You can’t be a writer when you constantly ask people what they want you to say.
Bethany walked out onto the street. Their new companions stared at her with stolid faces. Her eyes burnt of red anguish from her slightly forgotten tension. She weakly pushed her body forward as she came closer to the cars where everyone stood watching her make her pathetic attempt to continue living a life she had no interest in moving forward with.
“Peter, drive the Camry around,” Chase said, “It looks like we’re leaving.”
Peter nodded his head. He pulled his keys out of his pocket and squeezed behind the van and the Camaro. It wasn’t long until Colin came out of the condominium complex looking nothing like his sister. A bright expression dawned on his face as if he effortlessly just moved a boulder with his pinky. He smiled as if everything in the world was perfect and peaceful.
“Okay,” Colin said, “I guess we’re good to go then.”
“Well, you sure did take awhile,” said Chase. A distinct tone of curiosity wrapped around his words.
“Oh, we just had to talk about a few things over there. We’re okay now.”
Chase nodded his head in an unpersuasive way, turned to glance at Bethany and her whithered appeal, and wiped the ends of his mouth. “. . . I bet”
A tan colored Toyota Camry arrived in front of them with Peter in the driver’s seat, the backseat filled from window to window. Colin was literally avoiding having to tell Bethany that she would be riding with Peter and not him. He didn’t know whether or not it would break her, shattering that last string of tolerance she had for all the changes that were happening.
“Beth,” Colin said as quiet and controlled as he could, “You’re riding with Peter. I have to ride with Jessica.”
Bethany looked up at Colin. Her burnt out green eyes emoted defeat. “Whatever,” she said, not in the mood to fight anymore.
Colin bounced his head up and down, smiling. “Good,” he said relieved. “I guess that’s settled.”
As Bethany walked passed Colin, he followed her with his eyes. She went around the front of the car and knocked on the passenger window. Peter looked up and unlocked the door for her. She opened it, crawled into her seat, and then slammed her door. She didn’t greet Peter or introduce herself. She just crossed her arms in a defensive manner, and sank her head forward.
Peter looked at her suspiciously, and then he turned to stare at Colin through the front windshield of the car. Colin responded by shrugging his shoulders in an indulgent manner.
Colin turned around to see Jessica leaning on the side of the Camaro she just hot wired. Her eyes wandered in quiet. Colin wondered if he should say something.
“We just had a lot to talk about,” Colin said, trying to clear the air.
Jessica exaggerated a grin and then shook her head, “It’s none of my business,” she replied. “Let’s go!”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
The inside of Peter’s car smelled of pine air fresheners and strawberries. He kept two of each on the dashboard. Also on the dashboard was a small metal stick figure with a tan colored grass skirt. If they pressed on it, it would do a quick hula dance. Other than the large military sacks in the back, the inside of the Camry was excessively clean. No spots, no left over food crumbs, no smell of oil, mold, or any thing anyone would find in any car that had gotten old and rotten over time.
It was almost noon, the sun must’ve almost been lifted into it’s peak in the sky. Chase led both cars, Jessica and Colin in the middle, Peter and Bethany in the behind. Peter kept his eyes in front of him, from time to time he would spare a glance back at Bethany, but she continued to stay the sam; her arms crossed, her face unbelievable still, but her eyes zoned out as if her soul floated off in some fantasy dream land.
“Are you hungry?” Peter asked.
“No,” Bethany replied monotonously.
“Well, when I get cranky I usually get hungry.”
Nothing. Not even a small flinch from Bethany. Even with Peter trying to harmlessly get a rouse out of her, spark anything to get her to show some sign of life, she still would not move. She continued to sit in a statuesque manner. Her eyes slightly stuck below the glove compartment.
“Well, when it gets really quiet I get nervous, and when I’m nervous I have fat person issues, and I just feel the need to eat something.” He reached over to the glove compartment in front of Bethany. She sank back into her seat slightly moving her legs closer to each other.
Peter stopped with his hand in midair as he noticed the small insignificant movement in Bethany’s legs. He exhaled and continued to reach over to the glove compartment. He clicked it open, and let the glove compartment fall out carelessly. Bethany moved her legs and adjusted herself to the side. Peter caught his laughter in his mouth.
The glove compartment was filled with packets of dry fruit and jerky. Bethany saw the labels on the several plastic packets, but looked away stubbornly. She stared out at the window watching the road as they entered a freeway. Under the freeway she could see the lower level road that crossed below them. Several cars were left abandoned all over the freeway. A large trucker ran perpendicular to the road, closing off several lanes from being able to move forward. It looked as if everyone just ran out of their cars and disappeared.
