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Waking up to Nothing

A World on its Own

By Troi McAdory Published 12 months ago 24 min read

Chapter 1

I’m not entirely sure when it happened but I was knocked out. Either that or I was about to die before waking up here. My head pounded fiercely and the glare from the sun only increased it. I took in what little of my surroundings I could through the windshield, noticing I was alone in my car on the freeway. I should have panicked. I should have believed I was in some sort of accident and lost all consciousness, but when I saw the freeway was filled with vacant and destroyed cars, something inside me jolted to life and I reacted. Sweat pooled at my brows, and an uncomfortable tingle started at the crown of my head, making its way down to my toes. I wiggled them to make the feeling go away. My body ached everywhere as I reached into the backseat to grab my backpack. It bothered me that I could remember something so simple as the location of my backpack but nothing related to what happened to me before now.

My body was breaking out in chills and it had everything to do with this unknown abyss before me. On any other day, I would have loved to bask in the summer sun, take a break from school and come home to see my parents. I slipped on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt along with my gym shoes. I felt more comfortable trading in the tank top and shorts I had on for some reason, safer. My head throbbed fiercely causing me to close my eyes to relieve some of the strain. I opened them slowly, then pulled down the sun visor to look in the small mirror.

I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me. She scared me and her expression was viciously nerve-wracking. She looked like she’d gone through something terrible and its toll weighed heavily on her. Her normally long, black curls were knotted and there was a large gash on the right side of her forehead, damaging her caramel-brown skin. Her skin didn’t hold the brightness it usually did and her lips were in the beginning stages of peeling. My hands shook when I touched my face, feeling this was in fact the same woman looking back at me.

Light fingers touched the wound. The skin was raised and purpling. A tiny trickle of blood left the wound as it reopened. I removed my hands, clasping them tightly together in hopes of getting them to stop shaking. My fingers held so tight they were going numb. Scratches marked my arms in random spots. The injuries didn’t hurt as I assumed they were already healing. I looked around the rest of my car, hoping I would find something that would give me a clue.

When nothing stood out to me, a swirl began to take place deep within my belly. My instincts told me to stay in the car where I knew I’d be safe from whatever was out there and beyond. I didn’t know for how long I was unconscious, but it was long enough and I’d somehow managed to survive. If I got out, I risked facing whatever cleared out the rest of the population. I looked at myself again in the mirror, seeing the blood was already beginning to cake into my hairline.

What the hell happened to me?

I chose to get out of the car, though I hadn’t physically made the effort yet. I pulled out my cell phone from my backpack to find it was completely dead. I was going to try hooking it into the car to charge it but when I couldn’t find the keys. I climbed out to inspect the car. The back two windows were busted, though someone had thrown a gray tarp over the car to shield both windows at once. The front and rear windows were still intact and on the hood of the car, someone had used spray paint to write: ALIVE. Someone was clearly trying to keep me safe while I was out cold. But why? And from what?

The freeway remained empty. No one was getting out of their car like me and I was no closer to figuring out what was going on. My limbs were still like jelly but I walked down the long pathway of cars, looking for anything or anyone who could help me. Based on the freeway sign up ahead I was in between Santa Ana and Tustin. The good thing about being stuck on the freeway was California was built on them and it was easy to understand my location. I paused, taking in a deep breath as I closed my eyes to jog my memory. Why was I over here? I didn’t live over here nor did I go to school over here.

Nothing of significance came to me and I began my trek again. The dry heat caused the air to beat heavily against my lungs. The asphalt was brutal against my tennis shoes. There was a foul stench as if something, or more accurately some things, had died. It didn’t take long for me to find the numerous bodies scattered across the road. The rotted corpses were black from constant heat exposure and flies migrated to them like a feast. Rodents came from their hiding spots to join in with the flies. I was so sick to my stomach, I couldn’t hold back the urge to puke right there. Not much came up, though when I inhaled to breathe, I caught a whiff of death again and hurled once more.

I braced myself on my knees, my whole body shaking in disgust. I dried my watery eyes with the sleeve of my T-shirt and wiped the snot with the other. The smell was forever ingrained in my nostrils, and I couldn’t even proceed any further without covering my nose with the collar of my shirt. Still, even that did not diminish the foulness. At first, I tried to go another way where I didn’t have to encounter the bodies. I soon learned my only option would be to simply go forward because they were everywhere. Dried, ruby pools soaked the earth. People from various races and ethnicities were spread out on the ground, their bodies not completely intact. Whoever committed this mass murder didn’t discriminate.

