Something shifts in your head when you kill someone. Actually, I’ve now killed two someones. What makes this particularly ironic is that for most of my life I was a pacifist-granola-vegan type. Even watching people eat meat used to make me squirm.
After the big invasion, I guess I realised that survival was more important than compassion. Survival became the only thing. It came at the expense of everything else – and there was no altruism or decency anymore. If there ever was.
My name is Mindy and I am a survivor on this Earth. Although there are other words you could use, I prefer that one. Not many others can say the same. Right now, I'm shuddering with hunger and waiting in the dark corridor of a school long abandoned. I know I could be hunkering down a long time before I'm able to move, and this gives me time to reflect.
Life has changed for everyone, but it hurts more when I think about what is different. When I was growing up, my biggest worries were about getting boys to notice me. Was I wearing enough make-up? Was I dressed right? Did I giggle too little, or too much?
Other things keep me up now. What matters these days is ludicrously different. Hunger. Shelter. Fear.
Squatting in this dank space, I'm aware of my body odour. I look down, and see that my hands, once so soft, are rough and grimy-looking. I've toughened up and this in itself would have been a great surprise to my late friends and family. I remember once when I was five years old, I saw road-kill for the first time and bawled my eyes out for days, not understanding why we couldn't give that emaciated fox a decent burial.
That was before death became commonplace. Even at my hands.
When I first killed, I was shaking with terror, anger and pain. The whole time, I felt like I was looking down on myself from some woozy height. The surreal nature of the blood on my hands, the sweat rolling into my eyes and the smell of flesh combined to make me pass right out. When I came to, the dead body had disappeared. It was beyond my capabilities to deal with at the time, and I had crawled into a ball and cried until what was left of my heart felt completely shattered.
The second time I killed was more through lack of choice than out of fear. I was backed into a corner and it was a simple choice, me or her. Despite the obvious logic, I still hesitated, nearly costing me an eye. I was bigger, and it didn't seem right, but then again, life stopped making sense months ago.
Now only snippets of my former life scratch through my daily routine of endurance. Often these flashes are odd phrases or sayings that I once argued against - "Nature is red in tooth and claw" or "Revenge is a dish best served cold". I know today that nature is rawly violent beyond measure and that human nature is the most evilly repellent of all. Revenge has to be total and immediate or you will be hunted, tortured and annihilated.
There is no room for negotiation any more. In my past life, I was a psychology student and the nuances of behaviour seemed so complicated and quirky. Not now.
Thoughts fracture through my brain as tiredness takes me over and I shift position on the uncomfortable concrete floor. I have to ready myself for the daily dash for freedom. I can't spend nights in this school, haunted with the life of its students past. It's just not safe once it gets dark. There are many who would attack me for my meagre collection of things.
When the whisper comes, I hear it as if through a daze. This is not the noise of my enemies. It's a human sound, soft and weak. I focus and I can hear the tone - it is light and thin enough to disappear into the dark.
"Is it safe?" The high voice is that of a child and something contracts in me when I hear it. This will not turn out well.
"Stay down, Connor." A deeper voice replies, steely and hard.
I can see them now and the image is shocking in its rarity. Two guys, one taller and wary, the other younger, softer, but with the same features. Brothers. You barely see any humans who have survived these days - and especially not siblings without parents. They must have worked hard to stay hidden, and keep clear of the dangers lurking with every heartbeat. They move closer to me, so close I can smell them.
I stay down, not sure what to do. I know I have to decide soon, there's just not enough time to bide. I hate this world.
I bite down on what remains of my conscience.
Moving silently and swiftly, I grab the younger one by the hair and drag him to me before he realises I'm there. His brother pulls a gun on me, but he's too slow to react. Funny, people used to think that zombies were awkward and lumbering. Those people were the first to die.
"Connor..." The older brother looks like he can barely hold himself together and his voice is beyond anguished, as understanding rocks him. I can hardly feel Connor's pulse - he must be petrified.
There's no reason for me to fear the gun. I take a deep breath and hold the older brother's eyes as I slowly bite into Connor's arm. The taller one can run - or he can be next. I drip blood from my teeth as he turns away and flees, despair etched in his body's shaking tension. Thick red liquid oozes from Connor's wound and I crack his skull. When you're a zombie, you can't afford to be squeamish. Like I said, something has shifted in my head.