“Voice memo- Timestamp- 21:43, December 31, 2021. Hole in my shoe. Hole in my shoe. Hole in my shoe. Damnit. Cold outside. Cold. My thoughts tend to flutter a bit nowadays. You get a little off your rocker when you have been completely alone for such a long period of time. You would think my introverted spirit would thrive during times like this, but then again I have always been just a little bit psycho, at least that's what my friends used to jokingly remark when life was normal. What a word, normal is. What a goddamn word. Honestly a bit deep if I allow myself to think a bit more than the random thought fragments currently spilling from my head. The year was 2020 of course. From the moment it started, life started going off the deep end to be completely honest.Things went from bad to worse. The Covid-19 outbreak was a social, economical, and political detriment to the entirety of the world. “Fuck 2020” they would say, as if the moment the clock struck midnight streamers would fly, people would cheer, and the ball would drop the last bits of the virus away as we entered 2021. Now, I could write stories and stories on Covid-19. But then, of course, I might be dead before I even finish my senten…”
“Just kidding. Still here. Which honestly, I’m not sure if it is a blessing or a curse. Should I thank God? Is he even there anymore? Am I even here anymore? Am I in Hell. God? Talking to myself again, sorry. Got to keep myself company somehow. Where was I? Oh, yes. Covid-20. Now I could go all science geek on you here, but I won’t. Basically watch any news broadcast from December 31, 2020 until now. It’s already winter again. What a stupid thought, now I can’t get my frozen feet off of my mind. Crazy. Hole in my shoe. Cold outside. Hole. Shit. Excuse my language my fellow audience members, but I believe we have some very rude company. Trying to interrupt my podcast, imagine that. Guess that’s 2021 for you. Fuck 2021.”
The sound of bottles falling from shelves fills the audio. Footsteps. Loud. Then more of them. Heavy breathing fills the speaker. Loud breathing, running. Coughs.
“Whew! Sorry about that. Seems like they got a bit faster. Evolving again maybe. God knows Covid-21 is headed our way! God that was a joke. Seriously. If I’m not in Hell, please don’t do that. This damn hole in my shoe made my foot bleed again. AND might I add, it is still freezing. Well I will update you on that store run. On this street, I would say there are maybe one or two stores that I might find some supplies remaining after the raids of the Summer. Oh my gosh. How rude of me. My name is Exodus Lynne Klieman, I am 17 years old, and I have not seen another human alive in 197 days. That was when my mom died. I watched them eat her. Funny story actually. She told me,
‘Stay here, I am going to check for some food around back, don’t let them take a bite out of you until I get back!’ Then she laughed. I miss when people made jokes about 2020 and 2021. When everything was just some big funny story. Oh yeah, then she screamed a gut wrenching noise that abruptly cut off into a low curtling moan of a voice that chills my blood each time I remember its sound. By the time I got there, her head was practically mauled into oblivion. The once alive man held her as his teeth tore deeper into her face. He was missing half an ear and was partially scalped, possibly due to a previous attempt to slay him. Mom’s blood dripped down his face. Then I ran. I still hear her in my head sometimes. But then again, I have been alone for so long, so I am probably either clinically insane, or like we established earlier, I might be in Hell. At this point I have learned anything is possible, don’t love anyone or anything, and things can always get worse. Wow that got depressing quickly.”
“Let us continue. December 31, 2020. Small groups gathered for New Years. Covid-19 had calmed slightly, and things were very slowly starting to come back to normal. Everyone’s television was turned onto the ball dropping. Millions counted down the seconds to 2021. Finally, we were free from 2020. Times Square was socially distanced and the camera paneled to couples kissing, children cheering, but it paused. A man came close to the camera before seizing. It was not a regular seizure. His face begins to bubble like boiling water. He shrieked as blood pooled from his eyes. His hands turned a sickly greenish yellow tint. He bore his fingernails into his eye sockets in an attempt to ease the agony. The people around stopped. The whole world watched. A silence followed. A police officer ran over to the man to offer assistance and call an ambulance. The officer offered a hand to help the man to sit down. That was when the world changed.”
“The now demon of a man grabbed the officer’s wrist and snapped it like a string of pasta, almost mocking him. He sunk his teeth into his neck, and then his face, his eyes, his skull. Suddenly people in the crowd began doing the same. Blood and death was everywhere, but we couldn’t turn away. The infected stood at once, they formed a crowd and started making their way down the street. The officer rose from the ground and joined them, now a demon himself.”
“The next few weeks were filled with panic, and we thought the spring quarantine was bad. Basically what happened, in my most expert of opinion, the Coronavirus mutated into something unimaginable. Covid-20. It turned people into zombies. Sounds like a silly child's story, but then again it’s 2021, anything is possible. These “zombies” if you can call them that, were soon given the very creative name of “Ronas,”and the disease spread like wildfire. Within a few months government officials became infected, there was total chaos, stores were raided again, nobody left home, that is unless the Ronas found them."
“It is New Years Eve again now. I hate to be negative, but the world is pretty much over. There is a very good chance I am the one of maybe a few dozen humans left on Earth. You might think, a few tiny islands might survive right? Wrong. Ronas can swim too. Again, Fuck 2021. Now we're about back to present time. Nowadays, I run from Ronas a lot. I find what food I can, and just survive. That’s all I can do really. I found this recorder from the target I just left. It was sitting just next to a bright blue colored eye on the ground, a pool of dried blood, and a finger. Lovely isn’t it. You get used to that sort of thing in 2021, it almost makes you feel like you found people.”
