So you want to know what it’s like to be crazy.
No, no, don’t try to deny it. You and I both know that it’s true. After all, dear reader, why would you be wasting your eyeballs’ finite amount of energy absorbing the words on this page if you weren’t seeking something? Continuing that train of logic before it horrifically derails, the question then becomes what could you possibly be seeking that would lead you to me?
You can’t possibly be wanting something as boring and mundane as answers as to why I’ve done what I’ve done. I have far more faith in you than that, my friend. Just in case my faith in you is misplaced, fine, let’s get that out of the way so that we can continue onto more interesting matters. Why did I do that crazy voodoo that I did?
Are you sure that you’re ready for my answer? I promise, it’s going to blow your mind. Blow. Your. Mind.
Okay? Ready? Here’s my answer.
The cops always seem to hate it when I give them that reason. They get all pissy, and the blood rushes to their faces as they scream and spit and snort that they want the truth. Well, chief, I just gave it to you. I do the things that I do because they amuse me. They take away my boredom and fill me with something else. Anti-boredom, if you will.
All the killing, all the spilled blood, all the lives shattered. All done because I couldn’t find anything interesting on Netflix that day.
The shrinks tend to come at things from a different angle. They word it as, “What happened in your life to make you this way?” They try to take a deep dive into my psyche to scoop up bits of information about my childhood and formative years to find what they’re looking for. There has to be something, right? An abusive parent, perhaps, or maybe a trip to the zoo that resulted in an escaped kangaroo doing naughty things to me.
If you want to experience someone truly getting angry with you, go see a psychiatrist and laugh at whatever conclusions they come to.
I can’t help but find shrinks amusing. They try to shove my squirming brain into some category that a dead German who wanted to sleep with his mother came up with, all while holding notepads firmly in their grips so that they don’t miss a single opportunity to record their own brilliance for posterity. My particular type of nuttiness (the scientific term for my condition) seems to elude all the best efforts at categorization, however. That drives them crazy, and believe me, I know crazy.
I find that to be kind of cool. It makes me unique. A lone wolf. A rebel without a cause. The Lone Ranger without Tonto. A burrito without a colon.
Do me a favor. Catch whatever analogy I was trying to make if it goes springing past you. I seem to have let it get away from me.
Cops and shrinks, two peas in a pod carefully constructed from equal parts stupidity and misunderstanding. They try to get a peek behind my curtain, bless their hearts they really do, but they’ll never see me for who I really am.
I just am. That’s all there is to it. I am. As far as I can tell, nothing made me this way. I came into existence this way and someday I will shuffle off this mortal coil with the same craziness inside of me.
I’m a storm brewing over the dusty emptiness of the desert. I’m the sea crashing against the rocks. I’m a wild animal that can’t be tamed or brought to heel.
I’m the dog that bit you when you were eight years old that has made you terrified of miniature poodles ever since.
Remember that time that you were in the kitchen and you burned your hand while making spaghetti? You had done it a hundred times before, but somehow on this particular occasion you managed to scorch a layer or two of precious skin off. I was the heat. More than that, I was the coin God flipped when he was deciding whether or not to teach you a lesson since you really looked like you needed a lesson and don’t you ever do what you did again and I don’t have to tell you what you did because you know what you did you fucking asshole.
I am a random act of violence in the night. The terrified shriek that echoes off the walls of an alley. The drip drip drip of blood on the pavement. I am a part of this universe with no rhyme or reason or definition. I simply am.
So back to your original question that you didn’t ask but I was kind enough to ask for you.
What’s it like to be crazy?
It’s not bad.
In all seriousness, or with as much seriousness as I can manage, I imagine that it’s quite a bit like how it feels for you to be normal. Well, not you, but other people. Because you’re really not all that normal, are you?
Oh, come on, you can be open and honest with me. You and I are going to be the closest of chums, after all. Tell Uncle Screwloose all about how you don’t really feel that your life’s thread fits all that well into the tapestry that makes up the world.
It’s okay to feel that way, you know. It’s perfectly natural to not understand what the hell your biodonor parents got you into when Daddy convinced Mommy that, since it was his birthday, the universe demanded that they dispense with the condom and go rawhide for the evening.
This is partly why you and I are destined to be the absolute best of friends. I’m you. I’m you with the volume turned all the way up. My inner music is blaring so loudly that I can feel my teeth rattling in my gums. The sound pushes my skin flat against my skull. It digs its hooks into my muscles and pulls hard.
I guess being bonkers is a lot like sitting next to the speakers at a Korn concert.
You know those self-help commercials that used to come on television around four in the morning that preached about how they could help you become a better person and show you how to like who you are? I take that to a whole new level, and it won’t even cost you twenty-six easy payments of $19.95. Admittedly I don’t give out a free set of steak knives with every purchase, but hey, what can I say? You didn’t call in before the commercial was over, so you don’t deserve to have those knives.
I’ll make it quick and painless for you. Someday, if you’re very very good, you can go insane like I am. At this exact moment, though, you’re just an asshole.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. It’s not my fault that you’re an asshole. It’s your fault.
Don’t believe me? What kind of person shackles themselves to rules and regulations that they didn’t come up with themselves? Society tells you what it takes to be normal; we’ve already established that you’re not normal, however, so what kind of person would think that you have to go along with a society that you’re not really a part of?
I’ll tell you what kind of person would do that: an asshole.
Thus, mathematically-speaking, you’re an asshole.
Oh, whoops, wait, I forgot to carry the three… There.
Good news! You’re still an asshole.
Me? I’m a multitasker. I manage to be an asshole and not be one at the same time. I’m an asshole in the sense that, yes, I would find it absolutely hilarious to pull down my pants and take a leak on the grave of your dead hamster Fluffy. I’m also not an asshole because I don’t try to hide who and what I am.
Fear not, my stalwart companion! As your bestest buddy in the whole wide world, I won’t let you be doomed to a life of assholiness. I want you to rise up from your mundane life in which you, an asshole, currently reside and become so much more! I will be your guide through the Land of Asshole, help you cross the deep Asshole Gorge, and show you the way to the complete and total freedom that I so enjoy myself. Won’t that be great, pal? Just you and me against the world. Amigos. Compatriots.
I promise you won’t feel a thing.
