It was a normal Friday afternoon. Well, back when normal was still normal. Back when normal was simple and made sense. Football, passing finals, flirting with girls, hanging with the other jocks.
Ben Parish sat in the back of the dirty classroom, the body heat of bored-out-of-their-mind teenagers floating around him. A scribble of notes. A glance at the clock, a flick to the teacher. A tap on his phone, a peek down. Another peep at the clock.
The internal sighs from each student as they listened to the lecture, as they took, notes, as they texted. As they took everything for granted.
A glance at the clock.
A tap on the screen.
Legs shaking underneath the gum-infested desks.
After what seemed to be five hours, the shriek of the lunch bell rang throughout the classroom like a shockwave and everyone immediately jumped up, shoving notebooks into backpacks and hastily pushing their phones away.
Ben heaved his backpack on, ready to continue his boring day with his boring friends.
“Mr. Parish.” Ben groaned and turned back towards his teacher, stuffing his hands in his back pockets. Mr. Wilson extended his pointer finger and motioned for Ben, raising his eyebrows.
Sighing, Ben approached his teacher. Mr. Wilson leaned against the large desk and took a breath. Ben plastered a smile on his face.
“Yes, Mr. Wilson?” he asked.
“Ben. Have you checked your grades online recently?” Ben shook his head.
“Well… you need to come to the after school study sessions starting next week. Monday through Thursday, for an hour.” Ben's eyes widened.
“What? I have practice those days. And I didn’t do horribly on the last test, did I?” he spluttered.
“You did great on the last test,” Mr. Wilson chuckled. “That’s why you need to stay after class. To help others,” he explained.
Sighing, Ben agreed.
When Ben reached the lunch table, the sounds of students chattering surrounding him, Kimmy sprang up. Kimmy, head cheerleader. As cliche as it got.
“Sweetheart! There you are! We were just talking about our plans for Saturday.” She hooked her arm around his and giggled. Ben knew what it would be. The same as always. Two hours at the mall, three at the movies, five at someone’s house.
Ben groaned internally. But he smiled instead.
“Whose house is it this time?” Kimmy lead him to the table to sat down and pecked him on the lips once.
“Mine. We went to your house last week and Kent’s two weeks ago, but I don’t remember the last time we went to mine.” The other football players and cheerleaders then started talking about what type of alcohol they were going to sneak and such, while Ben just stared into space and imagined a more exciting world.
Saturday. After a dull shopping experience and a badly scripted movie, the group drove over to Kimmy’s house, her parents gone on a business trip, the house to themselves. Soon enough, music was pumping through the house and people dancing and sweating. This week was a special week when the group of about 50 friends invited the entire school over. Everywhere the air was sticky and smelled of beer and vodka.
Each of the ten rooms upstairs, bedrooms, bathrooms, and offices alike, was occupied with couple, with an occasional threesome, riding it out. Hot and slimey, the hallway full of gasps and groans. Downstairs, drunks danced close together, with little to no layers of clothing between them. Outside, skinny dippers entertained themselves and yet another couple was doin’ the deed in the hot tub. At some point, a drunk slipped in and ended up joining them.
In other words, it was quite a night.
Ben and Kimmy occupied Kimmy’s bedroom. They put on the couple act for the school and that was it. They each had an actual significant other and agreed to not tell each other who they were, but they still agreed on being sex buddies.
Kimmy’s fingers lingered all over Ben’s body that night.
After an hour or so, Kimmy’s phone rang. She immediately left Ben and answered it eagerly, still unclothed. Ben sat up and reached for his, phone, too. This was a normal occurrence.
A minute later, Kimmy was gone, having left to go meet her girlfriend in the room two over to enjoy herself with the person she actually loved.
Ben sat back with his phone and called Kent as soon as she left.
“Yea, she’s gone.”
The door creaked open.
The only thing not boring in his entire life entered the room, cheeks flushed.
