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My name is Patrick. I had two loving parents and a little sister. On the day of the outbreak, my sister ate my parents. I didn’t understand what was happening, but my mother used her dying breath to tell me to run. So I did. I ran and didn’t look back. What else was I supposed to do? I called the cops, but their lines were busy. I called my best friend, but he didn’t pick up. Then the screams started. People rushed out of their houses, some covered in blood, some still in pajamas. “Zombie, zombie!” and “help! Help!” replaced the usual bird cries.

An article on the news said an estimated 20% of the world’s population were infected before the outbreak. They estimated it went to 50% at the end of the day. Some people didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. But our beliefs didn’t matter. Day after day, more and more people turned, whether from scratches or bites or whatever caused it in the first place. And now, no one doubts that there are more infected than uninfected. The proof is below me. Dozens of infected drinking the blood leaking out of my ass. How the hell did an infected learn how to use a bow in the first place? They’re supposed to be dumb as bricks!

“You’re saying, someone is pretending to be infected and leading a group of them? Over.”

This dense bastard! “No, that’s not what I’m saying at all! There’s a really smart infected, and it’s leading a whole herd. It shot me with a bow. Over.”

“I find that hard to believe. Over.”

“Fuck your beliefs! Report that what I said to you to the camp and come save my ass! …Over.”

“What’s your location? Over.”

“I told you! I’m northwest of The Log Cabins. Over.”

“How many infected did you say there were? A herd? Over.”

“There’s thirty that I can see from my vantage point, not including the smart one. Over.”

“And you’re in a tree? Can we operate a car near you? Over.”

“There’s no way a car’s getting through these woods. Over.”

“There’s two hunters at the camp. I’ll let the captain know, but don’t get your hopes up. Over.”

Two hunters. A herd of thirty infected. There’s no way the captain’s going to send them to save me, an injured hunter. And even if they got orders to, I’d doubt they’d try very hard. If I were near an open road, they could distract the infected and drag me into the car, but in a situation like this? I think this is it. This is how I go. Slowly peppered to death by arrows, or dead by starvation. No, I’d most likely freeze to death before I starved, and I’d dehydrate before that even happened too.

Clang, clang, clang.

The infected leader is banging its bow and bat together. Is it trying to draw the others’ attentions? But they’re not listening. They’re still lapping their tongues against the tree’s bark, trying to drink up my blood. Luckily, I managed to staunch the flow by wedging my ass into this fork, but that also means I can’t move or it’ll start bleeding again. There’s hundreds of ways to die in a zombie apocalypse, but I’m probably the only person who’s going to die after being shot in the ass by an infected’s arrow. Wait. Was the arrow infected? Where did it get the bow from? There’s no way it made it itself. That means it lifted it off a corpse. And that corpse probably became a corpse by dying to infected that he would’ve fended off with arrows. Oh, God. Am I going to become one of them?

Wait. Is the infected leader killing the others? It, it just smashed one of the other’s heads with its bat. Now it’s taking out its brains and smearing it onto the tree. Is it masking the smell of my blood? Like the stink sauce we came up with? We call it stink sauce to avoid the fact that we’re smearing zombie guts on ourselves, but this infected is doing the same. It’s way too smart for an infected. “Hey!”

The infected leader looked up at me. Really? Does it recognize I’m shouting at it? “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

The infected leader tilted its head.

Maybe I spoke too fast. “Do you understand what I’m saying? Nod if you do.”

It nodded! It really nodded! Holy shit. “Are you a person pretending to be infected?”

It tilted its head again.

Err. “Can you help me?”

It blinked.

“Nod if you can.”

It nodded.

“Can you bring the others away? If you let me down, I’ll get you food. More food than you’ll get from eating me. Do you understand?”

It nodded. It really nodded! Is this for real? Is this actually happening? I won’t have to die here! “Okay! Once you bring them away, I’ll come down. Then you can follow me, alright? But don’t bring them, because they look like they want to eat me.”

It continued to stare at me.

“Understand?”

It nodded.

“Alright, go!”

It crouched down and grabbed the exposed brains oozing out of the dead infected’s head. Then it smeared it along the trunk, walking in circles to spread it all around. Once it was done, it picked up its bow and bat. I think the chance of me being shot by an infected arrow is extremely high, considering it doesn’t care for cleanliness. It didn’t even wipe off the brains before picking up its equipment. What are the chances it used clean arrows?

The infected leader raised the two weapons over its head and clacked them together while marching out of the herd. The herd lingered around the tree before turning to follow. Soon, the herd disappeared from view, and the ringing sounds grew fainter and fainter. Were they really gone? Just like that? Now’s my chance! Before it comes back by itself, I’ll run away. Climbing down this tree is a literal pain in the ass; it feels like it’s on fire.

Twang.

What. What was that? An arrow just flew over my head. Didn’t it go far away!? How is it here already? I turned around, and just as I expected—but prayed I was wrong—the infected leader was behind me with a loaded bow, the herd of infected appearing around it from the trees. “Wait! Why are you shooting? I told you to bring the others away as well!”

The infected leader nodded. Then its face contorted, its lips splitting open into a smile.

Twang.

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Virlyce

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