After a breakup, you feel like life can't get any worse. Part of you just wants to die. But once death starts scratching at your door, you start to view your situation a little differently. And when death looks like your neighbor, but with his throat bitten half off and smells like a dead horse stuffed with vomit, death becomes slightly frightening. So instead, I started seeing the worst plague since the Bubonic as a chance for me to win my girlfriend back. That's right. When people started turning into the walking dead, I decided to head in to the city to save the girl who broke my heart and started dating an artist. You know, cause this would obviously show her how much I love her and she’d want me back. I admit it wasn’t the best plan. Actually, there was no plan at all. I grabbed the car keys and a baseball bat and took off. Didn’t even think to put on some more appropriate clothes. Now look at me. Trapped in the middle of the city at my ex-girlfriend’s apartment, with no idea what happened to her. She’s probably with her lover, that fucker. And now I’m left here to die in her room. How pathetic is that.
I can stare at pictures of the two of them while I die. Bleed on to the bear that replaced the bear I gave her. Old Billy Bear had his seat on the bed stolen. Now he was sitting on a box in the closet, which most likely contained everything else that reminded her of me that she didn’t have the heart to burn or trash. I picked up Billy Bear.
The new bear was soft, but mind spoke. When squeezed it plays a recording of my voice that says, “I love you, Margaret.” Pathetic Billy! You still won’t stop saying that, will you?
I threw the bear across the room. Pathetic Billy. If only I could throw myself across the room. Pathetic Billy. Only self-loathing won’t get me anywhere right now. Like jerking off and watching reality TV, when I’m done I’m no better off than when I began. Sure, right now I’m safe, but eventually I’ll begin to starve—and that’s assuming I’ll remain safe. One can’t be completely sure that a random zombie won’t come wondering down the hall and hear me, and start banging to get in. Or worse, some jackass could come barging in with a horde hot on his tail, but why would he choose to crash in through my door. No, the likely event would be the government decides to wipe out the entire city with one quick flash. Then, either every second counts, or none do and trying to escape now doesn’t matter at all. I guess that depends on the fireworks Uncle Sam wants to see tonight.
So I guess its final, I should leave. But where am I to go? Back to my place? By now it’ll be the same as here. To my parents’? Oh, shit, I probably should have called them. But you know how networks get during emergencies. I should try again. No one home. The fools probably ran off to try and save me when they couldn’t get through. The idiots.
Margaret still isn’t picking up either. She never was good at that. Old-fashioned girl preferred the time before cell phones. Heck, I think she even uses an address book still. Wait! That can be useful. Maybe she stayed at her boyfriends’ place. Now I’m making some progress.
It was right where anyone would guess-next to the phone.
That’s when I heard someone fidgeting with the door. There’s my disaster. Some jackass—dead or alive—is going to bring the undead slowly swarming our way. A zombie wouldn’t know how to open a door, would they? No, a Hollywood zombie wouldn’t but whatever these people have become, maybe they do. Doesn’t matter. I have to door locked.
Whoever it is—whatever it is—it keeps jiggling the handle. Testing the door. He’s not desperate. He’s trying not to draw attention. He’s definitely still alive. He’s playing with the lock; trying to break in. Some low life trying to take advantage of the situation. Stupid bastard. I want to surprise him. Get the upper hand and teach him a lesson. I thought about clubbing him as soon as the door opened, but I’d have to be quick. The last thing we’d want is a brawl. Whatever happens better happen quietly, else we’ll both end up in the shit.
This time when the door handle turned, it turned all the way and the door opened. The lock was beat, and I hadn’t made up my mind in time, so I just ducked behind the counter. A surprise attack was still possible from here. Plus with the reflection in the stoves, I can measure up my opponent.
He walked in slowly, and shut the door. The first image to be reflected in the oven door was that of his blunt object—one that was much shorter than my bat. Then came the body. His back was turned, so I peaked around the corner. My heart sank. What a fool.
The person had brown, shoulder-length hair, an hour-glass figure, and a firm ass wrapped inside a business dress. She wasn’t fiddling with the lock, but struggling with her key and her shaky nerves.
“Margaret! You’re okay!”
She jumped nearly out of her dress, turned and tumbled over the back of the couch. There she struggled, legs flailing in the air. I hurried over and dropped my bat.
“It’s me, it’s me! It’s okay.”
I held her legs down, and reached for her hand. They were hanging by her face—her unfamiliar face.
