Posts Tagged ‘end of days’

Once we heard McGrady’s voice, Javier grabbed his weapon and was out the door. He yelled at me in broken spanglish to be careful and lock the doors. I wasn’t understanding the need to lock the doors. If this was an Undead threat, they would find a way in no matter what. Their thirst for flesh would drive them to their own death (again) if it meant that they might get one of us in trying.

I ran to the back of the house to let the family who sleeps in my yard in, but they’ve already gone to another house. Bonnie and I start locking everything even though we both know how stupid it is. Vincent and Shelby run upstairs and are glued to the window in the guest room that faces the street. Bonnie and I join them, feeling very vulnerable again. This is not like our little makeshift fortress at Alcott Elementary, this was a house with many easily broken windows and a crazy plethora of different ways for them to get in. We watched as the men emerged from McGrady’s house heavily armed with guns and mele weapons. We watched as the hordes came through the burning fields. The majority of them are runners – the thin, agile kind who are ruled by an even more potent never-ending hunger that surpasses the “normal ones.”

That was over a month ago. I haven’t seen any of them since. The Undead hit hard and fast, almost wave after wave. It seemed like it would never end. It took several hours of near-constant bombardment before McGrady’s lines began to fall.

It was then that they fell back and began to make a run for those of us in the houses. McGrady ran in, he grabbed us and we followed him without so much as a thought.

We ran to the cars that he kept prepared for this sort of thing . I got shoved in one with my mom. McGrady hopped in the front to drive. He took us deep into the surrounding woods, past the hordes of the Undead. We get out, he pulls on things and moves things and then suddenly we’re undergound in some sort of bunker. It’s longer than it is wide and reeks of damp, dank soil and mold.

I’m separated from my mom almost immediately. I can hear the others following in step behind me, but I’m not entirely sure. They start dividing us up and putting us into rooms. I’m in one before I realize it’s a cell rather than a room. I’m farthest away from everyone almost as if I got locked up in solitary confinement.

It takes this month to get my laptop back.

Happy friggin’ Birthday, Javier!

It’s been over a month since I last posted. So much has happened, so much has changed. I don’t know where to start or how to even explain everything. It started with Javier’s birthday….

I sat watching McGrady from the window for some time that day. He was going through another group of survivors that had turned up. I watched from my office window as he picked through the gore-covered car. Whoever they were they certainly must have been through hell to get here. He okays the younger men and women to come through, but stops at the older women in the group. They couldn’t be older than my mom, but he’s quick to separate them from the group and remove them from the compound. The younger group walks in clearly still in shock and almost unaware that a chunk of their group has been taken. Each are given a yard assignment and tents. They’re to stay in McGrady’s daughter’s yard.

I don’t see the older group after that. Sometime later, Nick, the oldest McGrady boy turns back up. I make a note of it, deciding to bring it up to Javier later that night. The entire morning just felt very strange.

I finished what I needed to do for Javier’s birthday party. Vincent and Shelby were bubbling over with excitement! We all were so eager to have a day that was filled with celebration other than gloom and doom. We decorated the living room with the construction paper chains we made.

I then finish making everyone a microwaved cake in a cup. Javier comes in around 3 and we all yelled surprise! He lit up when he realized that everything was for him. Vincent and Shelby give him his tool belt. Javier gushes over it, nearly being moved to tears over how we remembered and went through so much to give him his day. Bonnie brings out my cakes in a cup and we all try for our best “Happy Birthday” en espanol. Javier is completely overwhelmed and he laughs with honest joy at our horrible rendition.

We enthusiastically eat our cake in a cup, enjoying it more than we would have had this been a normal life. We used some of our generator time to plug in my CD player. We dance around to a mix of the Beatles and the Foo Fighters.

Javier eventually pulls me to him as we jokingly mimic the tango to Everlong and then Here Comes the Sun. Bonnie, Vincent and Shelby all stopped and laughed with us. There was a moment where the song ended and a weighted silence fell. For a moment I thought that Javier and I would kiss, but Shelby squealed instead – “look! We’re finally going to be a real family now, with a mom and a dad!”

