Isaiah 13:9 “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation: and to destroy its sinners from it.”
Prologue, in the beginning
Silver, grey tendrils of smoke drifted upwards, dancing lazily as it twisted and spiraled through the air. The cigarette that hung between my long fingers shook precariously. The ash at the opposite end was a delicate combination of grey and black flecks, attached loosely to the white paper yet to burn. My trembling hand lifted the cigarette to my lips, and I inhaled, dragging the warm smoke into my lungs where I held it for a few seconds before blowing it back out on a long exhale.
I’d been accused of being ignorant to the world around me more than once, and it was a fair accusation. I found it easy to become lost in my own mind which was a place of chaos, a chaos that could only be silenced with music. As lead guitarist for the band, Rifts of Destruction, it was a dream job that pandered to my love for all things music and helped quiet my frenzied thoughts. I didn’t watch TV, and rarely listened to the radio, preferring the eclectic and ever-changing playlists on my iPhone. That’s probably why I now sat shocked and unable to drag my eyes from the large, wall mounted TV screen before me. The sound was low, but I could still hear the words spilling from the speakers with mind-numbing statistics and medical terminology that left me reeling. State of Emergency filtered through my ears and sank into my mind. Stay at home, avoid public places, don’t come to the hospital…Red Rage. It all tapped into that disbelieving place in my brain that shocked me literally speechless. How poetic, the bedlam in my mind had been effectively silenced, and it wasn’t by music. The only reason I’d put the television on in the first place was because I called 911 and was greeted by an automated recording. It said much the same thing as the grave reporter on the screen in front of me. Disconnecting the call to 911, I tossed my cell phone to one side and sat back into the leather sofa.
“Fuck,” I murmured, drawing back on the cigarette.
My gaze flew to the end of the hallway, listening keenly. When I didn’t hear anything else my concentration returned to the TV. I was sitting in the vast living room of my modern Art Deco inspired home that I owned with my on-again, off-again…currently off-again, boyfriend, Cullen Creed. I’d called things off a month ago after I caught him screwing my best friend and band manager, Sylvie. It sucked, because I really thought he’d finally changed, and that the shiny new surface of fame and fortune had lost its sparkle. I assumed he would settle down happily with the one person who had been at his side since the beginning of this whole crazy train ride. I assumed wrong. It also sucked because we lived under the same damn roof. I’d spent the past week at a hotel and only made the trip home to gather more of my shit, having decided I was done with him for good, or so I told myself. I’d blown into the house with my anger and bluster, ready to yet again let out my hurt in a screaming rant only to find Cullen sick as a dog. It started out pretty trivial, with headaches, aching muscles, and a weird itch that I accused him of catching from Sylvie. The symptoms quickly got worse though, and over the course of twenty-four hours, his mood plummeted to pissy and violent, his speech began to slur, and the veins under his skin began to hemorrhage giving him a weird, purple like webbing all over his body. Currently he was asleep, his breathing labored.
The journalist on the screen interrupted my thoughts looking serious…and scared shitless.
“The virus is spreading quickly, and the Center for Disease Control says there is no known cure.”
Is this what Cullen had? Could I catch it? Trying to recall my interactions with Cullen over the last twenty-four hours I was pretty confident I hadn’t touched him. I’d been reluctant to get anywhere near his cheating ass, but he could have coughed once or twice in my direction. Is that how the virus was spread? Shit on a biscuit, this whole thing was a cluster fuck.
Another noise came from the hallway, and my heart lurched into my throat. The sound was subtle, almost non-existent, but it was there. A low growl that sounded a little like an alligator, and I’d been on a swamp adventure in New Orleans, so I knew what that shit sounded like. It seemed a little unlikely there was an alligator living in my house though. So, on shaky legs, I stood, the cigarette still hanging from my fingers.
The sound stopped, and my ears strained to hear something…anything. I’d never liked the silence, but this was unlike anything I’d endured before. This was terrifying. My heart felt too big for my chest cavity as it tried to beat its way through my skin.
“This isn’t happening,” I whispered, trying to convince myself this was all just a crappy fucking dream. “Shiloh, you took a bad trip and now you’re paying for it.”
