Copyright 2010-2011 by A.P. Fuchs. All rights reserved.
46: Plastic Swords
The blade’s hard plastic tip connected squarely with the zombie’s temple, knocking his undead head to the side. It was enough of a distraction for him that I was able to push the creature to the side, get past him—only to be surrounded by three others: one in front, one to the left and right. I kicked to the right, getting myself some distance from the closest undead. The one on the left grabbed me, her filthy hands and sharp nails digging into my arm. With a quick twist of the waist, I managed to bring the plastic sword across the head of the one in front of me. His skin was so rotted around the neck that the blow was enough to knock his head off his shoulders. Talk about a break.
The light coming in from the door to the shop was mostly covered in shadow, undead bodies blocking the sweet scene of the empty street beyond. The girl who held me on the left pulled my arm close to her mouth. With a shout, I jerked my arm free from her grip, felt a hot sting across my bicep, adrenaline quickly wiping the pain away. Like a madman, I swung the sword left and right, hacking my way through the undead like a safari guide plowing my way through the jungle. Of course, the blade didn’t cut them down, but was sturdy enough to send them a step to the side, buying me enough room to push my way past them to the street beyond.
A gunshot went off in the distance. I whirled around; Jay sprinted toward me, lumbering zombies on his tail, something small and dark in his right hand.
When he caught up to me, he said, “I hate this.” That was all. I think he was my new King of the Understatement.
“We gotta go,” I said.
Jay dipped his head between his knees for a couple seconds, took a deep breath, then straightened. “God be with us.”
We ran down the street, the calls and moans of the dead rising behind us. A skyport was just off to the side down the next street. We headed there and hoped that folks had left a vehicle or two parked inside when the outbreak hit.
Each zombie that came our way, our first goal was simply to avoid them and run past. Except for the two near the skyport. The walls around the light gray, spiral-shaped garage were too high to climb. Two undead blocked the entrance though I doubted they actual realized that’s what they were doing.
Jay and I cautiously approached them and when the dead old geezer with skin that flaked off his face like dry pastry saw me, he raised his arms and came right at me, moving much faster than expected. I wound up my sword, ready to hit him as hard as I could.
A loud CRACK echoed through the air, rocking my insides. The old man’s head burst open at its top in a spray of blood and bone, and he fell to the ground. Another CRACK and a thud and the other undead was down, too. Jay stood by the one at his feet, raised his hand and showed me the gun.
“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“One of the dead had it. He got hold of me and as we wrestled, I noticed he was once an Enforcer. Old school, if he’s still using bullets. Could have been a ceremonial thing, for all I know. Doesn’t matter. I noticed the gun in the holster so fought into him to get my hands on it. Fortunately, it was still loaded. Blew his head off, too.” He said that last bit with a grin that made even me unsettled.
“How many shots left?”
Jay cracked open the old revolver and checked the cylindrical chamber. “Two.”
“Better keep them as last resort, then.”
More undead appeared down the street.
“Come on,” I said.
We jogged into the skyport and began the long, winding ascent through the lot, looking for abandoned zipscars or skyvans. On the third level, we found an old “hauler” tucked into the corner. Haulers were kind of like large skyvans meant for families with too many kids. They were also used as repair vehicles around the city for skylights and hoversigns.
Jay and I approached the vehicle with caution. He held the gun aloft; I had my sword ready, and suddenly felt like a kid trailing his daddy on a hunt with a toy just so he felt like could actually contribute something even though that wasn’t true.
We kept our heads below the back windows, one of us on either side of the rear door. With a slight nod to each other, we quickly peeked into the hauler’s windows.
It was empty. But was it open?
Jay checked the handle. Locked. We each took a side of the hauler and checked the other doors.
We met up again at the vehicle’s rear.
“I need a break,” Jay said.
There was only one thing to do, then. I took the plastic sword and smacked it against the rear window. The sword bounced off.
“Nice,” Jay said.
“Hope this Sword of Omens isn’t trying to tell us anything.”
“A ‘Sword of What’?”
With a quick flick of his arm, Jay used the gun to bust open one of the back windows. He reached in and unlocked the door from the inside.
We got in and closed the door and caught our breath in the dark. After a few minutes, my racing heart finally slowed, and a sharp, heated sting ripped through my arm. I touched the skin and felt fresh blood on my fingers.
