#18. The Halloween Virus by J. C. Gregorio


Today’s Soundtrack – This Is Halloween by Panic! At The Disco


And I’m not ready for it to be over yet.

Yes, guys, this story was supposed to be the last in our chain. (Apologies for the lack of a story last Sunday; the writer had personal circumstances.) But it’s not over ’til it’s over. What about the characters we’ve met? Don’t we need just a weensy bit of closure?

So, this one’s a free-for-all. If anyone feels they could write the final #ZombieProject story and take us out with a bang, please email me, Tweet me, or comment here. Even if you wrote one of the preceding stories. Take us to the end.

That being said, J. C.’s ace contribution to the project only gives us more characters to care for and play with. I’m in awe of J.C. with the way she stepped up and stepped in to give us not only a fantastic story, but one about my favourite time of year. J. C. is a very good friend of mine, and I sincerely recommend you follow her on Twitter and check out her blog.

Enjoy. Seriously.

The Halloween Virus
by J. C. Gregorio

The fact that the virus went air-born a week before Halloween was kept under wraps by the government. Maybe if they shared the knowledge an entire generation could have been saved. The only reason my sister’s and I survived was the fact that we pulled a major prank on the church next door and were all grounded.
The good-natured squeals turned into screams, soon morphing to the terrifying screech of the creatures rending the flesh off of children’s bones. My mother rushed to the door to let the crying children in, their tiny fists pleading in a soft thunder. We didn’t see what was out there. The fourth kid she let in got snatched back. She slammed the door shut, bolted it and wrestled the large book shelf in front of it.
Our dad had gone to the store just a few minutes before it all started and we prayed that he would return home soon. My mother’s head snapped up at the sound of glass shattering from the back of the house. A shadow moved across the window. She screamed for us to run to the basement and lock ourselves in, saying she’d grab the cell phone and be down in a minute. I grabbed my baby sister, Sarah’s, hand and yanked her behind me. A stiff shove got my feet moving, one in front of the other, and we were soon in the kitchen throwing open the pantry door. It took two of us to lift up the old wooden trapdoor that led to the damp darkness below.
Once we were all moving down the unsteady stairs I turned to see my oldest sister, Carey, holding the trap door open.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
She waved her hands at me to shush.
I started back up the steps and she turned to give me a dirty look. She loved to boss me, and maybe it was the adrenaline in my veins that made me scream at her, “You shut up!”
As soon as the last syllable left my lips a bloody hand reached in yanking Carey back, her neck straining at a painful angle. My other sisters and the children my mother saved started screaming from below for her. Their wails echoing and reverberating in the musty cellar. As Carey was pulled through the cellar’s hatch I moved without thinking it through, grabbing her around the knees and pulling as hard as I could. Beads of sweat poured down my face and my muscles screamed at their use. Carey’s shrieks turned into grunts and gargled words.
She was being pulled farther into the pantry into God-knew-what’s mouth. My adrenaline and fatigue cleared momentarily and I knew the only way I could possibly get Carey away from the creature. Locking my hands together I shoved off of the stairs, my tennis shoes gripping the old boards. I threw my weight back as if I were doing a backwards summersault.
The sound of the hatch falling closed and the creature screaming was the only momentary victory I had before I landed on the hard-packed dirt floor of the cellar. The air was punched out of my lungs. Carey’s limp body landed on top of me, her shoulder striking me in the stomach. Nausea and vertigo struck me and I lay in a tangled heap of limbs for a minute. A small hand grabbed my shoulder and started shaking me.
A flash of light stung my eyes before they adjusted. Blinking back tears I looked from Carey’s still form to Sarah’s tear streaked faced.
“It’s okay,” I said. Clearing my throat and taking a deep breath I gently rolled Carey onto her back and looked her over. Other than a black eye and clump of hair missing she seemed to be fine. At least she was breathing. A reverberating boom was followed by a flash of light from above and the small light in the cellar flickered and went out. Sarah started whimpering and crying for our mom and dad. Trying to remember where I was in regards to the stairs I crawled on my hands and knees towards the stairs and shrieked when my hand struck warm, slick flesh. Back peddling in a crab walk my screams caused Sarah to bellow and howl. Her fear bouncing off the walls and driving into my head like a hammer to my temples.
“Shhh! Sarah, you have to be quiet!”
She was afraid of the dark and panicked in small places. Since nothing had come after us in the commotion and the only flashlight being stashed in the toolbox next to the stairs I crawled back. My shirt clung to my back and I recited French numbers in my head to keep from screaming. My arms shook by the time I reached the bottom of the stairs. I inched forward running my hand along the step until it hit the wood post, my hand outstretched until the cold metal met my feverish palm.
Turning to sit on the step and pulling the small toolbox onto my lap I opened the lid and fumbled until my hand wrapped around the rubber handle of salvation. Flipping the switch I immediately turned the light toward Sarah and Carey. Sarah was kneeling next to Carey, brushing the hair back from her face between hiccups.
I scanned the remaining faces. I recognized the Phelp’s 4 year old, our 7 year old neighbor Ricky, and his brother Jonathan who must have gotten trick-or-treat duty as he was 17 like me and would have rather been at a party, I’m sure.
Rather than acknowledging the terror and tears I saw in everyone’s eyes I focused on what I could do to help. Dad was always saying we should prep for disaster, but mostly when a hurricane had already struck or he was watching a show on it. He did buy a generator and some emergency food and water that he stashed down here. I just needed to find it.
As I moved the toolbox back to where I found it something flashed in the light near my feet. The hair on my arms stood on end as I stared at the soft flesh I had touched just a few moments before. Shaking hard enough to make my teeth rattle I leaned closer to confirm what I knew. Carey’s hair was still intertwined in the long pianist fingers of the creature’s closed hand. The ring my father had given her last Christmas gleamed in the dim light while I screamed.

Can you write the final #ZombieProject story and take us to the end? Email, Tweet or comment here!