Archive for the ‘On the Road Again’ Category

I went down there again this morning after my mom and I had finished trying to cover one of the big picture windows in the house that we’re currently “borrowing.” I stood over him again, The Man in the Ice. He didn’t move much like he did before, probably because last night dipped into wait felt like single digits. His tomb is now too small for him to move and trash around in. Instead I stood watching as he laid there, his head tilted to the side as if he was just merely listening for my footsteps.

Today, he seemed all together docile. Vincent found me there, fresh off of his morning gathering session with Javier. Much like yesterday with Shelby, we stood side by side staring at The Man in the Ice. Until Vincent finally said, “Do you think if he’d froze solid and then we thawed him out that he’d come back again? Or would he just stay dead this time?”

I shrugged. I didn’t have the answers like I used to. I had gone from teacher to student in this world we now lived in. I was figuring it out just as they were. “I think the cold will kill him and make him stay dead,” I finally said.

“Yeah? I don’t know. Javier and I found one in the woods the other day. We pinned it down, cut off his arms, his legs – we waited for him to die and stay dead, but we kept trying to bite us. He was still alive. How can anyone stay alive after that?”

I turned and stared at him blankly. Javier hadn’t told me that their gathering missions had extended to experimenting and mutilating the Undead. What was that about? Does he want our kids to grow up and become the next John Wayne Gacey? What was next mutilating cats to see if they could turn THEM into one of the walkers? Before I could say anything, Vincent just went on, his words pouring out in complete word-vomit.

“I cut off his jaw. I thought maybe if he couldn’t bite us, he’d lose interest in wanting to. I thought maybe we could use him for something. We’re going back in a few days to check on him. See if we really didn’t kill him. Cool, right?” Vincent set down his bag of stuff they found for me to go through like I usually do. I watched as he walked back up to the house. I saw Javier then, coming out of the woods, his home-made machete slung over his shoulder. There was blood on his shirt.

“JAVIER,” I yelled, more shrill than I would have liked.

We’ve seen and done a lot since we left Alcott Elementary School nearly a year ago. We’re still moving around and hoping from place to place, always hoping that we stay at least several steps ahead of the herds. The cold has come and with it, it has made the Undead almost sleepy, but at the same time even angrier if we get too close.

The Man in the Ice was by far the thing that has unnerved me the most. We’re trying to reach more desolate areas because Javier believes that if we can find a place out in the country to stay that we will be safe for awhile because there were less people there before the dead started to rise.  I’m skeptical. We’ve seen what a good, strong pack of them to do to animals. I can only imagine what they could do to use if we got cornered in a remote area alone.

We’re by water now. A lake to be exact. At first we thought it would be a great food source for us, but once we caught a fish we realized how much it no longer looked like what it was supposed to. Has this plague destroyed everything? That was were we first saw the Man in the Ice. He had clearly been long dead. His face bloated and purple. So bloated that it forced his eye sockets to pucker over into each other, leaving this slights where his eyes had once been. His hands like pudgy, dead gobs still trashed at the ice that held him down.

Had he been alive, he would be fighting the ice to get out, to live, to survive, but not now. Even trapped down there, he still sought to fill that insatiable hunger that runs deeply in all of them. That realization made me realize how bad this all really is.

I’ll never be Miss Burton, fifth grade teacher ever again.

We woke up this morning to a biting cold that seems to have gotten worse as the day has warn on. The snow started recently. We haven’t moved much, Javier and I have decided that it’s best we wait out the storm before we start moving again. The Undead are worse than we’ve ever seen them.

Yesterday, Javier and Vincent went out to see what could be salvaged from the few houses we haven’t picked through. I’m not sure how, but they got separated and somehow Vincent wound up face to face with a Walker. He was quick to put it down, but when he came back to camp we could all see how shaken he was. He told us how much more vicious the Walker was. He said it was slower than usual, probably because of the cold, but that it had been much more aggressive and agile once Vincent was within its reach.

Much like us, they are starving. We haven’t encountered anyone since the escape from the bunkers. Other survivors aren’t moving around which means the herds have less to pick off. We were lucky last year with such a soft winter, but it seems that this year will be cold, very cold and very difficult.

My mom and I were doing the wash. We finally talked about our lives in the bunkers. It’s something we have both avoided talking about. It hurts too much and it scares me how far I had to go in order to protect myself and my family.

“I am just thankful his plan didn’t work out,” my mom said absentmindedly.

I stopped soaking the kids’ shirts and looked at her. I swallowed hard, I often think about how different our circumstances would be if he had succeeded. “I am too,” is all I can manage.

“Javier came and sat with us everyday. He watched Vincent like a hawk. He was terrified that McGrady to turn him into one of his boys. I wanted to kill McGrady myself, but Javier told us it was best to wait so we could make sure you got out alive. I just never thought by waiting we would have put you in that position.”

My jaw was on the floor as I listened to my mom. She continued.

“Javier made me promise not to tell you, but he had a plan too. He had slowly been poisoning McGrady. Javier was his right hand man by the end and every night they would have a drink. It was easy for him to slip nightshade into it each time. He just wasn’t using enough because he wanted it to make it look like McGrady just got sick one day and died. Don’t say anything to Javier, but I think he will always blame himself much like I do for letting McGrady do what he did to you and then putting his blood on your hands.”

She put the last of the wash in a basket to hang in what used to be an upstairs bedroom. She kissed my forehead as she brushed passed me.

