There is too much space these days. I make my home in a small house just off the main high way in New York. Since the Virus struck, nowhere has been safe. I used to think that my house, in the middle of nowhere was safe. But my brother got bitten by a zombie and I had to shoot him in the head. The Virus was on the T.V, four weeks before it hit Bronx. It was just enough time to call everyone up and say goodbye. My Mom and Dad sat in their room, praying to God. But I knew He would never help any of us. If He loves us, why create this Virus? My brother spent as much time outside as possible, because he knew this was the last time everything would be safe. When the Virus hit Bronx, my parents became sick. Mom had a fever, and Dad kept throwing up his food. It was the start of the Virus. The news anchor said that adults are most at risk, their brains being developed for longer and therefore stronger. Brains are a massive part in this Virus. People with mental health issues and undeveloped brains tend to be less of a target for the Virus and Zombies. That’s why the only people left on this planet are between the ages of one and twenty four. My parents knew it was too late to seek help. They didn’t want to pose a threat to my brother and I. So, that night they put a bullet through each other’s’ heads.
Romantic, don’t you think?
This house is filthy. The walls are mouldy, the windows are broken, the doors keep swinging in the wind and the lights flicker. Still, it’s the safest thing I have found so far. I walk into the kitchen, and look through the cabinets. Something eatable must be here somewhere. I glide my fingers over the thick layer of dust, hoping my fingers would connect with a can of peaches. Nothing. I guess I will starve yet another night. I sigh, and sit on the counters, my head hitting the black tiles on the wall. It’s getting dark, and the lights outside are getting dimmer. The streetlights attract zombies, but they help me to see myself around this house. I shiver. Shit its cold. I look outside the kitchen window and curse. Four zombies are already under the light, a yellow glow catching their horrid faces. I slide off the counter and tip toe up the stairs, being careful not to panic. The front door is locked, but the back door is screen. They could get in easily if they were hungry enough. I just pray that they aren’t. As soon as I get to the master bedroom, the lights start to flicker. An old power station down the street still has enough energy to distribute to these houses at night. I sit on the queen bed, my feet dangling over the edge. It’s such a shame, really. This Virus has wiped out most of the adults in this city. Children can still get the Virus, but it can only be transmitted through a bite. Most adults died because it was in the air that they breathed. Death, destruction and devastation contaminated the air.
I don’t really sleep. The lights flickering attract the Dead, and it creeps me out how they could go through the back door, climb the stairs and eat me within twenty seconds. Hungry zombies are fast zombies. So I don’t sleep, I drift. My mind freaks out every time the bedroom door swings. I calm myself down by not breathing. It slows down my heart rate considerably, which means it’s less of a target for the zombies outside the house. I think of the Internet, and how I used to look up books about zombies. Millions came up, and I started reading them. They never really understood the living dead. They would play around with its looks, personality and how they hunt. Most of them even had attractive zombies. I’ve yet to find one, and when I do, I’m going to shoot it between the eyes.
I sit up straight, light blinding my vision. I scramble out of bed and look outside the window. It’s morning. Most zombies are gone. One or two litter the streets, but I could easily neck them before they could attack me. I gather my bag half-full of ammo and creep downstairs. I stop at the second last step, my eyes finding a picture hanging on the wall in front of me. The man in the picture holds a two month old baby in his hands. In the bottom right hand corner, the date reads 2/03/13. Two months ago. I hope they got out in time. I make my way towards the front bath room, my eyes avoiding framed pictures. I look through the cabinet for drugs; aspirin, strong pain killers, anti-biotics… anything. I grab all of the air-tight jars of tablets and place them in my backpack, along with a tooth brush and tooth paste. I exit the house through the back, because I saw a tree that looked like an apple tree last night. To my luck, it is and I pick the four closest ones, shoving them in my bag as well.
I run towards the street, my rifle loaded and strapped to my chest. I glance in both directions, the zombies on my left. I crouch behind a bush and position myself so that my hands can rest on my knees as I shoot. I squint into the eye piece, and breathe slowly. I pull the trigger and see the first zombie go down. I load the rifle again, switching my focus to the second zombie, who is now staring down the barrel of the gun. I pull the trigger and watch it go down. I don’t like looking at their faces. It reminds me that they were once people with lives and responsibilities. Now they’re dead meat, with a bullet hole through their head.
