I would have happily told anyone that I was a perfectly ordinary teenager. And by most standards, I was. I was eighteen years old, and I attended a high school called Fujimi Academy, which is a school in Japan. My name – Paul Blake – made most people believe I had moved there from overseas at a younger age, but that was not the case. I couldn't remember living anywhere other than Japan
My father had moved out there when I was only a baby, and he had apparently neglected to bring my mother … if she was even alive. I have never met my mother, and my father never spoke of her, so where she was or even who she was, I did not know. I could never ask my father about this because, well … my father terrified me, to be quite frank. The man was in prison now, and I was still terrified of him. About the only thing I had ever managed to glean from my father was that he once lived in England.
My father was the abusive type, the type who would put out a cigarette on his child's skin if the ashtray wasn't near him at the time – he had actually done so to me on at least six occasions. I took great comfort in the fact that my father was in prison. I took even more comfort in the fact that, if my information was accurate, the son of a bitch had taken quite the beating before he was arrested. The thought of my father having the shit kicked out of him in an alleyway never failed to amuse me.
My school life was pleasant enough, though there were three things I could complain about. There was this girl with pink hair who seemed to think she was hot shit, and she made every attempt to show everyone just how much better than them she was. There was also a teacher – my homeroom teacher – named Shidou, whom practically everyone agreed was a straight-up asshole. The worst of them, though, the one that got to me the worst … was the girl who seemed to hate me for no real reason; she glared daggers at me if we caught each other's eyes, she shoved past me if I was close enough in the hallways, and if she had to speak to me, it was always in the disrespectful tone of someone who feels nothing but contempt to the person they're talking to.
Why was this the worst of them all? Well, despite how she seemed to hate me so much … I could feel certain feelings bubble up inside me whenever I caught sight of her. For every moment she spent being hostile toward me, I felt a fresh stab of pain in my heart. The strength she had, the confident way in which she carried herself, the majestic skill with which she wielded her boken when practising for her club, her general beauty as a woman … How could I see all that and not get a crush on her?
The name of this girl was Saeko Busujima.
So my life wasn't all that great. But as our story begins, it was about to get a whole lot worse … or maybe just that little bit better. Ladies and gentlemen, join us in witnessing the events that would lead me to transform from a scarred teenager with a bad past … to a survivor, a warrior in a world of the undead.
Let's start from the beginning …
I was sitting in one of the only peaceful classes I had – peaceful and boring. But Maths was the only subject that Busujima-san ever seemed to skip, so it was about the only lesson we had together where I had any peace of mind. That was kind of a shame, because it was the kind of lesson in which the death glares she so often sent me would actually liven things up a bit. I didn't want to be here, so I was about to do something I had never really done before: Skip class.
I raised my hand in the air, and the Sensei stopped with his lecture.
"Yes, Blake-kun?" the Sensei asked in the boring drawl that I – and every other student in the room – had come to despise so much.
"May I go to the bathroom, Sensei?" I asked politely. I wasn't worried about being caught. I never skipped class, so the Sensei wouldn't suspect a thing.
The Sensei sighed. "Fine. Just be quick about it."
"Thank you, Sensei." I stood up and walked swiftly out of the room. I was a pale lad, my skin very nearly white. My hair was shoulder-length and a very dark shade of red. My eyes were lime green and somewhat larger than usual. I was tall and thin, but didn't exactly lack in the muscle department – after years of abuse, I was determined to be strong enough to take the next bastard who tried to attack me head-on.
A relieved smile came over my face as I left the classroom. It was damn good to be free of that boring-ass classroom. I walked through the corridors of the school, looking for one stairwell in particular. I found it in no time. I saw a flash of bright pink hair vanishing around a corner, realised how lucky I was that the bitch had just left, and went into the stairwell, where one of my only friends stood leaning against a wall.
Takashi Komuro, my best friend, was a pretty average looking teenager. He was tall enough, and he had spiked up black hair and brown eyes. He wore a red T-shirt over the white dress-shirt of his school uniform, which also consisted of a black blazer, trousers, and a pair of dress shoes. I wore much the same, but without the red T-shirt, and I kept my dress shirt untucked to allow for comfort.
