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Prologue

Humans have always been fascinated by death. It is no secret. Why else do so many people try to explain its mysterious nature? Why else do they take it as both serious and intriguing? And mostly, why are the ghastly stories of the undead so chilling, so popular?

Truth is, everyone is in some way fascinated by death, whether they dread the day they'll die or not. It is just human nature. Trying to explain everything, find logic, a pattern, even when there's not.

Ghosts, souls, zombies, shadowy figures, skeletons, ghouls, angels, demons, afterlife... All come from their vivid imaginations as humans. We all think about it one day or another. Is there anything at all that remains after death? Truth is, we don't know, and it might be what makes it the most mysterious topic on Earth. Well, imagine if they had gotten something right? What if it was true? It sounds far-fetched for some, maybe, but, all these urban legends had to come from somewhere...

It is normal to think about afterlife, to believe it in any form. Humans are often scared of death. They don't like the idea of eternal blankness. The idea of everything they have lived for approaching sooner and sooner it's end each second. Nothing lasts forever. All are just small, meaningless mortals in the grand scheme of things. These existential words are what makes so many dread the day they meet their inevitable demise. Yet, Spoilers: Everything around you will end. Will become void or nothingness. That's just how it is.

If it scares you, you aren't alone. THIS. This is why the belief of afterlife is so comforting, and it's because it's comforting that it's so common. So smile, because maybe death isn't the end. Maybe there's always something afterwards, awaiting you and all the ones you lost.

And enjoy every moment of your life, as every moment is a fraction, a rare and unique instant in the millions of millions of years of the universe.

And settle down to listen to the true meaning behind the mysterious entity that earthly mortals call ''the Death''.

Chapter 1

I yawned and got up from my bed, awaiting another ordinary, but amazing day. I released my body from the multiple blankets that somehow had gotten onto it. It was becoming too hot to wear these, as summer was slowly coming. I placed most of them in the closest, only keeping a soft, fresh blanket for myself. This way I won't wake up in a complete heat stroke anymore. I got down to the living room, where a bowl was already placed for me. I often place it at night before going to bed so I can stay maximum lazy when the sun rises. But I was sure I didn't last night. I simply, utterly didn't remember that. I shrugged it off. And so? I just didn't remember something I actually did. It happens pretty much constantly to people. So I simply poured some cereals and milk and ate without thinking much of it. I mean, I wouldn't ruin my entire, busy day overthinking such an unimportant thinking. No. I had already much more important things to worry about. And, if you don't mind some spoilers, honestly, it ain't gonna become better once I get to my work. Not that I hate it, no, though I will admit work is what makes up most of my "things to worry about". But many people can relate to that statement. That is not true about the new... rumor... or whatever you could call it, that I was about to hear.

When I arrived at the café I worked at, I settled to my place, near the order counter and one of the multiple coffee machines that filled this place. It was quite a charming little place, and if I wasn't a worker there, I would instead come to take a sip down and chat with friends. It had a brown, coffee aesthetic, with little creamy, striped walls. It's tables where more generic, with metal legs, plastic chairs backs and a simple black top, but at least the naproons with a cartoon coffee bean family added some originality to it, and some fun for the kids while their parents took their coffees. I always loved kids and their antics. They are quite funny and sweet. Seeing the kids play around in the café was probably my favorite part of my job here, at Joe's café.

Amy, my coworker and friend, approached me while making her latte order. She had dark skin, black hair and eyes somber like a calm summer night. She was often seen wearing eccentric clothes and aprons at her work.

"Hey, have you heard?" She told me.

"Hum?" I wondered what she was talking about.

"People are reporting having seen an undead walking around." She chuckled. "A new, silly urban legend just like any other, in my opinion. I don't believe this world will ever see zombies other then on the big screen."

I didn't believe these claims either. Firstly because the idea of zombies was ridiculous. There is no way ever that a dead body could just randomly come back alive and start walking away like nothing ever happened, for multiple reasons. I mean just take any scientific look at how corpses work and you'll see that well, these things are NOT actually working in any way.

"It ain't the first, nor the last time these types of claims will be made." I replied. "Either it's fake, either they are delusional. Or, at the very least, they just saw a badly sick person and confused diseased with deceased." I laughed with her.

She was about to continue the conversation, when the owner of the restaurant, Joe, approached from behind and spoke his own, unasked for words, as always.

"Oh, I wouldn't be that sure it's just yet another legend, guys. I saw a strange person... or thing... walking down the street last night as I was closing down the place. It could have very well been dead, but not since very long."

Joe wasn't a bad boss in any way, but he was really annoying, especially when he inserted his opinion that no one cared about in our discussions, even personal. But overall he was a large, funny, jolly guy that looked like a fake Santa at malls, without the costume on. And he could be a bit strict at times, but, I see that more as simply an habit from having a kid. You have to be strict to kids sometimes. Especially his daughter, apparently. Amy had been here for longer then me and had saw her as a kid. She was always awaiting for a new opportunity to make some mischief. Now, she was about to go to college and had, thankfully, become much wiser.