The sun blares in my eyes. I’m walking towards a Wal-Mart to see if the food there is safe to eat, or water I could drink. New York seems to have a lot less zombies than I originally thought. I shot fourteen zombies within 10 kilometres, and I’ve only seen six zombies in the car park. I shoot them down easily, and walk inside Wal-Mart. I whistle a small tune, grab a basket, and walk towards the sunglasses stand. I take four pairs, and loop them in my jean belt holes. I skip towards the fitness section to find tons of health bars. I put four of each in my basket, and move on to the water aisle. I stop whistling and grab two large water bottles, and plop them in my basket. The eeriness of the super market makes me stop. No zombies. My whistling was to attract them so I could shoot them. But none came. My instincts kick in. I place my basket on the floor, and take off my shoes. My sneakers have grip and make noises when I walk on tiles. I glance around the corner, and stop. My rifle rests on my thigh. There is absolutely no noise. I walk farther towards the meat section, my eyes scanning the dark spots in the dim store. Something kicks a can behind me, and without thinking, I spin and load my rifle. Before I can shoot, my eyes catch a glimpse of flashing silver, and I hear a gunshot go off. I duck and roll behind the meat counter. I roll on my knees and point my rifle on the shooters’ head.
“Shit, I thought you were a zombie; for Christs sake.” The man’s head turns a quarter to the left. “Forget it, Miles, it’s just some girl.” I hear something clatter to the floor, and footsteps. I still crouch, my aim perfectly still.
“Who are you?” I demand. The man doesn’t answer. “Are you deaf? Who are you?”
“Drop your aim and we can talk, girlie,” The man says. He turns his attention to something on my right. “Damn it, Miles. Stop.”
I glance to my right and see a shaggy 6 foot tall boy-man in glasses trying to cock his gun. I stifle a giggle because I could imagine him post-apocalypse wearing the same clothes four days in a row playing Call of Duty. He finally cocks his gun, and points it at me. I recompose myself, and take a deep breath.
“Dude, I have a better shot than you do, you drop your gun and I will,” I say, shifting my gaze to his handheld resting in his hand.
“I have Miles,” the man says, nodding towards the boy-man.
“I’ll be able to shoot both of you before Miles here can aim straight.” My eyes travel up the man’s arm, seeing hints of scars and tattoos. The tooth pick in his mouth seems to be glued to his front teeth. The man looks at Miles and shrugs. They both place their guns on the floor, and kick them towards me. I stand up and drop my rifle to my side, the strap holding it to my body. I move towards the man and hold out my hand. “I’m California,” I say. He grabs my hand and smiles.
“I’m Bradley,” he greets. “You know Miles here.” He gestures to the boy-man and Miles shrugs. Socially awkward in a place like this. “A few others are out for a while; they’ll be back in a few hours.”
I nod and dust of my hands. I go towards my shoes and pull them on, not being bothered with the laces. I grab the goodie bag and move towards Bradley. “You mind if I rest up here for a while?”
Bradley takes me upstairs into an old office. It’s large, with few portraits hanging on the walls. On the floor, blankets and pillows a strewn neatly into a makeshift bed. The desk is full of knifes, guns and ammo. There is a roster on the wall for old employee’s to check when their shift was. I look on the far wall and see a cat calendar, complete with lots of writing. I move towards it, seeing the words carelessly thrown on the tiny squares. June 3rd; four down, 6 left. June 7th; hot water back on. June 9th; hot water off, two day occurrence.
“What is that for?” I ask, turning to Miles. “Is it like a journal or something?”
He shakes his head, his long blonde hair falling around his neck. His eyes dart to the ground and back up at me. “It’s a log. It’s to show how things are for the day. Important things. Just in case someone makes it through, and sees it. Just in case someone cares about this whole ordeal.”
I slowly nod. I look over at Bradley, and he’s sitting at the office chair, his eyes closed. I walk towards him, looking at his watch. 3:24pm. not enough time… “Hey, Bradley.” One eye opens. “Can I stay the night? It’s too late for me to find a house to chill in for the next twelve hours.” He nods, his eyes closing once more. His face looks younger when he relaxes, around 18 or so. I glance at Miles. He’s much younger. I’m guessing he’s 15. “Miles. Can I have a shower? I have blood on me from last week.”
His face lights up. “I can also wash your clothes, if you want. We rigged up a washing machine and dryer. You should go choose out some pyjamas.”
I look over the edge at the dark, large supermarket. The sun must have gone, because I can slightly hear the patter of rain drops on the roof. “You want to come?”
“You’re the only one here that’s awake, aren’t you?”
“My Mom was a journalist. She knew about the Virus and left me a letter explaining it all. She left with my Dad a month before the Virus hit New York. She couldn’t take me because she knew she would die anyway, and she didn’t want to hurt me like that. I guess I kind of knew that she was right, but I didn’t believe her. I spent all the money she told me to keep for the apocalypse on pizza for the rest of the month. When the Virus hit, I took her letter and the little money I had left and came here. I’ve been here since,” Miles gushes. “What about you?”