There were people in business suits, work uniforms from local restaurants, students…children. My eyes grew so wide it felt like they were straining against my face structure to pop out. I swallowed hard, trying not to freak out. What if the killer was still nearby? No, whoever did this didn’t act alone. The further I walked, the more I was faced with destruction. Cars were strewn everywhere, crossing lanes and medians. Huge cracks appeared in the ground as if a great earthquake had been the culprit. Maybe that was what happened. It’s been said for years California was due for a big one.

I walked a little more to find more bodies and empty tombs of cars. Some of the cars I’d come across held children in the backseat. They stared at me as I passed by and I uncomfortably didn’t stop to aid them. I wasn’t sure what I could do for them and I was in too much shock to really process there were abandoned children watching their dead relatives decompose right before their eyes. My heart grew heavy at the thought and for a moment I debated going back for them. In the end, I didn’t because I was too afraid to face the depressing picture again.

I came across a green Camry that made me pause. There was a dead man in the driver’s seat with his chest busted wide open over his heart and a chunk of his head was missing. It’d be easy to say the crows did it, but there was no way the scavengers could have done this. The grotesque wound looked like someone had grabbed his heart straight from his body with their bare hands. His ribcage had been broken and where his heart should have been was a black space. Part of his brain was still inside his skull. Like his heart, the way the pieces were missing was as if someone had scooped the pieces out from the skull like ice cream from a bucket.

I backed away, rubbing a comforting hand over my throat to prevent myself from screaming. The longer I stared I could feel it trying to rise like a vice taking over my voice. I thought about running then thought against it when I realized I’d trip over more bodies than make any progress. I carefully stepped around the body of a man covering his child. Part of the man’s neck was missing and his child was badly burned. Some parts of his body were charred, angry blisters covering his delicate skin in others.

It was a pitiful sight that made my eyes sting. Who would harm a child this way? Why would someone want to do any of us like this? I couldn’t let my mind ponder on what had already happened. I needed to figure out how I could escape this unholy predicament and find my way back home. A sharp pang riddled my chest at the thought of my family. Wherever they were, I prayed they were safe. I needed them to be safe. My little brothers were only nine and ten. There was no way they’d be able to survive anything like this on their own if something happened to my parents.

I walked further down the infested road near a sound that was so disgusting it made my stomach turn. It was wet and constant as if someone were eating messily. There was a guttural noise that followed behind the loose sounds of chewing, almost inhuman, and whatever was causing this was growling every so often. The closer I got to the sound; underneath I could hear the moans of someone in pain. Very softly, the person was calling for help and I picked up the pace.

I followed the sound to a space in between a set of cars. What I saw stunned me to the point of no return. There was a man crouched over another man, ravenously eating his guts. I moved closer and I could easily tell the man doing the eating was not a man at all but an indescribable thing that was rotten with decaying skin, teeth, and hair. His skin was gray and paper-thin, hugging close to his bones. I could see his spine and ribcage through the ripped shirt he wore and his hair was so thin it was almost invisible. The few strands he had were wispy against his skull and his hands were bloodied with organs.

The man in distress reached out for me, nearly touching my shoe and I panicked. Adrenaline shot through all of my nerve endings and the scream I’d been trying to hold back finally broke loose. That being turned to me, screeching with its mouth wide open. Its yellow teeth were covered in blood and chunks of flesh were still visible on its black tongue. It lunged toward me and I took off running. I didn’t dare look down as my feet moved over the mixture of soft bodies and hard asphalt. The heat blared down on me as I ran, the air shrinking in my lungs. I could feel that thing was still on my tail, doing its best to keep up with me.

It wasn’t until my vision blurred that I noticed I was crying. I don’t want to die. I couldn’t die now I was only twenty-five. I sucked up my tears and used my momentum to hop over the median and across the lanes to the chain-link fence that separated the neighborhood from the freeway. I pushed myself up and over, dropping to the ground on my side. The air was literally knocked out of me upon impact, but I didn’t let it stop me. I moved away from the fence just as the monster slammed into it, snarling and reaching for me.

