No Zombie for a Neighbor
Part One: Decision
I awoke this morning to the men discussing something. They were not arguing, but they were seriously engaged in a conversation upon a topic. I however was not a morning person, so did not clear my head to actually understand what was being said until after it had finished.
Going into the employee’s lounge I found Al doing his best to look good. I don’t know where he found a razor with which to shave, but his face was clean. He smelled of baby powder. I saw him working to assure that his clothes were clean. I did not say anything, but I saw him look at me before he spoke.
“Do I look like a zombie?”
“No, you don’t smell like one either.”
I could tell by the expression on his face that he did not enjoy smelling of baby powder. “Good. They have been out all night, so I am hoping that others will recognize me because I have a sense of hygiene.”
I had a hand travel over his smooth chin as I asked, “Do you think the zombie men grew a beard?”
“No, but having a scruffy face will not mark me as being alive. There is something about a freshly shaven face that says a man cares about his appearance. I doubt that there is a zombie out there that cares about its appearance.”
“What are your plans?”
“Greg wants to go to his family. I believe that you would like that as well.”
I really did not know what to say. My plans had not extended out that far. Simply surviving was considered the primary objective. My only response came from that mindset.
“There will be zombies there.”
"How many zombies will be in a house? Three? If there are more than five, we should be able to see them from the outside. We go house to house. Kill the zombies inside. Secure the place. Raid the refrigerator, pantry, whatever we can find. If we find a gun, we use it to further the attrition rate of zombies, then make our plan to move on.”
He said the word again, so I had to ask, “What is attrition?”
“How fast they die. We all die, but we manage to have at least as many babies as we have deaths. That is a balance. Zombies do not have babies. Eventually, if we can keep their numbers dropping, they will no longer be a threat.”
“People still die, so there will still be zombies.”
“First, we don’t know that. We don’t know what makes zombies. Second, okay, so when a person dies we make it a point to knock open their heads. I guess that funeral practices will now change.”
I thought about things for a moment. Another day of running around scared for my life and having to kill people did not really fit my plans for the day. Of course, eating stuff from a vending machine and bottles of baby food did not really match my desires either. I finally thought of the reason that I was with Al. The sex was great, but I had actually gone that far with him because he made good plans.
“It is almost a mile to my neighborhood.”
“It is also not in the direction that I was planning to go. The sun should now be up enough to see. I am thus going to the roof to see what things are like.”
That sounded sensible, so I decided that Al would be good for another day. I kissed him, then headed into the girl’s bathroom. Not afraid to smell like baby powder myself, I did what I could to make myself not be mistaken for a zombie.
Both Al and Greg were on the roof. I settled to listen to the two discuss what buildings they were seeing and other things. Zombies were still active, but they had more centralized their locations. There had to be people still alive in the hotel, as zombies were massed around that building. The hospital also swarmed with zombies around it with Al and I sharing a weak smile in relief we had not decided to keep traveling to that destination. I relaxed hearing both men say that they might need to simply wait out the day and see what actions others take.
The tones of voice had been very low. The conversation had been very practical. I thus turned my head with alarm when Al chuckled. His head moved in response to my action, then he spoke with slightly cheerful soft words.
“Zales is in that direction. Do you want some jewelry?”
I wanted Al to know that I did care for him as a complete person as I said, “I don’t want to touch any deep feelings inside you. I can look at the jewelry in the houses we go into.”
“Yeah, jewelry is timeless.” He mumbled in a manner that I took as a thanks, then said a little more confidently, “I think that is a deli.”
I believe that Greg wanted to say something about our exchange, but he wisely kept his statements about the route to the deli. While yesterday the only strategy had been to find a relatively clear path and run, this time the men discussed sneaking to our destination. The zombies were just wandering around yesterday, but over the night they had mostly congregated around certain spots. Hoping to have a less taxing period of movement, I listened to the men speak of parked cars and other barriers that could be used to enable us to safely travel. At no time did Al say anything more in reference to his dead girlfriend, so Greg kept his statements completely on the topic of reaching the deli.