"Hi, dude," I said in greeting.
Takashi looked up and noticed me, putting on a half-assed smile. "Hey, man," he said. "What are you doing out here? You never skip class."
"I was bored shitless." I shrugged. "Why do you always skip class?"
Takashi let out a throaty, forced chuckle. "Touché."
Things descended into silence pretty quickly from there. I wasn't surprised by this in the slightest. Takashi had recently gone through a breakup with his now ex-girlfriend, Rei Miyamoto, and she had started dating his former best friend, Hisashi Igou. Both were close friends of mine, too. Because of Takashi's bitterness over the whole ordeal, I now filled the best friend role, though I wasn't sure I knew how to be a good friend to Takashi without sounding like a condescending asshole. So I quite often found myself avoiding the subject altogether.
The two of us continued to look down upon the front courtyard of the school … and we saw something rather curious. There was a man by the school gates, and he appeared to be trying to reach in through the gaps in the metal. A group of three teachers approached him and appeared to be speaking to him – Probably telling him to piss off, I thought. One of the teachers, the gym teacher if I remember correctly, walked to the gate and rather aggressively pulled the man into it; the banging of man against metal could be heard even from where Takashi and I stood. And the screams of the gym teacher as the man he was holding bit into his arm were pretty damn clear, too. The gym teacher fell to the ground, his arm spouting blood, and writhed in pain. He lay, convulsing, on the floor, and after a few moments lay still.
Holy shit … I thought as I looked down on the scene below me. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought this was z—
The only female teacher of the group leaned over the now-still body of the gym teacher … and then the gym teacher sat up, grabbed onto her, and bit into her neck, spreading her blood all over the floor and all over her biter. She was dragged to the ground, and the gym teacher, his flesh now greying, took bite after bite out of her skin. After swallowing a few more chunks of the unfortunate woman, the gym teacher stood up and began shambling after the only remaining teacher.
Oh my fucking God … I thought in shock. Zombies … actual fucking zombies! This … this sort of shit just can't be happening, can it? I wasn't normally one for freezing up in shock, but this … this was insane.
"… I've gotta go get Rei …" I heard Takashi mutter. I found it equal parts sweet and stupid that Takashi was so worried about a girl who had practically ripped his heart from his chest. But then again, I had an inkling of worry in the back of my mind for Busujima-san, and she treated me much like one would treat something they'd scraped from the bottom of their shoes.
Barely a moment after speaking, Takashi took off running through the corridors of the school, and I followed closely behind. We stopped outside a classroom; Takashi went in while I waited outside. I could see how awkward this conversation was going to be, and I did not want to be anywhere near it, no matter how bad the situation might be. I could hear a lot of shouting from inside the classroom … and the sharp, resounding sound of someone being slapped. I had heard it before – mostly when I was the one being hit – and I couldn't ever mistake it for something else.
A few moments later, Takashi exited the classroom with both Rei and Hisashi. Hisashi was a tall boy with grey hair, and he kept his uniform about as formal as it could get.
Rei had a rather unique appearance. Her hair had a strange colouration that looked like a mix of orange and brown; it was styled in a ponytail, and two antennae-like bangs stood out at the front. Her eyes were a reddish-brown. She wore the girls' school uniform, which consisted of a white dress shirt with a green collar, a black ribbon, and a green skirt that came to way above the knees. She had a slender figure and larger than average breasts. Despite having no such interest in her myself, I could certainly see why Takashi and Hisashi had such strong feelings for her, the attractive girl that she was. There was also a nasty red mark on her right cheek, which made me assume that Takashi had had to hit her to get her to listen to him. Not something I really approved of, but in a situation like this it was probably necessary.
I exchanged brief nods with Hisashi and Rei, assuming they were both aware of the situation by now, and the four of us took off through the halls without a word. Hisashi, Rei and I followed after Takashi, who seemed like he knew where he wanted to go. He stopped near a supply closet, so we did, too, and Takashi heaved it open and began looking through. He took out a golf club and handed it to me; he broke a broom handle and handed the now sharp stick to Rei; Hisashi opted to go unarmed, saying that he was a black-belt in karate; Takashi himself took out a baseball bat.