Bethany could hear Peter chewing loudly as he exaggerated the movements in his mouth. She knew he was exaggerating by the way he opened up his jaw widely and bit down on his food. He also clicked his gums, he grinded his teeth, and made obscure sounds with his tongue. She didn’t know whether or not he was just being a moron, or just trying that hard to get her to talk. Peter turned to face her, catching her as she stared at his open mouth.
“I bet your hungry now,” he said, wiping the front of his teeth with his tongue in an impolite manner and swallowing uneasily.
“I’m not hungry.”
“Well then,” Peter placed the packet of jerky on top of the dashboard in front of Bethany, “I’m just going to leave this here, and whenever you feel like telling me your lifestory, you could grab it.”
Bethany stared at the way Peter smiled, as if nothing bad could ever happen to them. It reminded her of Michael. The way his mouth curved slightly on the left side, the wrinkles that bent under his eyes when he pushed his cheeks up. Then the stiff cold texture of the bathroom where she stood in front of Michael crept over her body. She could feel Michael’s face peacefully floating under water with the torn expression leaving him lifeless.
“How about it?” Peter said, silently waking her up from her reverie with almost nurturing eyes.
Bethany could feel the perpetual tension of fear and sadness reaching into her. She could feel the emptiness in her stomach and the fragility of her bones. She stared back at Peter, his open grin and inviting facial expression.
“. . . I just really don’t want to talk right now.”
Peter froze for second. His breaths quietly traveled through his broken pursed lips. He shook his head and looked away from her. She could hear him exhale as he readjusted his seat.
Again, the tense silence unraveled.
There are “Immature Writers” and there are “Incomprehensible Writers.”
I just got back from reading a chapter or so from The Dark Tower by Stephen King at McDonalds. I’ve decided to read a McDonalds today because the seats are comfy, the lighting is tolerant, and the windows hold up the ceiling. That, and the fact that it’s 20 or so steps away from my house and everywhere else is freezing.
This morning I had the choice between reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov or The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Out of the slim selection of books I found around my house, which included, Twilight, FightClub/read, The Perfect Mile, Paradise Lost, some poetry by T.S. Eliot, and Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks, I figured The Dark Tower and Lolita were the only books worth reading at the time. I weighed out the pros and cons with each, I didn’t want to read something close to horror simply because I’m writing something in that genre and I don’t want to unconsciously steal the creativity in that work and end up writing just like it. However, as good as Lolita and the luscious details of caressing children would’ve been, I still decided to go with The Dark Tower, simply because it’s written in third person. From the numerous writing forums I’m currently participating in, a lot of people are telling me I need to work on a structure of writing in third person.
Within the First Few Pages
Within the first few pages I found myself reading the same sentences over and over and trying to focus. That’s bad. Most people would say that type of behavior is signs that I might have some attention disorder, or an inability to stay focused. Bullshit! It’s the freaking book’s problem. The book is broken! Maybe not to everyone, but if I open it and it doesn’t make sense to me, it probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people either. Books are supposed to draw in the reader, no excuses. It’s not the reader’s fault that they’re bored. It’s also not the fault of the reader, or most people altogether, that they’re not at a reading level of someone with a graduate school degree. What’s really the point of writing if no one can understand what you’re writing. If a tree falls in the middle of the forest and nobody’s around, do you really call yourself a writer?
People read Twilight. The only people who don’t read it, are writers. The language is too 5th grade. However, the reason for Twilight’s success was because people we’re into the idea, not because they like reading. Most people don’t even like reading, yet Twilight got practically every girl in America to not only pick up a book, but to read four of them. Most people don’t read for the poetic weaving of words or the underlying politics that hides subliminally behind every idea, they read because they want the story. They don’t want the Harvard vocab.
“Sorry Stephen! I don’t know what a god damn ‘hovel’ is!”
It is not your readers fault that he or she has no idea what you’re talking about. It is not your readers fault that they put down your book because it seemed like homework. It is no one else’s fault but yours that you were trying to speak a language that only a small minority of the world can comprehend.
But, if that’s what you’re going for, it’s your move.
Colin set foot on the bathroom tiles. He breathed in the air which started to smell a lot like expired raw meat which had sat in a freezer for a year. Bethany was sitting next to the pool of blood in the bathtub. He stared at her as she stared into Michael’s face immersed underwater. She sat on the lid of the toilet. Her back was utterly straight. Her posture was a lot like her. She was always firm, unwavering, focused. Colin remembered how she would never back down in an argument. She would push and push and move forward passionately, because in some obscure perfect light, Bethany was always right. She was always the moral temple that towered over all things when it came to family, when it came to Colin, when it came to everything. She was the epitome of a big sister. Colin never saw her this way. All those days when Colin looked up to his big sister for guidance just seemed to float off in some way. For the first time in Colin’s life, she really didn’t know what to do.
