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       INFECtIOUS, p.1

           Elizabeth Forkey
 
INFECtIOUS


  Table of Contents

  INFEC†IOUS 5

  By Elizabeth Forkey 5

  Prologue 8

  Chapter One 14

  I Used To Be One of Them 14

  Chapter Two 20

  The Natives Are Getting Restless 20

  Chapter Three 25

  Spiders, Zombies, and Rapists Oh My! 25

  Chapter Four 32

  A Killer Pair of Pumps 32

  Chapter Five 38

  The Decaying Monster From Sesame Street 38

  Chapter Six 43

  As If Mondays Weren't Bad Enough Already 43

  Chapter Seven 48

  You've Got A Little Schmutz On Your Ear 48

  Chapter Eight 52

  Interview With A Zombie 52

  Chapter Nine 57

  A Total Waste of Milk 57

  Chapter Ten 64

  The Undead Ate My Pudding 64

  Chapter Eleven 68

  I Exude Grace and Poise 68

  Chapter Twelve 73

  The Reason We’re Stuck Here 73

  Chapter Thirteen 78

  Aunty Uses "The Force" 78

  Chapter Fourteen 84

  Sister Bear and the Evil Grannies 84

  Chapter Fifteen 90

  Zombies Just Want Hugs 90

  Chapter Sixteen 94

  I Spy a Shred of Decency 94

  Chapter Seventeen 97

  Please Pass the Foot So I Can Eat It 97

  Chapter Eighteen 102

  Here's Hoping He Left Out the Gas 102

  Chapter Nineteen 104

  My Butt Hangs Out 104

  Chapter Twenty 107

  Eat My Heart Out 107

  Chapter Twenty-One 115

  The Lesser Of Two Evils 115

  Chapter Twenty-Two 118

  A Doodle Makes Me Cry 118

  Chapter Twenty-Three 125

  Afternoon of the Living Dead 125

  Chapter Twenty-Four 130

  5 Foot 2 Inches. Brown Curly Hair. Answers to the name Troublemaker. 130

  Chapter Twenty-Five 136

  I Get Rid Of That Cold Sore 136

  Chapter Twenty-Six 145

  Pancakes Always Give Me the Sniffles 145

  Chapter Twenty-Seven 150

  The Devil Made Me Do It 150

  Chapter Twenty-Eight 154

  I Can't Handle Any More Markowitzs 154

  Chapter Twenty-Nine 160

  What Has Two Thumbs and Four Fingers? 160

  Chapter Thirty 165

  The Bones Are Full Of Flavor 165

  Chapter Thirty-One 170

  The Only Thing That Could Make Toilet Cleaning Exciting 170

  Chapter Thirty-Two 173

  How a Missionary Ruined Spaghetti for Me Forever 173

  Chapter Thirty-Three 181

  Passing Love Notes 181

  Chapter Thirty-Four 185

  Angels and Demons 185

  Chapter Thirty-Five 191

  Jail Break 191

  Chapter Thirty-Six 199

  I Bear My Soul to Sasquatch 199

  Chapter Thirty-Seven 206

  Aunty Gets Her Way 206

  Chapter Thirty-Eight 213

  Free At Last 213

  Chapter Thirty-Nine 216

  I Like Muscles As Much As the Next Girl 216

  Chapter Forty 220

  The Exact Opposite of Wisdom 220

  Chapter Forty-One 226

  Body Parts 226

  Chapter Forty-Two 232

  To Catch A Predator 232

  Chapter Forty-Three 239

  Aunty's Admirers 239

  Chapter Forty-Four 245

  How Many Pints for A Pair Of Pink Mittens? 245

  Chapter Forty-Five 254

  Benjamin Franklin Does Nothing for Me 254

  Chapter Forty-Six 258

  Raising the Dead 258

  Chapter Forty-Seven 264

  Friendship Bites 264

  Chapter Forty-Eight 269

  This Is A First For Me 269

  Chapter Forty-Nine 275

  The Tunnel of Love 275

  Chapter Fifty 280

  God Gives Me More 280

  Chapter Fifty-One 284

  A Declaration of Love 284

  Chapter Fifty-Two 294

  Zombie Robin Hood Boosts A Wagon 294

  Chapter Fifty-Three 298

  And We’re Off 298

  INFEC†IOUS

  By Elizabeth Forkey

  For Chloe, Paige, Kaitlyn and Krystal

  First and foremost, this book is dedicated to my Lord, The Risen One, The Miracle Maker, Conqueror of Death, The Most Exciting Love I’ve ever known. He really wrote it, not me. He put this story in my heart for anyone who is dreaming of an exciting life—something more than the ordinary—a storybook kind of love. The stuff of “once upon a time”, the kind of love that the imaginary Edward and Bella share, really does exist—and then some! It is ours for the taking! We must simply put our hand in His and run with abandon down the path he is paving before us.

