"Infection" by Mao

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Yeah, I really have nothing to say for myself.

TIME: 0000

It is midnight. The rain is coming down in sheets and you can not — for your life or fuck’s sake — see more than 2 meters ahead of you. You can’t hear much either, nothing besides the sound of rain pounding the roof of your car and the slow, steady splashing of tires rolling through puddles on cement. Tiredly, you squint your eyes, trying to see the traffic signals more clearly. Thankfully, there's nobody else out on these streets endangered by your tenuous ability to drive — they are all indoors and, at least in this part of the city, probably in a strip club or bar.

You are heading to neither location, however, because your boss, you decide, is a bitch and likes sending you on the latest shifts possible. There would never be any bars, strip clubs, or partying for you on Friday nights: not anymore. (Which isn’t that big of a shame, now that you think about it, because for some reason, most strip clubs never have any attractive men doing the stripping.) Maybe it's because you accidentally dropped hot pizza on his face once — you still aren’t sure how that happened — or maybe it's because the other delivery girl was tired of being groped by the sketchy ass characters that are bound to order pizza at this time of night. You don’t know, nor do you care. All you want to do right now is pound your head against the steering wheel or else shoot the goddamn tires that are carrying you through this storm.

It can be worse, you muse. You could be heading to some sleazebag’s apartment, but you know for a fact that the person who you are delivering to is a nice guy. Nice, but touchy sometimes. That's okay: you can always follow up on your threat to shoot him in the crotch. You hesitate even within your mind, though, thinking that if you go through with that, it might possibly cause a tragedy for the female half of humanity. After all, Dante is not bad looking, and maybe if you weren’t out here driving through a hurricane instead of sitting in a club and wishing for male strippers because of him, you would be thinking of doing things to his crotch other than shooting it.

Too bad for him.

“Seriously,” you mutter under your breath as you finally — finally — turn the last corner toward Dante’s sketchy establishment. “Who eats dinner every night at midnight, and who makes it pizza every time!?” As if in a cruel twist of irony, the radio begins to play the pizza company’s jingle at the beginning of its very annoying commercial. Your mouth twists into a deep frown and you promptly decide that you are going to turn the damn thing off.

Just as your hand reaches for the off switch for the radio, though, the commercial is abruptly cut off. The jingle of Pizza Pizza is replaced by the local news station’s, and the talk about pizza is replaced by more serious news.

“This is a warning being issued to all civilians. The authorities have just informed us that everybody should stay indoors for their own safety. They have stated that we are facing a strange weather phenomenon: the rain will reach hurricane-like proportions.” An awkward pause. “I repeat, all civilians are warned to stay inside. Keep your windows closed and all doors locked. Given the conditions, it would be advisable to board both shut.”

Well, fuck, you think. “I am stuck in a hurricane because Dante wants greasy cheese on bread,” you say aloud to yourself. “Where has my life gone?”

The continuous angry phrases said under your breath almost soothe you as you park in front of the godforsaken building and prepare yourself for going out into the rain. Hesitating, you stall by checking to see if you have the address right, but you still can’t deny the fact that you have to go out into that storm to give Dante his goddamn pizza.

The neon sign flashing above the door is unmistakable: “Devil May Cry.”

“I’m going to cry, too,” you continue to mutter. And then you grab the pizza and brace yourself for the onslaught of rain…

…and nothing hits you. Well, there are one or two drops, but for the most part — nothing is hitting you. Frowning, you look up at the sky. It's still grey, but the rain seems to have stopped temporarily. Strange, given the extreme weather warning that you’ve just heard.

You have better things to do than simply ponder about the lack of water drenching you, though. (Don’t question good things, you tell yourself in addition to that.) You have better things like… like knocking on the door and screaming for Dante to open the door.


Dante decides to take his sweet time because it is a good two minutes before the door swings open and Dante greets you. “Whoa, babe, no need to get so angry.” He grins at you. “I know you’re excited to see me, but you’re going to take down the door like that… Then you’ll have to pay extra.”

“You can pay for my hospital bills after I fall ill from the sleep deprivation involved with delivering your pizza,” you say dryly. “And… wait, what do you mean extra?”

