Archive for the ‘Life Before’ Category

I feel myself being almost weightlessly dragged. It should hurt me, but it doesn’t. It’s so effortless. He’s pulling me by my feet, my arms outstretched above my head. I can hear him mumbling.

“Jesus, of all the stupid fucking shit I have watched you do for other people, this has got to be an Elizabeth Burton best,” he grunts, as he pulls me deeper into the woods.

I know it’s John. I can feel the callouses on his hands. I remember how much they used to turn me on, but that was in life before. It’s been a wild shit show ever since. It’s been over two years since everything changed. Since the Walkers came. Since John died.

Since I died.

I can hear the water muffled in the background. I know we’re back by my old encampment. I can feel him, lifting me and putting my onto a make-shift hammock. Every inch of me is pounding, sending a new ache throughout my body. My throat is nearly completely dried out. He’s complaining as he builds a small fire. He’s angry that I died, that I’m here with him. I’m still angry with him for being a dismissive jerk more times than not.

“I always told you, focus on you. Worry about you. Take time for you, but you were always off doing one thing after another and never giving a shit about yourself. This though, this is just fucking fantastic. I mean–”

“Not like you knew much about giving of yourself, John,” I manage to say, hoarsely.

“Oh don’t even.” He doesn’t turn to look at me. “Don’t even give me that shit about me never being there for you. This has nothing to do with us. This has to do with your stupid need to save the God damn world. It’s not on you, Liz. It’s not your responsibility to make it better for everyone else, all the time!” He throws some wood onto the fire and stands up, in one sweeping movement as I slowly push myself back up into a sitting position.

“Dying wasn’t that bad. Though, we might be stuck together forever now, but at least we’ll have time together,” I add, with infused sarcasm adding the best doe-eyed eye bat that I could manage under the circumstances.

He just rolls his eyes at me, uninterested in taking the bait.

I stumble to get to my feet. The last thing I want is for him to take care of me. He stands and stares at me. I know I must look even worse than I already feel. My death wasn’t the easiest way to go. As I stand, I feel a shooting pain radiate from the top of my head all the way down to the middle of my stomach.

Before I can say anything, I feel a warm, red liquid come shooting out of my mouth. I’m throwing up blood, a lot of it. I’m covered in it within seconds. John is staring at my horrified. I feel my eyes roll to the back of my head and after that, I’m no longer sure of anything except the cold, hard ground.

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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…”

I cleaned myself up as best I could, dropping the rest of my stuff by the stream. I knew the next thing I needed to do was find a place to sleep. I hadn’t slept in two days. It was what I had to do and once I got to sleep, I knew once I woke up that I needed to find food. I was beginning to border on delirium, something I figured out once I had begun to hallucinate.

It began as I worked to gather up some branches. I figured if I could just build a small fire to warm myself up for a bit that I could then work on sleeping. I walked along the stream, I was so terrified of losing water again. I found small branches and some twigs that I gathered. I bent down to get the best stick I had seen the whole way and when I stood back up again, I saw him. I saw him watching me from across the stream.

I dropped everything. I wanted to run back to my stuff and just keep running. He stood there, staring at me. Almost through me. I knew that look, he had had it so many times before. In my life before.

“You’re still mad at me,” he says as he digs his hands into his pockets.

I nearly fall backwards. I have lost my god damn mind. It has finally happened. It only took the Undead, killing my students and then getting kidnapped and raped almost daily for me to finally fucking lose my damn mind. Dealing with John’s indifference seemed like one of the easiest things I had ever done in life. But, he was right, I was still pretty fucking mad at him. I don’t respond, I just stare at him.

“Your man, he’s a good man. He loves you.” John takes a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, lights one. He’s next to me suddenly, offering me one. I refuse in shock and fear. “Come on, we always used to smoke together.” He hands me the one he already lit. I take a long drag, letting it completely feel my lungs. I can taste the tobacco, smell it. It tastes so good. I exhale slowly. John lights another one and joins me.

We sit down next to one another. I feel like I’m in the middle of the fucking twilight zone. I keep taking long, slow drags of my cigarette, enjoying it more than I should. “I know he’s a good man,” I finally say.

“You deserve him, Lizzy.”

I feel my heart skip a beat at the sound of my name on his tongue. I breath in. God damn it. “Yeah,” I finally manage to say.

“You have to let me go. You have to let go of how fucking terribly I took you for granted.” He’s staring straight ahead at the water.

It’s taking every bit of me not to burst into tears. “I loved you,” I blurt out despite my best attempts to not go that route. “I loved you so much. And all I really wanted was your attention. That was it.” Fuck, now I am crying.

“I know.” He finally looks at me. His eyes are filled with regret. “I was stupid, I was young and there you were, this beautiful girl filled with so much love and kindness. And you wanted to give it all to me with no expectations.” He takes a long drag, exhales, letting the smoke billow out around him. “That was one thing I wasn’t used to. What I was used to were girls that always wanted something, my money, just the label, the image – whatever. You were the first girl that was in it, just for me. And that was scary, that was big and I didn’t know what to do with it so I fucked it up so bad that by the time you did ask me for something as simple as my time, the whole thing…us were already in pieces and I hadn’t even realized it.”

