Fungus | Teen Ink


January 29, 2012
By Anonymous

Author's note: I honestly don't know what spurred this, I just started writing and this came out. It was fun to write, and I intend to write more.

As I ran through down-town Seattle, all I could think was “don't let them catch me.” My backpack, formerly for school use, was weighed down with cans of preserved fruit, re-fried beans, and other canned goods. The pistol in my pocket only had four rounds left, and I couldn't even handle it properly. Anyways, shooting it would only draw more of them, but then again, it would also tell the others where I was. I decided not to shoot the ones chasing me, I'd probably miss, and draw others onto my trail. With my luck today, I might even hit someone coming to help me. This had not been a good day
It started out Monday, when I woke up. My alarm hadn't gone off, so I would have to run to school, or get a ride. “Mom! I woke up late, I need a ride to school!” I yelled toward the kitchen as I pulled my socks on.
She yelled back. “William Thaddeus Smith! How many times have I told you that if you don't set your alarm, I won't be able to wake you up?”
As I walked down the stairs, I started to mouth along. I got the same speech almost every week. I wasn't very good at remembering to set my alarm.
“Almost every week I tell you, if you don't set your alarm, you're going to be late to... Are you mouthing what I say again young man?”
“No mom” I lied, “now, can I start running to school so I don't get another tardy?”
“Fine, but don't forget your lunch, you've already missed breakfast. Oh, and don't forget your science project, you worked so hard on that, I'd hate to see it go to waste.” She said.
“Thanks mom.” I honestly would have forgotten both my lunch and my project if she hadn't reminded me. She may have been my mom, but she was also my organizer, planner, reminder, and any other jobs that fit into that category. As I ran down the stairs of our apartment toward the street I banged on Graces door. She was even worse than me when it came to waking up on time.
“Grace!” I yelled “Get up! We don't want to be late to school again!” The door exploded outward, nearly hitting me in the face, and exposing a disheveled Grace Vernon in the doorway.
'Grace' had never been the best name for her. She had never been gracious, and she always looked like she had nearly finished combing her hair, or her clothes were ruffled just enough to look unclean, or they didn't match. Stuff like that. She also didn't like gracious people, she claimed that they were “Too polite” and made everyone else seem like either idiots, or jerks.
“Are you sure we don't want to be late? I'd love to be late, just one class late. I hate math, and I hate my math teacher even more.” She said, while zipping up her bright green backpack.
“I can afford to be late, unlike you, and I'd prefer not having to go into eleventh grade without my best friend, you only have one tardy left before you have to repeat a grade.” I said back.
“Fine, its a good thing we only live a few blocks away or neither of us would ever get to to eleventh grade.” Grace said.
“Yes, I know, now come on. We only have fifteen minutes to get there.”
As we ran down the street we were joined by the third member of our little gang, Victor Gonzales. Victor was a fast, annoyingly hyper, black haired brown eyed shrimp, and he had an obsession with internet conspiracies. “Hey Grace, hey Will, you wouldn't believe what I found on the internet last night.” He said as his greeting.
Not wanting to encourage the unavoidable spurt of almost always utter nonsense, Grace and I didn't say anything.
Victor frowned. “I'll take your silences as you two saying 'Oh yes, shower us with your knowledge gleaned from the great and wonderful internet'” When he got no reaction from either of us, he continued to ramble on. “Apparently, there's an unidentified fungus spreading from the eastern seaboard that makes you want to be at the highest point possible, and then your body nearly paralyzes. They can't find a cure, and there have been sightings as far away as China. They haven't said what the next stage is yet, but everyone thinks it's gruesome!”
“Who are 'They' Victor?” Grace asked, sarcastically at best “I've heard you talk about them nearly every time you find some startling bit of information on the internet, but I've never been quite sure who 'They' are.”
Just as Victor was about to respond, we arrived at school, and since none of us wanted to be late, Victor just said “We'll talk later.”
I sat down in my seat just as the bell rang and did practically nothing for the rest of the class, and I did the same thing the next class, and so on until lunch break. But right before lunch the loudspeakers came on and said “All students, we encourage you to use hand sanitizer before and after class, this is flu season, and we don't want any of you to get sick.” There were a few groans, and someone said “no-one ever uses that stuff anyways” but mostly people were just a bit quieter.
At lunch Victor smiled as Grace and I sat down opposite him and said “Ha!” when Grace and I looked at each other, confused, he proceeded to say “Remember this morning? When I was talking about the new fungus? That's why they had the announcement!”
I laughed and said “Victor, it is flu season, it was probably just required by the school district to make some kind of public service announcement about washing hands.”
To which Victor responded “They didn't have it last year! And flu season is nearly over, the last person to call in sick with the flu was nearly a week ago, and they had the announcement just after this new disease popped up! Coincidence? I think not!”
When I was at a loss for words, mostly because he raised some interesting points, Grace chimed in and said “That may all be true, but how did you know about the last person to call in sick? You aren't a TA, and you shouldn't have access to any records.”
All Victor said to that was “No, I probably shouldn't.”

