I scratched my legal name off the new schedule and wrote in Lisa. The scheduling system was supposed to be able to handle “nicknames” but after an hour my manager had given up figuring out how it worked. It wasn’t that big of deal. All my co-workers knew my legal name but were good about not using it.
A co-worker and I fangirled about the new Marvel movie during our breaks. I trained a new employee on the register. She caught on fast and after an hour I barely had to help her. Got one person to sign up for the store’s credit card. Restocked the ladies’ feature racks. Clocked out on time.
On the bus ride home, I saw a Facebook post about a man attacking people at a hospital. The local newspaper’s website didn’t have a story about it yet.
Payday. Most of my check was going to rent but there was a little left to splurge on a pizza. My roommate and I watched movies on Netflix until she went to bed. I stayed up another couple of hours playing my newest video game.
I read a few more posts about more seemingly random violent people at hospitals. Not just in my city but in cities across the country. Police had been called out in some cities. As usual, they didn’t seem to be making things better.
My lazy day off. I scrolled through Tumblr and saw more posts about the ongoing attacks at hospitals. No demands; just random violence. Mainstream media had started reporting on it but didn’t have anything to add. Videos of police beating people were circulating. Most were just physical beatings but the comments on one caught my eye.
|||What is this? he didn’t even flinch.
||Getting shot in the body isn’t an instant kill.
|Dude would have been shot on sight if he was black. None of that “Freeze” bs.
I clicked the link to open the video and pressed play:
A cellphone video. Shaky. A dimly lit area. A man stands over man on the ground kicking him. A police officer yells, “Stop, Back away!” Another yells, “Freeze, put your hands in the air!” The man turns and runs at the first officer swinging wildly with his fists. The other officer rushes in hitting the man with a baton. The man begins swinging at the second officer. The first officer body checks the man and shoots him in the chest twice. The man lunges at the officer again. The video ends.
More videos showed up online. I didn’t watch them all but I read descriptions. “People” shot and not dying. “People” stabbed and not bleeding. “People” missing limbs and still attacking. Victims getting up and joining the “Attackers”.
One I did watch was titled “Headshots don’t work”. In the video, one of the attackers was shot in the head and didn’t die. Another, titled “You have to sever the spinal cord”, featured an attacker who was shot several times, at least once in the head. She continued to attack the man, who had fired the gun, with a flurry of flailing arms. Only when she was hit in the back of the neck with a machete did she drop like a rag doll. No one was saying it, yet, but we were thinking it.
Later that night
“I don’t think you should go out there,” I said, peeking through the blinds. A police car, lights flashing, siren wailing, passed on a nearby street. The “people” had started to spread from the hospitals though they hadn’t reached our apartment complex.
“I have to check on my dad,” my roommate said, while looking for her keys, “He’s not answering his phone and with these… people out there… I just need to know he’s ok.” She was still undecided about what was going on.
“Just be safe. Don’t get out of your car if there are anyone nearby,” I said.
“Sure. Anyone out there?” she asked gesturing out the window. The apartment complex lighting was barely sufficient to avoid complete darkness, leaving alleyways between buildings dark. I had been on watch off and on all day, between reading reports from other cities online. No one had walked through the complex, except other residents going to and from their cars. We were lucky to not live near a hospital.
“No. It’s clear,” I said.
“Ok, I’ll text you when I find my dad.” She unlocked the door and left the apartment. I watched her walk to her car, get in, and drive off.
Sometime during the night, the internet gave up all pretense about these violent “people”. Everyone was calling them zombies and no one was laughing about it.
They were different than we had imagined them. A shooting them in the head wouldn’t always kill them. Whatever was animating the dead was buried deep in the brain near the brain stem. Cutting their heads off seemed to work best but caving in the back of the skull was an option if difficult.
They didn’t want to eat us. It was all about the kill for them but they took no pleasure in it. It was just an instinct in them. A few quick overhead fist pounds to knock you down and then they targeted the head. Several strong kicks directly to the head and it was over for most people without medical attention. Then they would get up as zombies themselves a few hours later.