"You saw that thing?" Amy said skeptically.

He nodded and leaned on the counter laid-backly.

"I know, I know, it seems unbelievable. But it's real. I saw it."

"Would like to get any valuable proof of that." I held a cheesy comment at him.

He laughed. "Then you should stay up at night. That's when people saw it."

I almost thought about it, just so I could debunk it and reveal it was just a prankster with some makeup. But my sleep schedule already felt terrible. Though that was probably the hot temperature, that should get better now the blankets are gone. I thought about buying a fan as well. That for sure would fix everything.

"No thanks. I won't skip a good night's sleep for a stupid legend."

Joe shrugged. "If you say so..."

Amy started washing a cup. "If you ever change your mind, I would be willing to go with you... in case you get too scared." She smirked and I smiled back as a simple answer.

I didn't really care about this rumor as of for now. People have thought silly things for hundreds of years. Remember when humanity used to believe that the sun was carried through the sky by Apollo, a Greek deity? Yeah. Now, we still create some crazy ghost stories to scare the little kids trying to go to bed. Why would this sudden claim that there was a "zombie" or whatever around this town be any different?

As I ended my work day, I waved goodbye to Amy and stepped outside the door. The sun was beginning to set and the sky felt like it was burning. I would have simply came back home, ate some snacks and go to bed, when I heard complaints from across the street. I looked at where it came from. The person screaming was an old woman. Her garbage cans where all ripped apart and spilled upon the floor, like someone had grabbed and ransacked them furiously. I had already noticed when I had first arrived at my job this morning. But I didn't pay it any attention. There was a stray, dirty dog around here. It could have very well scavenged in the trash for some food. That disgusting thing barely had anything else then skin around it's bones, and the ugly mutt could have very well being rabid. In a way, I hated, feared and felt bad for it all at the same time. This thing was clearly alone and dying in a terrible state, but it was too savage and dirty for anyone to try to approach it.

"It's ok, ma'am." I calmed the lady. "It's just spilled trash. I can help you collect it back in one place if you want."

"Oh, thank you, sweetie." She smiled at me but still seemed terrified.

"You know, it ain't that big of a deal." I reassured her. "Probably was that stupid dog again."

"Oh no!" She told me. "Couldn't be. The bags seemed to have been teared by human hands. Look closer." She pointed.

I bent over to examine the garbage.

"And the way the garbage is as of now... it seems, unnatural..." She added.

I couldn't help myself but agree. There was something off. I ran my hand through the garbage, trying to find a suspicious thing that would explain it all. I didn't. It was mostly just cans and plastic.

I then approached my hand to my face and smelled it. It smelled terrible, even for garbage. Like decaying flesh. Was there a dead animal in this dump? It was the only explanation. It looked again. No.

"I think it's that thing." Said the old woman, like she was reading in my mind for what I was thinking about. "You know, the zombie people said they saw."

"Let's not jump to conclusions." I told her back. "There is much more logical explanations for this scent of decay."

But in my mind, even thinking about it rationally the best I could, I didn't really find much. Not when there wasn't a dead animal in this trash bag. Could it really have been this thing? No. I shacked the simple thought off my head. It was probably that nasty dog. Yes, dogs, even unhealthy, dirty dogs, don't tend to smell like rotten flesh. But this thing probably ate any carcass it could find at this point, so its mouth had probably been filled of just that. Yes. Obviously. It was the only logical conclusion.

"I'm sure it's nothing." I added to calm the old lady, before going back to my plans of getting home.

This night, still, I had some trouble sleeping. I was overthinking this mysterious case until it drived my mind crazy and tired. And so I finally fell asleep.

Chapter 2

I went back to work today, expecting to never hear about this thing again. It had to be over one day, like any stupid legend teenagers made up for campfire horror storytelling time.

When I arrived at the café's door, all I saw was that dog I spoke about yesterday, right across the street. It looked just as dirty as before, and even seemed to have lost fur. Surely from all the mites and other parasites and insects that covered that damn thing. It growled at me, so I slowly and shily entered the café. Once I closed the door, separating its sharp fangs and sick face from me, I felt safe from this creature, and I was so relived I even sighed.

Amy welcomed me when I came to my post. I didn't tell her about the decaying flesh scent I had kept on my hands after touching the garbage (this thing took so many washings to take off! It's a tenacious smell!), or anything about the trash incident. She didn't need to know, because it wasn't important. But mostly, if Joe heard, he wouldn't shut up about him "being right" or whatever.

Instead, he still arrived with new tales from the undead. Unfortunately, it seemed like this case wasn't over.

"I saw it again this night... but only later, when I was getting home. It hit some trash cans furiously, before it looked at me... It's eyes... they were glowing with malicious intent! It stared into my soul for a few seconds, before I ran away and barricade myself in my home. You have no idea how scary it was."

"At this point I would almost believe you're just inventing these tales." Amy teased him. She then said in a more serious voice. "There's no way this is real."