Javier and I are quick to pull away from one another. Bonnie opens her mouth to interject, but she doesn’t have any time to. Just as she began to speak, we heard McGrady’s voice coming loudly and assertively through his bull horn.

“All meen need to assemble women and children are to seek shelter, lock your doors,” his voice boomed.

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.

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.

The story of what happened to our school nurse is probably one of the most vile things that has happened to us since this shit storm began only a few weeks ago. The day started out as normal as any day from now on can. It was absolutely freezing after the storm hit on Saturday. We spent much of the morning huddled together in the media center just trying to stay warm. By the afternoon, Havier and I decided that we needed to do something to at least keep out minds off of how cold it really was. We decide to open up the nurse’s room. Her supplies are invaluable and it really was time that we just did it already.

Our nurse, Mrs. Steinberg was a rather large lady with a never-ending appetite. I don’t think I had ever seen her without some sort of food in her hand. Hunger was not something that she ever really knew.

It took Havier a couple of swings with the axe before the door finally gave way. Once open, the most awful, foul, disgusting (stomach churning!) smell began to permeate the building.

Even Havier was gagging!

Once the shock of it subsided, we turned on our flashlights and began to shine them around the room. There were three dead students piled in the corner, literally picked clean of whatever soft-tissue they had once had. In the far corner was Mrs. Steinberg. At first we couldn’t tell anything about how she looked. I mean, she was Undead. That was obvious, but the full horror of what had been going on in this room wasn’t visible until she turned slightly as she noticed our flashlights.

The side of her that was immediately facing us was her usual rotund self, but the other side that she was working on was almost completely gone. There was just a thin glaze of rotten muscle tissue slightly holding in her organs. Havier and I watched in shocked horror as she pulled pieces of herself off of her arm and fed it to herself. It was almost as if with each piece of flesh she pulled from herself she was saying, “just a bite! Just a little bite.”

Her eyes were huge like giant saucers and were that bright, vivid yellow that you can only truly experience when you’ve seen fresh yellow snow first hand. She had absolutely no interest in us.

Her consumption of her own rotting flesh and probably of the three students put her into some sort of shock.

Zombie septic shock! (okay…not funny)

And now she only hungered for her own, vile flesh. Zom-Steinberg was taken out in .2 seconds once Havier came to his senses. Without so much as a word, we began to search through and grab whatever we could within the den of zombibalism. When we had finished, we didn’t even bother trying to bury Zom-Steinberg in the kids. We know we’re leaving the school soon, so we just sealed off the room and very matter-of-factly made our way back to the media center.

Somehow I found myself on the roof after that – desperate for some fresh air and a break from the zombie apocalypse. I was getting ready to go back inside when I say him.

John.

John and a small group of people.

Somehow they had made it.

It was still fairly early when I rounded the kids up. Armand contented himself with Matilda. At least she was useful for something now. I prepped Vincent before I got everyone together. I told him that he was going to have to talk to the other kids and explain to them what he saw and what is going on out there. To my surprise, he was more than willing – almost eager.

He got up in front of his classmates, cleared his throat and began. “Who’s played Left 4 Dead 2?” Nearly every boy and several of the girls raised their hands. Shelby burst out crying. Havier was quick to remove her to the computer lab. My eyes were riveted to Vincent. “Well, that’s what is going on out there,” he added.

“You mean there are zombies,” asked Gabe as he perked up a bit.

“Yes, there are zombies and they smell like shit and want to eat us to make us into that shit and make the world even shit-”

“Vincent, I gave you two shits, don’t go for a third,” I chimed in, finding it hard not to. The teacher part of me is fighting hard to cling to me.

