Archive for the ‘Home Sweet Home’ Category

I moved in with Bonnie. Our first night together she told me about what happened after I killed McGrady. The place went nuts. The sons set fire to everything and killed most of the people. We were the lucky few that escaped before. Bonnie, though badly burned, survived because of Greg, the son that she had been given to. He was no supporter of his father and only had gone along with it so that he could help people get away from him.

With tear-filled eyes, Bonnie told me how Greg had protected and had even come to love her just as much as she did him. She had gotten pregnant after they had escaped. They had made a small encampment in the woods. He built her a tiny house and for them that was enough. They had wanted to have a family and grow old together. It was the simplest want she had ever had and the one she wanted most of all.

They were caught off-gaurd the day McGrady found them. Bonnie had been four months pregnant at the time. She was barely showing. Greg saw his father first. He acted quickly and got Bonnie out of sight and down to the ravine. The very ravine that The Maiden had found me in.

He doubled back just in time to meet his father. Bonnie found Greg several days later. He had turned. His father had stabbed him and let him to become one of the Undead, the sort of ultimate statement for what McGrady took as betrayal. Bonnie told me she wasn’t sure what was harder on her, the fact that she had to kill him, well the Undead him, or when she had to bury him.

After she had killed him, she bundled him into a blanket and dragged him down to the ravine. She buried him beside the water. She told me it took 107 arm fully of dirt to fully cover him. She had felt each one of them. We cried together.

When she finally fell asleep, I laid awake in my own bed, my eyes fixed to the ceiling. I had only two thoughts running through my head: I hadn’t killed McGrady and McGrady was still very much alive.

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I awoke several days later feeling like I had before this all happened. I was starving though and all but hugged the nurse who brought in a tray of food and a cold, yes cold glass of juice. I ate everything. I dozed off again and didn’t wake up again until mid-afternoon. The Maiden was at the foot of my bed, ready to greet me.

“How long have you been standing there,” I ask as I push myself up. I take all of her in. She’s wearing her leather outfit again, her stark blond hair is tied back in a braid that falls well below her waist.

“Not too long, a couple of minutes.” She nearly glides across the room. “How would you feel about taking a walk with me?”

I don’t think she means to, but the way she moves and says that creeps me out. Take a walk? To where? Your hell demon pit? I stop myself, if she had wanted to really kill me, she could have done so at anytime, but then what would be the point? Why would she have wasted so much precious medicine to get me better to then just turn around and kill me?

I yawn and nod. Walking would do me some good.

The Maiden leaves me with fresh underwear, new jeans, a light sweater, socks and sneakers. I feel like I hit the lottery. She tells me to meet her in the hallway when I’m ready. The nurse had taken my IV out earlier when I was still asleep. I find a hairbrush and such in the bathroom. I nearly fall over when I find a tooth brush and paste and a faucet that has…running water. I begin to think that this is all a dream or that I had really died in the woods and that this was some whacked-out afterlife that I was experiencing. I decide to enjoy it while I have it – whatever the case may be.

I take my first shower since the McGrady encampment. It feels so good to be clean, smelling of soap instead of the earth and the Undead. I finish up, slip into my new clothes and meet the Maiden outside my door. She has a dog with her now. A massive one, which I am assuming is some kid of huskie. He’s got one blue eye and one green. He stays seated beside her until she motions for him to follow her.

I don’t ask and she doesn’t explain, the dog just patrols beside her as we walk down the corridors. The hospital itself seems like it was largely untouched. The Maiden explains that it was pretty much how it was before. There are wings for different injuries, traumas and yes, even deliveries. I find it hard to believe that there are people still having babies, but I guess to some all of this was just life moving on.

“We were lucky,” she explains. “This was one of the first stops that the National Guard made. They killed what had already become one of those things and sealed off the building from the rest. Major Levy, you’ll meet him eventually, knew the value of a hospital that was not within the bombing zones.”

I felt an uneasiness wash over me. The last time I dealt with military was McGrady. I clear my throat, “so they stayed,” is all I manage to ask.

She nods walking me over to a window. There are what seems like hundreds of people down below us, some are gardening, others seem to be visiting people in their small graveyard and the rest are heavily armed and patrolling the make-shift barricades that encircle the entire hospital.

From there, the Maiden walks me through to the general rooms where the people that live here seem to gather. It’s empty except for a woman sitting by the window. Her back is to us and she looks like she’s knitting.

“Most of us live in the old suites now. I’ll have Maggie move you into one. There aren’t many rules to stay here. You help with the chores and the gardens and the animals. You’ll also need a job of sorts. What did you used to do?”

I sigh. “I was a teacher.”

“Fantastic! So was I, English! You?”

Of course she was an English teacher. “5th grade,” I say.

“Well we don’t have many kids here, but I’m sure the few that we do will love to have you.”