She was right, of course, but I still felt intrigued by this story. Maybe Joe was telling the truth of what he saw. Obviously, the explanation would be much more logical, though. Maybe a homeless person... though there was never any around here, not that I know of.

"Be careful, then." I simply said slightly sarcastically to Joe.

Another coworker I didn't know that much approach the conversation.

"I think the thing's real." He added his useless opinion. "A zombie. The first of an army of undead." He said, spectacularly waving his hand across the sky.

Amy and me looked at him strangely. "That's a bit jumping to conclusions, don't you think? Even if it was real, there would be nothing to indicate it wouldn't be the simply only one."

The coworker shrugged. "If you say so. I believe it. I believe my house could be haunted, too."

I would have facepalmed if I wasn't as respectful as a person than I am. He clearly just believes everything he can. These types of people are how idiotic legends like this become widely-known.

"Please. A haunted house too, now?" Amy said with despair. "Why are y 'all believing this, again?"

I took some of the naproons from the pile and placed them on the tables, preparing for new customers for the day.

Everything went fine, until the last "customer". But it wasn't simply a customer. More like just an annoying paranormal investigator. He ordered a dark coffee and we got to making the order, but he continued speaking.

"I managed to take a picture of it last night. The thing. Y'know, the zombie people are all talking about?"

"Yes, I know way too much." Sighed Amy.

"Its real." He said. "Look."

He showed us a blurry, poor picture that showed a street from around here, with a thing that might have looked dead if it wasn't too blurry to draw any conclusion of value.

"And why is the quality so... derisive?" I asked him.

"Took it while I was running away. Didn't want to be close to that thing. It could have attacked me."

"Hum hum." I nodded skeptically. "I think it's blurry so you can photoshop a random zombie image without anyone noticing it's fake because of the quality."

"Tsss. I know your kind. Always looking for the scientific explanations, even when I show them all the proof I have. I understand where you come from, obviously, but have you ever considered maybe WE were the ones being in the right? Us? The believers."

"Listen, we're only here to serve you coffee. Not hear your fantasy stories." Amy told him. "Now please sit at a table and wait for your order."

The customer looked at her with a faint smile and finally gave up arguing with her. Good choice, or he would have been stuck here for all the rest of the day, and even night. Amy could firmly defend where she stood for hours when she got into an argument.

Joe started closing the place once the weird customer left, and me and Amy walked home. We waved goodbye when we separated to our respective streets.

I took a bowl of cereal before going to sleep. I felt tired today. I decided to definitely buy a fan to solve the heat problem. What it wouldn't solve, though, was my mind thinking about this story instead of sleeping. I sighed. I could rest easy tonight. There was nothing. Why did my brain think irrationally that something was truly going on last night? It wasn't the case. It was yet another cryptid or horror story crafter from the human mind, like the Bigfoot. And we haven't heard of any real "Bigfoot proof" for ages.

When I placed my bowl at the kitchen to wash it, I looked over to the patio's windowed door. I don't really know why. I just took a single, distant look.

That's where I saw it. Across the window.

It was white and misty, it seemed almost made of light. Like the reflection of something that had once lived upon this Earth like you and me. It looked at me. It had noticed I was there too. I felt like it was going to approach me, run after me. Thankfully, we were separated by the door. But I still felt the sense of dread. My fight or flight instinct from deep within. I backed down, at a wall far from every window. It couldn't see me here. But I could. I glanced back at where I saw it before. It was there no more. It had left, to continue roaming the city aimlessly, perhaps. But what really mattered is that I saw it, and that now, it was gone.

Chapter 3

I woke up this morning feeling so lethargic I knew I had to make it change. I was going to buy a fan to make it chiller in my room, and will debunk the thing I saw last night. So I can get actual sleep, you know. I was going to investigate this monster until I know what it is so me and the rest of this city can rest easy. But it would come at the cost of having to stay awake for a few nights to catch this thing. Doesn't matter though. I barely get any more sleep from actually trying to after what I saw...

I stepped out of my house, determined to put an end to this story.

I entered the café in such a hurry I slammed the door.

"Careful with my door." Pointed out Joe.

"Sorry." I apologized. "But have you seen it again? The ghost, zombie, undead, whatever you want to call it. Was it there again?" I seemed almost out of breath as I said those words.

"So you're finally interested in this?" He replied.

"Yes. So I can debunk the claims, that is." I affirmed.

"Well, I'm sorry to say it wasn't there last night."

I should have known. Of course it wasn't around Joe's café last night. It was at my house! But why? Did it follow me? What did it want from me?

I shook off these thoughts. No. It was just a person trying to scare me, to get me to believe his trick. Nothing else. Weird how ghostly he looked through the window last night, though.

After a normal day of job, I stayed and helped Joe close the place, so I could wait until it was nighttime to look around for the thing.

"Good luck." Joe told me. "Don't get caught. I need you, remember? You're a good employee."

I felt grateful for the compliment but sighed. "I don't believe its a monster, a zombie, or anything aggressive." I simply replied.

He shrugged as I left the building.