“Oh no,” I said quietly.
Jay cleared his throat. “What?”
“They got me.”
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Immediately I swung around, lashing my fist out and connecting square with the creature’s jaw. It was a bonehead move. Had I been off by even a couple millimeters, I could have easily snagged my knuckles on its teeth and probably would have gotten infected. The zombie shuffled back a step, paused, then stumbled towards me again, arms out.
My heart pounded—but not from fear. Only anger. These guys had caused so many problems and had hurt me personally with making Selena one of their own. Worse, making many Selenas one of their own.
The sound of shoes scraping against the sidewalk behind me forced me to reconsider decking the zombie in front of me. It was run or be killed. So I ran. I dodged around the nearest two undead, their hands raising into the air a second too late to grab onto me. Another I shoved to the side as I bolted down the sidewalk, hoping Jay was somewhere nearby.
Don’t go too far, I thought. We need to stay in the area. For now, anyway.
I scanned the undead that were a block or block and a half away. None of them looked like my sweetheart.
A figure ran out from between a couple of fallen sky signs just ahead. A pack of zombies lumbered after him.
“Hey!” I shouted, waving my arms and hoping he’d heard me. It didn’t seem he did because he kept running and disappeared between a pair of apartment buildings across the street, the zombies still keeping after him.
But someone heard me. The undead in my nearest vicinity immediately set their rotten gaze in my direction and started towards me.
“Oh man . . .” I breathed, glanced back over my shoulder, and tried to come up with a plan. It seems there was only one in this undead world: run.
I took off further down the street, but a pack of zombies up and to my right saw me and joined their brethren in their mission to take me down.
A blur of color materialized on my left as I ran past an outlet store, then quickly disappeared. I halted my run, turned, and headed back. It was a comics shop, the kind that still sold old paper copies of comic books that nowadays most people read on their eReaders and telecom units. Maybe they had a back room I could hide out in. Maybe even a room with a lock on the door. Its large front window had been smashed during the riots when the zombie plague first hit. I stepped over the frame, my shoes crunching against the broken glass on the floor. Comics and old school graphic novels littered the floor like a squirrel’s nest, panels of Axiom-man, Superman, Captain America and others catching my eye as I stepped quickly through the shop and to the rear of the store. This was a place I had meant to go into back before all this chaos started. Interesting I was here now, looking to save my life amongst images of heroes that did it all the time.
A dented and overturned moneycomp lay on the counter to my left. Whoever smashed it up must have thought that because this place dealt in vintage comics, it must have dealt in vintage cash, too. Idiots. Paper money and coins were phased out completely a good ten years ago if not longer.
Behind me, undead feet shuffled through the scraps of comics on the floor. A loud thunk made me look over my shoulder only to see one of the zombies—a much-decayed one—had tripped over the window frame and landed on its face.
I was already at the back of the tiny shop, with nothing near me to use against them. Just a bunch of very old collectibles, some hanging on the wall behind me, others on the floor at my feet. Most of them were action figures. One was a Spider-Man webshooter for kids. There was a Superman costume, a plastic lightsaber, and a cap gun. I thought maybe I could get away with using the lightsaber, but its plastic handle was already cracked, presumably from whoever had been in here before me. There wasn’t a back room.
Adrenaline quickly kicked in and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it out this time.
The zombies drew closer.
My foot stepped on something soft at first, but it gave way and my heel landed on something hard. I kicked at it through the scraps of comic pages covering it.
It was a sword. A fake one, but one that would still be dangerous regardless. Kind of. It was still in its black cardboard package, a red logo with what looked like a wild cat roaring, followed by silver letters reading: THUNDERCATS. Never heard of them.
I quickly bent down, picked up the sword and ripped it from its package. Crap. It was plastic, its gleaming silver paint job having fooled me. But the plastic felt hard, solid.
Realizing how stupid this was, a brief note of hope still sounded in my heart. I lifted the blade and wound it back like a baseball bat.
The first zombie moved in.
I took a swing.
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Copyright 2010-2011 by A.P. Fuchs. All rights reserved.
It’d be nice if I had any booze left. No, check that, it’d be friggin’ awesome! But, alas, here we are, dry as cold toast, just waiting for things to make sense.
