Sylvan, Read this ASAP!!!

Sylvan, I received a voicemail for you while you were out.... I transcribed it below, and, forgive me for overstepping my boundaries, but.... What's going to happen?

Sylvan, it's Newton. We're through. Everything is ruined. You know what we were working on? It's out and it's FUCKING EVERYTHING UP.

You were wrong, Sylvan. That Dahlia girl is an idiot. Those parasites she was claiming were the cure? THEY'RE NOT!!!

The PTA parasite only went dormant temporarily, and then became much stronger. It's transmitted so much easier now. And it's like they worked together to become.... stronger or something. That girl, that damned dead girl that you sent over here for us to investigate? She died a few days after she got here. Suffocated on her own fluids. 

But the VERY NEXT DAY, she was moving around. You know how long that normally takes them, but she was UP. By the next week, she got out. She got out of a CDC holding tank BY HERSELF. And all she had to do was touch people and they started dropping. What's worse, is that, once she cleared the whole fucking building, she got out, Sylvan.
Patient zero got out.

And I've watched surveillance video feed of her moving across the god damned state. She's doing weird shit, Sylvan. She found a cemetery and picked up worms and held them up to her face, like she was licking them or something. Then she put them back in the ground. Then, a few hours later, there are all these fucking sinkholes all over the place, like a wave of ground giving way, and then you start seeing all these arms and legs just creeping out all over the place. And they start crawling around and it's like a sea of arms and legs and dead bodies.... And they're all following her, even though she's long gone, they're all going the same direction she went.

I know where they're going. And I do apologize for the tactlessness of this letter, but I feel very much out of control. I guess that's to be expected, I did just awaken yesterday. It's like, I'm getting my old self back more every hour, but now there's this other part of me, this craving, this need, this drive to go there and take as many people with me as possible. The desire to drag us all back there gets stronger every hour, and I don't think I can stay any longer. I'm leaving you this message as I follow it. And I want to tell you so bad where we're going because I want you to come with us so much!
We're going home, Sylvan. All of us. Back to the place it all began. Oh it will be a long walk, but we're going there and we're taking all the humans with us. Come with us, Sylvan. The mother will be so pleased to have recruited a mind like yours. We're going back to where she birthed us. You do remember? Back to the rock right outside Nixa? Come with us Sylvan. I don't want to leave you behind.  
:://End Transcription 



The Little Girl in the Dirt

I could hear a thumping on the door. Belle started to whisper sharply.
"They can hear us, quiet, okay? It's not like they can get in, but there's no need to test it."
I suddenly realized that we were in total lock-down. The shudders were down, the air filters were whirring, and the self-defense cabinet was sitting wide open. I had never seen lockdown mode the entire time we had lived here, and had only recognized it because of training we sat through every few months with the CDC. It felt surreal, like I was inside a movie I'd seen a million times. Except I had never been a big fan of those old zombie films. I'd much rather be in a romantic comedy.

"How in the HELL did we get here, Belle?" I whisper shouted. I was starting to lose my cool, along with the earlier assumption that this was all a dream. This was definitely not a memory, and, although things made no sense whatsoever, they were happening lineally in an organized form. Also, I felt hungry. Very hungry. "More importantly, how the FUCK are you alive?" I could feel tears of confusion burning at the corners of my eyes.

"I fucking buried you, Belle, I watched you bleed out. What the hell?" I sobbed.

"I woke up a few weeks ago, I was in the ground, in a garbage back. I didn't have any recollection, but it slowly started coming back to me. I remember your gramma accidentally shooting me. I remember it now, but, I'm so sorry, when I first woke up I didn't remember anything. I didn't even remember my name, I'm so sorry..."

Belle was speaking softly, but the pitch of her voice continually rose, and she spoke faster and faster, as she told me the whole story.