I took out a small flashlight I had packed into my pockets for my nightly excursion. The night had already fell and only the street lights, the quarter moon and my flashlight made it possible to say two meters away. I took a deep breath. I felt scared out of the sudden. Like if that thing was lurking around the corners and trying to catch me. But it couldn't be, right? No. It wasn't true. It was all an elaborate fake.

I walked down the street, my flashlight pointing at anything suspicious I saw. It felt like it was at every corner, but when I actually got to look there, it wasn't. Or at least not anymore. I did see a few other utterly destroyed trash cans, though. So that was a thing, I guess. I sighed. As expected, there was nothing when I was actually trying to find it.

That's when I heard something coming from one of the dumps. I turned around and shoved my light at it. The can was moving, like there was something ransacking inside! I carefully approached, nervous to what could be hiding there. When I got close enough, I pushed it so it fell on the ground revealing who what hiding inside...

I felt relived instantly. It was simply that diseased dog again. But my relief was short-lived, as he growled at me, clearly unhappy that I disturbed him. I put my flash light away from him. Sometimes, having the lights flown at their eyes was what made animals aggressive. But it made it worst for me. I could still hear it growling, ready to pounce at me and tear my flesh with its dirty claws and crooked fangs. But I couldn't see it. Was it coming closer? Was it preparing to jump. I didn't know. All I saw was a vague shadow. I flashed back my light at him. His eyes glowed green. He showed all his teeth to me, and was clearly in aggressive pose. Luckily for me, he never actually began the fight. I whistled at it when I felt confident again, and it looked at me differently, no longer aggressive. More... scared. Then he ran away. This poor thing was clearly not used to being around humans. He saw them as dangerous, a threat. If it wasn't so disgusting and aggressive, I would probably have it in pity.

I sighed, reassured, now that the angry dog was gone.

But it wasn't long until I heard someone scream. It was a woman, from behind one of the houses across the street. I came to see what made her scream.

"What's wrong?" I said, arriving to her right. The backyard was void, only having a small flower garden. There wasn't even an outdoor table And, certainly, no zombie. She seemed unsure at first, but as I got closer, she realized I wasn't a monster (which was probably what she saw) and began to reply.

"I saw the thing, the thing of the legend that was heard these days... y'know, the zombie... It was there." She pointed to the street where I had been walking.

So I was right, when I thought I saw it peeking at every corner! It was actually, there, following me. But why? I retained the hypothesis that it was just someone trying to get me to believe in this thing, knowing well I didn't.

"Is it still there?" I asked.

"I don't think so." She asked. She now seemed calm, like nothing had happened. "Do you think it was really that?"

I shrugged. She looked at me.

"What was it doing?"

"I... I'm not sure honestly." She proceeded to visibly think about it. "I think it was following, searching someone."

Me.

"So I was right." I murmured. "This thing IS looking after me."

She heard. "Were you the person that scared away the dog? I saw someone scare away that thing too, but the street light made it in backlight, and I couldn't tell what person it had been. Was it you by any chance?"

"Yes..." I simply replied.

"It had to be following you, then..." She concluded. And just like that, my worst suspicion was confirmed.

But what does it even want? I have nothing specific that a zombie could want so badly. Did I do something of interest to him? Why was it ready to even stalk me back to my house?

I felt scared out of the sudden. The thing was looking for ME.

I felt empty and slightly scared by the revelation, so I quickly went to a 24 hour shop to buy a small fan, and I came home. I barely tried to sleep though, even with the fan now bought. I was too preoccupied. Still, I managed to fall asleep. The fan was doing its magic.

Chapter 4

My body felt better this morning; much less tired, despite the night excursion I had. But the fan seemed to really help getting me a good sleep. Good. This way I could continue searching for the thing during the night without feeling too tired the next day. I would get to the end of this mystery.

I went to my job, slightly more cheerful then I expected for someone that had just learned that something, that was seemingly a zombie or a undead of any kind, was after them.

I started preparing a dark coffee when Amy arrived, and I remembered when she offered to go debunk the thing with me.

"Hey, Amy, I'm trying to tell what these claims of undead are all about now, so if you still want to go with me..."

"Sure, friend." She smiled. "I'll protect you." She joked.

I smiled slightly. She had no idea, of course, that in that case being with her was an actual protection, as I was beginning to feel something was off, paranormal or not.

When it became time to leave the café, Amy removed her job apron, revealing today's eccentric outfit she had picked. It was a bright blue shirt had many colorful spots, with a skirt-and-pants with strange cartoony characters, such as jumpy frogs. It wasn't time to reinvent fashion thought, it was time to investigate paranormal activity. Joe joked he should give us a night shift, since we stayed awake. Even though he didn't have a night shift.

Me and Amy walked down outside, at the street, like I did last night. Like last night, I still believed it was there, at every corner, only for it to be gone when I flashed the light at it. Suddenly, I heard howling. I gave the flashlight to Amy.

"Look at this mutt." I grumbled at her. "It's still there."