But hey, first things first, right? Since you’re reading this, you’ve managed to find yourself a small corner of the world to hide in. What a very special corner, too, because it just happens to be the one that I left this record of events in.
Quite the little issue the world is experiencing, isn’t it? Fucking zombies. I have to admit that I did not see that one coming.
It’s not a complaint, though. In a way, I was tailor-made for this Brave New World that we live in. I loved the act of snuffing the life out of some poor sap, but if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t get any enjoyment out of knowing that I had killed someone. Since I’m being so open with you, I don’t even mind telling you that there were fleeting moments where I’d feel the tiniest pang of guilt about what I’ve done. The actual killing was what made my pace quicken and my day brighten. The results that came from the killing were a separate matter.
See what I’m saying? Clear as mud? Excellent.
Oh, but this zombified world that we live in now. How glorious it is! I can ply my craft in so many ways without the taking of a single human life! In fact, I’m often in the company of honest-to-goodness living human beings, and they not only tolerate me, they even seem to like me. Acts that were considered terrible in the old world are praised as being heroic now. It gives me a nice warm feeling in the cold cockles of my heart.
You probably haven’t run across many people that are actually thankful for the undead hordes covering the surface of the planet, have you? Ah, see, that’s something else that makes me a rather special and unique acquaintance. You’ll tell your grandchildren stories about me someday when you’re old and gray. Well, assuming that your face hasn’t been devoured by the living dead before you have a chance to reach that age.
Now, if you already happen to be old, hey, congratulations! You’ve reached a point that ninety-nine percent of humanity won’t ever achieve. Have a drink on me!
I have no answers about how all of this started. I’m just as much in the dark about the origins of the zombie apocalypse as everyone else. I’ve heard some rumors, of course. There was one about a secret laboratory in Iran that accidentally released a plague. There was a guy that swore up and down that this was part of the Rapture as detailed in the Bible. I suppose either of those is possible. My personal opinion is that it’s something man-made. I base this on my belief that, if there is a God, I can’t believe that He or She would completely rip off George Romero instead of coming up with something a tad more original.
You probably know more concrete details about what’s happened than I do. When everything started, I was locked away in a comfy padded cell. The only reason that I didn’t rot away locked in that room was because the warden had a bit of a conscience. As the walking dead arrived at the asylum, he ordered that the cells be opened to give us a chance at survival. I had always rather liked the guy, although I was obviously far too manly to ever tell him that. It was a shame when he ended up sprawled on the entryway floor.
To be more accurate, half of him ended up on the entryway floor. The other half went the way of cheap gas station sushi down the throats of the dead.
Most of the other convicts, or ‘patients’ as they used to call us, attempted to run screaming and hollering out the front gates of the asylum. This meant that they came face-to-face with the undead horde. It was like a scene out of an epic movie. A small band of crazies, armed only with their soft-soled shoes and a whole basketful of nuttiness, standing strong against completely overwhelming odds.
For roughly eight seconds.
I, on the other hand, was not really made of the same determination and had ignored the main gate. Instead, I opted to explore the private parking lot reserved for the asylum employees. I managed to find a car to hotwire (Hotwiring Cars 101 is a required course during the first semester at the University of Psychopath), and I drove it right around the mass of zombies and into the nearby town.
The entire town was mostly abandoned by the time that I got there, and it was relatively easy to rummage through the empty homes for clothes and a modest stockpile of supplies to put into my brand new used 1976 Chevy. Sucked for the homeowners, but worked out well for me.
My first real up close and personal encounter with someone of the zombie persuasion happened when I accidentally kinda sorta on purpose kicked in the kitchen door of a house while in search of food. I walked through the broken doorway and there he was, standing on the other side of the breakfast table and looking right at me. A good portion of his skull was missing, and his lone remaining eye swiveled in its socket. It was something of a shame, really, as all the gore had ruined the rather expensive Italian suit that he was wearing. Such a finely-tailored garment didn’t deserve that horrible fate.
Okay, fine, you dragged it out of me. I’ll confess that I was indeed a bit frightened at that point. Are you happy now?
Earlier that day I had been perfectly content leaning against my cell’s soft white walls and waiting for my daily mixture of blue and purple pills. Now I was standing smack dab in the middle of the end of days. Proof of that was standing not ten feet away from me, and he seemed to be taking far much of a liking to my admittedly tasty-looking flesh for my comfort. In that moment I needed a hug, and not the kind of hug that this undead man was looking to provide me with.
I set my jaw and stared the abomination right in the eyes, erm, eye. What was there for me to be afraid of, really? He was a rotting corpse brought back to life to devour humanity, sure, but I was a fucking serial killer! When I had finally been arrested, all the papers had said that I was ruthless, cold, and twisted. I had a reputation to maintain, dammit! Some undead freak wasn’t going to show me up. This was my yard, and I’d be damned if I let a rotting puppy come in and force the Big Dog out.
He began to lumber towards me, apparently attempting to go through the table instead of simply around it. Not the brightest bulb in the knife drawer. I looked around the kitchen to get a sense of my surroundings. I had always loved kitchens. So many sharp objects to poke with. So many blunt objects to thump with. So many hot objects to burn with. The average home’s kitchen was a playground for someone bursting with my particular brand of creativity.
In the time it took me to blink, I had over a dozen different ways worked out to make this zombie rue the day he had ever stepped into my kitchen. The odds were pretty good that I had actually stepped into his kitchen since he was already inside the house when I had entered, but you get what I mean. None of the options that I came up with really called to me, though. They all seemed so… mundane. I only got one shot at my first time killing someone that was already dead, and I wanted to make the occasion with something special.
My eyes fell on the cordless blender sitting on the counter within easy reach.
Bingo. We had a winner.
The zombie didn’t seem to be able to move very fast. He propelled himself with an odd cross between a walk and a shuffle, his arms stretched out towards me as a constant moaning sound escaped from between what used to be his lips. I struggled to remember why I had felt afraid only moments before.
I allowed him to get almost within arms’ reach before I shattered the thin plastic casing of the blender and jabbed the blades dead into the empty eye socket. The moaning seemed to change to a more questioning tone. I flipped the switch and the noise stopped completely as his brain was pureed. I turned off the device and whistled happily as I went back to searching for supplies to take with me to… well, wherever the hell I was going.
