It started in California.

San Francisco, to be exact. Home to Silicon Valley, one of the tech capitals of the US. No one knows the exact date, or how it started. No one knows how a computer virus managed to infect a human.

But everyone knows one thing—that that was where the first insane human with black veins was found, somewhere near the end of May.

It was horrible, really. Police had found the young woman standing over her mangled victim, his arms and neck riddled with bite marks. His joints were practically ripped open. His head was barely attached to his neck, the slash mark was so large. The girl was holding the bloodied butcher knife. Her clothes were stained with red. They'd shot her on the spot.

It wasn't her first victim, though. Definitely not. Other gruesome murders were reported in after the officers found the first body. But this was just the start. Half of the police who were there, who had seen the girl, who had been near the girl, fell ill within the hour. Soon they'd gotten up, their veins shot through with black, their brains poisoned, needing to infect. To kill.

Eventually, the virus killed its hosts. But not before causing a whole lot of damage. Because this virus spread fast.

It reached the surrounding three states within the first hour.

And it was still starting out.


Dawson Creek, British Columbia-May 27

Aidan Blair was having a really bad day.

First there were his boy problems. Being a not-so-openly gay kid in twelfth grade was the worst. Aidan had liked Christian Parker for two years, only to see him sucking face with Brianna Bennett against her locker this morning, and there was absolutely nothing PG about it. Seriously, he was pretty sure they were trying to impregnate each other with their mouths. And that didn't make sense, but whatever. It was, in a word, gross.

Okay, it wasn't like Christian was trying to get Aidan jealous or anything. They'd never spoken to each other. Like, at all. Aidan had seen him one day in the halls—cinnamon skin, glacial blue eyes, sweepy soft hair... And had immediately known it was hopeless to even think about it. Christian Parker was one hundred percent straight. Not to mention he was on the basketball team, giving him instant popularity. Aidan didn't have a chance at all.

It still hurt to see him tongue-wrestling Aidan's childhood best friend, though.

He wasn't sure when Brianna had started to drift away. Maybe it started in fifth grade, when boys and girls started noticing each other. Having a friendship with someone of the opposite gender without "dating" them was practically law. He and Brianna barely got to hang out without some kid making kissy noises at them. Or maybe it started in seventh grade, when the social hierarchies began to develop. Shy nerdy kids formed friendships. Athletes and beautiful people started dominating the classroom. Brianna was pretty, with flawless creamy skin and hazel eyes, not to mention was naturally skilled at soccer. The popular kids started seeking her out, pushing Aidan to the back. Maybe that was when it started.

But really, if you wanted to pinpoint a specific time for when they'd just stopped being friends, it was the summer of eighth grade, when Aaron Coolen, the star pitcher of the baseball team, was Brianna's first kiss during a game of Spin the Bottle at Jack Sterling's party. Aidan wasn't there (obviously) but he'd heard the gossip. And then Brianna started avoiding him.

She stopped coming by his house to hang out. Whenever he knocked on her door, her mother told him she was busy. Aidan didn't even have a phone, so he couldn't call or text. Then he found out Brianna and Aaron were dating.

So he gave up and retreated back into his shell.

It made sense, kinda, if you looked at it closely. Brianna had wanted to drop him for a while now since he was interrupting her new cooler friendships. She didn't want people to think she was dating Aidan, so she dropped him. There. End of story.

It sucked, though. Since Brianna was his only friend, sad as it might be.

Well. Not his only friend.

There was Keelin.

Keelin Fang was... different from everyone else. She was closed off, distant, didn't give a crap about socializing. She was mostly found in the back of the classroom, never raising her hand or speaking out. Aidan knew she got decent grades—mostly B's, with the occasional A (she'd showed him her report card after hours of begging). Weird, since she skipped class a lot.

Mostly, Keelin was a big mystery. But she'd occasionally talk to people she found tolerable (her words, not his). Like Aidan, apparently. She didn't go to Ellwood Elementary like most of Ellwood High's ninth-graders, but she came from Birchall Clark. All the troublemakers came from Birchall—they usually went to Poleton for high school. But Keelin and a couple others (mostly smart kids) got their applications approved and came to Ellwood. Pretty much nothing else was known about her.