It wasn’t her. My heart sand to the pit of my stomach and my eyes swelled with tears. My emotions made too many quick turns for me to contain myself. I slumped to the ground, back against the couch, and dropped my head into my hands. No, the situation wasn’t any worse than before. I had no reason to lose my grip now, but it felt as if I had loss her right here and now. As if when I reached my hand out to grab hers, I watched her fall out of reach, and then out of sight.
The false Margaret came and stood next to me. At first she didn’t do anything. Then she patted me on my head and whispered something about, “I’m sorry I’m not her.” She then hesitantly walked away. Next I heard her going through some drawers as well. Was she also looking for Margaret? No. Potholders? What does she expect to find near the kitchen phone?
“What do you want?”
It took her a minute to respond. I thought maybe I only asked in my head. Maybe I did and she just decided to explain on her own.
“I’m looking for film. For a camera. I know everybody goes digital now, but I still like taking my pictures the old fashion way.”
I looked up at her and she was staring at me. She must of actually felt bad for me, because the next thing she said was meant to console me.
“Hey, just because she hasn’t come back here, doesn’t mean she’s not okay. She’s better off if she got out of the city.”
“You’re right,” I sighed. “Nothing’s changed.”
“Wrong,” she corrected. “Now we have someone to watch our backs. Soon as I find some film, we can work on getting out of this hell hole.”
“Why do you need film?”
“I’m a photojournalist, but I lost my supply of film,” she explained. But this didn’t really explain it.
“And you want to keep taking pictures?” Naturally I was a bit disgusted.
“Well yeah!” She was instantly defensive. “People will want to see. And if the government covers it up, I’ll…”
“Have the best story?”
“The only proof!”
I was just upset. I didn’t really care. It’s not like she was some kind of low-life trying to pocket jewelry or other valuables. She just wanted film and knew no where else to get it. Not like you could buy it right now, and steeling it from a store would be much more dangerous.
As for her desire to take photos of the spawns of Satan, it makes sense on many levels. First, she was just doing her job. People are funny about their jobs. Even in times of disaster, people are slow to let go of their old roles. Perhaps we are afraid of losing our jobs when things sort out, or maybe we get so used to it that when we go to survival instinct mode, the habits are still part of us.
Second, people just always have to take a picture when they see something unbelievable. Maybe it’s to prove to others they were there, or to prove to themselves that it really happened. But then, in many cases, they never could have expected to live, such as with the great hurricane that hit recently. So then why? Because they were going to die anyways? Well, we aren’t quite doomed yet, so I’m not going to put my life in jeopardy for a good picture. Bitch better not use me as a prop to get a good shot of a bite!
“She keeps her camera in the nightstand by the bed.” I figured I’m better off helping her.
“Thanks kid.” And again a moment later, this time with sarcasm. “Yeah, thanks a lot kid. This digital camera is full of 16 millimeter stock.”
“Well at least you can stop searching.” Hey, I thought it was a good point.
“Okay, fine.” She was standing out next to me again. “So then, what’s your plan? Heading to your place? The frilly pillow I landed on says you don’t live here.”
Trying not to sound surprised or impressed, I gave a straight forward answer. “It’s just outside of town”. I wasn’t sure if that was my plan, but it was good enough for now. “It might be safe, but I have to find my girlfriend first.”
“Um…” She obviously didn’t like that idea. “Do you even know where she is?” She then dropped the digital camera on my crotch and yet expected an answer.
I crawled over to the address book I left on the floor. I flipped to “Hanson, Derik,” and took another breath before answering.
“At Derik’s. On Melon Street. It’s actually close on foot. Across the park,” and then to sweeten the idea, “…just pass the drug store. You can pick up film on the way. Then we’ll head towards my place. It’s in the same direction.”
“No car?” was her only question.
“Not any more.” Like many others, I had wrecked it while trying to navigate through the chaos. I’m sure she did too. “But they should have one.” I’m not sure she liked the idea other than the film part, but I got the sense she wasn’t from around here and was tired of wandering.
We left through the fire escape. Surprisingly, the back alley was empty. We didn’t see any bodies down by the south entrance, or up the north. She came down behind me, weapon in hand. We didn’t say a word; just headed to the north exit. The dead silence was eerie; not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The city was no longer in chaos.
As I passed the dumpster just a building shy of the street, I wondered what it would look like. Corpses all over? Would they be lying were they died, or laying in wait of a fresh kill? Would the street be filled with wrecked cars? Or would it be completely desolate. Either way, I hoped the silence would continue. Though eerie, it’s best that way for us right now.
