About Memoirs of the Walking Dead, by Jason McKinney
Fantastic and darkly comic, Memoirs of the Walking Dead by new author Jason McKinney is the anything-but-humdrum-look at what goes on during the goings on of the undead. A surprising first novel that’s ironic, wry, and affecting, McKinney proves to be a master of witty repartee, shocking apocalyptic horror, and illustrating the reality of life—what it all truly means.
The Pelican Flu has claimed many victims—Paul Rierson, for one, and Tracey Dobbs, yet another. Half of the city they live in has fallen prey; the kicker is that being forced into zombie-life—the consequence of coming down with the deadly flu—isn’t half bad. The undead, as they navigate their new lives, attempt to lead as normal of an existence as possible. Sure it’s hard with the cravings of living flesh, but it’s not as if zombies just stumble around on autopilot. They think and feel, even fall in love; and, believe it or not, find things worth dying for. For Paul, being a zombie leads him to reconsider how he lived his previous life, as well as what he once thought was important, and he even falls head-over-heels in love with Tracey. He’s so smitten, in fact, that if he had a pulse, it would beat double-time. Still, as grand as undead love is, they’re hunted by the living—but then, no one said life as a zombie would be easy.
When the dead walk the Earth, how will they survive? That’s a question that I have a hard time answering. When Mr. Rierson, Paul to his friends and family, “asked” me to write about his experiences I couldn’t really refuse. He and I have known each other for longer than I care to remember and in that I time I’ve come to know a sensitive, caring ghoul. These written experiences will not only help the public at large to learn about their undead neighbors’ unlives, but also what it was like for them at the onset of their “sickness”.
Mr. Rierson wanted to convey that the hardships of a “living impaired” person are just as trying as that of a “living capable person”. He hopes will help readers understand that they truly mean you, the living, no harm.
As a personal note I wish to say that while it is a “pleasure” being Mr. Rierson’s scribe that I am being held against my will. I’ve been his damn pet for two years and I’m tired of eating bologna and macaroni and cheese! If there happen to be any living rights activists out there reading this – Freaking come and help me! I’m in hell!!!
Getting to Know You
If someone wrote a book on your life, would anyone want to read it? Maybe not so much in my past life, but my unlife, maybe they would. My life, including the current lack of, is pretty dull. I can’t say much except my name is Paul Rierson. I was 32 years old when I died and 33 when I came back. As luck would have it I died two minutes before my birthday at 11:58 PM Wednesday and “woke up” at 12:01 AM Thursday. Happy Birthday to me.
My life didn’t suck, but it wasn’t awesome either. I was single at the time and I lived alone, well, kinda. I had a cat and a Japanese cloud tree, but enough of that crap. I wasn’t a bad looking guy, but I was nervous around women, and even after my four years in the Navy I was still reserved. Needless to say, I didn’t go out of my way to meet people or be their friend.
Two days before my actual birthday my coworkers decided to take me out to celebrate my day. I didn’t want to go, but hey, I was never assertive either. I had a hard time saying no so I went. I should’ve known better and I think I did. In my current state, memories are hard to recall sometimes.
I worked at the Ohio Department of Transportation as a second level administrative assistant. At the time I liked my job and such as it was my life. On the day in question, Maria, a brunette who was unbelievably gorgeous, asked me out to celebrate the obvious. I was astounded when she asked and not surprised to learn that several others would be joining us.
As I spent my day working on replacement orders for road signs, coworkers approached to let me know how stoked they were for the party. The more the different faces came and went the more I knew I was another excuse for a party.
The day ended, I punched out and I made my way home to my cat,Charlotte, and my plant, Lily. I lived downtown so the commute gave me time to think of an excuse to escape the evening. What a mess the day turned out to be. At leastCharlottewas happy to see me. I feedCharlotte, had my dinner and took a shower in preparation for the “party”.
Even as I walked to the club I continued trying to come up with a reason to turn back. I knew it was useless because even if I did, everyone would still bug me the next day about not showing up.
By the time I found an adequate reason, I had arrived at the club and Maria had spotted me. ‘I’m screwed’ was the thought that ran through my mind.
She was with her boyfriend of the week and he seemed to be pretty put out at having to be seen in public with her. It could’ve had something to do with that shiny thing he had on his hand. It was on the third finger of his left hand. It was gold. What was it called? A thing? No. Swing? No.Ping? Ring? Yeah, ring. Anyway, he seemed concerned that someone might see him. It was just weird.
We were joined by the others moments later. The club was a harsh reminder of my Navy days. I’d only gone to a club three times in my life and two were during my tour of duty at sea. This made four and I hated every moment of it.
I found myself inside the loud pretentious club with ears pounding from the crap techno music, watching a lot of pogues grind against each other.
Sadly, a blonde at the neon light illuminated bar spotted me at the same moment my vision passed her. She was as drunk as, well, as a sailor on Cinderella Liberty.
I watched her alone and horrified, while my “friends” mingled with each other and other patrons. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her simply because of how drunk she was. I found it funny as hell. She looked right at me. No, she didn’t look at me; she leered at me with glazed, swimming eyes.