“Rain must have slowed you down,” Dante explains as you walked in. “You’re about thirty minutes late, babe. You can have some pizza, though, if you want.”

“…yes. Yes, Dante, I would like some pizza.” And you sit down on his couch and open the box, not even bothering to offer him a piece before taking one for yourself. Perhaps it's rude, but the food is the only solace you have for your incredibly bad evening. “If I’m thirty minutes late, I suppose that means that it’s nearly 1?”

“Quarter to,” Dante confirms before sitting beside you and taking a slice for himself. “Sounds like it was raining hard out there. At least the drive back won’t be bad: it looks like it’s cleared up.”

“It’s going to get really bad soon,” you groan. “I heard on the radio that it’s basically going to get to be like a hurricane, and I live so… far.

Dante smiles at you, then. No, you correct yourself: that's definitely a smirk, not a smile. “Well, you could stay here for the night, if you don’t mind sharing a bed.” And you are too tired to pull out your pistol and take up your long-standing threat of castrating the man. (The female half of humanity is saved, then.)

“I think I’ll leave after I take, like, three more slices of your pizza.”

“Hey, I’m a growing boy! You can’t take my food like that!”

“You’re nineteen, Dante. I’m younger than you. Therefore, I am growing more. Therefore, I need your food. And anyway, I’m paying for it, so you’re really just taking my food.” Nevermind the fact that he ordered it: you are going to ignore that so long as you are hungry and tired, which will be always. “Why do you always order pizza every night at 12, anyway?”

Dante shrugs. “I don’t have any time before then to eat dinner, if I eat dinner at all. Work, y’know? It’s usually pretty slow here, but when I do get a job…” He stops for a second, seeming to search for the right words. And then he so eloquently says, “it gets to be a crazy party.”

Ignoring the bad one-liner, you ask, “What exactly do you do, then? I can’t imagine what kind of job a nineteen year old could do that would have hours like that.” Well, you can — especially since it involves somebody who looks like Dante. Maybe, you think, there is a club out there that will cater to your secret longing for male strippers. And maybe, you continue thinking fancifully, it will satisfy that wish with Dante, and for once you will be able to see him shirtless for a reason other than the fact that the bastard is too lazy to put something on before answering the door for his pizza.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” Dante says, confidently. You were hardly listening to him.

“I bet I would,” you retort, still deeply immersed in your thoughts of Dante stripping for you. Maybe you will finally be able to make his work hours terrible, rather than vice versa…?

“Sure. I hunt demons.”

“And then you take your clothes off, right? ...wait.” You stop, suddenly, and then stare at him momentarily.


“…so you don’t strip? At all?”

It's one of those rare instances when you are being more sexually offensive than Dante, and he's fully confused by that. (And perhaps a little afraid, you think as you consider the way he is recoiling from you.) “Where,” he begins, eyeing you uncertainly, “would you get that idea?”

“It’s a long story,” you sigh, and you are being truthful. Before you can launch into your tale of complaining about the lack of male strippers in clubs, however, Dante cut you off.

“I guess it’s not entirely untrue. I mean, I can strip. Can, and will — if you ask me to.”

“I’m too cheap to pay,” you say, rebuffing his advance. “Anyway, what’s your actual job?”

“I told you. Demon hunting.”

“Right.” A pause. “Well, if you don’t want to tell me now, I suppose I can get it out of you some other time.” Sighing, you stand up and brush the pizza crumbs from your hands. “I should be going, now, anyway, before this hurricane picks up. Can you believe they sent out a warning so late? What are the goddamn weathermen doing! Never mind, it wasn’t even the weathermen: it was “the authorities”. But anyway, I’m supposed to go home and board up my windows and check all my doors for a storm that is happening right now.”

Dante snorts derisively. You glance back at him, wondering what he finds so hilarious about the situation. Maybe, you begin to think, he also dislikes weathermen. But then he opens his mouth and says with something that could not be described as anything but sass, “Is that what they’re telling you? I guess it’s hard to make a cover story for this kind of thing.” Dante smirks, his hand ghosting over one of the pistols at his waist. You nearly feel threatened, but then you remember what district of the city he lives in. Even you carry a gun for when you come to this part of town.

