by Tabatha Stirling

It's New Year's Eve, I'm 23 years old and soon I'm going to eat somebody. 

             When the outbreak started, I mean, really first started and tiny rumours like petulant scorpions ran haphazardly through the unit — most of us just shrugged and carried on.  You don't get born in Queens just to go down that last dark road whimpering.  You go down shouting, gouging, biting, spitting.   Ironically, this was to prove much truer than anybody had thought. 

             But the gossip weaved and sang and whispered it's way into people's ears and then their hearts and the fear took hold.  Withered barflies exchanged nervous glances as they tossed back an extra shot for luck and live.  Facial tics became more pronounced and dogs began to refuse to leave their houses, growling low and profound, their hackles rising in a fast concluding premonition.

             And the emergency center at NY Hospital Queens was doing a brisker than usual trade.  At first we were treating nervous conditions, panic attacks, high levels of anxiety and angina.  Then the wounds started arriving and everything went Mexico City south in a flash bang.   For starters, the blood would not stop flowing.  I do mean that literally.  There was some form of anti coagulant in the infected's mouth or chomper hell that was screwing up the healing.  And then the tempers started fraying and the rage pushed itself forward all dressed up in crimson and body parts and the biting started.  And the compulsion and whatnot.

             I'm a stabby hands.  A blood taker. The Queen of the Needle.  The eternal joke at a party.  ‘Least I have a fucking job, cocksucker', I often smile to myself whilst a good ole boy mimes Vampire shit behind my back.  I take the blood, I tape the blood.   I label the blood.   I pass that shit onwards to the radiant white-coated skinnies up in the lab.  Myopic farts that dither and dather in the presence of a real live meat bag. 

            I am not going to set the world on fire or kill four people from a clock tower.  I will never write the book everybody has inside them.  The pains and loved up sweat of labour will evade me.  Because of one second of fucked focus.  One thrashing biter and a needle tip not being where it was supposed to be.

             So here I am.  Huddled and shaking like my cousin Barb who came off her Temazepan too fast.  My jaws mashing together and an autophagic hunger coursing my brain, fizzing to the very brim of it.   My fingers are gnawed and blood stains my once virgin ski-slope, lab coat.  

            I pillage a deep breath as the doors bing-bing open.  And all I see is fleshfleshfleshfleshfleshflesh.  Limbs, necks, acres of skin and beauty and bone and blood and succulence.  And I am gone, byebye lost in a Volta of graceless, feverish feeding with the sweet sounds of death banging against the insides of my lines.

New Years Day Queens, NY  2023 12.01 am