five | Trey
Morning. Breakfast. The journey is afoot again.
I hit another climb. I wasn’t in the mood. In fact, at the moment, the whole business of hiking was getting on my last nerve.
“Namaste, mother fucker,” I whispered. It was a joke Erica and I shared with regards to a rather brutal hot yoga class. As the cold wind whipped across my face, I longed for that one hundred and ten degree room and the surrounding sweat-drenched bodies.
For a brief second, my mind shifted and twisted to Erica’s sweaty flesh. At that moment, purpose resurrected in my core and my legs pumped upwards toward the peak of the climb.
I could smell her skin, hear her deep breathing. As I climbed, a memory bubbled to the surface. The first class. She was a graduate assistant, teaching Chemistry 101. The second I laid eyes on all five foot two inches of her, it was over. I bypassed crush and smitten and went straight to love. I was a transplant from the States, she was a native Canadian. I had a thing for the dialect and her quirky, youthful smile. After class, I followed her to a coffee shop, pulled out my guitar, and improvised a song.
It was lame.
I got the girl.
And I will have that girl again, if it’s the last thing I do.
Just as I reached the apex of the climb, snow began to fall. Snow falling on the Appalachian Trail was nothing out of the ordinary. What did strike me as odd was that the snow didn’t melt when it touched down on my warm skin.
I stopped, removed a glove, and cupped a hand to catch a few flakes. With a beam of light shining down on the snow, I blew warm breath into the tiny pile.
Or so I thought. I blinked my eyes and held my hand out to catch a few more of the flakes. What should have been virgin white snow was …
“Gray?” I whispered. “What the fuck?”
I pinched a bit of the ash-colored snow between my thumb and forefinger and rubbed. It almost felt like flakes of … skin maybe? Even more disturbing than the idea of catching flesh flakes in my palm was that, after the rubbing, the snow left behind a smear of soot.
“Shit,” I hissed and rubbed my hand on my pants to rid my flesh of the mess. The trail stood before me with a sign that read “Walasi-Yi Center” and an arrow pointing ahead. That meant only one thing ─ the hostel in question was on the trail.
Finally, this nightmare could come to an end. All I had to do was hop onto their WiFi, Skype with Erica, and arrange for a plane trip back into the arms of pure joy.
And maybe a hot bath.
And some hotter sex.
The Walasi-Yi Center was dark. I pulled out my phone to check the time. Ten fifteen p.m. The hostel was either empty or everyone asleep. I stepped up to the door, turned the handle, and pushed. The door resisted against my weight. I leaned into the door and it finally gave way a few inches.
“Come on,” I whispered and dug my heels in. After another six inches, the door came to a sudden stop …
… and an arm dropped through the opening.
“Shit,” I shouted. My heart raced like I was on stage again. Adrenaline flooded my system and sweat soaked my neck. I shined my light down on the arm. The skin was pale and a thin line of dried blood ran from shoulder to wrist. A spaghetti network of blue veins peeked through the grayish skin.
A soft moan caught my attention. The sound came from within the hostel. Someone was either in pain or pleasure.
“Hello?” I called out.
Another moan answered me.
“Are you okay?”
A second moan cried out.
I kicked caution off the cliff and bore down on the door until it was open wide enough for me to enter. My situation had reached, as Erica would say, Defcon 1. I stepped through the door and was immediately assaulted by the coppery stink of blood. The smell came from every direction, permeated my every pore. Bile splashed against the roof of my mouth.
Thanks to my position as frontman for a metal band, everyone assumed me a total bad ass. Truth is, I wasn’t. Yeah, I was in shape (I had to be to get through shows night after night) … but being fit and being tough were two very distinct things. Erica was more badass than me. If she were here, she’d probably be laughing at me to suck it up. Of course, I knew her truth better than she. She was only badass with me. Outside of my orbit, Erica was a fuzzy kitten that needed protection. Outside of her circle of protection … I was about to puke.
I pressed my lips tight and sucked it all up. With a hard swallow, I lifted the beam of my flashlight until it shined across the room.
“Fuck,” I whispered.
Dead bodies everywhere. The old hardwood floor was riddled with cold gray flesh.
How did I know they were dead? There was nothing else they could be. Necks snapped or missing, arms broken, blood spilled everywhere, unsealed torsos, and eyes ─ those same sour-milk eyes from the blind hiker ─ stared back at me.
My body and mind froze in a synapse-misfire nightmare. It wasn’t until the moan returned that I regained control of my motor skills and thought processes. I shot the beam of my light around the room to locate the source of the sound. I saw nothing but death.
The moan came again. This time, I had the wherewithal to tuck myself behind a door. My eyes peered through the space between door and jamb to watch a young male awkwardly walk through the room. He stopped at one of the bodies, bent down, and sunk his teeth into the flesh of the woman below him. The sound of tearing meat and splattering blood brought the bile soup back to my taste buds. The urge to toss a rainbow was powerful. I managed to hold it back.
The bastard cannibal stood and slowly made his way to the exit of the hostel. I remained tucked away behind the door. After a moment, the source of the second moan made itself known ─ a female. This one didn’t bother to stop for a snack, but continued on through the door.
I exhaled a measured breath. As I continued to drink in the wind of the still living, I listened for more moans. None came. I pulled out my phone and checked for a wireless connection. When Walasi-Yi popped up, I tapped connect. Thankfully there was no password to block me from reaching the outside world.
As soon as my connection was ready, I fired up Skype and placed a call to Erica. She picked up after just two rings.
* * * * *
The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.
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