I looked down at a dead zombie, if someone asked me how I had killed it I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell them. The last few moments of my life were a blur of rage and pain, I can remember going to the garage to get something to use as a weapon and coming back after finding one of my old little league bats. After that it was just a whirl of motion and anger that led me to standing over a dead zombie and trying my best to not look at what was left of the two corpses that were once my family.
I felt a burning pain in my left forearm and glanced at it to find two bite wounds that were slowly bleeding, seeing that I was strangely numb. Given that all media I knew of containing anything about zombies all agreed that being bitten by them was really bad, like becoming infected and turning into one of them bad, it was strange that I didn’t have any real reaction to seeing the wounds. I just couldn’t bring myself to really care, after the blinding rage left me I just felt empty inside.
“Alex? Are you…?” I heard J.J. ask softly from behind me.
Turning I saw him looking at me with clear concern before he glanced at the two other bodies nearby and visibly flinched. He ended up just looking back at me, but his expression was complicated. “I was bitten.” My voice was flat when I spoke, and for some reason I held out my left arm like I needed to prove what I had said was true to him.
“Oh, um, Shit… Do you think that you’ll, um, that you’ll…” J.J. was just staring at the two bleeding bite marks on my arm, he was stuttering again too. J.J. hadn’t stuttered like that for years, not since middle school I think.
“I don’t know.” I lowered my arm while looking at it curiously before finding my eyes wonder back to the two things I was trying to avoid seeing in a moment of weakness. I immediately looked away and tried desperately to purge the image from my mind and memory, I wanted to remember my family as they were when they were living and not like… not like this. Looking instead at the blood spattered aluminum bat hanging loosely in my right hand I spoke softly to my friend. “J.J. please don’t tell anyone, instead if I start acting like I’m turning or something just kill me. I don’t want Cynthia or the twins to worry about this.”
I couldn’t see what sort of face J.J. was making as I turned the bat in my hands looking at how it dented lightly in a few places but the reply I heard told me all I needed to know. “…Alright Alex, um, if you’re sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Hey, I’m going to go get some stuff from my room, could you wait for me for a bit?”
“Yeah, um, Yeah I’ll just be in the, um, the car…”
When I heard J.J. walk away and the front door closing it was like something broke inside me and I fell to my knees, all the strength left me and I felt a hiccupping sensation clog my throat as the tears began to flow. On my hands and knees I stared at the filthy red carpeting that just this morning had been fairly clean and grey, at that moment I only had one thought. A question that plagued me and I felt myself screaming in a hoarse voice inbetween sobs. Why? Why them? Why like this? Why now? Why!?!?
I stared at myself in the mirror, the short wavy black hair, brown eyes with faint dark bags hanging under them from lack of sleep, pale complexion that tanned in the weirdest places, and lanky frame with those few muscles that were hard earned through running track and that ridiculous stretching yoga thing my sister had talked me into doing with her for the last year. The features were familiar and if Cynthia and my family were to be trusted made me look “charming” and “the cute sort of handsome”, but the specks of blood drying on my face and arms dispelled that image completely. Washing the blood off of my body with a wet washcloth I reflected on how different a person could appear in just a few hours. The blood splattered and dead eyed stranger in the mirror was someone who the Alex of just an hour ago wouldn’t even recognize let alone think of as his future self, it was almost funny in a cruel twisted way.
After checking that I had gotten most of the blood off me I put on the new clothes I had picked out for the zombie apocalypse. The T-shirt was one I got at a Sleeping With Sirens concert, the jeans were my most durable and flexible pair, the hoodie was lined with some sort of fluff inside for added warmth, the black leather jacket was broken in and flexible but should still be tough enough to hold back teeth and nails from all but the most determined zombies, and lastly my steel toed combat boots would probably last me as long as I needed them without wearing out while also being great for kicking or stomping. It was an outfit that maximized comfort and utility, and after looking at myself wearing everything in the mirror I could say that it looked pretty good on me. A part of me knew that I was just stalling, that I was staying in the bathroom so long because once I left I would have to face the world and it’s cruel truths.