The next Monday after school, Ben spent an hour in Mr.Wilson’s room, as promised. There were eight other students in for help, and one other to tutor. As he leaned an elbow against a blonde’s desk, he talked absentmindedly, catching Kent’s eye across the room and winking.
Classes. Lunch. More classes. Mr. Wilson’s room. Driving home. Texting Kent. Dealing with the living stereotypical jocks and cheerleaders. Homework, dinner, teeth, sleep.
The piercing alarm in his ear.
Again and again.
One Wednesday afternoon, Ben found himself being shaken awake by Mr. Wilson.
“Detention, Mr. Parish. This afternoon.”
He rubbed his eyes and sat up, straightening his spine.
Lunch. Feeling his pockets. Oh, no no no. Fuck. Phone bulge -- gone. He tried recalling where he could have left it. Last period was Mr. Wilson’s, and he remembered having it the period before, so…. yup, he’d just get it back at detention.
All his life, Ben Parish wanted something new, something different. But not this. Never this.
It wasn’t even the arrival that fucked him up so bad. The worst was before that.
When Ben got to detention, he knew something was wrong right away. No one was there to study. No one. Just Mr. Wilson, with a gleam in his eye. He stepped forward and sat at one of the desks and took out a book to read.
He jumped up when he heard a click. Looking up slowly, he saw Mr. Wilson standing by the door, hand on the lock. He slowly began to close the blinds, too.
Standing up carefully, Ben backed up.
“Uh, Mr. Wilson, what’s going on?” His voice cracked. Mr. Wilson stayed silent but stepped closer and tossed something to Ben. He caught it and recognized his phone. On the screen was a conversation with Kent. A particularly intimate one. He looked up.
Mr. Wilson gazed hungrily at him.
“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this,” Mr. Wilson said, his voice no longer friendly. Ben tried to back up more but Mr. Wilson grabbed his shoulder.
“Before we ascend,” he spat, “before the birds arrive.” Ben was shoved to the closet door and immediately screamed when the door was opened. A soft hand was clamped over his mouth. There, inside the closet, lay the only thing that mattered to Ben, now barely recognizable, head just barely hanging to his neck. Eyes were missing, his beautiful green eyes teared to nothingness. Just gaping holes left. A corpse, not the once handsome young man that Ben knew and loved. Ben began to sob, but no sound left his mouth. “Just a nightmare” is all his brain registered. Not real. Of course not. It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t leave him. Never.
But it wasn’t a dream. The next thing he knew, Ben was on the floor, Mr. Wilson’s facing seeming to melt off, and beneath was a hideous creature, one that sucked the love and life out of others. One that grinned evilly at him. That drolled onto his face. That murdered the hope of young people prior to the arrival, to get them ready for revenge. Ready to be a part of the not-yet-to-come wave in the far-off future. But preparing them with a heart full of aching sorrow. One that’s saliva also contained the cure to a disease yet to arrive, that would keep them alive until the brink of death and only then bring them back to health, for the sole purpose of giving them even more piles of pain and reasons to agree to the far-future army they would be a part of. But it was always for that purpose. Pain.
Ben squirmed and screamed, but no one could hear his gasps of pain at all.
Ben woke up in his bed. But he immediately knew it was not a dream. He could very easily recall the cold hands on his back, ripping his clothes to shreds the same way they ripped the flesh of Kent. Recalling the deformed shape that was once his boyfriend, Ben vomited onto the ground. The cold eyes that stared at him like the creature wanted him to remember both of its acts for all eternity never left his memory that night. Nor the feeling of that monster doing such horridity to him. Ben shuddered, though he was sweating through his sheets as he remembered what was definitely not a dream. He knew he would never forget Kent or the monster’s body pressed against his.
His future name “Zombie” was not just from the eventual sickness he would experience, but also how he acted for a week after the cursed events of that Wednesday. He would walk into class as a zombie, having gotten absolutely no sleep due to paranoia. He did unconsciously notice there was a sub and no sign of Mr. Wilson and Kent, but otherwise he was numb.
It was a week or two after that the lights shut off and things weren’t so dull anymore.