After the big ordeal with Selena dying again, I just paced my apartment until my heels were sore, all the while ignoring Jay’s door banging and shouts in the hallway. Part of the time I heard him; part of it I didn’t. Eventually I tired myself out so much I took a short nap right there on my living room floor. When I awoke, I got up, peed, then walked across the hallway to where Jay was staying. Pride told me to just forget about it, but I’m smarter than that.
Selena’s body still lay there, a big shard of glass sticking out of her head. I looked away, unable to stomach it. Not for Selena.
I rapped on Jay’s door. He opened it, didn’t say anything and let me in. You know you have a good friend when you act like a jerk and they take you back, no questions asked.
The suite he stayed in used to belong to this Spanish guy, Hernandez somebody. I never got to know him, not that he was all that friendly to begin with. Very much one of those people who only left their place just to go to work and get groceries. Come to think of it, I was pretty much like that, too, because right now I can’t say I knew my neighbours all that well despite living beside them for a few years.
“Any food kicking around here?” I asked after sitting at the kitchen table for a few minutes.
“Found a can of spam, a couple packs of dried noodles,” Jay replied.
“I’m not picky.”
Jay got up from the table, pulled the can of spam from the cupboard above the sink, then rummaged around in one of the drawers and found a can opener.
“You don’t need that, you know,” I said. “There’s a tab-key-thing on the side.”
He picked up the can, tilted it left and right in his hand, then said, “What do I know? Never ate this stuff. Probably makes good spackle.”
I chuckled. “Or window caulking.”
He smiled, and fiddled with the key on the can until he figured it out. He opened another cupboard and pulled out a plate, then dumped the contents of the can onto it. After grabbing a couple forks from the drawer, he sat down, gave me one, and said, “Dinner is served.”
“Beats nothing,” I said.
Jay paused before eating, bowed his head and closed his eyes. Out of respect, I waited until he was done, then the two of us divvied up the spam. It was like half-dried baby food cut into chunks. We ate in silence–guys do that–and when we were done, Jay said, “Want to talk about it?”
So much for forgive and forget, I thought. “Not really.”
“I’m not talking about us,” he said. “The girl. Want to talk about it?”
I sighed. “There’s not much to say.” My eyes met his. “She’s the love of my life, you know.”
“I can tell.”
I wrinkled my brow.
“I saw it in the way you looked at her, the way you defended her. No shame in that.” He paused then added, “But she’s dangerous . . . or, at least, something’s not right with her. Sorry to say that.”
It was true I didn’t want to hear it, but Jay was right. There was something wrong with Selena. No one kept dying and coming back, not in the way she did.
“You said you’ve seen her before, yeah?” I said.
He nodded. “Lots of times while I was out and about. Sometimes she was downright pretty, even normal-looking except for a mouth covered in–” He made a circular motion with his hand in front of his lips. “Other times . . . other times the only thing that gave her away was her eyes. Eyes don’t change. They’re beautiful and easy to pick out.”
“Yeah . . .”
“It doesn’t make sense, though,” he said.
I mulled over his words for a moment. “Something’s up. Something weird. She’s come here several times now. She’s also died several times.”
He simply looked at me, his expression reading: Obviously. Tell me something I don’t know.
“Okay,” I said, “have you seen anyone else? I mean, anyone else repeatedly who looked different each time? I don’t go out much, but so far as I know, I haven’t seen any familiar faces.”
“Hard to say. Big city. But for me, no, she’s the only one I’ve noticed.”
“So, what, she’s either got a pile of twin sisters, or she’s regenerating somehow or . . .” I didn’t know what I was saying. None of it made sense.
“When you were together, was she, you know, normal?”
“Yeah. Of course. Everything was normal back then.”
“Nothing that would indicate a plethora of look-alike siblings.”
He was dead serious, which I didn’t expect from him. “You know, some kind of special ability. Able to multiply herself or something?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “If she did, she never told me.”
“Just going through the possibilities.”
“And she keeps coming to you?”
“No. We broke up before all this started. The only thing I can guess is that everyone else she knows is dead or a walking corpse, and when we split, I promised her I’d always be there for her no matter what she needed. Maybe I’m her last resort.”
“And I’m fine with that,” I said softly. “At least I get to see her.”
He tapped his index finger on the tabletop. “We need a plan.”
“For?” I coughed. “I mean, aside from the obvious shelter, food, and all that.”
