by Arlinda Vaughn

We are out after dark on our way to safety – father, mother, child, and dog – but we need to pick up a few supplies from the old house. The old house is contaminated and we know it. And we are so afraid. We bring this up but my father tells us that it will be okay. We wouldn’t be inside long enough for anything to happen. I am thinking that the supplies we are retrieving are not that important and that we can wait until morning, but he is so insistent and I am only a child.

My heart races as we enter the building. Almost immediately before I am even halfway up the stairs, which are right in front of the door, I think I can almost see them. They seem palpable. I think that I can just grab them and punch them to defend myself somehow, but I never connect no matter how hard I try or how much I focus. My mother, my father, and the dog are pushing through and have nearly made it to the top of the stairs.

My mind starts to swim and my thoughts become mottled.

‘Daddy, I’m changing!’ I scream. ‘We have to leave now! I’m turning into one of them!’

My mother and father had been frightened the entire time but now they are petrified. They don’t even get the gear that they came for even though it is just a few feet away from them.

‘It’s still okay’, I tell my father. ‘I can still open the door.’ We sprint back down the stairs.

The air is heavier by then, but since I can still move objects, I know I am still human. I open the door and we all run through. Only the orientation shifts and I am still inside the open door. My mother, father, and the dog are running away at top speed. They are running for their lives.

‘Mommy, Daddy! I can’t leave.’ I scream at the top of my lungs. ‘Mommy, Daddy! I can’t leave!’ But they never look behind them.

I am changing, but I am still mostly me. If my mother or father would just come back, they could pull me through the door and I would become whole.

My mind slips as I am further consumed.

‘MOMMY!!! DADDY!!!, IT’S NOT TOO LATE!’ But they keep running until they are out of my sight.

In my last moments of humanity, I look back into the main room of the old house. A piece of the dog stayed behind, trapped as well. I pity him. In his eyes I see the void where hope once was as he is further consumed. And I know that we will be stuck together in this place, without presence enough to feel anything but fear and loneliness. I will become my own nightmares, my own fears. And as an apparition, I will go on to infect others.