To this day, I remember every detail of the morning when the world began to crumble. Like something out of a movie, the widening gyre of the world started to unravel, throwing my life into its maelstrom.
A golden beam of sunlight broke through the gap in the curtains and glittered insistently through my eyelids. Before I was even fully awake I was aware that it was the most glorious day of the week: Saturday. A full day to do nothing without having to think about the pile of homework festering in my backpack.
Yawning cavernously, I rolled over content to just lie there in the silence. It really was a blessing to live out here in sleepy suburban Colorado, even if I did sometimes miss the frantic tumult of New York City. At least here there wasn't a yapping dog in the next apartment over.
Finally, I steeled myself mentally for the rigor of consciousness and hopped out of bed in a perfectly executed ninja leap and headed for the stairs. I could hear steady snoring coming from my older brother, Michael's, room. How typical. Michael had gotten the bear-like Russian genes in the family and made it a habit to hibernate for at least twelve hours every night.
Upon reaching the kitchen, I found my mom sitting at the kitchen table staring half-conscious at the newspaper, clutching an overflowing cup of coffee like a life preserver. "Morning, Mom." I yawned, yanking a banana from the fruit bowl and bypassed my comatose mother.
I meandered with my banana into the living room where my Dad slouched in his favorite chair watching the morning news with a grim look on his face. He was so intent on the television, which was unusual, that he didn't even look up. "What's on the news, Dad?" I asked, breaking his reverie.
"Oh, good morning, Maria." He grunted. This early in the morning his gravelly bass tones sounded a bit like a rock falling down a mountain. "There's some new disease that's been breaking out in small amounts all over the world. It's some kind of rabies, apparently."
So wash your hands regularly and stay away from any suspicious animals, folks." The combed over newscaster was chirping. "And over to you, Anna, with the weather."
The camera switched over to a view of a gray-faced, haggard-looking woman. "Amen to that, Bruce," rasped the weather woman. "It's a very dangerous disea"
I jumped as Dad switched off the TV suddenly. He remained silent for a moment, lost in thought. "
So what does this disease do to people?" I asked. I half expected him to simply wave his huge hand and mutter something about another swine flu scare, designed to bolster the media.
When he did speak, it was slow and cautious. "Maria, have you heard that there was an outbreak of this disease not far away from here?"
"No." I answered. I mentally slapped myself immediately after saying it; This was going to turn into another lecture on being observant.
"Well, there has been, and it's very infectious so we're keeping you and Michael home from school for a week or so until this blows over." My father replied. I didn't reply for a moment, munching on my breakfast. Dad was nearly always an attendance stickler. He never let Michael or I stay home unless we had a fever or were projectile vomiting. This new threat on the horizon was menacing indeed if it had shaken my father so badly.
He sighed and stood up, towering over me. "Don't worry. It'll all blow over soon." Though his words were firm and blunt as always, I somehow doubted in his belief in them. A minute after he left the room, something that sounded very much like a stampede of elephants came thundering down the stairs. Sure enough, Michael appeared in the doorway a moment later.
"Hiya!" He chirped, tackling me. Michael was seventeen at the time, though he acted about ten. He was tall, like our father, but lanky with softer grey eyes and chocolate curls. "Have you heard about the new zombie virus?" He asked.
"Yeah," I replied, trying to save my banana from being crushed. Then the reality of what he'd said hit me. "Zombie virus? Are they really calling it that, or are you just being stupid?"
"No, they really are. And without further ado, I'm gonna eat your brains!" He squealed and started tickling me, dragging us off the couch and onto the floor in a tangle of limbs. I laughed, proclaiming that I'd eat his first. Michael and I have a strange relationship for teenage siblings. We're very close, probably from never living in one place long enough to make real friends. I love him dearly, but sometimes I wonder how in the world he got placed in such a serious, work-oriented family as ours.
Mom stuck her head around the doorframe, her thick eyebrows furrowing over her dark eyes. "Knock it off. This is serious. Oh, and until this blows over, curfew is now sunset."
"Killjoy," Muttered Michael. "Wanna go swim, Maria?"
"Sure," I replied. It was warm for early May and Michael and I had been regularly taking advantages of this new house's pool. I ran upstairs and put on my brown tankini, wishing my legs were a bit thinner. I'm five foot seven, taller than average, but not too twiggy.
When I got outside, Michael was waiting for me. He immediately cannonballed into the deep end, trying to splash me. While dodging out of the way, I noticed the neighbor kid, Tyler, across the fence. I flashed him a smile and waved. He hopped the fence and paced over.
Tyler was the only guy I'd ever been interested here in Colorado. He was only a little taller than me with flashing blue eyes and short, sandy hair. That day he looked pretty tired even though he smiled at me.
"Hi, Tyler," I said, flicking off my sandals and sitting by the edge of the pool.
"Hey Michael. Hey Maria." Tyler sighed and dropped down on the concrete beside me. "Have you guys heard of the 'zombie virus' yet?"
"Yeah," Replied Michael, too quickly, before sinking a couple inches further into the water.
Tyler continued without commenting. "My little cousin had it."
"What do you mean 'had'? Do they have a cure for it?" I asked, frowning.
died," He murmured.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered, putting a hand on his arm.
"No, it's ok. She was too little to know what was going on. The thing is, we're taking care of her mom too. She's
sick as well. That's why-" Tyler was cut off by a bloodcurdling scream issuing from the direction of his house. The shriek was immediately followed by a monstrous groan that echoed around the yard. At the same time, Michael vaulted hour of the pool and Tyler leaped to his feet.