With a route established, the men came down from the roof and began packing some basics. Jars of baby food were divided between us. They were considered good, quick nutrition. They were also slightly heavy, so we did not pack more than a dozen each. Soap and other items of hygiene were also packed. I did take the box of pads beneath the sink in the lady’s bathroom. I could tell that Al wanted to take some blankets, but they were heavy and overly bulky. He did not make any comments about having me on a hard surface, but I did promise myself that I would accept some rough conditions in keeping the man on my side. With enough to assure that we could continue to stay alive and resembling the living, we left to the rear door.
As we moved from the toy store, I heard Greg mention that he was retracing his steps from the time that he saw us wave to him yesterday. Al whispered comments in return. Neither spoke loud enough for me to feel that zombies could notice. I actually felt comforted to hear some discussion. It let me know that the men were alive and not afraid of facing an immediate threat.
My faith in the men was supported when we heard another yell for us to wait for him. It was some old heavy-set black man. I got the sense that he had survived, but did not want to face another day of being alone. Greg and Al did not turn to the man however, but upon hearing his voice they sat down against the side of a car and pulled me to sit with them. Zombies were attracted to the yelling, but did not consider that the man was yelling to others. They focused only upon the source of the noise. We soon heard the man screaming as he tried to flee the zombies. I hugged Al and felt his arms tight around me as well. Greg did not put his arms around us, but did press his body close as he mumbled a statement.
“Screaming for help is a death sentence.”
He repeated this line a few times. Looking to his face easily told me that he did not like what he was saying, but that he considered it a truth. I remembered the words of Al from yesterday. He also had heard the words of his girlfriend screaming for help, but had fled understanding that her constant need to speak had brought a doom upon her that he could not save her from. Neither man seemed pleased about simply holding their position, but did nothing more than softly spout statements of fact and wisdom.
We did not wait too long after the screams died down. Feeling that any nearby zombies had put their focus away from us, Al released his grip and returned to a skulking position. I was not as large as the men, so did not have to stoop down as much to stay hidden. Staying alert for other threats to our safety, we continued our journey.
Greg stopped, then pointed to a body lying against a car up ahead. The first thought was that it was another man skulking about. Pieces of paper trapped against his body however told us that he had been there for a time. I listened as the men discussed what to do about the obstacle.
I wanted to protest when Al moved ahead at being chosen for the duty. The men had not discussed it. They did not play rock-paper-scissors or any other simple game for choosing a winner. They simply lifted their weapons. In a silent acceptance that his crowbar was longer than a wrench for fixing bicycles, Al shook off any contact that I had upon him and started moving forward.
It was hard to believe that a zombie could get tired. I cannot say that it had fallen asleep or actually felt fatigue. It probably fell after attempting to make a turn at the vehicle and never thought to get back up. Whatever the reason for it being in its position, its eyes opened as if being awakened upon Al’s crowbar clanking against the concrete.
The zombie actually tried to stand up. Why it did that, I cannot say. I am glad, as the act put its head toward Al. He took the opportunity to rush up and strike with his weapon. The skull cracked, and the zombie collapsed back to the ground.
The men moved quickly to put distance between us and the carcass. Not just the action, but the associated sounds we knew could have marked us. While we continued to move in a stooped fashion to keep the sight us from becoming obvious, we did our best to cover a lot of distance quickly.
The men stopped upon realizing that we were close to our destination. My own thoughts were to rush to the deli, but I trusted Al enough to pause with him. I found myself satisfied in hearing the men softly discuss what they saw in various directions. While they accepted that their destination was close, they also understood the threat of having a multitude of zombies surround our location.
The men told me to move forward. Only a tree and a mustang were ahead for possible cover, so my smaller form had been chosen to advance. Just as Al had not complained earlier, I accepted my duty and skulked to put my form against the body of the car.
I meant to only lift my head for a second. The sight of the windows shattered however caused me to pause. The clear sheets had obviously been some type of special glass or plexiglass, but had been put under enough stress to crack the material then have it collapse. Whether the zombies actually liked the meat or had sought those hoping to use the food for their own survival, I could not say. There were however zombies in the deli, and in the time that I spent observing the scene I found myself observed as well.
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market. "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.