He steps slowly out of the subway. The first drop of a night’s soaking rain skips off an awning and smacks him right between the eyes. It runs the creases of his face down to his mouth. He tastes, swallows.
Deep breath. He wonders about the rain. It’s loaded with chemicals, saturated with death and decay. Yet it tastes so sweet, it falls into our pores. He thinks that the rain, with its chemicals and liquid rot, has become a part of us. We are the residue of this world, the waste along the rim.
His creation is potent, it will free them, it will reduce them to their vile cores. He puts both hands into the pockets of his coveralls. In his left pocket, his hand coils around a quartet of long, sealed vials. In his right, his fingers thread around the trigger of a newly cleaned pistol. One pocket provides comfort. The other doesn’t.
He looks around at the rushing crowds: Workers heading to soggy happy hours. Tourists in strips of North Face hogging the sidewalk. Suits rushing underground to make their escape for the weekend. No one suspects anything…
Why should they? It is their very lack of suspicion that caused all of this. Their lack of real curiosity lulled the seething mass into blindness, weakness, and complacency. Not anymore. He smiles with the thought of things to come.
The first vial goes soundlessly into the open pocket of a distracted city worker. This one will be a slow release; its effects won’t be seen immediately. The second vial drops down a subway grate, rattling before it breaks onto the city’s steel blood cells. No turning back now.
The third vial is blatant. He tosses it like a live grenade. It traces an arc through the night sky, refracting the bright lights from a vodka advertisement, catching a spare rain drop as it skips off the nylon shoulder of a tourist’s rain poncho.
The confusion starts immediately. As the tourist turns angrily to find out who threw what, the vial finds the ground and smashes open, spilling its contents over the city sidewalk. A new tragedy begins.
The conversion is almost instant, and he can see it. He is far enough away not to be involved, but he can see it. One block ahead of him, the massive crowd starts to boil. An uncontrolled feeling of excitement rises within him. It clamps his heart and strikes his breathing with an evil heat.
Out comes the gas mask. He’s practiced, so it goes on easily. He tightens the strap as the first infected starts it’s journey. He fingers his gun, and starts to walk backward, watching the chaos ripple through the massive crowd. Soon these lights will shine on something meaningful, soon our blood will touch the sky.
A tourist father grabs his child and picks him up and tries to shield him from the bleeding Suit who grabs on with relentless strength and infinite determination. The Suit bites The Child, his teeth gripping easily through soft flesh. In a moment of panic, The Father pulls his child away and blood flosses through The Suit’s perfect, screaming teeth. In the pull, most of the child’s neck tears away. The Father’s horror and pain streaks his face as he tries to stop the bleeding, but its too late. The Child clamps onto his Father’s neck, biting and tearing into his flesh through the nylon strap of the camera. Memories now meaningless. The Father’s blood drains over his wedding ring and he drops to his knees.
The Suit is knuckle deep in the face of a Dominican peanut vendor. The Dominican screams and bucks, unable to shake free the claws through his eyes, cheeks, throat. He’s still very much alive, unbitten, and the pain screams out of him in terrible animal noises, betraying his humanity. The Suit bites. The screaming stops.
The Suit loses interest in The Dominican and frees him from his grip. The Dominican’s blood-hole eyes see nothing. He rushes the crowd and grabs onto the back of an escaping Hasid and takes him down, his head hitting the sidewalk with a brutal thwack. The Dominican uses his fists, and screaming with rage, pummels The Hasid through the face. Once breaking his teeth, twice cracking has jaw like a wishbone, three times shattering his nose and eye sockets, pushing his bristled beard deep into an expanding crater of blood and meat. The Hasid doesn’t even scream. The fourth fist lands like a sledge, caving his head in completely. It’s over for him, he won’t turn. The Gas Mask notes this silently…they don’t always bite. Sometimes they just kill.
The Child is tearing at the legs of a terrified 22 year old Intern. He snatches her by the right leg, dropping her face down on the ground. Her jaw hits first, disintegrating her teeth in a seismic wave. She looks up at the rushing mob and begs for help through broken teeth. The Child claws his way up her back, pulling and stretching at her new, proud clothes. She can’t make a sound. She hyperventilates. She reaches back for The Child, gets a grip on his hair and pulls hard, slamming him on the concrete next to her. The Child is momentarily dazed with one cheek against the sidewalk. She pulls him up closer to her, dragging his face along the grit of the concrete, shredding it to the molars, until she has enough leverage to pick his head up and slam it down once more.
The Child barks terribly and throws his arms out as his head hits the pavement. She gets enough strength and lifts his head once more, jamming his face down into the wet cigarette butts and grime. The Child stops moving briefly, twitching and snapping his limbs crazily beneath him. The Crowd continues to rush, stepping on her other hand, tripping over her rubbery calves. She relaxes her grip and The Child whips around, leaving his scalp in her hand. His teeth find her neck just below her jaw and she wails. Her eyes fill with blood.
The Gas Mask watches The Intern as she drags herself across the ground, spitting blood and retching from her belly. As she eagerly hauls herself into the wailing mouth of an abandoned stroller, he turns and walks away. The gun comes out of his pocket cocked. He trots east on 42nd street towards Bryant Park. He jumps backward as a cab screeches past him into the front of a theme restaurant, scattering its patrons in a storm of blood and glass.
He’s calm, but his breathing escalates. He didn’t expect it to be so quick. The converted patrons start to stumble out the shattered window, so he picks up the pace. He rounds a corner underneath a scaffolding to find a young Worker, scared and huddled under a “Post No Bills” stencil. “What is going on?” The Worker says, terrified. The Gas Mask grabs his last vial, and cracks it over The Worker’s forehead. “You’ll be fine”.
A little girl stands on the sidewalk wearing thick glasses. She is watching what is going on. She is having trouble understanding. She blinks like she does after a scary dream, but everything stays the same in front of her.
A man screams by her, spattering blood through the air. The mist settles a red carpet at her feet. She follows the crimson petals. A big man like her Dad tackles the screaming blood man after a few feet and she keeps walking. The big man like her Dad makes eating noises. Her hand still aches from the way her mommy squeezed it.
Where did she go? The little girl wonders as she comes to the curb. She looks both ways. A burning person screams past. The flames glint in her glasses. She looks again, its clear. She crosses the street.