Archive for February, 2012

I am thankful that we had gotten here when we did. Winter has finally found us and I am glad that my fireplace is workable. We’re warm, fed and have books to read and games to play. As strange as this world has become, at least here, we have some sort of semblance of normalcy. I just want to hold onto this little piece of my old life for as long as I can. I know life here is fleeting just like everything else, but I still can’t help but hope, just like my mom hopes that Ryan will come to us.  In the meantime, she has taken Armand and has found happiness in having someone to take care of.

I’ve transitioned nicely into the more maternal role that I have to be now. It was something I hadn’t envisioned for myself for several more years, but need outweighed the plan.

During the day Shelby and Vincent go off with the other kids. There’s talk of starting a school for them. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that. Sadly, they all have the amount of education that they would need in a world they this – they can read and write. My mom is quick to remind me, “what about when this is over,” she asks consistently.

And that’s where I get stuck. My mom holds onto such copius amounts of hope including the idea that things are not as bad out there. But I have to disagree.

The military bombed an entire development and a school to try and control the hordes and that was just some small suburb in New Jersey, I can only imagine what the cities are like. I wish I had my mother’s optimism, but I just don’t see how its possible that life will be restored anytime soon. At least, not life the way that we knew it.

I don’t argue with her though. I know her hope is one of the things that keeps her going. I don’t want to take that away from her as infuriating as I find it most days.

It’s Javier’s birthday tomorrow. I don’t think he realizes that I know. Bonnie and the kids have been working on a tool belt for him. I’ve been trying to get the ingredients together for some sort of microwaved cake. Javier is softening to life here, softening to me and to the kids. It’s amazing to see.

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My mom was waiting for me on her front porch. Her face light up when she saw me. We hugged for what seemed like hours. She ran her hand over my G.I. Jane look and laughed.

“Is Ryan with you,” I ask.

She shakes her head. “I hold out hope,” is all that she says.

We go inside where I get my first shower in a month. There is even hot water. My mom makes me lunch and it is warm and good.

“How do you have all of this?” I don’t even look up from my food.

“We always knew Mr. McGrady was a nut. He’s been prepared for this for years. Once the hordes hit, he wiped them out. We spent the next several days burning the bodies in the field and barricading ourselves in. Then he set us up with generators and running water. The food has come from his stockpile and from the people who have found us and chose to stay.”

I’m nodding as I eat. I can’t believe McGrady was able to do everything the military failed at doing. Thank God for bat-shit neighbors is all I can think.

I spend the rest of the day with my mom. Eventually I venture outside. Several of the kids have found their parents here, however Vincent and Shelby stay with me. Bonnie and Javier join us too. We go to my house where Mouse greets me happily at the door. I sweep him up into my arms and nuzzle my face into his soft tangerine fur.

Bonnie and Shelby claim the guest room. Javier and Vincent take the office while Mouse and I take my bedroom. We get to lay in my bed for the first time in weeks and feel normal if only for a little bit. Javier comes in sometime later. We sit in my bed and talk about life and how much everything has changed. We agree that for now this is where we are going to stay and that if we were to leave Bonnie, Vincent, Shelby, Armand and my mom were all to come with us. Mouse too if we could feed him.

In the morning my mom comes over with our box of rations for the week. All of us bask in the heaven that is powdered eggs after having lived on school preserves for a month.

We begin our life here as some sort of patchwork family.

Javier kept driving. We only stopped when we saw cars that hadn’t been in the epicenter of the bombing. Most of them have already been picked clean. We look for one that hasn’t had its gasoline siphoned out. Our bus runs on diesel and we know that we can only sustain it for so long. Most of them are a no-go, but we eventually find a van that was a little bit off the street. It has half a tank of gas when we turn it on. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Bonnie and I lead the way out of the neighborhood with the van. I’m excited to be going home to see if my mom is there. If Ryan is there…I’m also scared that they both will be there, maimed or worse yet…Undead. We fall quiet. She’s anxious too. She walked most of the way that we’re driving to get to Alcott Elementary from her school. I can tell from her withdrawn demeanor that her adventure to us must have been just as horrifying as our time at Alcott was, burying students and cleaning up left over zombie-goo.

Once we’re out of town I think we all begin to calm down a little bit. There were fewer people out here so hopefully that means fewer zombies and no mega-hordes.I’m expecting my street to be dead. I’m expecting some damage and carnage, but what I am not expecting is a complete barricade at the beginning of my street.

I stop. Javier stops. We all get out except for the kids. Mr. McGrady, my seventy-something year old neighbor greeted us, brandishing an assault rifle.

“HAVE ANY OF YOU BEEN BIT,” he bellows. I can see his five grandsons pop up on the other side of the barricade complete with matching assault rifles.

We all instinctively put our hands up and stand still. “None of us have been bitten, Mr. McGrady.” I never could bring myself to call him by his first name.

“Who’s with you,” he barks.

“Two coworkers and the kids I  have left from my class.”