‘Dear God, she’s snookered,’ I thought. She pushed herself from the bar as she continued glaring a hungry leer at me. ‘Oh crap! She’s coming toward me. What the hell am I going to do?’
She staggered, nearly falling at least twice as she made her topsy-turvy way to my table. I would’ve laughed, but I knew I was her destination. It was funny though. She could barely stand let alone walk in her black high-heels. They were strapped halfway up her calf, like something Amazons from a Wonder Woman comic wouldn’t have worn. One shoe was anyway. The other’s straps were loose and dangling. She wore a skintight black one-piece dress, the kind with the shoulder strapped front exposing as much cleavage as inhumanly possible.
By the grace of God she’d finally made it to my table. She slapped her hands down on the tabletop and stared at me with yellowed eyes. Her hands landed with such force that she knocked my beer to the floor. The bottle shattered, leaving me to mourn its demise as much as her attention.
“Hey cutie,” she slurred, collapsing into the chair beside me.
“Hi,” I said, pulling back. Her breath smelled like a skunk had crawled into her mouth, died and then released its feces and stink in simultaneous bursts. Under normal circumstances she would’ve been beautiful, but her face was pallid. It was so beyond pale it was almost grey. Her bleach blonde hair had purple streaks in it and it contrasted badly with her skin.
She touched my cheek with a cool hand. It wasn’t the touch of someone who had cool hands because they were cold blooded. No, her hands were different. It felt like the warmth of life had been drained from them.
“You are sooooo cute. My name’s Angie,” she said, breathing into my face. The smell of her breath hit me with the force of a dead halibut. Dear God did I gag! I put my hand to my nose and mouth, thinking she’d get the message. Unfortunately, she was as slow as she looked. “Want to fuck,” she asked.
‘God, why won’t she go away?’ I thought. ‘She smells like a rat’s ass and her breath, oh hell!’ I tried to come up with a lie, which was something I was never good at so I went with the truth instead. “Look, I’m going to have to pass, okay. I came with friends.” I tried giving her the brush off, but I was awkward at that, too. I enjoyed sex, just not sex with the dead, dying or drunk. “Besides, I’ve hit my sex quota for the month.” Yep, I sucked at lying.
“What are you, gay or some shit?” I don’t think she was buying my BS. She leaned forward to kiss me anyway. Her face was a mess. The makeup was put on with the clumsiness of a stoned Russian orangutan and mucus dripped from her nose. Not the clear mucus that comes from crying but the yellowish goo that comes from being sick. Her eyes were crusted, too, and bloodshot. I saw veins running across her forehead. It looked like a twisted fine lined road map. I couldn’t help but to look closer. I’m dumb, I know, but it was like I could see the veins spontaneously appearing. They were faint yeah, but they were showing up one after another. It was a messed up magic trick.
I went to pull back from her, but some dink bumped against me as she leaned closer. Angela the Crazy Woman then put her hands on either side of my face and reeled me in like a big-mouthed bass. I tried to pull back, but it was too late. She threw up on me. When I say “on me” I really mean in my freaking mouth, eyes and nose.
My whole face was inundated in the yellowish green substance she expelled. I was past horrified. I pushed her away, getting vomit on my hands from where it had spilled down the front of her dress. Normally, I’d be thrilled to have breasts in my hands, but not that time. I was too busy wondering if I was going to puke also.
“I’m sorry,” she said, stumbling backwards before falling to the floor and landing on her butt. Upside to the situation is she gave the people gathered nearby a cheap laugh. She wasn’t laughing though. Angela seemed embarrassed. She turned her sick face to me. Her yellowed eyes were leaked tears mixed with more of that yellowish infection. “I’m so sorry.”
She was pitiful in her apology. My heart went out to her, but only so far. ‘Great. She’s sick, horny and a moopy drunk.’ It’s funny the things that cross your mind at the weirdest times.
For example, let me address the puke. It needs to be addressed. I don’t know why, but humor me, okay? It was horrid. It contained more of that potent dead skunk smell plus the added bonus of a stinking combination of vodka and banana daiquiri. It’s the chunks that I still marvel at.
“Oh look carrots,” I said, wiping some off with one of those cheap little napkins clubs were so fond of. I was mortified beyond belief. I couldn’t believe my luck. I think I thought that I should’ve stayed home after all. Why does that thought keep coming back? Anyway.
She threw up once more. The second time was on the floor in front of the table. A chubby Goth female passerby stepped in it slid across the floor and fell down, hard. I have to say; that was funny. The Goth Girl spouted a string of obscenities causing more people to watch us. I grew more embarrassed at the situation with each passing moment. My night thus far had consisted of a drunken woman puking on me and everything else within a ten-foot radius and an imminent fight. Go, Paul.
‘People are going to think I’m with her. Now what am I gonna do?’ Yeah, unfortunately I whined a lot back then. Thank God I don’t talk much these days. My next thought was, ‘I gotta clean this crap off me.’ Stupid me tried to wipe the crap off with bare hands, by the way. Yes, I know I had her puke in my mouth and eyes, but I still had to touch things to get where I needed to go.