After school as soon as I got home I realized that something was different. I couldn't find my mom anywhere. “Mom! Are you here? Hello?” I yelled, but there was no need. If there was anyone in the apartment, they would have heard. As I was going to the door to search for her outside, there was a knock on the door, and I opened the door to see Grace.

“Will, did you see my mom or dad while you were walking up the stairs?” She asked. “I can't find them anywhere.” She looked like she was on the verge of crying. I had never seen Grace cry before, and I haven't seen her come near it since, but her being so close to crying made sure that I believed that something was wrong. We both felt it, in our heart of hearts, we would never see our parents the same way again.

“I can't find my mom either. Lets go up to the roof, maybe we could see them on the street from up there.” I said. As Grace and I climbed the stairs to the roof, we noticed other kids coming out of their apartments, calling for their parents. Some joined us in coming to the roof, while others went to look downstairs. Then we reached the roof.

The roof was crowded with adults, a few kids, but mostly adults. It seemed like the cut-off age was 21, but there were still a few people younger than that. Everyone on the roof had a strange greenish brown coloring to their skin, almost like a mushroom.

Then one little kid, I think his name was Taylor saw his mom and yelled “Mommy!” While he was running up to give her a hug his mother didn't even move, except to look down. Then she threw up all over Taylor, and then a mushroom pushed her eye out of it's socket. There was lot of screaming as the other kids noticed the same style of plant sprouting out of the other adults,some large, some small, some had even made body parts fall off, like Taylor's mother's eye. I even saw Graces parents, each nearly covered in mushrooms, they had been furthest from the door, so nobody had seen them in the beginning, but what will stick in my mind most from that moment were Taylor's screams.

While everyone else was running down the stairs, I was just staring at the adults and Taylor, unable to move. He was screaming louder than anyone I'd ever heard before, all because whatever had been in his mothers barf had started growing, and some of it had gone down his throat, up his nose, in his pores, and mushrooms were growing out of everywhere. As the other kid's ran away, there were already roots digging into him, popping out of him, some were even digging into the roof. When the screams abruptly stopped, I realized that the roots hat hit his voice-box, but the sudden silence broke whatever spell was over me, and I ran.

Everyone else had already left the roof, and before I ran down the stairs, I closed and locked the door to the roof, I didn't want to end up like Taylor, and I didn't want anyone else to either. As it turned out, it was a futile gesture. When I got down to the street, I saw all the other kids that had been on the roof, and some that were already standing out in the street already, looking up. Every rooftop had at least a few mushroom people on them, and about half that we could see were covered. Then I saw Victor and Grace, and I ran over.

“Well Victor, looks like you were right, there was a disease, any advice on what to do now that the cat's out of the bag? Do you have a place where we should hide?” Grace asked.

“Not yet, but I'm working on it.” He responded. “For now, I think we should just get someplace that would be hard to find. We're lucky that this isn't passed by touch, or airborne or we'd all be infected, so it seems like hazmat suits are unnecessary.”

“Why would we need to find somewhere hard to find?” Grace asked. “Whatever is doing this is obviously making them a bit slower than normal adult's.”

“Isn't it kind of weird how fast we're adjusting to this though?” Victor said. “Almost everyone else is still just staring up at the buildings, wondering what's happening.”

It was then when I finally spoke. “I just saw a five year old die, I think.” I said. “He was just looking for his mom, and he found her, and then he was dead.” Then I broke down sobbing.