I stop looking through the rack of skimpy pyjamas and sigh. “We heard about it when everyone else did. My parents killed themselves when the Virus hit them, and my brother was bitten by a zombie soon after we started traveling. I had to shoot him.” We start making our way to the men’s clothing. “I’ve been going from house to house. Stay at one house for the night, loot their stuff, move as far as I can before it gets dark, stay at a different house for the night and repeat.”
I pick a sweat shirt that has a hefty price tag and some sweat pants. Miles helps me towards the showers in the upstairs before leaving me to shower in hot water. The water runs over my bare arms and legs, the dry blood on my hands begging to be scrubbed. I lather my hands in fancy goat soap and the white color turns a burnt red. I take this opportunity to wash my hair, since it’s been months since I was able to scrub it clean. I turn off the shower, wrap myself in a towel and walk out to get dressed. The men’s clothes are warm, but too big to provide close warmth. I travel back to the office, and realise four more people have joined us. I enter the room, and they all stare.
“Are we taking in strays now?” a girl with choppy blue hair says, standing up to confront me. My eyes dart around the room, looking for my gun. I see it on the opposite wall, resting in new sheets. My bed, I suppose. I keep my front to the girl, and my back to the wall. “I bet she took up all of the hot water, too, didn’t she?”
I back up against the opposite wall, my hand finding the handle of the rifle. The girl turns to Bradley, her hair ruffling. Bradley has his head in his hands. I start to pick up my rifle, but a warm hand stops me. I turn my head to the left and see another girl who shakes her head. I swallow thickly.
“May, she needed a place to stay,” Bradley says, his face turning red. “We didn’t have a choice!”
“Hillary died today, getting supplies for you and your army,” May says, her voice raising. “She was only fourteen.”
“Hillary asked to go out with you today. She hadn’t been out for weeks. You were supposed to look after her.”
“This isn’t about me though, you adopted another young girl, and now we have to look after her.” I swing the rifle up, and cock it. May turns around, rolling her eyes. “Now the little girl can hold a gun.” I shoot at her, my aim being blurred by anger. I shoot to kill. The bullet lands itself in the wall behind her, just above her head. The hole makes an ugly scar onto the already ugly wallpaper. Everyone burst into action. Miles and Bradley reach to hold May back. The blonde girl who tried to stop me kicks the rifle out of my hands, and grabs my arms. The two guys that were quietly loading their guns in the corner cock their guns and point them at me.
“The fucking cow!” May screams. “Get her the fuck out of here before I rip her head off!”
I shake the blonde girl off, reaching for my rifle. I go around to the exit, and run down the stairs. I hear footsteps behind me but think nothing of it. I walk towards the front exit, my breath quickening. I can barely see the ground that I place my feet on. I’m about to walk outside when someone places their hand on my shoulder. I turn to see Miles smiling at me. He shoves his hands into his pocket and swallows thickly.
“You can’t leave. It’s night. You wouldn’t get 50 meters before your neck is ripped out.” Miles shakes his head. “Besides, your clothes are being washed.”
“Well it seems like I’m going to die anyway,” I say, shifting my gun around. “It seems like May wouldn’t mind ripping my neck out.”
Miles sighs, shaking his head. His glasses slide down his nose, and he shoves them back up. I bet having glasses in this world sucks. “The girl who died today – Hillary – was May’s younger sister. She wasn’t allowed out because May worried about her too much. So Hillary took it to Bradley, and Bradley told May to suck it up, and to take Hillary to the hospital.”
“Why the hospital?” I ask, my eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “I mean, it must have already been looted, right?”
“Wrong,” Miles says. “No one has been able to go into the hospital because it’s filled with the Dead. We’ve been trying to infiltrate it for weeks now, but before they can even get close, they attack and someone dies.”
“I think your name is cool,” the blonde girl says. “Your mom must have been a really cool mom.”
Bradley nudges her. “Jessica.”
“Oh shit sorry, California,” Jessica says. “I didn’t mean it, really.”
“It’s alright. Call me Cali, it’s weird when people call me California.” I shudder, my head swimming. I don’t know what was in that can of beans but my head feels like it’s going to burst. “Besides, it’s not a very common name, is it?”
Jessica shakes her head. I glance over at May, who sits by herself in the corner of the office. Miles, Bradley, Jessica and the two boys named George and Ben, sit around me in a sort of circle. They’ve been living in this place for months, and it must have been nice to see a person other than each other. I nod to the office door.
“Don’t you ever lock that thing?” I ask, concern creeping into my already swimming head. “I mean zombies can kill faster and harder than anything on the planet. They can’t seem to work locked doors though. I once saw a zombie try to throw its weight into the door, but its body was too frail and it fell to pieces at the doorstep.”
