[Editors note: the following narrative was transcribed from a journal found in an evacuated university located in the American Midwest.]
10/3: Ben and I caught one of the zombies today. Somehow she had found her way into the building. Ben is out with the dogs now, seeing if he can find where she got in. I’m sitting here wondering what exactly we’re going to do with her. Run some tests, I guess.
The two of us subdued the zombie easily. We wrapped her in a sheet as she staggered towards us, then bound her arms and torso with chains. I couldn’t breathe through my nose because the smell made me gag. Ben held her head back by her hair while I wrapped her mouth and jaw tight with gauze. The way the fabric stretched and wiggled as she continued to bite reminded me of a sock puppet. The gauze didn’t quiet her incoherent yelling much. Ben said to me, “Man, she looks like she used to be hot.”
10/4: It’s morning. Had a hard time sleeping. Ben is already up, probably with the zombie. We ended up throwing her in the freezer after a long day of experiments. Nothing came up under the microscope. Her cells look like what you would expect from a decomposing woman in her early thirties. No abnormalities in that regard. Ben and I were equally surprised to find her heart still beating, and removing it had seeming little effect on her constitution. That said, we’re unwilling to unchain her and observe her performance unfettered. We’re supposed to get to work on the zombie’s lungs next. Without lungs, she shouldn’t be able to scream anymore. She moans even when frozen. I think to meaningfully examine her further we will need to access her mouth and jaw. I’m of the mind that we need to test her saliva.
10/5: Ben was no go on my saliva idea. He said we’d do that after removing the brain so as to be totally safe. I argued that once we removed the brain, her subsequent zombie death could alter our findings. I told him that it looked like her jaw was swollen behind her molars when I was wrapping her mouth and hypothesized that maybe zombies develop some sort of poison sack as a part of their transformation. We know so little about their physiology. I told him that we could be heroes; we could save humanity; we could maybe get our results to Dr.Vesayaporn. Ben said to me, “Albert, it’s just the two of us now. We can’t afford another hero.”
10/6: We figured out where she got in today. There’s a small gap between the lab and the science library creating a good 20-ft-long, 1-ft-wide passageway between buildings. It’s dark back there, but we can just make out a small tear in the chain link fence surrounding the buildings. There’s a fig tree growing on the other side that further obscures our sight. It doesn’t look like any more have made it through, thankfully. I hadn’t thought of it before, but I guess she is a petite woman. She’d have to be in order to scrape through that small passageway. That explains the tearing on her head and face and the abrasions across her body. We think maybe she was trying to squeeze through as a human to get to safety, even as she was dying. Having died, the zombie pushed on through. I’m about to go help Ben block the passage now. Tomorrow we’ll be investigating whether infection is likely to spread through scratches via the zombie’s nails. We’ll to try to infect one of our rats.
10/7: While there’s something satisfying about taking this monster apart—hacking away at her wrists was particularly fulfilling, for some reason—analysis of the tissue in her nail beds has yielded no results. We were unable to zombify any of our rats by either breaking their skin with her nails or injecting them with her blood. The secret has to be in the jaw. In the saliva. In her damn teeth. Ben wants to remove her brain tomorrow and begin teasing it apart, see what we see.
10/8: It’s just after midnight. Ben sleeps. Oh god. The bitch bit me. The goddamn bitch bit me.
I can’t sleep. I was, fuck. I was just trying to remove her lower jaw. She hadn’t been out of the freezer that long. Ben was going to ruin my chance to test my hypothesis, damn it. Her heart is gone for god’s sake. Her lungs are gone. We chopped off her hands and her feet and her skin is rotting off and the goddamn bitch bit me. I threw her on the ground and kicked her face in after that. Smashed her brains with my boot. Ben is going to kill me.
10/8 (5:47 a.m.): The wound on my hand burns. That she didn’t bite my writing hand is small consolation. Removing samples from the wound, I can see some sort of retrovirus attacking my cells under magnification. I can’t figure out where the virus could have disappeared to in her tissue samples; it doesn’t make sense. There absolutely should have been remnants detectable. My arm is getting cold and I have a fever but I’m afraid to go to sleep. I need to clean up the mess in the lab. Then I need to wake Ben and tell him what I’ve done.