Looking at myself one more time in the mirror I noticed that I was totally expressionless, and my eyes were still flat and cold. Practicing a smile I knew that even someone who had never met me would be able to tell that it’s fake, all they would have to do is look at my eyes and see the lifelessness there. With a sigh I turned away and looked at the backpack I had filled with supplies and a few mementos I wanted to take with me, I didn’t plan to ever come back to this place so I took what mattered most to me and found a way to make it fit inside the bag along with two boxes of granola bars, some bottles of water, and a few spare clothes.
Hefting the pack onto my shoulder by both straps I began making my way through the house and headed down the stairs, stopping in the garage one last time I stared at the my old bat bag from the little league days and the container of gasoline next to it. I think I’ll burn this place down, that way mom and Laura can at least have a funeral pyre of sorts… It’s better than nothing at least, and it’ll keep their bodies from being… Shaking my head trying once again to banish the memory of something eating my mother’s body in front of my and the missing parts from my sister, I pushed the memories deep down and buried them under pleasant recollections of when the two were alive but still a part of me knew that those memories would never leave me. If I manage to live through this and my zombie bites turn out to be non-infectious I might eventually be able to forget the sight of my family’s corpses or at least learn to move past it, but the memory and feelings of today would be a scar that would haunt me until my death. I knew that because it was the same way when I found out about the way dad died back then, it took a year to get over that death and I’d never seen his body that time. This time I was sure it would take much longer if I ever got over this at all.
“Yeah, burning down the house seems like a good idea…” I mumbled softly to myself as I picked up the container of gas and began unscrewing the top. “And with any luck the fire will take out a few of them too…”
“You should drive, catch.” Tossing my keys to J.J. as I opened the passenger side door of my car I eyed a few zombies streaming into a house across the street. A part of me, the part of me that was still attempting to care about things, wondered where these monsters were even coming from, the rest of me though just wanted to escape before the fire I had started in the house began to spread and consumed my home. Maybe making J.J., who was already plenty freaked out and uncertain as it was, drive through zombie infested suburbia was selfish and unfair, but I honestly couldn’t say that I was in any shape to drive. Hell I might just get us killed trying to run down every one of those fuckers I come across on the road… That isn’t the mentality I should be driving in, and since I can’t shake the mind set this is the next best thing…
J.J. fumbled a bit as he caught the keys, looked up at me for a moment in shock, and then climbed into the driver’s seat without leaving the car. “Get in, Connor and the rest managed to get Cyn’s folks out ok and, um, they’re at the pawn shop waiting on us. We’re leaving, and fuck stopping at my place we’re going straight to Tony’s Pawn to meet up with the others…”
As I got into the seat I looked over and glared at my friend, he’d obviously been in contact with the others while waiting on me. “Did you…?”
Throwing the car into drive and just rolling over the lawn to get to the street J.J. cut me off. “Relax man, I didn’t mention anything about you, or well… what happened…” J.J. got quiet as he trailed off and we ended up just sitting in silence as J.J. drove and maneuvered around the obstacles on the road both living and not.
Looking out the window I got to watch as the world as I knew it ended, I got to watch a few unlucky people get dragged down by zombies and I saw more than a few corpses in varying degrees of wholeness. It was actually so surreal that what I was seeing just didn’t connect with me, or maybe the truth was I was just too numb to the world now to really care. Either way it felt like I was just watching a movie as I looked out the window of the moving car, like none of what I saw was real or actually mattered in any real way. Is this what being in shock feels like? Or maybe I’m having a psychological breakdown… I guess it doesn’t really matter what this is though, it doesn’t change anything after all. Mom’s gone, Laura’s gone, the world is ending, and me being the lucky guy I am I managed to get bitten not once but twice by the same zombie that killed my family… A soft chuckle escaped my mouth as I really thought of the ridiculousness of my situation. I always said this world was messed up, but I guess I was still being too optimistic about things…
“Hey Alex? Hey man, are you ok?” I looked over to see J.J. glance at me with clear concern before he refocused back on the road.