“What if she comes back?”
“Can’t really stop that.”
“Would you attack her again?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll beat the hell out of you if you do.”
His face went rigid.
“No problem. I get it. But if she does come back, we need a plan.”
“I think what we need to do is figure out where she’s been. She’s come back in that gown, hospital coat thing each time.” I nodded to myself. “Yeah, that’s our starting point. We’ll find out where she’s been, then take it from there.”
“And if she turns?”
“She’s gotten sick first every time before now. We’ll use that as our warning.”
“Well” –Jay stood up from the table– “you can stay here if you want or go back to your place.”
It would have been nice to have company, but I needed some time to just stew and reflect. “Thanks, but I’ll go home.” I headed to the door. “Make a big fuss if you need anything.”
I went into the hallway and closed the door behind me. My sweetheart’s body lay by my door. Heart aching, I walked past it and into my apartment, tears in my eyes.
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Telecom handheld transmission:
Again, I’m sending this from a wireless handheld device. Excuse any typos. Editing on this thing is difficult. Already tried. Anyway . . .
We’re under the Maxworth Bridge, Jay and I. Dinner was . . . awful, plainly put. Know what we had? Earthworms. Friggin’ earthworms! Jay said something about them being high in protein. Whatever. Though we both ate, I got the sneakin’ suspision he just wanted to see me eat worms. But, better worms for food than being wormfood itself. Can still feel them wiggling on my tongue, their fishy scent and rubbery shells filled with grainy, oozing flesh.
Jay’s beside me, curled up on the ground, trying to get some sleep. I’m on the first watch. Was hoping we’d both be awake just for the sake of company, but I also realize that it’s better this way. At least for now. My hope is to get back to my place tomorrow. Doesn’t make sense the zombies would linger there once they find the building empty.
I’m not going to talk about Selena this entry, in case you’re wondering. If anything, my brain needs a break from her, though I think about her constantly.
The main thing now is: what’s next? Can’t live under a bridge like some troll. I’m thinking skipping town would be the best option. The problem with that is Comtropolis is huge, and getting to the edge of the city on foot would take at least two days, walking about ten hours a day. Maybe even three days.
Right now silence is on the air, the heartbeat of the city long dead. Just keeping my ears perked for feet sliding across the pavement.
I’d really like to know what started all this and why oh why the undead have to eat the living. What did we do to them?
Frak! Just hate sitting here hence my rambling. When I write these entries, it takes my mind off what’s going on and off certain people. Sometimes I think that none of what I said makes any sense. Sometimes I think half of it is boring. But them’s the breaks for you. You should at least be happy someone is writing something and that somewhere there’s somebody alive who’s taken the time to tell you what’s going on in his life.
What’s that? You want to be thrilled and chilled by reading this? Give me a break. You want thrills and chills, go stand in the street and wait for the first flesh-muncher to come along. No, seriously, wait for them. Then when they grab you, don’t try to run until their teeth meet your skin. Then you can try and rip your arm away from them. There’s your thrills and chills.
And that’s precisely my point: the media has killed you. Do you hear me? Killed you, even worse than the undead have. Yeah, I’m serious. Whether in life or even in entertainment, you’ve been brainwashed into expecting certain things and when those things aren’t delivered to you, you throw a temper tantrum. I’m glad that technology is almost dead. I’m glad we don’t have adfeeds shoved down our necks twenty-four-seven like before. I’m glad the podcasts have silenced, that television has blinked out and even the blasted Internet is on its last legs. It’s done nothing but made people lazy and spoonfed instant gratification. Myself included. But at least I’ve made the choice to accept that life sucks, is hard and doesn’t satisfy me instantly. The zombies have at least taught me that much. So I’m writing this rant to you, hoping it’ll strike a nerve and even though you might hate my guts right now, I’m all you got. At least, if you have some semblance of a heart.
Welcome to reality. Welcome to the place where there’s no plot, no neat little endings, no climaxes–just one crazy ride where zombies walk, some nut from Comtropolis writes to you, and somewhere someone is listening.
Jay just farted in his sleep. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?
What? That throw you for a loop?
My point exactly.
At the end of the day, we’re all just trolls under a bridge. Look at yourself and you’ll see what I’m saying is true.
Still waiting for you to come round under this bridge, by the way. But you probably won’t. That’d demand effort.
