Posts Tagged ‘home’

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…”

Advertisements

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

6b82af4dabafb5aee868b1ffdcb206f9

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 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.

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

frances-conroy

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.

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.

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?

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.