Resolving to ignore the motion he just made, you simply reply, “Oh? What could they possibly be covering for?”

He shakes his head, apparently content with withholding even more information this evening. “Nothing you need to worry about for now, babe. I’m just going on some rumours I’ve heard, anyway. But, hey, if you see or hear anything strange… you know my number, right? And you know my job, now.”

Rolling your eyes, — is he still keeping up that “demon hunter” joke? — you turn for the door… and then you stop when he speaks again.

“Hey, babe?” And for some reason, his voice sounds different: it isn’t cocky or hot or sassy. It simply sounds… worried, you suppose. But this is Dante, and Dante doesn’t worry about you. If he did, he’d stop ordering pizzas and having you come to this sketchy neighbourhood long ago.

Nevertheless, you respond with a soft voice. It's the most civil you’ve sounded all night. “Yes, Dante?”

Dante’s question surprises you. “You carry a gun, right?”


And his final words before you open the door more so.

“I hope you know how to use it.”

TIME: 0100

You carry two things that might raise eyebrows and give the police reason to consider you a suspicious figure. One is almost always strapped to your thigh: it's a pistol. There is nothing fancy about the weapon; it’s just Dad’s old yet reliable revolver. Ten rounds. You find it strange that Dante would bring it up, and under most other circumstances, you would shrug it off as just him trying to spook you. Yet the gravity of his tone makes you finger the cold metal nervously as you get into your car, wondering what he thinks is out on the streets right now. He can’t be serious about any of that cover-up stuff… right?

The thought makes you anxious enough to rush back to Pizza Pizza despite the heavy rains that are coming down. There is still no one on the streets, after all, and you aren’t keen on finding out if Dante is being serious or not. As you drive, staring intently at the road not only because of safety, but also for anything suspicious, you calculate the amount of time that it will take for you to close shop and get home.

“Fifteen minutes to clean up the kitchen if I rush,” you mutter. “Five to make final checks on the place. Actually, wait, it’ll probably go faster if the boss is still there to help me out. But he said he’d be going home early tonight… Something about his wife getting sick? Damn.”

And then you figure that it would take ten minutes to drive home. Twenty-five more minutes out of the house… you’d be fine, right?

By the time you are parking the car outside Pizza Pizza, the rain is once again letting up. It's now a mere drizzle, and you are even able to make out the clouds breaking apart above you. It makes you scrutinize the sky for an oncoming squall — because if there isn't one soon, then you will be a lot more frightened… and a lot more willing to scream at the jammed backdoor.

“Come on, you motherfucker,” you swear under your breath. “Don’t make me break into my workplace for the second time.”

Alas, the door refuses to give way, no matter how much you fidget with the knob. Despite your misgivings about doing something only ambiguously legal, you decide that the five minutes you wasted swearing at the door is enough excuse for you to break out your second most suspicious possession:

The crowbar in your car.

Like your pistol, there is nothing special about your crowbar. It's a bit heavy for you to carry (“I should work out more,” you say to yourself as your chest heaves while you try to pry open the door), but you eventually accomplish the heinous task of breaking and entering. And you cheer a bit when you finally step inside, not only because you have succeeded in getting into the goddamn restaurant, but because a light was still on. Your boss must have stayed behind to wait for you!

In between cheerful whistling and haphazard counter wiping, you yell for your boss. “Hey, Dino! I’m back! Your place is only a couple o’ blocks away, right? I’ll give you a lift!”

Oddly enough, the manager doesn’t come stumbling out at the offer, nor does he yell back in his obnoxiously loud voice. Frowning, you walk into the storage room, the only possible place that Dino could be in besides the washrooms, kitchens, and dining area, all of which you have been through. Perhaps he stayed behind to unload new materials arriving late? It isn’t unfeasible.

The storage room’s dim light is also on, and the mess of new boxes tells you that your suspicion is correct. For some reason, though, there is still no trace of Dino. Briefly, you wonder if he tripped over and knocked himself unconscious: after all, he is known to be ridiculously clumsy. You chuckle a bit at the thought, and decide to yell the accusation aloud. “Hey, boss, did you kill yourself by tripping over a box?”