“Fine,” he says with a roll of the eye. “So, these zombies are out there. It’s some kind of virus and it makes people die and come back and want to eat us. We need to wait for help to get here and we can’t stay in the media center anymore. We need to clean up the school, make it safe and wait until our parents find us or the army or whoever the hell it is will get here and get us out. It’s really gross out there and scary, but if we don’t help Miss Burton and Mr. Havier it will never get done and the zombies will just come back and eat all of us.”

I was impressed by him and how he found such strength within himself. I got up and patted him on the back. Within moments we had a handful of kids that wanted to go outside with Matilda and start to dig the hole. Against my protests, we also had a group that wanted to help on the inside cleaning out the classrooms. Havier kept reminding me that this is a new world that we live in and there was no point in trying to shelter them from the life and death reality that we were now living in.

Suburban New Jersey is gone and within it has sprouted a world that meant if you didn’t think fast enough, you’d be somebody’s dinner.

I’m standing just outside the media center with Havier. It’s just after dawn. The school is still an eerie shell of its former self. There are trails blood, gore and God only knows what else everywhere I look. I don’t know what Havier is thinking. How could we possibly clean all of this up and make this space liveable until some form of help gets here. I guess work with what we got, right? Right.

Havier has the pistol and I have a crow bar that he managed to get from his office without incident. We move through the building slowly, glimpsing into the K-3rd grade wing. I throw up in the kindergarten room. Havier rolls his eyes and says, “Great, now there’s more to clean up.” He helps me back up to my feet.

“How are you so okay with all of this,” I ask as I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

“Not all of us had the luxury of a nice, suburban childhood,” he says, matter-of-factly. He pushes past me to assess the damage to the room and the vile mound of decomposing flesh in the corner.

Evetually I move outside the door, keeping an eye on Havier and the other on the deserted hallway. We have fifteen more classrooms to go plus the main office, the nurse’s room and the teacher’s lounge. It was going to be a long morning. We plan to tell the kids today about what’s been going on and start to get to work on the building. I’m not sure what makes me more nervous, having to tell them or clearing this building.

My classroom is on the other side. I really want to go there. I want to get my purse. I want to check my cell phone and see if I have service. We have the God damn internet, why wouldn’t I have cell service? I start to feel drawn to my room and my old life, almost as if it’s beckoning me to it so much so that in a split second I make the decision to leave Havier and make a run for it.

I come skidding to a halt right inside my room. There’s glass everywhere and the desks are scattered with books and papers all over the place. I go straight for my closet, fling open the doors and the next thing I know is that I’m pinned to the floor with something thrashing at me. I grab for its arms and I can feel how warm and alive they arm. I exhale and restrain whoever it is that probably thought I was one of the Undead. I finally stop him, subdue him and realize that it’s Armand.

Armand is a third grader from Mr. Taylor’s class. He has autism and at times has been out-right violent.

“Armand. Armand! It’s Miss Burton, sweetheart…you’re okay, you’re okay,” I say with a voice as languid as honey. I hug him and rock him in my lap. I can feel him calming down, his body relaxing. “You’re okay,” I whisper into his ear. I can hear him start grinding his teeth as he begins to rock with me. In that moment, I think even I become the calmest I have been in days.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Liz!” Havier is standing in the doorway. “Never mind leaving me alone, but thanks for making me think tht you got dragged away by one of those fucking things.”

I move so that he can see Armand in my lap. He shuts up.

“I have a lot of stuff in here. We can use those bins over there and fill them with the kids’ coats, it’s been getting cold at night. We should also grab my tissues, sanitizer and the snacks I have. The kids will like those. I’m sorry.”

Havier waves off my apology and begins to grab stuff to put in the empty bins. I stand up with Armand and place him on the floor. He stays glued to me and I don’t blame him. He was probably in my closet since the shit hit the fan. I reach into my closet and take out my purse. I rip out my phone.

No service.

But, there’s a voicemail from my mom and text messages from my brother and John. I punch my pin number in and put the phone up to my ear.

“Are you okay? How’s the school? The hordes are all over the street. I’m staying put. Ryan is on his way here. We’ll be okay,” my mom went on, with half-confidence, “get here when you can. I love you, Cricket!”

