In which the madness of Ryan’s situation begins its slow assault against his mind.
BUM BUM BUUUMMMMMM!!!!!
I’m still compiling a narative of the day of shooting, look for that sometime this week if I decide I’m capable of keeping promises. I was hoping to get that done this weekend, but my sibling dragged me to a blues dancing group she likes to meet with down in Georgia, and despite my best efforts I had a blast. Hopefully between now and a wedding in Arkansas next weekend I can put up a few preview images, or at least some photos of our “set.”
But on to the task at hand. I got my work undies on (they look a lot like my “Last Night” undies), and though I desperately need a shower from an entire summer’s night of dancing to the soundtrack of “Black Snake Moan,” my scuzzy ass has a post to, uh…post.
© Copyright 2011
A warrior does not falter, because he does not allow himself to plan on faltering. A warrior wins the battle before it begins.
I’d taken every knife we had in the kitchen and stacked them into a small Mayan-esque structure on the floor. I began to refer to this battle pyramid as “Battleramid.”
I crouched before Battleramid and meditated, completely naked because that’s how every badass villain in action movies did it. I focused past myself, past the moaning cries outside, and focused only on Battleramid. Then I worked out, still naked, my junk flopping against my thigh with the thundering rhythm of imminent victory. Occasionally I would send a totally not spastic spin kick through the air.
I was unbeatable. I was a force against the legion of rotting evil outside. An unbeatable, naked force.
Even the exhausted anchorwoman on TV could sense this. From across the gap of the airwaves, she too admired the throbbing spearhead of survival that I had become. Also, my boner.
I hadn’t slept in over forty hours. I started to wonder if my lack of sleep would start to affect me anytime soon.
I must have dozed off around the time I sprawled on the floor and started whispering to the spirit of the building to tell me “what you see.” I’d had my ear pressed against the linoleum in case it answered back, but I don’t remember whether it gave me any tactical details or not. I do remember waking up sweaty and naked, my penis practically glued to the floor from two hours of crazy-person-sweat. I peeled it off like a postage stamp in a privately not-uncomfortable fashion.
I needed a shower. I checked my defenses, saw that nothing had been breached yet. The zombies were still just moaning outside, only occasionally batting at the frames as though they could magically summon the stuff out of their way.
I’d passed out a little after eleven last night. It was now five in the morning. The anchorwoman had been replaced with a heavyset fellow in effeminate wire-frame glasses. He was sweating as much as she’d been, but I found myself praying a little that his neckline wouldn’t start dropping the way hers had.
I made my way to the bathroom. Before I could hit the light, something small smacked me in the face. I fell on my ass, flailing my arms and shouting “Zombie mother fuckers!”
Splayed and slapping, I watched a fly zip out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.
I went in, hit the lights, reflectively looked to the floor where I’d squashed the last one. Curiously, it wasn’t there.
I looked around, saw no sign of my fallen enemy anywhere. I started to doubt my sanity a little, but not enough to worry myself. I cranked up the shower till it was nice and cold, and chilled myself back into my senses.
I kept the water pressure low, so I could hear if any zombies busted through. Above everything else, I did not want to fight a horde of hungry, gnashing zombies with my nutsack flapping loose and free in the wind. At the very least, I figured the cold water could help get my junk into “battle mode,” if you, y’know, catch my meaning.
I just stood there for about five minutes before I actually started showering, letting the cold water cool my boiling mind.
The shower kept me cool for all of two seconds after I stepped out, until the June heat gave me an even sheen of sweat over my entire body. I pulled on a pair of boxers to stay as comfortable as possible and make sure my ass didn’t glue itself to any surface I applied it too. I contemplate turning on the A.C., but was too afraid of it in case the humming condensers attracted undue attention from the zombies.
Luckily the inside of the apartment was pretty soundproof against low-level, non-smoke detector noise, so I went over to my laptop and played my Creature Feature playlist. Nothing helps slay zombies like a good dose of horror rock.
Or so I told myself.
I kept the music low so I can hear the news. The anchorman’s voice is shaking, nearly tearful:
“Researchers have no leads as to what has caused the recent emergence of the ghouls, finding no chemical evidence of foreign agents that could have possibly initiated the reanimation process. Fringe reports of using magical forces to repel the ghouls have not been verified, and the plausibility of such claims have been widely dismissed by authorities.”
Was that disbelief in his voice? Whatever. I didn’t feel like speculating. I couldn’t overlook the quiver of his chin as he spoke though, or the wide look of absolute, pants-shitting panic on his face. War and protests he was trained for; the world literally ending around him, not so much.
