Archive for January, 2012

It was still fairly early when I rounded the kids up. Armand contented himself with Matilda. At least she was useful for something now. I prepped Vincent before I got everyone together. I told him that he was going to have to talk to the other kids and explain to them what he saw and what is going on out there. To my surprise, he was more than willing – almost eager.

He got up in front of his classmates, cleared his throat and began. “Who’s played Left 4 Dead 2?” Nearly every boy and several of the girls raised their hands. Shelby burst out crying. Havier was quick to remove her to the computer lab. My eyes were riveted to Vincent. “Well, that’s what is going on out there,” he added.

“You mean there are zombies,” asked Gabe as he perked up a bit.

“Yes, there are zombies and they smell like shit and want to eat us to make us into that shit and make the world even shit-”

“Vincent, I gave you two shits, don’t go for a third,” I chimed in, finding it hard not to. The teacher part of me is fighting hard to cling to me.

“Fine,” he says with a roll of the eye. “So, these zombies are out there. It’s some kind of virus and it makes people die and come back and want to eat us. We need to wait for help to get here and we can’t stay in the media center anymore. We need to clean up the school, make it safe and wait until our parents find us or the army or whoever the hell it is will get here and get us out. It’s really gross out there and scary, but if we don’t help Miss Burton and Mr. Havier it will never get done and the zombies will just come back and eat all of us.”

I was impressed by him and how he found such strength within himself. I got up and patted him on the back. Within moments we had a handful of kids that wanted to go outside with Matilda and start to dig the hole. Against my protests, we also had a group that wanted to help on the inside cleaning out the classrooms. Havier kept reminding me that this is a new world that we live in and there was no point in trying to shelter them from the life and death reality that we were now living in.

Suburban New Jersey is gone and within it has sprouted a world that meant if you didn’t think fast enough, you’d be somebody’s dinner.

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I’m standing just outside the media center with Havier. It’s just after dawn. The school is still an eerie shell of its former self. There are trails blood, gore and God only knows what else everywhere I look. I don’t know what Havier is thinking. How could we possibly clean all of this up and make this space liveable until some form of help gets here. I guess work with what we got, right? Right.

Havier has the pistol and I have a crow bar that he managed to get from his office without incident. We move through the building slowly, glimpsing into the K-3rd grade wing. I throw up in the kindergarten room. Havier rolls his eyes and says, “Great, now there’s more to clean up.” He helps me back up to my feet.

“How are you so okay with all of this,” I ask as I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

“Not all of us had the luxury of a nice, suburban childhood,” he says, matter-of-factly. He pushes past me to assess the damage to the room and the vile mound of decomposing flesh in the corner.

Evetually I move outside the door, keeping an eye on Havier and the other on the deserted hallway. We have fifteen more classrooms to go plus the main office, the nurse’s room and the teacher’s lounge. It was going to be a long morning. We plan to tell the kids today about what’s been going on and start to get to work on the building. I’m not sure what makes me more nervous, having to tell them or clearing this building.

My classroom is on the other side. I really want to go there. I want to get my purse. I want to check my cell phone and see if I have service. We have the God damn internet, why wouldn’t I have cell service? I start to feel drawn to my room and my old life, almost as if it’s beckoning me to it so much so that in a split second I make the decision to leave Havier and make a run for it.

I come skidding to a halt right inside my room. There’s glass everywhere and the desks are scattered with books and papers all over the place. I go straight for my closet, fling open the doors and the next thing I know is that I’m pinned to the floor with something thrashing at me. I grab for its arms and I can feel how warm and alive they arm. I exhale and restrain whoever it is that probably thought I was one of the Undead. I finally stop him, subdue him and realize that it’s Armand.

Armand is a third grader from Mr. Taylor’s class. He has autism and at times has been out-right violent.

“Armand. Armand! It’s Miss Burton, sweetheart…you’re okay, you’re okay,” I say with a voice as languid as honey. I hug him and rock him in my lap. I can feel him calming down, his body relaxing. “You’re okay,” I whisper into his ear. I can hear him start grinding his teeth as he begins to rock with me. In that moment, I think even I become the calmest I have been in days.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Liz!” Havier is standing in the doorway. “Never mind leaving me alone, but thanks for making me think tht you got dragged away by one of those fucking things.”