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Telecom handheld transmission:
There was a small, one-foot-by-two window toward the ceiling of the laundry room. Glass, with a grate on the outside. I broke the glass with the same broomstick that–
Anyway, I smashed the window, then, standing on the washing machine against the wall, used the broomstick as a kind of thin battering-ram, all the while pounding on its end with the dustpan until, after an hour, the screws holding the grate to the outside wall finally gave way. I squeezed through the opening, took one last look at Selena’s body, and ran.
The undead were gathered out front. I ran past them, and the few that tried stumbling after me didn’t have a prayer.
Adrenaline propelled my legs. All I wanted was to leave Selena and that laundry room behind. But now, writing this to you, I would give anything to see her again. Yet I’ve already seen her, haven’t I? How many times had she recently come into my life only to die a short time later? Can I expect her return again? Will I see her? Did I really see her?
I’m telling you, I don’t know if all this stuff is in my head or if it’s real. Maybe I’m lying in a gutter somewhere, suffering from a zombie bite and all these crazy hallucinations–even this journal–is some sort of side effect of whatever it is they carry that infects people and turns them into one of them.
Are the zombies even real?
Maybe I’m just a regular old lunatic in a regular old world? Maybe you’re as crazy as I am and we’re sitting in a padded cell somewhere, sharing the same delusional fantasy?
Gotta clear my head.
Wish I had some alcohol.
Need . . . I don’t know what I need anymore.
* * *
His name was Jay. I met him after I took pummelled an undead old man after the creature tried to take a bite out of me. The old geezer still tried walking with his cane even though he didn’t have the coordination anymore. It was his cane that I used to beat him to the ground and eventually shove through his rotting throat to sever his head.
It was out of his pocket this telecom handheld fell. It was the telecom that has the Wifi I’m using to send this entry out into Cyberspace now.
Back on point: Jay. His name was Jay. He was black, tall, built like a basketball player. Now don’t go accusing me of being racist or stereotypical or anything. I’m sorry, but that’s just how he was. The best part was that he was alive. Real. A human. He was the first one I’ve seen aside from Selena in so long that–and I really mean this part–I forgot what it was like to relate to a real flesh-and-blood guy again.
He wore a red T-shirt, black pants, and this pair of sneakers that were gleaming white with neon green. He must’ve just lifted them from somewhere because they were too clean to be anything but new. Regardless, the dude came out of nowhere right when I was sending my cane through the old man’s neck. He tried to stop me before realizing the old man was a zombie. Instead, he just came up beside me, set his weight on one him, crossed his arms and watched.
Jay’s sitting across from me now in the alley that I’m transmitting this from. I told him what happened, but how I had to escape my building. I didn’t give him the lowdown on Selena. Only said someone I really cared about had just died. Jay told me I could cry about it if it made me feel any better.
I’ve only known the dude for maybe a half hour, maybe slightly more, but I got to admit it feels amazing to be with someone other than myself and other than someone who haunted my mind and heart for so long.
I almost feel normal, like things used to be. Must never forget, though. Must never forget that things aren’t normal not here, and not even out there, outside this crazy hallucination, if that’s what this is. Normal people don’t live in padded cells.
Getting sidetracked. Starting to slip.
Jay’s going to keep me grounded. I just know it.
* * *
We made it under the Maxworth Bridge. It’s in an older part of town, there for folks who can’t afford zipcars. That’s fine. There’re no social classes anymore anyways.
Jay and I walked here, each keeping an eye on the other’s back. He told me he comes from a family of thirteen kids. He’s the second youngest and has eight brothers and four sisters. They’re all dead, died pretty much right after this thing started. His family was so huge that the house they had couldn’t allow for a separate room for everyone. Most of his brothers and sisters bunked together. He bunked with his younger brother, Willim. Jay doesn’t know which of his siblings got infected first, but soon his whole family was transformed and him and Willim had to split.
They survived on the street for a long time; several weeks, Jay said. But his brother died. I asked Jay what happened. He only smiled and said, “Stupid kid slipped off a catwalk and fell. Hit the ground. Busted his head open.” At first, I thought Jay was crazy for smiling at the memory, but then I got it: Jay was happy his brother wasn’t around to experience any of this and, in a way, controlled his own death instead of falling victim to one of the undead. Jay’s religious, too. Says he doesn’t mind Willim’s gone. He says that one day, when the time is right, he’s going to join Willim in the choir in the sky, and not only Willim, but his whole family.