She had woken up, not knowing who or where she was. All she knew was she was surrounded, this pressure from all sides. Her body was surrounded by this slick, slippery, stuff, and it was dark. She tore her way through the plastic garbage bag, and started pawing her way through the dirt. We had only buried her four feet down, instead of the recommended ten, because when we got to four feet, we found a deep bed of rocks and couldn't go any further. But even under four feet of dirt, a small girl like her should have never been able to get out.

She clawed up through the dirt, slowly but surely she emerged into daylight. The daylight had seemed so bright that she remembered trying to scream, but only a gargled moan came out, and she realized that her mouth was full of blood, and her throat felt like it was scratching itself when she tried to make noise.

She couldn't remember anything about herself, all she knew was that it felt good to be out of that pit, the sun was bright, and she was starving. There were others around, also making that grotesque sound, and they were shambling around town. She felt that they were hungry, too.

Then, all of a sudden, she could smell this delicious smell, and, she says, she couldn't think words, but it was like she could read smells, and the smell was fear. If I had to guess, I would say that she smelled adrenaline. She followed the smell, along with the others, and they found a woman, not like them, clean. Breathing. Shaking and speaking.

That was the first spark of memory for Belle. She knew, somewhere in her bones, that she should not touch this woman. But she was so hungry, and she didn't remember who she was or how to think. So she and the others, there were five of them total, ate the woman.

Belle bawled and wept as she told me who the woman was, why the woman had come outside, even though the dead weren't staying dead. Belle ate my grandmother.


The End is Near

Last week, when I went to visit Sylvan, he wasn't in his office. Nobody was in the entire building. I was early, but I was always early. I waited around for about ten minutes, before giving up and walking back towards the entrance door. As I was stepping out the doors, suddenly everything went dark, and I have no idea what happened for a while after that.

The next thing I remember, I was sitting in my bedroom, on the floor beside my bed. Looking at a ghost. I thought I was dreaming. Had to be a dream. Sylvan gone, random blackouts, seeing Belle... That's why I didn't freak the hell out right then and there. Had to be a dream. I mean, how else would I be back at the CDC barracks again?

In retrospect, I should have not accepted everything as fantasy so easily. I should have asked more questions. Should done... something... I have no idea what, but I keep thinking there was some way I could have changed something about how all this is happening.

When I came to, thinking I was dreaming, I sat up and leaned against my old bed, and stared into the eyes of my adopted sister/daughter for the first time in so long.

"Dahlia," she started, the tears in her eyes dancing in the moonlight seeping in from the cracks in the window cover. It had been early morning the last time I could remember, now it was obviously at least late evening, if not the middle of the night.

Belle's voice sounded somewhat different than I remembered it. A little bit more mature, a little bit raspy. But it was definitely her.

"Dahlia I'm so glad you're okay. I'm so glad I found you. That snake Sylvan... I couldn't figure out where he was hiding you. I was starting to think you were dead..."

"Belle, what are you talking about? I was hiding. They were trying to catch me and kill me!"

"No, they weren't; that was a lie, Dahlia."

"What are you talking about?"

Belle looked at me in disbelief, "Dahlia, they've been holding you, hiding you from the world for the last few months. Sylvan's been up to something, but nobody knows what. Nobody's seen him since you left your grandmother's. And so much has been happening.... There's been another major outbreak since you've been gone, Dahlia."

"There's no way! I've been searching every day for any updates, there's been nothing going on since I left."

"Did you not find that a little bit odd? I mean, six months and nothing happening?"

"I... I guess I did..." I thought back to when I had first realized I was being censored. I knew there were things being hidden from me, but this? This was huge. A whole new outbreak? That meant a new strain.

"Have you at least found anything useful since we've been apart?" Belle asked.

That's when I started to realize I wasn't dreaming, because suddenly I realized we weren't alone.



Time is slipping away so much lately. I keep thinking it's only been a few days, and then the next thing I know an entire week has gone by. I'm in a rut. I've started to suspect that Sylvan is keeping some things from me. From everyone here. There is no way that nothing has been found or suggested in the PTA research community. Not a single new rumor or theory in 3 months? That's just unheard of. But no matter what terminal I search from in all of Coober, there's just... nothing.