I wanted to cry right then and there, but I stopped myself. Ryan, my brother, had texted me to let me know that he was on a train to mom. I wonder if he made it or if he died, trapped somewhere in a train car with a horde of the Undead picking the flesh from his bones.

I read the message from John. He said, “Well don’t you feel like an asshole over how we spent New Years, eh? I know I do! You should have taken my offer seriously ;). I’m on my way to your school. Once we’re together, we’ll figure out what to do next. Maybe your mom’s?” That was nearly five days ago. He worked a town over from here, I hope that nothing happened to him. I hope that he’s on his way. Detoured maybe, but safe and unbitten on his way to me.

I feel sick and worried and even a bit pissed off. I am now completely tethered to this school – like it or not. I have to stay here for the kids and now for John. Once he gets here, we’ll have to make a choice about everything and I have to get to my mom eventually too. How can I move all of us across town?

I began to sulk. I gave Armand my purse and I helped Havier carry the full bins back to the media center.

On the way back, the halls echoed with a dull groaning, signaling that somewhere in the building, the Undead had come back.

It is only now that I have stopped shaking and feel half-ready to write about what happened. All of it was so shocking and peace-shattering that I am unsure if I ever want to leave this room again. I feel stupid now for all the times that I left the media center without any form of protection. I feel even more stupid for having done that with a student, but I guess that goes to show you how unequipped I am to deal with all of this. I just didn’t think is what it all comes down to.

It started out simple enough, I told the kids that I was going out to get some fresh water and some more food. They were all pretty much ignoring me at this point. Carolyn had begun to share her Bratz doll with the other girls and Gabe had found a Wimpy Kid book that the boys were snickering with over in the corner. Vincent was by my side though, ready to get out of there and do something. I told him we had to be quick and quiet.

“What is this emergency,” he asked, his hazel eyes wide. I ushered him into the computer lab where we could be alone. I felt like I had to tell him something, after all, I was allowing him out there with me and what if he saw one of them?

“Before we were locked in here,” I began softly, using that teaching voice I perfected during that one year I taught first grade, “Mr. Gatsby (our principal) had told the teachers that there was some sort of virus that was spreading quickly. Then we went into lock down and we were trapped in here.” I exhaled, waiting for him to say something, anything – even if it was to question me, but he didn’t, he just stood there waiting for me to continue and so I did. “People started to act funny, not like themselves really and they became violent. Help is coming though, so we just have to do our best to stay safe until they do.” I ruffled his hair and he forced a smile, a big fake one that he often gave me when he knew he was doing something he shouldn’t be doing.

“So, are any of them out there?” I shook my head. He stood and stared at me for a moment before saying, “Well the, let’s just go quickly. I can help you carry more water and something other than those horrible peaches you keep bringing back.”

I laughed. Those canned peaches are pretty awful.

I set Matilda up by the door. I told her that we were going to be gone only ten minutes and that if we were gone any longer than that to come and check for us, but only so far as the multi-purpose room. The last thing I needed was that dingbat wandering around the school looking for us as Vincent and I were zombified and the rest of the kids were left alone to fend for themselves.

We pushed the small barricade aside and we bolted to the multi-purpose room. Vincent took most of what our school now looked like in. He didn’t say a word about it, but I could tell that he was beginning to realize the full-scale of what was going on around us. I only hoped that he could handle it.

We jogged into the multi-purpose room and made it to the kitchen without incident. I went into the storage to grab what I could of what was becoming a quickly diminishing supply. I grabbed applesauce this time, thinking that the kids would enjoy the change up. Vincent was just outside the door eagerly filling his backpack and a few other bags that we had brought with us with the fresh supplies. I had gone back in to grab one more jug of bottled water. I turned to hand it to Vincent when this wreaking, cold, gross thing grabbed my arm from around the corner of the storage closet. I began screaming. Suddenly Vincent was too, he was terrified as he looked at me and then at this creature that was once more like us than a walking, rotting bag of meat. It smelled worse than anything I could ever imagine and it took a good several minutes struggling with it to realize that this once was Mr. Gatsby. The same middle-aged man that shook my hand seven years ago and told me to head straight over to central administration so that they could begin the paperwork and that I could be set to begin my first teaching job that September.

