In which I continue Ryan’s desperate struggle against the horrors of the violent dead. Peace easy, I’m off to drink and shoot fireworks. (Specifically drinking Everclear and firing bottle rockets from my underpants.)
© Copyright 2011
I had just finished buttressing the guest futon against the window by the door when my phone rang. It was my parents. “Hello?” I said, propping the phone between cheek and shoulder while I wiggled a biography-heavy bookcase into place.
My mom. Hysterical, but with reason to be. For all she knew, the phone had been answered by a zombie who simply sounded remarkably like her son.
“Yeah, Mom, it’s me. I’m okay.”
“I heard about all that trouble in Nashville. Oh GOD…”
“I know, Ma. It’s bad. But I’m okay.”
“Is there any of that around you?”
“Uh…” I couldn’t lie to her about something like this. I was sure they would mention the total area being affected eventually. “Kind of…”
“Oh GOD!!!” She was close to hysterics.
“Ma, it’s okay…”
“No it’s not!” She was openly weeping into the phone. Awesome. “It’s the end of the world…”
“It’s not the end of the world, Mom. It’s real bad, but the world’s still gonna be here…”
“I can’t lose you, I can’t! I wish I’d been a better mother…!”
“Mom, calm down. Put Dad on the phone, okay? Is Dad there?”
“Yes.” She stifled a whining sob. “Yes, he’s here.”
“Can I talk to him, Ma?”
“Okay. Yeah, okay.” I heard her press her hand over the receiver, call out “BILL?”
I heard my dad’s muffled reply.
“Ryan wants to talk to you.”
He must’ve run to the phone. He was kinda out of breath. “Son? Are ya okay?”
“So far, Dad, yeah.”
“Well, they’re definitely outside, but I’m locked in pretty tight…”
“Call the police!”
“I tried. Everything’s busy. I’m fine Dad, okay? Tell Mom I’m fine. Would you do that for me? Please? She really needs to hear it.”
He told her. I heard his voice break a little in the lie.
“Just watch the news, okay?” I did my best to sound confident, hopeful, without going overboard into sacrificial. But I could feel my chest tighten with the most God-awful homesickness I’ve ever felt in my life. “Call me if you hear anything. The TV signal might…might go out or something here.”
“Okay, yeah. Okay son.” He sniffled, tried to cover it as though he was just taking a deep breath. My dad was a tough-as-nails guy. He played football in college, hunted every chance he got, drank black coffee with his morning cigarette. And his child could possibly die this weekend, four-hundred miles away, completely out of reach.
“I love you, Dad. I love Mom too. Tell her I love her.”
“I will, Rye.” His breath got audibly staggered when he uses the childhood nickname. “I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Ryan!” My mother called out. She must have been standing right next to him.
“Alright. I should go charge my phone while I still have power. I’ll call you guys soon, okay?”
“Okay,” he eventually replied. He was artificially calm, his voice placid in a way that let me know he was dying inside.
“Okay. Bye Dad. Bye Mom.”
“I’m not saying goodbye son. Please, just be safe.”
“Okay…okay, I will.”
I shut the phone, checked my barricades. So far, so good.
I lit a cigarette. A zombie shattered the window.
In hindsight, I’m surprised I had the presence of mind to say “Lock and load” the way I did. Then again, maybe it wasn’t conscious, just an automatic response engendered from numerous Bruce Campbell movies, something I fell back on to shield myself from the horror of what was about to unfold.
More shattering glass, but less intense than before, as whatever was out there cleared a path to get through. I saw a hand – rotten, skeletal, gangrenous – reach out and grab the edge of the futon’s mattress to pull it aside. I fired, the first time I’d actually ever shot that gun, and the dead hand blew apart. Wisps of the blasted foam rubber mattress blew away in a breeze from the shattered window.
From outside, I heard a low, moaning “Aaaahhhhhrrrrgggghhhh.” Not painful, just…displeased.
The spent slug rolled until it disappeared under the kitchen table. I held the gun steady, ready for the thing to try again.
And it did, with gusto. Thrusting both arms out between the mattress and window frame, hitting the bed with such force that a few books from the bookcase popped out and hit the floor. But the cheap pine case was wedged in too tightly to move, so the thing simply concentrated on squeezing its way through to its meal.
It was able to shoulder past the mattress disconcertingly fast, and it quickly locked its hungry eyes on me instead of the delicious pasta still on the table.
It was horrible, but thankfully didn’t smell as horrible as it looked. Its face was…goopy. That’s really the only thing I can think to say about it. Just this big, green, goopy mess. If I slapped it, I’m pretty sure bits of it would’ve spattered off like jelly.
It rolled two faded, colorless eyes at me, opened its wobbling jaw a little too far. From somewhere deep I heard it moan. It sounded like a drowning man breathing his last.
I fired the gun for the second time, and the creature’s head exploded like a rotten honeydew melon. The grey eyes flew in opposite directions, like marbles kicked by a petulant third grader. I didn’t notice any brains, just some brown sludge that spattered against the ceiling.
I ran over, used the butt of the gun to knock the headless zombie back outside. To my horror, the thing kept moving once it was back outside. It just stood there, wobbling around and turning, like it was trying to figure out where to go from there.
I rebraced my makeshift fortifications against the window, trying to tighten things up as best as I could. Then I heard the WHUMP.
It was a loud WHUMP.
I heard our white aluminum door shake in its frame, turned to see the gleaming edge of an axe pullingout of a sudden split in the metal. It made a horrible SKREEK as the attacker dislodged it.
