• That's right. I was there. I was there when it first started. Daddy was the one who got me up that night. I won't ever forget it.

    It was his birthday. I don't really remember what time it was that night. Maybe it was a few minutes after midnight. I just remember I gave him this pendant that I spent a few months working on.
    There used to be this creek by Bullburrow farm that was rumored to have a few Indians that used to live by there, back in the day. Rumor was it stretched from the river to the reservation. My friends and I used to call it the Old Arrowhead because of the Indians. A friend of mine, Callie, told me she found an arrowhead wedged under some of the rocks in the water. Dad used to love those old western movies, and he had a few collections dedicated to Clint Eastwood and Indians. I went over to Old Arrowhead every day after Callie showed me, trying to find something Daddy would have thought amazing if I found it for him.
    Every day, instead of coming straight home from school, I'd get a ride over to the reservation from Callie's parents, and get as many beads and strings my allowance could cover. True, I could have gotten the main piece of my pendant from those people at the reservation, but I really wanted to find it myself. When I got all the things I wanted, the only times Dad would ever see me was when I got home with bird feathers and no arrowheads.
    It was only on his birthday, when he wasn't home, that I was up at Old Arrowhead, bent over and trying to find another one like usual. It was only when it was around sundown that I managed to find one.
    The good thing about summer was that you could spend all of your time doing whatever you pleased. I spent several hours getting mosquito bites on my arms and legs, prunes for fingers and toes, and a bunch of sweat on my brow before I found what I spent a little under six months looking for. It was about the length of my little finger, thick as my thumbs put together, and hard enough I couldn't snap it. In school, I read that Native Americans used flint and obsidian for arrowheads and weapons. I couldn't really tell what kind of rock it was, but it looked like a genuine arrowhead to me. I found it in the creek, and it took long enough for me too.
    By the time I got home, the sun was down, and it was pretty dark. My feet were still soaked, so the most I could do was walk home with shoes and socks hooked in my fingers, and that arrowhead in my other hand. The Johnson's dog barked at me while I made my way down warm concrete, the sidewalk cooling with the evening. I pocketed the drying piece of stone, checking to make sure Dad wasn't home before sneaking in by the back door. Because of the news, Daddy didn't really like me being out after dark. Some things just really seemed to make him paranoid.
    I figured he wouldn't be home for a while. He was a good Dad, but sometimes jobs wouldn't keep him. He used to tell me how it wasn't really the economy that kept firing him, but how the world was run by idiots who didn't know a nightingale from a mockingbird. A lot of nights while I was braiding cord for his birthday gift, he'd still be out searching for a job, or with Mike down the street.
    That night, he was home later than usual. A lot later. Usually, he'd be back by like, nine or ten, so I wouldn't get lonely, but he was back probably around midnight. Maybe it was later. All I remember was falling asleep in my room, over my desk where I was finishing strapping the arrowhead to the rest of the necklace. I could have fallen asleep probably around eleven or so, waiting for him to come back. Only a few hours later did I just wake up Dad shaking me, shouting. From what I recall, he was pretty frazzled. Even in my groggy state of mind, I could tell something was wrong.

    "Jesse," a voice said, accompanied by really rough shaking. I grumbled, trying to fall back asleep while it got rougher. "Jesse, wake up!"
    "Dad," I mumbled, snuggling into my folded arms. "Five more minutes…"
    His hard hand grasped my arm tightly, rattling me awake. At first, I thought I could acutally hear my teeth rattle like marbles in a can.
    "Jesse, we don't have time for this!" He barked, causing me to focus a bit more. He definitely looked upset. Sweaty, panicked. It was a good thing he rattled me that badly, otherwise it'd take forever for me to process what was going on. "Grab your things, we gotta go!"
    He tossed me my pack for camping, heavy and empty. He started going through my drawers, grabbing jeans and shorts and socks, shirts, and underwear.
    "Dad!" I said, grabbing my panties and tossing them in the duffel. I could feel my face get hot with embarrassment. "I can get those by myself! What is going on?!"
    "Jesse, not right now, okay?" He said, grabbing the strap. "We gotta get going; grab as much food and water as you can, and get to the truck. We're gonna go get Lori and Mike, and get the hell out of here."
    "You didn't even answer my question," I retorted, dashing down the stairs after him. I did as he said and started for the pantry, clearing out everything we had into my duffel and grabbing some water bottles. "What's- Oh no!"
    "Jesse? Jesse!"
    I sprinted up the stairs, grabbing the pendant before Dad got to me, shouting at me. I'd never been so scared in my life.
    "Jesse, what the hell are you doing?!" He yelled, grabbing me by my arms. "We don't have time for this!"
    He turned his head as a shattering sounded from downstairs, and he turned out the light before grabbing his revolver. I stared at it, fists tightening around the cord as we crouched down in the shadows. Dad looked straight at me, quietly cocking the gun and switching the safety off before pressing a finger to his lips, and I nodded.
    "Stay here," he whispered, pushing me behind the bed. "Get in the closet, and don't make a sound. I'll come back for you, okay, sweetheart?"