“It’s fine. The store front is always locked,” Bradley says, a matter-of-factly. “And nothing can get through the loading bay, there is a fence surrounding it.”
“If you don’t feel safe, we can lock it for you,” George, a boy with a large scar on his cheek, says. “I mean it’s no problem.”
I hear May groan. She does not like all their attention on me. Her sister did die, though. Maybe I should bring Hillary up casually or something. No, that would hurt. If someone brought up my brother in a conversation… I don’t know what I’d do.
“I’m tired,” I say. “Do you mind if I sleep?”
“Not at all,” Bradley approves.
As I snuggle down in this ugly office in a large Wal-Mart in New York City, I remember life before the Virus, and how it was so much better than this life. For once in three months, I actually sleep. It’s like heaven. Dreams flash and come back to me, like golden retrievers and sticks. It’s nice to be able to lie down and drift off, without having to worry about zombies. I dream of cake, and icing, and dogs running around happily. They seem so far away now, but I allow my brain to dream them. It doesn’t have very long left. One dream sticks to me long after the sun rises in this hell that is called earth. The zombies are growing stronger, and they are building an army to defeat us Living.
“Cali! God wake up you stupid cow.”
“May! She probably hasn’t slept well since the Virus. Leave her be,” Bradley explains.
“It doesn’t give her the right to sleep past nine in the morning.”
“Yes it does.”
I sit up, my head still swimming. May, Bradley and Miles sit around me, their faces red with heat. They look like they ran four miles into the city. Miles smiles at me as I stand up. I look around for George and Ben. They both seem to be missing.
“May is taking you and Miles to try and get into the hospital,” Bradley says, handing me the rifle. “Ben and George went ahead of you to see any other way in.”
I look down at my men’s clothes, then at Miles to see he has my clothes in his hands, freshly washed. I usher them out of the office to get dressed. I planned on leaving today, why are they making me get into the hospital? When I’m done, I run downstairs with my backpack full of food, water, ammo and a handgun. It’s not stealing if you make sure they don’t notice that it’s gone. May and Miles lean against the front door. I already see two zombies walking around outside. Walking isn’t the right term… ambling is. Bradley counts down from three, and then opens the doors. May starts shooting, her aim horrible and her gun without a silencer. I glare at her, kneel, aim and shoot. They bullet places itself between the dead man’s eyes. Miles tries to shoot, but fails and takes cover behind May. May finally ends up shooting the second zombie in the head, and she starts running.
“May, Miles calm down for a second,” I puff. They stop and turn around. “The hospital isn’t too far from here, and if you both keep making a ruckus we’ll be their lunch within a matter of minutes.”
May brushes her blue bangs out of her eyes. “Well, they needed to be shot.”
I roll my eyes. I start walking, keeping close to the trees and the houses. If the swarm of zombies had heard May’s gunfire, they’ll be coming towards it and I don’t want to be without shelter when they attack. Without word, Miles and May follow me, placing their feet carefully on the pavement. It’s not too far now.
“Hey, Miles do you think you can run ahead? Shout back if you see anything,” I claim.
Miles looks at me with confusion. “Me? The one with glasses and the hand-eye co-ordination of a pig? I don’t think so.”
I whip my hair to the wind, and squint into the distance. The heat from the black road makes me sweat. I hear May panting in the back. “It’s him! It’s Ben! Oh thank God!” she starts running towards him, but my hand instantly reaches out to stop her. Something about him isn’t right. I take a deep breath, grab Miles’ hand and slowly creep into some bushes. “What the fuck are you doing, that’s Ben!”
“May keep your fucking voice down. Something about him isn’t right,” I whisper.
May peers over the top of the bush. I do as well. Ben’s hand is completely severed off and his head hangs at a weird angle to the right. His walking is slow and unsteady, like he’s drunk. His face displays no emotion, not even pain.
“Fucking shit,” May curses. “Fucking shit!” Ben’s attention is on us now. His eyes are like black pools. I raise my rifle, aiming for in between the eyes, but May pulls it down. She blinks back tears. “You can’t shoot him, Cali. He’s Ben.”
I look at Miles, my eyes pleading. “He’s a fucking zombie, May. He’s gone. That’s not your Ben. They’ve taken him away. That’s his body but his mind isn’t there.”
I see Ben running, his eyes fixated on mine. “I have to shoot, May. There is nothing I can do.”
“Don’t shoot him!”
I cock my rifle; less than four seconds before he is near the sidewalk. I hear a gunshot, and see him go down. My eyes widen. That wasn't either of us. Miles looks at me with confusion in his eyes. May’s tears seem to stop. My heart drops. I stand up and turn, my rifle finding its aim in between two bright green eyes.
© Copyright 2017 Tahlia Lee. All rights reserved.
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