She took the light to the dog, and we saw its sick face clearly. It was still as skinny as can be, and with missing patches of fur. So sick it looked more dead then alive. I laughed interiorly at the irony that the dog itself looked almost like the zombie we were searching. But only in my head, of course. And I stopped finding anything funny when the smelly canine started getting unusually aggressive. It seemed like it was going to attack Amy at anytime, if she dared to move.

"W-What do I do?" She murmured.

"I don't know... oh, wait." I picked a rock that was laying at the pavement, and threw it at the dog. It whimpered, bared his teeth at me, the thrower, then made the wise decision to run away. We both sighed.

"This dog is a menace to everyone around here." She grumpily affirmed.

When we turned at the front of the house I went at last night, after the lady told me she saw the thing following me, I looked over there. She wasn't there, but a man was. I glanced at it. It was normal, and alive. It ran towards us.

"It was there again... following someone." He told us.

"How do you..." I began asking.

"My wife told me." He simply responded.

So he was the husband of the woman last night. Made sense, then.

"And it was still following me..." I murmured.

"Wait! It followed you last night?" Amy looked at me.

"Apparently." I said.

"Why didn't you tell me?!?" She seemed unhappy that I didn't.

"I don't know... didn't think it was important." But I knew I was lying. I just didn't want her to know how serious it was getting; how this thing was now searching for me like I searched for it. I didn't want her to be worried.

"Do you... do you think it's dangerous?" The man shivered, interrupting Amy as she was about to continue reprehending me.

"We... well we don't really know for sure." I shrugged. But, in actually, I had the feeling it was. Why else would it stalk me like prey?

"It's someone pulling a prank, dude. Don't worry." Amy tried to calm him down. I stared at her, and she immediately knew what I meant.

"And I think it's just following you to make you scared, since they know you didn't believe at first." she said firmly at me. "Now let's get back to demasking this prankster."

I reassured the man, still shacking, and followed her. She was moving the flashlight frantically.

"So what about it following you?" She confronted me about it again when we got far away from the man.

"Last night. I was doing the same thing as we are doing right now." I answered. "The wife of the guy we just saw... she told me she saw it around where I was... always..."

"So its the creepiest prank ever, I see..."

I didn't reply. I didn't bother telling Amy that I was beginning to doubt there was a logical explanation. She wouldn't accept this idea.

"So it would be around us?" She said, disinterested, clearly showing that she didn't believe it was the real deal.

"I... I think so, yes."

She turned the flashlight to all corners around me and sighed.

"You see. It's not there. I think you, and everyone, is becoming paranoid with this story. It was a simple fire camp horror story that people told around. No stalking monsters. No mystery. I think you need to calm down about this entire story and just... rest." She tapped my shoulder and gave me a warm smile. I smiled back, faintly.

"T-thanks." I murmured.

Amy and I told our goodbyes, as she decided to come back to her house. Clearly she thought there was nothing to be worried about. It was just a legend to her. I used to think that too, I know. But seeing the thing at my window... changed me.

Chapter 5

I got out of bed feeling even better today. I thanked myself for buying this fan. It helped a lot. I stretched myself; just because I was sleeping better didn't mean my articulations wouldn't be rusty after spending that much time laying on a bed. In fact, the better you sleep, the less you move your articulations during the night.

I closed down the fan peacefully, like I was respecting it for helping me sleep better despite my worries and a hot summer. But it was silly. Fans aren't alive. They are objects.

After some toast, I went outside for the work, thoughtful.

Yes, I was being extremely distracted by this story of the undead. Stupid, I know...

But, good news is, weekend starts tomorrow. I won't have to go to work and will get to the bottom of this case. Yes. It will all be over and everyone will rest easy, including me, as the truth will be revealed, whatever that truth might be.

I felt extremely distracted at work today. And I don't think I need to explain why. This mystery is really getting to my head. Too much, some might say... Guess that's just another reason to have it done as soon as I can.

I looked at the window as I washed dishes. The dirty dog was there, sniffing the ground. Then he looked at me, so I turned away to avoid eye contact. I didn't need to get problems with this dog. I already had problems with a creature coming from beyond the grave. Which is worst, maybe? I thought about zombies, and how we really have no idea what they are actually about. Why? Because we never saw any in real life, obviously. But my instinct told me the movies had been right. It wasn't friendly. I remembered the eyes I saw at the window. Staring at me. I wouldn't trust them for a millions of dollars.

"I saw it again." Joe approached me. "It was walking right there." He pointed a part of the street from the window. "I think it wanted to run towards me, but I was safe inside this building and it was left to rot outside." He smirked. "Speaking of that, rotting definitely didn't do it well. It looks much more worst then the first time I saw it. There's no doubt now that this thing should have been long dead... yet it's not."

I nodded silently.

"Listen." Joe continued. "I know you're trying to solve this case. And I know this is what you are going to do this weekend. I see it in your eyes. How obsess you are becoming with solving this mystery. And while I understand that... remember to do other things and take care of yourself, right? Obsessing over zombie stories isn't good for mental health."

