I REMEMBER THE DAY. It was Z Day. When the first news broadcast came, there were already screams outside in the front yard, and I tore open my Z.E.R.O. Zombie Kit and and loaded my Belt Fed Zombie Attack AR15 with Z Max Bullets. Thank Christ I was prepared.
The first shambler to fall in my yard, shot through the chest, was Mrs. Peterson, the widow from across the road. Her husband had died of lung cancer a year before. At the funeral she had put on a brave face but her body was thin and frail now and her arm snapped beneath her as she fell. Next were the Gardeners, our neighbours. There was Mr. Gardener, and Mrs. Gardener, and little Sam, and his even smaller sister Kitty. She fell foaming at the mouth.
The neighbourhood was in chaos, but I pushed my wife Debbie and boy William into my Hyundai Elantra Coupe Zombie Zombie Survival Machine and used the spiked cow catcher to bulldoze shamblers down, clearing a path to the highway. I tried not to look at the faces for fear of recognising them. I had a goal: Vivos, where the space I had reserved in their community underground shelter waited. They had laughed, the Gardeners, at least Ned Gardener had, when I bought it. It had cost me a year’s wages. The Gardeners weren’t laughing now.
It was noon when I ran out of gas on the highway. I had been so intent on the road before me, trying not to see the carnage on either side, that I had forgotten to check the gas meter. It would be the worst mistake I ever made. I could see the gas station a hundred feet down the road, so close. Drawing my Survivor’s Shovel, I told Debbie and William to stay put, stepped out of the car and broke into a trot. The first shambler was a middle-aged woman with ginger hair and half her face missing. The blade of my Survivor’s Shovel halved what was left. The next was a solid fellow in farmer’s clothes, saliva bubbling from his lips; he fell too. And the next. Three more down and the gas station was deserted. It seemed so empty and peaceful after the hell of the suburbs that I let my guard down.
I was filling a gerrycan when I felt the bite. Teeth sinking into my left arm. The infection in my arm now. In my blood. I screamed in horror and frustration and rage and kept chopping at the thing long after it had stopped moving. It was a little boy. Not much older than William. It had bitten me. Oh God, no. William was waiting for his father in the backseat of the car, scared to death. Debbie, my wife. I had failed them
There was one thing I could do. My heart had sunk into my stomach, but I moved automatically, my jaw clenched in pain and resolve. I tore up the shambler’s shirt – better think of it as a shambler than a little boy – and I bandaged my arm. When I got back to the car I told them that I had cut myself on the Survivor’s Shovel. I think that maybe they knew. They never said a word.
I drove as far as I could toward Vivos. I tried to stop it, my teeth clenched, my knuckles white around the wheel. The fever had me. Sweat beaded my brow. My hands trembling. The hunger inside. The flesh of my wife’s clutching hand turning from the hand that I knew and loved into something else – the skin inviting and translucent, the blood pulsing underneath, the meat of the palm . . . God, I prayed. Let me make it one more mile.
At least, that’s how I imagine it was for my father. I watched from the backseat as he hit the brakes – hunched over the wheel – shuddered. I watched as he began to eat my mother. As if from very far away, I watched as I leapt out of the car, grabbing the Survivor’s Shovel, and he chased me into the woods.
I don’t know how I did what I did in there. When I came out I was pale and shaking, spattered in blood.
The body of my mother was still, as if dead. There was a hole in her throat but the blood had stopped pouring out. I stayed with her, talking to her, begging her to wake up and be alright, until her eyes opened and her hand jerked up to grab me and I slammed the door shut in terror and ran to an empty car back up the road. The keys were still in the ignition. I drove the rest of the mile to Vivos believing that I would come back for her with help. I think I really thought it was true.
I wonder what happened to her.
The battle against the aliens who had released this plague upon us raged on the flat-screened TVs inside Vivos. In the broadcasts, their streamlined, silver craft shimmered across the skies. We hunkered down in our luxury bunker, eating caviar and lobster that tasted like ashes in our mouths. Many died in the war. Still more had their memories wiped and became soldier-slaves of the enemy. In the end there were more of them than there were of us.
It was five years after Z Day that the enemy found Vivos. The news broadcasts had stopped long before.
After our last stand, when the Allied Human Forces won the war, some of those soldier-slaves were freed. Others could not be saved, their minds trapped, and we hunted them down across the torn countryside like rabid dogs.
I was one of the pilots who helped win the war, flying experimental crafts that had been reverse-engineered from alien technology decades earlier.
On this day, the anniversary of Z Day, I remember the soldiers who laid down their lives so that we could live.
I remember the slaves who could not be saved and who were put down, lost in their own minds.
And I remember my father and how he saved my life.
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