He nods and begins to walk over to us. He looks over each of us before he boards the bus. He takes stock of each kid and our supplies. After about fifteen minutes, he gets off the bus and comes to me.

“I believe you. We’ll let you in, but it will cost you the supplies.”

Javier and I look at each other and then back at McGrady.

“We’ve fortified the perimeter. We’ve made this work. We have food and running water. Your mom is here,” he adds.

At the mention of running water, Javier was ready to even throw in the bus as payment for our admission and I was already walking in once I heard that my mom was waiting for me.

Havier is cursing, somewhere between Spanish and English. Matilda is hysterical and trying to get off the bus while Bonnie ad I are oddly calm about this entire situation. The kids just don’t know what to do.

In a snap decision, I push Havier out of the driver’s sit and kick at the bottom of the steering column until the plate gives. The faster Undead are now closing in on the parking lot. I rip out everything that I need to.

Side Note: Mom, if you’re reading this, I would just like to remind you of Matt, the “bad boy” I dated in college. Remember how you had said that he was scum and had nothing to offer me, but a one way ticket to a record and the loss of my teaching career? Well, even though you were absolutely right, I feel that it is here that you should thank him for it was him who taught me how to hot-wire a car one boozey summer’s night.

And Matt would have been proud of me at that moment because I beat my best time from that summer. I did it in under two minutes just as the Undead were closing in on us. Matilda in her hysteria opened up one of the back windows and began swatting at the zombies with the broom that the driver kept there.

It only took several of the swarm to get at her. They grabbed her fleshy arms, gnawing at them as she screamed and thrashed around. The children moved away from her while Bonnie, Havier and I just watched in shocked horror as they pulled her through the window just as her arms gave out and completely severed from the rest of her body as it went crashing down to the pavement. The Undead became insane with the smell of a fresh kill in the air. They swarmed Matilda, ripping and biting at her until she finally stopped screaming all together.

Havier jumped back into the driver’s seat and floored it. He took the bus path through the back and out through the woods, completely bypassing the hordes. We spun out into the main street and that was when the reality of what was going on hit us in full force.

There was a collective gasp as our eyes fell on the burnt out houses and the burnt, decomposing bodies that littered the entire development. We drive in shocked silence, our eyes glued to the scenes of devastation and horror that we were so isolated from at Alcott Elementary.

We’re just down the street when I poke at Havier, eager to make some of this have some normalcy to it.

“Hey Havier,” I say, my chin resting on the top of the seat in front of me. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Leez,” he answers, his nervous Spaniard side still not completely gone.

“Why did you always have us write your name with an H?”

He chuckles. “Because a J would have confused the kids.”

“But Javier is your name.”

“I know, but think about how many kids called you Miss B.”

“True.”

“Can I ask you something now,” he asks, somewhat calmer. I nod. “How did you know how to hot-wire a bus?”

I laugh. “Being 19 and thinking that I could change the “bad boy.”

“Did not treat you well?”

“Let’s just say that before all of this hit, he had a 10-year-old son that he could see once a month when his baby mama wanted to drive him to county and I’m still out the two grand that he stole from me.” Javier gives me that shock and awe look that I always get when I tell that story.

“You realize he must have been a sitting goose when all of this happened,” he finally manages to say.

“Sitting duck, yes.” I think for a moment. “You know as bad as it sounds, I kind of like that he was. Makes up for all the terror I felt for months after I left him.”

Hm. The apocalypse…at that moment, I found its likeability just a wee bit.

I was standing in my room with Bonnie when we heard Armand screaming louder than I had ever heard him. We ran back to the media center.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” whaled Matilda as she added to the chaos.

Bonnie went to comfort him. I went to get the rest of the kids. They were with Havier loading up the last of the supplies.

I saw the hordes, scratch that, the mega-hordes before I saw them. I had never seen  so many of them in one place. It was as if they just went on forever.

Havier looked at me and saw how pale I had become. Slowly he looked towards the road and saw the wall of the Undead draggingthemselves towards us. Some were even running…

“Holy shit,” exclaimed Vincent.

Holy shit was right. It was one of those scenes that you would. Ever believe unless you were there.

Havier tossed whatever else was left onto the bus. I back pedaled into the bus. Armand was still screaming.

“Everybody! Get to the bus! NOW!”

Matilda left Armand and ran for it. I had never seen that woman move so fast. Bonnie and I grabbed Armand and together we ran out of the school. The first of the hordes were already in front of the school. We were all on the bus when we realized that we had missed one very important part of this escape plan…

The key for the bus.

We’re alive. A bit worse for the wear, but somehow we are alive.

We left the morning after my last post. Bonnie and I did one final sweep of the school. I spent a good 20 minutes in my classroom. It was hard for me to leave it, after so many years of working to get to where I was, to be a teacher – a good teacher. That life is done now and I needed to be reminded of that. I took my pictures. The ones I kept framed on my desk were of my mom, my brother, my cat and even one of John and I. I took each of them out of their frames and slipped them into my purse.

That was when all hell broke loose.