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Home > Soulless (Soulless #1)

Soulless (Soulless #1)
Author: Cerys du Lys

I am dead.

This is how I feel, this is what I know, but a small part of me refuses to believe it. Wasn't I alive just yesterday? I have a doctor's appointment to go to next week and I need to leave a reminder for my office manager. He's forgetful and even though I told him about this a month ago, he won't remember.

But, no, I don't have a doctor's appointment next week. That's already past. It's been four months, two weeks, and three days since the day I should've gone to the doctor. It was only a routine check up, anyways. Not absolutely necessary, but it would have provided peace of mind.

My mind is anything but peaceful now. I don't know if I still have one.

...

Five months ago I was sitting on my couch eating take-out Chinese and watching the news. I never knew why I enjoyed watching the news, but it seemed like the adult thing to do, you know? Granted, wearing my pajama pants with cartoon versions of cats and a grey athletic t-shirt didn't help my illusion of adulthood. Nor did eating directly out of the lo mein carton with a pair of wooden chopsticks, but still. Sometimes it's good to feel more adult, even if the rest of your life isn't exactly there.

There was a breakthrough announcement on the news that night, too. I remember them hyping it up at the beginning, saying it could change the face of humanity as we knew it. Dutifully, I watched through dull segments involving a local bake sale and a church's outrage at a movie theatre refusing to remove a supposedly risque poster from their front lobby. Maybe I should've switched the channel, though.

What did this breakthrough announcement have to do with me? Was it another cell phone? I loved my cell phone as much as the next person, but the way they came out with new ones every year(and they always have new features that seem suspiciously like the old ones), I would never understand why people got so excited about those things. I wanted mine to work, I wanted to call people on it, and I'd like to be able to occasionally text someone and maybe check my email.

The announcement wasn't about a phone, though. I stabbed a potsticker with my chopsticks and nibbled on the edges while some NASA scientist explained their newest discovery.

Hibernation, hypothermia, an isolated virus that could mimic these conditions at a safe level. Once they finished with more rounds of experimentation, they could use this knowledge for extended space travel. The goal was to induce a type of suspended animation in astronauts so they could travel to distant planets with minimal necessities.

It sounded like a bunch of Star Trek mumbo jumbo to me. I'm not stupid, I graduated college with a marketing degree, but this had nothing to do with me. In a hundred years when people finally colonized Mars and someone built a restaurant chain up there, they could call me in to help figure out their branding, but none of this affected me right now.

This was what I thought then. In four days, everything changed.

...

I wander through the city, confused. I am cold beyond belief and nothing I can do will warm me up. I try holding my hands tight against my chest and huddling on the ground, but it doesn't help. I've tried putting on more clothes, but this doesn't work, either. I've tried taking off my clothes, too. I go inside and outside, but no.

My skin is a pale blue like the color of pure water. I feel sick and I know I should go see a doctor, but there are no doctors anymore; not for me or anyone like me. I am one of them and I am hated. I understand this, but I don't want it.

It's hard to walk sometimes, but other times I manage it fine. I feel clumsy, as if I've had too much to drink at the bar, but I don't think I've had alcohol for months. I can't remember.

And then it happens.

As much as I feel it, I'm not alone. A majority of the people surrounding me are like me, but different. They give in to their urges or they think differently, or there's something that separates me from them. I think it's the fact that I can't give in no matter what. I have a doctor's appointment to go to next week, afterall.

The others around me stand up and stumble forwards after the intruders. Men and women, regular, just like us except with peach-colored skin(or tanned, or darker, it makes no difference) rush through the city streets. They bash through a storefront window with a baseball bat. The crashing sound of glass makes me shudder.

The others chase them with a speed none of us knew we had. I watch them run, legs creaking, frantic to catch the people breaking into the convenience store. The people in the store yell at each other, screaming.

"Hurry! Grab what you can and go! We don't have much time!"

I don't know what they're grabbing, but I know why they don't have much time.

Most of them make it out fine. A younger man drags behind, though. When he went to jump out of the front window, he cut his leg on the broken glass and fell onto the concrete sidewalk. One of his group stopped for a second and looked at him, trying to decide what to do, but when the rest of his people run off to safety, he abandons the young man.

The young man is stuck, limping. He won't escape.

I can't watch and I turn away. It hurts; it's painful. I know why they do it and I'm tempted to do it myself. The feeling of warmth and closeness like a lover's embrace. Heat and intimacy.

Except nothing they do is loving. They are ruthless and vicious and in their obsession for warmth they'll destroy the man.

I hear him scream and I want to cry but I run away as fast as I can. My feet slip on the sidewalk and I stumble, hitting against the side of a building, but I keep going.

Why is it like this? Why?

...

After I ate a can of warmed beans, I felt better. It wasn't hard to get the can of beans, but it was difficult to heat them. Fortunately, I knew of a place on the outskirts of the city in a wooded area where there was a house with a gas generator and a microwave. I knew it wouldn't last forever, but it suited me for now. If I used the generator sparingly and made trips to get gas in the middle of the night, I could sustain myself for awhile.