Understand that I wasn’t feeling too good at that moment. Hell, I didn’t know if it was the vomit or the situation that hit me the hardest. My stomach started turning. I think I swallowed some of the puke, too. I know sad, right? I could be wrong, but when she started her oral projectile firing practice I think I breathed in a good amount. It also burned the crap out of my eyes and nose. Seriously, what the hell had she been eating?
“Stupid bitch!” roared the cubby Gother. “I’m gonna kick your skank bitch ass, you fucking prep!”
Oh Miss Goth was PO’ed! I was finishing wiping the crud off my hands when Goth Girl got to Ms. Angela Puke.
Things around the table stopped as everyone directed their attention to my misery. Even that cow Maria and her boyfriend were watching. My coworkers gawked at us like they were at a freaking rodeo. Maria was laughing, my coworkers were laughing and Maria’s boyfriend looked like he wanted to leave. I guess he didn’t feel up to being in a riot.
Angela was still on the floor, leaning over her knees like she was trying to catch her breath. My mind went to thinking of how to talk my way out of the mess.
“Get up and get your beating, you stupid whore!” screamed Goth Girl. Amazingly I could hear her over that ridiculous music.
Angela looked at Goth Girl, but her eyes, expression and face were different. Her face had become totally ash grey and her blue eyes were clouded over. She stood up, looked around at everyone with a quizzical look that said, “What are you all looking at?” That’s when it occurred to me; she had The Pelican Flu that the media had been going on and on about. ‘Great,’ I thought. ‘Now I’m gonna get it.’ Freaking hell if I didn’t.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” someone screamed from the crowd. I think they were yelling at Angela, but it may have been Goth Girl they were yelling at. She was pretty pale, too.
Goth Girl, figuring the question was about Angela, was more to the point in answering. “She’s got the damn Pelican Flu!” Her face went naturally pale under her stupid white makeup and she backed away. Matter of fact, everyone backed away and most left the general area. Freaking hell was right.
Angela staggered to me and like an even bigger dumbass I stayed where I was. She took a seat across from me, putting her cold hand on my cheek again as I reached for another little napkin. “Uuuggggh,” was all she said at first. Yeah, really dramatic.
Goth Girl gave me a word of advice as the crowd moved away: “Get to a hospital.” She never took her eyes off my table as she moved toward the exit. Even as she crossed the dance floor she eyeballed us.
I looked at Angela’s cloudy eyes and pale face, her cold hand had since moved to the top of mine and all I could think of to say was: “Do you want a drink?” I know, smooth, right? Yeah?
“Fuuuuck,” replied Angela. “Doooo yooou want to fuuuck?” Jesus was her voice raspy. I didn’t think I pushed her that hard or that she was that drunk. She was certainly a single train of thought woman though.
“Uh, maybe later.” Give it up for another smooth answer from Mr. Paul Rierson. Masterfully smooth.
She arched her neck to the sky and howled like a wounded moose. I was stationed in Alaskafor a year so I know what a wounded moose sounds like. There was no differentiating between the two creatures. Take my word for it. “Ffffuck! Now!” She was persistent and angry, a great combination.
Arriving on a bad cue was Maria arm in arm with some guy from HR or Contracts or something. “Got a girlfriend, Paul? Maybe a friend with benefits, hmmm?” She looked to where her boyfriend had been. “Where the hell is Mark?” She seemed more than a little perturbed.
“Dude, you’d better worry about getting cleaned up,” said Office Guy. “You’re a mess.” He looked at Angela and I think she was trying to smile at him, but I’m not sure. Her lips were pulled back, smiling an unreal toothy grin, but I didn’t know what it meant then.
“Thhhhreesome,” drawled Angela again. She pawed at the accountant guy and then at Maria, who was looking for her whatever he was. I know, leave it to me to get the freak, right?
“Don’t touch me, bitch!” Maria howled. That was the wrong thing to say, for sure. Angela lunged and I mean lunged at Maria. Office Guy was smart and backed off as in ran to the bar. Smart guy even if he was already brain dead.
Guess what? I chose that moment to stand up. Good thing I did too, because they were rolling around on the floor, knocking over furniture and pulling at each other’s hair. Nails, fists, spit and feminine venom flew everywhere! And you know what else? People started to watch us…again.
My stomach flip-flopped harder. I needed to get out and away. Confrontations had always upset my stomach and made me nervous. That and the puke didn’t make things any easier.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘Hey, weren’t you in the Navy? Shouldn’t you be a little tougher?’ Well, yeah, I suppose, but I was a Personnel Specialist Third Class in the Navy. I never saw action, I worked in an office and the only time I wore anything other than a dress uniform to work was sea duty. I wore my dungarees and boondockers then because I had to. Hell, the guys who were open contract on the ship made fun of me because I was so timid. Yeah, I hate confrontations. Kinda, sorta still do actually. It may not seem it, but I do.
