It was the middle of the night. Lena awoke in a cold sweat to a distant ruckus. Someone screamed, someone shouted. And there was banging, thudding; other sounds of horror. She sprang to a sitting position and whispered to her husband next to her, “Hank? Hank!” She nudged, only to find that he was not there after all. Lena pulled up the blanket to her chin and sat wide-eyed.
One thought lingered in her mind, What the heck is going on?
And then it all subsided. The screaming, clanging, horror; it was gone. And it was then Lena decided it was time to investigate. She reached over into her nightside table and pulled open the creaking drawer. From it, she drew a Kimber Super Carry Ultra HD .45 pistol. After checking its load and ensuring it would shoot on command, Lena took a deep breath and prepared herself. She hated this sort of thing. Guns and death, violence and scariness... none of these appealed to her. Still, in times like these, all of them were necessities.
The bedroom door was closed. Lena struggled to keep her breath, and her mind, under control as she put her hand against the large, cool, steel handle. It took her both hands and a degree of effort to push it down and then pull the bulkhead door open. With the silence abounding, the soft creaking of the hinges screamed.
Lena slowly peaked her head outside. The lights in the corridor were flickering and the decks slowly rocked. Must be hitting some waves, Lena figured. And then she realized she was faced with a choice: right to the left?
To the left, Lena's path would take her to the nearest ladder well where she could get to the control center or even the main deck. This path led to answers and even a better chance at safety. More of the crewmen would be on the main deck and the control center was designed to be the safest place on the Holdsworth. The doors were reinforced, there were plenty of extra guns, enough ammo to last a while, and even some food. Hank had designed it that way in case of mutiny. The left is the logical, sensible place to go.
But Lena chose to go to the right. Down that way was the rest of the crew quarters. More importantly, down the right was her children's quarters. As a mother, she had to know if Emma and Liam were safe. Their room was only a few doors down. They would have to be fine, right? They were, after all, the toughest pair on the ship. If anyone were to survive anything, it would be Emma and Liam; especially Emma. But still. Things were far too spooky to be sure.
The lights: on, off, on, off, on, off....
Lena found her offspring's door wide open. Without hesitation, she walked inside, pistol raised. “Mom!” A familiar voice exclaimed. Lena looked over to the bottom bunk to find Emma sitting, her Taurus ready for action. Emma sighed in relief.
“Emma!” Lena lowered her gun as she noticed Emma was covered in blood. Her left arm was torn and her clothes ripped. Lena had never seen so much fear in Emma's eyes. “My gosh, what happened? Where's Liam?” She rushed over to her daughter's side and tried to help clean her up.
“Mom, listen to me,” Emma's voice shook as tears ran down her cheeks. “It's Liam! He's- he's turned! I wake and there he is- he's biting my arm! I fought him, but- but he- he did this to me!”
Lena looked into Emma's eyes and asked, “Where is your father?”
“He came in here and wrestled Liam off me, but Liam pushed him away and ran out the door!” Emma swallowed as she pushed away tears. “And then dad ran after him!”
“How did Liam turn?” Lena asked, more likely attempting to reason with herself than really ask Emma questions. “I mean, he was inoculated, and there weren't any symptoms, and-”
“Mom!” Emma grabbed Lena's arm and said firmly, “It doesn't matter. It's happened and we need to stop Liam before he gets to anyone else.”
“Maybe somehow the serum evolved or mutitated or-”
“Mom!” Emma interrupted. “Stop trying to overthink things.”
“Okay,” Lena took a deep breath. “Let's go.”
“I can't. Liam pulled me off my bunk and broke my leg. You'll have to go on without me.”
“Okay,” Lena nodded. She pulled in a deep breath as if to suck in all of her courage, “Okay.”
Lena got up and walked out the door. Instinctively, she turned left towards the ladderwell. Somehow, she simply knew that's where Hank would go. And then Lena had more questions. They had planned for this sort of thing years ago. An alarm system had been built to warn of zombie attack so that the crew would arm up and kill this sort of thing before it even started. But there was no alarm. Instead, there was a freakish silence. All she could hear was the soft buzzing of the flickering lights.
Again the decks rocked. Even after all of the years of practice, Lena found it hard to keep her balance. There must have been some storm out there. When at last she sound herself at the ladderwell, Lena found that the hatch above was wide open and that rainwater was pouring through. Realizing that it was best to keep it dry, Lena hid the Kimber beneath her clothing.