I want to roll my eyes, but I stop myself, nodding instead.

“Liz,” says the woman in the chair. My head snaps up just in time to see the woman stand and turn toward us.

My eyes first fall to her swollen stomach. She had to be about eight months along. Then, I look at her burned, scarred face. Half of her face was gone, nearly melted and unrecognizable, but the other half was still there, bright and sunny as ever. Even her earth-green eyes still sparkled.

“Bonnie…”

My head is absolutely pounding. I can feel the lump growing on the back of my head. I’m laying down, I realize that when I feel the soft blanket draped over me. Despite my head, I am so comfortable. This is weird. This isn’t right.

Slowly, I begin to open my eyes. I’m staring up at a ceiling. There’s a fan and it’s on? I haven’t seen a ceiling fan or anything work for months. I rapidly blink my eyes until it comes into focus. Am I dead? Did the demon on her demon horse kill me?

Holy shit. I have to be dead. I shoot up. My head feels like it was trailing a million miles behind me. I’m instantly dizzy. Slowly, the room comes into focus. It’s small with off-white walls and minimal furniture. There’s a chair in the corner and fluorescent lights that hang on the wall. I look next to me and find a nightstand, there’s a tray with some food and a big glass of water.

My mouth instantly waters. Can you be this hungry if you’re dead? No, right? I am not dead. I have just woken up in the twilight zone of the zombie apocalypse.

I all but lick my tray within five minutes. I feel both good and sick at the same time. I want to lay back down and just stay this comfortable forever, but my sense of self preservation pushes me up. I wobble up onto my legs.

I look down at myself. I don’t have any pants. I just have my underwear and a t-shirt. A new t-shirt and once I really look myself over, I can tell I have been bathed. What the fuck?

I remember getting lost. I was separated. And then I started going bat shit crazy and seeing…things. And then there was the girl on the horse. I notice the IV stuck in the bend of my arm. Oh great. I get separated over a friggin blanket only to get kidnapped again, but this time they have drugs. Holy fuck. I don’t even know what I just ate and I’m being drugged.

I go to rip it out, but a voice from the door stops me.

“I wouldn’t do that, it’s what’s hydrating you,” says The Maiden. I sit back down, scared shitless. I watch as she slinks from the door to the chair, her freakish long hair hanging heavy around her shoulders. She’s no longer in her leather get-up, but it looking more like one of the Bennet sisters in her loose nightgown and slippers. “You were in pretty bad shape when we found you. I liked your hammock, that was a smart idea.” She crosses her legs.

“Uh, thanks.” I continue to stare at my newly cleaned feet.

“I’m sorry that I hit you, but from how you looked in that clearing, I didn’t think you’d come willingly.” She pushes a strand of her golden locks behind her ear. “The nurses have bathed you and given you clean clothes. What you had, well, I didn’t think you’d want it back.”

Small talk. She’s small talking me. “That’s all nice and everything, but who the hell are you?” I lock my eyes with hers.

She laughs. “They call me The Maiden. Probably because of my hair, and it invoking some bygone time.”

“And who the fuck is they?” I’m angry now. I hate people that small talk and circle talk me, both of which she was trying to do with ease.

“The people that live here with me. You’re in what used to be St. Luke’s.”

One of the bigger hospitals in New Jersey. We had really travelled that far west? “You live here?”

She leans forward. “Yes. Some of us stayed behind when the world went to shit. We stayed with what was left of the patients. We killed those who turned. We kept this for us. We knew it’s value.”

“So you were a doctor?”

She leans her head to one side and smirks. “No, I was a patient here. I was towards the end of my recovery when this all fell apart. The ones that stayed helped me get better until I was able to then help them.”

“And how do you help them?” I draw my knees up to my chest. I do feel better, but I still don’t trust her. The last time I found a little bit of heaven in this world, I wound up being McGrady’s bitch for months.

“Surely, you realized I was different when I rescued you.” She waits, baiting me.

“Yeah…they didn’t try to grab you. It was like they didn’t even know you and your horse were there.”

The Maiden gets up, crossing her arms over her chest. She moves to the foot of my bed. “That’s because they don’t notice me.”

I feel a distinct chill go straight up my spine. I swallow as I look at her. Her gaze is unmoving. She’s creepier than I first thought. Her eyes are absolutely piercing, a deep blue, almost green that makes her seem almost other worldly. “And why is that,” I finally manage to say.

“I live in the in between.” She sits down at the foot of my bed. “I died when I was first brought here. I was legally dead for over a minute and then they brought me back. I live somewhere between here and what’s ever after this. In some way, I am part of them.”

“Oh thank God,” I burst out. This sounds so much better to me than her being a true hell demon.

The Maiden laughs. “What did you think it was?”

“Hell demon. I thought you came from hell to punish me for everything I’ve done since this started.” I stifle a nervous laugh.