The few newscasts that I had seen about the Crisis…
Christ, remember when the news stations were calling this whole thing a ‘Crisis’? They made it sound like it was a power outage or a stock market crash.
The few newscasts that I had seen about the Crisis while in the looney bin had talked about how the undead didn’t seem to have the ability to put together a coherent thought. They just had a compulsion to kill and devour the living. The zombies didn’t communicate with one another, and they barely registered that others of their kind were nearby. The news had also heavily emphasized that they were slow and easy to outrun, and that a calm retreat was the best way to handle an encounter.
Well that was all fine and dandy, but retreat to where? If the swarms were everywhere, where was there left to flee towards like a scared child? To complicate matters, it wasn’t like I could simply find a place to hide and stay there forever. I would eventually have to emerge if for no other reason than to acquire more supplies. There had to be a more long-term solution. As I navigated my Chevy over a series of speed bumps (speed bumps that moaned and reached out for me before they were flattened to the ground), I put my always present but never dull mind to work on the problem.
The first conclusion my brain came to was that I would need to track down other survivors. There was safety in numbers, and having a few chums around would open up opportunities for not only safety, but playtime as well. This would mean that I would have to swear off the kind of murdering that had always been second nature to me, but that wasn’t really a problem. I genuinely enjoyed the company of other people, and besides, it wasn’t like there weren’t plenty of the living dead out there to give me a quick buzz if needed.
My second conclusion was that I needed to be smart in how I went about meeting these people. It’s not like I could hop on Twitter and send out a call for banding together in 250 characters or less. I knew that the public’s attention span was right up there with a fruit fly’s, so I wasn’t concerned about someone recognizing me from my rather public trial. The end of civilization as we know it could be a stressful time, though, and that would cause most people to stop thinking straight and go right to making bad choices. I didn’t want to get accidentally shot by some Joe Schmoe who panicked and thought I was a zombie.
I also didn’t want to hook up with people that were, to put it bluntly, fucking morons. Other people being stupid and getting me killed wasn’t exactly high on my priority list. I needed to find people that I could count on and that were willing to count on me. I was pretty sure that took a number of southern states right out of consideration.
Lastly, I needed to get my hands on some weapons more substantial than those I could find sitting around the various kitchens of the world. In addition to those weapons, I also needed equipment that would allow me to survive on the move if necessary. I had no idea how long I would still be able to find gas for my trusty and recently-acquired car, but inevitably I would end up on foot. I would need something to carry supplies and weapons in, like a backpack or a duffel bag. Camping gear also wouldn’t be unwelcome. The easiest places to find such things would be one of the large superstores that dotted America’s landscape like puss-filled boils. I figured that those would be something of a buffet for zombies thanks to everyone else that had the same idea, though. A Walmart was the last place I wanted to die in.
Ah, but what was this? On the dashboard of my completely legally-obtained Chevy sat a GPS unit, one of the fancy kinds that allowed you to search for different kinds of restaurants and stores as well as provide you directions. Keeping one hand on the wheel, I keyed in a search for the nearest sporting goods store. I was pleased to find that I was only a couple of miles away from one. As a bonus, it was located away from the main roads. The streets were cluttered by abandoned vehicles and the shuffling undead. It was probably a good idea to get off the busier streets sooner rather than later.
I still hadn’t seen another living person since the brave lunatics had participated in the charge at the Battle of Shady Grove Asylum. I began to wonder if anyone else in the area had managed to escape. If it turned out that I was the only person still alive, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about that. I would be proud of being better than the rest of the global population, sure, but I would also feel downright embarrassed to be part of the human race at that point.
I reached the sporting goods store, aptly named John’s Sporting Goods. I pulled into a space near the front door. Notice that I made it a point to park in a space rather than next to the curb, and while you’re doing so, also take note that the space was not reserved for the handicapped. Just because society had collapsed didn’t mean that I should ignore proper driving etiquette.
I got out of the car and looked around. It was relatively silent in the parking lot, and the only zombies that I could see were quite a distance away and not headed towards the store. To be on the safe side, I popped the car’s trunk and rummaged around for a few moments before producing a tire iron. I knew from experience that a tire iron isn’t nearly as hardcore of a weapon as television dramas would lead you to believe. It was, however, better than nothing.
John’s Sporting Goods was abandoned. Not even John himself walked the aisles. The store had already been picked over by looters and fellow survivalists (not that there was much of a difference), but I managed to find a large hiking backpack underneath a tipped-over display. I also scrounged up a long length of rope that I figured might come in handy. I glanced longingly at a display case that, according to the sign, had once housed a wide assortment of guns. Those were, of course, all gone, and the shelves were devoid of any boxes of ammunition. I walked over to the door marked ‘Office’ and eased it open.
Low and behold, there was John himself! Apparently he wasn’t a religious man worried about where he would end up after death, as he had put a pistol in his mouth and found his own way around the threat of becoming a zombie. I tell you, some people just aren’t cut out for the undead rising from their graves. The gun was still gripped in his hand and, since Johnny Boy wouldn’t be needing it any time soon, I liberated it and checked the clip.
There were still five rounds left. I searched the office for a few more minutes and managed to find a carton containing bullets in the top drawer of his filing cabinet. All-in-all it had been a fine shopping experience, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the thoughtful staff of John’s Sporting Goods for really going that extra mile to help fulfill my needs. I’d be happy to fill out a customer satisfaction survey at any time.
I returned to the car and found that some of the zombies that I had spotted before going inside were now a lot closer than they had been. Time to be going. I got back behind the wheel, gunned the engine, and headed off in search of a good time.
I finally started encountering other survivors as I continued down the road. At first it was just a few individuals, but the further I went the more I saw people walking down the side of the road or frantically inspecting broken-down vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Despite my newfound ‘Don’t Kill the Nice People’ philosophy and my desire to find companionship, I didn’t really pay these people much attention. Part of the reason was that I had no way of knowing for sure if they were infected, but mostly it was because I didn’t want to saddle myself with people I wasn’t absolutely sure would be an asset. Not so much for my survival as much as for theirs, if you catch my meaning.
I had been driving for about four hours when I reached a ramp leading down onto the freeway. Instead of turning onto it, I continued on for a few hundred feet and brought the car to a halt. I was now parked on a bridge that went out over the highway. I figured that getting an eagle’s eye view of the situation down below couldn’t hurt. If things weren’t completely gridlocked I could get on for a few exits.