Now that we had weapons, there was only one question that mattered: What were we going to do? Nothing had really happened since the incident Takashi and I had witnessed at the gate, so just running through the school like this was going to make us look like we'd all gone crazy. And why the hell was there sports equipment in the supply closet? I couldn't help but wonder.
"Maybe we should call the police," said Rei.
I didn't really see the point – if there was a zombie just casually hanging out in front of the school, the odds were that there were a whole lot more in other places. I didn't voice these thoughts, however. Takashi handed Rei his phone – being the only one of us to have his on him – and she dialled 1-1-0. Her face quickly became covered in worry, and it became clear that we wouldn't be able to get through to anyone.
The intercom system suddenly sprung to life in a burst of static. And then a panicked voice spoke.
"If I may have your attention, please. There is an emergency situation taking place inside the school. I must ask that you remain ca—" The sound of a door being forced open could be heard through the speakers. "No! No! How did you get in here!? Get away from me! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
The intercom system cut off with a click.
The sheer amount of tension in the school at that moment could have been cut through with a knife. The situation was about as fucked up as it could get, and now every single person in the school knew it. The ground and walls of the school began to vibrate as screams of panic and terror began to rise up from all the classrooms; barely a second later, all the students and teachers began pouring out of the classrooms, every single one of them screaming in terror. Takashi, Rei, Hisashi and I were away from the classrooms, but we could clearly see the crowd trampling over one another through the windows.
In my personal opinion, the ones that got trampled to death were the lucky ones.
Hisashi walked past all of our shock-frozen forms and into a tunnel-like overpass.
"What are you doing?" Takashi asked him.
"The classroom building is too crowded, we'll have a better chance if we go to the roof," said Hisashi.
I moved to follow instantly, thinking it was a pretty solid plan. Rei did, too … but Takashi didn't move a muscle.
"Hisashi is right," Rei said with a glare when it looked like Takashi was about to start arguing. "Just shut up and do what he says."
Takashi moved to join us without another word.
We moved across the overpass until we came across someone who wasn't part of the crowd. It was one of the teachers, but … he didn't look quite like he should have. His skin had gone pale, turning a sort of grey colour, and his eyes appeared to have rolled back into his head, showing only white. He looked almost like he belonged in The Exorcist. The four of us stopped, but he seemed to know we were there, and he began shambling toward us. He seemed to be zoning in on Rei in particular.
"Rei! Stab him!" said Hisashi. Rei looked hesitant. "Don't hold back! Give it all you got!"
Rei still seemed to hesitate, and the zombified teacher drew closer, moaning out in a dead sounding voice. Her hesitance very nearly cost her, and the zombie grabbed onto her. They struggled – I didn't think I could safely get involved, seeing as Rei and the zombie were so close together, and if Takashi and Hisashi's lack of action was any indication, they thought much the same – and Rei tried to hold the zombie back by holding her makeshift spear out between them. The struggle went on for only a few more moments … and then Rei got angry.
She shoved the zombie a few feet away from her with some new burst of strength. "Don't fuck with me!" she said in an angry growl. She leapt forward and punctuated her words by whacking the zombie with her broom handle. "I'm a member of the spear martial arts club!" In her rage, she stabbed the sharp end of the spear into the left side of the zombie's chest, and the dead thing went limp.
I could feel a huge grin break out on my face.
Takashi fist pumped and said, "Yes!"
… And then the zombie moved again. It grabbed the spear that was still impaled in it and swung it to the side, forcing Rei into the wall, and she collapsed to the ground. The zombie went to move toward her, but she grabbed the handle end of the spear and pushed him away, struggling to keep him at bay.
"I don't get it!" Rei yelled in a panic. "I'm stabbing him in his heart … why is he still moving!?"
"… Because he is dead …" I heard Takashi mutter beside me. "He's dead but still moving!"
Hisashi took the initiative and ran forward, grabbing the zombie by its arms from behind. It seemed as though Hisashi was relatively safe in doing this … and then the zombie turned its head and, despite an obvious struggle to do so, got it to do a full one-eighty. It opened its jaws and bit down on Hisashi's arm.
