It started the way a lot of things in America started: in London.
Kurt remembers the news reports, watching them with Rachel's head resting on his legs on their couch in New York, laughing along with everybody else when comedians and the internet started to call it "The Real 2012" and snorting whenever he heard the word "zombie." He's still not entirely sure if that's what they are, if they're actually undead, the zombies he used to have nightmares about when he was little. He just knows that they're something, and they're something bad, and they're something that can and will turn him into whatever they are.
There was this woman from West London, she was the first. She lost a lot of weight and her skin became chalky and grey and the whites of her eyes yellowed. She made the local news because doctors couldn't for the life of them figure out what was wrong with her, but she made national headlines when she bit one of her nurses. International coverage began when that nurse started showing the same symptoms the woman was showing.
People laughed it off as a fluke, because that's what people always do. You spend your entire existence on a planet, on a continent and a country and in some state and in some town in that state and you never think about the end of that. You might fear death, but you never expect it to plan an ambush.
A month in and there was almost 500,000 victims in the UK. Experts were called in, entire cities were quarantined. Kurt can't pinpoint the exact moment when the mood on the news went from light and joking to seriously saying the words "zombie apocalypse," but it seemed to happen overnight. Suddenly it was a real issue. Suddenly all flights to and from London were cancelled indefinitely, and there were stories about people's family members, mothers and fathers and sisters and boyfriends, stranded overseas.
A month after that they were told not to expect to see them human again.
Kurt can't remember that moment, either. The exact moment when people decided that the people that were sick with whatever this was weren't human. When a bounty was put on their heads, when governments started providing people with clubs, and explaining that the human race was at war.
Kurt doesn't like to think of it as a war. He's never been entirely anti-war, but he liked to think that he had seen enough violence in his admittedly short life, and he didn't need to be the cause of any of it.
He didn't always think that way, though. Once it became apparent that this wasn't some elaborate BBC hoax, things got serious for him. He and Rachel would still watch the news on their couch, but instead of lazing around they stared at the screen completely transfixed, Rachel chewing on her pinkie nail nervously the entire time.
The first case in the United States was a man who lived in Los Angeles. That was when the real panic started, because that man hadn't been to the UK in a year and a half. Suddenly there was even more mystery around what was happening. Mystery brought with it fear, and with fear came panic and anger. That man was killed by some guy who thought he was doing America a favour. People weren't sure what to do, because everyone thought, in the backs of their minds, that he had. Until about a week later, when that man was admitted to the hospital with the same symptoms as the one that he killed. It was discovered later that the man had gotten the infected man's blood on his hands, and even though he washed his hands, even though he sanitized them until they were read and scratchy and he didn't rub his eye until a day later, he still did it, and it still carried to him. That man was still praised, if only because now doctors at least knew more about how it was transferred.
That didn't stop it from transferring, though. The second American managed to infect four people before he was eventually taken away somewhere by the military, and then Los Angeles was as good as done. The city itself barely even existed anymore, and the government issued a statement explaining that everybody in the city was infected or dead or both. That meant Puck, Mercedes, and, to the best of Kurt's knowledge, Jesse. There was a televised memorial for Los Angeles and again Kurt and Rachel sat on their couch, crying for their friends and the people that made the city of angels a literal nickname. There weren't any more memorials like the L.A. one anymore; there was no time for that.
By the time everyone realized the infected usually came from big cities, it was almost too late for Kurt and Rachel. New York, amazingly, hadn't felt the effects of the epidemic. They simply watched as Miami fell, then Georgia, then Dallas. There had been rumors of a city-wide evacuation, and many people left, went to small towns if they recognized the pattern or went north if they thought it was heat that made the virus spread faster. All around the city, all around the world, people were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Kurt and Rachel made a pact: they were going to stay until it was absolutely necessary to leave, until their friends were gone and the city was in ruins. They weren't going to give up their city for nothing.
But then they got Blaine.
Kurt had thought that his family would be safe, in a little pocket of the Midwest that was hundreds of times smaller than the cities that had already been closed down, but that didn't mean he didn't worry. He spent every waking moment worried but trying to brush it off, to lose himself in work until they decided it was too risky to stay open and left the city. He gripped the phone too tightly whenever his father called to assure him he was okay and beg him to come back to Ohio, and when he asked "hello?" when he picked up the phone he always let out a sigh of relief when he heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
That day, though, Kurt knew there was something wrong in Burt's voice. He didn't know how to tell Kurt, he tried to avoid the topic when Kurt asked if everyone was okay, but Kurt could hear that his father was hurting. He remembers the way his entire body seemed to turn to icy rock when he realized that meant it was Carole, Finn, or Blaine.