After about one minute of crying, I finally managed to stop, and Grace, Victor and I started discussing what we should do. Five other people joined us. Josh and Miranda were twins who had just moved here from Nevada, and neither of them talked much, and Miranda was always hiding behind Josh, who was at least six and a half feet. Mitchell kept on talking about how he “always knew something like this would happen” and how he “came prepared” but really all that he had was a ton of canned beans. He was skinny, twitchy, and seemed a bit insane. I made a note in my mind not to get him angry. Allison was from our school, but none of us knew her well. She had been on the track team, and had come over to us because we “looked like we might know what was going on, or at least what to do.” Eventually we all agreed that the best plan of action was to gather some supplies and head to a high place that the mushroom people hadn't infested yet, so we went down-town and split up, agreeing to meet at the Space Needle.

After I had gathered some canned goods, re-fried beans, canned goods, and other things, I saw a gun shop. Not knowing whether or not we would need them somewhere down the road, I grabbed a few pistols, and filled a few clips with the bullets I could find. I kept one with six rounds in my pocket, jut in case.

The more I walked, the more I saw bodies like Taylor. They were covered in a yellow film, and had giant mushrooms growing out of them, not like the small ones that had been growing out of the adults. They were everywhere, covering the roads, in the stores, everywhere. Nearby there was always some decay, normally in the shape of fallen bodies that I think was what was left of whichever infected people had thrown up on the poor people in the yellow film. I tried to stay away from them, Victor had said that it probably wasn't transmitted by touch, but I wanted to stay on the safe side. Then the yellow films started ripping apart.

When the first one came out, I thought I had to be insane. It looked like a mix between a human and a mushroom, and besides thinking I was insane, I was scared, so I shot it, or at least tried to, but I missed by a mile. Right after I shot, it looked straight at me, if you could call it looking that is. Its eyes didn't even look like eyes anymore, and it didn't seem to have a mouth, or a nose, and its ears were just holes. Neither of us moved for a second, and then it started chasing me. I ran as fast as I could toward the Space needle, taking any back alleys I could, and all around me more of the yellow shells were cracking. I shot one that was cracking as I ran toward it, and this time I hit it right where I needed to apparently, because the shell stopped cracking, but after I shot, even more were chasing me. All I could think the whole time was “don't let them catch me.”

I arrived at the space needle just in time, the doors to the elevator were closing, and I sacrificed a sneaker to get in. “Did you guys see those things out there!” I yelled.

“Of course idiot! Who could miss giant walking mushrooms?” Mitchell said. “Anyways, what do you have that you scavenged? We should all share, that way we know what we need to get next time we go.”

“Next time?” Allison asked. “You think we're going to have to do this again? Won't some government get us out of this mess by then?”

“Well, considering how everyone over the age of 21 was effected, and even some people under 21, I'd say that there is not going to be a government rescue” Victor said “however, we can probably survive, find other survivors, and eventually hope that this thing dies off. Who knows, maybe winter will kill it. But for now, I agree with Mitchell, lets figure out what we need to get next time.”

Everyone had taken canned goods from some store or another, and everyone but me had taken some blunt weapon to bash in the heads of the mushroom-men, but they all liked that I had found some guns. The only weird thing was that Josh and Miranda (the only group that hadn't split up) had grabbed a bunch of those fire safety ladders that little kids have outside their window. Probably enough to actually reach the ground from the top of the space needle. When Mitchell asked why they grabbed this, Josh simply said “When the electricity goes out, and the elevators don't work anymore, if we can't find an access hatch to some kind of ladder down, we'll need to make our own.”

After we reached the top we all realized that we had no sleeping bags, and decided to sleep on the floor. It was too dark to go out without the risk of being turned into a mushroom person anyway. The next morning, I woke up to a rainy Seattle. I realized we had forgotten to check the roof and upper area for mushroom-men, took a pistol and decided to check. Luckily there were none there, I don't even know what I would have done if there were. I came back inside to find the power out, and Grace awake.

“Darn. I was kind of hoping that I would wake up and this all would have been a bad dream” She said as she yawned “I would have been fine with going to school after this.”

“I think that's what all of us were hoping for. I'm still waiting for one of you to start telling me to wake up. Sadly, I don't think that will happen. I'd rather not have been killed by mushroom-men. I always thought it would be aliens for me.” I said.

“Don't think of this as the end!” She said surprisingly cheerfully. “Think of this as a chance to reinvent yourself, a new beginning.”

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