What the fuck …? I thought as I watched on in horror. My eyes were wide at the display in front of me. That … that shouldn't even be possible! It should have broken its fucking neck trying to pull that off! Just what the hell is going on here …?
Hisashi's shouts made it sound like it hurt, but from what I could see, no skin was broken. There was certainly no blood, anyway. Rei stood up and tried desperately to pull the zombie off her boyfriend. After a few attempts, she turned to Takashi and I and glared at us fiercely.
"You two, do something!" she shouted at us. "Do something, will you!?"
Takashi and I sprinted forward. Takashi brought his baseball bat down on the zombie's back, and I took to swinging at its legs with my golf club. Neither of us could hit its head without risk of also hitting Hisashi, so we were doing our best to just get it off him.
But then a particularly loud yell from Hisashi caught my attention. I looked up from where I was hitting the zombie's legs, and, to my horror, its teeth had sunk deeper into Hisashi's arm and now blood was spouting out of it.
Takashi let out an angry yell and charged forward, bringing his bat down hard on the zombie's head. Its blood exploded outward, as did a few fragments of bone, and it released its bite on Hisashi, falling to the floor limply. The others all looked at least a little nauseated by this; strangely, however, I felt next to nothing. I felt sympathetic toward the man this vile creature once was, but that was all. The blood didn't bother me in the slightest.
We all panted from a surprising amount of exertion, but no one said anything. Hisashi began to clutch his bleeding arm. We began to move forward, though Hisashi was walking slightly slower than the rest of us. I slowed my pace a little as to walk with him.
"You've seen what these things are," I said to him grimly. "You know what normally happens now, right?"
Hisashi merely nodded in response, a resigned look on his face.
I felt a certain emptiness in my chest. It pained me to see one of my closest friends in such a condition. "Look on the bright side," I said, doing my best to fake an upbeat tone. I'm not sure how convincing it was. "This isn't the movies, it's real life. Who says it has to work the way we've always thought it did?"
I found that I didn't believe my own words. And, if the look on his face was anything to go by, neither did Hisashi. Yet still he managed to smile at me. It was weak, sure, but it was still a smile. I smiled sadly back.
The four of us ascended some stairs and found ourselves on the roof … and when I laid eyes on the city below, any hope of this ending quickly was sucked straight out of me. There was smoke rising up from several places, and the sheer amount of destruction was baffling to behold. It hadn't even been an hour, yet already the entire city looked like a scene from World War Z.
"What happened …?" asked Rei, a prominent shake in her voice. "Everything was fine a minute ago …"
Even if any of us had spoken afterwards, I doubt if it would have been heard. The deafening sound of helicopters approached rapidly, and then a number of military grade choppers flew right past the school, creating a gale of wind that blew up Rei's skirt, giving us all quite the view, and lead to Hisashi having to hold her up so that she wasn't blown over by the strong wind created by the choppers. As they passed by, Rei began waving her arms in the air.
"Hey!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. "We're over here!"
"Don't bother," said Hisashi. He was still clutching his wounded arm to his chest. "I wouldn't even waste your strength. That's the self-defence force. They probably have some kind of special mission. They aren't here to rescue us … they aren't even doing anything about that." He nodded toward the school grounds below us, where the few students and teachers that remained were either running for their lives or screaming in pain whilst the dead swarmed over them, ripping out chunks of flesh and bone with their teeth.
I was looking around. I was barely even registering the conversation my friends were having. My eyes scanned over the rooftop, searching for anything that might give us any sort of help. There were an awful lot of zombies on the roof, I noticed, especially when one considered the fact that they had gotten up here pretty damn quickly. But I chose to question that later, if I ever chose to question it at all. I looked past the zombies … and saw exactly what I was looking for. There was a set of stairs that lead up to what looked like some kind of large closet. If I remembered correctly, that was the closet where they kept extra tables and chairs in case any of the ones currently in use got broken.
"Hey, guys," I said, getting the attention of my three companions. I nodded toward the stairs. "If we can get up there, we can use the tables and stuff to barricade ourselves in, maybe wait for the situation to clear up a bit."