“Beth?” Colin’s voice softly bounced off the porcelain tiles on the walls and floor. “Beth we need to leave. . .”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry about Michael. We all loved Michael. He was great-” Colin stopped as he caught himself not helping. He heard Bethany sniffle quietly. Her body shook weakly.
“Those people outside, they’re good people. They know a lot more about what’s happening than we do. They know how to survive. They’ll protect us. They have weapons, they know people, and we’re going somewhere safe. You have to trust them, Beth.”
Colin stared quietly at his sister’s shoulders; they shook up every few seconds. Colin could still hear Bethany sniffling. She made quick tiny breaths when she exhaled. In some unpractical manner, her back never moved. Her spine was just stationary. Colin listened to the obvious tense build up in her breathing.
“I’m not going to leave you here. If you think you’re going to sit here alone and wait until those crazy things find you and kill you, you’re wrong! I’ll sit here. I’ll starve here! I’m going to let our one chance to keep on living drive out of the driveway and off into that street and leave us here. Do you want that?” Colin waited.
Colin continued to stare at the petrified image of his sister turned away from him, but then he started wondering how long everyone else was going to wait for them. He should’ve been back with Bethany by now. They should’ve been on the road by now. Colin leaned on the marble counter of the sink, gripping the edge with both of his hands. He felt a slight ringing of emotions in his throat. He wondered if this was it; if his sister finally gave up. He thought maybe he should leave her. Maybe she really wanted to wait out the hours watching Michael’s face until something killed her; the infected, hunger, maybe even her own emotions.
“I’m not going to leave you. You’re my sister-”
“You think I didn’t know?” Bethany’s voice ripped the unseasoned air with the sharp tones in her voice. “You really think I didn’t know. . .”
For a minute Colin couldn’t understand what she was saying. What did she not know? Bethany turned around. She stood up facing Michael, the tears on her face fell off her cheeks and continued to sink back into her neck. Her face was red. Her skin was red. The sad frustrated signs of failure that cracked into her eyes shattering every single thing she ever believed, was red.
“You really think this whole time we were driving around, I didn’t know about Michael. The random puking, the vomiting. How he was heavily wrapped in blankets half the time. How he never slept. You really think in the event that a disease that turned every single person into murderous monsters, that I would really be worried about some God damn food poisoning!”
Colin froze, his eyes sinking deeply into the back of his face.
“You don’t think that every night when we slept in that car, that I was wide awake. That I was praying, ‘please don’t take Michael! Please! You really think I didn’t realize what the hell was happening! My boyfriend was dying Colin! Dying! You know why we didn’t stop at a hospital? You know why we didn’t try to break into a pharmacy? Because I KNEW! I knew it was over, I knew it was over Colin. And I can’t take it anymore!”
Bethany slumped to her knees. She hung her head down as a stream of burning liquid fell onto the bathroom tiles from her eyes.
“You want me to go out there Colin? You want me to act like this is some sort of adventure. Finally! We don’t have to go to college, huh Colin? This is all fun for you! Never knowing what you want, living the unpredictable. Riding the God damn wave of life! I knew what I wanted! I planned out my whole life! How am I supposed to live like this? What’s out there for me? Why would anyone want to live like this?”
Colin walked over to Bethany as she continued to sob. A line of drool climbed down from her mouth. Colin knelt next to her and held her head in between his arms. She dug into Colin’s shoulder and yelled. Her tears started breaking into Colin’s shirt. She just couldn’t hold it anymore. All the things that she bottled up were never going to make sense anymore.
“. . . I don’t know what to do,” she whispered, “what am I supposed to do?”
“You see any beer in that refrigerator, Pete?” Chase said as he closed the back door of his SUV. He took the rifle that laid on the curb of the sidewalk and threw it into the passenger seat.
“Nope!” Peter replied, walking down the path that led out of the condo and onto the open street. “Drank it all.”
“Are you serious, boy?” Chase said with a frustrated glare in his eyes.
“No, of course not,” Peter smiled as he pulled a tall can of IPA from the inside of his jacket. He tossed it over to Chase. Chase opened the can, the fizz engorging to the edges and toppling off to the side of the beer. He brought it to his lips quickly. “Good work!” he said, curving the surface of his beard in an adequate grin. “How much salt did you find?”