I stared at it, keeping a safe distance. This thing definitely wasn’t human. I’d seen enough horror movies to know it was a zombie, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. There was no way anything like this ever existed, yet there was no other explanation for that hideous mess I saw spread out all over the road. My presence aggravated the zombie, causing it to lash out in anger against the fence. The rattle of the fence echoed in my head like a subtle threat. I took off running again with no real direction as long as it was away from that monster.

I ended up at an intersection. Several more abandoned and broken cars littered the streets while the gas station on the corner had a small fire inside the convenience store. My stomach grumbled at the thought of potential food inside, but I didn’t chance it. I couldn’t bring myself to step inside, fearing another zombie would be there waiting for me. A slight breeze blew and I could smell the fresh fire, the smoky smell traveling in my lungs.

I wasn’t sure how to get to where I needed to be. Nothing was a straight shot and I was too afraid to risk it out in the open with nothing to protect myself. In the distance, I heard voices. I lifted my head to a small group of people running towards me. They were shouting at me to run but I couldn’t see what they were running from. A young woman blew by me, panic written on her face. She snatched me by my upper arm as she ran, taking me with her.

“Didn’t you hear me? There’s a hoard of Zs coming!”

I swallowed slowly, my insides turning to mush from the sheer thought of more of those things coming after us. I just barely escaped the one from before. I could hear their growls behind me and my knees were so weak if it weren’t for this woman dragging me with her I’d be a goner. She abruptly moved to the left into some bushes at the entrance of a neighborhood. I vaguely recognized the neighborhood from a high school party. The remaining people in her group ran in front of us, guiding the way. I saw them use their momentum to climb over a brick wall and up a hill. I didn’t have time to process how I’d be able to do the same when the woman pulled me with her, letting me go just as we both made it to the wall.

My arm muscles squealed as I pulled my body over the wall. I threw my other leg over just as I saw over ten Zs hitting the wall. Their black hands reached for us, their limbs hanging from their bodies from the impact of the wall. I ran up the hill behind the group, shaken to the core that there were so many chasing after us. The woman was grabbing me again and hauling me up the hill. Dust particles swirled around my face as I climbed. The other members of her group were already at the top of the hill, waiting for us.

When we made it to the top, I was exhausted. I rested my hands on my knees trying to catch my breath. It felt like a true struggle to keep breathing normally as my lungs were screaming from the burn of desperately trying to inhale. Drops of sweat fell from my forehead into the soft earth. The woman handed me a hair tie and I used it to pull my thick hair into a ponytail. I looked at the other two members to see they were also women.

The woman who’d been helping me all along had a pixie haircut with a well-worn baseball cap. She had on a white tank top and denim jeans with running shoes. “What’s your name?”

“Perris Myers.”

“Shaina Wilks. These are my sisters Dee and Grace.”

I nodded in greeting to her sisters. “Thanks for saving me.”

“Where is your group?” Dee asked with a curious tilt of her head.

A pang ran through my heart as my fearful mind tried not to think of the worst possible outcome. I bit my lip, not expecting to have such a strong physical reaction to her question.

“I’m sorry,” she answered. “We lost our parents too.”

I grimaced. “Well, I’m not really sure if they’re gone or not. I’m not even really sure what’s happened to me. I woke up to all of this.”

The sisters exchanged a look of surprise before Shaina spoke up. “What do you mean?”

I shrugged. “Not too long ago I woke up in my car to all of…this.”

“So, you have no idea what’s going on?” Grace asked in amazement. Her big brown eyes sparkled on her small face.

I shook my head, waiting for one of them to catch me up to speed.

“We’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse that has been going on for three weeks,” Shaina answered.

It didn’t take me as long as I thought to process what she’d said. I swallowed down thick saliva in one uncomfortable movement, and it settled in the pit of my stomach like a pool of nausea. Hearing her say it out loud made it real for me and I knew there was no way I’d be able to survive this. I felt it in my core that I would end up like one of those bodies I encountered on the highway. I wasn’t cut out for anything like this.

“Were you with anyone when you were in your car?”

Again, I tried to think of what was going on with me before I awakened. I couldn’t figure out why I was on this side of town or who else was with me. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Let’s keep moving while you think about it,” Grace suggested, taking in her surroundings with a keen eye.

