Posts Tagged ‘undead’

In this world, these moments of comfort and consistency are few and fleeting. It’s hard when we are in them to remember that nothing, absolutely nothing lasts. It doesn’t matter how bad we want them to, they just won’t. 

And unlike life before, when we are in these moments, we are in danger. The world is still spinning around us, bringing flesh-eating danger to our door. These moments take our guard away and puts us into a non-existent safe place that just sets us up for hurt and failure. As Javier and I slept, that is exactly what happened. We weren’t exactly fortified in the house that we had taken over, but we had felt that we were secluded enough that we would be okay until the spring came. Then we had planned to either fortify or to move on. 

The moon was big last night. It shined through the parts of the windows that we hadn’t covered, casting everything in gray. I awoke to the sounds of feet on the floor. I stirred slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the room. Javier was still asleep beside me. As my eyes adjusted I could see Shelby’s blond hair gleaming in the moon light. 

I thought she was having trouble sleeping again. I moved to make room for her, but as I lifted the blanket to let her in, I realized that something wasn’t right with Shelby. I shot up and stared at her. It took me several more moment to realize that Shelby was dead. I could see the gray of her skin, smeared with what I was hoping was her own blood. Her arms reached out for me, only this time not for comfort, but for my flesh. 

I shot out of bed, pushing Javier as I went. “Holy fuck,” I scream as I try to both gather my wits and grab something to take her out with. Javier, still oblivious to what’s going on, finally wakes up. “What the hell, Leez? What’s going on?”

He looks from me to Shelby. “Oh God,” he mutters and moves to grab something. 

As if the scene could not get anymore complicated, Vincent comes bursting into the room. “I’m sorry,” he’s screaming. “I just couldn’t do it to her! She asked me not to!”

We have Shelby in the middle of all of us. She’s dragging her feet and reaching for each of us, unsure of what her next move should and would be. 

“What the hell do you mean, Vincent! We talked about this,” Javier is slowly becoming infuriated.

“Never mind that, how the hell and when the hell did this even happen,” I interject. 

“This morning, when we went to look for food. There’s a group of them…in the woods.” Vincent looks down at his feet, knowing hiding that information has put us all in danger. 

“Oh my God.” I grab a lamp off of one of the nightstands and I hit Shelby as hard as I could, completely separating myself from the part of me that loved her in life. She goes down and stays down with ease. Vincent is staring at Shelby’s body in awe. “Are you bit,” I ask with more calm than I actually have. 

He shakes his head. “It was just her.”

Javier is beside himself. When I turn to him, I can see the tears welling in his eyes. No one has time to say anything. Armand starts screaming, an ungodly, stomach-churning wail. I push past Vincent and I run to my mom’s room. 

I find her trying to calm him down, but he just keeps screaming. I run my hand over my face. What’s happening? Before I can even figure it out, my mom fills me in.

“They’re coming, Lizzie. He does this when they’re coming.”

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.