  Second, I dedicate this book to Chloe, my daughter and best friend. She read along as I wrote and encouraged me every day. She critiqued, she laughed, she said, “Hurry up and write some more!” every time she caught up with me. She is an amazing part of this great adventure and I’m so thankful for her.

  Prologue

  His bald head flashes a momentary reflection in the passing moonlight as he slinks through the shadows, hurrying towards, yet dreading, his secret rendezvous. A violent shiver seizes him. He trips but doesn't slow, the stumble propelling him even faster, looking like a small child who has lost control of uncoordinated feet. He weaves in and out of the buildings and alleys down memorized paths. He has traveled this route on darker nights than this. He does not fear the black darkness.

  And yet fear consumes him.

  He struggles to breathe. The exertion of his moonlit race isn't the cause of the sharp pain in his side or the ragged way he draws in breath. The chill in his bones has nothing to do with the freezing night wind. They can't touch him on this side. They can't kill him or maim him if he stays here. Not directly, not physically, no, much worse, they will punish him by hurting her. His heart and soul ache raw with constant tortured thoughts of her. Her agony, her fear, alone and ravaged by their filth because he is weak—a failure! It has been weeks and he is no closer to giving the doddering, loathsome man what he wants.

  She has been his best friend and dearest love since childhood. It is an unthinkable tragedy that they will not spend their immortal days together. It's unfair. But he can no longer stand the wicked whispers with their relentless buzzing in his already guilt ridden heart. They promise him that his betrayal will spare her and he is desperate to believe the whispers.

  Though the night is dark and starless, the winded runner senses that they are already there—waiting for him. He can make out at least five shadowy bodies coming into focus through the coiled fencing.

  His stomach turns as he closes the last few feet between himself and the inky group. Memories of the last time he met the doctor here play like a horror movie in his head. Last time he came empty handed and left with a small brown sack. Taking the featherweight mystery bag back to his apartment, he agonized the rest of that long night over what he would find if he opened it. When the sun began to light his dirty windows, he begged the silent sky for courage and stared into the dark brown shadows of the bag.

  He found her beautiful hair.

  Shaved and stuffed into the small sack in knotted clumps. After crying like a child until his sobs ran out and screaming at the heavens until his voice was gone, he tried to gather the messy strands into a bundle. He wanted to smell her and stroke the familiar soft strands against his lonely cheek. This closer
inspection showed skin and blood on the tips of the beautiful auburn and gray locks. Had they ripped it from her head? Their cruelty knew no bounds.

  He has to do whatever they want, even if it costs him his soul. His legs shake as he stands before them in silence. He hopes against hope that what he has to offer them tonight will buy him a little more time. A little more time to do what he must. The safety of this cursed fence feels like prison to him now. Trapped. He is a bird in a cage, powerless against the evil without.

  Free, on the opposite side of the fence, the old doctor stands waiting—anger and loathing written in the wrinkles of his scowl. The doctor always wears the same thing, the tight shimmering bodysuit of his learned organization. Its silver spandex fabric seems to glow in the sparse moonlight. And gloves. They always wear gloves. The grayish-white gleam of the bodysuit matches the grayish-white hair on the old doctor's small head. He is short and pudgy and the spandex suit accentuates his soft middle and his spindly legs. Despite his unimposing appearance, he emanates dark intimidation. It's his eyes—eyes that look inhumanly black in the dark.