The reply to your inquiry is nothingness. There is only the noise of water hitting the rooftop, as well as the sound of your own breathing. Otherwise, there is nothing to disturb the silence of a closed pizza parlour, let alone the loud voice of a cheerful Italian man. Face falling, you conclude that Dino must have left the light on by accident and walked home long before you had even completed your last delivery of the night. It is curious that he didn’t organize these boxes, of course, but you suppose that he was too worried to remember to finish up.

Earlier worries half-forgotten in light of your disappointment, you figure that you’ll take the extra few minutes to stack up the boxes and establish a semblance of order in this room. It isn’t something you have to do while closing shop, and it’s really supposed to be Dino’s responsibility — but hey, the man’s wife is sick, and the disorganization of the place bothers you anyway. Frowning as you lift boxes, you wonder if his wife’s illness simply took a sharp turn for the worse, making him hastily leave the establishment in order to join her. That would be unfortunate.

You lift the last box in silence, neither in the mood for whistling or swearing to yourself under your breath. You simply listen to the heavy beating of the rain, the B flat humming of the flickering lights, and the steady in and out, in and out, in and out breaths that you took. It's mindless work, after all, and the noises almost establish a beat for you to work to.

So when your rhythm is interrupted by a new noise, you are quick to notice.

It's difficult to make out. At first, you think it's breathing — heavy breathing — that you haven’t noticed simply because you’ve been concentrating too much on ordering the mess of cardboard in the room. Now, you conclude that it's more like rasping. Rasping from a human. Wind clattering through a strained larynx, that’s what it is. And there is also the distinctive sound of something being dragged along linoleum… something... something like the worn soles of running shoes.

“Dino?” you ask to the cold, still air. “That you?”

As you whirl around, you spot something in the doorframe. It's a fully grown man, leaning against the frame for support, though he must be sick or injured: he's hunched over, blond hair covering his face, limbs dangling uselessly at his sides… and that rasping, that neverending rasping. And after studying him for a bit longer, you can see that something’s stained the front of his uniform: something dark red, almost black in this light…

“Dino,” you say. And then you repeat his name again, this time with more alarm: “Dino! What’s wrong?”

You almost drop the box you had been lifting and rush over to him immediately — but stop in your tracks when he lifts his head up. Where his jaw should be is nothing but air and dripping blood, and where a good chunk of his neck should be is the same. Faced with a man that should be dead, yet is clearly walking, you do the only thing that any self-respecting woman would do.

“Holy fuck!” And you jump backwards in fright. “D-Dino, we need to get you to a hospital…!”

Dino rasps at you some more, then makes a noise that's something like moaning. And then he lungs forwards, arms stretched out toward you — needily, hungrily.

“Motherfucker!” And without a second thought, you jump backward again, but this time you draw your gun as well. Despite the firm grip you have on your pistol, your hands tremble. This is insane, you think as you see your boss pick himself up from the floor, wind still rattling through his vocal chords. Fucking insane.

“Dino,” you sy carefully. “I think — I think you really need to get help right now. You must have rabies, or something... wait, no, that doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t look like fucking rabies and — hey, hey, back away!” You quickly run to the other side of the room, threading your path among the piles of boxes. You hear an abrupt crash from behind you, the sound of empty cardboard shapes tumbling onto the (dead? sick?) man. He does not yell. He only continues his moaning, and his rattling. You whimper.

“I don’t want to shoot you, Dino,” you say, nervous ripples dominating your voice. “But if you continue acting like a zombie, I may have to–”

He rasps loudly enough to make something like a strangled scream, and you promptly reciprocate by shrieking and running out the back door. Once again, you are met by heavy rain that soaks through your uniform — “Damn, ain’t the weather moody today?” — but none of that even registers on your panicked mind. You are too busy slamming the door behind you, fumbling for your keys and groping for the right one in the darkness. When you finally find the correct key, you hurriedly lock the door just as something begins to thump on the metal from the other side. Your head is pounding with blood and adrenaline and fear, and after you hear the lock click, all you can do is drop your keys and let your knees give out. Chilly weather. Cold fear.

