Jane couldn’t get used to the dark. In the old days, lights never went off; something flickered somewhere all hours – a smart phone screen, TV, a night-light to guide your way to the bathroom at 3 a.m. Now, when the sun set, that was it – impenetrable darkness tangible as a wall before her eyes. There was no escaping it until the sun rose.
But the world these days was never quiet, and it wasn’t just the crickets, or the owls hooting, or the river eternally rushing outside her window. As she lay in bed, she concentrated on those sounds; they floated in through the window on a breeze of humid air. She kicked aside her blanket to cool off. That was another thing she missed – air conditioning.
Jane wanted to close the window, but she wouldn’t be able to breathe otherwise. The sound of them was louder than the crickets, the owls, the river. Their voices swallowed those sounds like the traffic, and the radio, and the humming electronics used to do.
The Infected. Whooping and howling like animals. They’d been at it for an hour now and weren’t far from town. Every night after midnight they gathered on the edge of the woods and began their hungry battle cry. Jane counted twelve separate voices, men and women alike. Voices that used to share gossip on the phone, say “good morning” at the start of a workday, bid their children good night.
Their voices were wild, hoarse, violent and cried for blood, food, life. Jane could hear the bloodthirsty desire and shivered despite the sticky heat.
An owl hooted again, but its song was cut off by one excited holler; more followed in response. They were coming closer. The space between the woods and the town fence was only a few hundred feet. The Infected would cross it in mere minutes; she pictured them running.
A couple minutes later, the fences rattled. The Infected banged their sticks and clubs and fists against it, trying to shake it loose. One day, she feared they would. It only took one of them to sneak in, and it was all over.
Jane closed her eyes. Once she fell asleep to hum of a fan that drowned out the traffic. Now she fell asleep to the sound of the Infected, calling out into the night for her to join them.
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