I wasn’t heading to any place in particular. There was, however, a nagging thought in the back of my head telling me that I had to get out of the general area soon or bad things would happen. I had learned a long time ago not to ignore that little voice.
The moment that I opened the door, I knew that getting onto the freeway wasn’t a good idea. The air was full of screams that echoed through the evening like a serial killer’s wet dream. Well, not my wet dream. I didn’t really enjoy making someone scream, and most of mine involved Kristen Bell in some capacity, but you get where I’m going here.
The sky was ablaze with the glow of fires and the occasional explosion. Any number of other noises were audible, everything from the shriek of metal on metal to children crying, but above the cacophony was a constant moaning that seemed strong enough to shake the bridge. Unless there was a troll down there having a massive orgasm, there was a huge group of the undead nearby.
I stepped up to the guardrail and peered down. It was like I was looking at a cross between Hell and downtown Los Angeles after a Lakers title victory. Cars and trucks were bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see. Some people were still inside these vehicles, either because of sheer terror or because they simply couldn’t get out due to the close proximity of other cars. Men, women, and children were dashing between the vehicles and up onto the embankments in an attempt to escape the nightmare that was coming to them.
There must have been over a hundred thousand zombies slowly making their way down the freeway. The mob only stopped to swarm under any motorist that didn’t manage to get out of the way in time. Every so often a car’s fuel tank would erupt and send a plume of fire and smoke up into the sky; there were more than a few zombies that were completely engulfed in flames. They just continued on their merry way like it was a Sunday stroll in the park. These blazing undead torches would only die (re-die?) when the entirety of their bodies were incinerated.
I heard a dull thumping in the distance. I turned in time to see a news helicopter rise up over a hill. For a moment I wondered if the pilot was actually going to attempt to get an interview with the zombie horde, which admittedly wouldn’t have been the stupidest thing I had ever seen a reporter attempt to do. It took me a moment to realize that I was seeing an act of attempted heroism.
The helicopter’s pilot brought it in low over a family that was trapped on the roof of their minivan. He opened the side door to allow them to get in. It was brave and commendable, but it was also foolish.
The pilot hadn’t counted on the sheer insanity of the crowd. I know a little something about insanity, and even I cringed at the look of desperation that I saw on each and every face. I have to tell you, it’s an odd experience for a convicted serial killer and certified nutcase to feel like the only sane person left on Earth.
The family got in the chopper, but twenty or so other people also lunged at the open door and landing skids. The pilot gave it everything he had as he fought the stick in an attempt to gain altitude. The added weight was too much for the craft, though, and it slowly but surely lowered down towards the ground. People screamed as the rotor blades tore through the crowd, tossing parts of people in all directions. Something that I couldn’t see caught the fuel line. There was an odd popping sound, and it was quickly accompanied by a loud roar as the helicopter detonated.
I ducked behind the guardrail instinctively even though I knew logically that the flying debris wouldn’t reach where I was standing. A number of nearby cars also went boom as the flames reached them. The explosions tore through both the living and the dead.
All that the scene lacked was Bruce Willis diving away in slow motion.
I glanced around to make sure that I was still alone on my little slice of heaven. Confirming that this was indeed the case, I walked across to the other side of the bridge. Now, I’m not what most people would consider to be an emotional man, but let me tell you friend to friend, mano et you, what I saw made my blood run cold.
Entirely too close for comfort was a second mass of the undead that was at least as large as the one that I had been watching. The people down on the freeway were trapped between two armies of zombies that were looking to make them all identify in the past tense. The concrete walls of the highway were too high and steep for most people to climb over. There was going to be a massacre and, even if the crowd somehow saw it coming, there wasn’t anything that they could do about it.
There was nothing that I could do about it, for that matter. I briefly toyed with the idea of picking off a few of the zombies nearest to my vantage point just on principle, but what was the point?
I turned back towards the car to continue my journey to… wherever. I knew that I should probably figure that out before I went much further. The sense of foreboding that I had felt was likely due to the gazillion undead converging on the immediate vicinity and I needed to get the hell out of Dodge (ironically in a Chevy) before any of them realized that I was right above their heads like a rack of lamb displayed in a butcher shop window. I still needed to take some time to plan out what my actual gameplan would be so that I wasn’t running around like a moron. A handsome moron, but a moron nonetheless.
I snorted as I considered that the asylum I had left earlier in the day would have been the perfect place to try to ride things out. That was before the zombies had overrun the place, obviously. Heavy security doors, multiple layers of secured areas to barricade, its own water supply, and enough food to last for years. Truly it was an oasis in the desert. Again, before the undead visitation had happened.
Where was somewhere else that offered a similar degree of safety? A prison? Probably not the best idea; I had enjoyed a small vacation at both of the closest penitentiaries when my section of the asylum was being renovated, and there was a decent chance that one of the guards would recognize me if they had remained. There was a military base a few hours away, wasn’t there? It was a thought, but there was no guarantee that even if the base wasn’t overrun by now that it wouldn’t be on total lockdown.
Even if I did manage to gain access to the base, there was always the ugly possibility that they would run an identity check on me. I had no idea if the military did that sort of thing during times of crisis. There didn’t seem to be any perfect options available to me.
Well, if there wasn’t a perfect place to take up residence, I would simply have to make do with an imperfect one. Keeping my eyes peeled in the non-literal way, I drove on and put the freeway behind me. Despite the noise of the road and engine, I could still hear the moaning of the zombie hordes for quite some time.
I suppose that sound would have been terrifying and rather intimidating to most people, but I found it to be rather pitiful. It must suck to have such a limited vocabulary. How are you today? Uhhhh. Where did you get that new shirt? Uhhhh. Would you like one lump or two with your tea, sir? Uhhhh. You’re not going to tell my wife, right? Uhhhh.
Maybe zombies don’t actually hunger for human flesh. Maybe they’re just jealous of those of us that have retained our communication skills.
I’m not sure what made me think of a museum. It just randomly popped into my head. You may not notice when you walk into one since odds are you aren’t paying attention to these particular details unless you’re an international art thief, but many larger museums are built like fortresses. There are thick steel gates and screens that can be dropped to cover doors and windows. Any number of objects can be used in a pinch. There are multiple levels, so even if one is compromised you can move onto the next one. The cafeteria is stocked full of food and water, both perishable and non-perishable.
