They did this for almost two hours, stopping every so often for quick five minute breaks to allow Mika to rest.
Her head swam, and her arm throbbed. Mika thought she was going to faint on several occasions which is usually what prompted the rest breaks. She started hallucinating after the first hour as the fever set in. Snatches of memories flashed before her eyes; first of her life before and then during the time when she had gorged on human flesh. It was all so vivid that she cried out a few times, causing Jane to give a sharp looks in her direction.
“Sorry,” she said one of the times she had made a noise. Aware how she must look to the others, Mika tried her best to focus; she didn’t want them to be forced to leave her somewhere because she held them back. She could feel the sickness radiating from her wound and knew that blood poisoning must be setting in. Looking at her arm she could see red snaking up her flesh from the wound that lay hidden beneath the bandage.
Finally a house came into view, Mika grateful as she was near exhaustion. Jane and John motioned for the others to stay back as they performed their usual inspection. It was a small house, its driveway connected to a long dirt road that led to the main road. It was secluded, and seemed very quiet which made it very appealing.
Mika leaned on Nicole, her breathing ragged. Ed joined the pair in their search. After about fifteen long minutes, during which time Mika thought she was going to vomit, Jane called the all clear.
The house had been abandoned pretty quickly with most of the personal belongings remaining in their drawers. And unlike most places they had encountered, there was no blood smeared on the walls or floor.
Nicole planted Mika on the large couch in the living room. John went to her immediately.
“Try and find any bandage material and any prescription medication that might be an anti-biotic,” John ordered, “and water.”
Nicole answered his last request by handing him her water bottle. Ed and Jane set about searching the house.
“Is she going to be ok?” Nicole whispered to John when it seemed that Mika was lost in a hallucination. He met her eyes, Nicole seeing fear there.
“I don’t know,” was all he said before he began peeling off the soaked bandage from Mika’s arm.
“Ahh! Noo!” she cried out, from the pain and some unknown memory. Something was brushing at her arm, groaning and moaning. She looked and saw the face of a zombie, its teeth snapping at her arm.
“Hold her down!” John cried to Nicole as Mika tried to swat him away. Nicole went to Mika’s head as she laid her down on her good arm.
“It’s alright, you’re going to be fine,” Nicole crooned, wiping Mika’s sweaty brow. Mika seemed to still at the gentle touch.
“Mom,” she said through clenched teeth.
“We couldn’t find any meds,” Jane said coming up behind them. “Found some towels and rubbing alcohol.” She placed her findings on the table beside John.
“Thanks,” he said as he placed a cool compress on Mika’s arm. “I think we should fortify this place as best as we can.” He looked towards Mika’s face. “We could all do with a rest.”
Mika fell into a deep sleep as the others began to secure the house. Ed discovered a small shed that housed basic tools, hammers and nails to which they used to board up the windows and doors on the main level. There wasn’t much food to be found, but they lucked out with a small garden in the back that contained a few vegetables despite not being tended for many months.
A pump in the back provided fresh water and that night they ate like royalty; Jane had caught a rabbit and once cooked in the fire pit outside, the group sat in the living room so that they could all keep an eye on Mika.
She had barely stirred since she had laid down that afternoon. It was well after dark before her eyes fluttered open. John was in the middle of telling an amusing story from when he was a paramedic when Mika cried out.
“You’re safe, you’re safe,” he said going to her. She struggled to sit up, and settled for being propped up by a large pillow.
“How do you feel?” John asked when it was apparent that she seemed lucid.
Mika realized her tongue was thick and her mouth dry and reached for water. After taking a large gulp, of which much dripped from her mouth, she spoke.
“It’s all my fault,” she began, half aware of what she was saying. She felt so weak and light headed that she didn’t feel present in her own body, as if she was watching her confession from outside herself.
“No, no, Mika, it was an accident,” John said, thinking she meant her fall and the resulting cut or even their current position of waiting for her to recover.
“No, this, the death,” she winced and in her desperation to make them understand she had moved her arm. Fire shot through her as the infection was spreading to her veins.
“You aren’t yourself,” Nicole began.
“No. I was the first, then the man with the ugly shirt,” she leaned her head back, exhausted by the effort it was taking to form proper sentences. Jane looked warily at John then Mika.
“What are you talking about?”
“I was the first,”, she repeated. “Then I died, I died and bit the second,” she almost giggled, her words sounding crazy even to her in her current state. They had to know, she didn’t have much longer. “I know you,” she pointed at John, her finger almost sticking him in the nose.
“I’m John, Mika,” he said thinking she was losing it altogether.
“You were there when it happened,” she leaned forward, “patient zero,” she pointed at her chest.
“Mika, you’re just sick,” Nicole began, then saw the look on John’s face. “John?”
He scrambled back, and clutched his knees. “She was there,” he said, his eyes boring into Mika’s, his face scrunched in memory. “I was called to the café, some girl had passed out,” he put his hand on his forehead. “I was there when patient zero bit the first man, I was there, I was there,” he repeated. John had tried to forget the day, as he had felt so helpless in the panic. The passage of time made it worse as he thought that he could have done more to prevent it. During the first days, the change had been so quick; the man that Mika had bitten had turned in minutes, meaning that there was a small horde of zombies attacking downtown before the day was over. He had barely escaped, the faces of those who remained stuck in the café still haunting his memory. But it was her. She had been the one, and had been walking beside him for the last few days.
“How?” he asked, her, himself, anyone. How was she sitting here, breathing when she had been a zombie. Mika smiled a weak smile when she saw that he understood.
“I don’t remember much,” her breathing became wheezy. “The university that I went to, drug trials,” she paused, trying to catch her breath. Sinking into the couch, she tried speaking again but her voice was faint. John went close to her face.
“Say again,” he asked, putting his ear near her mouth. She repeated, his eyes widening. Pulling his face back, he grabbed her hand. He nodded when her eyes urged, and she relaxed. “I promise.”
Mika closed her eyes and John feared the worst, but saw that her chest was rising and falling
“What just happened?” Jane asked quietly.
“That and all the answers will be found at Mika’s school,” John said standing. Everyone gasped when he named the school Mika had whispered to him.
“It will take forever to walk there!” Nicole cried.
“And how do we even know that she is even talking sense?” Ed added, tears glistening in his eyes. “She was probably just having a fever dream”
“No,” John’s voice was even, despite the tears that ran down his face. “I was there. I knew that she seemed familiar but didn’t know how. It was her. And we have to go, we need to find answers.”
They all had a hard time sleeping that night, the knowledge that they all possessed was overwhelming.
Mika stayed quiet over the long night, but woke every few hours, her head spinning. How could I tell them? She asked herself during a somewhat ludic moment. Did I tell them or was it a dream? She kept having flashes from before, the school where she studied, an older man named… And there was the death. Standing over bodies and consuming their flesh. She woke several times to retch, the taste of copper in her mouth. It was the end, that’s why she had told them. She felt so weak and knew that she couldn’t possibly survive.
Dawn was upon them, Mika lay on the couch, eyes blinking back tears. She watched as the sun made a path across the floor to meet her face. It’s warm light bathed her, soothed her. A hiccup escaped her lips and a memory flashed in her mind of a time before when she was happy and smiling with friends. Mika closed her eyes, reveling in the memory and taking one last breath she smiled just as her heart stopped for a second time.