregone my shoes, too noisy. I see the shadow of the man's military boots through the slit at the bottom of the door. It's daylight. Between the creatures and the cold, I must've lost track of time. I check my watch.
What the hell? No, that's not right. I stop, leaning against the wall adjacent to the door, flicking the watch face. It still works; it counts the seconds with a tick, tick, tick.
So how was it bright out there..? At quarter to eleven in the winter?
I hear the balcony outside shift, creaking as it does so. The man must've shifted his weight, I can't decide if that's a good sign. It's a.. human action, but Jake showed that that wasn't always the best thing. He showed that these.. things, were intelligent, and they were more than capable. Damn Alice.
I look up from the watch, and continue to creep. I no longer hear the ticking, but pay it no mind. There were bigger things at play here than trying to argue with the battery life of a stolen watch.
I get right up against the door, bracing the handle with my hand, ready to throw it open and place a knife to the man's throat the second it opens, but-
The door flies open, the lock snapping as the door collides with me, knocking me to the floor and making me cry out as I roll off of my shoulder. The knife isn't in my hand, where's that damn knife? The assault rifle is the first thing to enter, followed by a pair of gloved palms. When the body enters, my heart nearly stops.
This.. was not what I was expecting.
The military man works his jaw, the sinew holding his bottom mandible to the top stretching itself thin. The barrel of the assault rifle finds itself level with my face, and my heart's pounding so hard I can hear it in my head.
"I need you to tell me where Jake Evans, Alice Williams, Christopher Anderson, and David Fischer are," the eviscerated man demands. I can see the back of his spine through the gaping hole in his stomach. It almost looks cartoony.
"Why the fuck should I tell you?" I snarl back, and the exposed teeth of the man grit.
I'm knocked unconscious by the blunt stock of the AR-15 assault rifle.
"We can't kill him, the information he has is far too vital."
"So what do we do about this? There's no way we can-"
"We have to work with it. We get the information we need, we move on. So does he."
Not exactly relieving words to hear upon waking. They pull my sleeve back down over my shoulder as I open my eyes, my head on fire and the bright sunlight outside blinding me. I'm tied to the chair in the living room of the apartment, still struggling to figure out how they got in through the barricades with the remaining brain cells still left alive.
The man before me leans down, and I see him clearly for the first time. His hair is short, blond, and he's got hazel eyes. Average looking, but muscular build, maybe thirty. Something doesn't feel.. right, looking at him.
"Son, I need you to tell me where your folks are. Not your parents, but the group you were with. We need to speak to them." He smiles, as though that'll make him seem trustworthy, but all it does is reveal the decayed yellows formerly hidden behind skin and makes my skin crawl.
"What do you want with them?" I retort, and watch his brows rise, but his smile never leaves his face. It's unsettling.
"We need to speak to them," he repeats, voice impatient once more. I notice the fabric of his sleeve is torn. What was this shit? "The pandemic has been righted, citizens no longer need to worry."
I consider his words for a long time.
"Untie me and I'll tell you."
He nods, and he does so.
"The short way to put it, is that they're dead." The smile doesn't falter; it remains, headstrong on being trustworthy, even as his brows knit in faux worry and sympathy. His hands are empty, held in his lap in loose fists, the exposed skin between his sleeve and glove dried and cracked.
"That's awful, son. I can't imagine a youngun like you havin' to go through that. But you're alright, now; the pandemonium is over, and the pandemic has been righted."
"What's with you saying that?"
He looks like a deer in headlights for the longest time, his smile unrelenting. It produces an uncanny look of ecstasy, and chills me to the bone.
"Why, I just want you to relax, won't you kindly?" his voice is soft and sweet, not unlike that of a pushover, a stark contrast to the loud, demanding voice that I'd heard on the other side of the door. He's been more forgiving and understanding.
".. Fine," I finally relent, followed by the soldier standing, and approaching the door to the balcony. I'm almost all too happy to see him begin to leave. "Good man. I will be but a moment; I need to speak with my sargeant."
"I can't do this without your permission, sir."
"You don't have my permission, rookie."
"He's clearly losing it, sir. The virus has moved to his bloodstream, he won't make it much longer."
I peer around the edge of the doorway, seeing only him standing there on the balcony, looking at the ground below. It's bright daylight out there, and I can't see any military stronghold or defenses built around the complex that would justify his presence.
"Fine. You have my permission. But do it discreetly."
He comes back in, and the smell overtakes me. It only gets stronger as he gets closer. Did he always smell like this? How did I not notice?
He takes me by the shoulders, shaking me lightly, "Hey, did you hear me? I need you to get up, I can't carry you."
He tries to get me to stand, but the smell's too strong now.
I sink my teeth into his neck, canines ripping and tearing at the skin of his throat and coming away covered in blood.
My name is Paul.. Paul Jacobs. That was several hours ago.
Everyone told me that Alberta would be the safest bet, with all the wheat fields. I guess they were wrong.
Stay away from large cities. Stay away from wheat fields. Stay away from suburban areas.
Your best bet is underground, where none of them can hear you.
(The rest of the letter is covered in blood and grey matter, and is indecipherable.)