Best of all, if there’s still power, the guard stations can be used to see every nook and cranny of the place. It would be easy to make sure that you aren’t caught with your pants down. If some other people in the building decide to drop their pants, though, it’s an added bonus that you can zoom right in on that action from multiple angles.
Secure structure, plenty of supplies, the chance for naughty voyeurism… When it was put like that, I would have been stupid not to head for a museum.
The downside to the plan was that I would need to head into a heavily-populated area, which meant that the undead would be everywhere. The safety of a museum wouldn’t mean anything if I got turned into a tasty treat before I managed to reach it. If the freeway was any indication, the streets of every major city would be nearly impassable. Unfortunately, it appeared as if my awesome idea was equal parts stupid.
Ah yes, awesome and stupid, the most bitter of all cocktails. Throw a little vodka in there and you’re guaranteed to get sloppy drunk and pay for it the next morning. There’s no telling who you might wake up next to, or what a doctor might find floating around in your bloodstream afterward.
“Maybe the destination is wrong, but the features are right,” I muttered to myself.
What, you’re surprised that I started talking to myself? I’m a wackjob, remember? Just be glad that I wasn’t trying to read messages in my alphabet soup or having sex with dead ducks to see the future.
“Where else has everything that I’m looking for?” I asked myself, not really expecting a response. I surprised myself by replying, “Pretty much every high school nowadays.”
Ah yes, the public school system, also known as the educational prison. A high school in even a low population town had the potential to be turned into Castle Greyskull. It would probably be even more secure than Castle Greyskull since Skeletor wouldn’t be spending all his free time trying to get up in my business. I would have the power (and yes, that’s the third He-Man reference in as many sentences) to shape my own destiny in a place where so many lucky teenagers managed to flush their destinies down the poorly-maintained urinals.
I opened the car’s glove compartment and dug out a map. To answer your question, yes, I was surprised that someone still kept a map in their car as well. A glance out the window told me that it would be a poor decision to stop the vehicle while I worked my destination out; zombies were going from house to house on both sides of the road, and being a stationary target right in the middle of things probably wouldn’t work out well for me. It took a while, but I eventually managed to work out where I was and find the sort of town that I was looking for without crashing into too many obstacles.
Haven, Ohio, you were about to stock up on your quota of crazy.
No, wait, that sucked. Absolutely sucked. Let me try again.
Ready or not, Haven, here I came.
Bah, that one was even shittier than the first. One more time.
Haven, wait until you got a load of me.
Okay, you know what? I couldn’t come up with a good line then, and I can’t come up with one now. I’m just going to stop trying. Those writers that spend hours thinking about every single turn of phrase and what sequence of words sounds the best out of all the possible iterations can bend over and accept the presence of my boot deep inside their now-exposed rectum.
I was going to a small town called Haven in Ohio, and I was going to find a place to crash and kill some shit. Lots of shit. Mountains of shit. I was going to enjoy every single second of maiming and killing anything undead that either got in my way or I just happened to spot and think, “Hey, you know what, I want to kill that one. Yeah, that one right there. No, no, not that one. The one next to it. The one wearing the thing. Not that thing. The other thing. Yeah, that one right there. The one in the place by the thing. I’m going to kill that one.”
As I turned down a side street, I found myself staring directly at a pair of zombies walking down the middle of the road towards me. One was a tall college-age girl with a chunk taken out of her side, and the other was an old man that appeared to be relatively untouched. They were just wandering around until they spotted the car lights. They raised their arms slightly and that familiar moan began to flow from their blood-covered mouths.
Running them over seemed like a good way to blow a tire or crack an axle, so I stopped the car and stepped out into the road. Something in an overturned trash can had caught my eye, and sure enough, when I examined it I found that my eyes hadn’t deceived me. Sitting on the top of a pile of newspapers was a discarded frying pan. It was time to go old school. Three Stooges old school.
The girl reached me first, her neck twisting in anticipation of the gnawing that, sadly for her but happily for me, would never come. I swung the frying pan as hard as I could and was rewarded with a wet yet solid crunch. The zombie went down hard and remained motionless.
I turned my attention to the old man. The frying pan was the kind that was made of cast iron. The things lasted forever. There was barely a scratch on it from its impromptu use as a Whack-a-Mole hammer. That’s why I wasn’t really all that surprised when the zombie’s head smashed inward in a shower of blood as I struck it. Quick, simple, and efficient. Just like the Stooges would have wanted.
I drove on in my trusty Chevy while ignoring the need to eat, sleep, urinate, and weird combinations of the three until around two in the morning. That’s when necessity forced me to take a slight detour. Necessity, and also the glowing light on the car’s dash indicating that I was almost out of gas.
I was basically in the middle of nowhere. To my left was corn. To my right was corn. If I tilted my head up and looked into the night sky I would likely see corn. As much as Nebraska is associated with the stuff, Ohio has more than its fair share of corn-based farmland.
It took me about half an hour to find a gas station. My streak of good luck continued, as the station was abandoned but still functional and not yet picked clean. I was able to fill the car’s gas tank and empty my own pee tank in peace.
As I was making my way back to the car after presenting my golden offering to the side of the building (I may be crazy, but I’m not insane enough to use a gas station bathroom), I made a quick u-turn and went into the convenience store. The door was surprisingly unlocked, and, having been a person responsible for a number of highly-suspicious scenes myself, I knew better than to chalk that up to pure dumb luck.
I pulled the pistol from my belt and checked to make sure that the safety was off. I knew that I should just get back into my car and continue onward, but holy shit did a Slushie sound good at that moment. I moved forward and out of the doorway.
I reached the counter where the cash register was mounted and stopped to listen. The only sound that I heard was my own breathing. Despite my misgivings about the situation, my pulse began to quicken.
That sort of thing really got my blood going. I didn’t feel anything resembling fear. Au contraire. If anything, I was feeling exhilaration. I was the hunter, the predator, the non-accident-prone Wile E. Coyote. If there was a road runner anywhere in this gas station, I was going to find it, and when I did all the painted-on tunnels in the world wouldn’t help it escape.