“If I said I was, would you believe me?” I tried to make a smile as I said that but my tone was still too flat to ever pass as normal. I just really wanted him to not talk to me right now, and I wanted him worried about me even less than I wanted to talk. That was the reason I didn’t want him to tell the others about what happened, I didn’t want to deal with what would come afterwards. For a brief moment my gaze was locked on the steering wheel and I had a simple and horrible thought, it would only take one quick tug and everything could end. A crash at this speed would probably kill me on impact, I wouldn’t have to deal with this fucked up world anymore… But it would kill J.J. right alongside me… The moment passed with me looking away and directing my gaze back out the window and discarding the notion of killing myself, suicide is never really an answer that solved anything it was just a method to try and avoid the questions and hardships of life. I could cope by avoiding things with my death, maybe even heal a bit of the pain inside by doing so, but the one thing I wouldn’t do was bring a friend along with me in death.
“Sorry that was a really fucking stupid question, of course you’re not ok…” J.J. sighed. “I... I… Fuck man, I, um, I just don’t know what to do… How can I help you?”
“I don’t need any help…” My voice cracked half way through the sentence, but swallowing down the heat that began to rise in my throat I spoke again. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not… Do you want to maybe, um, talk or something?”
I watched as a woman in a strange almost Victorian style dress ate a man alive in front of a taco joint. “J.J., my mom is dead, my sister is dead, I might be infected by some zombie plague virus, and by now my house is burning down. All that’s left of my life has been packed into this bag…” I patted the backpack resting on my lap. “So I’m doing as fine as I think I could possibly be in this situation. I don’t need to talk, I just need you to drive…”
“I, um, I… Ok then, sorry Alex.”
In that moment I felt lower than I had in a long time, but still I let the conversation die out as I looked out the window and resumed watching the world crumble around me. In truth I was jealous, and that jealousy was beginning to break through the numb indifference that had been shielding me from another breakdown. I was Jealous that J.J. didn’t have a real family to mourn or worry over, I was jealous that Connor and Claire seemed to know what they were doing and had a plan, and most of all I was jealous that Cynthia’s whole family got to live and was right now waiting with the others in a safe place. I was so jealous that I started to hate them, and then I immediately began to hate myself for hating them. I was in a downward spiral that I could only fight for so long, and unlike with what happened seven years ago I couldn’t retreat into a screen or a VR helmet for comfort.
It was more than a little pathetic, but right now the only reason I even bothered to live on was because I wanted my few friends to not feel this sort of loss. I was living for the sole sake of five people now, and even now I was looking for a way to escape. With how I was now I knew that if I could find a way, any way, to shake off the responsibility of living like this I probably would, any heroic sacrifice or impossible decision that would result in one of our deaths would be snatched away by me before the others could even consider the situation. I wouldn’t go out of my way to take my own life, I simply wouldn’t go out of the way to preserve my life either.
It will still be hard and probably sad for them, but it’s the only sort end they would accept that I can think of. Not a meaningless suicide but a necessary sacrifice… Connor and Claire will understand that sort of thing, Cyn and J.J. will eventually come around too… I’ll sacrifice myself then they can move on, move on without me… Looking out the window I caught a glimpse of my own reflection and noticed that tears were starting to form in my eyes, wiping at my eyes before the tears could fall I ended up looking down at the new aluminum baseball bat I had brought with me from the garage. A memory of when I used to swing this thing with all my strength at a ball I never seemed to be able to hit surfaced in my mind, those were back in the days where dad was still alive and I was still so innocent and trusting of the world.
I felt a small smile form on my face in that moment as I cemented my resolve, I let go of my jealousy and hatred and instead turned to a sort of patient calm. I didn’t know what happened when a person died and I had never been very religious, but whatever the case was I had resolved to accept it. Be it heaven, hell, reincarnation, or simply nothing at all, its fine… At best I can even see my family again, and at worst… Well I guess at worst none of this will matter to me anymore…
As I glanced over at J.J. who was looking forward with total focus I felt strangely grateful, I had the chance to make true friends and I knew that even after I was long dead and gone that they would remember me. Opening my mouth to say something to my friend, I immediately bit down and clenched my teeth as my left arm began to burn as if my veins were filled with searing fire. I let out a quiet groan as the pain became more intense than anything I had ever experienced before, it was utterly terrifying as I could feel the pain slowly begin to spread out from my forearm.
“Alex…?” J.J. looked over when I groaned and his face became dark. “We need to pull over, you’re eyes are turning yellow…”