Chapter 1

The day was going perfectly. The cruise ship, anchored offshore, sat in the water like a ring and perfectly cut sapphire fit into each other. The sand on the beach wasn’t hot as much as it was just comfortably warm and it felt nice between the toes. The sky was such a light blue that it looked like something out of a cartoon. Things just shouldn’t look this pretty.

That’s what Heaven is for. But things did look about that good and who was going to complain? It was the perfect day for the tourists to get off the boat and really see the sights. Nobody was happier than Ms. Eastman was happy there. She was nearing sixty and hadn’t gone anywhere since the divorce. Other than work, the only place she ever cared about going to anymore was the grocery store for more ice cream. And it showed, sad to say. She didn’t feel like anyone paid attention to her anymore. So it was time to get out and just go somewhere. Like the women in all those dramedies she had been watching her entire life. Do what you want. Make yourself happy. Life is about you. Those movies and books had much more influence on her than she would ever admit to anyone. Especially overweight divorcees pushing sixty. People like Ms. Eastman.

She couldn’t lie to herself anymore by pretending she wasn’t a little bored on the boat itself, even with all the comedy shows and all the bars. All the towels wrapped like animals when she got back to her cabin just didn’t do it for her (that’s a lie, she really did like the animal towels). Her friends had been telling her that she needed this, she had been telling herself she needed this, but there was something missing. Something she wouldn’t ever speak out loud without the promise of getting her wish. She really went on this trip to travel to an exotic place, get comfortable with her surroundings…and meet somebody. It’s not that she thought it would happen, but it’s just what she really wanted, in the quietest part of her mind. She’d never have gone on a trip like this by herself or with just a few friends, flying in, having to discover everything on her own. No, she needed someone telling her what to do, where not to go, and what NOT to do. She needed her hand held in a place like this, so a cruise ship with a thousand other people around made her feel safe. But because she’d never been there…it felt dangerous. She felt dangerous without there being any real danger. She didn’t want things “Americanized” for her, with tourist shops and traps; she wanted to see the real Haiti, whatever that was. She sort of imagined the “Real Haiti” to be a place where people and animals coexist together with the people being that much civilized. “Yes, that monkey can come into my house and grab a piece of a piece of fruit off the table- but he better jump right back out that glassless window back into the jungle!” But she digressed. With the money she put out for this cruise to Haiti, the locals should have to put on some sort of musical if she should wanted them to, much less, show her the real Haiti . But she wouldn’t of wanted that even if they offered it. Ms. Eastman imagined some kind of foreign marketplace, the natives chatting it up and bartering chickens and rice. Maybe some young blood from a nearby village would take interest in her and they’d start a passionate whirlwind romance and he’d hunt for her the rest of her days while living in a grass hut with only their seven kids and the bare essentials! That’d make them all jealous! That’d let everyone back home know that she didn’t need the deadbeat husband. It was thoughts like these that made it clear she had no idea where she really was. She just wanted someone to pay attention to her.

Wandering off further than she should have, Ms. Eastman neared the closest patch of jungle she could. There wasn’t nearly as much jungle as she had hoped for, so she took what she could get. She started soaking it all in, picking up her little digital camera and taking pictures of things no one on earth would be interested in. She started taking pictures of things a person could photograph in their backyard of plants that were bought from Home Depot and no one would know the difference. But hey, this was her trip, she should have been able to do what she wanted. And she was in the moment, so sue her. After several pictures of plants and sand though, Ms. Eastman was already ready for something new. So it was just her luck that some weird looking monkey came across her path. It was about the size of a cat and its bulbous head reminded her of someone back home. The orange and gray fur was something she wasn’t used to. Especially considering if she had seen this back home, it would’ve been behind bars, playing with its own turd. Here, it was in its natural habitat, doing the things that wild monkeys do! ….Like play with itself. But also in the tradition of Ms. Eastman’s luck, as soon as she tried to take a picture of the primal native, he jumped off his branch and ran deeper into the jungle, further from beach. She thought about going back, but this was her vacation dang it, and if she wanted a picture of this weird looking monkey that slightly resembled her ex-husband, then she was going to get it! Several seconds later, after finding out that the jungle is NOT the place she’d want to live in a grass hut for the rest of her life with seven kids, Ms. Eastman found her model, sitting on a branch about six feet off the ground, gnawing on a piece of fruit and not getting very far. This was the perfect picture for National Geographic. She would sell it and make millions. Okay, maybe not millions, but definitely a few hundred thousand. But just before she took the picture, the little guy dropped his snack, enticing him to fall from the branch onto the forest floor, picking up the fruit and ruining a photograph. Another picture of plants, only this one had a tip of monkey back in the bottom. Ms. Eastman was getting sick of this.