Not that it mattered. As soon as she pulled herself onto the deck, Lena was drenched. Just as Hank had taught her, Lena immediately dropped to a crouching position and brought her pistol to bear. She could not assume the ship was safe. Too many things were far too amiss.
It was then in a strange epiphany that Lena realized how cold she was. The rain pouring down upon her was absolutely freezing. And then Lena was only wearing a t-shirt and a pair of night shorts. In her mind, she realized she would have to account for her shaking should she need to use her pistol. Lena pulled her hair back behind her ears before standing and moving on. She stood and took a solid look around....
There was no one.
Except on the other side of the ship, she saw a figure just standing there. It was a man and he was looking over the edge of the ship; just standing there. Staring. Since the visibility was next to nothing, she could not tell who it was. With the utmost caution, Lena kept her pistol raised and slowly approached the mystery figure. Lena could only guess.
What if it was Liam? What if he was standing there for no reason, like zombies usually do, and then Lena would have no choice but to shoot him? Lena doubted that she could. Even if Liam was one of those monsters, she could never shoot her own son. But Lena would have to. If she did not, she would then turn and pose a danger to the rest of the crew. No. It could not be. She would not shoot her son.
The figure turned around. Lena could not see his face, but she knew it was Hank. Even from the distance and through the haze, she could see his jolly beard. Lena knew him too well to not know who it was. But there was something... off. She called to him as she lowered her pistol, “Hank?”
No answer. Hank limped towards her.
“Hank?” Lena shook. “What's wrong?”
Hank lumbered further.
“Hank!” Lena tightened the grip on her pistol and brought it to bear once again. “Stay back!”
“Oh, gosh!” Lena cried. “No! Not you!”
The moonlight revealed his face; his eyes. There was no doubt. Hank had been turned. His skin was pale and his eyes shining, blue beacons of horror. Hank kept his pace.
“Hank! Back off! Please!” Lena's finger twitched. “I don't- I don't want to shoot you!”
Hank snarled. Blood poured down his chin.
Tears ran down Lena's cheeks, “Hank, why did have to be you?” She sobbed as she lowered the handgun. “I can't. I just can't do it.”
Hank kept coming. He was mere feet away.
“Hank, I'm so sorry!” Lena stuck the barrel of the gun to her temple. “I can't. I can't kill you.”
Just as Hank's undead hand snatched her arm, Lena pulled the trigger.
Hank's eyes shot open and instantly he turned to his wife. “Lena! Lena!” He put his hand over her. She was burning up and sweating like mad. A nightmare, it must have been. “Lena! Hey! Wake up, honey! Wake up!”
Lena gasped as she bolted to a sitting position, “Oh, gosh! No! I-”
“Hey, hey, hey!” Hank pulled her close and held her tight. “It's okay, it's okay, it was just a dream.”
“No!” Lena sobbed. “No, it was- it was too real, it was- it was all so- oh, Hank....” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“It's alright,” He held her close. “You're gonna be okay, I promise.” Lena kept quiet as she cried into his shoulder. “Sh, sh, you're gonna be okay.” After a few minutes of reassuring her, Hank finally said, “Tell me about it. Tell me what happened.”
Lena brought herself out of Hank's arms, wiped away tears, took a very deep breath, and recounted, “I woke up and you weren't there. There was so much screaming.... So, I grabbed- I grabbed the gun and went to Liam and Emma's room and Liam had- he had turned into a zombie. He bit you and Emma and then ran away. You ran after him, so I went to find you. When I did, you were one of them... so, I had to shoot you. I had to kill you. Hank, I had to-”
“Hey, what happened next?”
“I couldn't!” Lena sobbed. “This is the worst part, okay?”
“Lay it on me,” Hank gently stroked her arm.
“I couldn't do it, so I shot myself.”
“Oh, Lena,” Hank pulled her in again and held his wife firmly in his embrace. “It was only a dream.”
“But what does it mean, Hank?”
“Nothing,” he assured her. “Dreams don't mean a thing.”
“But this one felt so... real.”
“Hank,” Lena looked her husband in the eyes. “I feel like something terrible is going to happen soon. I just-”
“Hey,” Hank's voice could not be stronger. “Nothing is going to happen. I won't let it.”
Lena closed her eyes and came back to his arms, “Just hearing you say that helps.”
“I love you too much to let anything happen.”