I slip behind the enormous column and clasp my hand to my mouth, trying to quiet my panting. As I survey my surroundings, I spot an Affected— as I’ve taken to calling them. It doesn’t feel right to me, calling my classmates… my friends, and professors zombies, but that’s the word everyone else has taken to using. The “Affected” include anyone who has been bitten, by either human or mutant squirrel.
I feel a *pop* under my boot and look down to see green slime oozing out of a cracked acorn shell the color of sewage. It is the size of a grape and mutated just like everything else on this campus— every tree thriving on radiation, every dead blade of grass, every acorn, and therefore every squirrel. Not every person, though. Because we had the ability to lock ourselves in the nearest crevice when we got the email from Chancellor Vitter on Thursday.
Most all of my friends have been hiding in their respective crevices for days now. Not Lydia, though. She belongs to the Affected now. I saw her on my sprint across the circle, but she didn’t see me. Her eyes were glazed over. She was focusing on her next victim, a Pharmacy student who was seemingly unaware of what was going on with the rest of the Ole Miss campus. It killed me to see Lydia like that, but I was too afraid and too hungry to do more than glance her way. She was still wearing her white lab coat.
Another of my friends, Ryan, is camped out in the kitchen of the Rebel Market. He Snapchatted me a video of himself earlier eating processed salad croutons from a silver bag. What I wouldn’t give for a handful of stale bread right now.
If you’re wondering why everyone else is safely tucked away inside and I’m out here fighting for my personhood, it’s because Bryant Hall doesn’t have food and it has been two days. Out of the other 33 people that found themselves in Bryant during this UMpocalypse, I just happened to pull the short straw when deciding who would scavenge for food. Damn it, Rebs, if you just would have let Alabama win again, they wouldn’t have poisoned our trees, and I wouldn’t be starving to death, watching my friends turn into mindless shells. How does one acquire radioactive waste anyway?
I debate the time I have to bolt to the front doors of the library, as the Lyceum was locked. I can see several faces peeping out the inner glass doors toward the nearest Affected, who is lurking near James Merideth. He held something in his hand and is looking at it rather intently, as if it’s about to give him some very important information.
I hold my breath and dart towards the Starbucks sign. I grab both silver handles with either hand and pull. Nothing. I put two hands on one handle and shake it frantically. It isn’t going to open. I bang on the glass at the peering students inside. The look on their faces say “Sorry, we can’t trust you; you might be one of… them” as much as one look can.
“Guys, seriously, open up. I’m obviously human. Just look at me!” I shout. The Affected are always hunched over and have a dead look in their eyes like they had just pulled an all-nighter during finals week. And they are slow, but not like zombie slow. They just seem to have no purpose about them when they travel, unless they are chasing their next prey (i.e. one of us).
The guy by the statue turns around to face me and drops the thing in his hand, which I now realize is a calculator. He takes one step towards me and I panic. Hoping he can’t outrun me in his loafers, I take off around the corner toward the Rebel Market. And then I see it. In the distance, coming toward me, is an Ole Miss golf cart. My friend, Nick, gasses it and I hop on just as we hit the Affected at full-speed (14 mph). He puts it in reverse and we head towards Rebel Drive.
“My roommate is waiting for us around the corner,” he pants. “He thinks he can get us out of here. I guess we’ll see.”
I laugh at how little faith he has in the man. “I’m willing to trust anyone at this point.”
“Good.” He stops the golf cart and looks behind us. “Run,” he says.