When I was fourteen years old I once told a girl that I loved her and she let me kiss her. She’s now a lecturer Human Biology at a prestigious university. We all know that correlation does not always imply causation but in this case it does.
After that first kiss and my, thankfully reciprocated, profession of love we became inseparable. We would walk to school together, meet at break times and lunch times, walk home together and then meet in the evenings after tea. For three beautiful weeks were the epitome of young love. We spent our first Saturday afternoon together hanging out in the town centre. Our second Saturday we took a bus into the city and went to see a movie. Our third Saturday together it was gloriously hot and sunny so we took our bikes and cycled out into the countryside. We cycled for miles and miles, past farms and villages and churches until we were farther than home than either of us had ever been without our parents.
That was the weekend of The Rising.
We spent the day exploring the countryside and, once had eaten our packed lunches, we headed back to town. We were freewheeling down a steep hill leading down into the town and were going so fast that we nearly collided with the police cars blocking the lane. The officers told us that there was some sort of a disturbance in the town and they had been ordered not to let anyone in or out. They didn’t seem to know much and sent us back the way we had come. We walked our bikes back to the top of the hill and climbed through a hedge into a sheep field overlooking the town. From there we could see smoke hanging over the town and fires burning all over the place.
We hid our bikes in the hedge and walked back down the hill, sneaking past the police car, and headed towards home. We lived only a couple of streets apart so decided to go to her house first as it was nearer.
We never made it.
We cut through fields before finding a gap in the hedge which lead us out onto one of the main roads into the town centre. It was pandemonium. There were people running, people fighting, people dying, people eating the dead, people eating the living. We stood there stunned until one of them noticed us. He came charging towards us, his face covered in gore, his mouth agape. He flung himself through the air towards her, arms wheeling, hands clawing. I stepped in front of her and was knocked to the floor. What happened next I can only recall as fragments, impressions. There was pain, and screaming and then suddenly I was lying in the field looking up at her face. She told me later that one of another one of them had attacked the one that was attacking me and she had dragged me into the field out of the way.
Once I had caught my breath and she had made sure that I wasn’t bleeding too badly we ran back to our bikes and cycled away from town. Our plan was to hide in an old barn we knew of, somewhere that older kids had parties on the weekend, and to wait until we dared head back to town.
It wasn’t be that simple and, as you know, The Rising lasted for many months.
We spent that first evening huddled together, terrified. It must have been very late when I noticed that my breathing was become more and more laboured and first felt the gnawing in my stomach. Like hunger but much, much, worse. I pulled away from her and she looked at me, there was fear in her eyes. She told me that I looked like one of ‘them’. I lunged for her but she ducked away from me. I didn’t know why I had lunged nor what I wanted but I lunged again all the same. This time she ran towards the door of the barn and I ran after her tackling her to the ground. As I tried to pin her down her hand found its way to a piece of burned and broken breeze block which she used to knock me from her. I tumbled from her and she crawled to her knees and, before I could rise, brought the block down onto my head over and over and over. I did not rise again.
She sat with my body until dawn, the block clutched in her bloodied hand. She was fascinated with the colours and textures of my head opened wide like a book. She kept that fascination as she survived The Rising, as she grew, as she mourned her family, and as she, eventually, went to university to study biology. So, yeah, I once kissed a girl and because of that she went on to become one of the best in her field. Life can be strange. Can’t it?