He wasn’t actually looking into the camera, either. Just…kind of staring down and off to the side. Staring past the contained order of the studio, focused on the chaotic hell outside. He was in front of that camera in body only.
A drip of sweat trickled from his eye to his chin. Admittedly, it could have been a tear, but I tried not to consider that.
I made my way to the window, pulled the buttressed mattress back far enough to peek outside. The number of zombies seemed to have reached a plateau, but I could still easily count a hundred of them between my building and the next row of apartments over.
The sky was a deep blue. The sun would be up in half an hour, easy.
I wasn’t used to being this cognizant this early in the morning. What day was it, anyway? Thursday? No, fuck, Friday. It was Friday.
I went to the coffee machine, dumped the old filter, filled the pot, and cranked up the day’s legal substitute for cocaine.
I sat at the table, pushing empty plates out of the way for my laptop, opened Internet Explorer because I’m not a ridiculously pretentious browser fanatic.
I went to my Facebook, typed in a simple, straightforward status:
“Trapped in Nashville. Pinewood Apartments, Unit #1717, Long Hollow Drive. Please send help.”
I sent my noonday text to my folks, leaned back against the wall by the bedroom window, and lit a cigarette. My last one. I wasn’t much of a smoker usually, but I’d gone through half a pack since Wednesday. I’d kept the ragged box of Marlboros in my wardrobe for a little over four months, pecking my way through it whenever the mood struck me. Since Wednesday I’d gutted it like an impatient vulture, and now finally I’d killed it.
I’d already torn through the pot of coffee I’d made that morning, and with my smokes gone, I was gonna need to brew at least two more before the day was out, risk of anyuerisms be damned.
Carl, the hot anchorwoman’s stand-in, had been relieved by then. Apparently he’d just started bawling and wouldn’t stop. Like, the guy was openly weeping on camera. The anchorwoman replaced him, though I doubt she’d gotten nearly enough rest. She didn’t look like she’d showered, and she still had on the same clothes she’d worn Wednesday night, minus the red coat. Her hair was still tied back, and she left an extra button undone on her blouse.
“Get some rest, Carl,” I heard her whisper in his ear. He didn’t react for a second, just stared off into space a little more, before finally giving a faint little nod and leaving the set. The anchorwoman (Meg Henderson, according to the captions they provided) watched him walk off with a noticable look of concern before addressing the camera.
“For those tuning in, this station has gone into lockdown mode until the crisis has been resolved. As of this broadcast, there is no longer any safe way for station employees to leave the building without risking personal attack from the ghouls.” Meg Henderson was quiet for a moment, her eyes glued to the desk. “To any military, security, or law enforcement personnel watching this broadcast, we would like to inform you that station employees Josh Branson, Kristie Lloyd, and Brandon Howell left our building five minutes ago, at 12:03 p.m., from 1400 Vietnam Veterans Boulevard in downtown Nashville. We ask that you do anything in your power to ensure their safety. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Josh, Kristie, and Brandon, as well as to their loved ones, and to the emergency personnel handling the crisis in our city.”
I took a long, hard drag on my cigarette, flicked the ashes into a Coke can. Couldn’t really blame the station hands for wanting to jump ship, even if they were just jumping into the sea during a storm.
I reached up, turned the volume down, listened to the moans and grunts outside. There had to be other people holed up in their apartments like me. Why else would the motherfuckers still hang around?
Wait…was that a fuckin’ engine I heard idling in the background?
I sat up, looked out the window and to the side.
Shotgun Zombie was behind the wheel of a sick nineties-era Cammy, my Cammy, cruising with his foot off the accelerator and thumping his fingers against the steering wheel, bobbing his head like he was listening to music.
Hey, he was listening to music. I could distinctly make out Alice Cooper’s singular vocals belting out “The World Needs Guts” over the din of shuffling feet and tortured moans.
He was patrolling, scanning each apartment, looking either for signs of life, or signs of weakness in my fellow survivors’ defenses. If I had fellow survivors, that is.
Or hell, maybe he just liked lookin’ badass. It was anybody’s guess, really.
But he was doing it in my hotwired car. I silently swore to myself that this dude was going down.
I reached behind me, my eyes still on Shotgun Zombie’s raw, exposed face, and turned up the volume on the television so I could still hear the news.
