The Best Day Ever

Dear Diary,

Last week I had the best day ever! I woke up and had breakfast and Mommy bought my favorite kind of cereal. Then later me and Daddy watched Spongebob on the tv together. It was really funny until a man on the news started talking. I don’t know what he said because I was making snoring noises at him. Daddy shushed me and got all worried and went to talk to Mommy. They talked for a long time. I think the man was talking about Halloween because I looked outside and saw a bunch of people playing Monsters. Then one of the people came up to the window and started banging on it and making funny sounds. I decided to play too and I made growling noises at him. It was funny. Then Daddy came back in and got scared and pulled me away from the window. He yelled at the man but he kept pretending. I laughed. Mommy and Daddy got really scared because more people came and wanted to get in. Daddy left the room and I snuck into the kitchen and took a cookie that Mommy just made. Chocolate chip are my favorite. When I came back Daddy told me to put my shoes on and that we had to leave. After a couple minutes, Mommy picked me up and we ran real fast to the car. The people who were playing pretend try to come with us but Daddy wouldn’t let them and he drived away. I looked out the car window and I saw lots of people playing tag outside. I asked if we could play too and Mommy and Daddy both yelled no. I got mad because they yelled at me. Later we got out of the car because the road was blocked and we had to run. Soon we got to the airport. I asked if Grandma was coming to visit again and Daddy said no. When we went in a man took us to a room and looked at us. He looked at all my arms and everything and it tickled. He talked to Daddy for a while and told us to go somewhere. Mommy took me to a different room with a bed in it and we went to sleep. The next day I made a bunch of friends and we played together. We played hide and seek for a long time but Mommy got real mad when nobody could find us. Lots of those Halloween people stay outside. I don’t think anyone here likes Halloween because they aren’t allowed in. We made up a game that we called Run Away. Me and my friends run up to the fence and a man with a gun runs after us and chases us away. It’s really funny. Mommy says not to go near the fence because the people that are outside are really bad. I don’t think the people are bad though. A couple days ago I saw my friend Susy from school and she was playing Monsters outside the fence. She was making funny noises too. I showed Mommy because she was walking with me. Then she put her hands over my eyes. Through the cracks I saw one of the gun men that was outside walk over to Susy. Then Mommy turned me around. Its so much fun around here but I wish Timmy was here. Timmy is my big brother. I don’t know where he is because whenever I ask Mommy she starts crying and then Daddy hugs her. He would have fun if he was here though. I think he’s working. The best part about being here is that we get to stay for a long time! Mommy says she doesn’t know when we get to go back home. I don’t mind though, I’m having so much fun!

The Sheep’s Clothing

Everyone loved zombies. Who knew that New York horded such a massive colony of undead fans? Everyone would go see the movies. They loved watching their badass heroes slaughter mobs of ghouls on the big screen. The fad went unnoticed next to the polo shirts and sports games, but they were there. Believe me, the creepy shirts, hats, movies, books and video games were there nonetheless. Eventually these fans became fanatics.

The American culture loved the walking dead so much that zombie walks became common. You know the drill: a bunch of people dress like their decaying idols and march around “attacking” people, swelling their ranks. It was all good fun. One of these walks was eventually set up to take place in Eastwood. People ran, others chased. The mob had grown quite large since they started and were now shuffling toward Carousel Mall. Malls…the media’s favorite. The costumes were quite realistic. Nobody could tell the difference when the actual zombie joined in the fun. One man was mauled by it. People laughed, some screamed playfully. The man wasn’t playing. It took about ten minutes and three more victims before everyone noticed what was happening. Everyone ran.

Nowadays we sit and wait; stuck in an airport trying to take back our city.

Nobody loves zombies anymore.

The Night Shift

“…Life’s so unfair when your best friend’s a ghoul. The end.” I put down the book and quietly make my way towards the door so that I don’t wake her, but it’s no use. The isn’t exactly a four star hotel we’re staying in.

“Aw, I feel bad for the penguin. Goodnight Daddy. I love you.”

“Goodnight, dear. Sweet dreams.”

I pull the door shut behind me and head for the lobby. As I exit the building, I pass members of the 27th Squad returning from their latest mission. Decap gives me a big smile. That can’t be a good sign of things to come.