With that realization absolute horror raced through my veins. I heard Vincent crying and screaming all at once. He hadn’t a clue what to do and I didn’t expect him to, what ten -year-old would? How could any ten-year-old even handle seeing their zombie principal attacking and seeking to bite off the face of their teacher?

My life was flashing before my eyes, I thought of when I was a little girl and my mom bought me a yellow bicycle for my birthday. I thought of how my dad taught me to ride it behind the abandoned house across the street and once he let go, I flew over the handle bars and scraped my entire face. I thought about how mad my mom was when she saw the state I was when I came home. Mad. MAD. That was the feeling that I needed right now. I needed to be fucking pissed off mad and ready to kill this fucking thing with my bare hands, even if he was once my boss who I admired completely.

With my senses back, I held him off as far as I could. It was at this moment that I realized that Vincent had pissed himself during this entire ordeal because I was now rolling around with Zom-Gatsby in a warm liquid that hadn’t been there before. I looked around and with nothing in sight, I did what I learned in a self-defense class that my sorority made me take years ago.

I kicked him where it should have hurt the most. Kicking him felt nothing like kneeing a Non-Zom. I could feel it crush with such a slight pressure. I could feel his brittle, fragile glass-like bones cracking as I pushed him off of me as he groaned louder. I stood back up, pulling a wet, trembling Vincent off of the floor as he grabbed our supplies. I looked around for something hard to kill Zom-Gatsby with, but before I could even do that, the most unexpected thing happened – a bullet landed straight between Zom-Gatsby’s eyes and the vile creature stopped trashing and groaning. It just lay there – a mound of vile flesh.

Vincent and I looked up in unison. We saw Mr. Havier, our building custodian standing there, pistol in hand. I ran over to him and I flung my arms around him, completely forgetting any kind of professionalism I once had towards him. I was surprised that he hugged me too.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Liz.” He pushed me off of him slightly. “He didn’t bite you, right?” I shook my head. “Thank God, I’ve been chasing after him for days now. He was the only one of them left.”

“So you mean….” I looked past him, towards the door where my co-workers and former students should have been.

“Most of them died in the bombing. Some got out afterwards and some, well,” he gestured towards Mr. Gatsby. “I was lucky, I was in the boiler room when we went into lock down. Is this the only on you got,” he asked, pointing to Vincent.

“No, I have most of my class and…Matilda. We were in the media center when it happened. I’ve kept them in there for the past several days. I felt it was the safest. Vincent only came with me because I needed an extra set of hands to carry things and I wanted to check on the bathrooms, it’s getting pretty gross in there.”

Havier nodded and walked over to Vincent to help him gather up the supplies. “The boys and girls rooms by the front would be your best bet. There hasn’t been any running water, but it’s better than shitting in a corner. I’ll help you bring these back and then we’ll take him to get cleaned up. We’re all dirty, but no one needs to know you couldn’t hold it?” He winked at Vincent and he half smiled, feeling relieved.

We took the supplies back. I brought them in and gave them to Matilda, then Havier and I took Vincent to get cleaned up after I made him promise not to look in any of the classrooms. Havier even gave him a few wet-naps he had found and a pair of pants from the lost and found.

We came back to the media center and we ate a feast of apple sauce and water. Havier and I took turns keeping watch over the computer room door with the pistol. Why he ever had it in school to begin with, I have yet to ask. He’s a crazy-ass Spaniard, I’m sure it would have been legal where he is from. I am so happy to have him here with us though. I was beginning to think that Matilda was going to be my only adult company for the rest of my life. Whose commentary on this entire adventure was simply, “Oh dear, maybe you need to be more careful.”

Head. Desk.