“Like 3 ounces.”
“You should give it to that Colin boy.”
“Already did,” Peter reached into his jacket again, pulling yet another beer out from another pocket in his coat. Chase watched suspiciously as Peter broke the top open.
“How many pockets do you have in that thing?” Chase marveled.
“Oh, just enough pockets to hold my beer. I keep all my valuables in the pocket in between my butt cheeks.”
Chase snorted coughing up beer. Peter fashioned a silly open grin on his face. “I’m too old for this,” Chase proclaimed.
It was almost noon. Peter finished his beer, crumpled it in his hand, and threw it on the front lawn. “We need to finish loading,” Chase said, placing a half drank beer on top of the hood of the car. Peter shook his head lightly back and forth. He started to giggle lightly, until his lips parted as he started shaking in laughter. “What?” Chase asked, wondering what was so funny.
“lWhat, you too old to finish your beer, old man?” Peter said with a devious smirk working it’s way across both ends of his face.
“Nope! I’m just too old to drink like a college drop out, that’s all.”
“Hey, at least I learned how to drink like a man!”
“Son, you’re a boy. . .”
Both Peter and Chase argued until Colin walked out the front door with a box scarcely filled with things he found in the laundry room wrapped in his arms. He placed the box down next to Chase’s feet. Peter and Chase stood silently. Colin could hear the birds chirping in the trees 5 blocks away.
“You got another beer?” Colin asked. Chased turned to head to face Peter.
“You got another beer?” Chase inquired of Peter.
“Nope!” Peter replied, quick without a thought of hesitation.
Colin looked down the street to his left, and then down the street to his right. He stared back at Chase and Peter with a small pebble of confusion biting at the back of his neck. “Wasn’t there a girl with you guys?” Colin asked.
“Yeah, she’s hijacking a car right now,” Peter replied bluntly. “Why? Do you want to take those? Make her into a sexy infected zombie friend?” Peter said overconfident as he obnoxiously ranting off making musical porno sounds. “BOW CHICA WOW WOW!” Chase smiled, pulling the beer off the hood of the car and bringing it to his lips.
“No,” Colin replied soundly, “I thought you might’ve shot her in the head like Michael.”
A sudden veil of silence drew in. Peter’s laughter trailed out and dissipated. Chase stopped with his beer midway through the air. They could, once again, hear the birds chirping down the street. The silent veil was once lifted at the sound of an engine. A red Camaro appeared at the end of the of street driving in the middle of the road, sharing both lanes. They all watched her wave from the driver’s seat. She pulled up by Chase’s SUV and got out. She wore a tight fitting turquoise spaghetti string tank top that left her firm shoulders, her lean arms, and her black bra strap bare. She held her long neck high, and her narrow angled face tore a confident, almost sadistic, smile. She brushed her brunette hair back, then shook it vigorously, then tied it back in a pony tail. When she walked, Colin noticed the sound of her heavy leather boots as they stepped on the cement.
“Colin, this is Jessica,” Chase said, “You’re riding with her.”
Jessica walked up to Colin and stretched her hand out in front of him to greet him, “Call me Jessie.”
“Yeah, sure, I’m Colin,” Colin replied, staggering his words.
“Yeah I know, you’re the virgin,” Jessie smiled, her eyebrow slightly peaked. Colin could hear Peter choking on his laughter.
Colin smiled, “I guess the pleasure’s all yours.”
Jessie openly laughed. “Yep!” she replied quickly.
Colin felt a slight confusion as he remembered what Chase said. “I’m riding with her?” Colin asked, as he turned to look at Chase. “What about my sister, who’s she riding with?”
“She’ll be riding with Peter,” Chase answered.
“No, no I don’t want to do that,” he said staggering. He shook his head back and forth, “I don’t want to leave my sister.”
Chase looked at Colin. He could see the lack of courage Colin had in his eyes and the way he held himself up. At some level, Chase didn’t want to hurt his feelings but he had to be forward with Colin. “Son, you have 3 ounces worth of salt on you. It’s better if she goes with Pete.”
“Then give me more salt!” Colin asked impatiently. His voice echoed of worry as his emotions started to dig it’s way up from his torso.
“Nope!” Peter interjected, “No can do there! The most irritating thing is seeing a rookie panic and throw all our good salt onto one infected. It’s just logic.”
“Then I won’t do that! I’m not leaving my sister,” Chase yelled, his voice becoming more and more desperate.