I'm trying not to let him see how much I suspect him. I've been sort of seeing Jace, bouncing from one pointless customer service job to the next. I've worked in the pharmacy, the grocery store, a couple restaurants. It's amazing how different this place is from most in the rest of the world. Even if Sylvan is sheltering and censoring us, at least we're able to live somewhat human lives here. There are still the obvious precautions that come from a decade and a half of panic, but we're ultimately safe enough that we can go grocery shopping, we can eat meals out of the house. We can go on dates.

It's like stepping back in time, to before everything went crazy. It's easy to lose track of time when you're not counting every single hour as a miracle.

I guess I'm also kind of having fun, too. Jace is pretty awesome. I'm kind of wary of him after what happened with John, but... I like him. He's funny, and he tells me all about himself. And he asks me questions about myself, too. He's the first person who's gotten me to talk about Belle again.

Apparently Jace has two kids, but they're not in Coober. His ex-wife and he got separated somehow, a few years ago, and the kids were with her. They were teenagers, so he still held out hope that at least one of them had made it, but he knew it wasn't likely his wife had made it. She wasn't well, which was really the only reason they were still together at that point. He didn't care about her, nor she him, but for the sake of the kids he knew she needed him to function. So he was staying until the kids were old enough to go on their own, after which, he and she had agreed, they would go their own separate ways.

"And then the whole damn world collapses, and they're all gone, and I find this place. I want to find the kids, but I have no idea where to even start at this point," he told me one evening over tea.

So I started trying to find them, which is how I figured out that there is some kind of censorship on the access we have to outside world. For the time being, I'm not telling him. I want to try and figure out the scope and the cause. But I don't think it's right that someone is keeping Jace from his kids, along with god knows what and who else is affected by this? I have my suspicions about the motives and about the source, but I need more time. So I've been acting like everything is normal, and we'll see what happens.


((Out of Character, totally shameless self-promotion over here, hi!!!))

A word from our sponsor:
The dear beloved author.

Are you in the mood for some angst-ridden, sarcasm-dripping, unpopular opinion spouting nonsense straight from the unfiltered mind of The Author (when she's drinking)? Well, your prayers have finally been answered my friends!

The stand alone writings of a mad woman

And as a thank you for checking out my new blog, I'll even do you one better! The Journals are back in full swing--who knows how long it will last?

((Here's a secret--the more you share, the more she posts! She gets bored easily. But when her view counter and comments section are active she gets a little hysterical!))

The blog is also getting --drumroll please....-- A FACELIFT!

Well, a minor tweaks and twangs makeover, that is. So tell us in the comments! What do you love about the Undead Journals' home? What would you do to improve? I know, I know, it's perfect ((except for the lazy-ass author!!!)) But it's been years now, and Dahlia's desk is looking a little drab. Let's dress it up a bit!

((Lazy author here: any theories as to what's about to happen? What characters do you love? Who do you want to die a slow and agonizing death by parasite? And who's going to be here this weekend for the next episode??? Hopefully I will be. come on guys, it's been like... Three years, and I've been active for like 1/5 of it. I'm not very reliable. But my content is *usually* choice!!!))

So yeah, head on over to the drunk rants page. I tried to make it look like it was supposed to be classy, but it's really not that classy. Just my brain going too many ways at the same time. Most of the posts are shorter than this one, so why are you wasting your time here? Go get your giggle on! They're not all funny. Most of them are slightly depressing. What can I say? I'm a slightly depressed alcoholic. Deal with it.


Now, back to the story......

-She who shall not be named


Need to know basis

Private minutes from the office of Sylvan Watts.
Security Rating: 9817/10000
Any information found here is of utmost confidentiality, and any information found or shared from these records are in violation of the Federal code of Coober, New Earth v5.6, section 8474.234.E. Sharing of information found within is punishable by the full extent of the law, up to and including expulsion. If you are finding these notes in error, please disregard and disengage.