“It’s almost midnight now. The superstitious nerd inside of me believes that tonight at 12:00 everything will be normal again. Then we will have to worry about repopulating the Earth, and you know, finding another human to do it with, but we will get to that when the time comes. As I have been telling you this glorious story, I set up “camp” aka a beach towel and a balled up sweatshirt as a pillow, nearby times square, because I, of course, wouldn't want to miss if any action happened. The Ronas shouldn’t be over here tonight, they passed the target heading for the opposite side of town. Safety is never a for sure thing, but it is nice to think you might survive the night. I found my watch on the street when things started to get bad. Most electronics have either been lost, broken, or really aren’t usable anymore. The watch is a child's one, it has a picture of a turtle on it, the strap is faded, but it still shows a hint of the bright green coloring of the past. It is 11:02 pm now. Maybe 2022 life will be normal again. Hah. It is almost comical. Maybe at midnight the world will just end. Like I said, it can always get worse. I guess I will just have to wait for it to happen.”
“Hello? Is anyone there? Please. Someone please,” a male voice cried out.
“What the hell was that. 2022 might just be pushing me further off the deep end and I’ll really be insane.”
The voice came again, ‘Please, I am alive, someone, anyone.’
"Okay guys, time to investigate.”
A boy, looking to be around 18 or 19 years old, brown hair, sat on his knees. Tears streamed down his face. His dark brown hair was messy and mostly covered his eyes, but somehow, even from far away you could tell they were blue. He lifted his head up and looked to the sky, revealing a little girl. She was small, probably 9 years old. She sat with her head in her hands, obviously malnourished and dehydrated. Exodus walked to him slowly and cautiously. He looked up and cried harder.
“I’m Owen. My sister Maggie needs help. Please, she’s sick, she needs water, I have nothing please-” Exodus cuts him off,
“Okay, okay slow down.” She opened her backpack and handed him a canteen with a few ounces of water. Maggie turned away from her and drank the water and returned her head into her hands and threw the canteen to the ground.
“I'm so sorry” He started, “It has been so long since we have seen anyone, she's angry, I was hoping someone would come here, since it all started one year ago in this spot. Thank you, we don’t mean to be a bother, I just need some help. My sister, she is all that I have. Our dad died when everything first began. It’s just us. Please, anything you can do, I just need someone here.”
“Wow. I h-a-have a million questions,” Exodus stuttered out. They sat and talked for the remainder of the year. In only 45 minutes, they built a needed connection after being alone for so long. Maggie kept to herself and fell asleep with her head pressed against her knees. Owen lived not far from where Exodus grew up, and had been running too. He was out of resources, and Maggie was starting to deteriorate since he couldn’t find enough food for her. They laughed, they cried a little, and Exodus ended up falling asleep against his shoulder. She had never been carefree like this, but somehow he made her finally feel safe. At 11:58 Owen shook her awake.
“I am so sorry to wake you. I just don’t want you to miss the countdown.”Maggie started crying. “Shit, Ex, do you have anything in your bag, she's starving, it's been a really long time since we have found anything.”
“Of course,” Exodus reached into her bag and pulled out a package of beef jerky and some crackers. “This is all I have for now, tomorrow we can try and find more I’m sorry I don’t have all that mu-” He cuts her off and pulls her into a hug. He held her there for a few moments, each of them taking in the beauty of physical touch.
“Ex, it’s perfect. Thank you. Hey look, your watch. 15 seconds. Should we count down? Maybe this year will be different.”
“10, 9-” They chanted down, ”3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!” They yelled before he abruptly grabbed Exodus by the waist, pulling her in. They melted together urgently. It was one of those kisses like when you’re in middle school. So inexperienced and innocent, but exciting and nervous. The feeling of having your hands on someone for the first time. Their lips fit like puzzle pieces, finally finding their match. They pressed together soft, slow, his hand trailing down her waist and towards her legs. They stopped and pressed their foreheads together, sharing the same breath. She tried to stop the urge but simply couldn’t, she fell back into him and felt his hands on her body, she felt the muscles in his arm tighten with every passionate movement. Then Exodus screamed. She cried out,
“Make it stop, please-” Before her screams reached ear piercing levels. Maggie bit into Exodus’ leg making her fall to the ground. She dug her nails deep into Exodus’ skull. She pressed her fingers into her ears attempting to reach one finger to another. Her hands ripped apart Exodus’ face piece by piece. Owen screamed and pushed Maggie. He yelled. Maggie was still human.
“Maggie stop. Please stop. I’m here please. I know you’re in there. You are human. You are not like those other things. Please stop. Oh God please make her stop.” Maggie pauses. Even covered in blood, she was human. She sat and returned her head to her hands. Exodus’ cries turned into a whimper. He held her and sat away from Maggie. He whispered to her,
“Shh, it’s going to be okay,” tears came from his cheeks. “Shh, I have you. I have you.”
He held her for what felt like hours. Exodus passed out from the pain in Owen’s arms and Maggie slept on the street where she sat. Owen awoke to Exodus crying again. He leaned down to kiss her forehead when he saw something peculiar. Her mouth, it was quivering, but not only that, it smiled. Exodus’ lifted up her arms and grabbed Owen from the neck. Maggie bolted awake and joined her. His face was scratched and his neck had a gaping hole when they finally stopped. A few moments later, Owen, Exodus, and Maggie stood up. They walked down the street in unison. Suddenly, walking behind them were thousands of footsteps. They paused and turned around. The mob of once Ronas, joined them. They were all “human” and seemed normal. Then chatter filled the streets. Not normal conversation. Conversation of killing, death, stories of murder. They all smiled. Owen reached down and grabbed Exodus’ hand and squeezed. She reached into her pocket.
“Voice Memo #2, January 1, timestamp: 8:09 am. Welcome to 2022. Today's plan will end the human race. Let’s call this one, Corona-21”.