Chase, finally finishing his beer, crumpled it and threw it onto the front lawn. He exhaled, wiping his brow and forehead with his open palm. “Look, have you seen these things coming. They come at you in waves. And people panic. It just happens. Now there’s no telling how many of these are going to be out there, and there’s no telling how you’re going to act. It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s because we’re out here trying to save our own ass at the same time. Do you understand? I’m not ready to trust you! We all aren’t!”
Colin turned away. Colin understood what Chase was asking of him. They couldn’t spare the salt, and Colleen was just safer with Peter.
“. . . okay,” he said hesitantly. “She could ride with Peter.”
Peter looked around, turning his neck and scanning the yard and the front of the condo walls. “Where is your sister?”
Colin wrapped his arm around the cans of food in the cupboard, pulling them over the edge of the shelves and dropping them into a cardboard box. He knelt down and opened the cabinets under the sink. He scanned the labels of all the different soaps and kitchen cleaning products. He could hear Peter’s footsteps behind him.
“Hey Pete, should I grab dish washing soap?” Colin said looking over his shoulder.
“Well, dish washing soap is as effective as it is against normal people.”
Colin, confused, looked back at the label and then looked back at Peter, “. . . so, no?”
“Not unless you want them to smell like lemon zest.”
“Oh,” Colin put the dish washing soap back down. “I do like lemons,” Colin said, turning to look back at Peter.
An awkward dimly lit silence wrapped around the kitchen where Peter stood and Colin knelt. Peter held his stare until he turned away; unsure as to what Colin meant by mentioning his admiration of lemons. He slowly tilted his head to the side wondering if he just didn’t understand what Colin was referring to.
“What else is there?” Peter asked, ignoring the remark.
“There’s some Lysol. Will that work?”
“Yeah grab that, you want things with chemicals,” Peter nodded, “Using chemicals against the infected should work in tight situations. It won’t kill them, but it’ll definitely sting.” Colin nodded, his face focused on the products under the sink.
“Did you find any salt?” Peter asked.
“Not much,” Colin replied, “There’s a salt shaker on the counter over there.”
Peter walked over to the kitchen counter. The salt lay in a small 3 oz glass container amongst the pepper and other spices. He carefully pulled the salt from between the paprika and parsley and placed it in an open available space on the counter.
“Colin, come here. I want to show you something,” Peter said. Colin got up and walked next to Peter while he was slowly turning the cap off of the salt shaker.
“You probably already know this, but salt, it’s very important. The infected are like slugs, they have sensitive skin. Throw salt on them, and they bubble. Now it’s not like chemicals, it’s way more effective. The salt digs into them. Over time the salt will reach their brain, their organs, and it’ll eventually kill them.”
“Why can’t we just shoot them?” Colin asked.
Peter raised his brow, smiling as if he just heard something funny. “How many bullets do you think we have? How many random gun stores do you think there are out in suburbia? How many lucky houses have an weapons armory just casually sitting around? Yeah, they’re humans. You could stab them, you could shoot them, they could break a bone. But have you seen these things? They run in packs. Twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even more. I mean it’d be cool if this were a video game and we had infinite ammo, but it’s not. Every bullet could be our last.”
Colin stood quietly attentive as he listened to Peter. Peter pulled a small woven sack out of one of the pockets in his cargo pants. He pulled a string on the sack to unravel an opening. He then took the salt shaker and started pouring the salt in.
“See if you throw one of these sacks into a wall, it explodes. If you throw it hard enough into an infected, it’ll explode. Pour a line of salt on the floor and they won’t start bubbling, but they’ll definitely start reacting to it. It’s the most useful weapon against a swarm of infected.” Peter pulled on the strings of the sack tightly sealing it closed. “Salt is very important!”
Peter held the salt in his open hand leveling it up and down to acknowledge the weight. He turned to face Colin who stood attentively, “Be my Valentine?”
Peter placed the sack filled with 3 ounces worth of salt into Colin’s open palms as if it was the only thing that mattered. Colin felt the light weight on his palm, and thought about how essential 3 ounces of salt must be worth.
Right now it was worth their survival.
The dawn woke up the suburbs, a gold yellow warmth crawled up the street to the house. Colin woke up by Bethany in the corner of the living room. She curled her head on his leg. Colin could feel the warmth from a dampness on his jeans. He stared at the back of Bethany’s head, her brown hair shaking and fidgeting. She was still crying. Bethany had been awake the whole time. Colin watched everyone run back and forth across the living room. From the clock on the wall it was 7am. They must’ve started packing, which meant they must be leaving. Colin thought for a second, wondering whether or not they would just leave him and his sister. He stared at the deep dark shade of red smeared on the carpet from Michael’s dead body. They threw him into the shower and filled the tub immersing his body under water. Then they poured the salt in.