We ended up on the other side of the neighborhood. It looked just as disease-infested as the other side with just as many bodies. A putrid smell hung in the air like a mixture of ash and decay. The closer we approached the smell I could see someone burning a large pile of bodies. The man’s face was black from the smoke and his hands were callused and raw. He impassively nodded to us. We did the same, taking our walk a little further into the neighborhood. I wanted to ask where we were going, but I refrained. I didn’t exactly trust these women but it wasn’t like I had another choice.

We stopped in front of a house that was completely boarded up. It was dingy white and the roof was missing some planks on the side. For a moment, I thought this might have been their home but when I saw Grace approach the door and knock in a pattern in the form of a code, I knew this was a hideout. I couldn’t understand why the sisters were so quick to bring me along with them, though I kept my comments to myself. There was a possibility they were bringing me here to kill me on sight and share my organs with their members...or they were genuinely trying to keep me safe.

Grace was greeted by a tall handsome young man who kissed her cheek. He had curly black hair and smooth mocha skin. His long arm roped around her shoulder and he nodded with a smile to Dee and Shaina, but raised a brow in question to me.

“We saved her ass out there so she’s with us now,” Dee answered.

“How do you know she’s not dangerous?” he asked, his eyes scanned me up and down.

I understood his reasoning for being so defensive, but it still made me uncomfortable. So, I glared.

Dee snickered. “Because she could barely move when we saw her. Trust me, she’s more scared of those things than we are.”

The man smirked as he made eye contact then walked inside the dark house with Grace at his side. I followed behind Dee and Shaina. Shaina locked the door with several padlocks before ushering me to the kitchen where several other people stood. It was awkward and I felt anxious. It was like a moment straight from junior high where everyone knows the new kid and just stares, their speculations, and judgments clear as day on their faces.

I squared my shoulders, hardening my face against them. After facing those Zs, it wasn’t much people could do to me anymore.

Shaina stood in the middle of the kitchen, everyone looking to her as she spoke. “Hey, guys this is Perris Myers.”

The man who let us in scoffed. “You’re bringing in a stranger to our group, to our home?”

Grace smiled apologetically to her sister.

Shaina waited for me to answer, not looking in the direction of her peers.

When I spoke, I narrowed my eyes on Grace’s lover. “Perris—my name is Perris.”

He didn’t say anything, but I read the challenge in his eyes loud and clear. He didn’t like me and he honestly didn’t have to. I couldn’t imagine myself staying here, anyway. I had to find my family.

The members nodded to me, still apprehensive about who I was and where I came from. I figured as long as I followed their rules and stuck close to the sisters I could survive a little longer.

“This is Perris,” Shaina started, “and she’ll be joining our group from today onwards. Treat her like one of us no exceptions.”

Checking the faces of the people, everyone was welcoming except Grace’s boyfriend. Some scattered off around the house while others remained in the kitchen. Grace followed Dee outside to the back porch, which allowed my new enemy a chance to give me a piece of his mind.

“I don’t like you.” He stared hard, his demeanor unmoving.

“You could’ve fooled me,” I said sarcastically.

“I’m not sure why The Sisters brought you here, but don’t get too comfortable.”

I shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s fine by me. I don’t plan on staying here long.”

“The sooner the better.”

My brows furrowed. “Why do you want me out of here so badly?”

He sneered at me. “Because you being here is a threat to us all. You don’t know anything, you can barely survive and now you know where we live.”

“I don’t want anything from any of you.”

He scoffed harshly. “It doesn’t matter you’ve already gotten something.”

I couldn’t deny I’ve already unintentionally gotten their protection and knowing their hideout wasn’t going to make me any safer. If I wanted to leave, things wouldn’t be that easy either. I stared at the man, gauging him to see if he’d say anything else but he stilled his hurtful words for another time. Instead, he chose to leave me with a piece of advice.

“Just before night falls, go on the roof and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

He walked out the backdoor where Grace and Dee were. I looked to my surroundings of people who were friendly enough to smile, but not overly friendly to start a conversation. It was fine with me because I wasn’t in the mood to know more about anyone else. Grace’s boyfriend had made it clear I was nothing more than a hindrance. I sat alone on the stairs, speaking only when spoken to and waited for the sun to set.

Just as the sun was setting, the sky an array of oranges and yellows mixed together as if by a trained watercolor artist, I went out the backdoor to find a normal sized expanse of grass making up the backyard. I wasn’t a wall climber, so I wasn’t particularly sure how I’d make it to the rooftop. I walked around the entire house searching for a way up when someone approached me.

