Prologue

Prologue

Jenna saw a tomb and a headstone. The earth here remained undisturbed by time. Nothing moved in the night except the wind, which tickled the sweat rolling down Jenna’s back. She could feel the breeze even under the layers she wore. The ratty backpack itched her aching shoulders, but Jenna was happy she had not lost it. The backpack, with the shoebox nestled within, was all that remained of her former life.

A cemetery should be the last place Jenna wanted to be, huddled in the oversized camouflage jacket entombing her skeletal frame. Thankfully,  this cemetery had a large wrought iron gate, still locked, to keep the things out. All the people buried here died long ago, well before the disease. She paused to catch her breath, surveying the graves stretching before her in every direction. “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes…” ran through Jenna’s mind, another remnant of her former life. Now the graveyard was the safest place. Evil openly roamed the streets and it was coming for her.

Jenna blinked the sweat out of her eyes and took a deep breath. She swayed with exhaustion. Angels, symbols of all things God and good, adornments of the dead, swam in and out of Jenna’s clouded vision. She placed a scarred hand on the peaceful, cold stone markers, embellished with the names of forgotten loved ones. Nowadays, loved ones  wanted to come back from the grave and claw your face off, devour your insides.

Jenna wanted to lie down and give up. She was tired and had lost everyone she knew. Hair lank and greasy, mud splattered clothing, old and mismatched. Instead of admitting defeat, she forced herself to stay alert, pushing matted, raven hair out of her eyes with a dirty hand. Jenna could not remember a time in her recent history where she felt clean or had a moment in which she was not fighting to stay alive. Looking around the darkened landscape, she wanted to live. She shoved to her feet once again.

Gingerly, with a limp, she started walking deeper into the cemetery. She had twisted her ankle during the jump from the gate. The last sprint had been hell. Her stomach ached where the scar stretched from side to side, but her ankle worried her most. If she could not run, Jenna would  be food for the  dead. Hopefully, she’d find shelter soon.

A noise echoed through what should have been deserted gravestones. Jenna froze for a second, panicked, but then instinct kicked in. She pivoted on her good foot, grabbing for the knife in her pocket. It was all she had left, after losing the gun during her escape yesterday.

Jenna ran back into the oldest part of the graveyard, until she came up to a small mausoleum. It looked more like a shack, a collage of tumbling stone and wood. She pulled on the door, but it stuck, even as everything around it decayed. She felt her way around the side. Her hand slithered across the remains of what once was a delicate, stained glass window. Shards of color caught her coat. Using her elbow, shielded by her jacket, she knocked out the remaining pieces and then painfully pulled herself inside. Crouched on the ground, she was tempted to give herself over to tears, but instead searched for anything useful.

A sturdy casket dominated the tiny interior of the room. The dilapidated mausoleum housed little of use, but someone must have been there before her. Rusty tools, wrenches, hoes, and a beat up shovel lay scattered across the floor, abandoned. They might make good weapons, but were heavy to haul. The handle to the shovel would be useable if she could dislodge it from the base. She’d try. In addition to the mostly useless tools, Jenna found a box of matches near the charred remains of a former fire which littered the corner. Maybe, if she ever felt safe, she could light a fire and feel warm. For once.

Jenna hunkered down, shovel in hand, and began to ply the handle apart from the base. She had to hurry. They would soon be upon her.

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