“I seem to get that a lot lately.” She stands up. “Get some more rest. Tomorrow I’ll show you around.”

With that, she slinked out of the room and for the first time since Shelby died, I got a honest night of sleep.

“What? What’s coming?”

My mom is already running around her room, throwing things into a bag. Armand’s screaming has gone down to a dull whimper.

“Mom!” I grabbed for her arm to stop her. She’s in a panic, that is clear. “What’s going on?”

My mom stops, bag in hand. “Armand did this when you were…away. He would do this with the hordes. It was almost like he knew, like he’s just that sensitive.” She goes back to throwing anything she can into her bag, grabbing Armand to do the same in the boys’ room.

Javier comes in, he has Shelby wrapped up like a package in his arms. Vincent is behind them.

“Who knew about Armand?! Who knew that he could do that?”

“We all did. We were all there when McGrady figured it out,” Vincent pipes up.

“And none of you could tell me? Just like your top secret experiments in the woods! Or even Shelby,” I turned on them both, angry for everything that has just happened. “Is that what we do in this family! Huh? Lie and hide shit!”

“Leez, calm down! You have’n t exactly been in the best mindset since we left your house. Things needed to happen and we made them happen. Don’t yell at the kids because of that.” Javier stares at me, clearly angry. Vincent leaves the room.

“Oh whatever! We have a fucking horde to deal with now, don’t we?”

Javier nods. He puts Shelby down on the bed my mom had. Burying her would require too much time and time was one thing we knew we didn’t have. We pack what we can carry. The clothes that we managed to find, the food that we had and we throw it all into the car that we stole from the road. I go back into the house to grab the warm, down comforter that was on my bed. It’s too good of a thing to leave behind. I’m grabbing it and rolling it up when I turn and look out the window.

In the distance, underneath the gray cast of the moon, I can see the first of the horde coming. I am stunned, it is probably the biggest one that I have ever seen and it is headed straight for our little encampment. In the back of my mind, I prayed that we all were going to survive this one. I grabbed the bag of guns we found in a cabin not far from our house and with the blanket, I begin the mad dash down the stairs and out of the front door, only glimpsing in on a still dead Shelby as I went.

Today. I killed a student. And now I’m running from a mob of hungry zombies.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sat there. I know that it was dark, very dark when my mom finally came in. She whispered to me in the soft soothing tone that she used to use when I was little and I wouldn’t or couldn’t stop crying. She led me by the hand into one of the bathrooms. I could hear Javier speaking somewhere between spanish and very broken english.

He had heated water and was dumping it into the bathtub. My mom undressed me and much like when I was a little girl, she eased me into the tub and gently washed the Man in the Ice from my body. She let me sit in the warm water for awhile, as she rinsed soap from my arms and hair. It felt so good.

She helped me out of the tub and dressed me in one of the nightgowns we picked up along the way. It was two sizes too big, but it felt good to feel almost human again. My hair hung just above my shoulders now. I could feel the now cold water dripping down my shoulders and my back.

Somehow I get upstairs to the room I share with Javier. I sit on the edge of our bed, my knees drawn tightly to my chest. A part of me wants to cry, but the stronger more dominant part will not let me. I hear Javier come in. He sits behind me. He doesn’t say anything to me. He takes my brush and like he’s done so many times before when he felt that I needed him to comfort me without words, he softly and gently begins to brush my hair. It relaxes me. It calms me. It makes me feel so safe with him.

Gently and with hands that suddenly feel smaller than I know they are, he braids my hair into a loose braid. He hasn’t done this before and I am surprised that he knows how to do it, but I guess having had so many sisters, it was a craft that he probably did pick up.

He draws me to him and we lay down. I lay my head of his chest as he cocoons us in the big, down blanket that we were beyond lucky to find.  This has been and is the only place that I feel safe anymore. I hear Javier’s heart beating, warm and steady against my ear. I drift off to sleep quickly, feeling at peace on the inside for the first time in a very long while.

I stood and waited for Javier. I stood by the lake, watching the Man in the Ice wiggle his bloated corpse-fingers through the growing hole in the ice. I half wondered if he was just going to fall apart with every movement. He had been in there for a long time.

It didn’t take long for Javier to return. He came back down from the woods, his secret place with Vincent, with a bag swung absent-mindedly over his shoulder. He almost seemed excited as he walked. When he reached me, he brushed a kiss across my forehead, setting the bag down at my feet.

“You will be so excited to see this, Liz.” He bent down and started to open what he brought as I awkwardly stood there with my hands in my coat pockets. “This was one of Vincent’s ideas. He is so smart. Was he good at science at school?”

School. I hadn’t really talked about school in forever. I nod. Vincent not only did well in science, but he also loved it. He loved every minute of that period of the day. It was where he thrived.