“What are you doing?” A young woman asked. She had a small stature and wore cargo pants with a white T-shirt she tied in a knot at the side to show her midriff. Her blonde locks were wiry thin, falling just at her shoulders.

I hesitated. “Just curious about how to get to the roof.”

Her brows furrowed. “Why?”

I paused again. “I was told I would find understanding if I went up there.”

She scoffed with a smirk. “Did Carmelo tell you that?”

I would have never taken him for a Carmelo. “If you’re referring to Grace’s boyfriend, then yes.”

She motioned for me to follow her and we went to the side of the house where there was a ladder hidden within the bushes. She pulled it out with little effort and leaned it against the house. She climbed up first and waited until I met up with her before speaking. “It’s not so much understanding as it is reality. None of us can understand what’s going on, but we all know the realness of it and it’s brutal. Look.”

I followed her finger to see miles of destruction. Broken buildings and skyscrapers caving in on themselves. Wisps of smoke soared through the air from fires in houses and cars. I couldn’t see them from this distance, but I could hear the cries of people begging for help. Above all, I could hear the Zs, and their thirst for flesh was insatiable. Gunfire went off more so in some areas than others. Some screams were instantly silenced while others seemed to go on for what felt like hours. All of this pain was followed by heartaches that could never be healed.

“The shit goes on for miles,” she murmured.

My eyes fell to my feet. “Can I have a moment alone?”


I waited until I knew she was back on the ground before I started crying. I couldn’t hold it in if I wanted to. My tears flowed uncontrollably and I wrapped my arms around myself as if this would somehow comfort me. I dropped to my knees, rocking back and forth. I couldn’t believe this was the world we now lived in. There was nothing I could do to change it and my heart shattered for the people whose lives were lost, for the people it affected. I glanced up at the sound of a bomb going off in the distance. I could feel the rumbling aftershocks through the roof. Soon after it went off, it was followed by a series of screams filled with terror. I shut my eyes and pressed my hands against my ears to stop the incessant sound. Underneath my own thoughts, I could still hear them and it made me sick.

I saw the evidence for myself of what we were facing and I had to believe in my heart that my family was somewhere alive and okay. I had to make it back home if it was the last thing I did. I couldn’t die until I knew where they were, if they were still breathing. I wiped my face and stood to my feet. For a split second, I hoped the next time I looked at the scene it would be different, that my eyes were fooling me. But I knew better.

I climbed down the ladder to find the young woman still standing there waiting for me. Her smile was sympathetic. “You okay?”

I nodded with a sniffle.

“All of us cried when we went up there…even Carmelo.”

I know she was doing her best to console me, but it was in vain. I couldn’t see the view anymore, yet the images still burned into my mind. The piercing cries of the people were etched into my memory for life. I couldn’t undo what I’d already seen and heard.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Constance. You’re the new girl Perris, right?”

I nodded.

“I’d like to tell you everything gets better, but who knows,” she said with a bit of carelessness. “One minute you’re here and the next you aren’t. The world is shittier now.”

I wasn’t in the mood to talk to her or anyone for that matter. I just wanted to lie down and somehow find a way to sleep. “I’m not feeling so well is there somewhere I can lie down?”

Constance looked at me for a moment before leading me inside to a set of connected rooms upstairs. Unfortunately, the room it was connected to happened to be the one Carmelo shared with Grace. I pushed down the anxiety I felt towards him and closed the door to lie down. I pressed my face between the pillows and the wall with my back towards the door before crying myself to sleep.

HorrorLoveYoung AdultMystery

About the Creator

Troi McAdory

A celestial hippie with Peter Pan syndrome. I write about the things I cannot always say out loud.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (1)

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  • Jerrell John11 months ago

    This story was unique! I'm curious about the person who wrote "ALIVE" over the car, especially since it had been three weeks since she got into that accident (I presume). It's amusing that the sisters were so quick to welcome the main character into their group, especially since she didn't even know about the current situation everyone was in (I'd personally view her as a liability with the quickness, lmaoo). Lastly, the main character's reaction to her circumstances is pretty accurate to how I believe anyone would react, especially since she's by herself! All in all, I enjoyed reading this!

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