(© Calvin Voxx)
My eyes lift
momentarily from the trash heap to scan the deserted boulevard. A flitter of
something had caught my eye. Trash blowing by? Another scavenger sifting
through the debris? Or one of Them?
Behind rows and
rows of trash, mountains of trash, a whole city’s discharge of refuse and
debris, I spy a figure moving. I lift my bat, more of a signal at this distance
than a necessary precaution. They are not deterred by such things. A hefted bat
is a useful signal, though, if the moving figure is one of Us, that I am not
one of Them.
I twirl the bat
anxiously as I watch the figure, waiting to see which it is. Even at this
distance, it is easy to distinguish between us and them. They lope. They
stagger. They stumble. And when they get excited, they run. Oh boy, do they
run. But no matter what they’re doing, they do not move in a natural way.
Humans, or healthy ones at least, have an easy and fluid way of moving that I
had never appreciated much until now. But it is incredibly fortunate to be able
to tell the difference at a distance.
shifts into view and waves. One of us. My bat droops. I must admit, part of me
is slightly disappointed. Once you get the hang of it, they are not terribly
dangerous. They can be fast when they get worked up, but that’s no reason to
fear them. Heck, running is a terrible idea, since they won’t get tired. At the
same time, their lack of fear or fatigue is a huge weakness. They won’t dodge a
baseball bat or a car. Or an ice pick. Nothing will cause them to stray from
their single-minded path to your flesh. So taking one out turns out to be a lot
like hitting a baseball that’s the size of a human head and moving, compared to
a fastpitch ball, at a pretty slow pace.
something satisfying, really, to the crack and splurt that follows a good blow
to one of their heads, the body crumpling on the ground twitching. Another one
gone. It doesn’t empty the hate, but it salves it just for a minute. It helps.
And I have so much hate. So much. It’s good to let it out now and then.
I know that what
they used to be is human … but I cannot see them as human. Not after what they
did. Not after everything they took from me. There is not enough revenge in the
whole world that can ever make it right. I know that, but it doesn’t mean I
ready. I can’t really fault anyone. The powers-that-be did their best to
prepare us. But we had it wrong. Not all wrong. Some of the details we had
right. The hunger. The thirst for flesh. The insanity, the pure insanity of it
all. But then there were key details we got wrong. Some major, major ones.
The good news
was that the H6N11b virus – what inevitably due to its symptoms would become
known as the "zombie flu" – was only 0.1% fatal. That was probably the only
good news. The rest of it is just plain gut-wrenching awful. Worse than you
could have imagined, really. Far worse than they had prepared us for.
It’s not like we
didn’t see this coming. There’d been the movies and books and comics and TV
shows. And then there was the real life outbreak – the slow burn for several
years of the H6N11a flu variant that had mostly only affected infants and old
folks. It was airborne – yeah, the movies got that part wrong too – so
everybody got it, but for most people that just meant a nasty fever, intense
irritability, and a severe case of the munchies. A healthy adult would awake
after a stupor of several days to find an empty pantry and a pissed off family,
but that was the worst of it. It wasn’t fatal. It didn’t lead to flesh eating,
usually, at least not if you had a decent immune system. And that should have
been a hint, right? It wouldn’t have taken much imagination to extrapolate for
what was to come, the stronger, mutated H6N11b version.
On one level,
with all of that, there’s just no excuse for not being prepared. At the same
time, really, how could we have known? Seeing a video of a tornado and being
told it’s coming is not the same as having one run over your house. The feeling
of cowering in the closet, your forehead pressed up against the wall, your
knees dug into your chest, your hands clenched over the back of your head to
protect your spine from whirling debris. That freight train sound as the
tornado rips down your world, murders your family before your eyes, and leaves
you standing, somehow unscathed, with nothing but that scratch on your arm.
Nothing can really prepare you for the experience. So I feel both ways
about it. We should have known – they prepared us. And, yet, they really didn’t.
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