On with the story. Guys and girls were chanting “fight, fight!” or “cat fight!” and urging others over to watch. The club was more alive than before. Three big, brawny bouncers pushed their way through the crowd and pulled Maria off of Angela.
Maria was exceptionally angry. Maria had every right to be; Angela had bitten her right arm. It was a nice bite, too. Enough flesh was torn away to make it look dangerous. Maria was none to happy about it. “I’m gonna kick your ass,” was all Maria kept saying. She alternated between that and “You fucking bit me!”
“Hungry,” moaned Angela. “Neeed meeeaaat. Waant to ffuuck, tooo.”
“You ain’t doing shit, missy,” said the bouncer holding Angela. He turned his face to me. He looked sympathetic without a trace of humor. “She throw up on you, guy? You’d better get your ass to a hospital.” In less than ten minutes I’d gotten two bits of sound advice.
“She puked on you, dude,” said the accountant guy, laughing. Believe it or not for the first time in my life I actually started a fight. I should say tried to start one. I turned to him with a handful of congealed vomit and smeared it on his face. The look of shock was priceless and I laughed. Two of the bouncers laughed, too. The one holding Angela didn’t.
“That’s it; get your asses out of here. I’m not dealing with this shit. Chick has The Pelican fucking Flu and your fucking covered in it. Do I need to call the cops?” He was serious and he nodded at the bartender to make the call.
Again with The Flu reference. Maybe I should explain what The Pelican Flu is. I’ve asked to have the “T” capitalized because it deserves it. The Pelican Flu came on the heels of that Swine Flu crap and proved to be the worst thing since the Black Plague. People got it and dropped like flies while the government hammered away that people needed to be inoculated against it. They kept spouting that it was a pandemic, but it wasn’t anything to get too worked up over.
I guess we should’ve been “worked up” over it though. Thing is people were getting the shots and still dying from it. They’d get the shot then get The Flu and then die. I didn’t get the shot. That whole putting a synthetic or weakened virus into your blood never seemed to jive with me.
Well, it was bad all right. People were dying and before you knew it a few bodies went missing. Can you believe that? Missing bodies. Conspiracy theorists went ape crap, saying the government was taking the bodies to keep the truth secret that it was a government created super weapon being tested on the populace. Kind of like that Lyme disease theory except with a higher lethality rate. People got stupid with the conspiracy theories.
Politicians were the first to quietly vanish and no one in asked why. Conspiracy theorists had fun with that, also. It turns out that the truth was simpler: They were getting sick and dying too.
Political figures had spent money hand over fist for treatments that didn’t solve their Flu problems. The government denied anything was amiss even after Senators and Congressmen tried eating nurses and aides. Denial accelerates downfall. Go figure.
I’m sure you know that The Pelican Flu came from actual pelicans. Seriously. Pelicans became ill from eating contaminated something or other from the ocean and then they visited coastal fish markets where they promptly crapped on fish and bit people.
If a pelican bit you, you were screwed. If you ate a fish that was contaminated by a pelican, you were screwed. I never liked fish so I thought I was safe.
Forgive me for having this written, but I just lost my train of thought. Decay does that sometimes. Oh yeah, I never got the shot. No, that’s not it. What was it? Yeah, it was about the shot. Immunizations were never my favorite past time. I’m sure about that.
Well, I’ll just say that Angela was thrown out and so were Maria, the accountant guy and me. It was for the best and the bouncers didn’t really call the cops. They were more concerned about getting shut down for health reasons than for public nuisance stuff. I vaguely remember that health departments had almost as much power as the police in the end, but I’m not sure. It was in a news snippet I saw somewhere that led me to believe I was safe. Do you see the ironic humor of it all? I hope so.
I went home that night and slept like the dead. Bad pun, but that’s how it was. I remember Charlottecoming to me at the door before running away after a quick sniff. Let me be clear, she hissed and then ran. Yep, that’s how it was.
I slept peacefully, but the next day I felt too sick to go to work. My body ached, I coughed left and right, snot poured from my nose and I had a 102-degree temperature. I felt like crap on a cracker. I tried to call in sick, but had a hard time finding someone to answer my call.
I finally got Maria and she wasn’t happy. “Your bitch girlfriend made me sick, Paul!” She was in a peachy mood to be sure. Don’t be offended by her language. It’s my understanding that’s how “adults” talk.
“Not my girlfriend,” I protested through a wet cough. Phlegm ejected from my mouth and onto the phone. Finding a Kleenex was a hassle and a chore. “She’s just some woman I…” I began while cleaning the phone.
“Some bitch you got hooked up with got me sick. Tell me you didn’t bang her. Please tell me… Hold on.” She broke off in a coughing fit. I could hear her blowing her nose, too.
“No I didn’t sleep with her!” I coughed the denial more than I said it. “If I did,” insert gooey, nose blowing here, “If I did it’d be none of your business.”
“Oh grow up, Paul. I don’t care.” Why the question then, right? “Get laid already! Are you coming in today or what?” Leave it to Maria to mix sex talk with business.
