When he tripped stepping off the landing of the boatramp to the World Showcase Lagoon and fell, he wasn’t thinking about his older brother Bobby calling him Klutzy Kenny for his whole life.
When his sunglasses bounced on the concrete, he wasn’t thinking about how stupid he’d always thought it that in horror movies some silly girl in ridiculously high heels would try to run away at some point, only to trip and fall and get killed by the monster.
He wasn’t thinking, as his head smacked the sidewalk and a coppery taste filled his mouth, that 26 was too young to die or that being chewed on by a zombie was too cliche.
Instead, he was thinking about his mom carping on him to wear sneakers. “You’re gonna break your fool neck in those flipflops, Kenneth. You have enough trouble walking straight without inviting disaster.”
Well, fuck, he thought. She was right.
The last thing he saw before he died was the Eiffel Tower above the restaurant where he’d made reservations for dinner.
The last things he heard were a gutteral snarl close behind him, a woman’s keening wail of terror as she fled, and a toddler calling, “Mommy! Mommmmmy!” after her.
The last thing he smelled was souring melted chocolate ice cream on a Mickey Mouse fudgsicle wrapper two inches from his left eye on the burning concrete, overpowered a second later by an ungodly halitosis. Its mix of old cigarette smoke and decaying meat were bad enough to knock a body out… a moot point in this case.
Then came the pain, blood red and white hot, as the unseen creature clamped its foul teeth on the side of Kenny’s neck, just above his left shoulder, and ripped out a chunk of flesh. Hot spurts of blood from his torn jugular kept perfect time with his slowing heart, coating the face of the nightmare that was gnawing Kenny’s shoulder to the bone.
When his heart stopped, so did the pain, and he was grateful.
It was night when Kenny opened his eyes again, just in time to see the ticket kiosk before he walked into it, but not enough to avoid it. He suspected it would have hurt if he’d been moving faster, but that didn’t seem to be an option.
He shuffled across a moonlit plaza, France behind him and Morocco ahead on his right. The lagoon, dark and stagnant, was on his left.
He could hear others milling around, their steps slow and halting, their breathing labored and wet, but no one was talking. He didn’t feel like talking either. In the distance, concealed loudspeakers were playing what Kenny and Bobby had always described as “relentlessly cheerful, manic Disney music.” They used to caper, monkey-like, when they said it, but tonight the music didn’t move him.
Something was moving him, though, some restlessness or instinct or itch deep inside his brain. He couldn’t stop, even though he had no idea where he was going or what he was looking for. He was operating on some sort of walking autopilot… or shuffling autopilot, anyway.
He let his feet carry him past the Morocco and toward Independence Hall. He had some idea that maybe he would find… something… inside it, and he closed his eyes to try to picture what that thing was. He opened them when another shuffling body bumped into him, knocking him on his ass. The middle and pinky fingers on his left hand bent backward and snapped when he landed hand-first on the steps. Kenny heard the noise, but there was no pain.
Weird, he thought, as he tried to look at the damage. He grasped his pinky and tried to bend it back to a normal angle, but he couldn’t really see it well. Something was definitely wonky with his vision.
Finally, he gave up, rolled onto his knees and crawled. He wasn’t sure he could stand up, and he wasn’t in a hurry, so crawling would do. He’d made it halfway up the stairs when a smell of warm mammal caught him up short. He didn’t know why he wanted it, but – gods – did he want it.
He scrambled to his feet and shamble-ran toward Italy, joining the throng of those like him who had caught the scent too, and who were just as determined to have it as he was. He realized he was drooling and he was starving and he had to have it and chew it and feel its flesh tear in his mouth and fill his aching and empty gullet.
So focused was he on locating the evasive odor that he didn’t see the low concrete wall in front of him. He felt it when it hit his shin and sent him sprawling onto the baby stroller on its far side. When he tried to stand, his right leg wouldn’t support his weight, and he fell again. He looked down and saw his shinbone poking through his skin.
Well, fuck, he thought again.
He settled into a sort of crab-crawl, on his hands and left foot, dragging his broken right leg behind him. He didn’t hear anyone else nearby and the delicious aroma was gone. Still, he had to keep moving.
Hours passed. Canned music played, the others slowly shuffled back into view and Kenny kept crawling.
Just before dawn, he saw the ugliest cat he’d ever seen climbing out of a trashcan near the gates of China. It settled down to gnaw on something it had dragged out of the can, a corndog or pretzel maybe.
Kenny picked up his pace, gaining ground until he saw it wasn’t a cat. It was a huge possum, and it looked so… very… edible.
The possum didn’t notice him until he was nearly on top of it, then it hissed at him and ran off toward Norway.
Well, fuck, he thought. There has to be some food here somewhere in this world. I’m so hungry.