Posts Tagged ‘5th grade’

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.

It’s been beautifully warm and then bitterly cold. Last week, we even saw our first real snow storm since this all began. We were trapped for the entire weekend until we were able to dig out our little house. It reminded me how in my life before I should have been more appreciative of public services like snow plows and snow removal. 

It was bitter and cold and we were thankful for it because it meant that we did not have to deal with The Man in the Ice. But then, it started to get warmer out. We had days where it felt like spring. I would stand with the children and we would stop doing chores. We’d put our faces to the sun and just feel the renewal that was coming.

It amazes me how much more in-tune we have become with the natural world since ours lives changed. Our moods align with the temperature and the weather. It was so nice for those few days. It made all of the snow melt and made it easier for us. Javier though paid close attention to The Man in the Ice. 

One morning we could see the ice beginning to break up. We both stood there watching him, as his fingers began to slowly protrude through the ice. It was disgusting and stomach churning to watch these purple/brown bloated fingers worm there way through the weak parts of the ice. If we helped to pull him out we knew he would break apart. If we let him struggle to get out we figured the same would happen to him. 

His eyes said that his mind was muddled, probably both with decay, his unceasing hunger and the temperature of the near-freezing water. 

“If we leave him in there, he will spoil the lake. If he hasn’t already,” said Javier as he drew me closer to him.

“But how to we remove him?”

“A really big net.”

“Even if we had one of those, we’d still have to get it underneath him.”

“I know.”

Javier was already half way up the hill towards the woods before I could respond. 

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…

My mom’s name is actually Cindy. I don’t think I’ve ever told you all that, but then again to me she’s my mom so I would never really call her Cindy. Well, except for the years in college when I thought it was the cool thing to do. So here it is, Cindy’s story of her life before.

Cindy’s Story

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Cindy Burton started her life in Edison, New Jersey on February 4, 1955. She’s an only child. Her parents were artists and as she will tell you, over-indulged her in every whim she had. When she was younger, she wanted to be a ballet dancer, but she never made it past Thursday night dance classes at her neighborhood studio. She taught dance for years, up until she had me. Then she married my dad who though lacking interest really in either one of us did manage to set her up nicely and finances never really were a worry for us, even after the divorce.

In her life before, my mom was trying to open her own daycare. In some ways she got that even after life changed because she takes care of Armand as if he was her own.

I was never good with writing about myself. I liked to write stories. I liked to record things, but when it came to writing a paragraph about myself I would freeze, but I want you to know who I was in my life before all of this happened to us. Before the world just fell to pieces, leaving us to pick up those pieces and try to move on as best we can.

Liz’s Story

Miss Burton

I was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 16, 1983. My brother Ryan followed me four years later. It was just us and my mom since I was a teenager. My parents had divorced after pretty much never getting along. We barely saw him after that. It didn’t matter though, we both had always been closer to our mother.

I always wanted to be a teacher, it was the one big dream that I had since childhood. I was hired right out of my masters program to work at Alcott Elementary. I started out as the kindergarten teacher, but after doing it for several years I found that I liked the older kids better. I was happily enjoying my time in fifth grade.

In my life before, I was looking forward to marrying my boyfriend John. Had things been different, I would probably be planning my wedding right now, but that was…life before.

Last night when we had battened down for sleep, Javier crawled into our makeshift bed next to me. I was still annoyed with him for what had happened earlier in the day. He usually slides in beside me and wraps me in his arms, but tonight was different. He slid in next to me and remained very much to himself.  After awhile, I rolled over and found him awake, staring straight up at the ceiling.

“I could tell you didn’t like me very much this morning,” he said, still staring up and away from me.

“You’re right, I didn’t.”

He rolled over, laying his head on his bended arm. “We don’t talk much about our old lives.” I nodded, agreeing. “Maybe we need to.”

 Javier’s Story

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 Javier was born on July 14, 1979 in a poor, rural area of Spain called Extremadura. He was the youngest of eight children and the only son. He never knew his father and his mother passed away from cancer when he was only 18. When he was eleven, he had gone to work for the farmer that his family rented their home from. At first it was simple things, small errands that he would do for a barely existent wage. Then it built into him slowly becoming more and more important to their landlord.

At thirteen, he was moved to Madrid where he helped run all sorts of crime rings. They liked him for it because no one really would suspect a young boy to have such connections. His mother, on her deathbed, made him promise that he would get away from his life in Madrid and clean up. He left for America and to his oldest sister’s within a few months.

He worked minimum wage jobs and helped his sisters the best that he could until he was finally hired at Alcott Elementary ten years ago.

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.

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.

I stood over him today, The Man in the Ice. I knew that the ice was thick, having frozen to a near solid. The Man in the Ice is almost cocooned down there with just enough room around him to allow him to move his arms and legs. I stared at him for what felt like hours, I watched him as he sensed me get closer. It was other worldly. The man is dead, has been dead for sometime and since the water is both destroying and helping preserve his purple bloated corpse, he has no eyes left. I doubt he has very much soft tissue left inside him at all, but there he was, bloated and floating, scratching and snarling at me through his ice tomb.

He doesn’t fight to breath because he no longer has to. He could stay under that ice until he rots to a point where his corpse can no longer be held together. And then he’ll just disintegrate and infect the lake. That is if his presence there has not already done that.

I wonder who The Man in the Ice was. I wonder if he was kind and good in life or if he was a horrible person missed by no one. Shelby came down and sat with me for awhile. We don’t say a lot to each other. We haven’t for months. She’s very close with Vincent now. They’ve bonded throughout this entire ordeal. Armand is glued to my mother. Javier and I struggle with whatever our relationship with one another is everyday. And if anyone knows what happened to Bonnie after the escape from…that place, we would all like to know.

I’m sure just like The Man in the Ice would like to know how he’s still alive without air or food and a rotting, purple almost grey tinged corpse.