"Yes. I'll make sure to." I reassured him. Even though I knew for a fact I wasn't going to.

And I was right. As soon as I got out of the café and started walking home, I couldn't stop myself from searching for it. I thought I saw its reflection on a trash can once... but maybe I was just hallucinating, at this point. Joe was right, this isn't doing good for me. Should I call the police to solve this case? No. The police doesn't deal with zombies. Because they aren't real. Well, they used to be. I'm not so sure now.

Chapter 6

Today is weekend. Which means I can spend even more of my day on this case.

I noted on papers all the hints I had. It learned me nothing, except that I was becoming a crazy kind of obsess, of course.

My mind felt fuzzy with all this mysterious information. I had to crack the code somehow. There had to be a way to solve this with what I already got, right?

Well... No. Obviously. Nothing was even proven facts. Just vague reports from people. Including me.

But there was something that could help me solve this case. There was a cemetery, close enough to where I lived. Surely, this is where the zombie emerged from, right? Well, it was definitely a possibility.

I sprinted to the graveyard as fast as I could. I glanced at all the graves, looking for any that would have been dug out from. I was sure glad it was the day, though. I imagine how I would have felt if I was in this place at night, knowing that it began more and more possible zombies were real now. Probably NOT good. I imagined it would be full of mist, of strange sounds, owls hooting. I then imagined the dead rising up, all becoming zombies like the one I had heard of countless times... Too much times. The visions became so scary, I shook them off. I was going insane with this story. No. I was going insane because of the zombie following me for what seemed no reason. I had to stop him. Or my mind would go totally berserk. It wasn't 'just a legend' now. It was a threat to my mental health, and I had to solve it all myself.

I scowl at the graves, still looking for a mysteriously opened one.

I don't know for how long I ended up looking at graves. People seeing me probably thought I was being weird, looking at graves all day. If only they knew. Well, actually, it's probably good that they DON'T know...

I ended up with nothing. No suspicious graves, no dug up holes, no zombies. Nothing.

When I asked an old couple relaxing on lounge chairs for the summer about it, they told me they just saw it, finding its way in the graveyard...

Of course. It was trying to follow me, wherever I was. And whatever time it was. Day didn't stop it. It's not because, as humans, we tend to be more scared at night that the day is any safer. It's all a trick of our biased mind. The zombie was probably still following me right now. It had to be hiding somewhere. Somewhere around it. Every second I felt like it would pounce at me, and murder me. Instantly. As my nervously grew bigger, I realized how much Joe was right when he said it was afflicting my mental health. And how I had to think of something else, whatever it was.

I didn't think much long. When I came back home, I didn't go to mine. I went to my neighbor's. Surely chilling with him would put my mind at ease, right?

I knocked on the door.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Brook." I told him.

"Oh, hi! Anything you need?"

"Just wanting to have some fun with my neighbor, you know. We live across each other, so we are kind of forced to get along." I laughed and he laughed back. It felt great and cleared my mind a bit. Brook then invited me to get inside.

I don't really know how long I stayed. We played video games on his console together, and it almost made me forget the zombie for a while. That was, until we played a game that had zombies too. I tried to avoid them as much as possible. I didn't want to think about it. When a zombie entered my room, I blasted it. It died instantly. I smiled, but with melancholy. If only it was that simple in the real world.

Lost in the virtual world, free from my real-life problems and zombies, I forgot about time, and suddenly realized the night was setting. I looked at the window, and I could have swore I saw the same ghostly figure staring at me, from it. I approached to try and spot the intruder, and saw it no more. The only reflection I saw now wasn't the one of a deceased soul, but mine. Nothing paranormal, basically. Yet I could have sworn I had been there for real.

"What is it?" Brook asked when he noticed I had left the game to stare outside aimlessly instead.

"I-I need to go... There's something." I didn't bother elaborating on the subject, and got to the door.

"Ok... Bye then." He waved but still seemed confused.

I got out of his house and instantly looked for traces of the thing I saw. This undead thing. I tried to recall better the face i saw, but it was only for a split second.

I think it was rotten, like almost melting off, and like last time, it seemed pale and transparent. One thing for sure, it was dead in every way possible.

My mind switched back to being obsess with the mystery. I scattered the ground until the moon was high in the sky, and my legs could barely carry around my body from how tired I was. I reminded myself of Joe, when he said I shouldn't let this case and my search for answers bring me harm, and finally went to my house, took a bite of popcorn, and laid down in my bed. I fell asleep instantly.

Chapter 7

I woke up late, unsurprisingly, but still felt tired, also unsurprisingly. My mind immediately thought about the case I was on despite me trying to stop it from overthinking. So after the treat of a breakfast that is waffles, I investigated again for traces of the dead creature around the houses, this time in day light. I found only one thing, and it horrified me. Brook's door handle was full of this rotten scent, only this time it was worst then last. The zombie had tried to get into the house... and it was obvious why. Because he wanted ME. He followed me, and now he tried getting in the same house I was in. I instantly got worried for how it would go for tomorrow, when I'll go back to work. I imagine the zombie and it's rotting face crashing into the café, attacking customers and workers alike. I imagined myself, powerless, knowing well it's me who led it there.