You sit like that for several minutes, one hand eventually picking up and clutching your keys, the other still shakily holding your pistol. You are like a cornered animal: trapped between the walls of two buildings in a narrow alleyway, not wanting to move for fear of running into death again. Staring at the weapon in your hands, you ponder, “Was it rabies? Was he ill? Was that… was that really a zombie?” You pause, and then Dante’s words surface in your mind again. You carry a gun, right? A shudder runs up your back and to the base of your neck before embedding itself deeply within your psyche. I hope you know how to use it.

“Impossible,” you finally conclude.

But even then, your body stiffens when something shifts in your peripheral vision and you catch the sight of not one, but two, black silhouettes coming toward you — moaning, lurching…

TIME: 0131

Dante stares at the weapons laid out before him with a calculating gaze. He already has Ebony and Ivory, which is normally more than enough for him, but he knows that loud noises will draw their attention, and he has no intention of getting swarmed by them. He knows that his half-demon blood will probably prevent him from being changed into one of them: it’ll probably make him immune to the Infection, after all. Yet he doesn’t want to test that theory.

No. What Dante needs is something that will cleanly bring off their heads — because he knows that’s the key to killing them. At least, that’s the key to killing them in all the horror movies he’s watched. Whatever. Rebellion will probably do, he decides, and he picks it up and slings it over his back.

Dante whistles as he walks out and approaches his motorcycle. He wonders where he should go to, exactly: he doesn’t want to spend any great effort fighting these things, but only wants to get a good feel for their weaknesses and behaviour in case jobs for them start coming up — which they most certainly will. He sits on his bike for a few moments, ignoring the way the rain is beginning to soak his hair as he contemplates his destination.

And then he remembers you.

TIME: 0145

“Hello?” you call out to the two figures at the end of the alleyway. “Can I help you? Pizza Pizza is already closed for the night.” You know that trying to talk at them like this, pretending that they are harmless people, is futile and idiotic. These things are almost certainly not human. But it doesn’t matter anyway. They had already known you were here.

You simply sit still for a few moments, watching their gradual approach. They aren’t moving quickly, really… but you aren’t surprised. The zombies in horror fiction never move quickly. (Except in 28 Days Later, you remind yourself, but that was a stupid movie.) Why would it make sense for them to move quickly in real life? As for whether or not they really are zombies… you decide that you are presently unwilling willing to take the chance to confirm the answer to that question. Not when your hand is shaking too much to ensure a solid headshot.

One of the walkers at the end of the alleyway rasps particularly loudly, and you jump, remembering where you are. Still a sitting duck in the middle of the city, almost completely defenseless. You should move.

After you pick yourself up, you wonder what you should do. There’s still your car, parked outside… but are you willing to go home by yourself, sleep alone at night, and wake up in the morning without any sort of plan? The notion is ridiculous, you think. At the very least, you should get some form of defense that will last more than 10 zombies.

“There’s the crowbar,” you mutter to yourself. “That’ll probably work. But it’s still in the kitchen, locked inside the restaurant with Dino…”

You walk toward the other backdoor regardless of that — it’s in the direction opposite of the two approaching walkers, anyway. It’ll probably take Dino more time to get into the kitchen than it’ll take you to get the crowbar, anyway. The only issue is not letting these two walkers catch you while you’re trying to get out of the damn place.

Or maybe you’re just going insane, Dino really has rabies, and the two people at the end of the alleyway are actually just hapless tourists who don’t speak English and are simply looking for directions?

Yeah, right. Horror movies are only ever horror because people are stupid shits, you think to yourself. The reality may be that you’re simply being paranoid and that zombies don’t at all exist, but due to the slim chance that a zombie apocalypse may actually happen, you’re determined not to be one of the early casualties. And to avoid that sort of bad end, you will need that crowbar.

It takes you only a few seconds to reach the other backdoor once you break out into a sprint. The distance between you and the two walkers grow quickly, for which you are thankful when you’re left fumbling to get the door open. You pray to several deities that you had left it unlocked. It seems as though it had gotten stuck again, however, and it is only after you beg tearfully to multiple Hindu gods for their mercy and rattle the doorknob for several seconds that the entrance gives way.