It’s dark outside. If it weren’t for the few small fires burning I wouldn’t be able to see more than a few feet in front of me. It’s only early evening, but most of the children are asleep. They sleep when it’s dark. We don’t follow clocks anymore. Most people don’t even pay attention to the days of the week.

I volunteered to help out with the Corps at night after my daughter fell asleep. I want to go out and help them in the field, but I have to think of my daughter. I can’t risk getting hurt or worse out there. I’m in charge of cleaning and disinfecting the ZEDs each night. It’s not a glamorous job, and the stench is almost unbearable, but it’s the least that I can do to help. The Corps members are risking their lives each and every day so that I can live as normal a life as possible.

As I approach the north side of the parking garage, I find the pile of crowbars and bats covered with the bones and brains of the undead. Some of the squads make more of a mess than others. The 27th is one of the worst. Most listen to their mother’s advice and clean up after themselves. Not the 27th. Next to the pile of clubs, I find a bucket and sponge. I pick up the sponge, wring it out, and get to work.

Goodbye, Love.

Day 87, I went for a walk today to try and find a scrap of food, or hunt some kind of animal that hasn’t been bitten. I found myself down to Marshall Street. My brother used to work at the pizza shop on this street before…

I came to the building which once held his employment. It was dank, and dim. One of the front windows was shattered. Not the smallest fraction of glass was holding into the frame. The pieces were spread among the front sidewalk and in the interior of the lobby area, the place where people used to once stand in line and wait for their hot Italian pies in cardboard boxes. Cosmo’s Pizza… just the thought makes your mouth water. Dave truly knew how to cook a pie.

There was a door slightly angled to the left of the pizza shop, the glass is smashed out of it, also. Dare I walk up the stairs to see what used to be Halo Tattoo? I wouldn’t want to come across one of them, one of those who took my brother. I slowly opened the frame of the parlor door, and cautiously creeped up the stairs, toe by toe. The yellow walls were cracked larger than they were before the invasion. I beamed my flashlight through the opening where a door once was to see if there would be any movement in the upstairs room.

Continue reading ‘Goodbye, Love.’

The Halloween Parade

Eight men dressed as hookers.

Eleven women dressed as Corpse Corps members. The rendition of the Eighteenth Squad by their lovers had everyone laughing.

One person in a Richard Nixon mask. One of Ronald Reagan, and four of Clinton. There were six Dick Cheneys. Amazing how the old monsters never die. The one wearing the president’s mask–where did they find that, anyway?–got both boos and cheers.

Three little girls dressed as princesses.

One little kid dressed as Meaker. One was wearing his youth hockey uniform and one dressed in a karate robe. One eight year old had a Nielsen jersey on and carried–and dropped–a football. He wouldn’t have been old enough to have remembered seeing Nielsen play, but was too young to be blamed for appreciating the laughs he got.

One guy dressed as Donald Trump ran up to Brooks and said, “You’re fired.” Everyone laughed, even Brooks.

Seven vampires, most of indeterminate sex.

The people dressed up as the Fruit of the Loom fruits looked good enough to eat.

The woman who wanted to advertise her availability by wearing nothing but shaving cream was barred from the event by Brooks, much to her distress.

Several people dressed up as Romans in togas, drinking wine, probably real, straight from the bottle. There were twelve gangsters, male and female. No less than nineteen women dressed up in maids outfits. Two cross-dressing male nuns dragged Father Tutumbo rather unwillingly behind them in chains. He said a mass soon thereafter attended by thirty people.

Four ninjas appeared out of nowhere to attack the nine pirates and stage a battle, where like little kids playing cops and robbers, everyone declared themselves invulnerable to the other side’s attacks.

Three drunken doctors and four equally drunk nurses offered free exams (without a copay) to the suddenly ill.

All the kids cheered for a tall, thin penguin waddling down the parade route carrying a hockey stick. He would waddle up to a child before suddenly turning and running in the opposite direction to howls of laughter. The adults assumed there had been some new cartoon to replace Spongebob just before the collapse made it impossible to spend hundreds of dollars on made-in-China merchandise. They shrugged, but they still laughed at the kids’ hysterics.

