Ever since I died I feel like I can’t connect with anyone.
It’s like I’m dead to them.
They see me though. Sometimes, when I’m most afraid, I wave my hand in front of their cold, unmoving faces, and briefly, their eyes focus on my hand and then up my arm to my face.
And then nothing.
What got me was cancer. In my liver.
But I’d take it all back again, the cancer, the smell of that hospital with the freezing cold floors, the puking, the feeling like I had barbed wire in my veins.
Anything but this.
Being stuck here, in this world that I was once a part of but no longer, surrounded by them.
They’re the dead ones. The real zombies.
They all belong to the host. Or, they’re part of the host.
I haven’t figured it all out yet.
Like why I’m here, with them but not with them.
And where here is.
Did I really die or am I the last survivor?
Here’s what I do know:
My name was Ben Robertson.
I was diagnosed in 2015 and started treatments in 2016.
It was hell and it finally ended in 2018 when I died at St. John’s Hospice in Baltimore, holding the hand of a young nurse named Katie.
But I didn’t die. Not really.
Not all the way.
I woke up in some bright lab, naked, scared. Surrounded by glinting steel and glowing screens, views of myself from all angles. One window, black as night.
Next thing I remember is walking in the street, in a crowd of them.
I thought, If this is real, if I’m still alive somehow, I’d rather be dead.
Or maybe this is the afterlife… Or purgatory.
And me stuck here like a ghost. Caught between realities.
That’s all I know for sure.
Not much, is it?
Maybe the lab… Maybe some answers…
Confused, I found myself among them again, letting the horde lead me across town.
To where? Where they… held me? Saved me?
Moving past shuttered storefronts, I see something.
One tall gray building stands out.
I push my way through the crowd toward the entrance.
The knob turns and I dash inside, slamming the door, holding it shut.
There are sounds behind me.
They’re in here too. Slowly walking toward me, away from me. Not seeing me.
As I make my way down the hall, doors open and close to me on both sides.
I focus on finding the room I was in, focus on the door to that room.
Not on the man suspended upside down with dozens of tubes attached to his insides.
Or the white cart with human brains floating in a tank, or the disembodied head under glass.
Focus on the room. On the door.
Which one? Which door?
Their cold faces pass, each one different yet all of them the same.
I see my door. Door #45.
I don’t know how I know that but I do.
I can see it clear as day. Clear as the day I woke up here.
My door is unlocked.
The room is empty.
Nothing. No answers.
Just the bed with its steel rails and the rows of monitors, now silent.
And the black window.
Staring into that void, I see myself. As I strip down my empty gaze focuses on the reflected room behind me.
They have gathered in the doorway, sealing me in.
Afraid to face them, I start pounding on the window.
Down and down I bring my fists like twin battering rams. The glass begins to break into smaller chunks that drop to my feet.
My eyes closed against the flying shards, I feel my fingers being shredded but I don’t stop.
I can sense them behind me. They’re close now. Their hands reach out to me.
The shards slice and scrape as I force myself into the hole.
They try to grab me but my naked body is slippery with blood and I tumble through the window, no longer trapped, no longer a prisoner.
It feels warm and safe.
It feels like home.