I am a simple man with little money, living in a worn apartment, struggling to wring the happiness out of the dry rag of life. It’s just me, my dog Milo—a loving but fierce canine, some equipment, and a rather useful health monitor AI wristband named “Leona”. It was just developed by a small company that went by the name “Infinity Corp”. And it’s motto was no more generic than it’s name: “Here at Infinity Corp, the possibilities are infinite.” A day or two before the apocalypse started, everything was normal, and the device was intended for everyday use. As the outbreak arised, the CDC and other government organizations saw the device’s potential, so they demanded they made more of these devices. They were promised all the funding they ever needed if they complied. Infinity Corp did as they were told.
Of course, that funding was only useful for so long, for the virus was out of control and killed over half the world’s population, cleanly skinning an astounding population of nearly 9 billion to a mere few billion. The nameless devices were handed out to citizens around the world after the rich, government workers, and important figures and their families received them. To make the distribution fair, world governments used a bingo spinning cage filled with balls labeled with birthdays on them. They rolled the cage, randomly selecting birthdays one at a time. If someone’s birthday was rolled, they were eligible to receive a device and injection, but only if they showed concrete proof of birth of course. The thing is, you could pick up a collar and an injection for a pet if you brought yours with. After the first few selections, I was lucky enough to have my birthday selected. I sprinted out the door and waited in line for the new-fangled gadget. Apparently, Infinity Corp also invented injections that boosted a certain trait you chose, almost like a perk in a video game. Since they only had so many, I could only pick one. I chose the Endurance injection, which increased my stamina by about half. After I got my wristband and my injection, I dashed back to my small apartment to isolate and arm myself for the incoming virus.
The disease induced extreme violent tendencies and sometimes even canabillism. The virus was only spread through contact of the blood stream causing the need to prioritize arming yourself over isolation.
The device worked like a health monitor combined with a phone. It gave you verbal notifications for when you were thirsty, hurt, had a dangerously high heart rate, and all that stuff. You can play downloaded songs, listen to the radio, make calls, play holographic projected games, and browse the internet. The device has over 22 terabytes of storage, a battery life of ten years and even a solar charger. It really isn’t all that bad in a survival situation, but for everyday life on the other hand… it could use some improvements. Since the device gave you the option to name it, I chose the name “Leona” and gave it the female voice. I had managed to snatch a device for my dog, one designed specifically for pets. I selected the dog setting, and slid it over his head. The device adjusts itself to fit Milo’s neck comfortably. Although I don’t hear the startup sound, Milo’s ears perk up, perhaps as a reaction to the inaudible frequency the device emits to literally “speak dog”.
People dropped like flies, murdered here and there or overcome by the virus. I call the infected “Berserkers” because of their insanely violent behavior. They aren’t mindless—they are still partially human—they still have some of their personality—just… different. The virus was never named because it happened so fast. So I called it “The Pandora virus” or “Pandora’s disease”. Before I embarked towards the mountains where there was an alleged bunker filled to the brim with supplies owned by some millionaire, I gathered the stuff that I had: a backpack, a few duffle bags, some food, a few water bottles, medical supplies, clothes, tools, utensils, and weapons, and several other things. I constantly had to hush Milo because he was whining and constantly perking his head up and barking when standing by the door or looking out the window.
When I was done, my apartment was pretty much empty except for the small tv, a weathered couch, the dirty dinner table and chair, the mini fridge, a microwave, an old creaky bed, and a bathtub with a toilet and dirty sink situated adjacent to it. With a carving knife in hand, and bags over my shoulders; I say one last goodbye to my precious home after struggling to get Milo off the couch. I lock the door and shove the key in my bag in hopes that later on, I can come back to an untouched apartment and use it as shelter. I quickly rush down the stairwell in a matter of seconds since I lived on the second floor. Milo reluctantly follows me. He is scared of stairs, always refusing to go up or down them. This forces me to run back up the stairwell and guide him down the steps like I’m holding a little boy’s hand walking through a carnival As I pass the front desk, a fat man slouched in the chair yells at me and asks me what I’m doing. I tell him that I’m being smart and getting out of the city before it gets overrun by Berzerkers. He asks what I mean by “Berzerkers” but I spare no more time and make a quick dash out of the building with Milo excitedly tailing behind me. As I slowly advance down the sidewalk, I begin to regret having packed so much stuff—my back feels as if it’s on the brink of snapping clean in half.
Suddenly, when I reach the street corner, a deafening explosion occurs behind me.
I immediately spin my body around. I stare in shock and grief as I see my apartment engulfed in searing hot flames before it collapses in a epic crumbling of the exterior walls, the rest of the structure following in its footsteps of demise. I stand there petrified, unable to move. Why? Of all the places? With what’s going down, was that really necessary? After a few minutes of sentimentalism, I snap out of it. Looking around, I notice somebody limping in an alleyway. It seems like they’re injured, so I decide to go investigate. I slowly creep towards the figure with caution, gripping my knife tightly in case of attack. Milo begins to growl. His ears are down and he grits his teeth as if something is wrong. This only makes me grips my knife tighter.
I whisper a calm “Hello?” as I stand a foot away from the limping person.
