Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Z Day Report (13 June 2007)

Boy, today was strange. I guess you remember, right? I mean, everybody will have their June 13th stories (I wonder what they'll call this day in the history books), and ask, "Where were you? Who did you lose? How close did you come?" But hey, this is my blog, so I'll tell you about my day. I hope this doesn't get too out of hand.

Where do I begin?

I guess it really started on the way to work this morning. I was driving along, a little bit late as usual, and noticed a homeless guy walking on the side of the road. He looked pretty out of it too and I really only looked at him as long as I did because there's not so many homeless guys around here. Odd.

My job is fairly new and is north a couple of miles in a squat, offensive-looking two story building at the base of the hills by the cemetery. I work at ChotusLink, which is the name of a bunch of buildings in that area, each one making products or selling services. Basically I work in the AT&T phone center, answering incoming calls about products, sales, and new equipment rebates. It's not my favorite job . . . in fact, I knew from the first week in that department that it wasn't going to be for me. But I need money, and have stuck with it, hoping somebody somewhere will offer me a better job and take me away from all this.

I got into work and sat at the first free computer pod on the far row, logging onto my phone as quickly as I could. They check to see what time we come in, so I'll often log on, then boot up my computer, take my lunch in to the fridge, and sit down a few minutes later to start taking calls. Depending on my mood, that can take me up to fifteen minutes. Eventually one of the supervisors will find out about it, but it hasn't happened yet.

I looked at the queue and saw we weren't red-lining (which is what we call it when there are more than seven calls waiting for service), and answered the first call that came through.

I began my oft-repeated spiel. "Thanks for calling the AT&T high speed internet rebate center, my name is Eric, can I get your DSL telephone number please?"

To be frank--and there's no point in being anything but--it was a terrible job, listening to people complain over the phone, or wondering why they hadn't received their rebate yet, or worse yet, listening to them explode when I told them they'd missed the expiration date and they no longer qualified for a rebate. I'd been thinking about quitting since I'd transferred over to this department from data entry, but I'd been planning on starting up a pretty serious drug habit when I turned thirty-five, so I figured I ought to start saving now.

The department micro-managed everything we did, from length of our phone calls to what we wore on Fridays to the time we were gone on breaks to whether we offered customers the chance to take a brief survey on how their needs were served by our telephone representative.

A few minutes later, a blond almost-surfer dude named Rick (or was it Dick?) came in, talking loudly into his cellphone. I hadn't made any real friends at this job, but Mick (?) was at the bottom of my list.

Just my luck, he sat down in the pod across from me. That meant I'd be hearing his cheery "I'm yer bud!" voice for the next seven hours. The guy next to him said, "So, what happened, Nick?" Nick (whoops) began jabbering to the people around him how he just paid off his truck and then nearly hit into a skinny old woman walking in the middle of the street, "like some kind of tard."

He'd probably scared some rest home escapee half out of her mind and he had had the temerity to roll down his window and yell at her. "The lady didn't even bat an eye, just kept walking, wobbling a little like she was drunk," I could hear him saying. I glanced down at my phone, sure I had taken it off Available, but no, there just weren't any calls coming in.

That continued for the next couple of hours and I mostly read through my "Princess Bride" paperback and ate peanuts all morning, glancing at my phone to make certain it wasn't ringing without me hearing it. I was waiting for it to be breaktime (where I would get away from my desk and read my book like I was doing now) or for Denisse to come in, whichever came first. I got online to look something up on Wikipedia (it was Wang Chung, if you must know), when my rebate line rang.

"Thanks for calling the AT&T high speed internet rebate center," I said, "My name is Eric, can I get your DSL telephone number please?"

A man with a heavy Southern accent began speaking immediately. "And the ground did open and every unclean thing did wander, and the secrets of men walked outwardly where none could shield his face--"

"Hello?" I interrupted. Sometimes people didn't realize I'd picked up, or worse, they thought I was a recording.