When his dad finally told him, when his voice just gruffly breathed out Blaine, Kurt collapsed. His legs gave out, and Rachel rushed to his side, her eyes bright with panic for her own family. He didn't realize he was screaming and crying until his throat started to hurt and he felt the taste of tears in his mouth. After that, there was no doubt at what he had to do. He was gone by the next morning, renting a car and driving to Lima because air travel was banned in the states at that point. Rachel was with him, because Rachel would always be with him, and she gripped his arm tightly when she noticed a hitchhiker a few hours into the drive. She had a sunny yellow dress on, which didn't at all match the grim look on her face or the mood Rachel and Kurt were in. They drove by slowly, but not slow enough for the person to get into the car, just in case. Rachel yelped when she realized it was Quinn, and she let out a gasp when she realized she was healthy.
The three of them made it the rest of the way to Lima without incident, though they saw more than one person walking on the side of the road that wasn't healthy by any means.
That was around the time people started thinking it wasn't going to do much if a city was quarantined, but quarantining just the infected might be effective. These massive walls were constructed, going up faster than any building. The infected were shipped into their zones, and cameras were installed so doctors could monitor their symptoms and see if there was any hope of finding a cure.
They installed a few windows in the walls of the zones, fire-proof, bullet-proof, the-strength-of-hundreds-of-maybe-zombies-proof. Kurt doesn't like seeing the people through the window, the once-familiar faces now distorted and grey, drooping with the weight of their illness.
He hates leaving Amelia; he can never stop thinking about that part in The Hunger Games when he leaves her. He always expects the worst, expects to come back and find her gone, or dead, or, worst of all, sick. He can't help himself, though; he's never been able to help himself. So once a week he wakes her up extra early and tells her he's going to go, but he'll be back in an hour and she knows how to use the gun, right? Amelia always nods and rolls her eyes like of course she knows how to use the gun, like it's a normal thing for an eight-year-old to know. That hurts him, too, because she deserves a normal childhood with the family she sometimes talks about, the family Kurt knows must be gone by now but doesn't have the heart to tell her. She knows, though, Kurt knows she knows.
Kurt moves carefully to the window, holding the knife he has in his pocket just in case. He has a steel baseball bat strapped to his back, too, because people learned quickly that blunt force trauma to the head gets rid of them the fastest.
In movies, zombies are always shown shuffling around and groaning, swarming when they see a person and trying to eat their brains or whatever it is they do. The sick people are different. They eat regular food that gets delivered through little hatches in the quarantine zone, and they rarely swarm. Kurt thinks it's because they're in pain, and that thought has his heart clenching painfully.
He reaches up and touches the glass of the window, startling himself when he realizes he walked over to in on auto-pilot, without thinking about the people that could be around him. He mentally berates himself, feeling stupid. Before, he didn't care too much about what happened to him, especially after Blaine got sick. Now he has Amelia though, and he can't just leave her the way her family did, even though Kurt's pretty sure it wasn't by choice.
His eyes scan the massive area, looking for Blaine's face. He gets less familiar every time Kurt comes to see him, the virus affecting him more and more. The sick people aren't as crazed as zombies are in movies, they don't all rush to the window and claw at it to try and get a bite at Kurt. He knows it's only because they can't smell him, because apparently the smell of someone not infected sends them into some mad state of needing to bite the person in front of them, to make them like they are. Blaine's eyes sometimes spark a little in recognition when he sees Kurt. One time, Kurt swears he even saw a tear go down Blaine's face, and that's what keeps him coming back every week. Of all the people that are infected, none of them have died, even though it's been a little over a year. Kurt knows it's stupid to hope, but somewhere he still thinks they might find a cure, that one day he'll have Blaine back and they can forget about this.
He finally makes out Blaine's hair, wild and bushy since gel and hairbrushes are literally the last things on his mind, obviously. He finds himself pressing against the glass, his hand still touching it, fingers splayed out on the window. Blaine walks over to the window, but then it's like he loses all of his strength and he sits down abruptly, about ten feet away from the window. His eyes are glassy and it looks like he's looking right through Kurt, but Kurt knows Blaine wouldn't have made the effort to come over to him if he hadn't recognized him at least a little.