Curiously – and luckily for us – the zombies apparently hadn't noticed us at all. We briefly checked with Hisashi to see if he was still fit to run – he was – and then Hisashi, Rei and I all looked to Takashi. I wasn't quite sure why back then, but I felt like he should be the one to decide when to go.
"Let's go!" said Takashi, and we all sprung into action.
We took off across the rooftop in a sprint. Hisashi was lingering behind, but only slightly, and he was clutching at his wounded arm. Takashi, Rei and I killed any zombies that got directly in our way, but we avoided most of them because we didn't want to be slowed down. I honestly couldn't believe how easily we were taking this. The zombies were deathly pale and had white eyes, sure, but they still looked like students, teachers, old friends, and faces we may have passed in the hallway between classes … yet not one of us had any problem with killing them. The initial disgust at the bloodiness of it all had long since left the others.
We reached the stairs and ran up. Halfway up, however, Rei stopped and looked back down, probably making sure we weren't being followed too closely. There was one on the stairs just behind her, so she brought up her spear and, with a yell … stabbed it in the chest.
I honestly couldn't believe that, after all that stuff with the zombified teacher, she still hadn't aimed for the head when there was one of them right in front of her!
"Are you nuts?" Takashi asked, at the same time as I said, "Are you fucking stupid?" Apparently, we shared the same thought process but had different ways of wording our thoughts.
"Say what!?" Rei asked aggressively.
She got a nasty shock when the zombie she'd stabbed grabbed onto her spear and forced it to the side, making her smash against the wall and fall over on the stairs. The zombie, which was now crawling, made its way toward her …
Takashi readied his bat, but before he could do anything, Hisashi shouted Rei's name and took the bat from him, running down the stairs and smashing the bat against the zombie's head, forcibly slamming its head into the wall. Its blood and bones exploded from its head, surprisingly not splashing all over Rei, and the two of them began walking back up the stairs toward Takashi and I. Another zombie was halfway up the stairs when Hisashi charged it and kicked it, making it tumble down the stairs and smash its head off the floor.
When Hisashi and Rei got back up the stairs, the four of us got to work on making the barricade.
It was quite sturdy, which is surprising when one considers what it was built out of. We had carefully stacked up a number of tables and chairs, then tied them to the rails of the stairs with rope so that they would stay in place. A few zombies were banging on it, but that was nothing to worry about; they weren't even making it shake.
We were all sitting down and relaxing now that we had the chance to do so. I briefly wondered how long the barricade would last, but decided it didn't matter. We weren't planning on staying up here permanently, anyway.
Our moment of relaxation came to an abrupt end, however, when Hisashi started coughing. It started out fairly tame, but then it got worse. He was hunching over, near enough convulsing, and then he stood straight and coughed up quite a lot of blood. We crowded around him, Rei hugging onto him. We were all worried, and I thought I knew what was happening … and it saddened me greatly. I got the feeling the others knew, as well, but wanted to say something about as little as I did.
Hisashi's coughing fit stopped just long enough for him to speak. His voice was weak. "Looks like you were wrong, Paul," he said with a bitter chuckle. "It is just like in the movies. You get bit … and that's it."
"That can't be true," Rei said through flowing tears. "What you see in the movies will never happen!"
"But it did happen … to everyone else," said Hisashi. He turned his head to Takashi and I with what looked like quite a large and painful struggle. "Takashi … Paul … help me …"
"Help you with what?" Takashi asked him.
"Help me … over the rail. The force from the landing … should smash my head …"
"Why would you do something like that?" asked Rei. Her voice was now weak with tears.
"I DON'T WANNA BE ONE OF THEM!" Hisashi's shout was followed up by another coughing fit, in which he coughed up what looked to be most of his remaining blood supply. Now he really looked like he was having some sort of seizure.
"No! Hisashi!" cried Rei, hugging onto him as tightly as she could. "You can't die!"
Hisashi's coughing stopped as suddenly as it had started. He sat and convulsed for a few seconds … then stopped. Hisashi lay completely still. Not breathing. Not doing anything.
