Carla woke to a searing pain on the side of her head. She touched her hand to her hair and came away with blood. More of it was on her face. She scrambled off the floor, frantic to find her daughter.
“Sofie! Where are you bunny?”
Carla was alone in the unfamiliar bedroom. She didn’t waste a second trying to figure out where she was. She needed to find her daughter. Did someone attack me and take her? Carla shuddered at the thought of a violent stranger alone with Sofie.
Carla crept out of the room and into a hallway. She felt along the wall for a light switch and was sorry when she found it. There were bodies strewn about like extras in a horror movie but none of them were small enough to be a toddler so Carla stepped carefully around them. The smell was awful; she took a few shallow breaths through her mouth but it was too much. She tried to vomit around the body parts but was sure she’d gotten some on a man’s leg.
“Oops. And he has no arm to wipe it off.” Carla used her own sleeve to wipe the leg clean. Was cleaning body parts a sign of shock? She heard someone scream upstairs. The shock was quickly replaced with adrenaline. It wasn’t Sofie but so far it was the only other sign of life in the house. Carla found the stairs and rushed up, no longer careful to avoid the gore that surrounded her.
The screaming had stopped but she could hear something, almost a gurgle but not quite. Carla opened the door closest to the landing but all she got was more death. Blood splashed the walls like a grotesque paint job but still, no Sofie.
Wedged in the doorway of the next bedroom was a young woman, no more than twenty-one. She was alive, just barely. The woman’s stomach and part of her left thigh was mangled. It looked as though she were attacked by a wild animal. She was coughing up blood but her mouth still tried to form words. Carla bent down to listen and took the woman’s hand in her own.
“Don…don’t go in,” she warned, “Not a girl…something wrong with it.”
Carla dropped the young woman’s hand and ignored her advice. Once inside the room, she didn’t see any cause for alarm. The bedroom was empty. Following a trail of blood, she entered the adjoining bathroom. Sofie was huddled in the corner of the bathroom but she wasn’t alone. A man was curled around her and Carla didn’t dare make any sudden movements. He was too close to Sofie and Carla wouldn’t be able to take him in a fair fight. She needed to distract or surprise him.
Carla inched across the tile floor quietly, trying not to call attention to herself. The man was turned away from her and didn’t look like he had a weapon in his hands. Maybe if I can get close enough…
Just then, Sofie turned and Carla saw that she had it all wrong. The man didn’t have Sofie. She had him. Carla gagged and backed away from her daughter. Sofie had a chunk of the man’s flesh in her tiny hands and was chewing on a piece of him, her beautiful mouth lipsticked with blood.
“Oh Sofie. Not you, not my little baby.” Tears washed Carla’s face of blood but it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did. Carla knew what had to happen; it was the only thing that made sense. It went against her instinct of survival but she couldn’t care about that when she felt so empty.
Carla had heard rumors of a virus that caused cannibalism and catatonic schizophrenia but until now, she didn’t think there was any truth to them. Those same rumors advised a sharp blow to the head or restraints but Carla knew she could do neither.
Sofie stumbled forward and Carla caught her before she could fall. Carla brushed her daughter’s hair from her face as she’d always done and still couldn’t look at Sofie with anything but love.
“I’m so sorry bunny; I was supposed to protect you. It’s okay though, mommy’s here. I won’t leave you.”
Sofie started clawing at her mother’s chest and Carla cooed, “That’s right bunny, I’m here. Take what you need and feel better.” Carla closed her eyes and smiled as she thought back on happier days. Sofie’s laugh, her first word, how the sun made her hair just a little more golden; Carla would miss it all.
The pain of Sofie’s teeth wrenched her back to reality. Carla held her daughter closer and tried not to cry because she knew that dead or alive, she would give Sofie anything, even her last breath.