Image by Ban A.

Ugh. Homework. Homework has to be my least favorite thing in the world. It can be hard. You’ll procrastinate on it. If you forget, you have to spend all night trying to finish it. It pretty much the worst thing in the world. I hate homework.

It’s late at night, and I’m bored out of my mind. I’m sitting at the wooden dining room table with textbooks and papers sprawled everywhere. I look at the words in my textbook and I only see letters and punctuation. They’re only letters and punctuation to me. What am I even looking at? Demographic transition? Natural increase rate? Hierarchical diffusion? What do these words even mean?

“I should have never signed up for this class,” I say quietly to myself. I decide to cool my head and make myself some herbal tea. Tea always helps soothe my mind, and the peppermint kind that I’m making always refreshed my head and clears my mind. I don’t bother turning on the lights in the kitchen. It’s late and I don’t want to wake up family in other rooms in the house. I imagine my little sister screaming for late night cereal and my mom groggily being dragged to the kitchen to prepare it. Yeah, no lights.

I’m finishing making my tea when I hear a thump and a crash come from the hallway.

I freeze. What was that? I put my tea down on the counter as quietly as I could. If it’s my mom or dad they’ll surely take away my phone and give me a lengthy, and very loud, lecture. They don’t like me staying up until the wee hours to finish homework. What else am I supposed to do when I procrastinate all day long?

I creep to the entrance of the hallway and peer around the corner. I try to squint through the darkness, but I can’t see a thing. Maybe the sound came from a room? I take a step into the hallway, and I hear a low moan coming from the end of the corridor. Oh my gosh, what’s going on? If it were my dad he would have already been screaming at me. I don’t make any sudden movements. I slowly take my phone out of my pocket and adjust the phone screen to the lowest possible brightness. With caution, I turn the phone towards the end of the hallway. It’s faint, but I see the silhouette of a sprawled figure on the floor. I gasp, and the figure moans again.

Don’t. Move. A muscle. My heart’s practically beating out of my chest. What is that? Is it one of my parents? No, it couldn’t be. It’s nowhere as big as my dad and I’m sure that my mom doesn’t have that low of a voice. If anything, it’s a stranger. A robber maybe? Why’s he on the ground?
Thoughts and questions are pouring out of my mind when I see the figure shift. My heart pounds faster. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. I need to get a better look. I turn the brightness a little higher on my phone, and take another look.

Image by Ashleigh L.

I drop my phone. I need to get out of here. I crouch down slowly and pick up my phone. I take a step backwards, nearly taking a thousand years to make contacts with the ground. My muscles are aching from being so stiff and barely moving. I sneak away as quickly and quietly as I could. Evidently, it’s not enough. I hear lots of shuffling coming from the hallway. I sneak-walk as fast as I could to the back door, and open it. The door creaks loudly, and I dart out the door.

I’m running out of my backyard. I’m running across the street. I’m running past houses. I’m running out of the neighborhood. My feet hurt. My chest hurts. My eyes are stinging with tears.

I stop. I wish I could un-see what I saw in that hallway. I wish it so hard that my heart starts to ache.  I’d much rather be doing homework than living with my newfound harsh reality.
“No, no, no, no, no…” I whisper to myself as quietly as I dare. I’ve found myself sitting against the side of a seemingly desolate house with nothing but a window above my head around. I can’t believe that this is happening. Is it really happening? I really hope that this is all one bad dream. I pinch myself hard on the back of my hand until it starts to hurt too much, and maybe a little bit more, just to bring myself to reality a little bit.

As much as I try though, I still can’t wrap my head around what I saw. It’s hard to describe what I witnessed in that hallway in my house I traveled so far away from. It had rotten skin and dead eyes with no life behind them. Definitely not human. After carefully thinking, I remember who it was, but I still don’t want to believe it. I just want to wish this all away. Maybe if I try hard enough, I could tap into some omnipotent power to change everything?

No, I can’t think like this. Even if this is some sort of dream or something, I can’t afford to let anything happen to me. It looked like that thing wanted to eat my brains or something. I don’t want to get near anymore.

Just then, I hear a moan from behind me, almost uncomfortable so. I freeze. Oh no, are there more? I did see lots of shuffling figures in the streets. I feel like crying again thinking about how many others have been infected, but I can’t. I have to go into robot mode to cope with this right now.

I’m as still as I could manage while breathing as quietly as I could. It seemed like the thing in my hallway reacted towards sound, so maybe if I could sneak away quietly, I could live to see another day. I carefully get up on my knees and look behind me. There’s the window that I saw earlier, and one of those things up close and personal.

Image by Kolbee MZ

Image by Kolbee MZ

Oh my gosh, I’m going to puke. The smell is appalling and I resist the urge to gag and cover my nose. No sudden movements. The thing almost looks like one of those zombies from the movies, but it doesn’t look like it has gotten it’s first bite of human flesh. I hope I don’t look too appetizing.