Not to mention, she was cool. Keelin was Asian, with medium-length dark hair, light tan skin, and startling green eyes. A tenth-grader, but kind of short. She had this untouchable, unflappable vibe.

But anyway. Aidan's bad day only increased when his teacher's veins turned black.

Mr. Kyle was in the middle of teaching an extremely boring algebra lesson, and everyone noticed immediately when he tumbled to the ground and started convulsing. Sweat beaded on his face, and his skin was ghostly pale. His veins looked strange, like they were infused with some black substance, and Aidan saw, with horror, the black climbing up to his brain.

"Mr. Kyle!" cried a girl Aidan didn't know (a cheerleader—Whitney? Wilma?), rushing to his side. "What's happening? Are you alright?"

Suddenly, the math teacher stood up, grabbed Whitney by the throat, and slammed her against the wall. His eyes looked bloodshot, but the veins were black and... were they glowing? The black ran through his skin like jagged ink. Mr. Kyle was twitching and jerking, his muscles having miniature spasms. It was like his brain just malfunctioned or something.

Whitney choked and clawed at the teacher's hand, her face turning purple. Everyone panicked.

Aidan stood up and backed away, blinking fast. Keelin was in this class, hiding under the brim of her hat as usual. "Keelin!" he cried, his voice lost amidst the panic. "What's going on?"

Keelin stared in shock. "I... I think he's sick. Someone should call-"

Seth, one of the rebel kids, was already paging the office. "Someone please help," he shouted as soon as the secretary picked up. "Mr. Kyle—he went crazy. His veins are black and he just attacked Britney! We need help!"

Aidan strained to pick out the reply. "What are you—" It was cut off by a scream. "No! NO!" Then silence.

One of the big, burly guys—Adam Jason, a linebacker—was trying to pull Mr. Kyle off of the girl, Britney, Aidan remembered now. But it was like the infected man had some kind of superstrength. He smashed Adam in the face, blood gushing from his nose as he fell, out like a light. Britney had stopped struggling, her eyes blank and her hands hanging limply at her sides. With an awful certainty, Aidan knew she was dead.

There was a brief moment of silence. The math teacher turned around, his eyes shot through with streaks of black.

"Ohmygod, Mr. Kyle just killed Britney!" screamed another girl, and it was like a dam broke, kids rushing for the door. Kyle grabbed the girl who'd screamed and smashed her head against a desk. As she crumpled to the ground, Aidan saw a large dent in her skull. She was beyond saving.

"I think... we run now," said Keelin slowly, backing for the door. "Aidan, let's go."

They exploded into the halls to find it was already packed with people. Teachers and students alike, they were all running. Fear hung thickly in the air. Everyone was screaming. Aidan's head hurt. There was another person with black veins—a ninth-grader, Aidan noticed dully—who was attacking people at random with a pair of scissors. Aidan looked down and saw the floors and walls were streaked with blood.

Keelin was in a slightly defensive stance, looking around at the mess. Her eyes hardened. "We have to leave," she said. "Now."

Aidan's eyes darted around the pandemonium unfolding around him, trying to take it all in and deny the fact that it was happening at the same time. Another kid—Cayden Gale, eleventh grade, honors student—fell to the ground and started spasming, the awful black starting to crawl through his veins. He stood up, his black-shot eyes scanning for victims. They landed on Aidan.

Cold fear spiked through his mind. He knew, with a certain clarity, that he didn't want to die. He bolted, Keelin hard on his heels.

As he ran through the blood-slicked halls, screaming and chaos and confusion and pain pain pain surrounding him on all sides, he couldn't think, could only feel blind terror. He slipped on something soft and realized it was a human hand, cut off from an arm. He promptly threw up.

"Aidan, hurry up!" ordered Keelin, grabbing his arm. "Got that stuff out of you? Come on!"

And then they were running again, running through the death and the chaos and the screaming, Keelin punching any black-veined people who got in the way (where had she learned how to throw such an explosive right hook?), and finally, finally, they were outside and gulping in huge breaths of delicious cool air, air without the tinge of blood. (Well, Aidan was gulping. Keelin wasn't even out of breath.)