To my delight, there was a sudden rustling from behind one of the aisles. Without pausing, I lunged around the corner and brought my gun’s barrel to bear on…
Wait, what the hell was I looking at, exactly? A woman in her mid-twenties, garbed in a police uniform and very much alive despite the amount of blood covering her, was hunched down in the middle of the aisle and brandishing what appeared to be a broken mop handle. An open bag of chips and a half-consumed bottle of water were on the floor at her feet.
“Oh, I apologize, I didn’t realize that I was interrupting your meal,” I said pleasantly, making some show of putting on my gun’s safety and pointing it away from her. “I hate it when people come calling when I’m eating. I’ll leave you to it.”
“Wait!” the woman nearly shouted as I began to turn away. “Wait, please. You’re good, right? I mean, you’re not bitten or anything?”
I shook my head and gave her my most charming smile. “I’m very much alive and unbitten. As alive as you are. Although judging from your clothes you’re a lot closer to not being alive than I currently am.”
She lowered the ever-so-threatening mop handle. “None if it’s mine. It’s been a fucking nightmare of a day. Those… things are everywhere. It’s been one long running fight, moving from place to place in an attempt to save as many civilians as we could. I’m… I’m the only one left.”
“The only person in your squad left?”
“The only person period. The other cops, the civilians we were trying to save, the National Guard troops that got called in… all of them are gone. Turned into the same thing as those fuckers out there or fucking eaten. I got away when they overturned our SWAT van. I just started running. I ended up here. I was exhausted. I needed to eat something or I was going to pass out.”
She said the last part in an almost defensive tone.
“Hey, officer, no need to worry about me turning you in for Grand Theft Gas Station Food,” I assured her. “It’s the end of the world. Nobody is going to care about a bag of Doritos and an Aquafina. Where are you headed when you leave? Is there some place that’s safe?”
She stared at me for a long moment, and I was surprised at how old she suddenly seemed. “I don’t think there’s anywhere safe. We lost all communications towards the end. Nobody responded on the police or National Guard frequencies. We couldn’t pick up any military traffic, or even anything from the Emergency Broadcast System. I… I think the people that are left are on their own.”
In the olden days, also known as the day before that one, I would have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to see exactly how many times this brave officer’s body could take having a cooler slammed down on it before it stopped moving. I was a changed man, however. Completely and totally reformed.
I felt something welling up in my chest, something warm and inviting. I reasoned that it must be that compassion thing that I’d always heard so much about. It had to be that fuzzy feeling you get from helping out another human being in a time of need. What other possible explanation could there have been?
Oh, well, never mind, then.
But hey, she was still one of the kinds of people that I had wanted to join up with. She was holding up pretty well for having just gone through quite the massacre, and as a cop she had to be at least passable with a firearm. Hadn’t she tried to fend me off with a broken cleaning device when she had first seen me? That showed that she was inventive and had a keen survival instinct. It wouldn’t have worked on a human unless there was some sort of tripping incident that ended with impalement, but it likely would have been enough to take down a zombie.
“I’ll tell you what, officer,” I said. “Why don’t you come with me? I’ve got a car outside with a full tank of gas, and we can load up enough food and water for the both of us in the backseat. Oh, and toilet paper. Should really get some toilet paper.”
“Why should I trust you?” the officer asked warily.
I shrugged. “If I were in your shoes I probably wouldn’t trust me. You could be a homicidal maniac or something. If you want to stay here I certainly wouldn’t blame you for that decision. It’s up to you. I’m going to grab a box of Ho-Hos and a Slushie, and then I’m going to head out. You’ll need to have decided by then.”
She immediately dropped the mop handle and nodded. “Okay, I get your point. Where are we headed?”
“Let’s talk about that when we’re on the road. You can be my navigator. I’m not the safest driver in the world when I’m swerving all over the place while trying to read a map. You wouldn’t believe the look on this deer’s face earlier when I almost plowed into it.”
We gathered up as much of the food in the store as we could, focusing on non-perishable products as opposed to things that would quickly go bad. Once everything was tossed into the backseat, I made one last trip back inside and finally poured myself a sweet, sweet Slushie while the cop gathered packs of toilet paper.
The Slushie was cherry, of course. It’s a classic and, if we’re honest with ourselves, the people that say they prefer the blue raspberry flavor are either living in a dream world or have fallen victim to the blue marketing machine. It’s true. It’s all part of a giant conspiracy engineered by the people that invented the godawful blue raspberry flavor to make our youth think it’s an acceptable taste. It’s not just blue drinks, either. It’s the blue agenda. It started with when they tried to make people believe that The Smurfs was an entertaining show, and now it’s reached into even our frozen drinks. That puts blue Slushies right up there with Roswell and the Grassy Knoll.
The cop was leaning against the passenger side of the car and looking around nervously.
“Can we get going now?” she almost pleaded.
I’m a good judge of character, and I knew right away that she would prove to be a capable and brave individual. On that particular night, however, she had clearly been pushed past her limits. If I was something closer to normal I probably would have been, too.
“Sure,” I replied, taking a drink from the godly nectar that is a cherry (not blue raspberry) Slushie. “I never did catch your name, officer. If we’re going to road trip together we should probably know what to call each other.”
She opened her door. “My name is Heather Davenport.
I walked over to my side of the car and got in as well. “Well, Heather Davenport, my name is James Pool.”
It was a fake name, of course. James Pool was the name of one of my classmates in high school. It didn’t seem prudent to give my real name to a police officer even if the police itself didn’t seem to exist anymore.
Besides, with my desire to make the lives of human beings go bye-bye gone now, it was kind of like I was starting a new life, right? Going from that line of reasoning, it only made sense that I would begin to do so by first removing everything from my old life, including my name. So here I was, embarking on a new life in a new world with a brand-spanking new name. Hello, World, my name is James Pool, and I’m a reformed serial killer. Well, not so much reformed as refocused. The point still stands.
I pulled hte car out onto the road and told Heather of my plan to become King of the School in Haven. She almost immediately agreed with my assessment. She disagreed with my actual choice of location, however.
“Haven is a small town that is, or rather was, populated by mostly rich and upper middle class families,” she explained as she poured over the map. “The high school there isn’t set up to be locked down prison-style like you can with an inner city school in a poorer neighborhood. This part of Ohio is mostly farmland and country folk. We won’t find any buildings designed to handle vandals and gangbangers.”