“No, I’m not coming in today,” I snapped. Oh, was I pissed. It was Maria’s damn fault I was sick to begin with.
She went into another coughing fit and I could hear her snorting snot back into her nose. “Gross, Maria. Real gross. Nice too. Bet Mark loves that.” At that moment I joined her coughing celebration. Karma’s super, ain’t it? “How is Mark? Did he actually sleep with his wife last night, finally?”
“Fuck you, asshole.” She was a shoe in for Ms. Congeniality for sure. Maria sounded like she was trying to talk while gargling with pudding. “Look, half the office is out with this crap. Most everybody that’s out didn’t even go to your messed up party.”
I rolled my eyes and they itched and burned when I did. I knew I had that freaking flu. “Whatever. I’m going to try to go to the doctor’s today so tell Kevin I’m out for the day and maybe tomorrow.”
She cleared her throat and she did it hard, into the receiver. “Kevin’s out, too.” Her tone changed drastically and sounded almost concerned. “It’s best you’re not coming in today anyway. Fuck, I should have stayed home, myself.” She loved dropping the “F-bomb”. “On the way in, I saw the Army setting up check points nearSt. Lucia’s. You know the hospital on Twenty-Third? They’re also patrolling the streets, too. It’s weird, Paul.”
“Maybe you should go home, Maria. This sounds serious.” My concern was genuine. She was a heifer but she was also a child of God, fellow human or whatever your spiritual preference is. Sometimes I care too much. If the Army was in the streets I wondered how long it’d be before they burned bodies there, too. Turns out it wouldn’t be long.
She sneezed, and then kept sneezing. “Hold on. I got fucking snot on the phone.” I heard her wiping the phone before coughing again. Finally, she came back on. I’d almost hung up. I had the sounds of sick in stereo at that point. My throat burned and I hated talking to her, too. It’d always been a pain in the brain. “Do you know how much sick time I have not to mention my annual? I’m going to the Cayman’s in two weeks and I’m not about to piss it away on a cold. Look, just get better and get your ass back here. I can’t do this shit by myself.” With that she hung up. Message received.
I swathed myself in a comforter my mother made me and trudged to the kitchen to getCharlottesome food. She waited impatiently for me like always. She was a good cat until she hissed at the sight of me. I placed her food bowl in front of her and she hissed at me again, following it with a scratch. It was a good one; all four claws, fully extended. She got me on the top of my right hand. I guess I was so shocked that I didn’t register the lack of pain. Her claws sank into my hand and kind of hung there, but it didn’t hurt. I muttered to her how much of an ungrateful cat she was before turning on the kettle.
I was burning up so bad that I didn’t even notice that I had rested my hand on the burner. That didn’t hurt either. Weird, huh? My hand lay there, absorbing the heat of the burner while the smell of cooking meat made my guts churn like a hurricane tossed sea. I pulled my hand away and looked at it like I’d smashed a cockroach or something. The skin had seared itself nicely. It didn’t bleed and the pain was nil. Aside from the scorched skin, my hand was okay.
I made my tea and returned to the couch. I turned on the news to find that the Ohio National Guard was in all of the state’s major cities. The talking head mentioned that troop strength was low because many of the Guardsmen were out with The Flu, too. I was interested, but I didn’t care much. I was sick enough for a company of soldiers.
I switched over to CNN; saw the same thing in other parts of the country. Switched to Fox News, saw the same thing around the world. I sipped my tea, shivered and watched Cartoon Network for a while.
I went to sip my tea and saw that the cup was almost empty. Where’d my tea go? Onto my lap, that’s where. Three quarters of a steaming mug and I didn’t notice anything unusual. It went through the comforter to my crotch.
I cleaned up by taking a cold shower. It actually made me feel better for a while, but nothing ever lasts. I went back to the TV and tuned into another news channel.
I caught another talking head; this time a doctor, saying that one of the symptoms of The Pelican Flu was lack of feeling anywhere in the body. No! Really? Say it isn’t so! I’d turned my groin into a weenie roast and didn’t feel a thing. Lack of feeling in your nether regions and hands is a symptom? Again, please say it isn’t so! Does that mean my masturbation festivals have come to an end? The talking jackass said that feeling will return within twenty-four hours. Hallelujah! That was a relief, but I couldn’t get beyond the feeling that it still felt permanent.
I slept the rest of the day. I had dreams of being in a hospital with Maria as my nurse. Okay, I had a crush on her once. There, I admitted it. Her attitude made her a non-issue by day two of knowing her, though. The dream was crap, however. If it’d been any other woman besides Maria it would’ve been great.
Maria started to perform on me and guess what? I couldn’t feel a thing. That was the horrifying thing that woke me up to a dark living room and I didn’t know why that should be.
The sun had gone down by that time and the only light to be had was the TV. The news had moved on to talking about the cessation on combat operations inIraqandAfghanistan. The sad facts of life were the troops and the islamocreeps were getting sick, too.