WHUMP. The blade tore deeper, the gash growing with alarming speed. The blade was wrestled out, sunk again into the yielding metal.
I quickly ran to the peephole, looked out.
The Axeman. The same one that had begun to butcher Rebecca after the other one had murdered her.
WHUMP. Overhead, because I was an idiot who hung around doors people were putting axes through. It would be a long time, but this guy was going to get in eventually.
I hefted the gun by my hip, waited, gritted my teeth as the axe SKREEK-ed itself out of the door.
Quickly, I threw the deadbolt, hoping the chop would cover the sound.
Now the doorknob lock.
I took off the chain.
The zombie was hefting the axe back up, preparing to bring it down. It would be caught up in the motion, unexpecting.
I threw open the door, stepped to the side to avoid the swinging axe.
The zombie looked up in surprise, right into the barrel of the gun.
Everything above the thing’s jawbone erupted, covering my porch in chunks of foul, black tissue and browning bone. I sent the butt of the shotgun into its chest, knocked it off its feet and over the rail. I slammed the door shut just as another zombie noticed it was open, threw every lock before it started pounding to get in.
Working my new axe out of the floor, I made for our other two bookcases. I crab-walked one over to the door, pressing it flat against the doorframe. Smaller books fell off against the zombie’s insistent pounding, but it stood firm. I hobbled the second bookcase over, leaned it against the first. I pressed down on it as hard as I could, wedging it against the carpet.
There. As on-the-fly fortifications went, I didn’t think it was half-bad.
My phone rang again. Awesome timing.
Without looking, I answered. “Hello?”
“Are there zombies there?”
Ah, my sister.
“Hey to you too, Lyndi.”
“Are they just in Nashville?”
“Nope. Got ‘em ‘round here too. I’m okay, by the way.”
“God I’m jealous.”
My sister’s kind of an alternative chick. Not Goth, not entirely, but she does love her some tattoos and death metal.
I listened to the heavy sound of footsteps above me, heard low, sort-of-furious grunts as dishes came crashing to the floor of the apartment upstairs. “Kind of a serious situation, actually.”
A gunshot sounded off in the distance.
“Sounds like you’re doing okay to me.”
“I’m actually pretty sure that was one of the zombies.”
“You’re shitting me!”
“Nope. They got axes too. One of ‘em just tried to break my door down with one.”
“Yeah.” The pounding at the door had stopped, but now I heard a curious scraping noise. I looked, saw the edge of a credit card poke out between the door and the jamb. It was trying to work away at the latch. “They’re, uh, they’re pretty sophisticated, actually.” I reached down, grabbed the card, gave a hard tug. Whoever had it held on tight, but I was able to yank it loose. It had something slimy and bad smelling on one end of it. I made a face.
The frustrated pounding resumed.
“Well that’s not fucking fair!” She sounded offended, as if someone had violated the rules of her little zombie apocalypse fantasy.
“Tell me about it.” I rinsed the card off in the sink. “Listen, I should probably charge my phone. Y’know, just in case.”
“Yeah, okay. But you’re fine?”
“Yeah. Except, y’know, there are zombies outside.”
“Can I do anything?”
“Not unless you can get Lowes to deliver some zombie-killing garden tools over here.”
“Alright.” She sounded like she’d taken it under serious consideration. “Call me with updates, okay?”
“Alright, will do. Love ya, sis.”
“Back at ya, bro.” And she was out. For twins, we didn’t seem to operate on the same wavelength very often. She hung up on me like I’d just told her a movie was starting.
Dejected, the zombie at the door finally stopped its pounding.
I slid my phone into my pocket, listened for a minute to the sounds of inhuman wailing outside, before looking for my phone charger.
After about an hour I noticed I had to pee.
I don’t know how long I’d held it in, but from my protracted time over the toilet, I’m guessing my bladder had gone into lockdown mode for about an hour while I dealt with Operation Dead-People-Time.
While I stood there, going on quart #2, I noticed a horrible buzzing shoot past my ear, once, twice, third time’s a charm.
The fly landed on the tank, facing me. Staring me down, daring me to swing while I held my dick in place.
I looked into its little fly eyes, held its contemptuous little fly gaze.
“You get a pass now,” I told it, “but by God, if you’re there when I’m done, you’re goin’ down.” I didn’t need this little asshole bugging me while I tried to fight off hordes of killer zombies. Or getting fly puke over whatever food I had left.
I finished, zipped up, flushed. The fly stood his ground.
An issue of Maxim sat on the washing machine beside me. Slowly, almost too slow to really be moving, I reached for it.
The fly buzzed his buzzy wings, held firm.
My fingers reached the glossy paper. The fly backed up, possibly sensing imminent danger.
I brought the magazine up, so that Hilary Duff’s sultry eyes were level to my own.
The fly took off. My arm shot out like it was spring-loaded.
The lid of the tank rattled at the impact.
When my arm recoiled, I saw one prostrate and very crumpled fly adorning my toilet. I tossed the magazine back on the washer. “Sorry, buddy. Tried to warn ya.”
I left the little fly where he was. I’m not fond of the creatures, but flushing them or sweeping them into the trash always seemed disrespectful to me. Once all of…this got settled, I would take him outside and flick him into the grass. For now, he’d have to make do with an open casket funeral.
I spent that night sitting on the kitchen floor, eating cold pasta and watching the tall candles on the table melt. The newswoman on the TV repeated the same old facts, over and over, until I couldn’t tell her droning from the noises outside.