    A muffled scream sounded from outside. I stiffened, nodding quickly before moving towards the wardrobe and climbing in. Dad pushed the door open, disappearing into the hall as the rustling and screaming sounded from below. I covered my ears, feeling the string bury into the cartilage as I closed my eyes.
    My palms couldn't muffle the sound of the gunshot. It was clear and loud. It was almost as though I were in the same room when it sounded. I jolted upright, snapping my eyes open and holding the arrowhead close to my chest. Frantic footsteps stomped by everywhere, along with some grunting. It sounded like Dad.
    "Daddy?" I muttered, too scared to be any louder. I creaked the door open, looking out into the dark room with wide eyes. The blood pounding in my ears felt so loud, along with my breathing. It felt like there was a jackhammer going off in my chest, too. "Daddy?"
    Still no answer. I slowly put a bare foot on the floor, throwing most of my weight on it before swinging my other leg off the drawers and half-sitting in the closet. I crept forward, in a half-crouch with the pendant still in hand, close to my heart. Dad left the door open a crack, with something dark staining the white. I half wanted to touch it, but something in me made sure I wouldn't. Fear closed up my throat when I edged my way out the crack, trying not to make a sound with the door. It had been creaking lately.
    Thankfully this time it didn't. I got through without a hitch, sticking my head into the hall first before the rest of me followed. I tried swallowing the huge lump in my throat, barely choking out another call for him.
    "D… Dad?"
    I started taking a few steps down the stairs until I heard a groan. I never did get over the sound of that. It froze me, almost literally. I just felt a chill up my spine.
    The gurgling didn't stop at all. I pushed forward, every muscle in my body screaming for me to just run back. All I could do was get towards the choking and the bubbling. It sounded as though it were coming from the kitchen. That feeling was still nagging me at the back of my mind. Don't go in there. There's things you don't want to see.
    At this point, I didn't care. I just wanted to know if Dad was okay.
    "Daddy?" I called again, pressing myself against the wall. It still went on. "Dad?"
    My feet were now padding against the tiles of the kitchen floor. From the hardwood to that, I noticed the bloodstains. They weren't exactly like what you'd see in the movies- all bright red and shiny. True, it was red, but it was a darker color than what is usually depicted, and without the light, looked a hell of a lot darker than just red. It was splattered all over the floor. Glass from the dining room window was scattered in pieces large and small everywhere.
    "Daddy?" I felt more panicked than ever in those few moments. My heart was still racing like hell. I passed the scene, staring at it while crossing the threshold to the kitchen. Too bad it was keeping me occupied until I spotted the body afterward.
    His name was Tom Crawford, and he had a bullet hole in his face. He was my neighbor. A weird guy, but he would go with me to school on the bus. Loved music, was in the school marching band, had a crush on Sierra Fowler. He was my friend.
    Just the other day when I tried playing a few games at his place, his parents told me he had some kind of infection. They said it was nothing, maybe sinus or pink eye. Back then, they didn't look too good, either. Jerry, Tom's brother, had to go into the hospital for what they said was pink eye. Lisa, his mom, was pretty pale when I saw her. I didn't even see Mr. Crawford.
    Tom was all cut up to s**t, bruised and shredded. He definitely didn't have pink eye when I looked at him. In fact, all the blood vessels were swollen and broken. His ears were even bleeding. There were even these things coming out of his eyes. They looked like some kind of fungus.
    "Daddy!" I scrambled into the kitchen, where most of the blood was. I could hear the kitchen sink running like crazy. Steam was billowing out of the basin like clouds from a factory. I turned my head slightly. Slumped in the corner...
    "Get back!" He shouted, shoving me back. My butt slammed against the floor while he grasped his neck. There was so much blood coming out of it. All I remembered then was to press my hands and try to keep pressure on it. It was kind of ingrained into me, and it was the first thing I could think of.
    "Daddy, Tom's dead," I sobbed, while he tried swiping my hands away. "He's dead. The window's broken, and…"
    "Baby," he panted, prying my fingers. "Baby, I need you to listen to me, okay?" He gulped, taking the rag I offered to him and pressing it against his wound.
    He pressed a bloodied hand against my face, staring me in the eye. "Baby girl, Lori and Mike are sick. Everyone but you. They're all sick. Now I want you to get out of here, and get as far away as you can, okay?"
    "Not now, okay baby?" He interrupted, rubbing his thumb against my cheek. His eyes were red. It was like the blood vessels were close to popping. "You have to get out, and get to a zone, okay? Don't go near anyone, and stay away from anyone who looks like they'll do you harm."
    "No Daddy, no," I sobbed, voice trembling. "I'm not going without you, okay? We'll get out together, okay?"
    "Baby, I mean it this time!" He said, coughing. He reached for his gun, putting it into my hands. "Take this, and get out. There's only a few shots left, so make each one count, okay? Just pull the trigger, and if you run out of shots just run."
    "Ba-" He stopped, mid-cough as he was stroking my face, and stared blankly at me before his hand went limp.
    "Daddy?" I asked, grabbing his face. He wasn't moving. "Daddy?"
    No heavy breathing. No movement. No frantic clawing of my hands. No pet names. No sounds of pain. No nothing.
    My Daddy was dead.