"We need to keep running," said Keelin after patiently waiting for Aidan to finish catching his breath. "This place will be just as bloody as inside soon."

"How—" Aidan paused to take in a deep, shuddering breath. "How are you so calm? There was—there was so much blood—and killing—"

"Not important," she replied, face as stoic as usual. "You need to find your brothers."

At that, Aidan jolted upright. Shit. His brothers. Archer and Zac. Zac was only three, still at home with their mother, but Archer was in fifth grade, at Ellwood Elementary. If the black-veins disease thing spread to there... He turned pale. "My family."

"You can't fight one of those weird infected people by yourself," Keelin informed him matter-of-factedly. "I'm coming with you."

He turned to her in surprise. "What about your family?"

She snorted, eyes flashing. "Also not important. I'll be fine. But let's make this quick, OK? I have to take care of some things."

Aidan awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. "Um... Okay. You know the way to Ellwood Elementary?"

"Yes. Try to keep up." Keelin suddenly broke into a run, and Aidan followed suit just as the first infected person burst out of the school doors and ran, searching for its next victims.

They were running, Keelin seeming to have unlimited reserves of energy and Aidan struggling to not lose sight of her. Up ahead, they heard screaming, and Aidan's blood froze in his veins.

"Not what you think it is," yelled Keelin, turning back to look at him. "That's Poleton."

Aidan swallowed. "O-oh." Then a new thought occurred to him. "That... disease already spread to Poleton?"

"I'd assume so. Whatever this is, it moves fast." They kept running, turning onto Bellson Street and stopping short at the carnage that fell before them.

The blood was everywhere. Soaking into the grass. Staining the pavement. Covering the bodies of the fallen and the hands and teeth of the infected. Aidan looked at Keelin to see her turn white. She went to Birchall. Does she know people at Poleton? He took a deep breath, looking over the destruction. "How do we get past this?"

Keelin clenched and unclenched her fists. "We run," she replied. "You stay behind me. I don't suppose you know how to use a blade?"

Aidan bit his lip. "Not... really?"

"A lot of it lies in the instincts. Here, take this and stab anyone who tries to kill you." She handed him a dagger.

Aidan stared at it.

"You know what, I'll take care of everything. Let's go." She took off, and gripping the dagger so tightly that his knuckles turned white, Aidan followed.

There was blood all over the asphalt and the street and the sidewalk and the field and everywhere. Some of the windows of the school had bloody handprints on them. People were everywhere, running and screaming and oh, how would Archer survive any of this?

A tall guy with black veins and twitching muscles suddenly loomed in front of him, and Aidan cried out, forgetting he had a weapon. Keelin turned and threw a small knife at the infected boy, lodging deep in his forehead. It did the trick. He fell, dead. "So you aim for the brain," she said thoughtfully, yanking out the knife and wiping it off on her shirt. "Interesting. Hurry up, we're almost clear!"

They continued to run. Aidan found out he didn't have the heart to stab anyone after feebly scratching at an infected girl's arm, then slipping around her and running away. He was decent at running away, at least.

Don't lose sight of Keelin. He looked up, alarmed to see Keelin fighting three infected people at once, all of them bigger than her. She threw an uppercut at the biggest one's chin, his head snapping back with a sharp crack, then grabbed the remaining two and slammed their heads together, letting them fall to the ground at her feet. Aidan ran after her mutely, clutching the dagger. He felt extremely weak as of now.

They finally reached the next street when Keelin ran into someone. Well, it was more like someone ran into her. Keelin didn't seem like the type to do anything clumsily. The other figure fell to the ground, while Keelin merely stumbled back a step.

Aidan was assessed the newcomer, relieved to see that the girl didn't have black veins. He watched her warily—he assumed she was from Poleton. She had long wavy golden-blond hair and fringe bangs. Her eyes were... Gray? No, blue. Quite pretty. If she was a guy Aidan would probably have a crush on her.

"Ow." The girl stood up, warily looking between the two. Her eyes landed on Aidan first, giving him a customary once-over. Apparently deciding he wasn't a threat (Aidan took offense), she turned to Keelin. Her gaze flicking from her signature cap to her green eyes, she did a double take. "Keelin?"

