Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

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.

Havier has been allowing us to use the back-up generators sparingly. It’s absolutely freezing. We’ve all been wearing our coats, gloves, hats – whatever we had or found all day. You can smell the snow in the air, that’s how much the temperature has dropped. I’ve moved back to my spot in the corner. It’s warmer if we’re all together and as Havier tells me, life has to gone despite the mistakes that we make.

And he’s right. I made a half-joke about making a fire in the courtyard, but Havier was quick to remind me how fast that would attract the Undead back to us. What I wouldn’t give for a little warmth. Havier and I have been taking turns on the roof. We watch and listen for the hordes, for John, for Havier’s sister, for my mom, for the kids’ moms and dads. So far no one has found us, but I still have hope that soon somebody will.

We emptied out crates and buckets and put them up there. We’re hoping to collect as much water as we can. We’d all like to bath and manually flush the toilets, it’s getting super gross again. As I sit up on the roof, looking for my friends and family, I can see my hands and how they are no longer pale and milky, but gritty and grimy and somewhere between a gray and brown color. I have dried blood from my students and from cleaning, wedged beneath my nails. I once had a manicure, but that was a lifetime ago now.

My hair is so matted from everything that tomorrow I’ve decided it’s time to cut it off completely. It’ll take some adjusting, but it’s more feasible than trying to hold onto an old life.

We’ve also begun thinking about an escape plan. Alcott School can not be the place that we stay forever. Too much has happened here and with the way the hordes have been moving, we’d always be a prime stop for them. We’re going to have to take what we can and prepare for the day that we will inevitably have to leave here. Havier says that the little kindergarten bus in the back is small enough to maneuver and big enough to hold all of us and supplies. It’s just figuring out where to go that’s stopping us. That and the fact that I know if we just wait it out for a few more days that John will be here and maybe some parents too.

I’m trying to hope as best I can and not freeze to death all at the same time.

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 can only help but laugh now about what happened today. It was just last week that I was at home with Mouse and the guy I had just started seeing…an officer in the Navy. We spent New Years together drinking and eating too much and watching the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. We made fun of it. We mocked how stupid they all could be, especially Rick – chasing after that little girl for so long, holding onto hope that she was out there somewhere in need of his help. How could he not realize that the group was more important and that she had probably been bitten shortly after she got separated.

We laughed even more as we watched the ball drop in Times Square, legitimately toasting to the end of the world and how we needed to make 2012 count because it would be our last year alive. We joked about getting married so neither one of us would die single and after my third glass of Taittinger, I told him that I would marry him and that since I was accepting him, he would have to dance with me to the only song an officer could dance to. He laughed, wholeheartedly knowing exactly what was coming and when Up Where We Belong came blaring through my iphone, he swept me up and we danced as serious as we could before we fell on the floor laughing.

What a couple of assholes is all I can say about that night.

I wonder where John is now and if he is okay. I saw him a the day before this shit storm came spiraling through town, but he was never much of a texter. I wonder if Mouse is okay, if her auto-feeder has enough food in it to get her through until either I can get there or my mom does. My mom is just down the street from my house. and my brother is in Pennsylvania. I keep hoping that he wasn’t hit as bad as we were, but who knows at this point.

The reality is quickly sinking in. I’m sitting here in the dark. Havier is on watch. All of the kids are passed out. Shelby was the last one to finally drift off, only after I rocked her. I don’t know how she is going to survive this without her mom, it’s crazy the amount of care I’ve had to give her to keep her calm and functioning. Matilda is snoring off in the corner, seemingly unbothered by everything because really it’s not like she does much, she just keeps the kids from killing one another while Havier and I hash out our next move and you know, deal with undead administrators.

We decided that in the morning, we’re going to have to give the kids a real explanation of what’s been going on. Vincent has been rather quiet and off to himself since the incident with Zom-Gatsby, but I know it will be a matter of time before he starts talking about it, before he needs to talk about it. For now, we’re going to have to make Alcott Elementary our home. We need to stick it out as long as possible to give parents enough time to find their kids if they’re moving this way. To give us enough time to adjust to this new world too.

Our big project tomorrow is going to be fortifying the building. Earlier, I asked Havier just what that meant. He explained that we need to board up the places that are completely open to the outside and to the hordes. We also need to make a stronger barricade maybe with the cars left in the teacher’s parking lot. I asked him what we were going to do about the bodies that have been left behind.

“Bury them,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m not saying to have the kids do it, but they’re going to have to help with digging a big enough hole. We’ll have to move them. You and I.”

I stared at him blankly. I wasn’t sure about how I felt letting my kids dig a mass grave, but I was even more unsure about how I felt having to lug however many bodies were left through the school, outside and into a hole knowing full-well that I knew everyone of them that we’d be moving. As if Havier read my thoughts, he said, “Don’t worry. That part will be easy to forget.”

From the filing cabinet, he withdrew a brown bag and clunked it down on the table. “We will forgot all of our problems as we do this.” He ripped off the bag.

Hooch.

Thank you Mrs. Swan for being the not so secret alcoholic that you were.