I had to admit that she had a point. My old haunts were almost all in large cities. The thought that some schools didn’t have to armor up at night hadn’t occurred to me. It seemed that I had been right to bring her with me instead of leaving her at the gas station to threaten undead tormentors with half a mop.
I wondered where the other half of the mop had gone. I thought about asking her where the actual cleaning device side of the handle had gone, but I decided that it wasn’t important. It was something that I could bring up way down the line when we were old and sitting on a porch discussing how kids these days didn’t know how to kill zombies, and even if they did they really needed to get off our lawns.
“I’m open to suggestions,” I told her. “If you know a better place, I’m all ears.”
There was a long silence before she answered.
“I’ll be honest, James, I can’t think of anywhere around here that’s going to work,” she said finally. “Nothing is going to be as secure as we need it to be without being in a heavily populated place.”
There was another silence, but I was the one to break it this time.
“I suppose that you’re right,” I conceded. “Turn on the radio and see if you can get a signal. Maybe the Emergency Broadcast System is back up and running again. We need more information about what’s going on. If there’s a safe zone set up, I can drop you off there if you want.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to go to a safe zone if there is one?” she asked, looking more than a little confused as she turned on the radio and began to slowly turn the dial.”
You’re probably asking yourself the same question, aren’t you? Well, be patient, because I’ll answer both of you…
“Put yourself into the shoes of one of these undead things,” I said. “If there’s a place where humans are gathering en masse in an effort to protect themselves, where’s the place that you’d want to be? Where has all the food been conveniently collected into one spot?”
“How would they-” she began.
“How would they know about the safe zone? They wouldn’t. But the humans would, which means…”
“The zombies can just follow the fleeing people to the safe zone,” she finished for me.
“Exactly. This whole thing started, what, a week ago? Maybe a week and a half at most? And it’s been in this area of the country for a couple of days? It would take an awful lot to convince me that the government has managed to set up places that can hold up against huge groups of zombies this quickly. Sure, they might be able to stay safe for a little while, but beyond that…”
“Not to mention the logistics of it. If you have every single person for hundreds of miles around packed into one place, you have to be able to feed and clothe them, as well as provide them with shelter.”
I glanced over at her. “I think that Katrina proved that kind of logistics isn’t our government’s strong suit. Besides, we’re assuming that there’s enough of a government left to do anything. You’re almost at the end of the radio frequencies and there hasn’t been anything but static.”
“So what do we do?”
“That depends. You’ve been up close and personal with these things more than I have. What can you tell me about them?”
Heather leaned back in her seat and rubbed her eyes wearily. For a moment it seemed like she wasn’t going to respond, so I took another glorious sip of my Slushie. She surprised me by opening her eyes and nodding to herself.
“They aren’t alive, which you already know,” she began. “That means that they don’t function the same way we do. They don’t even breathe. At first we tried tear gas. That did exactly two things: Jack and shit. They just kept coming. Even worse, the smoke ended up making things even more difficult for us because it made it hard to see them clearly. Next we tried the Shockwave. Do you know what that is?”
I shook my head.
“It’s this… well, it’s kind of like this large series of boxes mounted on top of a tripod. You press a button and the boxes each shoot out a taser dart. It’s used to take down multiple targets with non-lethal force. You know, for crowd control and riots. Anyway, it didn’t even phase them. I’ve seen the voltage from just one of those darts take down a four hundred pound drunk guy on steroids in under a second. That means electricity doesn’t work on them, either. It has to have something to do with how their nervous systems function.”
I waited for her to continue.
“Destroying the brain seems to be the only thing that kills them for sure. I saw one zombie get its entire chest torn off by a shotgun blast and it kept coming. If you take out a leg, it will just keep crawling towards you. Even if you cut the damn thing in half, it just keeps coming.”
“That makes things difficult,” I observed.
“Once we figured out you had to aim for the head, it made things a little easier. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hit a headshot on a moving target, though? It’s one thing to do it at a practice range when you have all the time in the world and no pressure on your shoulders, but in real-world conditions, when it really counts, it’s goddamn hard.”
“I imagine so.”
“Most of us ran out of ammunition by the time our positions were overrun. We had to resort to our nightsticks. It was easier to hit the head, so the sticks proved to be pretty effective. It was a lot more tiring, though, and when you’re that close to the bastards there’s no room for error.”
“No, there isn’t.”
“I’ll tell you one thing,” she said slowly, which was an odd phrase to use after she had told me several things already. “They’re graceless. They move slowly, and they can’t really climb over anything more than four or five feet tall. If there are enough of them, they can still get over walls by piling on top of each other, but a single zombie isn’t a huge threat.”
I started to say something, but I was cut off when she kept talking. I thought that was a bit rude, especially since she had just gotten done stating that she was only going to tell me one thing. It’s not nice to lie like that. I’m sure that you, my faithful reader, are above telling little white lies like that, but evidence indicated that Heather was not.
“Does any of this help?” she asked.
Oh, okay, she wasn’t actually telling me anything else. She was, in fact, asking an interrogatory. Well then, it appeared that I had been wrong about one Ms. Heather Davenport. Completely ignore what I said in that last paragraph. I would cover it up with liquid paper if I happened to have some, which I don’t, but crossing out a section just looks so ugly and amateurish. So I guess you’ll just have to forget what I wrote.
Go ahead. Forget it. I’ll wait.
Heya! Welcome back. We now join our regularly scheduled program already in progress.
“It definitely does,” I said with a nod. “Them not being able to climb means that we’ve got a lot more options for places to stay, even if those places are just temporary. If it comes down to it, we could always destroy the staircase in a house or something. We just need to-”
I slammed on the brakes. Heather cried out in surprise and threw her hands out onto the dashboard to keep herself from smacking into it. See, you never know when the maniac at the steering wheel is going to bring the car to a sudden and complete stop. This is why you should always wear your seat belt.
“What the fuck!” Heather demanded as she looked at me with wild eyes.
Without saying a word, I motioned with my chin towards the windshield. Blocking the road completely was a large group of the undead. I did a quick count and stopped at thirty. The full number was at least a hundred. Probably more than that, as the headlights could only penetrate so far into their ranks before the bodies blocked the light. For a moment we looked out at the zombies, and they looked right back at us. As one, they began shuffling towards us with that now-familiar moan.
