It’s cold as hell here in Oklahoma City. Fifty-four degrees with the sun covered in clouds and freakin’ ice-cold winds blowing in your eyes. In the streets, the roads are almost empty. People are held up in their homes or jobs and the police are roaming the roads left and right while arresting pranksters and college kids on the side. A typical day in Oklahoma on a Halloween day. And I highly doubt that I’m going to be treating tonight.
In Buffalo High School, it’s pretty normal. Every classroom is filled with students waiting for the day to end and teachers teaching subjects that everyone hates or loves. Custodians are cleaning the cafeteria and halls as students are in sixth period who are either excited to finally go home or bored because they have a seventh period. But, of course, they all talk about the latest “trend”, if you could even call it that. The ridiculous but serious trend. The top number one is trending in the news. A worldwide pandemic. The ZBPV-17.
I don’t know much about it. Just the fact that this disease or virus started in Colombia three years ago and worked its way up through Mexico, Africa, and Iraq. It continues to spread and nobody knows when it even started. It has been said that this disease is making people go crazy. Savage crazy like humans eating other humans but I doubt that. When has there been a disease that turns people into cannibals? They say more of them are turning up by the thousands. It freakin’ worries me out. The fact that cannibals are just showing up more and more. I hate the idea of it. I try to keep it out of my thoughts. Besides, the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. have the disease contained and we only have a few cases here. The theory of disease turning cannibals is nothing more than a made-up sick fantasy. It is NOT that big of a deal.
It’s two o’clock. Thirty minutes till class ends. Mr.Drew is standing at the front of the class in front of a smartboard, explaining the Battle of Somme in World War One to us. From punchable freshmen to seniors infected by the senioritis. I’m sitting at the back of the class, far right near the corner in front of Mr.Drew’s desk, and grouped up with my friends from football practice and my best friend since elementary school, Charles, on the right of me.
As always, almost every student is on their phones watching a video, a popular one, obviously, or texting. Completely ignoring all teachers, principles, and counselors and no longer caring about their grades anymore. It has been like this for months. Actually, since last school year. I remember hearing a rumor about a popular video in the last month of my junior year. People have said that in the video, there was a kid, who had to be no more than thirteen, running full speed at his neighbors closest to him and eating them without a second thought. People have said that he looked so pale like he was dead and he just came after people like he didn’t care about others around him or like he didn’t see them. When the police showed up, they had to shoot him seventeen times because he just wouldn’t stand down.
I couldn’t believe it. A boy randomly eating people. I thought that was insane. It scared the living heck out of me. Before I could even see the video, my parents took my phone away. In fact, they shut down all electronics except the TVs. We weren’t allowed to watch the news and we weren’t allowed to talk about it. But the thought was still there. The image of it was always there. Ever since that day, I couldn’t watch YouTube and get on social media because all everyone talked about was the video and more like it. And in the last week of school, parents pulled their kids out of school and just about everybody refused to leave their homes and developed paranoia. You see why I try not to think about it?
I’m the only one in my group that’s trying to concentrate on
Mr.Drew’s lesson. I hear the students whispering loudly and texting and buzzing on their phones. It’s irritating as hell. It’s unbelievable that some people can’t just put away their phones and shut up. It’s not that hard. And people always complain about the rules of school without once thinking about it because of them that are forcing those rules. I swear people are annoying and stupid. Maybe I should be more worried about humans than the pandemic.
Mr.Drew loudly taps on the smartboard, switching from old pictures of soldiers and battlefields to a black, blank screen with bold white words on top. It makes me refocus and look back at him. He sort of scans everyone, especially over the people who have their phones out. I think he thought that the loud tap he made was going to get everyone’s attention. Nice try, Mr.Drew.
He tries shouting. “Can someone tell me what kind of weapons soldiers used during this time?” No one answers and no one responds. Students still continue to stare at their phones while others just gawk at Mr.Drew, waiting for him to answer. But the teacher doesn’t do anything. He stands there with his arms crossed and gawking back at us.
Almost three minutes have passed, and no one answers still. Mr.Drew blinks in amazement. I think he’s boiling some anger inside him. “Anyone? Everybody? No one? Someone?” Great. Now he’s “discreetly” demanding someone to answer. If someone doesn’t respond, he’ll spend the final twenty-three minutes of class lecturing us about responsibility and our future for the third time this week. “Come on, guys. I just need an answer. It can be wrong or right, just answer. I’m not gonna answer it for you.”
No answers. Really? Do I really have to sacrifice myself and save everyone? I wait a few more seconds yet no one even moves. Mr.Drew sighs heavily and face-palms himself. I glance at my buds but they are too focused on their phones. I glance at the room. Nope. Same thing. I sigh intensely and face-palm myself. With regret and irritation, I raise my hand high.