Okay, I’m done looking at you, Mr. Ugly. I carefully and quietly take a singular step backward when the zombie thing turns it’s head violently towards me. Run, run, run, run, run, run! I sprint away as fast as I could with the zombie on my heels (Gosh, never thought I’d get to say that in my life. Not exactly an enjoyable experience though.) This thing is so fash! I’m running as hard as I can, visibly struggling as my stamina starts to run out. The zombie doesn’t look like it’s going to get tired anytime soon. Can zombies get tired? No, there’s no time to think about that.

I have to do something. I can’t outrun this thing. As I run past a trash can, I push it over behind me, and the zombie trips and falls over it. Yes! Succe—Oh crap. It gets back up just as fast as it falls. Oh, no. I slowed it down a little, but it’s still gaining on me. Oh gosh, what do I do? What do I do? There’s no one around to save me, and I don’t have any weapons to defeat this thing. I’m so scared, and adrenaline is the only thing keeping me going.

I’m starting to slow down. I’m getting so tired. I must have been running for at least twenty minutes. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when a monster is chasing after you, you can do some crazy things. I keep trying to run faster, but my legs aren’t responding. They’re slowing down, more and more. The zombie is catching up. Is this how I’m going to go out? Running away hopelessly from a monster I only just met a half hour ago? No, I can’t think like that. I have… to… keep… running…

I’ve slowed down tremendously at this point. The zombie grabs my shoulders and tackles me to the ground. I manage to regain my sense of up and down quickly and scramble away on my back. As I was just getting up, the zombie jumps on top of me and tried to sink it’s teeth into my flesh. I thrash at the zombie, but it’s too strong for my teenage strength.

My punching and kicking and scratching is useless as I feel a white hot pain in neck. I’m still punching and kicking and… punching and… kicking… as my vision slowly grows into whiteness.

More and more, my body feels like is drifting away farther and farther away from my vision. It’s almost like my body is being left behind and my mind is ascending higher into the bright white sky.  It’s beautiful.  So beautiful.

Image by Nicole D.

The whiteness still surrounds me. I can’t feel my body at all. It’s as if I’m some kind of entity floating in the abyss of total and utter brightness. Is this what it’s like to die? Am I in some kind of heaven or something?
The whiteness is starting to fade away.
“Wait!” I call out to the whiteness, somehow. “Please don’t go! Come back! DON’T LEAVE ME!” I’m crying at this point. My eyes are tight shut, tears streaming down my face. I could see the whiteness dim more through my eyelids. Eventually, everything is black. I never even knew that a human being could cry so much.
“Shhh… it’s okay,” I hear through tightly shut eyes. It’s a kind voice that I recognize almost immediately.
“M-Mom?” I ask out to the voice.
“Yes, it’s me.” My mom replies. “Everything is fine, Tyler. You’re safe now.”
I slowly open my tightly shut eyes, and see my mom’s face close to mine. I immediately try to hug her, but I feel a sharp pain in my neck. I wince at it, and my mom brings my head back down to my pillow.
“Don’t try to move too much, Ty.” My mom says, concerned. “You had quite the fall.”
“Fall?” I ask. I look around, and as my eyes adjust to the sudden light that bombards me, I see that I’m in a hospital bed. There are IV tubes in my arms, and I can hear my heartbeat beeping off of a machine nearby.
“Yeah, you had a pretty nasty fall. You bruised your neck pretty badly and took a blow to your head when you fell down the stairs back at home.”
I look at her confused. “I don’t remember falling down any stairs. I just remember this… crazy dream I had… Wait, where’s dad!?” My heart monitor raised a little at my thought.
“He’s fine, Ty.” My mom assures me. “He had to go to work today, but he’s coming here right now.
I breath a sigh of relief. “Good, he’s not a zombie.” I whisper to myself quietly.
“What was that, honey?” My mom inquires.
“Oh, nothing,” I say with a clear calm on my face, “I’m just glad he’s coming.”

Image by Abbie G.

My dad arrives shortly after, with clearly healthy skin and lively eyes. I’m happy to see him, and even more happy that everything that happened was a dream. I am able to get admitted out of the hospital shortly after, first making sure that I didn’t break any bones. Luckily, I’m okay, and only have to be cautious of how I move my neck and head.

That dream was one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had, but it’s fine. It was just a dream. As we leave the hospital, I look out the window of our car and see a strange figure standing nearby. I do a double take, but see that it’s not there anymore. I could have sworn that I saw rotten skin and dead eyes… Nah, that’s crazy. It was just a dream.
As soon as we get home, I’m going to do my homework right away. Sometimes, just having a routine is enough adventure for me.  Actually, I think maybe I’ll do it tonight.

-Story by Caleb S. for Mrs. Riley’s Freshman English class.
-Images by students from Mr. Emmert’s Photo 1 and Photo AP classes.

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