10/8 (10:16 a.m.): He’s locked me in my room with a gallon of water and a bag of potato chips. We don’t know how long it will take for me to die then turn. Logging the time since I’ve been bit was a good idea. I’ll be dead soon and the only thing I can think of to do is write my experiences down. I will observe the process of becoming undead with the greatest scientific acumen. For the future.
(10:45 a.m.): Just realized I don’t need to write the date down anymore. It is unlikely I will survive the night.
(11:30 a.m.): Maybe I won’t turn. Maybe we can figure this out, if we just use our brains. Maybe I’ll be the miracle, the one in a million chance, and together Ben and I can cure me and save the world.
Maybe I should cut off my arm.
Goddamn it, I’m dying.
(11:32 a.m.): What if the virus just attacks your body? Like, what if your brain, your personality, remains active? What if you know the horrors you are committing but can’t do anything about it? That would mean she knew her face was ripping off as she pushed her way through the passageway, that she knew what Ben and I were doing to her when we dissected her. That would mean I’ll know what Ben is doing to me.
(12:17 p.m.): Ben visited me, brought me more water, asked how I was. I’ve lost all feeling in my arm and the coldness is spreading throughout my torso. Ben informed me that the cells he took from my arm now appear as those of a normal, recently dead man. I feel like I’m drowning in nausea. Every once and a while my dead arm will twitch and seems to move of its own accord. When I looked at Ben standing over there on the other side of the room, I couldn’t help but start crying. I told Ben that at least he’ll have another sample to study since I destroyed the other one. He yelled at me, told me he couldn’t believe I had done this; he said, “So stupid, Albert. How could you do something so stupid?” I said, “I know, Ben, I know. But I’m dying, and maybe you can pretend I’m not so stupid for just a little while.” When he left, he made sure to turn both locks on his way out.
(12:22 p.m.): Screw him. He’s always thought he was the big brain out of all of us, but Carrie and Beth might still be alive if Ben hadn’t made me lock the door so soon. I could see Carrie out there in the yard from this very window. Against Ben’s protests, I had come in here from our hiding place in the lab. Rain slapped against the windowpane, and through the deluge I saw Carrie fall. She raised her arm to protect herself as a hollering corpse fell on top of her. Thunder eclipsed her screams. Having fallen on the sidewalk, the zombie began bashing her head against the concrete. I tell myself she was already dead when the zombie broke through her skull and began devouring her brains, but there’s no real way of knowing. We found Beth wandering the yard with a few of the other undead a few days later. She had someone’s bloody fingers stuffed in her mouth. I had to put an axe between her eyes. Ben and I weren’t thinking about science just yet, and we burned those first samples.
(12:39 p.m.): Brains. That zombies eat their victim’s brains suggests an interesting dynamic: the viruses’ hosts are in competition with one another. We know that destroying a zombie’s brain is the only thing that will stop the infected host, so it stands to reason that the zombie virus doesn’t “want” other zombies to be created, otherwise their formerly human hosts wouldn’t seek to ingest the one organ that allows for a zombie’s existence. As such, other zombies are only created through accidents, by the people who happened to get away after being bit, or by the ones who were strong enough to get away. Zombification by natural selection. I’m not sure we should even be calling this thing a virus. Further evidence supporting this hypothesis is that zombies, once turned, have not been observed to attack one another, and seem willing to operate in groups.
(1:13 p.m.): The joints in my hand ache. My fingers are stiff. It’s getting hard to write.
(4:00 p.m.): Ben, you may be the only person who ever reads this and I need to tell you that I’m sorry. For everything. You are a good friend.
(6:34 p.m.): Finally stopped throwing up and shitting. Contents of bowels completely evacuated. Hurt all over. Sweat with fever but cold. Can’t stop shaking. More and more difficult to write, breathing is labored. All I can think of is Ben and how I will try to eat him and his brains and brains brains brai