Right now, we’re under this bridge, zombie free. I don’t know if it’s God showing Jay favor or if we’re just plain lucky, but we’re getting a break. No running for our lives right now.
For the moment, I’m happy.
Jay’s thinking about what we can do for dinner. I told him I had some food back at my place, but we agreed it’d be too dangerous to go back there after what happened, at least right now. Maybe a different day.
We’ll figure something out, but if anybody’s out there reading this and can get to us under the Maxworth Bridge in Comtropolis, we’d owe you one.
Is anybody out there?
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Telecom handheld transmission:
It was happening again, me caught in a world of death.
Selena shook and convulsed in my lap, a yellow milky foam dribbling out the corners of her lips.
The zombies banged on the door to the laundry room, the incessant thuds making it difficult to concentrate.
“Selena, please, you have to stop,” I said, but why I said it I didn’t know. Probably just voicing my thoughts.
She kept shaking, her body bouncing up and down in rollercoaster-like waves.
Heart racing, I asked her if there was anything I could do. She didn’t reply, and her eyes were rolled back in their sockets. For a brief moment I thought she was trying to look up at me, but I had lost her beautiful brown-eyed gaze as the whites of her eyes became all I saw.
The undead beyond the door continued drumming against it.
Selena stopped shaking. Her body kicked out a few more jolts then lay still.
Tears in my eyes, I gently brushed her hair off her face and leaned in, listening for breath. There was none. I put her head on the ground, got beside her and started CPR. Each press of my palms against her chest grew more and more intense; each time it seemed her nonresponsiveness intensified even though I know now it had only been my imagination.
Why was this happening? How many times could I lose her?
I didn’t know what was worse right then: losing Selena from my life, but knowing she was alive somewhere, possibly happy, or losing her and watching her die. After all, they both ended with the same result: her absence from me.
Seems selfish, I know, but unless you’ve walked this road, you can’t say anything. More specifically, unless you’ve walked this road several times like I have, you have no right to say anything.
The zombies kept beating their decaying fists against the heavy door.
* * *
Around an hour later I was alone in that room. No longer able to look at Selena’s deceased form, I carefully laid her down in the janitor’s supply closet in the room and closed its door. It was cruel because she deserved a proper burial, but at the same time, I needed space and given all that I’ve been through, I decided to cut myself some slack.
The zombies had stopped their beating on the door, but they hadn’t left. Their hollow moans still filled the hallway beyond, their deathly groans coming in through the gap between the door and floor.
I lay in a foetal position on the ground, balling my eyes out over my loss.
Over my life.
Yeah, it was a real pity party, but you’d have one too if you were in my shoes.
I don’t how much time passed, but a dull thump came from the janitor closet. Immediately, I leapt to my feet and cautiously approached it.
Another thump came from behind the door.
No, it couldn’t be. Not like this. She was dead. She was–
Not Selena. Please, God, don’t let her become one of them.
The thumping grew consistent, and I could imagine her behind the door, stepping up to it, bumping into it, stepping back, then coming at it again. Over and over.
My baby. Not you, too.
If I opened the door, I could be dead really soon. If I didn’t, then there was a good chance the bumping into the door would grow more aggressive and alert the others in the hallway outside the laundry room that there was still something for them to get at.
“Please,” I whispered. “Please be okay.”
I put my hand on the doorknob and slowly turned it. I took a large step back as I let the door swing all the way open.
Out of the shadows, Selena emerged, her head cocked slightly to one side. Her mouth hung slack; her eyes remained rolled back in their sockets. She stumbled toward me.
“Selena?” I said.
She stopped, turned her head more in my direction, then adjusted her footing, this time coming more directly at me. A few seconds later, she raised her left hand. I touched her fingers. They were ice cold. Her hand gripped mine and she started to pull herself closer. I yanked my hand away and darted for the far side of the room, and scanned it up and down for something to defend myself with. Nothing. Nothing lethal, anyway.
Selena slowly walked toward me.
I stepped to the side. When my foot came down, it landed on the ground harder than I wanted. Her head immediately craned in the direction of the sound and then she started heading that way.
My girl was gone.