My blood felt like ice in my veins. I couldn't imagine what Rei was feeling, her being Hisashi's girlfriend and all, but I felt like some important part of my life had been torn away. I only had four real friends. Three of them were on that roof with me, but one of those three was now dead. I felt like I would have been crying if it weren't for the fact that I was so practised at holding it in.
I noticed the grip Takashi had on his bat visibly tighten.
"Get away from him, Rei," said Takashi. His voice was dead serious and quiet.
Rei looked up at him, her eyes wide, then threw herself over Hisashi's body like a protective shield. "No!" she said. "He's not turning! He's not turning into one of them! He's going to be fine!"
Takashi turned his gaze to me, a pleading look in his eyes. Understanding, I nodded at him. I walked forward and grabbed both of Rei's arms, pulling her up and away with ease despite her desperate struggles to get free. I took no pleasure in this, but I understood that it needed to be done.
Then Hisashi's hand twitched.
"See!" said Rei, yet again attempting to pull away from my grip on her arms. "Look! He's fine!" She struggled more. "Let go of me!"
"Sorry, Rei," I said, keeping any and all emotion out of my voice. "But that thing isn't Hisashi any more."
She continued to struggle, yelling out denials of what I said all the while.
Hisashi stood up. His greying skin and ghostly white eyes were all the proof I needed to tell me he most certainly wasn't fine.
"I know you can't believe it," said Takashi. His voice sounded blank.
"You can't," Rei whimpered.
"Even I can't believe it."
"Don't do it."
"But it's happening."
"IT'S HAPPENING!" Takashi yelled at the top of his lungs as he charged forward, raising his bat high, and then he brought it down hard on Hisashi's head. Blood and brains washed all over the floor near the corpse.
"No!" Rei screamed, and I finally let her go. She ran forward to kneel beside her dead boyfriend. "Why?" she asked Takashi, looking up at him with her tear-stained face.
"He would have bitten you if I didn't do that," said Takashi.
"I didn't ask you to save me!" Rei said in a growl. "How would you know, anyway? What are you, some kind of expert?" She sniffed and looked down at Hisashi. "… Then I would've been willing to get bitten. Better to die like that than survive by doing something like this …"
"I don't think Hisashi would have wanted that for you," said Takashi.
"How would you know that, Takashi!?" Rei's face broke out in a deranged smirk, like she was mocking him. "Oh, I know, you must've hated Hisashi, right? Because he was dating me!"
I had kept silent during the argument, knowing that these two had a lot of emotional baggage to sort out. This, however, I thought was too harsh. Takashi was bitter about the fact that Rei dumped him and started going out with Hisashi, sure, but he had never hated the guy … at least, not to my knowledge.
I was about to say something when Takashi just started walking over to the barricade. He wasn't saying a word. Even worse, he wasn't making any effort to deny what Rei had just said.
"Where do you think you're going!?" Rei's tone was still aggressive.
Takashi turned around to face her. "You obviously don't want me around," he said blankly. "I'm gonna go downstairs and smash some heads."
I recoiled at his statement, as did Rei.
"What are you talking about?" asked Rei. Her voice had gone from angry to panicked. "You can't take that many by yourself!"
Takashi didn't respond. He started to climb over the barricade.
"Hey … Takashi?" I said as gently as I could. I was fully prepared to go and pull Takashi down if he went too far, though I hoped it didn't come to that. "Takashi, stop messing around!"
Rei suddenly ran forward and grabbed Takashi by the arm. She was crying again, and she was clinging to his arm like her life depended on it. "I'm sorry!" she cried. "I didn't mean it! I really didn't mean it! So, please … stay with me. Don't leave me!"
That was all the crying she got done before Takashi climbed down from the barricade and wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. She seemed surprised by this, but hugged back after a few moments. They stood there without a word being said, simply resting in each other's arms.
I found myself smiling softly at the sight. It would appear that, despite everything that had happened, the two of them still had feelings for each other.
That's good, I thought as I watched the two of them. That means they have something to fight for … and I don't.
I let a sad smile appear on my face as Takashi and Rei seemed to forget I was even there.