Salt. It was one of the most useful weapons against the infected. They were so sensitive to salt that every time their bodies came into contact with it, their skin would bubble up as if they were slugs or snails and they would go belligerent. It didn’t work that well in killing the infected, but it did definitely slow them down. Every time someone died or if there was a dead body lying around it was important to salt it. The scent of blood from open wounds would attract infected and then everyone near that body would just be open targets. If a body is immersed underwater, then they didn’t have to use as much salt. Salt needed to be used sparingly. Along with salt, specific powdered detergents, soaps, and kitchen sprays, other household products would also work to slow the infected down. They just don’t work as well as salt.
Colin tapped Bethany on her shoulder. She didn’t respond. He tapped her again.
“. . . yeah?” she replied back, her voice coarse and tireless.
“I need to get up,” Colin said, “I need to talk to them.” Bethany didn’t move. She left her head on top of Colin’s leg, frozen and lifeless, as if she died. Colin thought about pouring salt over her. He slid his hand under Bethany’s face and lifted her gently. She didn’t fight it. He could feel the warmth from her tears and her wet brown hair as the liquid slid between his fingers. She was older than him by 3 years, yet throughout this whole journey since the outbreak, it seemed like he was becoming more mature and she was becoming less big sister-like and more innocent.
Colin walked across the hall. He saw Peter raiding the shelves in the bathroom looking for any types of prescription medicines, drugs, healthcare products. He threw a tube of toothpaste in a box, and then swiped all the orange pharmaceutical bottles. He looked up at Colin standing in the doorway as he was holding a bottle of Tums in his hand.
“Hey!” he said, a large open teeth smile on his face, “We can’t fight zombies with heartburn now can we? That would just be uncomfortable,” he smiled. Colin laughed. Peter was a good guy. He had a slight Irish accent when he said certain words and bright shiny Irish red hair. Colin turned his head to look at the shower. The tub behind Peter was an open pool of red water. Michael’s Converse shoes slightly hanging on the front edge of the tub.
Colin found Chase, the old man who shot Michael in the forehead, in the garage with open papers and maps on a fold out table. He stood over the papers tapping his pen on top of the table, pressing his old man reading spectacles on his face. He looked up as Colin came closer.
“What are you doing?” Chase said through an untidy white beard.
“What do you mean?” Colin asked.
“Why don’t you grab something?” he said sternly, “Haven’t you noticed we’re leaving?”
“Oh,” Colin said realizing that Chase just answered the question he was about to ask, “I didn’t know if we were coming with you guys.”
Chase stared at Colin, a new sincerity took over his face. On some level he forgot how new this brave new world was. He’d been doing this for months now, raiding apartments and houses, finding food, killing infected crazy brainless cannibals. It was all second nature to him now. He looked at Colin and his almost scared rookie expression on his face.
“Son, I killed your sister’s boyfriend there,” Chase said with blunt affirmation. The honesty wrapped around Colin as it crept up his spine.
“You knew he was turning, you knew he was transitioning. You knew he wasn’t right! Yet you dragged him around and from the look on your sister’s face, you didn’t even bring it up now, did you? He was already gone. Now there’s no known cure for this yet, and there’s a reason you held on so long to that Michael kid. But I’m pretty sure you held on, you put your sister in danger, you denied the whole thing because there’s no one out there anymore. We’re all alone on this. . .”
Chase folded a few papers and rolled up the map that lay on the desk in front of him, “Now that was a stupid move you did there, and I had to kill your friend! Now it’d be a stupid move on my part if I didn’t bring you with us, and it’d be a stupid move on your part if you didn’t come with us!”
Colin stood in front of him with his head down as if he just got lectured for being trouble.
“So what now,” Chase asked impatiently, “Are you coming with us?”
Colin nodded his head slowly, “. . . yeah,” he said under his breath, “I guess so.”
“Okay, grab whatever food you could find in the refrigerator,” Chase said without wasting any time for Colin and his weak response. “Grab any canned food you could find in the kitchen. Find a box and take whatever powdered soap or detergent you could find in the kitchen and give it to Peter, he’ll know what to do with them.”
“Where are we going?” Colin asked.
“Sacramento.” It was 3 hours from San Jose, being that there was no traffic which there obviously wasn’t because there were no people.
“What’s in Sacremento?”
Chase looked up at Colin. Within those deep smug brown eyes surrounded by wrinkled overstressed eyelids, Colin could almost see a pigment of hope in Chase. “More people. . .” he said.