Keelin acknowledged her with a terse nod. "Ruby."

Silence.

Aidan re-evaluated the girl—Ruby. She looked around Keelin's age, sixteen or so, and wore a black leather jacket with the sleeves rolled up over a t-shirt of some punk band. Also, her voice was ever-so-slightly accented—British, maybe? With interest, Aidan noticed some tattoos on her exposed neck and collarbone. His mom would never let him get a tattoo.

His mother. Was she dead? Or worse? Aidan tried not to think about it.

Anyway. Keelin rubbed the back of her neck, looking the most awkward Aidan had ever seen her. "So... How's Poleton?"

"Oh, the usual," replied Ruby conversationally. "Same douchebag kids, same dumb teachers. Wasn't expectin' a zombie apocalypse today, though."

A ghost of a smile flickered across Keelin's lips, and Aidan stared. He had literally never seen her smile before—only the occasional sarcastic smirk, and that itself was rarer than a blue moon. "Right." She looked at Aidan, as if remembering what they had to do. "We're kind of on a quest to rescue this guy's family. Where're you headed?"

"Well, my parents disowned me last week—" She said it so casually Aidan didn't even process it—"So... nowhere, I guess. Away from the weird zombie people?" Ruby dragged her eyes away from Keelin and motioned at Aidan. "Who's this guy, your boyfriend?"

Aidan looked horrified and Keelin snorted a laugh. "Not in a million years," she said, looking at Aidan like no offense. "Just polite acquaintances. Now let's actually hurry the fuck up already." She took off like a shot.

Ruby looked after her thoughtfully. "So she swears now. Very interesting." She turned to Aidan. "What'd you say your name was?"

"Um," he said eloquently. "Aidan. Blair."

"You have two first names?"

"Three. My middle name is Landon."

Ruby laughed. "You're funny. Let's go save your... siblings? Parents?"

Aaaaand the fear was back. "Both. Let's go," said Aidan, running after Keelin.


The difference between a child's scream and an adult's scream was quite significant.

When hearing a child scream, you felt this wrenching twist in your gut, and you felt young, impossibly young, and weak, and small, and scared, very, very scared.

The fear was amplified by a thousand for Aidan, because he knew one of those little voices belonged to his nine-year-old brother.

"Fuuuuuuuck." Ruby dragged the word out slowly, like it was seventeen syllables long. "I'm wishin' I had my ex-dad's gun right about now."

Keelin simply raised an eyebrow, saying nothing. She unsheathed two wicked-looking knives from the pockets of her jeans (how had Aidan not noticed those before?) and looked at the school, eyes cold. No one was outside—still, the screaming and the blood staining the windows made it pretty clear what was going on inside.

"Aidan, what does your brother look like?" asked Keelin, scanning the school. "And where would his location most likely be?"

"H-he looks like me," stammered Aidan, the horrible fear clenching his stomach. "Around a head and a half shorter. He's in fifth grade, so he should be around the west wing..."

"Okay. Good. Aidan, give your dagger to Ruby. Now stay here and wait for me while I grab your brother. No one move at all. I'll be right back." She ran straight for the west end of the school, smashed a rock through the window with surgical precision, reached in and unlatched the window, and slipped inside.

All this happened in three seconds.

"We can't let her go in by herself," said Aidan, starting after her. Ruby grabbed him.

"Are you insane?" she protested. "True, I haven't seen her in a year and a half, but I think she can handle herself. If we go in there by ourselves, we'll get killed."

"My brother's in there," Aidan said resolutely, yanking his arm out of her grip (easier said than done—Ruby was strong). "And, you've seen those infected people fight."

"I take it back," Ruby amended. "If we don't get killed by the insane zombie people, then Keelin is going to murder us for not following her orders. What are they teaching you at that nerd school?"

Aidan purposefully walked over to the window, and Ruby followed him, exasperated. As she was preparing to protest some more, Aidan held up a hand. "Let me stop you right there. First of all, you don't exactly seem like the rule-abiding type," he said with a look at her leather jacket and punk shirt. With a nod at her exposed arm muscles, he added, "You also seem very... fight-y?"

