I woke up sweating the next morning. I had the craziest dream that night. Maybe it was the preceding events, but either way the dream scared the hell out of me.
It was Gar, Mac, and me, all traveling West as usual. Then these dogs jump out and burst into flame, exploding entrails everywhere. Then, I remember we saw a group of people who appeared friendly enough. They burst into flames as well, spewing guts everywhere. Human torsos crawled towards me as I inched back and bumped into… Then I woke up. That or I don’t remember the rest. The details were really foggy. My mind was too.
I laid there, staring at the gray, cloudy sky. I wondered if the dream meant anything or if it was some kind of premonition. Either way, seeing as I had met two other survivors, the events in my dream seemed very likely. I decided to keep vigilant.
I stared up at the sky for ten minutes longer before sleep drifted back in. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
When I woke up, Mac was talking to another man. It was the messenger. He finally got his report done. Great news. The messenger left speedily as Mac pulled out some kitchen vessels and began to cook. I rose slowly.
“Breakfast?” Mac asked.
“Sure,” I said sleepily. Gar was still sleeping like a rock nearby.
Mac tossed in cans of this and that, emptied powders, and stirred in liquids. What was this stuff? I had no idea what this concoction could be, but with the salve he made earlier, I was certain whatever Mac was making would do the trick.
Fifteen minutes later he slopped the mix into three bowls. Gar wasn’t awake yet, but you could see he was working on it as he stirred a bit as Mac and I ate. The slop had a meaty texture, like ground beef mixed with refried beans, and tasted bland and a little salty. It wasn’t home cooking, but it would satisfy.
Gar woke up as Mac and I were finishing. Mac handed him the bowl and he scarfed down the food in no time. He looked like hell after the salve treatment. He looked better today, especially after he ate. Being the lazy oaf that he is, Gar naturally went back to lay down and rest.
“Shouldn’t we be going soon?” I asked.
“Nah, it’s early, we can rest a bit,” Mac replied, “Besides, I have news.”
“Good or bad?” I had to ask.
“News is news at this point and time,” Mac said, “Whether its good or bad has no bearing. Besides, I think most of the bad has been done, so even bad news could be considered good news now.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” I said back, “On with the news, then!”
“Okay, so we’ve established the damage radius at just under 200 miles, at 167.7 miles,” Mac started.
“Okay,” I replied, thinking, ‘So what?’
“So from the epicenter, there’s just about two hundred miles of destruction. Now what we didn’t take into account was the viral bombs,” Mac went on. I knew what he was getting at.
“And so, with wind and whatnot, the viruses could be found anywhere. We are also still finding out how they are transferred. We know as of now it is transferred through saliva via bites and, um, eating flesh, we know that now,” Mac said.
“So what about the combustion virus?” I asked.
“We know very little about that one. It’s just so hard to study. The zombie-type virus is much easier to track and study,” Mac answered.
“So have you encountered any of the combustible-type?” I asked, thinking about the events in the dream I had.
“None alive. Every body we have encountered has been charred and burnt to a crisp. We don’t even know how it effects the body yet,” he answered, “The zombie one is unique. It simplifies the body. Slows down the central nervous system and brain. Organs eventually turn into a cellular goo. The skin turns gray and becomes leathery. Bones remain stable and muscles retain function.”
“Have you killed any yet?” I interrupted.
“They are difficult to destroy,” he answered, “The multiplication of the cellular goo is at such a high rate that the body heals very quickly. The goo fills it right back up. And if any is lost, it multiplies so fast.”
“So how do you kill one?” I was full of questions.
“Right now, you don’t. You just slow them down,” he said, frowning.
“Shit,” I said. I was unprepared to hear the news. Zombies you can’t kill? No thanks. That and who knows where the viruses had spread. Plus, the combustion virus was void of any knowledge. None of this news helped me recover from the events in my dream.
“Everything okay?” Mac asked. “I know it wasn’t the best news.”
“Yeah I’m fine,” I said, “I think I’m gonna lie down for a bit. Wake me up when you wanna hike.”
“Will do,” Mac replied, “I’ll keep a look out and wake you guys up when it’s time to go.”
“Thanks,” I said and nodded back to sleep.
As I sat there with my eyes closed trying to sleep I realized how much we didn’t know about the situation and how wrong our initial inferences were. Nukes? Pffft, we could only wish. I needed rest but too much was swirling in my head. I wanted to know more for some reason, and on the same token, I didn’t want to know any more. I wasn’t sure, but as I fell back asleep, I was sure we would later run into something far scarier than some puke-spewing zombie.