“. . . we’re going to a safe haven.“
When I was younger I never went anywhere. I don’t remember going out much. When my sister got her car she would try to cram all of us in and we would go somewhere. My sister’s philosophy was that once she grew up she would take us all to places because we never experienced anything outside of the house. We were all still kids. My sister must’ve been 16. I was still 6.
One day we went off to the beach. It was foggy that day. The sun was making it’s way past the weaves of stretched out cotton shaped clouds. The ocean was a light pastel blue, a faded light blue. And the sand was, well, was sand. I remember everything being lighter than it should’ve been. I remember the sand to be kind of pink’ish actually.
When I got to see the rest of my family’s attention was somewhere else, I walked away on my own. Not too far, but far enough. There was some type of house structure on the coast of the beach, and every so often the waves were getting closer and closer to it.
I was like every other kid. I looked at the ocean with the intention of not getting wet, but in someway challenged it’s potential to get me wet. I was standing at the edge of where the waves broke off. For some reason, I felt if I walked sideways the waves wouldn’t catch me. Right before the waves touched my feet I took a step sideways and I wouldn’t get wet. That was my thought out hypothesis.
I was alone, watching the frothy ends of waves come closer and closer like the mouths of big dogs when they’re encrusted with rabies. I stepped to the side dodging the waves. My back was getting close to the house structure that mounted on top of the beach. I jumped and hopped, took my steps, and the water came closer. There must’ve been a big wave that broke onto the shore. There must’ve been something different. Maybe I slipped.
I could see the shore pulling away. The water took my body and pulled me in deeper. The house on the sand moved further from me. The line in the sand was gone. Everything was a blur. It might’ve been a blur, it really must’ve been my head immersed under the water.
“Do you remember that day Jaype?” Angel would ask me when she retold the story. “You almost died.” she would say.
My sister told me that she remembered playing with the rest of my brothers and sisters and then she looked up and asked, ‘where’s Jaypee?’ “You weren’t with us.” she said. “I looked at the ocean and I could see you struggling underwater. I froze. I remember saying, ‘Eliot,’ quietly and your brother came in after you. Just like that. He ran into the ocean with all of his clothes on and grabbed you.”
I do remember that day.
“C’mon Michael, we’re getting close,” Bethany said. Michael hunched over Colin’s shoulder as he tried to keep him upright. Michael hasn’t stopped puking, the corners of his mouth carried a pulpy yellowish foam that dripped off his chin.
“You have to clean his mouth Bethany. That’s just gross,” Colin said stopping. Bethany pulled the bottom of her shirt until it tore around her waist. She folded the piece of fabric over and started wiping the ends of Michael’s mouth. Michael’s body started shaking again. “You gotta be kidding me!” Colin said frustrated, as he dropped him on the cement floor in a hurry.
Michael posted on all fours and started making the vomit foreplay motions. His legs started cringing. His body sank back and forth. His shoulders dug into his neck until a raw thick mixture of what looked like clumpy orange milk started seeping out of his mouth and onto the cement floor. Once he thought he was done, he started throwing up again. He started collecting a large milky stack on the floor in front of his face. Bethany watched in horror trying to keep her stomach from replicating Michael’s. Colin stared at Michael’s back, and then stared at Bethany who was still holding onto her waist. He couldn’t bare to see her cry anymore.
“What makes you think that there are people up there?” Colin said as they both strapped under Michael’s shoulders.
“There has to be people there, you saw the light, it was on.”
“What if it’s them?” Michael replied.
“It can’t be them, how would they turn on a light?” she said, “Colin we can’t keep running on our own like this. We need to find help.”
Colin took a breath and adjusted Michael. He could see a golden light reflecting in a window like some treasure filled oasis in a room. It’s been 12 blocks since the Sedan broke down. No gas. From there they saw a window in the distance in some far off condo in suburbia. There had to be people. They’ve been driving without food for days now, hungry, and as of lately, relinquished any bottled drinking water they had stored in the trunk of the car. They took turns sleeping in the car. Especially with Michael’s sickness, they needed to find people. They needed help. The whole world couldn’t be lost just yet. They couldn’t be the last three humans.
Bethany rushed to the front door in front of them. Colin looked at Michael’s face, “Can you stand?” he asked in a whisper. Michael nodded his head tiredly. Colin placed Michael by the railing in front of the door and pulled his knife out, a long kitchen cleaver. Bethany knocked lightly. She looked at the window, knocked again, and stared at the glazing orange light through the glass. It turned off. They stared at the glass window which inside was covered by a gray curtain. Bethany placed her hand on the doorknob and started turning it. The door was unlocked.