Sylvan Watts: She's doing all right. Not very happy, but she's alive, and, for the most part, cooperating.

Newton Crowne (via instant chat link): That's better than I expected. Good work, Sylvan. I figured by this point she would have started getting suspicious. And her little friend?

SW: Unfortunately, the girl began mutating shortly after she got here. We haven't really gleaned any information from her, except that those bugs are interacting extremely strangely. We've had our best people working overtime for weeks, to no avail. I think the only person who had made any progress on it was Linz, but obviously that's not an option.

NC: You have her notes, right?

SW: We confiscated them as soon as she got here. She asks about them sometimes, if we've made any progress. If her friend is getting any better.

NC: What have you been telling her?

SW: I've been trying to subtly put her down. She's started doubting herself. I've tried to hint at the idea that the parasites she was using were of little help, that we've had the girl in ICU, and that she's stable but unresponsive to any treatment.

NC: So she thinks the parasites are a dead end. Does she know about the state of affairs?

SW: Our networks are extremely heavily censored, and very discreetly so. To the best of our knowledge,through the minor surveillance we were confident in planting, she doesn't suspect that her knowledge of the outside world is lacking.

NC: Has she been searching for anything specific?

SW: She constantly searches for any updates or changes in the PTA database. I provided her a minor CDC alias so she wouldn't be suspicious of my intentions. She looks at that, and occasionally runs a search for Dr. John Smith.

NC: Still got that school girl crush, huh?

SW: No, I think she's afraid he's going to find her still. She has no idea of the truth. She's even been getting involved with an organic member of Coober, his name is Jace. They've been sort of dating. It's very awkward, but it's a great way to distract her.

NC: What's she been doing there, anyways?

SW: She's moved around in a few entry-level positions.

NC: Couldn't you have given her something a little more... keen to her interests? She was never a people person.

SW: No, we tried to convince her to go into nursing. She would have been very busy, very tired, and, I think, fulfilled. But she didn't like the idea. I'm not sure why. It really would have been her best chance at getting back in the field, realistically...

NC: Has she tested again yet?

SW: She's due in about a week, but like you said, she's not really a people person. She's not going to do well, until she accepts her lot in life.

NC: All right, Sylvan, I've got to go. Keep me posted.

SW: Before you go, what is the word on Smith?

NC: Very productive. He's heartbroken, it's great fuel. He figured out what we were up to pretty quickly, but he's still got some of the details twisted. Still obsessed with his alien theories.

SW: It's for the best. The more he thinks we know, the more power he'll think we have. Who knows, when it's all said and done, his alien theories are more plausible than anything else that's not been disproven yet. You know what they say, absence of proof is never proof of absence.

NC: There you go with your religious crap again. Whatever. We'll figure it out soon enough. And when we do, we'll finally have the power to achieve our goals.

SW: You sound like some kind of evil villain with a plot. Give it a rest, Newt.

NC: All right, I've really got to go now. Keep me posted. I mean it this time.

SW: Same to you.




As I approached the Welcome Center, Jace was struggling to get out the door with a brown paper bag and an armful of papers in tow. He made it out the door, but the bag fell to the ground, and a fork, bowl, and metal thermos all spilled out onto the sidewalk. He glared accusingly at the bag for a moment, then at the door, before he started to stoop to pick up his belongings. Halfway down, we made eye contact and he stopped and smiled at me.