Mr.Drew notices and lets his hand fall. “Yes, Mr.Stone?” I peer to the ceiling as I think for a moment. “Uhhhhhh. Rifles, machine guns, and… hand grenades?” Mr.Drew nods his head and smiles like he is proud of me. “And flamethrowers and tanks. That is correct. Thank you, Mr.Stone.” Mr.Drew turns around and taps the screen four times showing pictures of the weaponry on the black slide. He begins babbling about the rifles that the soldiers used in the war.
When he’s a few minutes into the discussion, Charles holds his phone with dangling white earbuds in front of me and tries to show me a new trending video that everyone is probably watching right now. He whispers softly, “Dude. Have you seen this video? This is insane!” I groan while rubbing my eyes. He knows that I don’t watch that stuff. Why does he bother asking me? I whisper back annoyed, “Charlie. You know I can’t watch that sort of thing. My parents will kill me.”
“Are you serious? You haven’t seen it?” I finally face Charles with frustration in my eyes and quietly shout, “No! Okay? No! I’ve been busy working on college applications and on top of that—homework and projects. You should, too. I really don’t want to wait until next freakin’ year to start college.” Charles only scoffs and shakes his head like he couldn’t believe what I’m saying. “Dude, trust me. That is the absolute least of our problems. This is something that everyone should be worried about. You gotta watch this video. You’ll thank me later.” Charles intently waves his phone in my face and tries to hand me his earbuds with the video on pause. He continues to do so until I grab the phone out of his hand. “Fine! God, I’ll watch it if it means getting you off my back.” Charlie throws his hands up and sits back while pretending to listen. I plug in the earbuds in my ears and press play.
The volume is low but loud enough for me to hear. There is a man, scarred and bloody, on the ground sitting over a body covered in blood. The body is a small, skinny man like he’s 180 to 190 pounds. Blood is spilling out of the guy. And the guy hovering over him is moving his head a little. Jerking his head right to left. The film shifts around to a point where I could see that the scarred up man is eating the insides of the body. The person holding their phone gasps and backs away a bit.
Suddenly, yells are calling out. It sounds like a police officer. The scarred man turns slowly and concentrates only at the yelling policeman. The man shrieks at the police and runs after him. The police open fire and shoot at him over twenty times but the guy is still living. The shots slow him down but not by that much. It’s like he was stunned for only a nanosecond and then kept running at the officer who yelled. With the police pursuing the shooting, the man got to the officer and jumped him. He was eating him. When they were on the ground, the rest of the police shot the man in the head, ultimately killing him.
Once I think it’s over, the skinny guy who was being eaten by the other one comes to life. Growling and moaning. He looks like he doesn’t know where he is. While he slowly gets to his feet. Everybody else sees him and becomes confused. The police officers take caution and point their guns at him, refusing to walk towards him. One of them asks if he’s alright but he doesn’t answer. When he starts to stand upright, his intestines fall out of him and it doesn’t even bother him. When he looks up and recognizes the people in front of him, he shrieks and charges after the police just like the other guy.
I finally stop the video. I couldn’t watch anymore of it. So, this is what my parents were hiding from me. I heard this is bad but I didn’t think it was that bad. I pull the earbud out frantically and toss the phone out of my hand. My heart is pumping out of my chest and I feel like I’m hyperventilating. “Jesus Christ! What the hell happened?” Charles nods his head, understanding what I’m experiencing. I think he remembers that my parents don’t allow me to watch it and that’s why he showed it to me anyway. He’s protecting me.
He takes his phone and studies me. “Yeah, no kidding. I’m sorry. I know your folks are trying to protect you from this stuff but this can no longer be contained and hidden. It’s getting out of control.” I face him confused. What does he mean by “getting out of control”? Doesn’t the government have the infected quarantined? “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. What do you mean? The government said that they do and it’s being subdued.” Charles scoffs and stares at me with all seriousness. “The government is crap. All they say is a lie. These things have been growing by the tons since that Colombian guy got infected. From what I’ve heard, there were over five million of whatever that was last year in America alone. This year, over fifty million and it’s growing rapidly.”
I’m freaking out in my chair. My breathing gets harder and my chest is beating faster than I’ve ever felt. I feel like running out of the classroom. I can’t handle this. I can’t handle this. “Jesus Christ! You don’t think——No. No, it can’t be. They aren’t real. They aren’t!” Charles attempts to calm me down. He’s whispering and shushing me that kind of works. “Shh. Shh. Calm down, dude. It’s okay. I’m sorry but you had to know. Listen, as soon as the class is over, we have to go home. We need to get prepared. But first, calm yourself down. I got your back. We’ll get through this together.”
I start to inhale and exhale as slowly as possible. It eventually works. Charles pats me on the back a few times and sits back nonchalantly. He’s so restful. He’s not disturbed by this. How? How could he be so relaxed after knowing what is happening? Why are we in school? All of us should leave now while there’s time. How are they real? How did this happen?
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