“We thought we could use a net to catch food. To see what was in the lake, you know, before we saw…him. But now I think this will work even better. If we can get it underneath him, we can pull him out and deal with it finally. Maybe he hasn’t poisoned the whole lake. Maybe we can save it.”

Javier was always an optimist. I watched as Javier untangled a net made out of plastic six-pack holders. It was a good idea, nothing could destroy those things. Together, we moved towards the Man in the Ice, his bloated finger still sticking out from the hole that it had made. The first thing we did was break the top layer of ice which agitated the Man in the Ice to no end. He wanted our fingers, in his mouth and he was fighting to gain some footing in his sloshy, slushy ice-cocoon.  Carefully, we manage to get the make-shift net underneath his bloated body. Javier wraps his side over the Man in the Ice and we put our ends together. We pull and pull and pull – the fucker is heavy, like super heavy.

Javier keeps pulling and I keep pulling. I can feel my footing slipping as the water that’s wetting the ice is making me lose my footing all together. The Man in the Ice is free, wrapped in a plastic net – kind of. I slip backwards, falling on my back, hitting my head on the ice. It’s throbbing. I’m blinking, but everything is doubled. Javier, the net, the Man in the Ice. I can’t make sense of anything and then suddenly I feel the bloated weight of the Man in the Ice on top of me.

I feel my arms go up to stop him. I feel myself pushing at him, but then all I can see is McGrady’s face. I keep blinking. McGrady is dead. I killed him. I killed him months ago with a shank. And I ran and ran to my house. And Javier found me and McGrady found me and there was a fight. There’s McGrady’s face though, hardened and terrifying, on top of me, forcing himself into me. I just can’t.

All I see is red now. Deep, pulsating red. I feel myself pushing back even more. I feel my hands wrap around his decaying wet arms. I feel my hands go into him. All I can see is red.

I push harder and I can feel the weight finally leave me. I can feel him off of me. I can hear myself screaming, but I don’t feel myself speaking. On the inside everything is just red and silent. I’m tearing at him, I’m tearing him to pieces. He’s coming off into my hands as of he were made of play dough. I just can’ t stop, I want to kill him. I want him to be nothing more than pieces of what he once was.

And I make him so, but he lives still. He’s in three distinct separate pieces on the ice, but his head still moans and moves, trying to bite at me until I take my foot and as hard as I possibly can, I drive my heel straight through it, almost enjoying the feeling as it crushes and shatters underneath my own weight.

Javier stands speechless. I am covered in the Man in the Ice. I stink of rot, of death, of old water, but none of that matters. I meet Javier’s eyes with mine and I shrug my shoulders. I don’t feel like there is much more to say than that. Javier goes to clean up the Man in the Ice from the ice and I go back into the house.

I sit in one of the chairs in the living room until I see the sunlight disappear from behind the trees.

The closer I got to him, the faster I seemed to be walking. I was furious by the time I reached him and I think that he knew that. He put down the machete and the sac of small animals that he had found and no doubt killed. There was a small part of me that wanted to kill him in that instance, we had been through so much, seen so much and had been forced to do so much I just couldn’t believe he would let Vincent experiment on walkers like that.

“Leez, you seem upset,” he said, putting his hands on his hips as he absent-mindedly kicked at the dirt in front of him.

Upset?! You’re damn right I’m upset, you big Spanish jerk! I exhale, slowly before I even try to talk to him. Since we became whatever it is that we are, we always were able to talk about things. Why was I finding it so hard to talk and not yell about this? Because it’s disgusting and I’m disappointed that we would do that shit. I shake my head.

“Is this about, Vincent?” He reaches out, running his hands over my arms. His touch is both calming and warm, but I refuse to let him win like that.

“Of course it’s about Vincent! You’re mutilating walkers? THAT’S what you two do out there?”

He draws me closer to him. Oh, he’s good. “He’s curious. I’m curious. We need to figure them out. They’re dead, it’s not like they feel it.”

“You don’t know that. Just like The Man in the Ice, we don’t know what—”

“You’re right, we don’t. But you still have been out there for the past two days staring at him. He makes you curious. It’s not like it used to be Leez, we have to teach them to be survivors not shelter them.”

“But he’s just a kid.”

“He turned eleven last month. When I was his age I was already working to help my mother. We were not all as fortunate as you were. Childhood doesn’t exist in this world, anymore.”

He kisses me on the forehead, picks up his things and starts walking back up towards the house.  I watch as he goes. I look towards the lake. I am curious about The Man in the Ice. I wonder what would happen to him if we left him in there. I wonder what would happen to him if we took him out. Should we take him out?

I wonder over towards the lake and pick up Vincent’s bag. I look down at The Man in the Ice. He looks like he’s almost sleepy. His movements are pronounced and angry anymore, instead he looks like he’s just floating, minimally aware of what’s going on around him. In an eerie way, it’s almost peaceful.