"I do like hitting people," she replied thoughtfully. Then she glared at him. "I could be hittin' you right now, for all it's worth!"

"Well, I'm going." They'd reached the window, and Aidan started to climb inside. "You can come if you want."

"Bleedin' hell," He heard her mutter to herself—the accent was a bit stronger now. "Fine. I'm coming. But only to make sure you don't get killed."

"Cool." Aidan honestly doubted his chances alone, but with a dagger-brandishing Ruby with him, he felt a bit better. "Let's make this quick."

They warily moved through the halls. Something was wrong. It was too quiet. Blood was everywhere, but... where were the people? It was deathly silent, and Aidan had never been so scared. "Something's off," he whispered to Ruby, all of his nerves on edge.

"Yeah, no shit," she hissed from behind him. "Do you think—"

They turned a corner, and Aidan fell back immediately, gagging. His eyes were wild and unfocused. Oh god oh god oh god.

"What?" demanded Ruby, shoving him back and seeing for herself. Her eyes went wide, then narrowed in anger. "Fuck," she spat out, a single word that perfectly described the situation before them. She flexed her fingers around the dagger. "We're doing this now. Let's go."

Aidan forcefully slammed down the bile rising in his throat and stood up straight. We have to do this.

The bodies lay in heaps on the floor, which was so covered in blood Aidan doubted it would ever wash out. Large bites had been taken out of most of the bodies-most of the small, young bodies. Aidan wanted to throw up, or cry, or both. He was never going to look at any type of meat in the same way again.

Suddenly, a chorus of screams tore through the air-children's screams, followed by a "Gah!" that sounded vaguely like Keelin. The screams sounded much closer—and much more individual. "Let's fucking go!" shouted Ruby, then tore through the halls, dagger in hand. Aidan ran after her, unable to focus on anything but his brother. After their father had died, they'd drifted apart, but he couldn't lose any more family, he couldn't.

They turned down another hall to find Keelin fighting... Aidan did a quick count. Six infected people. She was on the defense, blocking hits and slashing with her knives. One man attacking her had a metal ruler in his hand, and Keelin cried out when the sharp end caught her in the cheek. Blood dripped from the scratch, and her distraction gave another one of the infected (a small child, maybe a second-grader) to lunge forward with terrifying intensity and grab her arm, yanking it to the side. There was a sharp pop of it dislocating, and Keelin hissed in pain, slashing wildly with her knives.

And then Ruby attacked. She stabbed one zombie kid in the gut, then, with him still impaled, swung his body at the other two. They all tumbled to the ground, and Ruby stabbed them each in the face before moving to the remaining three. Keelin had somewhat recovered, cradling her injured arm while throwing vicious roundhouse kicks at the teacher with the ruler.

Okay. Okay. Aidan, knowing he'd be pretty much useless in a fight, scanned the room for survivors. A dead child lay in one corner, his entire side chewed up. Three more lay in a pile, their faces contorted in frozen screams. None of them were Archer. Where was he?

Another shout cut through the air, and Aidan recognized it this time. Archer. He looked back at Keelin and Ruby, decided they were fine, and ran toward the sound, fear gripping his stomach in a tight fist.


Dramatic zoom-in on our hero's face as he runs down the hall, then fade to black. To be continued! This is based off both a dream my friend had and an idea my friend hada post-apocalyptic kids adventure mixed with computer viruses infecting people. Super amazing, I know. I'm just making it up as I go along (which is how I write pretty much everything), so don't expect it to be a work of art.

I think I spent more time coming up with the names than actually writing the thing, names are my favorite. Jack is obviously number one, and I valiantly restrained myself from making a main character called Jack, it was truly very hard since 90% of my characters start out as a Jack or a Jackie; Aidan started as Jax Blair, but that's a bit too badass for a cinnamon roll like him. :D

Go ahead and have a good day, or if you're reading this at the time I've uploaded a second chapter, go ahead and read the second chapter. ~airjack

PS urgh, i spent way too much time figuring out how to write ruby's accent, her talking is a mix of canadian and british so. when i read i hear the characters talking in my heads and it took around fifty takes for me to be satisfied.