But one question still stood.

Why me, and not anybody else? What did it want? I never could find an answer to this question, and I was beginning to doubt I ever would. Whatever scenario I could think of, it never quite made sense.

I looked around my house too. I mean, it had to have been there too, if it was following me. To my horror, and expectations, when I smelled my handle, it also smelled terrible. This zombie was trying to break into my house, but I wouldn't let it. I made sure to close all windows and remember to double lock the door. With a key, and with an heavy object in front of it, just to make sure.

But as of now, it didn't seem to be there. I looked around, remembering that it can, in fact, show up at day just as much as at night. I stayed in high alert, and then I heard knocking from my backyard. My eyes widened, and I carefully approached the back of my house. It was coming from a trashcan...

The dog.

Of course. Why didn't I think of it earlier. I sighed in relief. The zombie wasn't there... yet, at least.

I opened my watering and aimed it at the dog so it would flee away from my yard. I already had enough disgusting problems around me with one zombie, so I didn't really need a dirty dog as well. It ran into the bushes and hid. Good.

I went back inside, because the sun and insects were bothering me. Summer might have a lot of sunny days, but its definitely not fun for THESE things. I focused on the notes I had taken yesterday instead, but didn't find anything new. So I laid my head desperately on the table, and began to overthink again. Overthink so much I actually came up with a genius idea. Since the zombie had apparently became a widely-known phenomenon in my surroundings, where it roamed, maybe I could find someone that had taken pictures. Good ones, not blurry like the paranormal investigator's.

I never was the most social person, though I would consider myself shy neither, but my crave for an answer motivated me to go to the local bar... and ask about it. If there's anything to be known about this bar, is that it has an eccentric (even more the Amy's clothes), eye-bleeding look. It had pictures of randomness all over its walls. And one of these random things were ''paranormal pictures". UFOs, ghosts, cryptids, anything you could ask for, basically. I'm not sure where the owner got these, but I was almost certain that if anyone had taken a picture of this zombie, he would have found a way to get one.

I entered the bar in a hurry, my mind racing to solve this mystery. If I can find any valuable images of this zombie, there might be a chance that calling the police will have them believe me, even if zombies weren't usually things they investigated about, obviously. But, I thought, if ever we learned they were suddenly real, surely the police would handle them. I just had to make my story believable. I just had to have proof, and to sound nothing like a bored person with too much time to spare that decided to do a ''prank the police'' challenge they saw on social media. I just had to have a clearly un-photoshopped image.

People at the bar were probably wondering what I was doing, obsessively looking at the walls. Most of the images were random ads, and even most of the paranormal stuff wasn't what I was looking for. I only found one thing related to the zombie. It was the blurry picture of the paranormal investigator, that had no value in any believable story. I sighed. I still took a picture of it with my phone, just in case it would SOMEHOW come in handy one day. But, basically, I had made no progress in my investigation, even with a full weekend. Well, I did learn that this zombie definitely is going wherever I am. Of course, I did know that before, but now that it's trying to get into houses...

I shivered. What would I do? What would I do when it inevitably tries to get into Joe's café?

Chapter 8

I woke up, unthrilled to go to work. Not because I hate my job, of course. Because I fear what's gonna happen once the zombie tracking me down tries to get in. The scenario playing out in my head definitely did feel catastrophic for sure. I arrived before Joe's café and saw the disgusting mutt across the street, again. I cringed and entered to Café.

"So?" Joe welcome me. "Any better?"

I shrugged. I wasn't going to admit that despite my best efforts, his advice didn't change much; it was still getting to my head.

"Welcome back!" Amy almost screamed a hello to me. I waved back at her.

"Hi, Amy."

I got coffee cups ready and placed a bunch of them at every coffee machine. But I wasn't focused. Obviously, I was worrying about the zombie appearing out of the blue. It didn't, but I think people noticed how distracted I was.

A random coworker even asked me why I seemed so thoughtful.

"Apparently zombies are real now, and there's one around here." I said like it was completely mundane.

He looked like he was almost gonna laugh at that confident declaration that there was a dead guy walking around. Well, i understood that. Remember in the beginning? I used to be this way too. But I saw so many things...

"Hehe... ok?" He simply answered, confused, before getting back to making frozen coffee.

At the end of the day, I thought it ended up well. I thought. Because it's when I was beginning to think it wouldn't show up that, ironically, it did.

I was cleaning the dishes to end off the day of work, when my worst fear became true.

"Don't you think it's starting to smell funny?" Amy commented.

I sniffed the air and felt instantly repulsed... and scared. It was the clear scent of decay. It was around there, looking for me. My fear must have been visible because Amy confronted me.

"Oh, come on... don't tell me you think it's a zombie." She rolled her eyes. "We have food here. It could have molded. Boom. A normal explanation."