There was a Cat in the Hat. There were two clowns, one of whom was wasted and the other who juggled machetes. There was a girl in a blue and white cheerleader’s outfit who did backflips, cartwheels, and other impossible flying combos without pause down the course to loud cheers.

There was a man or woman in a monkey suit. No one ever figured out who it was.

Somehow, there was candy for every kid. There was pumpkin pie. There was cider and apples.

Inside and out that night, there were no zombies. It was a good night.

By a year later, one third of the people would be gone, victims of the hunger, the cold, the disease, the undead. But for one night, no one cared.

It was a good night.

S.A.D.

I’ve just got to get through the next week or two and I’ll be okay.

Yeah. Right.

I know evolutionary biology isn’t really all that interesting in these times. Shut up. I’ve got a point.

I remember before the collape seeing an article on the news about back pain. Apparently, the human spine was designed—no, evolved—for walking on all fours. The move to walking upright took our spine by suprise. It just wasn’t designed for walking on two legs. But that didn’t matter until we started to live past 45 about 300 years ago. Our backs couldn’t take it and just started to give out.

That doesn’t matter anymore. Anyone over 45 around here is old. Back pain will come younger and younger, but it will be due to overexertion or a lack of calcium. No one around here will have time for dealing with cripples. It just doesn’t matter.

But I’ve found a new problem where our biology just can’t keep up with reality.

Continue reading ‘S.A.D.’

They Lived, Felt Dawn, Saw Sunset Glow

In the field an old man toils. His back is bent and crooked. His hands are calloused and brown. His face is drawn and leathery. His body is broken but his arms are strong. He works among the grasses and the pale yellow flowers and the neat rows of bleached crosses. He raises a shovel and cuts into the dense dirt.

The day is cloudy and the sun is dim and the wind picks up dust from the dark empty pavement. It stings the old man’s face. It tries to undo his work. It makes the branches of a young apple tree sway. The leaves dance and rustle and mingle with the chink chink of the shovel biting the earth.

Behind him a gate is drawn open and armed men are leaving. The old man knows where he will bury them. He will plant them beneath the apple tree with the others who will file out that gate. The old man lays down his shovel and watches them disappear and the gate drawn shut behind them. He knows what they do not: that they are already dead.

Smoke is rising from small fires. The smell of roasting meat is on the air, dinner will soon be ready. Compliments to the chef. Kiss the cook. The old man knows where they will be buried as well. He has picked out a plot for each of them. Row on row that only he can see.

He picks up his shovel and digs and hears laughter. It’s light and sweet. It’s rare but it happens. Bless the children, the strongest of them all. Bless the children, he thinks. He knows about them too. They will fill the gaps. They are, after all, so small.

The old man bends low and lifts a large form, bundled tightly, onto his small frail frame. He lowers it gently into the trough and pours the soft soil over it with his hard hands. He pats the loose bits down tenderly.  He brings a large and oppressive stone and lays it upon the grave.

With a mallet he drives another bleached cross into the ground. He wishes he was better with words. He wishes he could say something pretty. He wishes he was a poet.

Family Reunion

This is the first time I have been alone since the epidemic had started. It was chaos when the monsters broke into the mall. Everybody running screaming, there screams where louder then mine. “Dad” I screamed until tears welled up in my eyes and my body shook. No one looks down, they run. It’s like one of those shows you see on animal planet where the lions are chasing the gazelle, the young just fall back and no one looks back.

As I sit here in this dressing room I listen, I listen to the shuffle of feet the occasional moan. These are the monsters. I remember my the first night of the epidemic my parents both cried. You know something really must be wrong when you see your Dad break down and cry. My Dad was holding my Mom in the living room. Thats when I saw the first monster, it crashed through bay window with several behind but this one it looked like me and you only dirty, cross eyes, and it was covered in blood. It grabbed my Mother by the hair and pulled her into its grip. I remember the saliva running down its chin as it ripped through my mother’s trachea. My father grabbed my hand and we ran. There was not time for tears or mourning. My father knew something that I didn’t, that my mother was in fact very much alive.