Bethany looked back at Colin who nodded back to her. “You okay?” Colin asked Michael.
“I’m fine,” Michael replied in frustration.
Colin walked in front of Bethany, she reached out to Michael and grasped his hand. Colin opened the door wider. It was an empty
living room. Dark. Couches, television, work desk, book shelves, and books carelessly left open on the ground. Colin looked back at Bethany and Michael who leaned onto the doorway.
“I guess no ones here. . .” he said at the sound of a dozen guns clicking.
“WHO ARE YOU!” said a voice that broke the silence like lightning. An old man came from behind the bookshelf. The face of another person lifted from behind the couch, and a woman suddenly appeared from the open hallway. They all carried guns, long thick rifles that butted into their necks, frantically pointing up and down at Colin, Bethany, and Michael. The open ended barrels of their guns moved quickly, scanning them each up and down, left and right, waving around as if they were trying to catch an insect in mid flight with the tip of their rifles. Colin stood frozen, unmoving in the middle of the living room, shaking chaotically, his knees slowly pulling themselves together as they quivered. Bethany dug her body into Michael ducking under his shoulder and squeezing her face in between his armpit. Michael’s bones ripped in anguish.
“Wait! JUST WAIT!” Colin screached, dropping his kitchen knife to the floor, trembling before the three guns pointed in front of him. Michael, holding the pain down in his mouth, held onto Bethany as they both stood anxiously behind Colin. “We’re human, we’re not like them,” Colin said, holding his hands out with open palms and outstretched fingers. “I’m Colin Sarver and this is my sister Bethany,” he yelled as he stepped to the side opening Bethany to the open ends of the rifles. Bethany peered in front of her with widened frightened eyes as she continued to wrap her arms around Michael. “This is her boyfriend, Michael Barr,” Colin said.
“When was the last time you had sex Bethany?” said the older man in the middle of the other two, who behind his rifle wore a trucker’s hat and spoke behind a stubbly white beard.
“What?” Bethany said as if the old man overstepped his boundaries.
“Answer the question dammit!” he said holding the gun up and pointing it directly above her neck.
“Over a year ago!” Bethany replied with frightened vocal chords.
“You!” he said looking over at Colin, “When was the last time you had sex?”
Colin hesitated. He looked back to his sister and the three people in front of him in embarrassment. The old man waited as he delicately pulled the hammer of his gun back with the tip of his thumb. It stopped once it made a heart stabbing click.
“I’m a virgin!” Colin said finally, his breaths tense and sore. He felt a sour air heave in and out of his chest.
“And you?” the old man said pointing his gun at Michael. The woman of the group turned on a light; it illuminated the walls. They could see the sweat coming off Michael’s forehead. The front ends of his hair becoming wet with perspiration. He struggled through quick painful breaths.
“What’s wrong with him?” the man asked.
“He has food poisoning, it must’ve been something we ate on the way here,” Bethany said.
“Why don’t you have food poisoning then?” the woman asked, pointing her gun at Bethany.
Bethany thought for a second and then looked back at her, “. . . I don’t.. I don’t know. . .” she spewed defeated.
“When’s the last time you had sex Michael?” the old man asked tirelessly, “WHEN!” he shouted.
Michael looked over at Colin. Colin stared back at him. Michael felt a sympathetic hope smiling in Colin’s eyes. Michael turned weakly as he brushed his eyes at the three people holding up their rifles. He could feel a blistering heat cutting through him from inside his mouth and within his eyes. His face started to tear up. The shape of his jaw started to form a guilty impatience. He stared at Bethany and the soft naive expression in her eyes. “Two months ago,” he said.
“You cheated on me?” said Bethany. Her body went silent. She couldn’t feel the hands that wrapped around his. A quiet, peaceful, frustration wrapped around her throat and started choking her as her tears started running down her cheeks. A large clamorous spark ignited from the old man’s rifle as Michael’s head flung back.
Michael shook weakly as several lines of blood painted their way down his face from an open hole in his forehead. He fell to his knees. His eyes flickered like flies. Blood rushed out the ends of his mouth.
“Michael!” Bethany exclaimed kneeling in front of him, pulling on his shoulders. Her tears sprung from her eyes as she touched the lifeless skin on his face. “Michael! No! MICHAEL! Please. . .”
* * * * * * *
It was 8 months since the Zidia outbreak. It was a disease that traveled sexually through men and women. It didn’t take long until most of the world was infected.
. . . to be continued