I looked at the clock to see that it wasn’t only coming up on eight at night but it was also Wednesday! Wednesday?! But it was Tuesday when I closed my eyes! Tuesday morning, 9:02 AM! The clock had then proclaimed that it was Wednesday, 7:33 PM! I panicked and I panicked big!
I stood and then… I fell. I stood again and I fell once more. I stood again, didn’t fall and thenCharlotteattacked my leg. I mean she attacked it like she was going after a monster rat. She scratched and bit and spit and yowled and I didn’t feel the fight atCalfCityat all. So much for getting the feeling back in twenty-four hours. Lying prick doctor. I shookCharlotteoff, launching her across the room. She tore off large patches of skin as we separated. I didn’t feel the ripping so much as I heard it.
Charlottehit the cloud tree before crashing through the window. I live four stories up so I didn’t see her land, per se, so at that moment had I hoped she survived the fall. Cats have fallen from higher and lived. She took my tree with her though and it didn’t survive. It lay on the ground, broken and sad looking.Charlottehowever was nowhere to be seen. I assumed she made it down unscathed so I turned my attention to more important matters. The good news was that with the world ending I didn’t have to worry about the window coming out of my security deposit.
I looked at my torn leg and saw that I was bleeding slowly. Really, really slowly. I wiped some blood off and I could tell that it was cold; almost congealed. Don’t know why I licked it, but I did. Well, I know why now, but I didn’t then. My blood tasted spicy, bitter and salty, like it was being boiled in jalapeño sauce.
‘Time to get to the hospital,’ I thought, but I wanted something to drink before leaving. I drank a glass of water, but it felt like I was drinking cold broken glass. I forced it down and my stomach didn’t like the water anymore than my mouth. Great. Now I had a twisted stomach on top of the fever, chills and slightly blurred vision. Go, Paul go. You’re on a winning streak of fuckedness. I pulled on some shorts, a t-shirt and a blanket and set off for the fifteen-block walk toSt. Lucia’s.
The streets weren’t as empty as a ghost town, but they weren’t brimming either. I stumbled along, taking in the sights.
There were different sorts of people still moving about. Half were soldiers, and most people I passed side stepped me like I had the plague while others did little more than bump into me as they continued along. There were a few looters; some were soldiers and a few were cops, but most were civilians. Hey, human nature is human nature. Everybody wants something.
At one point I passed a group of soldiers wrestling with four looters. At least I thought they were looters until one of them bit a soldier. Normally, I’m not a watcher, but I wanted to see what would happen next. The bitten soldier freaked out and started screaming. Naturally he turned his rifle on the entire group, looters and friends. His friends hit the deck, but the four looters weren’t so lucky.
They got a full magazine. The rounds broke through the store’s glass and tore into the unlucky recipients. I got to admit; I was a little amused. That’ll teach you to loot, you dumb jerks. Some folks ran once the shooting started. Others hung around, looking at the scene with glazed eyes. It was all bizarrely hypnotic, I guess.
The unhurt and undeterred soldiers looked around at the bodies and glass and asked if anyone else was hurt. They rushed to their friend to treat his wounds.
I watched and then realized that somehow I doubted the four were trying to loot a medical supply store that specialized in motorized chairs and walkers. My attention went back to the screaming soldier. Somehow I missed the fact that he’d been screaming the entire time. It seemed pretty odd how my hearing and attention had become so easily distracted.
The guy lunged at his friends, hysterical. “I’m gonna turn into one of them!” He kept screaming that over and over.
“Pretty funny sight, right?” said a voice beside me. I turned and saw a bearded homeless man beside me. I couldn’t see his face too well because of the poor lighting in the alley, but I could tell he was homeless. He smelled like a spicy well-made burrito to me. ‘Damn, now my appetite comes back,’ I thought.
“Say what,” I asked, salivating. I really wanted a taco or something. The thought of how he smelled made me hungry. Hungry enough to eat him for sure. God, the thought makes me droll, sadly enough even now.
“The city goin’ to hell. Never thought I’d see it happen. Can’t believe they’re shootin’ folks in the streets,” said Mr. Taco.
“Seriously.” I stared at him, wanting to take a nibble. I could see him through my cloudy eyes, but he looked different. It was like he glowed a pale red.
He turned and sniffed the air in my direction. “Damn, fella. You smell that?”
“Smell what?” I said, side stepping closer.
“Smell’s like decay, I guess.” He looked me up and down and noticed how close I’d gotten. He moved away a little. First time I ever made a homeless person step away from me.
“I smell tacos or burritos,” I said. My voice sounded funny, but that was okay. I was feeling better and my appetite was coming back. I didn’t know why at the time, but I did know that I wanted to get close to him.
“Christ,” he exclaimed to me. “It’s you, fella. You stink worse’n me.”
“Just sick is all, sir. I just need a bite to eat and I’ll feel better.” I took two steps toward him and he took four in retreat, not turning his back to me.
“You’re sick all right. You’re sick and about to be one of them!” Mr. Taco ran in that lopping gait that the older homeless have.