  The small crowd of taller beings around the doctor also wears the silvery suits. They look sleek, strong and capable. They stand in stoic silence, their faces hidden behind simple white masks. The plastic masks, plain and nondescript, are haunting. The bald runner looks down at his feet to avoid the empty black eye holes.

  The haughty doctor saunters forward until his silver belly is pressed against the holey fence. Though his voice is shallow and sickly it is still thick with hate as he barks, "You are late!"

  The frightened runner cringes, alone on his side of the fence, but keenly aware of the nearby homes and their sleeping inhabitants. If anyone hears them, all will be lost. If he is caught, his wife will die.

  "Please forgive me," the runner whispers. "Don't hurt her! I was in—"

  "I don't care!" the white-haired doctor rasps even louder.

  The runner gasps and stumbles backwards, shooting frantic glances at nearby windows. He's never seen the decrepit one this riled. Why is this deal so important to them?

  Squinting through the chain links, the runner studies the panting geezer. Beneath that shock of white hair, the doctor's face and neck glint with the wetness of open sores. His ears are covered in more bandages than the last time.

  They are getting sicker.

  They'll never find what they are looking for and it is the lonely man's only consolation. He takes comfort in the sureness that they'll rot to death and then go to hell where they belong.

  Forcing himself to be brave, the runner steps closer to the menacing group, his voice quivering with telltale fear as he holds up what he brought for them, "I brought you this."

  His hand shakes with trepidation as he pushes his fingers through one of the fence links and hovers, trembling on their side. But no one moves to take the proffered piece from the quaking hand until a nod of command is given. Only then does the largest of the masked men step forward to retrieve it. The runner shivers as the body guard's gloved hand enfolds his own and takes the crumpled image. Bravery sapped, the runner snatches his hand back unharmed. An abbreviated prayer of thanksgiving whispers through his cracked lips—old habits die hard.

  Accepting the small, crinkled square from his body guard, the doctor squints at the image. He holds it up and turns the picture to catch a beam of moonlight for a better look. With the back of his gloved hand, the pudgy doctor wipes a drip of ooze from his bandaged brow as he considers the photo with quiet fury.

  "Meet us here again in three Mondays and bring what we want," he enunciates through the sticky phlegm in his throat, "or I will have your wife handed to you piece by piece through the links of this fence."

  The bald runner whimpers and bows, nodding with exaggerated enthusiasm, hoping that his submission to their will is obvious. If they are sure that he will do the job, maybe they'll stop hurting her.

  With a discomforting smile of yellow teeth the doctor adds, "Here's a little something for all of your trouble."

  Dropping a small black box through the fence links, they turn and dissipate into the buildings on their side, disappearing like snakes into their holes.

  Alone and trembling, the terrified man glances all around him and then stoops to retrieve the black velvet jewelry box. He stares transfixed at the box in his upturned hand. His palms drip with sweat, the freezing night wind unable to dry them. The bile in his stomach churns and threatens to surface. The abysmal man acted as though it was a payment or a gift.

  Could it be?

  No. It can't be good. They don't do good.

  With a trembling finger he flips open the rounded black lid. His anguished scream goes up in the night. All thought of secrecy is driven from his mind as the moon comes out from behind a cloud to reveal the contents of the open box in his hand. The diamond earring he gave her so many Christmases ago twinkles in the lunar light—still decorating her severed ear.

  ONE WEEK LATER

  Chapter One

  I Used To Be One of Them

  I am on my hands and knees scrubbing the faded-gray linoleum kitchen floor when my last decent pair of jeans rips through at the knee. My shoulders slump as I let out an annoyed groan. My carelessness has given unintentional support to her announcement at breakfast this morning. All my arguments turned to lies with a two inch long rip.

  Maybe she won't notice.

  Fat chance.

  I should have changed into older pants for this job, but my older pants are as ugly as the rag I'm using to scrub this impossible floor. I look like a hobo circus clown in them. Their different colored patches and hastily hemmed seams are embarrassing to look at, let alone wear.

  Everything I own is old. My limited wardrobe is a mismatched collection of hand-me-downs, most of which have holes and stains. My outfits span the last two decades and have been worn by several people before me—generational hand-me-downs. Homeless people wouldn't want them.