More shuffles as I close my eyes, I haven’t slept since I was separated from my Dad. I’m guessing that was about three days ago. I feel tugs on my arm as my eyelids snap open. I see my mothers face and I feel the pressure on my wrist.

“Mama please your hurting me” I look into those cross, glazed eyes. I know she can’t hear me, she can’t even comprehend me. She brings my arm to her lips, its almost as if she kisses it first before she tears into it. My whole arm erupts in a burning sensation. I no longer Joshua Redmond, I am a monster.

Continue reading ‘Family Reunion’

Final Thoughts

“Mom, no!”

That’s when I bashed her head in, monkey wrench to the forehead. The woman had taken care of me for 22 years and it came down to that.

I didn’t think I could do it. She’s my mom, for Christ’s sake. Well, was my mom anyways. Have you ever bashed your own mother’s forehead in?

There was a time that the more common answer was, “No,” but here, every day I find another person with a similar story. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, priests, wives, even toddlers. The unthinkable has become an every day occurrence.

The guy in the cot next to me doesn’t have a brother anymore. He raided his own house last week and found a note on his brother’s desk, “I couldn’t do it. She’s my niece.” His brother’s signature was scrawled at the bottom of the page. The door to the bedroom was off the hinges and there was blood everywhere.

This is what it’s come down to, slaying family members for survival. Tantalus cursed his entire family by killing his son. I have a neighbor that brought three of his kids to their deaths.

What’s left for us? I can’t think of anything either, so fuck it. Tonight, I’m leaving the Zone and all the people who are still alive behind me. Maybe one day they’ll realize how pointless their lives are too.

Hitting on the Ladiez

Two weeks ago, my fiancée left me.  I didn’t think I’d be back out at the bar scene so soon, but here I was, spending my weekend at The Blarney Stone with my buddy Rick checking out a couple of girls across the room.

“You want the blonde or the brunette?”

“Rick, I don’t know about this.  It’s too soon.  I don’t think I can do it.”

“C’mon, she’s gone, and she’s not coming back.  You’ve got to move on, man.”

“Fine, but no guarantees.  I’ll go over there, but if it doesn’t feel right, I’m not going through with it.”

“That’s the spirit.  So, which one do you want?  The brunette?  She’s just waiting for you over there.”

“OK, but you first.  I think it will be easier for me if her friend’s not there.”

The blonde made her way towards the pool table, and Rick followed her across the room.  That left just me and the brunette.

I couldn’t believe I was about to do this.  My wedding was supposed to be this morning, and now I’m checking out some strange girl at the bar.

As I made my way across the bar, my heart began pounding.  I think she must have heard it, because she finally turned towards me.  The look on her face showed that she was interested in me as well.  I didn’t know what to say once I reached her, should I try a line on her?  “You come here often?” didn’t seem right.  Neither did “My fiancée just left me.”  My throat was drying up, so I probably wouldn’t get much out anyway.  I began to sweat profusely.  I think she could tell that I was nervous.

“Uh, hi, uh, I don’t usually do this, but..”

Rick called from across that bar, “Dude! What are you doing?”

I turned back to see the brunette leaning in towards me to take a bite.  I swung the bat in my left hand, knocking her to the floor.

Rick picked up a towel off of the bar, and wiped the blood and skull chunks off of his crowbar.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?  Let’s see if there’s anything worth drinking left, and then we’ll head back.”

Eight Times Over Miss October

I hate Magritte. I never understood why until I was an old man, felt like an old man at least. Then I figured out just what a smug son of a bitch he really was.

When the outbreak hit I ran, like everyone else. I ended up deep in the mountains. I found a cabin. Taught myself to survive, to hunt, to fish, to trap. Then I grew a beard to go along with it.

I had a radio. I turned it on for a few minutes each day, to keep the hope alive. There are only so many days of static a man can take. I found a stray cat. Coaxed it in with scraps and named him Marlow. I went on with my life.

Weeks, months, a year later, in the fall, I went rummaging through the previous tenant’s attic. From out of an old and battered trunk I pulled out a crumpled pinup calender. October 1961.

And there she was, Miss October.
Continue reading ‘Eight Times Over Miss October’