It came at you first like an unexpected chill breeze on a warm day. Most people never had a chance to figure out what was happening before it was too late. Only the lucky ones, the ones already ruined, like me, were able to defend ourselves.The terrifying first installment of Heartland Junk, a zombie apocalypse serial novel! Part II: Sanctuary out now!–Rivet began pacing, tearing at his hair with both hands.”They’re in me, man. In my head. I can’t…all night, they’ve been talking…whispering…telling me things.””Who has?””These, I don’t even know, man, these voices. And like, I’m seeing this darkness. It’s so deep. I haven’t touched a needle in two days, but please, Ray, please. You gotta help me out.” He stopped pacing and turned to me, eyes pleading. He’d burst a blood vessel in his left eye and a tributary of red ran across the white from the pupil. He looked sick. I noticed his hands, now held out to me like a beggar’s, were shaking slightly.This wasn’t the Rivet I knew.”Give him some, Ray,” Jennie’s light voice floated up from the couch. I’d almost forgotten about her, watching Rivet carry on like this. It was frightening, in a way. “Can’t you see he needs it?””I, uh…yeah, yeah sure, man. Just let me…” I turned to look around the living room, searching among the overflowing ashtrays and crusted dishes for that little brown baggie filled with powder. Something pressed at the inside of my skull, like that feeling right before a killer headache. It was hard to think. I needed coffee, a cigarette, hell, a hit of my own wouldn’t go down too rough. “I uh…Jen, what’d we do with it last night?””Kitchen?” She sat up on the edge of the couch and let the quilt fall to her waist. Rivet had stopped pacing and was staring at her like a row of corn had sprouted from her forehead.”…Rivet?” Jennie said cautiously. “You okay, hun?”Rivet licked his lips. Then he calmly leaned down and bit Jennie’s ear off.Jennie screamed so loud it was almost like I didn’t even hear it. It was too shrill, too piercing, and my senses just let it pass over them like a surfer ducking under a wave he can’t take. All I could do was stand there while blood streamed down Jennie’s cheek and ran past the corner of her mouth. I could only watch while Rivet stood straight and bit down again on something that crunched like chicken gristle while he stared blankly at the wall in front of him and Jennie’s blood trickled down his chin and he chewed something that was exactly what I knew it was but couldn’t seem to make myself believe it. I could smell the blood, but I didn’t believe it.Then the world took over again and Jennie’s shriek was hammering at my ears and I lunged forward and pulled Rivet away from her, shouting at him. He just gave me a dumb look while his jaw kept working up and down and the wet pop of gristle slithered out of his mouth every time his teeth came together, and then he swallowed, used his tongue to clean a scrap of Jennie’s ear off his molar, and said, “What’s wrong, Ray?”I punched him so hard his nose shattered and sprayed little red droplets over the gray wall three feet away. I know now that he wasn’t completely gone, because something about that punch knocked him back into his own head. He writhed on the carpet, screaming again about voices in his head while I backed slowly away. I had no idea what to do. I looked at Jennie, hoping she could tell me something, but her eyes were wide and teary and just as confused as my own. She’d pressed a hand to her ear, and when she pulled it away now it made a sick shhlurrp sound and little slimy strings of blood trailed back to her head like spiderwebs.It might be a testament to our lifestyle back then that I didn’t even consider calling the cops. When you become a junkie, you learn to deal with your own problems.