  Who cares about looking shabby anyways? No one else is any better off. I am fine blending in with the rest of the equally unkempt. But she doesn't care what I want, does she? I wish she'd take someone else with her. Not that she'd find anyone else more willing. The other girls my age—who are more image conscious than me and who dream of days-gone-by and less sobriety in their lives—wouldn't dream of venturing out of the community for new jeans.

  My only Living relative, Aunty Coe, is, of course, dissatisfied with what every other person in our little community has accepted. Aunt Colleen is actually my Great Aunt on my father's side—my dad's mother's sister. She took me in when I was twelve and I've been with her for four years. I love her, but I am dreading the special bonding time she has planned for us today.

  Aunty is a prim and proper lady, still quite attractive for age 65. She never married. And, coincidentally, she never learned to play nice with others. She holds staunchly to the axiom "cleanliness is next to godliness." This applies to the neatness of a person's wardrobe as well. I spend a lot of my time humoring her and pretending to agree with her. Less lectures that way. I say she's my only Living relative as opposed to other family members who are hopefully still living, but probably not Living. So, she's not my mom, but she is the next best thing.

  A "shopping" trip could actually be fun.

  God knows I'm tired of being cooped up.

  These are the things I'm telling myself as I lazily wipe at impossible stains on the floor in front of the oven. My mental pep talk is an attempt to avoid the other more pressing thoughts that come with leaving our community—mortal danger and grisly death. I'm trying to picture amazing shirts and new-in-the-box tennis shoes that are so fantastic they are worth the risk of abduction and dissection. If I'm being dragged along no matter what, it would be great if I could talk myself into some level of acceptance before she comes back with the car that will take us on our excursion.

  Drawing a deep breath that works its way back out in a long sigh, I decide that I'm no
t convincing myself. I crawl under the table to scrub that section of the floor and consider staying there and hiding. I used to drape the old table with blankets and build myself castles and forts—imagining myself safe and hidden. Imagination was enough back then. Enough to escape from all the trauma life had thrown at me. Aunty used to play along and pretend she couldn't find me. I don't think she'd be amused if I reinstated the old game today.

  Maybe I could fake the flu.

  The nagging thought that a spider could be lurking on the bottom of the table above me makes me twist around to look at the back of the light yellowy-orange oak boards. No eight-legged monsters, just memories. My name is scrawled in childish handwriting and various colors of crayon.

  Ivy Mae Lusato

  If Aunty ever found my rebellious Crayola graffiti, she didn't mention it. A world of faded drawings hides beneath the boards we eat on every day. Framed in clouds and rainbows, my extinct dreams cover most of the table's secret side. I lie on my back and look up at the happy thoughts doodled with care so many years ago. I can't help but frown, irritated at my young, naive self. I thought my life could turn out like those pictures from my daydreams. I'm glad that little girl is long gone. She'd be heartbroken to find out how it all turned out.

  Crawling out of yesteryear, I stand back up in my rainbow-less world to survey my hard work. The expression "sparkling clean" doesn't come close to an accurate depiction of this hopeless floor. Under the beige fluorescent light, the twenty year old linoleum has cracks and tears and several gross brown stains. I'm sure when it was new it sparkled, but now, even after intensive scrubbing, it still looks dirty.

  I'm thrilled that I just wasted thirty minutes of my life on it.

  Stinging pangs of chapped discomfort draw my attention from the floor to my hands. Already dry from the winter weather, my stubby fingers are red and irritated from the lye in our homemade cleaning soap. I forgot to wear my gloves again. I open the pantry and take an illegal dip into the last pot of store-bought lotion in town. The fancy hand cream is one of the few things Aunty has claimed as "hers." It is her favorite scent, Peony flower, and she uses it sparingly. I may have snuck a dip or two of the precious cream over the last few years. The pink perfumed lotion heightens the burning sensation at first, but then it fades into a cool tingling. My hands lose their redness almost instantly. Miraculous. I miss modern conveniences. I miss toothpaste. I miss Kraft cheese singles. I miss roll-on clear peach sparkle deodorant. I miss normality.

 
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