Now half passed the building, I heard something clank against the asphalt and the girl scream I turned and saw her sprawled across the ground, with the tire iron just out of her reach. With her hair in her face, she again looked like Margaret. This caused me a moment of hesitation as my heart sank. I snapped back to when she yelled.
“HELP!” She turned and kicked the ghoul in the head just before it could bite her leg.
I had walked right pass the dumpster without even noticing him. Apparently, so had she. He must have crawled next to the dumpster after being bitten, and there he died. And there he stayed, even after becoming a zombie, just waiting for something to catch his interest. I must had been that something, but his reaction was only fast enough to grab the girl several steps behind me, and even she was almost pass.
Her one scream for help, with its higher pitched “e,” was enough to send me from 0 to 4 in .5 seconds. Her kick gave me just enough time to take the several steps between me and her, and bring the bat down on the thing’s head. The head popped like a cockroach. I couldn’t turn away. She couldn’t get away quicker. Her feet struggled to kick the dead hand off her leg. Then she scrambled backwards to her tire iron.
“You’re alright,” I told her, and then repeated it as a question. She nodded and got to her feet.
“I never even got your name.”
“Alice,” she replied.
I stuck my hand out as a simultaneous greeting and offer of help up.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as we got. I didn’t even get to pull her up before we heard them. When the city dies, it becomes quieter than the pitch black wilderness. Even when the wilderness sleeps, it snores with crickets. But this city, which died today, has no peep other than what we were making. No birds singing. No pitter-patter of pedestrians. Not even the chirping from the cross-walk signal. But that all changed with the racket we just made, which could surly be head blocks away.
We woke the dead, literally. And the pitter-patter of hundreds of feet returned, only this time accompanied by moans. The crashing of trashcans falling, and bodies falling over them, were sprinkled in. The eerie part is that when these are the only sounds in the city, it carries, and echoes, and sound louder than you would imagine. Then again, maybe the eerie part was that we knew exactly what was making the noise, and exactly where they were headed.
We both looked at each other with fear and sorrow in our eyes. We expected more than we would want to fight our way through. What we did not expect was how fast they would get to the alley.
“Run for it?” I asked rather than told. I didn’t want to if she couldn’t keep up.
“No; up the fire escape.”
I looked at the fire escape on this last building. “It’s too high. They’re made to keep people from getting up them.”
“Use the dumpster,” she suggested.
I pulled her to her feet, finally. “Okay, help me push it.”
The thing had wheels, but it still wasn’t easy. We got under the ladder just as the first zombie was coming down our end of the alley. Luckily it was alone. Alice put it down quickly as I climbed onto the dumpster.
“Someone thought of this! It’s not enough.”
She hopped up and immediately got on one knee. “I’ll boast you.”
Maybe I should have sent her up first, but it just didn’t go down that way. I immediately accepted her offer, and she boasted me just enough to grab on.
“It’s not sliding down,” I cried.
“Climb up,” she moaned as she tried to boast me higher. “Maybe it’s jammed or locked up on top.”
As soon as I got both feet on the ladder I looked down to her. It was too late to get her on this thing with me. They were now running in from both entrances. Two were already at the dumpster. She took her tire iron and windmilled it back, down, and up under the chin of one of the zombies. Its head flew back and took the body with it to the ground, but it’d get back up again. The other grabbed one of Alice’s legs and pulled it with all its might to its mouth. It threw her on her back hard, but she hung on to the tire iron and repeated the kick that waved her earlier. She then sat up and put the tire iron down through the zombie’s skull.
“Hide in the dumpster! It’s your only chance! I’ll distract them and get you out of there.”
Luckily she didn’t hesitate or argue; she didn’t have any time to. She barely had enough time to do what she did, which she did so quickly and gracefully. She rolled off the dumpster and lifted it open as she came off it. As soon as her feet touched down, she hopped into the thin opening she made, and suddenly, she was out of site. Now the dumpster was surrounded by the recently undead, and it was my job to make her out of mind.
I started hooting and hollering and banging the fire escape. Soon they were piled against and on top of the dumpster. She was safe for now; they weren’t going to get in there like that. Now I needed to get up this ladder before it decided to go on down for the hungry folks below, full platter in hand. Then I could figure out what to do with the girl lying in trash under the mountain of hungry corpses.