I heard about “safe zones” being set up by the National Guard in major cities. The nearest one to me was a couple hundred miles away. God bless Texas and its open country. Not.
Some of my neighbors packed their cars and took off with their kids in the afternoon. I might have tried to leave to a “safe zone” as well, if I had a car. I considered calling someone for a ride but I hadn’t seen any zombies in person. They were out there in the city but given time we could push them back, I thought. As long as I kept my head down and stayed in my apartment I’d be fine.
The power went off during the night. From my cellphone, I checked for more news about the zombie outbreak. Nothing good. It was getting worse. Power outages across the country. A “safe zone” in Kansas had turned into chaos when someone died inside and became one of them.
More of my neighbors left during the day. I thought I might be the only one in the apartment complex.
I slept in and was woken just before noon by a dog barking and someone banging on my neighbor’s door. From my front window I could see a man, a zombie the first I had seen in person, banging on the door. They had taken off yesterday but left their dog. The banging and barking continued for several minutes. I looked around my apartment for something I could use as a weapon. I found a baseball bat, left over from that time I tried joining a local amateur team.
Next door the door broke, or the frame split, and the banging stopped. I looked out but couldn’t see the zombie. The neighbor’s dog ran out from apartment and a second later the zombie followed, running at a frightening pace. I knew they could run but seeing how fast they were was another thing. I watched as they ran out of the apartment complex and out of sight.
What if that zombie had heard me? I eyed my front door, no longer trusting it to keep my safe. I stood the love seat on end against the door and braced it with the long sofa. That might give me a few extra minutes.
Two big windows on either side of the front door, big enough for a man to step, or crash through, also had to be dealt with. I started with mattresses from my roommate’s bed and my own. Then I pushed a bookcase against each of them and piled whatever I could find behind them for support. I left a gap on one window so I could look outside. The bedrooms and bathroom had smaller windows set high enough that I doubted a zombie could get in through them.
I tried calling and texting some friends but no one answered. A Facebook post asking for help also went unanswered. My cellphone battery was down to 67% when I decided I needed to save it as much as possible and turned it off.
I slept on the sofa.
I turned my phone on to check for messages. No one had replied. I sent out more messages and turned off my phone again to conserve the battery.
I set up watch by the window. From my apartment, I didn’t see anyone else around the complex. Most of my neighbors were families with kids. It looked like they had all left when the first “safe zones” were created.
After a hour, I found a book I had been meaning read and started it while periodically checking outside. Nothing happened all day. At sunset, I turned on my phone; no messages. For a third time, I sent messages. I tried but couldn’t connect to the internet and then I turned it off to conserve the battery.
Turned on phone. Checked messages. Sent out new messages. Turned off phone.
Watched for people or zombies. Read another book.
Still no contact from anyone. My phone’s battery was getting really low.
It had been about a week. Surely we were pushing them back, right? There was no way mindless zombies could really take over. The power might be shut down but that couldn’t last for much longer. We couldn’t really lose, could we?
My phone couldn’t connect to the cell network. Still no sightings of people or zombies.
In the kitchen, I counted how many days of food I had left. Seven days. If the stove wasn’t electric I could cook rice or pasta, there would be enough for several more days.
In the bathroom, I counted my hormone and anti-androgen pills. Enough for a few weeks. I could do without them if I had to but I’d rather not. Would it be hard to break into a pharmacy?
At least the water was still running.
The next day
I didn’t turn my phone on in the morning. There was no point. I watched the apartment complex between reading.
Some days later
No sightings. Everything was quiet.
Another day later
This is it, I thought. This how the world ends. I looked out at the quiet apartment complex. I was alone and no one was coming for me. A few more days of food was all I had left. The water was still flowing but how long would that last? It had been days since I had seen that one zombie. Maybe it was safer than I thought. No matter what, I had to go out or die in my apartment.