It took him dying…to realize this now. Fucking guys.

“So I did what any guy would do, I pushed you away. And I hurt you again and again.”

I nod, sucking hard of my cigarette. I’m scared if I try to talk I’ll just be a hot mess. He’s pressed every button and opened up every wound he gave me in the years that we had dated. I wanted to hate him, so badly.

“John, it’s another lifetime at this point.” I keep my gaze locked with his. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“But it does, Lizzy. I loved you too. I loved you so incredibly much that there were days that you were all that I thought about. And I need you to know that I mean that and that happened. You matter, Lizzy. You matter very much. And if nothing else, I need you to know that, believe that and when Javier finds you – which he will – I want you to stop dwelling on me.”

I look away to stub out my cigarette. When I turn back, he’s gone. I promptly burst into tears, big heaving sobs. I tuck my knees into my chest and I just want to die. I fucked it all up, I fucked up keeping my kids safe, I fucked up basic survival and I have been fucking up my relationship with Javier too.

John’s Story

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John Reardon was what I thought going to be the love of my life. He liked beer, movies and cars. He used to drive me crazy with his indifference towards me and how it always seemed to be something else. He was born on November 8, 1983 and before he died he was working as a copywriter for a small PR firm in New Brunswick. What I loved most about him were those moments where he would show how kind he truly was like when he would lovingly talk Mouse down from her place atop my pillow. He ran hot and cold and I found a thrill in trying to figure that out. He died trying to get to my school the day that this shit all hit the fan. I buried him in the kickball field along with some of my students and my boss after Javier beheaded him.

I’ve been separated from the group for about a day and a half. I’m starving, but more so incredibly thirsty. All I want is a drink. I’m deep into the woods now. I think our old house is somewhere behind me.

The hordes have thinned out. It’s the strangest thing. At first there were what felt like hundreds and then the more I ran and the more I worked through, the thinner the groups got until I was back out into open ground. The family of deer that crossed my path may have had something to do with helping me get this far. Sorry, Bambi.

My legs are so sore and swollen. I just want to sit, but if I stop it means they can come back. I don’t have it in me to deal with a horde.

I have to find water and a place where I can rest. I’ve thought about tying the blanket up amongst the trees and sleeping for just a little bit, but then if I fall that will be the end of me. I need water.

I need to focus on the water. At least I’m focusing on me and survival now and not my crappy life I had before.

I never realized just how crappy my life really was before all of this. There have been nights since this all started where I used to lay awake and think about my perfect life before, but it was far from perfect. I actually had started to hate teaching. I hated every moment of it. And as much as I wanted to believe that my boyfriend loved me and was my happy, fairytale ending…in all reality my boyfriend didn’t even really like me and probably just used me for comfort and companionship when he needed it.

I don’t know what’s worse, having been secretly holding onto that behind Javier’s back this whole time. Romanticizing the whole thing. Or actually even missing that perfect life I never had.

God, I am so thirsty. I just want water. I would kill for water.

And as crappy as life had gotten after all of this happened, it actually got better in a lot of ways. I have Javier. I have kids. I have a life that I wanted.

And I’m not teaching, though now, I actually find myself missing it.

I’m so damn thirsty. I wish it was summer. If it were summer there would be leaves and even though there would be minuscule amounts of water in them, I would be pulling them off left and right until this super cotton mouth went away.

I feel like I used to feel after a very long night of binge drinking. Only at least before feeling this way, at least I got to have some fun and not have to fight for my life. This wouldn’t be so hard is this was up hill.

Damn it, I wish I listened to Javier all those times he tried to tell me how to find things out here. I wonder where he is. I wonder if he’s looking for me. Of course he is. And he’s probably worried too. I know Javier loves me. John would have left me out here to fend for myself, giving me some lame excuse about a hang nail stopping him from rescuing me.

Enough. I’m not doing the comparing men game now.

By the sun I know it’s past noon. I have to make it up over this hill. I need to find water. You can’t live without water after what, 3 days? Shit.

I’m laying in bed, staring at the ceiling. My head is still swimming from the beer I had with my friends earlier. My phone will not stop dinging. I know who it is, it’s John. It’s been John all night. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. He could have spent the night with me. We had plans to see a movie and go out to dinner, but just like he’s always done, he cancels on me about an hour before he was supposed to be here. Another lame excuse about a migraine or was it the drinking plans with his buddies that he had forgotten about?

I can’t remember. The beer has gone to my head. That last minute decision to go out instead of sitting home, wallowing in my hurt feelings…again is going to make tomorrow very long. I probably should have stayed home. It just made me drink too much and made my friends hate him even more, for blowing me off…again.

It’s a shitty feeling to constantly be pushed aside. How have I become one of those women that gets so wrapped up in a guy she rides it out even though she knows the inevitable outcome?

Because you love him, stupid. And because you think that one day it’ll be different and he’ll love you too.