The farther he got, the worse my stomach, and generally, I felt again. The hunger turned into gnawing pain and the taco smell was replaced with the smell of my own infection.
Shots from across the street snapped me back to what I’d been doing originally. The looters had gotten back up and were attacking the soldiers again. It was surreal. I’d seen them fall under the gunfire, but there they were, attacking like nothing had happened.
Two more soldiers had been bitten. The unbitten ran away, firing from the hip at their former friends. Their wounded comrades tried to catch up, but they didn’t get far. The looters caught them and acted like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. I was horrified, mortified, terrified and every other bad word that ends with an ied that you can imagine.
However, I was also drawn to the bloodletting. The men’s screams curdled my blood and froze my barely beating heart, but at the same time, I wanted to join in. Envy is a mild word to describe how I felt in the cockles of my heart. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw down so I turned a blind eye and continued toSt. Lucia’s.
As the blocks went by, I began to see others in as bad as shape as me. Most were being helped by loved ones. I also saw soldiers dragging a few people out of the hospital. The ones being dragged were trying to fight back.
“Waaaant fffoood!” wailed one man being manhandled by three soldiers. “Here toooo hhheeellp,” drawled a woman. A little seven year old girl was being pulled out by two soldiers as she screamed, “I other astes ooood!” It wasn’t till later that I realized that she was missing a chunk of her jaw and was saying “My brother tastes good”. She’d bitten her brother at least.
St. Lucia’s emergency room driveway and parking lots were a mess of military vehicles. They even had three tanks and an infantry fighting vehicle on guard outside. They were guarding the place against what? The sick or jawless little girls? Yeah, they were guarding against both and more.
“Hold up, sir,” said a soldier with skin the color of chocolate pudding. I loved chocolate pudding, but he smelled like a hot dog with everything. I loved those too. He had his hand against my chest, holding me back. His fingers reminded me of over cooked pigs in a blanket. Delicious.
I looked over his shoulder to see a line of stretchers being moved out of the hospital. I stopped counting at twenty-two as they passed through the automatic sliding doors. The people on the stretchers were strapped down and looked “dead” to me. Yes, they appeared dead, but they were still moving. On the last stretcher I saw Angela AKA Ms. Puke. Bad news is she saw me, too. “Want sex,” she moaned. She reached her hand out to me. Thank God she was strapped down. “Good head!” she moaned louder.
“I gotta get out of here,” I mumbled to no one in particular.
“You and me both,” said Sergeant Hot Dog. He looked at me closer before giving me a small push backwards. “You’re leaking.” He motioned to his face with a fingerless gloved hand.
I rubbed my nose and saw the same goo that Ms. Puke had. I wiped more of the same from my eyes. “Sorry. Just sick.” I was actually embarrassed by my state of physical affairs. I pulled the comforter tighter around me. The hunger grew worse, but the fever seemed to be breaking. I stupidly thought that I was getting better.
Sergeant Hot Dog was brave. Probably the bravest person I’d ever seen. He removed a glove and touched my throat. “Weak pulse,” he announced keeping his fingers at my throat. I sniffed his arm. Yeah, a totally gay move that had more to do with feeding that fornication. He eyed me, not even repulsed by my actions. God, he smelled so damn good. Not as good as Mr. Taco, oddly enough, but still good. I guess that clean military living makes meat smell not as spicy as the eat-anything-homeless type. “Why don’t you go home,” he said to me. He leaned forward as he spoke. Like I said, brave. “We’re supposed to ship people like you off for processing, but maybe you should go home and die in peace with your family.”
“Got no family,” I growled. “Had a cat. Kicked her out of window. Going to hell because of that for sure.” What can I say; my speech took a nosedive in just a few blocks.
“Well, go home and die in peace anyway. This place is getting worse.” He pointed to the ER entrance. I could see it was packed. Cops and soldiers were trying to separate the worse off from those that weren’t so far advanced. “Believe me, you won’t want to be here soon and frankly, neither do I.”
I guess he knew what was coming. Even through the wanting to eat coupled with pain and fuzzy vision, I could see he was trying to be kind. I made it a point back then not to harm people in general and those who were kind in particular. Too many creeps were walking around freely back then.
I thanked him before making the long trek home and it was the longest walk of my life. I passed a bank, staring at a clock telling me that it was 68 degrees and 10:45 PM. I’d hoped I could make it back in time to watch Conan O’Brien before passing out again.
On the way home I saw more people packing up vehicles and leaving. Occasionally I’d see someone try to take someone else’s car and end up catching a bullet for their troubles. A couple times I saw someone try to bite someone else. Again, the biters would receive a bullet or fifteen as a reward for their efforts.
You could tell the difference between the sick and healthy when they got shot. We all know that now. The healthy get shot, they fall down and stay down. The unhealthy get shot, die, and then get up again for an hour or so. Once that hour is up it’s rigor city before the tissue loosens up again.
Luckily, The Flu was never an airborne thing. That would’ve sucked because then no one would be healthy. The “healthy” would’ve been just waiting their turn.