She readjusted her lens. She focused back in on her subject. This was it. The perfect shot. Again. Ms. Eastman had it if this ex-husb-er… monkey would stay still for another two seconds. “Click” went the camera. And she got it. The way she captured him looking at her while chewing on the dirt covered snack, a person would’ve thought she was a professional. And she felt like one. This was the picture that was going to make everyone jealous that they didn’t come on this trip. This one picture made everything else feel worth it. For just a second. Until she realized something was in the shot. Someone’s feet, covered in mud.

She looked up to see a boy about ten standing completely still, covered in a thin layer of mud. Ms. Eastman jumped slightly and let out a brief scream before regaining herself. She had no idea how long he’d been standing there, or what he was doing.

“Um…hi. Or um… Salu?”

The kid, who was obviously a local, stood still and continued his stare off with nothing. Ms. Eastman thought he might have been mentally handicapped. Something was wrong with him. Besides being covered in dirt, his stomach, chest, shoulders, neck and arms had strange markings on them. They looked like they had been…cut into him. And by the looks of it, it was recently. Strange designs that swirled around, that funneled into waving patterns. Designs that would’ve been interesting to look at if they weren’t cut into the body of a ten year old boy. His eyes were dilated and the patterns on his neck looked especially fresh. Maybe a couple days. But what does he look like he was buried??” Ms. Eastman’s mind raced into a thousand different direction, every thought leading off a proverbial cliff. Nothing she was thinking was helping, she needed to do something. Ms. Eastman ran to the boy, no longer irritated that he ruined her shot and only confused and scared for him.

“Oh my word, what happened to you?”

The boy said nothing. Eastman scanned his body looking any clues as to why he might look the way he did. The boy stood still, his body language telling her he might fall asleep at anytime. She looked at his hands. His knuckles were bloody and the skin ripped. His fingernails were broken and chipped down to the flesh underneath. That is, the fingers that even had nails. The skin there, also torn. But his eyes. The eyes were the strangest part. Even more than the cuts, the blood, the tribal markings, the daze….were the eyes. They were completely black. No pupils, no iris. Just black. Like a shark. She stared into them for a moment, forgetting about a hurt little boy and becoming scared for her own life.

“Are…you alright?”

Still, the boy said nothing. Verbally, anyway. His eyes, reflecting a glint of light, seemed to hone in on her neck. Her warm, fat neck. And he took a bite out of it. Not in the way a vampire would if such things existed, with two little perfect holes an inch away from the other. This was a big nasty chunk. He had ripped a chunk out of her neck and wasted no time chewing on it. Ms. Eastman went into panic mode. She pushed him away as hard as she could, onto the ground and into a pit of spikes for all she cared. She ran out the twenty feet it took to the get to the beach, screaming to high Heaven and anybody else that would listen. Kids were scared, adults jumped. Everyone was paying attention to Ms. Eastman now. And what do you know? A little windowless hut, off in the distance.

The next several hours was the most rapid, disgusting, violent display of disease-spreading to ever be recorded. No one knew what to do, what to give her. Ms. Eastman’s symptoms displayed that of several different diseases and conditions. Chills, fever, and at first, the behavior flare ups usually found in a person with an advanced brain tumor. The medical crew on board the ship tried to calm her down, but nothing seemed like it would do it. Until a good twenty five minutes after the initial bite. The crew had imagined it was the sedatives taking much longer to work through her system than it ever had with anyone else, but that wasn’t the case. She was like the little boy who had bitten her. Conscious, but only in the weakest sense of the word. Like when a person wakes up after two hours of sleep when they need nine. But Ms. Eastman was far from going to sleep. No, she wanted to bite and rip and scratch the skin and insides of anyone that came near her. Or anyone that didn’t come near here for that matter. It didn’t show, though. Restraints can have that affect on a person, making a fully awake being seem worn out. Two hours after the initial bite that would later be known as infection, Ms. Eastman got one. She finally got one. Pictures were taken at the time of her gnashing her teeth, the flash catching her eyes at just the right angle to make it look like a demon had possessed her. It was for the medical records, but they looked like something out of a horror movie. A doctor wasn’t paying attention for what couldn’t have been more than a few seconds and Ms. Eastman, thought to be on the verge of a coma, was able to jerk up off her bed just far enough and take the largest bite out of the doctor’s hand that a human possibly could. He stumbled out of the room, several staff running to his aid to help him. He told them he was okay and he didn’t need their help, just some disinfectant and gauze. But after a few minutes, he wasn’t okay and they couldn’t have helped him. The illness was rapidly spreading and in a few minutes, he quietly passed out from blood loss. Everybody noticed the good doctor sulking into a corner by himself to treat his own wounds but nobody noticed him pass out and pass away. One of the head nurses found him a few minutes later and he was legally declared dead. But that didn’t stop him from waking up and wanting to eat someone. So he tried. Starting with the nearest nurse. Then the nearest nurse tried to eat the closest aid. Then the closest aid tried to eat the nearest passenger.  And there were a lot of passengers. Good times.

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