It was a feeling, it was a thought. Its reality sunk in quicker than I expected and immediately I knew I had to get rid of her otherwise I’d be her lunch soon enough.
I let her get close to me before carefully moving out of her way in a semicircle. My goal was to get to the closet she had just come out of. There had to be something in there I could use to defend myself with.
Keeping one eye on her, the other on the closet, I inched my way there, each footstep I took as light as I could possibly make it.
Once at the closet, I peered in and scanned the shelves. Nothing but a bunch of cleaning supplies, a mope and bucket, a broom, some boxes and–the broom.
I pulled it out. It wasn’t too thick, but thick enough I couldn’t break it over my knee.
Slowly, I kept my circular pattern and went to the far corner of the room while Selena was at the other, her head weaving side-to-side as she tried to find me.
I had only one chance at this, and I had to make it quick. I held the broom handle with one hand, leaned it on an angle and put my foot down on its head. Quickly, and as hard as I could, I stomped down halfway between the top of the handle and the broom’s head. Crack! The wood splintered, but didn’t break.
Selena turned around and faced me. She raised her arms, her fingers rigid like claws.
I stomped down on the broom again. It snapped this time, but not cleanly. I had to–
She was real close, like six feet away.
I flipped the broom over and came at it from the other side. The wood broke. I let the straw end fall to the floor, and I got the handle end ready.
“Please, Selena,” I said. “If you can hear me, you need to stop. I don’t want to–”
But there was no response in that dead face. No sign she recognized my voice. Not the slightest hint of contemplation.
So be it, I said, and came at her with the broom handle.
The sharp end plunged directly in her middle. I kicked out against her chest and pulled on the handle at the same time. The handle came out, bringing with it blood and stringy flesh. I brought it across her face like a baseball bat. The force of the blow was enough to knock her off balance, and with another kick I sent her on her back to the ground.
“Forgive me,” I said, and plunged the sharp end of the stick into her eye. Her body twitched a couple time then lay still.
I stumbled back a few steps and couldn’t believe how fast I had taken her down. For some strange reason, my heartache was gone. So was the confusion. Instead, I felt . . . nothing.
Just . . . nothing.
Who was I? What had I become?
I had to get out of there.
Cutting dead flesh. There’s nothing like it.
The guy looked at me just before the bat came down, his eyes doing a little dance that said, even despite his dead brain’s lack of intellect, that he knew what was coming. The razors lodged themselves into the front of his skull, remained wedged in for a moment, then tore out on the follow-through as I yanked the bat downward. Blood spilled out from the front of his head along with pieces of bone. The zombie staggered forward a step then fell on his face.
The others surrounding him didn’t pay him any mind and came at me, arms outstretched, their palms open, seeming to be just itching to get hold of my shoulders, head, body, whatever.
I shoved my way through them, rounded them from behind, then took a chunk out of the back of the head of a short woman—about 5’2”—skull, hair and all. She fell. Same with the little boy who tried to gnaw a piece of my ankle like a dog on a soup bone.
The droning cries as the rest of them turned in their place then started toward me reminded me of the sound that seemed to be coming from my own heart as of late, one constantly aching and dripping with the memory of Selena and images of a better day.
But Selena was dead. She had to be. Most of the city was dead. I could have been the only one left for all I knew.
Another dead guy lunged for me, his bulky shoulders and thick arms displaying veins as thick as gardner snakes, which meant he must have hit the ’roids pretty hard in his former life. I slammed the baseball bat into his skin, the blades at its end slicing into the veins like a knife through sausage. Blood leeched from the veins. The wounds didn’t faze him. I came back around and took the bat to the side of his head. His neck broke. When I pulled the bat free, blood and brain came oozing out. The guy dipped to the side then fell over.
The dead kept coming at me and for a brief moment I considered letting them take me. If you’ve ever lived with depression, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The apathy gets so strong sometimes that anything you’re doing, anything you plan to do, anything you dream to do just ceases to matter.
Even killing zombies.
The moment passed and I caught a glimpse of my old self again, the one that wanted to live. Sure, it might have been what they call “survival instinct,” or perhaps it was the adrenaline taking over. Regardless, I took out a few more undead before coming to the conclusion that I wasn’t going back upstairs anytime soon. The dead had blocked the entrance to my place. They’d stay there until I was either dead or one of them.
I only had one choice.
I had to run.