“Ugh!” He sucked in a deep breath as if he’d not been breathing previously. His whole body seemed to spasm and jolt as he literally came alive.
Dr. Spencer Grey was lying on the floor of his office at the university. He preferred to be called ‘professor’ rather than ‘doctor,’ just because it often eliminated confusion between him and his wife. She was Dr. Grey, he was Professor Grey. Granted he did have a medical degree, he thought he was going to be a surgeon, only to have an intermittent hand tremor ruin that. So he became an anthropologist, with specialties biological and forensic.
His memory usually didn’t fail him, but he could only remember bits and pieces, mostly emotions and thoughts, rather primitive thoughts, but his last clear memory was arriving in his office and then… just a blur. As if he’d been in a dream and it was mostly evaporated.
“What we hear while we are asleep continues to resonate with us upon awakening,” Spence stated quoting Henry Reed, a British poet, (1914-1986.) His memory allowed him to recall almost everything he’s ever heard. Some are gifted with a photographic memory, but Spence has an auditory memory. He has the ability to recall entire conversations and he can play a piece of music from just hearing it once. So what bothered him was he had a memory of hearing Vivian whispering his name and then an exclamation and he didn’t understand where it was from.
He slowly got off the floor where he’d been laying and from the amount of dust on his things in his office he wondered how long had he lain there. The floor was dusty but showed shuffling footsteps that moved the dust around.
Spence looked at his attire, the suit that in his mind he’d worn to the office this morning looked like he’d been wearing it for months.
The door to his office was closed and he went to move his fingers along the edge of his goatee, what he would do when he was working out a problem. Except the hair he touched there was a full blown beard. Spence, dashed to his desk and dug out a small hand mirror that he’d meant forever to turn into Lost & Found but never got around to it. He looked at himself in the mirror, it wavered in his grasp. His intermittent tremor was worse when he was upset.
“Madeleine L’Engle was wrong when she said, ‘The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been,” he whispered looking at his face. Spence didn’t talk entirely in quotes but it was a habit to express his own thoughts with the words of others. He supposed it was the curse of being able to remember everything you’ve ever heard.
Spence normally had shortly cropped curly hair, because the curls often got out of control if they got much longer. His curls had several weeks of growth and so did the beard on his face.
Where had he been the last several weeks?
It had to be weeks or… months.
“Lost time is never found again,” Spence whispered this time quoting Benjamin Franklin. Spence had lost time, a huge gap in his memory and yet the memories of Vivian exclaiming, Oh my God. Spence! It repeated over and over in his mind. It wasn’t the only thing he heard though; there were the sounds of gun shots, a fully-automatic weapon, and a man calling his wife’s name.
“What has happened?” He asked the man in the mirror as he put it away.
The door to his office suddenly burst open and men in masks and rifles were shouting at him. They wanted him to strip and he didn’t understand why and of course refused. He had rights; he could quote the Constitution word for word.
The men tried to beat him and he fought back. Spence was larger than most of them and his hands weren’t small and dainty. They trembled, but the blows landed hard. Unfortunately he couldn’t last long against so many attackers.
He was finally pinned down and cuffed, a gag brought between his teeth and fastened to the back of his head. A man walked in, middle aged, Spence was in his mid-forties but he swore he had aged ten years between his last clear memory of kissing Vivian goodbye and waking up on the floor of his office. He didn’t have the hair growth for ten years, but his hair was definitely more silver, and his beard was nearly entirely white. The man was brunette, browned eyed, with a goatee, dressed in army fatigues and he squatted down in front of Spence, putting his rifle across his knees.
“You Spencer Grey?” The man asked and Spence nodded. One of the soldiers had his knee in Spence’s back.
“Sorry about the treatment, we need to make sure you aren’t infected,” he apologized but didn’t look sincere.
Infected? Spence could only think, his words muffled and ruined by the gag.
Oh my God. Spence! Played again in his mind. It was the last thing that he remembered his wife’s voice saying. Was he infected? Had that been what she’d been exclaiming about?
He was dragged and stumbling by two of the more burly soldiers out of the university. Everything was covered in dust and leaves as if they’d blown in through broken windows. His visual memory was good, not as perfect as his auditory one, but he usually had a habit of repeating anything he saw out loud to memorize it. In other words he had a bad habit of talking to himself and anything he read he would read it out loud.
Bodies. He thought. He didn’t need to say that out loud to remember it. He doubted that he’d ever forget. They were leading him past bodies of men, women, mostly in their twenties. They were students and they were all dead. He tried to tilt his head for a better look at one, but the soldiers thought he was trying to struggle and a quick blow to his kidney made him bite the gag and stumble forward.
All these people looked dead and looked dead for a while, they were in various states of decay. Some had ripped clothing, ripped flesh, and all had bullet wounds. They had all been shot in the head.
What happened? He could only wonder to himself.
Outside the building he stopped again and when the soldiers went to beat him again, the middle-aged man who had spoken to him stopped them. He allowed Spence to take in all the decay of the city. Windows broken, cars stopped in the streets, grass choking the asphalt of the roads. Some buildings were just shells after been ravaged by fire.
“It’s the apocalypse, Professor,” the man stated, and they began to move again.
Spence was transported like a prisoner to what looked like a prison, but he as certain that it was a military base, just the chain link had been replaced by a brick wall. Outside of the wall milled people, and Spence had to admit and though he didn’t want to, they were zombies.
Zombie apocalypse? Where had he been all this time?
Once in the base, with several people started to crowd around to look at him, as if he was some sort of side show entertainment, he was dragged into a small building. He was stripped and searched but it would seem that they were interested in his skin and not that he was hiding anything.