I move so that he can see Armand in my lap. He shuts up.

“I have a lot of stuff in here. We can use those bins over there and fill them with the kids’ coats, it’s been getting cold at night. We should also grab my tissues, sanitizer and the snacks I have. The kids will like those. I’m sorry.”

Havier waves off my apology and begins to grab stuff to put in the empty bins. I stand up with Armand and place him on the floor. He stays glued to me and I don’t blame him. He was probably in my closet since the shit hit the fan. I reach into my closet and take out my purse. I rip out my phone.

No service.

But, there’s a voicemail from my mom and text messages from my brother and John. I punch my pin number in and put the phone up to my ear.

“Are you okay? How’s the school? The hordes are all over the street. I’m staying put. Ryan is on his way here. We’ll be okay,” my mom went on, with half-confidence, “get here when you can. I love you, Cricket!”

I wanted to cry right then and there, but I stopped myself. Ryan, my brother, had texted me to let me know that he was on a train to mom. I wonder if he made it or if he died, trapped somewhere in a train car with a horde of the Undead picking the flesh from his bones.

I read the message from John. He said, “Well don’t you feel like an asshole over how we spent New Years, eh? I know I do! You should have taken my offer seriously ;). I’m on my way to your school. Once we’re together, we’ll figure out what to do next. Maybe your mom’s?” That was nearly five days ago. He worked a town over from here, I hope that nothing happened to him. I hope that he’s on his way. Detoured maybe, but safe and unbitten on his way to me.

I feel sick and worried and even a bit pissed off. I am now completely tethered to this school – like it or not. I have to stay here for the kids and now for John. Once he gets here, we’ll have to make a choice about everything and I have to get to my mom eventually too. How can I move all of us across town?

I began to sulk. I gave Armand my purse and I helped Havier carry the full bins back to the media center.

On the way back, the halls echoed with a dull groaning, signaling that somewhere in the building, the Undead had come back.

I can only help but laugh now about what happened today. It was just last week that I was at home with Mouse and the guy I had just started seeing…an officer in the Navy. We spent New Years together drinking and eating too much and watching the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. We made fun of it. We mocked how stupid they all could be, especially Rick – chasing after that little girl for so long, holding onto hope that she was out there somewhere in need of his help. How could he not realize that the group was more important and that she had probably been bitten shortly after she got separated.

We laughed even more as we watched the ball drop in Times Square, legitimately toasting to the end of the world and how we needed to make 2012 count because it would be our last year alive. We joked about getting married so neither one of us would die single and after my third glass of Taittinger, I told him that I would marry him and that since I was accepting him, he would have to dance with me to the only song an officer could dance to. He laughed, wholeheartedly knowing exactly what was coming and when Up Where We Belong came blaring through my iphone, he swept me up and we danced as serious as we could before we fell on the floor laughing.

What a couple of assholes is all I can say about that night.

I wonder where John is now and if he is okay. I saw him a the day before this shit storm came spiraling through town, but he was never much of a texter. I wonder if Mouse is okay, if her auto-feeder has enough food in it to get her through until either I can get there or my mom does. My mom is just down the street from my house. and my brother is in Pennsylvania. I keep hoping that he wasn’t hit as bad as we were, but who knows at this point.

The reality is quickly sinking in. I’m sitting here in the dark. Havier is on watch. All of the kids are passed out. Shelby was the last one to finally drift off, only after I rocked her. I don’t know how she is going to survive this without her mom, it’s crazy the amount of care I’ve had to give her to keep her calm and functioning. Matilda is snoring off in the corner, seemingly unbothered by everything because really it’s not like she does much, she just keeps the kids from killing one another while Havier and I hash out our next move and you know, deal with undead administrators.

