He thought it was all rumor, all media hype right up until the moment that homeless dipshit had sunk his teeth into Saban's arm. The man had been covered in filth and defecation. Saban didn’t even see him coming; how was he supposed to know that the bum was dead? Two days ago, Eyewitness News had reported about groups of psychotic people biting innocent bystanders. Last night they had finally announced that the biters were—dead, but walking? It was ridiculous. It couldn’t be happening.
The phlebotomist pulled the cylindrical tube filled with crimson off the needle attachment. “I’ll get this right to the lab; you’ll have your results soon.” She looked tired; the line of people waiting to get tested stretched out the door of the clinic. Saban had waited two hours for a blood test. He knew it was the right decision as he felt his body temperature rise and his knees buckle while waiting in the queue.
He stood and glanced into the mirror hanging over the sink. “Ohh, God,” he whispered, hoping no one would hear. His face was a greenish yellow, and his eyes were red with blood. Would there be any reason to wait for the results? He could have diagnosed half of the people in line just by looking at them.
Saban walked out of the blood draw booth past the throng of souls waiting for their turn. Some of the people held bags full of vomit. That was the first symptom: uncontrollable nausea and vomiting. Saban hadn’t been able to hold down anything solid since the bite. He wrote it off as nerves, but now he knew that it was so much more.
The line extended onto the sidewalk. It was freezing out, and Saban shivered as the wind hit his sweaty brow. It was the grayest winter that he ever experienced, which certainly fit his mood. Reaching up, Saban pulled down his wool hat over his ears. His stomach and calves began to cramp, locked up as if a noose were drawing tight around his neck. The hallucinations would come next. The phlebotomist had given him a printout describing the symptoms. Of course they left off the last symptom: death.
An ambulance screamed by him on the street, the sirens echoing off the glass-faced skyscrapers. It made 38th Street feel like a cavern, a cold unforgiving cavern. He walked toward his apartment. Four blocks, which might as well be a hundred. Every step was agony. Trash had started to build up on the curbs, always the first thing to be forgotten in a time of crisis. The epidemic was certainly a crisis; the garbage men must have headed for the hills. “If only I were smarter, or worked in trash collection,” he said, laughing quietly to himself. Even laughing was painful. His ribs seemed to stab into his lungs with every chuckle. He could have run, it was true. Little good it would do now.
The tall buildings seemed to magnify the icy wind as he walked. Up ahead, Saban could see two men fighting. It seemed commonplace these days; everyone was on edge. One man straddled the other, who was lying on the ground desperately trying to get free. The man on top was determined; he looked as if he were headbutting the other in the face. Saban picked up his pace, wanting to get past the ruckus before the cops arrived and caused a scene. The sidewalk felt e spiky under his tender feet. He was almost to the men when he noticedthe man on top wasn’t fighting the man on the bottom—he was eating his face. Every time he bent down he chomped another mouthful of nose, lip, or cheek. Blood had puddled around the victim’s head. His legs gyrated up and down as the remaining electrical impulses left his body. Saban was disgusted and mesmerized at the same time. It must have been a hallucination brought on by the fever. He was hot, then cold; his body couldn’t decide which. His immune system was rebelling against itself. Soon he wouldn’t know up from down.
Saban walked around the grotesque scene of bloody gore. He wanted to give the men—were they men or monsters? He wanted to give whatever they were a wide birth. The sun started to go down slowly in front of him, though it was only ten in the morning. Regardless, the sky was darkening. Saban felt faint, he was spinning, no he was… Hungry, so hungry, he needed to eat. A thin film had fallen over his eyes, like a blurry veil. He was ravenous now; he needed something, anything or anyone. He pushed the thought out of his mind. What did it even mean, anyone? Saban’s throat had begun to close up. He tried to speak, but the only sound that came out was a sickly groan. His legs wouldn’t work right. He began to shamble. All he could think was getting to his apartment, to the steak in the refrigerator. But steak wasn’t quite what he wanted.
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