That's how I imagined it going, but it didn't always work like that. The problem was that, while the warm beans slipped down my throat easily and warmed me up, filling my stomach with a soothing heat, it never lasted. While eating them, I felt wonderful, though. I felt human and alive, like myself once more. If I flipped on the TV--if there was anything actually on TV--and sat on the couch, propping my feet up on the coffee table, maybe I could forget about all of this for awhile.

The beans kept me feeling warmer for half an hour or so, but then the chill crept in. I didn't have enough energy or beans to keep eating forever, though. It also didn't help that I felt like I'd eaten a Thanksgiving dinner after only half a can of the things. I could only eat once a day at most without feeling wretched and sick. Most of the time I ended up going two days in between meals.

For now, for a little while, I felt nicer, though. I walked through the hallway to the master bedroom and grabbed a bathrobe off the back of the door, slipping my arms into the sleeves and tying it into place. Finding a book by Nicholas Sparks on the bedside table, I snatched it up and fell into bed. I slid beneath the thick blankets, hoping to keep warm for a little while longer, then opened to the dogeared page in the book and began reading.

I read for a few minutes before the chill started. My feet grew colder and I started breathing slower, more shallowly. I felt tired, so tired, but I wanted to read a little more. I needed to know what happened to Ally and Noah. Did everything turn out fine? It was darker outside than I remembered, but I could still read. I needed to, desperately desired it, and yet...

I folded the corner of the page I was on and carefully placed the book on the bedside table once more. Curling my knees up to my chest and closing my eyes, I lay in bed.

...

No one knew what exactly happened, and least of all Evan. He wished he knew, because maybe that would put some sense into all of this, but even if he did there wasn't anything he could do about it.

News stations reported an accident and a breakout. Contamination or something, but no one needed to act concerned. It was best if people remained in their homes and closed the doors.

Of course, no one did that. Why should they? Well, Evan did it, because apparently he was an idiot. That's what his roommate told him at the time before he rushed out of their apartment and into the streets.

It didn't matter if you left or stayed, though. It was something else entirely. He couldn't say why it didn't affect him or who it did affect, but it caused people to change. The virus released from the labs made people slow and stumbling. They could still talk, but in his experience they usually didn't want to. Sick and pale, shambling around the city, looking like...

Zombies.

He laughed thinking about it. Zombies, really? That was some serious movie shit right there. People rising up from their graves, eating brains, hordes upon hordes of the living dead.

This wasn't exactly that, though. These people weren't dead; they were sick. He tried to tell everyone that, but no one listened to him.

"You're not a doctor, Evan," Alex said. "Just stick to hunting like you're good at. We need someone like you. It's safer if we stay away from the city unless we need supplies."

The city. That's what everyone called it now. No names, no recognition. They didn't want to acknowledge that the buildings in the city had names and history. There was no past; it didn't exist. Maybe it was easier that way. Maybe it helped people cope with their losses and figure out how to live in this screwed up place.

Evan didn't like it, though. He didn't want to live in a fake city in the middle of the woods made out of tents. He didn't want to act like none of his past life existed, and he didn't want to treat anyone like a zombie.

It didn't matter what he wanted, though, it mattered what they did. And they--the zombies--killed people. There was some reason, some gut instinct told him so, but what? Why would they do it? What was their purpose?

He wasn't anyone important. He was just Evan, a man who'd grown up hunting, played football in high school and college, and worked a respectable job as an EMT while trying to save up money to continue on with medical school.

Yeah, like Alex said, he wasn't a doctor, but he would've been. And while higher learning had kind of gone out the window with the mass viral outbreak, if he had any say in things he'd still be a doctor some day. Maybe he couldn't get an official degree, but he could study. He refused to let anyone stop him.

...

I'm walking through the city, confused. Why am I here? I can't remember. I need to go to my doctor's appointment, I'm sure of it, except where is my car? Do I have my keys? Reaching to my side for my purse, I realize I must have left it at home.

My hand, my skin. I stare at my arm, unsure if what I'm seeing is real or not. My skin is a pale blue all the way from my fingertips and up my forearm, to my shoulder. It looks like I've painted my fingernails purple, but I never paint them that color.

Then I remember everything.

I can't remember why I came here or what I needed to do, but I can't stay. The others shamble around nearby or lay in a huddled mess somewhere in the shadows. No one wants to do anything, but I do. I must. Except what?

Sometimes I find it hard to walk, but I know that I need to. If I focus on one step at a time I can act like everyone else; like I used to. Strolling through the street, looking at the storefronts, I pretend it's just any other day. There's a shop I like, a small custom-craft wardrobe boutique, and I stop in front of it and look inside. Someone's broken the window and upturned the dress dummies that used to show off the owner's most recent fashions, but it doesn't matter.

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