I exhale, long and hard. I roll over and pick up my phone. I read the messages since I had stopped answering. His apologies and explanations and how it’s always someone else’s or some circumstance’s fault, not his. He’s worse than my students. And then he’s calling me and before I stop myself, I’m answering.

And then he’s saying something like, “Why do you always think I don’t want to be around you?”

Maybe because you never are. Or you makes plans with me but then blow me off all the time. Or you just push me aside like I don’t matter to you, like it’s everything else and then me and maybe I’m just to the point where I no longer believe this is all done because of baggage from an old relationship.

I close my eyes really tight. I don’t want to cry. I squeeze them until I see stars.

And then I open my eyes and in front of my stands another one of the Undead. I just keep swinging the branch I had picked up. I’m exhausted. My arms are covered in rotting blood and bodily goo. I’m just so sick of this shit. I know I’m surrounded, and alone. And I realize just how angry I am.

I’m angry for what I had to leave unfinished in my life before this. I’m angry for what’s happened to me since then and I’m sure as hell angry that I’m separated from everyone, in the woods and dealing with an endless swarm of these flesh eating assholes.

As I push on, each one of them begin to look like John or McGrady or some insane hybrid of them both. I just keep beating them the way that they had beat me down, each in their own way. I feel better each time my branch just rams one of them straight across the face. Each time, I feel as though I’m claiming a part of myself back, so I keep fighting because I know that I have to and because for the first time since I killed McGrady, I actually want to.

With one sweeping movement, he had her pinned to him, his mouth completely covering hers. In her mind, she screamed for him to let her go, but her heart wouldn’t let her. It had been six months since she had left him the last time and she had missed him more than she had imagined.

Her head wins out in the end and she pushes herself from him.

“No! You don’t get to do this again,” she yells, on the verge of tears. She’s too proud though to let him see her cry. She chokes them back with elongated breaths.

“Baby, don’t,” his voice filled with tenderness and love, both endearments she knows are fleeting.  “I love you, I want you with me.”

“It’s never with you, it’s behind you, it’s under you, but it’s never with you.” She begins to walk away and he grabs her by the arm, pulling her back. “I know how this plays out. I’ve lived it be played out twice already.”

“It’s different this time!” She’s wrapped around him, his hands running through her hair, kissing her forehead and cheeks. “It’s different. Baby, I want you with me. Beside me, next to me.”

“Bullshit!” She fits against him, both wanting the comfort of being close to him, but at the same time hating him for even trying to offer it to her and hating herself for even wanting it. “Bullshit! This has been two years of the same shit! You can not just jerk me around and tell me all of this shit and confuse me again. You don’t get to hurt me again! I’m happy now. Not with you. I’ve lived through the excuses and the bullshit and everything else that never made me any real priority or obligation to you. Maybe I found someone who doesn’t do that. Who calls when he says he will, who takes me out and doesn’t cancel on me, who spends time with me, who never makes me feel like I am any less than I am!”

He let’s her go. He steps back from her, realizing that she hasn’t been waiting for him this time. “What’s his name?”

She stops. “ Just fuck you, John. Just, fuck you.”

She’s up by her front door now. She’s away from him. It’s tearing her apart to do this again, but she knows that staying with him isn’t for her. She knows coming in second or even a third between his failing career and friends is not what is going to make her happy.

She has lesson plans and stuff to do for work and dealing with his melodrama is not how she wants to spend her Saturday afternoon.

That was my life before though. That was nearly two years ago. John was dead now and I’m standing in someone’s front yard armed with an axe trying to fight my way to a car with my things strapped to my back.

Javier is yelling. The walkers are everywhere. If I don’t keep fighting, they will tear me to pieces. I need to focus, but right now all I can think of is my life before. The mistakes I made in my life before and I judge myself in that moment because there is no need to even be thinking about it.

I just need to keep fighting.

Shelby’s Story

Posted: February 1, 2013 in Life Before
Tags: , , ,

I find it very hard to talk to the kids about their life before. It’s different for them then it is for us. As adults we expect things to come at us. We’re usually never ready for the big things like the death of a parent or the loss of a job, but we expect those things to happen at some point. Kids don’t think like that. Kids though sometimes I think more resilient than most adults, just don’t expect the worst because normally they haven’t experienced the worst and haven’t lived long enough to see how surprising and upheaving living can actually be sometimes.

So, here’s what I know about Shelby van Horn.

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Shelby’s Story

Shelby was ten years old at the time of the apocalypse. She was born on March 10, 2001. Her parents were both doctors and she was an only child. From what I knew of them, they adored Shelby and catered to her a lot. Shelby is quiet and often shy. In school, she found it hard to make friends and often liked to read more than she liked to be around other kids. This worried her mom, probably more than it should. I always admired the inherent gentleness that Shelby has and her quiet ways. She was often a calming influence on our class at Alcott Elementary.

On career day, in our life before, Shelby spoke about wanting to be an artist or a writer. She said she liked to create and live in worlds in her mind. She found fantasy to be her favorite genre. And now look at us, all living together in some fantasy world it feels. Sometimes I wonder if we live in Shelby’s head and that one day she’ll wake up and this bad dream will end for all of us.

One can dream…