An Old Friend

Rose Butler was one of the oldest members of the zone. Her husband died a few years before the outbreak. Her son Lawrence was the only family that she had left. Rose and I were neighbors before the outbreak and again here in the Zone. When the word came to evacuate, I made her come with me. She didn’t want to. She insisted that her son was coming to get her, but I wanted to get out of the city as quickly as possible.

Lawrence and I were friends when we were younger. We grew up together, but after high school we grew apart. He spent a dozen or so years after graduation “finding himself”. I don’t know if he ever found what he was looking for. The last that I heard, he wanted to do something with animals.

Every morning when my squad would go out on patrol, Mrs. Butler would find me with the same request. “Find my Lawrence, and bring him back with you.” I always responded that I’d keep an eye out for him and she would smile. I knew that there was no way that I could ever find him, but she needed that hope to keep going.

This went on for months. One spring morning, we found ourselves clearing out Burnet Park. There were only a few ghouls there. Some had managed to get inside the swimming pool fence and couldn’t get out. Some of them fell into the empty pool and were trapped. There were a few towards the golf course clubhouse and a lone zombie on the playground. We split up. Calc and I headed towards the clubhouse. Erin and Ace were on pool and playground duty. We quickly dispatched the handful of zombies in the first fairway. After a quick sweep of the clubhouse, I made my way over to the ninth hole. Calc stayed back to collect any clubs that could be put to future use.

I saw one creature near the ninth green. It had lost its legs and a good part of its flesh. When it saw me coming, it began to use its arms to pull itself closer to me. I got a funny feeling as I got closer to the creature. I recognized it. I couldn’t believe it, but I had actually found Larry. I squatted down to get closer to the creature but still stayed back a few feet.

“Larry, your mother’s worried about you. She’s had me out looking for you for months now. What happened to you?”

He replied only with a dull moan.

“She’s doing well. We’re all keeping an eye on her. She’s been knitting, keeping us all warm through the winter.”

Maybe it was the midday sun shining off of his dull eyes, but the more I talked about his mother, I swear that I saw some humanity in them.

“She really misses you, Lar…”

“Fore!” Calc yelled as he swung a rental driver through Larry’s partially decomposed head, scattering his brains all over the fairway.

“It’s in the hole!” Calc yelled, waving to the imaginary crowd surrounding the green. “What were you thinking getting that close to one of those things? Are you losing it, man?”

“I, I knew him. He was a friend. C’mon, let’s help the others clear the park.”

Later that evening, I stopped by to check on Mrs. Butler. As usual, she asked me if I had found her son. As usual, I told her that I hadn’t, but I would keep looking. She needed that hope to keep on going.

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