“Let’s just turn around and head back,” Heather suggested quietly.
“I don’t think that’s going to be possible,” I informed her, opening my car door and stepping out. They’re coming out of the cornfield behind us. We’re cut off.”
I popped open the trunk and went around to the back of the car. She joined me there after a few seconds.
“We’re in trouble, aren’t we?” she asked, obviously already knowing the answer.
“Looks like it,” I confirmed, pulling my hiking pack and putting it on.
It was fairly heavy at this point. I had shoved a good amount of supplies in it back at the gas station, including a pair of flashlights that I had found behind the counter. I had made sure that it was still light enough not to impede my movements.
“Oh, shit,” I swore suddenly.
“What?” Heather demanded.
“I almost forgot my Slushie.”
I reached back into the car and snatched up my tasty drink. The zombies were within a dozen yards of the front of the car now, and the ones coming up from the rear weren’t much farther away. There was clearly no communication or rudimentary cooperation going on between the two groups, but as luck would have it, they had managed to cut off the best escape routes. On a whim, I snatched up the tire iron that I hadn’t had a chance to use earlier and shifted the pack on my back a bit.
“Well, no helping it, I suppose,” I muttered as I turned to Heather. “Into the corn we go.”
Running through a cornfield is nothing like it seems in movies. The stalks are hard and don’t bend easily, and there’s the always fun “Smack the People in the Face” game some of them enjoy playing. Holding hands so that we didn’t become separated, we moved deep into the field. There was an almost deafening crashing noise behind us that said louder than words that the undead were pursuing. We pushed onward.
We had only been fleeing for a few minutes when the face of a suddenly suddenly appeared between the stalks to our left. Without breaking stride, I swung the tire iron and connected with the side of its head. It fell back out of view.
After what seemed like forever, we reached the other side of the cornfield. We were standing near a chain link fence that blocked us from going any further. In the bright moonlight I saw that on the other side of the fence was an embankment leading down to a highway. After what I had seen happen on the freeway earlier, I was understandably skeptical about our chances down there, but the noises behind us were growing louder and I was even more skeptical about our survival if those zombies reached us.
“We’re going to have to climb the fence and cross the highway,” I whispered to Heather. “We need to stay as quiet as we can. Who knows how many of them are down there. Got it?”
She nodded, and we began the tiresome activity of climbing the fence. She reached the top first and climbed down the other side. Burdened by the weight of the pack I was slower going up, and I can’t begin to describe how thankful I was that there wasn’t any barbed wire stretched across the top. Finally, I reached the other side and we continued forward cautiously.
The highway was much like the one earlier had been: abandoned vehicles ran as far as the eye could see in both directions, and bodies (along with their various detached parts) were everywhere. The car drivers and their passengers seemed to have put up a better fight here, though, as for every human casualty there were three or four deanimated (I’m assuming that’s the word to use, as ‘unreanimated’ just sounds so clunky) zombies. Hey, good for them. If you’re going to go down, go down swinging. Give ‘em hell, cowboy up, all that jazz.
We had just reached the first of the cars when a loud crash followed by the sound of metal groaning in protest came from behind us. The zombies had reached the fence. There was nothing that we could do about it, though, so we continued on at the same cautious pace as we stepped out onto the highway.
That little voice in the back of my head was screaming a warning at me. Apparently it had managed to find a megaphone somewhere in my head, because its already loud voice had been amplified further. I scowled and firmly told it that I got the point.
Heather spotted something on the ground and held up her hand to call a halt. She reached down and picked up what appeared to be a revolver. She quickly and professionally checked the rounds remaining and nodded her head in approval.
I barely noticed this, however, as I was too busy exchanging my now oddly-shaped tire iron for an aluminum baseball bat I had discovered in the back of a pickup truck. Now this was more like it. Great reach, good weight. It was everything that a would-be bludgeoner could ask for. I took a practice swing and licked my lips. Oh yes, this would do nicely.
We continued on.
With all the moaning coming from the horde, I barely heard the crunch of glass being crushed nearby. Heather apparently had better hearing than I did, as she spun around and fired a single shot into the forehead of a zombie attempting to grab us from between two cars. There was movement from the other side, but with a swing of my mighty beatstick and a satisfying explosion of undead skull it stopped rather abruptly.
Now the moaning was coming from all around us.
“Forget the subtle approach,” I said. “We need to get the fuck out of here. Now.”
She nodded as she put down another of our would-be suitors.
“There’s probably a fence on the other side,” she pointed out. “I think I see an off-ramp to our left, though. We’ll have to make a break for it.”
Ah, our first carnage-filled race against time with each other. I remember it fondly. It was a magical evening. The moon was full, the stars dotted the sky, and we were as one as we moved steadily towards our only hope of escape.
It seemed like they were coming from everywhere at once, moving towards us from between vehicles and sometimes smashing their way out from inside of them. When Heather’s revolver was empty, she flipped it around in her hand and used it to bash in the skull of one of our dance partners. She discarded the weapon and replaced it with a piece of piping lying on the road before joining me in my brutal ballet of blunt beatings.
Truth be told, I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time.
When we finally reached the off-ramp, we found it strangely absent of the undead. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, we picked up the pace and jogged up to higher ground. The top of the ramp was clear as well. I looked back down towards the highway and realized that we weren’t going to be alone for long. Between the group that had chased us through the cornfield and the zombies that had already been on the highway, we had at least three hundred zombies begging for our attention.
It was Heather that spoke first. She looked strangely radiant in the moonlight as she stood there covered in blood and various other fluids.
“Let’s go find a car and get the hell out of here,” she said.
And that’s what we did. We ended up finding an abandoned farmhouse to stay in, and that’s where I’m writing this record of events now. How amazing it is that both you and I managed to find this same place to seek refuge in. It’s like the fates themselves decreed that our destinies would be linked.
Heather and I are about to head out, so I’m afraid that this must be goodbye. Fear not, however, as I will continue to leave these messages at the various places we end up. Great thoughts such as my own must be saved for posterity, after all.
I leave you with this famous quote from Thomas Jefferson, a quote that I think applies to what has happened and believe will give you strength in the days to come:
“Hey, asshole, try not to die out there.”