We decided that in the morning, we’re going to have to give the kids a real explanation of what’s been going on. Vincent has been rather quiet and off to himself since the incident with Zom-Gatsby, but I know it will be a matter of time before he starts talking about it, before he needs to talk about it. For now, we’re going to have to make Alcott Elementary our home. We need to stick it out as long as possible to give parents enough time to find their kids if they’re moving this way. To give us enough time to adjust to this new world too.

Our big project tomorrow is going to be fortifying the building. Earlier, I asked Havier just what that meant. He explained that we need to board up the places that are completely open to the outside and to the hordes. We also need to make a stronger barricade maybe with the cars left in the teacher’s parking lot. I asked him what we were going to do about the bodies that have been left behind.

“Bury them,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m not saying to have the kids do it, but they’re going to have to help with digging a big enough hole. We’ll have to move them. You and I.”

I stared at him blankly. I wasn’t sure about how I felt letting my kids dig a mass grave, but I was even more unsure about how I felt having to lug however many bodies were left through the school, outside and into a hole knowing full-well that I knew everyone of them that we’d be moving. As if Havier read my thoughts, he said, “Don’t worry. That part will be easy to forget.”

From the filing cabinet, he withdrew a brown bag and clunked it down on the table. “We will forgot all of our problems as we do this.” He ripped off the bag.

Hooch.

Thank you Mrs. Swan for being the not so secret alcoholic that you were.

It is only now that I have stopped shaking and feel half-ready to write about what happened. All of it was so shocking and peace-shattering that I am unsure if I ever want to leave this room again. I feel stupid now for all the times that I left the media center without any form of protection. I feel even more stupid for having done that with a student, but I guess that goes to show you how unequipped I am to deal with all of this. I just didn’t think is what it all comes down to.

It started out simple enough, I told the kids that I was going out to get some fresh water and some more food. They were all pretty much ignoring me at this point. Carolyn had begun to share her Bratz doll with the other girls and Gabe had found a Wimpy Kid book that the boys were snickering with over in the corner. Vincent was by my side though, ready to get out of there and do something. I told him we had to be quick and quiet.

“What is this emergency,” he asked, his hazel eyes wide. I ushered him into the computer lab where we could be alone. I felt like I had to tell him something, after all, I was allowing him out there with me and what if he saw one of them?

“Before we were locked in here,” I began softly, using that teaching voice I perfected during that one year I taught first grade, “Mr. Gatsby (our principal) had told the teachers that there was some sort of virus that was spreading quickly. Then we went into lock down and we were trapped in here.” I exhaled, waiting for him to say something, anything – even if it was to question me, but he didn’t, he just stood there waiting for me to continue and so I did. “People started to act funny, not like themselves really and they became violent. Help is coming though, so we just have to do our best to stay safe until they do.” I ruffled his hair and he forced a smile, a big fake one that he often gave me when he knew he was doing something he shouldn’t be doing.

“So, are any of them out there?” I shook my head. He stood and stared at me for a moment before saying, “Well the, let’s just go quickly. I can help you carry more water and something other than those horrible peaches you keep bringing back.”

I laughed. Those canned peaches are pretty awful.

I set Matilda up by the door. I told her that we were going to be gone only ten minutes and that if we were gone any longer than that to come and check for us, but only so far as the multi-purpose room. The last thing I needed was that dingbat wandering around the school looking for us as Vincent and I were zombified and the rest of the kids were left alone to fend for themselves.

We pushed the small barricade aside and we bolted to the multi-purpose room. Vincent took most of what our school now looked like in. He didn’t say a word about it, but I could tell that he was beginning to realize the full-scale of what was going on around us. I only hoped that he could handle it.

We jogged into the multi-purpose room and made it to the kitchen without incident. I went into the storage to grab what I could of what was becoming a quickly diminishing supply. I grabbed applesauce this time, thinking that the kids would enjoy the change up. Vincent was just outside the door eagerly filling his backpack and a few other bags that we had brought with us with the fresh supplies. I had gone back in to grab one more jug of bottled water. I turned to hand it to Vincent when this wreaking, cold, gross thing grabbed my arm from around the corner of the storage closet. I began screaming. Suddenly Vincent was too, he was terrified as he looked at me and then at this creature that was once more like us than a walking, rotting bag of meat. It smelled worse than anything I could ever imagine and it took a good several minutes struggling with it to realize that this once was Mr. Gatsby. The same middle-aged man that shook my hand seven years ago and told me to head straight over to central administration so that they could begin the paperwork and that I could be set to begin my first teaching job that September.