Like a sudden and ferocious storm Cullen appeared, sprinting down the long corridor and into the living room. Upon his blustering entrance he shouldered my favorite piece of art, a chrome flame that sat under an LED spotlight. It wobbled precariously, before falling to the ground with a loud crash. A little spark of anger overrode my disbelief and fear and I took a deep, livid breath in, ready to let loose on the clumsy asshole. Any words I was about to unleash disappeared as I noticed a pungent stench. It was indescribable, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Rotting death was all I could think of.
“What the hell is that smell?” I murmured.
With an animal-like sharpness that sent a shiver down my spine, Cullen’s blood-red eyes darted to meet mine. He scrambled my way, movements much faster than I’d ever seen before.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I squealed.
Fight or flight set in, and like any red-blooded, healthy twenty-something female, I ran. Leaping over the sofa, I tripped on the stupid Angola rug, my knees cushioned by the white wool carpet. A hand wrapped itself around my ankle, and a blood curdling scream escaped my lips. With frantic and clumsy movements, I scrambled forward, kicking for all it was worth. Once the grip was dislodged, I clambered to my feet and raced to the other side of the room. Spinning around, I found Cullen also on his feet and coming after me again.
“Cullen!” I screamed, but there was no recognition in his horrifyingly hungry stare.
Trying to move out of his reach, I almost tripped again, this time over Cullen’s bag of golf clubs that were sent sprawling to the floor. Ducking under his grabby hands, my fingers grazed the leather grip of one club, and I wrapped my hand around it, turning to face Cullen who was once again lunging for me. This time his fingers managed to tangle with the long sleeve of my top.
“Let go you fucking freak,” I cried, swinging the club like my life depended upon it.
The consequent thwack with a little bit of splatter made me want to vomit. At least he released my shirt which gave me better leverage when the still-standing bastard tried to grab at my hair. The snarling that came from his mouth was terrifying and the strength with which he attacked was staggering, especially since he was knocking on death’s door less than half an hour ago. I swung again and again, ignoring the brains and blood that sprayed our apartment. Eventually his attack slowed, and he collapsed to his knees, those grabby hands still reaching for me. Not good enough. With another swing that I lined up like a pro golfer, I swung the club, and Cullen’s head finally caved in as his body slumped to the floor. There was no stopping my retching this time as I vomited into a potted plant to my left. Once finished, I reluctantly glanced in Cullen’s direction. His limbs twitched a few times, then he went still. The mop of blonde hair that I’d run my hands through was caked in blood. Those full lips that had kissed mine with breathtaking perfection were blue. That ridiculously handsome face that had only last month appeared on the front of Billboard was now beaten beyond recognition. Swallowing down bile, I forced myself to look away.
On unsteady feet I stumbled my way back to the sofa and fell into its cool embrace. Reaching for my cigarettes with a shaking hand, I pulled one free and lit it up. My other hand was still wrapped around the golf club, a driver. I didn’t know much about golf, but I knew this club. Sylvie had bought it for Cullen for his birthday this year. That was before I knew he was fucking her. Jez, our drummer, had joked about her buying him a driver. I didn’t get it then…I got it now… Driver…Drive her. Of course it was a sexual implication, Jez was renowned for them. Son of a bitch!
So, I killed my cheating ex-boyfriend, and I had to admit…it fucked me up a little. Perhaps if the world hadn’t been in the throes of the apocalypse I’d have checked myself into a self-help group. “Hi, my name is Shiloh Summers, and I killed my ex-boyfriend with a golf club.” Instead, I buried the guilt and horror of what I’d done so deep all I felt was resounding detachment.
Taking a long drag on my cigarette, my gaze returned to the TV on the wall. Apparently, the world was disintegrating into some B-grade horror movie. If only I’d watched The Walking Dead, then I might have a clue about what to do. An unimpressed snort fell from my lips as I thought of all the times my parents promised the end of days. Their con artist of a pastor who’d spent years sucking their bank account dry often preached about the apocalypse. The fact of the matter was, the world was screwed, my parents and crazy Pastor Dillweed were right, Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon didn’t really exist, and I was on my own. The only thing I was prepared for was music. In a turn of whacked irony, I actually had a Zombie Playlist on my phone. One night on our last tour, under the heavy inebriation of Jack Daniels, Grey Goose Vodka, and a ton of weed, the band and I had pieced together several “epic” playlists, one of them being in the event of a zombie apocalypse. At the time, I laughed my ass off and mocked Cullen’s suggestion of an apocalypse. Glancing towards his lifeless body, I shuddered. Who’s laughing now?
Track One: The Animals, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place