I jumped back, nearly pissing myself, checked to see where Shotgun Zombie had hit me. Fuck, I didn’t even see him move…
I heard Meg Henderson say: “Oh, my God…”
I turned back to the screen, saw her tired but surprisingly alert face drawn with horror. For a second I thought my TV was on the fritz; the picture didn’t move at all. Except…
…except for the slight tremble in Meg’s jaw.
I heard muffled voices, Meg saying: “Should I…should I just…?” Then:
“It’s…oh God…it’s with a…a heavy heart that I report the death of our colleague Carl Rathers, from a…a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Carl was…was a dedicated…oh God…” She covered her mouth, and I honestly couldn’t tell if she was going to puke, cry, or both. Probably both.
Yup, both. The camera swung away while people rushed in to help her.
Well, that was strangely reassuring. It was good to have visible proof that I wasn’t the only one struggling to stay human around here.
The fly landed on my hand as I readied myself to piss. It stood disconcertingly close to my penis, confident in its momentary safety. It knew damn well I couldn’t shoo it away without giving my bathroom an impromptu ammonia scrub.
I stared the fly right in its red little eyes. Where the fuck were these little douches getting in at?
Hold on. Something…something was off with this bug. What was it?
I watched it walk in circles, the way flies do because they’re stupid, annoying little assholes. It looked funny doing it, almost like it was staggering. Like some of its legs couldn’t hold its amazingly miniscule fly weight. Shit, some of them looked…broken.
And its wings looked crumpled to boot. Wait a second…
I looked over my shoulder, to where I’d crunched the other one, but coulddn’t see it. I shook off, zipped up, finally waved the startlingly determined fly off as I flushed, and crouched beside the toilet. Nothing. The fly from Wednesday wasn’t anywhere to be seen either.
I followed the haggard buzzing, saw it fly in clumsy loops, until it reached the bare light bulb over the sink.
The little bastard had been zombified.
Great. Fucking great. They’d already infiltrated my defenses.
I went to the sink to wash my hands, looked up at my insectile enemy. Sure, it was annoying, but it wasn’t like the little critter was outright trying to kill me or anything. I figured if it had lasted this long, it deserved a little amnesty.
“Alright, little guy,” I told it, “I’ll make you a deal. You stay out of my way, I’ll stop trying to kill you. Deal?”
I watched it study me, its twitching head turning from side to side. It buzzed, happily I figured.
Then it went for my eye.
“Ow! Goddamnit!” I swore as its prickly legs poked me right in the eyeball. I blinked reflexively, felt the thing actually try to work its way past my eyelids. Ahhhh! What was it trying to do?
I slapped, swatted, brushed, but the thing was determined to stay on. It was working its way in, past my eye socket. Was it going for my brain?! Oh shit shit fuck it totally was…
Finally I was able to grab it with my fingers and pull it off. I felt my eyelid lift a little off my eye, its little bug feet hooked into my flesh. I thunked it angrily against the mirror.
Undettered, it went for me again.
As understandable as it was that this thing would be pissed at me for continuously squashing it, this was beyond petty vindication. This thing was after my juicy bits. It was a zombie, through-and-through, its white, festering bug guts rotting in its cracked exoskeleton, hungry for flesh, and possibly sugar.
This time it went for my nose, and nearly made its way through. I felt its scratchy feet tickling my sinuses, clawing its way to my brain. I plugged my other nostril with my thumb and huffed. My nose swelled like a balloon, the fly forming a pretty effective plug. I know keep calling the thing little, but really, for a fly, it was pretty fucking huge.
I grabbed a pair of tweezers, grabbed it by the ass, and pulled. It held, and for a second I was afraid I’d bisect it, leaving the front half free to burrow inside my skull and slather its dribbling bug juice all over my grey matter.
Luckily air pressure won out, and the fly was blasted back into the sink. I watched it bounce around the porcelain bowl, recover quickly despite the impact. I guess the dead don’t have much need for equilibrium.
It buzzed for me one more time, but this time I was prepared. More than mildly freaked out, I grabbed the dried issue of Maxim, and knocked it back into the sink. It landed near the drain, and before it could get back on its feet I hit the tap. A tiny tidal wave of cool water swept it up, swirled it around in a fatal ring. I watched it kick and paddle, desperately trying to free itself, but I cranked up the pressure, and soon the whirlpool became a frenzied rapids. The fly was washed down the drain, and was gone.
I left the tap running, for about a minute, determined to wash the little monster away forever. My heart was racing, my skin was flushed. I splashed cold water on my face, felt the fire in my cheeks go out.
Shit. Two days of fighting the hordes of the undead, and my biggest brush with death had come in the form of a seasonal pest. Fuck me.