I walked out the back of the house we set up in, towards the farthest corner of the yard and I stood there crying for the first time since we got out. I cried for a good twenty minutes.

 

We were spoiled for months in the beginning of all of this shit. We had our school and then my home. Since I killed McGrady we have had nothing, but each other.

The internet has been down for months which scares Javier more than he is willing to admit at times. There hasn’t even been a blip on my computer until last night. My mom and I had put what is left of the kids to bed. Armand was right out, Shelby followed and Vincent stayed up too late with Javier as usual. We have had the roughest week yet.

A hurricane tore apart what was left of New Jersey and with it, the deep, bone-chilling cold has come with it. We stayed held up in an abandoned house in a neighborhood that I had never been to. That’s all we’ve done all summer, is move from house to house to neighborhood to neighborhood avoiding the herds of the Undead and any outside person. I don’t trust anyone anymore other than who is with us.

At night now, it gets so unbelievably cold again. What we had for clothes are torn and worn beyond repair. Nothing can keep out the coldness that sneaks up on your body like long, cold fingers eager to grip at your skin, your nerves and even your bones. Shelby wakes up crying at night because she is freezing.

We’re going to need to get moving again, but we have even more concerns now. The hurricane tore down already dilapidated buildings, homes, leveled woods and I am sure flooded other areas. It’s going to be even more difficult to move about now and I can only imagine how this has affected the Undead. I have seen how this week among us humans has made us irritable and mean, I can only imagine what it has done to a bunch of flesh-starved Walkers.

God help us.

I write this as Javier holds me, kissing my neck and shoulders – making me feel as if I am all there is in the world.

But there’s a story as to how we got here. One that I have wanted to write for you, but I was silly to think the internet would hold for so long amidst this undead ending.

I should start with, I guess, hoe I killed or in the very least helped to kill McGrady and the merry band of “good old boys” we found ourselves surrounded with. I waited for McGrady to make that one slip he would regret down to his grave. I waited for him to both be so pissed off and so trustful that he never thought I’d rise against his demands and wants for what I was.

I waited for the storm that sent guards, prisoners and workers deep down into the bunkers that we were kept in. I waited for the thunder and lightening to crack so vehemently against the sky that I would have the best cover that nature could provide me with. He had come to me that day, like he always did – filled with hate, rage and an underlying disgust for me that made me shudder to the most inner-part of who I am.

He came to me, sitting on my cot looking at me through eyes that deep down visualized nothing more than my brutal death at his hands. I wanted to hurt him, I wanted to feel my hand in him as I felt his life drain from him, but I held back – waiting for that moment where everything and anything was possible. He came at me, caressing and feigning a pretend love that even the most immature of 18-year-olds could have seen through.

I waited for him to feel comfortable enough to climb on top of me, undoing his clothing as he moved. I heard the storm growing more intense in the background, I heard the water splashing against my floor as it flooded down. I felt my hand reach beneath my mat, pulling out from between it the dagger that I had crafted earlier our of the motherboard of the laptop I had to sacrifice to protect myself.

I felt my hand push into his side with ease as he glare changed from eerily domineering to a questioning child. I felt as I was watching myself from an outside vantage point as I plunged my shank in and out of him, coating myself in his blood as I watched the life drain from him, becoming bleak and less aware. Afterwards I ran for my life from my cell, screaming and covered in deep red splotches and a spray of pink –  wanting to put as much distance and space between me and the first person I would ever kill.

I hate when you look back at things and wonder why you didn’t see any of the signs until you’re so stuck in a situation that you have absolutely not idea how you’re going to get yourself out of it.

McGrady used the facade of keeping us safe to lure us all into his trust. He waited for the perfect moment which happened to be the outright chaos of the hordes to get us into his prison. We’re all kept apart from one another. The men patrol us as some sort of sick prison guard type thing. The children, from what I can gather are with my mom and the older women that were with us.

I get to be the special “prize” for McGrady at the end of all of this. The women who are of child-bearing age are kept fed, healthy and made to walk for an hour a day under a heavy watch. We’re not allowed to speak to one another though Bonnie and I do seem to watch one another to check and see if we’re at least physically okay. We’re each assigned to a man. I think Bonnie has the eldest McGrady boy and it has been made abundantly clear that I am McGrady’s treasure.

Much like Javier used to visit me at night in the house, MCgrady now does. He tries to talk to me, to explain his reasoning, but I refuse to listen to him.

“The world must go on, Elizabeth,” he says in his hardened voice. He reminds me of my father when we calls me that. I cringe every time. “In order for the world to go on, we have to have more children. More able men to protect it and make it safe again.” He usually lights a cigarette and blows the smoke out of the side of his mouth. “Isn’t it easier this way? To just do it. To leave out the emotional commitment that complicates everything? It’s just business.”

I stare off at the wall, my hands in my lap. I beat myself up on the inside, wondering why we just didn’t stay at Alcott Elementary.

“I’m not going to force you, it’s never been my style. One day though and soon, you will surrender to me just like your friend did to her assignment and life will go on.”

Assignment? Are we cattle? Cattle to be bought, sold and impregnated for the purpose of “the future”…”the greater good.” I want to slap him, I want to reach across my little cell and claw out his eyes, but I go somewhere inside of myself that’s away from him and away from this world entirely.

He stubs out his cigarette on the wall, crosses the cell and kisses me on the forehead. “It’s just business,” he whispers into my ear.

I still feel my skin crawling even after he’s left. This is not how I want my life to go, not how I want it to end either. How the hell do I get out of this one?

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.