With that realization absolute horror raced through my veins. I heard Vincent crying and screaming all at once. He hadn’t a clue what to do and I didn’t expect him to, what ten -year-old would? How could any ten-year-old even handle seeing their zombie principal attacking and seeking to bite off the face of their teacher?

My life was flashing before my eyes, I thought of when I was a little girl and my mom bought me a yellow bicycle for my birthday. I thought of how my dad taught me to ride it behind the abandoned house across the street and once he let go, I flew over the handle bars and scraped my entire face. I thought about how mad my mom was when she saw the state I was when I came home. Mad. MAD. That was the feeling that I needed right now. I needed to be fucking pissed off mad and ready to kill this fucking thing with my bare hands, even if he was once my boss who I admired completely.

With my senses back, I held him off as far as I could. It was at this moment that I realized that Vincent had pissed himself during this entire ordeal because I was now rolling around with Zom-Gatsby in a warm liquid that hadn’t been there before. I looked around and with nothing in sight, I did what I learned in a self-defense class that my sorority made me take years ago.

I kicked him where it should have hurt the most. Kicking him felt nothing like kneeing a Non-Zom. I could feel it crush with such a slight pressure. I could feel his brittle, fragile glass-like bones cracking as I pushed him off of me as he groaned louder. I stood back up, pulling a wet, trembling Vincent off of the floor as he grabbed our supplies. I looked around for something hard to kill Zom-Gatsby with, but before I could even do that, the most unexpected thing happened – a bullet landed straight between Zom-Gatsby’s eyes and the vile creature stopped trashing and groaning. It just lay there – a mound of vile flesh.

Vincent and I looked up in unison. We saw Mr. Havier, our building custodian standing there, pistol in hand. I ran over to him and I flung my arms around him, completely forgetting any kind of professionalism I once had towards him. I was surprised that he hugged me too.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Liz.” He pushed me off of him slightly. “He didn’t bite you, right?” I shook my head. “Thank God, I’ve been chasing after him for days now. He was the only one of them left.”

“So you mean….” I looked past him, towards the door where my co-workers and former students should have been.

“Most of them died in the bombing. Some got out afterwards and some, well,” he gestured towards Mr. Gatsby. “I was lucky, I was in the boiler room when we went into lock down. Is this the only on you got,” he asked, pointing to Vincent.

“No, I have most of my class and…Matilda. We were in the media center when it happened. I’ve kept them in there for the past several days. I felt it was the safest. Vincent only came with me because I needed an extra set of hands to carry things and I wanted to check on the bathrooms, it’s getting pretty gross in there.”

Havier nodded and walked over to Vincent to help him gather up the supplies. “The boys and girls rooms by the front would be your best bet. There hasn’t been any running water, but it’s better than shitting in a corner. I’ll help you bring these back and then we’ll take him to get cleaned up. We’re all dirty, but no one needs to know you couldn’t hold it?” He winked at Vincent and he half smiled, feeling relieved.

We took the supplies back. I brought them in and gave them to Matilda, then Havier and I took Vincent to get cleaned up after I made him promise not to look in any of the classrooms. Havier even gave him a few wet-naps he had found and a pair of pants from the lost and found.

We came back to the media center and we ate a feast of apple sauce and water. Havier and I took turns keeping watch over the computer room door with the pistol. Why he ever had it in school to begin with, I have yet to ask. He’s a crazy-ass Spaniard, I’m sure it would have been legal where he is from. I am so happy to have him here with us though. I was beginning to think that Matilda was going to be my only adult company for the rest of my life. Whose commentary on this entire adventure was simply, “Oh dear, maybe you need to be more careful.”

Head. Desk.