The random cop, soldier or both would use the sick for target practice, but most actually tried to do their jobs. Sick as I was, I was proud of those guys. At least in the end they tried to make a difference.
I passed many “sick” on the way home. Some came up to me, wailing and crying about their family, their lover, or their whatever. Others shambled up to sniff me while muttering or groaning, “See you soon.” That was freaky.
A block from home, I sawCharlotte. I bent down to call for her and my back popped like a wet twig in a fire. It actually hurt. Holy crap, right? I could still feel pain. I called for her and she came to me. Score one for Paul! Pretty cool for sure. As she trotted towards me I could see she’d been bloodied and a dead animal hung from her mouth. ‘Aw, crap,’ I thought. ‘First time in four years she’s been out and she manages to go native.’ At the time it seemed normal; that’s just what cats do.
Charlottegot to a clear spot in my vision and I saw what that she had a human hand. Repulsed, I jerked it from her and tossed it as far as I could. The throw wasn’t too far, maybe ten feet, and my arm felt heavy when I threw it. It landed in the street with a dull thump.CharlottebeingCharlotte, walked into the street, picked it up and returned. I know what you’re thinking, “Great, you’re cat’s a zombie.” Someone has to say the word sometime. Zombie. There, I said it again.
I stroked zombie Charlotte, and she started purring. The purr was a disturbing sound. It didn’t sound at all healthy. A zombie cat purring sounds like a chest cold with rocks rattling around.
She was happy with the hand and I thought, ‘What the hell. At least one of us is getting a bite to eat.’
Her muzzle was bloody and I didn’t give it a second thought as to where her late night nourishment originated. The wrist was still attached and I noticed a watch. It was a Rolex and not cheapo crap either. I have to say that I’d always wanted one and the owner sure wasn’t in need of it any longer.
I didn’t bother picking her up. I doubt my whole body could’ve dealt with it. I walked inside my apartment building withCharlottefollowing, take-out proudly clamped in her muzzle.
We rode the elevator to our apartment, and not alone by the way. Mrs. MacGruder from 409 rode with us.
Mrs. MacGruder was my 79 year old neighbor. She was affable, but often I was struck by her loneliness. I’d never seen anyone visit her even though I was sure she was married once. If she had kids, they were an ungrateful lot. Like I said, no one visited her… ever.
We had Thanksgiving dinner together once. It was nice to get to know her even though she told me next to nothing about herself. She wanted to know about me more than anything else. By default of our meeting that night she knew aboutCharlotte’s and my undead problem before anyone else.
There Mrs. MacGruder stood in a far corner, clutching a bag of groceries – What store was open during that time? She never struck me as the looter type. – watching us with wide, alarmed eyes.
“Evening, Missus MacGruder.” I groaned. “TakingCharlottefor a walk. She caught a squirrel.” Did I mention I was a lousy liar? Anyone could see that it was a freaking hand! Well, she was healthy, but her smell was nauseating. She smelled of prunes – which I hate – denture cream, and old cabbage. Her color was a sad yellowish green. Christ, was she gross to smell! She was a sweet old lady though.
She nodded to us, scared out of her mind. Who could blame her? I looked close to death, which I was, andCharlottewas obviously, well, dead while carrying a severed hand. Nothing to see here. Move along. Nothing to see.
“Good evening, Paul.” She stuttered it more than said it. She was the grand dame of the building and she smelled like a great mess. I think she crapped herself too. Again, who could blame her? She was a frail old woman riding an elevator with an undead cat and her near dead owner. “That’s a fine squirrel there,Charlotte.” She eyedCharlottewith fearful contempt.Charlotteignored Mrs. MacGruder.Charlotte’s tail twitched in that indignant, triumphant way that cats do. Mrs. M was scared and I was scared, too. Mainly scared thatCharlottemight go nuts on the old dear. My body felt stiff and I didn’t feel like I’d be able to stop a rampaging, ravenous undead feline.
Finally, as if in answer to Mrs. M’s appraisal,Charlottegrowled pleasingly at her. She looked at Mrs. MacGruder with clotted green eyes.
The bell dinged and the elevator doors opened. Mrs. MacGruder scooted off faster than a racehorse out of the gate. It was an awkward moment to be sure.
She hurried to her apartment, which was three doors down from mine, looking over her shoulder the entire way. The door opened and slammed shut with equal quickness. I can still hear the bolts being thrown extra quick as well.
I entered my apartment, discovering the news still blaring. This time it announced that a state of emergency had been declared. The state government declared the crap had hit the fan first and then theUS. What a difference a day makes.
I looked at the clock, surprised to see that it was 11:57. I didn’t think my late night shows would be on so I lay on the couch to sleep. My head had stopped hurting and my stomach was no longer rebelling and I felt really, really, really tired.Charlottejumped on my chest, hand still held firmly in her mouth. The hand had several new bit marks on it, and she began purring again.Charlottewent to sleep just as I raised my head and looked at the clock again: 11:58.
My head hit the couch pillow and blackness overtook me. Good thing too, because I felt like I could sleep forever again.