After that indignity, Spence now exited the building, still under guard by soldiers who refused to answer his questions and respond to his demands. His hair had been cut, the unruly curls shortened, and his face clean shaven, well the beard and goatee were gone. His jaw had stubble on it because the razor they had given him was a straight razor and with his tremor, Spence couldn’t shave himself with that. Unless he was wanting to slit his own throat. Vivian normally shaved him. It was the reason he had the goatee, and the side burns. She shaved his face, she chose what hair remained. So an electric razor was dug up for him.
He was dressed in a clean suit, which fit, which was odd because Spence was a large man, larger than most, and his suits were usually tailored to fit his broad shoulders and long legs. It was his own clothes they had given him. Which didn’t make sense because they had cut the others off him to search him.
“I really would like to know what is going on,” he finally said to the man who was obviously the commanding officer.
“You really have no memory of it? From all the talk your wife said-“
“What about Vivian? Where is she?” Spence found himself demanding. He had been worried about her.
“She went looking for you. Now we found you first, but we don’t know where she is. We could really use your help, Professor. Your wife was a brilliant microbiologist, but you’re an actual M.D.”
“M.D. Ph.D. It is all just letters now,” Spence replied.
“We have sick and wounded, you can help.” The commanding officer said.
“See this?” Spence held up his hands. They didn’t just shake, they trembled like frightened moths. “My hands are practically useless. I cannot help you. Now I’m going to go look for my wife.”
Spence found it rather difficult to leave the base. He was practically put under house arrest, well more lab arrest. He was allowed to go to his wife’s lab where she had been trying to cook up a vaccine to the bite to prevent the virus from traveling across the blood types.
As he read his wife’s notes, out loud of course so he’d memorize them, but he was horrified to think that he’d spent the last eight months as a zombie. How had she brought him back? How had she saved him?
The papers fluttered like a bird with clipped wings in his shaking hands. Spence knew how much he relied on his wife because of his tremor. He couldn’t shave, he couldn’t write, well we could but it looked like all his letters had electricity running through them. He could eat, but soup was out of the question, it shook off the spoon before he could get it to his mouth. Drinking from glasses required straws. He once had been proud, and ashamed that his hands were sometimes, when he was the most stressed, like fish flopping on a bank trying to get back into the water and right now he was stressed.
“The airborne virus can only be contracted by those who are RH positive,” he read out loud. Spence was AB positive, “However it would seem that it can be transmitted through a bite, i.e. infected saliva entering the bloodstream, and even those that are RH negative can be infected.” Vivian was O negative, the universal donor.
He tossed aside the notes and ran a shaking hand over his stubble. Spence sat down. Vivian’s lab was a shed, with tables and a holding pen for the zombies. Spence looked at them; they constantly tried to reach for him through the bars, even if he was ten feet away.
“The main purpose of life is to live rightly, think rightly, and act rightly. The soul must languish when we give all our thought to the body,” Spence quoted Mahatma Gandhi as he ran his fingers over the delicate handwriting of his wife. He glanced up at the zombies.
“I was a zombie, apparently infected by the airborne virus,” he stated as he plucked a syringe from a tub on the table, “Surely a cure could be made from my blood.” He wasn’t sure if he was talking to the zombies or to himself or to his wife that wasn’t there. He looked at the syringe wobbling in his hand before throwing it against the wall.
“Aaaarrrg!” He shouted in anger. He was useless because his hands could not hold still. Anger became sadness. “Vivian.” He whispered his wife’s name. “I need you to help me.”
Spence curled his hands into fists so tight that his knuckles were white and his once manicured nails cut into the flesh of his palms. He relaxed, took a deep breath and slipped his suit jacket onto his shoulders. He’d been wearing his own wardrobe because Vivian truly had believed that she could save him.
He was going to wander the base if he could, and if he couldn’t he was planning on getting into a fight. Now Spence wasn’t exactly the violent type. He was one of those make love not war types, he was an anthropologist for fuck’s sake. He was an intelligent man who had the ability to remember everything he’s ever heard. However, he was also a big man, easily could’ve played a linebacker.
Spence walked towards the door that exited Vivian’s lab and stopped. She had a small cot in the corner of the room, farthest from the zombies penned up in the opposite corner. The bit of pink protruding from under the pillow had caught his eye. Vivian was not exactly one for pink. Her favorite color was green, followed by a whole slew of earth tones. She liked black more than pink.
He pulled a small journal, looking more like a small girl’s diary than the journal of an adult woman. It was a brilliant pink with kittens on the cover playing with the ball of yarn. One of the kittens was yellow, the other was purple. The yarn was multicolored. He lowered his brows at the find. Vivian was not one for keeping a journal.
“Day 1, December 8th” it began and he read it out loud, “Woke up in a military hospital, being treated by an RN. Apparently I’m the only one who with a doctorate that has survived the airborne virus and the initial zombie attack.” Her handwriting waivered a bit, “They won’t let me go look for Spence and as more and more survivors arrive I look for him, but how can I tell him?”
“Tell me what, Viv?” He asked out loud as he continued through her diary. The diary was full of her personal thoughts, her missing him, which made for him yearn even harder for her.
“Day 93, March 10th,” He almost couldn’t read the next part out loud. He didn’t want to memorize it, but he figured it was just like seeing all the bodies in the university. He’d never forget. “Discovered that the airborne virus was engineered to only infect Rh positive. It has been tough without Spence. I feel like I’m grieving the loss of my husband as much as the loss of my unborn child. The most positive spin I can put on the miscarriage is the thought that if my body hadn’t rejected an Rh positive embryo, is the terrifying thought that I’d be carrying a zombie fetus.”
“Oh God, Vivian,” Spence whispered closing the diary. He couldn’t read anymore. They’d been trying so hard for a baby, it was all Viv had been able to talk about to think about and now… She had miscarried.