"No..." I murmured in fear. "It's rotten flesh. I recognize its scent."

"But there's no zombie here! Just take a simple look and see!" She affirmed.

I looked around and immediately was even LESS convinced, as I saw the window face again. It was there, just behind the glass. The only thing that stopped it from breaking into the café. I backed down in fear, eyes closed. When I opened them again, it was already gone. Did I hallucinate it? Was it my mind finally going totally nuts over this case?

"I... I need to leave early." I told Joe. "Sorry."

He opened his mouth to ask why, but I didn't bother. I was already running at the door and coming right out. If this thing was to catch me, at least it would get me alone, in my home or in the streets. I wasn't going to bring it to other people. I wouldn't give it that pleasure. I felt tears running down my eyes as I ran through the street, never looking back. If I was going to die tonight, at least I will have scarified myself for others. An heroic way to go. And I would fight if I had to. I wouldn't give up. It was me, or this thing. Only one of us would survive to see the next day.

Running as fast as my legs would let me, tears blurring my eyes wet, I barely noticed anything. Not even all the ransacked trash cans, the dog, or the people looking at me with a worried look in their faces. Was it still behind me? I didn't dare to look. I'm not sure if it's because I was too scared or just because I knew all I had to do was run. Run until I was home.

When I saw my door at the distance, I got faster. My body felt tired, running out of breath, ready to break down after this marathon across the street. But adrenalin kept me going, until I arrived at my house, closed the door with a clack without looking back, and, fell down on my sofa, completely exhausted. It felt like my limbs would no longer move after that. I closed my eyes. I listened for it. I didn't hear it. Did I lose it? Or was it still there? Somehow now, it felt like it didn't matter.

All that mattered, was rest.

I think I fell asleep there, on the sofa, for quite a while. When I opened my eyes again, my legs felt functional again, but there was still the tickling of tired muscles. I decided to go get some natural oils and massage them. I've heard some natural oils can help with muscle pain.

I got into the bathroom numbly. I almost regretted having ran this fast, this much. Obviously, I'm not a professional racer built for this. I sighed and picked up the oils from the cupboard, and closed its door. It had a shiny, tall mirror. And I looked at myself. I should have known. I should have known that I couldn't stay the same trough all of this. The illusion that made people, including myself, believe I was still... me... had to fade one day. I barely recognized my own reflection. There was the face. Dirty, broken down skin, with surely the foulest odor of all. And the eyes; they seemed to be melting off. I startled and backed down, placing an arm to cover my eyes. Like it was going to change anything. Stupid. I stood still in shock. I looked at my arms, barely believing they were mine. Somehow I was still able to move them. Their skin also looked dead, and rotten, but most noticeably, the left one had mauled marks. I widened my eyes, if I could even still call them that. I remember now. It had to be over a week ago. Yes, I think so. I had made reparations to my house, and, from what I could recall, the new wall had ended up looking great and nothing had went wrong. But now the memories returned. There was an accident. Something with the saw I used to remove the old parts. It had scratched my arm. Then there was blood. Lots of blood.

And then there was nothing.

Epilogue

I went back outside, and I ran back down the street, crying. Now that the illusion was gone, now that I knew, and that everyone would know, what would do? How could you live like this? People would be scared, obviously. I knew it. I knew it from experience. I was scared too, once. I was scared of myself, of what I had become. I couldn't hang out with anybody anymore. I couldn't have friends. I couldn't even have a job. If I showed up at the café like this... No. I wouldn't, obviously. It was a bad idea. I had to stay in the darkness, now.

I kicked a trash can in frustration. And I remembered even more. At night, I always went calm down my frustration there. But the memories where erased once I woke up. My mind was trying to protect me. Yes. That's why the illusion was even a thing to begin with. It worked well until now, though it seems from afar, it didn't do its job. But now, I was too far gone for a simple illusion to hide my true nature, from myself, from others.

I cried as I kicked down another trash can in anger. I heard yapping as it fell down to the ground. It was the dirty dog, hiding inside. I jumped back, scared. He growled. He had his ears low. He was scared, he was angry, and he was repulsing. He was like me.

So I paused. I lowered myself to its level of vision, and I looked into its eyes. I no longer saw the bad, ugly dog I did before. I saw a dog that was desperate for love.

And so I reached my arm at him. He bared his teeth for a second, but then he stopped, and he looked at me. He sniffed my hand, and his ears went back up on his head. I gave it a rest of meal that was hiding in the trash he was in. He ate it, and I smiled. He was actually quite a pretty dog when you put it in perspective. And he was the only one that could still love me.

I whistled at him, like many people do to call their pets. I held more trash food in my hand. So he approached, carefully, until he was almost cuddled against me. I gave it pets. Despite all the missing fur and dirt stuck all over, it felt great. Because it was a true bonding experience. Before it was the only one I would have anytime soon. So I enjoyed it fully, and I hugged the dog.

He laid his head on my shoulder, and it felt like it was hugging me back. I cried warm, sweet tears into what was left of his fur.

We might be alone now, but we are alone together.

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