I’ve kept the kids quiet and subdued for the past several days. They ask me what’s happened, but I know telling them the complete truth would just cause mass chaos. I tell them that there was an emergency and that help is coming, that we just have to sit and wait for them to come to us. Some of my kids, like Shelby, cry most of the time. She wants her mother and I can only substitute for that for so long. Then there are kids like Vincent who wants to get out of here, find his loved ones and see what’s happened beyond the carefully crafted safe-haven that I’ve made for them here. I can control the kids who cry more easily than I can the kids like Vincent. I’m scared and Matilda is of little help.

Her main contribution to life here is her daily bitching about the bathroom situation. It’s simple: We don’t have one. I’ve told the kids that if they had to go that they would have to find a spot in Mrs. Swan’s office and that when they were through to clean themselves up with the stock pile of tissues she had in her closet. It is not the most sanitary solution and I knew that it would not last, but it kept the kids close enough to the group, gave them privacy and kept us from having to go out into the school to the bathrooms and see all of the bloodshed that occurred in our quiet, little neighborhood school. There will come a time and it will be soon that I will have to take them out there, but it is hard for me to face that. To have to take that ideal of safety and protection that the school has served them with is overwhelming for me and it is a big step out into this new world that I am slightly terrified to have to be living in while I have to protect my students.

I’m working on the bathroom thing, I know it’s an issue and that I have to be the adult and get us all safely to a better location. For now, the pressing issue is going to get more bottled water and canned food from the kitchen. I’m taking Vincent with me this time so we can stock up. Matilda has “volunteered” to stay back with the others. I’m pissed, but someone needs to and in reality she will just slow us down if she came with us. I want to push towards the front of the school and check things out. The bathrooms are there and though I am sure running water is a thing of the past, I do think that it would be etter for the kids to at least have a bathroom that I could maybe manually flush if we found enough water.

Here’s to hoping it’s out there!

We were in the media center when it happened. The Outbreak. There I was with Matilda, my ancient from another time all together aide, who was never much of any help to begin with but there we were, trying to get my 17 kids to log onto the main server so that we could start our social studies project on the American Revolution. You think I was asking them to solve world hunger with they way they complained and whined as they tried to drag it all out. Now, I think they would be happy to go back to that moment, eagerly put their winter break behind them and begin that project, given all that has happened since then.

I haven’t moved them since it happened…since the hordes reached us. I feel that here we are safe. We are at the farthest end of the school, in the only place that does not have any windows with only two ways in and out. There is the main door I barricaded with book shelves with the help of some of my bigger kids once the sirens overpowered the screaming…the screaming of my co-workers and students who weren’t as lucky as us. We’re connected to the computer lab. I let the kids play in there, but we sleep in the media center on the cushions from the sofas and various other make-shift things we could find in here. I use the door from the computer room to come and go. I half-barricaded it and move it away only when I have to get next door to the cafeteria.

The hallways are deserted and littered with glass from when the bombing happened. There are streams of dried blood and gore, marks of  death that connect somewhere to a victim that I surely know, but I refuse to follow those trails to find out just who it is. We had gone into lock-down shortly before we were overrun which left all of the classrooms as an easy mark. Thankfully though, for us, the hordes had reached us in the morning before any lunch period had begun, leaving the multipurpose room eerily vacant. I grabbed as many canned goods as I could carry. We’ve been living off canned peaches ever since. Gag. School peaches – not exactly what I ever thought I would have to survive on or truthfully ever eat.

I know that we will have to branch out of here soon, but I don’t know how to exactly move with the group of children I have left. At the time of The Outbreak, 12 of my students were with me and Matilda. I don’t know what happened to the five that were with other teachers or out in the building, I can only hope the best and that they got out with someone before shit really hit the fan.

The back-up generators are spotty and patchy at best, but I am thankful to still have them. The kids are scared enough as is and the power at least allows us to use the lights and computers sparingly. Somehow we have internet? I’m connected to MILTglobe. I’m assuming it’s some sort of government set-up, I only hope that it stays up.

Is anyone out there?