"Hi," Kurt murmurs, feeling his eyes well up the way they always do when he visits Blaine. He's not insane, he knows not to expect an answer, so he just keeps talking.
"You look—" a small sob forces itself from Kurt's throat. His fingers curl down against the glass with how much he wants to grab onto Blaine, take him away and somehow make him better.
"One day," Kurt promises instead of talking about Blaine's appearance. There're sores on his neck and his eyes seem to have drooped more than they had been last time. "You're going to get better one day, Blaine. Then it'll be me, you, and Amelia, until she finds her family. You'll love her, she's such a sweetheart. I haven't brought her here, though. I don't think she'd like seeing this. No offence, B, it's just that… yeah."
Kurt keeps this up for another ten minutes, until he physically cannot take looking at Blaine anymore because his heart is beating too fast and too slow at the same time and he can't get enough air and it feels like he's choking on his life. Kurt says goodbye, tells Blaine that he loves him and tries to get him to understand how much he means it, and starts the walk home.
When Burt and Carole left, they took Finn, Rachel, and Quinn with them. They begged Kurt to come too, but he couldn't. Not when Blaine was still in Lima, and still sick. It's a risk being so close to a quarantine zone, but Kurt's pretty handy with his bat now. He's living in Hummel Tires & Lube. He and Amelia made a little bed out of the sofa bed Burt had in the office and tons of blankets, and the place is pretty nicely fortified. They'll have to leave sometime, and Kurt feels terrible about putting Amelia so close to harm just because he can't bear to leave, but she refuses to leave Kurt's side, and Kurt isn't so hypocritical that he would deny her that.
He met Amelia one day a few months ago, just after his family headed north. She was standing by the window in the wall of the quarantine zone, but she was too short to see through it. She was trying to jump up to get to it, and Kurt found himself laughing for the first time in a very long time at the sight.
"Are you okay?" He asked. Amelia flinched and cowered against the wall on reflex.
"No, no!" Kurt said in his best soothing voice. "I'm fine, I'm healthy. See?" He turned in an exaggerated, slow circle, and by the time he was facing her again there was a tiny smile on her face.
"Are you looking for someone?" Kurt asked when it seemed like she wasn't going to run away.
"My parents aren't here," she said. "I'm looking for my brother, but I don't think he's here either. He's too fast to get caught."
She said this proudly, and Kurt could see the hero-worship on her face when she talked about her brother.
"Are you looking for someone?" She asked suddenly.
"… Sort of," Kurt finally said. "My boyfriend is in there."
"Oh," Amelia said, eyes downcast. "I'm sorry." Kurt could hear the sincerity in her voice, and it seemed like she was much older than she was.
"So you're alone?" Kurt asked, changing the subject. He'd had enough pity from his family. "How old are you? Where are you staying?"
"I've been alone forever." She said, shrugging. "My parents left because they got sick, and my brother was at school so I don't know where he is. A lot of people got sick and left their doors unlocked. I just sleep in their houses."
Kurt was impressed, and Amelia was getting tired of running alone, and they hadn't separated since.
Kurt made his way back to the shop, knocking twice on all of the windows just in case Amelia was awake—it was their password, and he knew Amelia had no qualms about using the gun. He didn't have to worry, though, because she was still asleep when he got into the back room, holding on tightly to a knitted blanket with her thin, curly hair covering most of the bed. Kurt smiles at the sight of her, safe for now and sleeping peacefully. He walks over to the bed and tries to lie back down on it without disturbing Amelia. She shifts, and startles awake, but Kurt smoothes her hair back and tells her to go back to sleep. Amelia smiles sleepily once she recognizes Kurt's voice and sits up slightly to put her head on Kurt's chest.
"How was he?" she asks quietly, in that voice that makes her sound 20 years older than she is.
"The same," Kurt lies, not wanting to go into detail about how much worse Blaine gets every time Kurt sees him.
"Did you see anyone on the way there?"
"No, I was fine," Kurt smiles down at her.
"So we can stay for a little bit longer?" She asks hopefully. Amelia and Kurt have an agreement: if they go outside and see more than ten infected people, they have to leave, even though neither of them want to.
"Of course we can," he murmured.
"Good," Amelia yawns. "I don't want to leave."
Kurt thinks about the town he spent 18 years wanting to leave, and the boy that was the only reason he would ever come back.
"Me neither," he says.