"Hey there, Dahlia! Did you get your results yet?" He seemed to have forgotten all about his dishes in the interest of having a conversation with me.
"Yeah," I answered as I approached and crouched to help him pick up his belongings. He quickly remembered what he was doing and bent down to help.
"So, what's the plan then?" He looked eager and hopeful. I guess he figured that I would be happy with my options. They were custom built for me, after all.
"Not really sure," I sighed, "There's only one thing I've ever done, only one job I've ever loved, but apparently I can't do it anymore. So I don't know. I don't know what I'm going to do." We both stood and I felt him trying to make eye contact.
When he found himself failing that, he offered, "Well, what's the closest thing that they gave you?"
"Nursing, but I'm just not... I don't want to. That's not me."
"What did you do before?"
"I was a biologist at the CDC. I studied PTA and infected humans."
"Nursing would be pretty similar."
"It could be, could being the operative word. There could be an outbreak. There could be an infection. But down here? There won't be. It'll never be the same thing. Nursing and studying are two totally different things."
"We need more nurses. We always need more nurses. We'd be in some deep shit without nurses." I found that we were wandering off away from the Welcome Center. I let Jace lead.
"Oh, I know. I'm not saying it's not important. I'm not saying that it's not a good thing to be, or that I'm not glad it came up, or that under different circumstances I wouldn't do it, but that's just not what I'm trained to do. That's not where I feel like I'm useful. I know, I'd be helping people, but not in the way I came here to do. It's all just temporary fixes until they get sick or hurt again. If I help to find the cause or cure to PTA, that could mean a permanent fix."
"Well, maybe there's some route that you can go to get yourself to the point where you qualify to do your type of work again?"
"Maybe, but I doubt it. I'm not disqualified for lack of knowledge, or ability, or experience. I'm disqualified because Sylvan thinks I'm traumatized." I couldn't help but spit Sylvan's name a little. I know he has my best intentions at heart. I know he's just trying to look out for everyone here, but still. Ass.
"Well then, I think that the best route of action for you, at this point, if you don't mind my advice, would be to find something you can bear to do, at least for a little while, to prove that you're just as stable as the next PTA survivor, and win back his trust. I know, you probably didn't do anything to lose his trust in the first place, I know what Sylvan can be like, but them's the breaks sometimes, you know?"

I thought about that plan for a moment before realizing we were standing in the middle of the street, in front of my house.
"Well, this is where I'm headed. Where are you going? Crap, that's a dumb question, you were headed toward the Welcome Center, weren't you?" He smiled warmly -- not pityingly -- at me.
"I'm staying... right here," I pointed at my front door.
"That's crazy!" He put his arms up and some pages fell out of his bundle and scattered across the pavement between us. I live right across the street from you! How long have you been here?"
"Oh, I think a week or two I guess. I slept for a while after I got here."
"Hm. That explains why Denise kept creeping up here all the time. I guess she was looking after you?"
"You mean Sylvan's Drone?" Jace got a little chuckle out of that one. "Yeah, she's been a real treat..." The last line dripped with a little more sarcasm than intended.
"She can be a little... bitchy sometimes," he answered as he picked up his papers.
"That's not very nice," I laughed, "But ohhh so true!"
"Well, Miss Linz, I'm sorry that I led you of on the wrong track today. Where were you headed, when I intercepted you?"
"Oh, actually I was coming up to talk to you. I mean, to anyone. I mean, someone at the Welcome Center. About my results." Smooth, Dahlia, smooth. "Sorry I bothered you off the clock. I owe you one."
"No worries," he waved me off with his hand full of mangled paperwork, "Actually, if you owe me one, I can tell you how you can pay me back." He suddenly went thoughtful and looked me in the eyes with the most serious, pensive expression I think I've ever seen on a man's face.
"If you owe me one, we can have dinner sometime. You cook. Then we can call it even. Unless it's really horrihble, but then I'll just have to figure out another way you can pay me back. Sound like a plan?"
"I guess. I haven't gotten any real, cookable food yet, though, so it might be a while."
"All the more reason for you to decide what crappy job you're going to take. More work means more food, you know." He grinned before turning and calling over his shoulder, "See ya later."
"Bye," I called after him.

Who knew it could be so easy to make a friend? And dinner plans?