It appears to be a middle aged homeless man with a gray, dirty, scruffy beard coating his face. I catch a glimpse of a broken beer bottle with blood dripping onto the concrete sidewalk around the edges, causing spatters. The man lunges at me with full force and I jump to the side, letting him trip and faceplant into the ground. I drop my stuff and leap onto the man’s exposed back, then proceed to repeatedly stab him. Out of nowhere, a second man with a rather similar appearance to the first, headbutts me in the side. The force throws me off of the first man and onto my back. My knife flies out of my hand and slides a good two feet away from me on the pavement. The second man is on top of me, pinning me down and throwing punches. The first two hit the concrete next to my head for I manage to evade the throws by attempting to shove the man off of me, which prove fruitless except for the fact that it foils his aim. The third one makes an impact straight in my face with ruthless force. More force than an average human. As I’m dazed for a few seconds, the man wraps his cold hands around my throat and begins to squeeze, depriving me of air. I struggle with every bit of strength I have, but my attempts are fruitless against this inhuman force. Thanks to my injection, I have the stamina to struggle for quite a while.
I see my life flash before my eyes, memories of when I got a puppy on Christmas when I was seven. Of how excited I was when I got my first paycheck at the fast food chain restaurant Parker and Jane’s when I was fifteen. My 12 year-old self getting getting my a** kicked by the school bullies. That heartfelt moment when I found Milo as a puppy in the alley behind the convenience store. Seeing myself bravely standing up to the bullies of a kid by the name of Milo, whom I eventually became friends with, I even named my dog after him.
It feels weird that they are all in third person, as if I had an invisible eye watching me my entire life. The endless cycle of these memories fly through as I begin to accept my fate. There is one final memory that plays out before everything seems to fade to darkness. This memory is the most dreaded of them all. I am standing on the front porch of Milo’s house at about 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, our usual designated time for hanging out. Since his parents aren’t home, Milo usually leaves the door unlocked for me to come in. For some odd reason, the door is locked tight. Luckily, I knew where the key was hidden. I walk over to the rock garden and upturn the most generic looking rock there is. It is a fake rock with a compartment on the underside. It is light, gray, and rough, but has weights on the inside along with the key to make it feel as heavy as a real rock would be. I open the compartment and remove the dirty key, gently closing it before placing the rock back where it was. I unlock the door and give it a shove, expecting Milo to come running out of his room and repeatedly apologizing for forgetting to unlock the door, but nothing happens. All is silent, quieter than a dead man. I creep up the stairway in unease, shouting out Milo’s name hoping he would respond. With the lack of reply, I hesitantly walk to the end of the hallway where his room is located. I call out his name one last time as I approach the ajar door. I push the door open expecting to see him playing another generic shooter, headset secured tightly, gripping his controller with his nimble fingers pressing buttons and jerking the joysticks intensely, fully engrossed in his game. Instead I see him… hanging, a rope wrapped around his neck, his face ocean blue and his skin pale. I drop to my knees in utter shock, traumatized by the sight. I begin to sob for hours on end, crying so hard that it becomes difficult to breath, endless amounts of tears flow from my eyes, it seems as if I will run out of the liquid. His parents arrive home around five o’clock, rushing in because the door is unlocked. Milo’s mother screams while the father freezes in terror, petrified by fear and grief.
The scene seems to shrink into the abyss as I grow further and further away. I regain a small portion of my consciousness right before I am about to succumb to death. I hear a loud crack and feel blood splatter on my face as I vaguely see someone swinging a wooden baseball bat at the head of the man. He yelps in pain as he tumbles to my side. Several gunshots ring and disperse, killing the man quickly. Gasping for air and shuddering, I struggle to look up to see a woman holding a pistol one-handed while resting a baseball bat on her right shoulder like a badass.
“Your oxygen levels are low and your heart is beating fast. I advise you take deep, slow breaths to recover in a healthier manner,” Leona notifies.
“No s***.” I remark with a hoarse voice.
The woman gives me a frown and says, “What? Not even a thank you? Well you’re rude.”
“Oh sorry, I was too busy staring at your beautiful face,” I joke hysterically, feeling almost drunk because of the lack of oxygen.
The woman lets out a flirty giggle, the kind you would hear from a young teenage girl. “Aww, How flattering, you’re cute too, but not as cute as your dog,” she says laughing.
I decide to join in, but after a few seconds I stop and point out that laughing was probably a mistake because we could be drawing unwanted attention. She nods her head in agreement before lending a hand to help me up.
“What’s your dog’s name?” The stranger asks.
“Milo. Why his name before mine?”
“Well, he’ll probably survive longer than you ever will. How poorly you did in that fight hints at that possibility quite a bit.”
“Oh come on! He jumped me while I was busy with someone else! Besides, they have inhuman strength!”
“True, but you gotta learn how to not let that happen. You gotta stay more alert than that! You incapacitated the guy! You didn’t need to stab him so much. The reason he managed to get the jump was because you were so distracted!” The woman lectures.
“How the hell do you know all this stuff? That was my first time killing something. You a master in that area or something?!”
She hesitates before changing the subject completely, as if I never asked that last question. She tells me her name is Kara Matthews. I decide to go along with it and tell her my name: Arlen Reiter. After a long and pointless conversation as we walk out of the city, I begin to question if I even can survive given my previous circumstances. I was below average, a weakling with a lousy low-paying office job, rotting away in cubicle painted a mind-torturing white. I played video games in my spare time. Video games were the only thing I was ever good at. I lived in a shabby apartment, smelled like s***, and had absolutely no chance of getting a girlfriend. I was just another lowlife living in society, nothing else. So how the h*** did I make it even this far? Zombie survival games? Heck, I only know how to cook store bought stuff in a microwave. I’ll probably end up being one of those people who survive for only a few days. Guess there’s only one way to find out.