You’re quick about running in and grabbing the crowbar. Almost immediately, the sound of moaning drifts in from the storage room, and you pale and find yourself running back outside. You immediately close the door with your foot, kicking it roughly. Your hands are too busy at the moment, after all, dropping the crowbar and fumbling with your keys, searching for the correct one as the irregular staccatos of your pants joins the zombies’ moans in a sick dirge. Almost a minute of nervous jingling and frustrated tampering with the lock passes before you decide to run away rather than wait to become the two walkers’ next meal.

Zombies probably can’t open doors, anyway.

Reluctantly, your hands leave the doorknob and instead reach down toward the motionless crowbar sitting on the ground–when you notice two long shadows beside yours stretched out across the pavement.

It takes a moment for the implications of the sight to register, and nothing truly hits you before you hear a raspy “Aaaaaargh!” being breathed into your right ear. You freeze in place, not wanting to look behind you at first, but then finding it impossible to deny what is happening when a stiff hand shoots out and grasps you by the wrist.


Its grip is impossibly tight. You turn around and, still tugging desperately at your trapped hand, shoot the zombie straight in the face. All thoughts of regret leave when you notice how half the skin and flesh on the walker’s visage has been ripped away, revealing white bone. There’s no way that it can be anything but a trudging corpse, you think immediately. But your relief at not having shot at something human doesn’t last long, eclipsed by your fear at the fact that after the initial impact of the bullet, the dead body can still move.

“The shit!” you scream hysterically. “Did I miss your goddamn brain or something?!”

You finally wrest your hand out of its fingers as you shriek, but the sheer force of the action sends you tumbling backwards, tripping over the crowbar, and falling flat on your ass. You sit there dumbly, heart thudding mercilessly against your ribcage. This is it. There are two undead bodies walking toward you and you — you’re going to be an early casualty, aren’t you? Fuckin’ brilliant.

You’re so busy steeling yourself for the sensation of being eaten alive that you hardly notice it when light floods the alley. But you do notice when the sound of a loud gunshot bounces off the walls, makes your eardrums pound. Bang!, and the zombie in front of you crumples to the ground.

“You gotta aim for the brain, sweetheart,” Dante’s voice tells you as the sound of heavy boots slapping against cement gets louder. “That’s the only way to kill ‘em.”

TIME: 0211

Dante makes quick work out of the two remaining walkers that had been pursuing you. He puts an arm around you and pulls you against his torso, still throwing one-liners at you as he smoothly delivers a headshot. Perfect aim, 10/10. He didn’t even have to glance at it, you think. As for the third undead, it must have turned the doorknob and fallen against the door by chance, because it comes stumbling out of the parlour shortly afterward — and Dante doesn’t even look up from your face as he kills it.

“Come on, babe, I just saved your life, and you won’t give me a harmless little kiss?” he asks, almost sounding earnest as he peers down at you. You’d call him cute, but he lands a bullet in Dino’s brain rather effortlessly as he makes his plea. The act just makes him seem dangerous.

Of course, you’re not actually scared of Dante. Perhaps, under normal circumstances, you would have kneed him in the crotch and started running by this point, but after getting assaulted by three walking corpses, you’re more than a little hardened to any shocking revelations about the world. Somehow, you’ve already assimilated the existence of zombies into your reality, and now you’re in the process of accepting the fact that Dante was probably not lying about hunting demons. (You decide that it is still okay to occasionally imagine that he strips as a side job, however.)

All of this is going on in your head, though. Outwardly, you only roll your eyes and say, “I’m not kissing you for anything after you made me pay for your goddamn pizza.”

“Alright, alright. So if I treat you to pizza, we can — you know?” When he makes thrusting motions with his hips, you slap your forehead. “Fine, the idea doesn’t fly with you. Why don’t you just head to my place, tell me about your day, I’ll tell you about mine, we get a romantic mood going, make out and fall into my bed…”

“Sounds good, actually,” you reply. “But I’ll shoot your balls if it goes any further than that.”

“Babe,” he says breezily, “that doesn’t scare me. You can’t even make a headshot, so how do you expect to hit this thing?”

You study him calmly for a few seconds, tilting your head to the side. His response is to smirk, interpreting your momentary silence as his victory. But then his face falls as you open your mouth and begin to talk again.

“Did you just call yourself small?”

And he has no response.



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