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We Who Live (Pt. 2)
I swing the baseball bat, taking a step back as the grey-ish green zombie falls to my feet, groaning. I step down on its head, shrieking as I do. My sneaker comes back covered in black and green goop and I let out another cry, rubbing it down on the grass. I take off across the field, the metal baseball dragging in my hand. I haven’t seen another human being in three days, I’ve only seen zombies – which I’m nowhere used to yet. I started at my public school, where the invasion hit, ending up locked in a tennis court with my old teacher and twenty-four other students and teachers. Finding a bunch of garden tools was great, but when Mr. Wallace opened the gate and let the creatures in, that was not good. I dived in, desperately swinging the bat. I didn’t care to kill them, just to knock them down long enough to step over and run. I house-hopped for the next three days. The community had rapidly gone downhill, most people skipping town to visit relatives far, far away – as if the zombies wouldn’t be there soon. On the first night, I had found a house a block from the school, after wandering and hiding in a familiar neighbourhood, staying still and away from zombies. I had jumped the back fence and knocked on the back door. When no one answered, I stalked around the house until I find an open window, which I managed to open even further and squeeze inside, dragging my bat with me. The people who lived there seemed to be expecting to return, the house looked as if they would walk in at any moment, switch on the TV and reheat a frozen pizza. I had found food and water bottles in their cupboards and a blue hoodie that wasn’t stained with blood and goop, like my black and white varsity jacket was. Even though I had a stomach full of canned food, the windows and doors had been locked, the curtains drawn and there was a perfectly comfortable bed waiting for me in a guest room, I could sleep that night. I sat in the foyer, in front of the door, with my baseball bat sitting on my knee. Every time I closed my eyes, I heard zombies walking past – thick, overgrown nails scratching along the back fence, swollen tongues making gurgled, drowned sounds. I used the family desktop and searched for more information on the zombie pandemic, as journalists had dubbed it. It began as a disease, similar to leprosy, a month ago. It was only in a small village in Africa, but all too quickly, it took a turn for the worst and those infected became heartless, brain-hungry, rotting corpses. It spread through zombie bites at first, but then water and rats began to carry it. It spread to Saudi Arabia, China and Ireland, thriving in densely populated areas. Somehow, it spread to the US, taking the unexpected people by surprise and then Canada. The government tried to keep it hush-hush, brought in doctors and specialists and hunters, but the zombies spread and populated.
I slam my hands down on the keyboard.
Why didn’t they warn us?
The next morning, with my baseball bat in hand, and a butcher’s knife tucked into my pocket, I left the house and walked down the back alley. I heard scuffling and footsteps but whenever I turned around, there was no one there. My nerves were eating away at me, making me skittish and anxious.
School was supposed to start today, I suddenly remember as I turn down my street.
It is deathly silent, no cats, dogs or birds, especially no humans. I see a light on in my neighbour’s house but all I can think about is how screwed up everything has become. My school supplies are sitting in my room, all labeled and ready to be taken in my brand new backpack to school and instead, I’m carrying a stained baseball bat down the street, wondering if a zombie could be hiding behind the family car. I get to my house and swing open the white picket fence. I walk around the back, baseball bat raised to protect myself. I jump when I nearly trip over a bloated green and grey body. I prod the stomach with the tip of my bat, but the creature doesn’t shift. Probably because there’s no head and all the guts have leaked into our gravel walkway. I’m gagging and have to cover my mouth, stepping over what I think is our next door neighbour, now twice dead. The backyard is exactly as it had been when I had sat there with Gen and Kate three days ago. I try all the door knobs, frustrated that our doors are so new and sturdy, and finally resort to smashing in the window of one of the French doors on the lower deck.
“Mom? Dad?” I call, “Peter? Marvin?”
The kitchen has been trashed, the fridge left completely open. Everything has gone bad, the meat and sauces stinking. I drag the spoiled food out and dump it on the deck, resolving to take it somewhere else. I step over the dog’s overturned food bowl and walk downstairs. My brother’s music is playing softly through the stereo, a mix of rap and techno that makes me wrinkle my nose. The window has been smashed in, glass littering the wooden floor. I continue into his room, where his bed is unmade and his computer is doing monthly updates, churning softly.
I go through the entire house, pausing my search for my family only to change into some of my own clothes. My parents’ rooms are the cleanest, the bed made and the alarm clock set for the next morning. I check their bathroom and gag at the smell. My mother’s perfume bottle is in shards on the floor, the amber-colored liquid making the bathroom smell like dried flowers and alcohol. Gagging turns to choking which turns to sobbing as I perch on the edge of the tub, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now.
After an hour or so of crying, I realize that this house isn’t safe for me. The front gate is too small to hold anything back and there are now two broken windows. I raid our garage for useful things and fill a backpack with a change of clothes, a heavy ax and a can of mace. As I’m stepping carefully back through the house, I notice that our answering machine is blinking red. The small light catches my eye and I put down my backpack for a moment, leaning over the phone.
2 new messages.
I press a button and an automated voice begins, “You have two messages, two messages. Message one…”
My stepfather’s voice booms through the speakers, “Beatrice, hopefully you have come home. We waited for you, but when the zombies got too close the mayor ordered everyone leave. We have headed to Seattle first, but eventually, we will go to Australia and stay with Uncle Isaac. Your mother wants to stay, but the zombies are literally knocking at our doors. Please come join us as soon as you can, or find somewhere safe to stay. We are so, so sorry we have left you. Stay safe, healthy and hidden. We’ll see you as soon as we can.”
The message ends. I have no doubt in my mind that my mother insisted on waiting for me, but my stepdad’s no-nonsense tone comes off un-caring. The next message plays and I am brought to my knees as I listen.
Coming from my mother’s cellphone, the only sound that can be heard on the other line is grunts, groans and the unmistakable sound of a zombie ripping into flesh.