"Where none could shield his face, though in his guilt, he may try," the man finished.

"Excuse me?" I said, trying to be polite. After all, every call was apparently recorded for quality purposes.

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Chapter seven," the man said. So, he had been quoting a creepy ass scripture. Should've guessed. "Are you a believer, Eric?"

That he knew who I was unnerved me, and I thought about that old movie where the girl is getting calls from some guy watching her from outside the house. But then I remembered that I give my name at the start of every call. I shifted in my seat. "Uh, I really only help people with their rebate questions. Did you want to check the status on your--"

"Haven't you been watching the news?" the man said, his voice getting higher. "The dead were gibbering in their resting places, and outward they came, to seek out those who knew not the Lord. And as the unrighteous saw the sharpness of their fate upon them, they were fearful in their sin."

"That's not from the Bible, sir," I said.

He continued, in something of a fervor now. "For they knew not the Lord, and the graves opened up their dead, and those that were still did walk."

I glanced three pods down and saw Denisse Ortega, just logging onto her phone. She was small and shapely, unbelievably sexy yet somehow innocent. Today she was wearing a pair of stone-washed jeans and an undersized white t-shirt. Except for the paycheck, she was the only thing keeping me at ChotusLink.

"Eric?" the man on the phone said. I looked away from the Hispanic jailbait and to my computer monitor.


"Do you know the Lord?"

"Not on a first name basis. Do you have a rebate question?"

"I did, I wondered why I hadn't received my check yet. But after what's been going on in the world, it doesn't seem so important anymore."

"I can understand that," I said, though I really couldn't. All I knew was that I hated working there and was a stubborn little masochist for still sitting in that chair and taking calls.

"I'm going to hang up now, Eric," the man said. "It's probably too late for you to repent, but you'd better try it just in case."

"I'll do that," I lied and thanked him for calling the rebate center. About once a week I'd get a call from a crazy person or a really angry lawschool dropout. I logged the call (Code 11 - Wrong Number/Transferred By Mistake) and did my internet search. The phones were barely ringing, which was a nice change.


Ms. Endora walked by, saw I wasn't on a phone call, and asked me if I had seen Wade the day shift junior supervisor. I hadn't. Ms. Endora was a squat mannish lady with black hair with a white tuft in the front, like Rogue if she turned fifty and let herself go. She had hired me in my original position at ChotusLink, which was a pretty good job when it first started.

Still no new calls. A half hour passed. I would get to go to lunch soon. Something I'd eaten the day before was making me fart.

Wade the day shift junior supervisor came in, sweaty and exasperated. He was clutching at his hand and even from where I was sitting, I could see blood there. He had had some kind of accident coming back from a bagel run, evidently, though I didn't hear details. A Level Three and a couple of his friends rushed to his side, asking him what happened and what they could do. I think I caught ". . . jumped on me" as they kept moving.

I guess I should have followed them to the bathroom, but I had just logged onto the Hollywood Stock Exchange at my desk and was looking to see how my Blockbuster Derivatives were doing.

I farted again, then looked up and regretted it. Denise was walking over. God, what if she actually needed to talk to me (unlikely, I know, but it had to happen one day) and she got there at its most pungent?

But she just walked on by. I saw people around me rising in their pods. I took my headset off and looked where they were looking. Ms. Endora walked up to our row, and signaled to us. "Come over here, people," she said. "Look at this."

I went to the window, where a handful of people were congregating. We were located on the second floor of our building, so there was a pretty good view of the cemetery two blocks away, where there were a few people gathered. Except there was something wrong with them. Two or three were crawling, but they were all moving in a jerky, unhealthy manner. They almost didn't look like people anymore.

"They said something about this on the news," a small woman I didn't know said to the lady beside me. "Something about people in a trance."

"Creepy," the lady breathed.

And it was. Down on the ground, the people moved like sleepwalkers, like the dizziest of children, like blind men. They were leaving the cemetery, and they were, without exception, wearing suits or dresses: church outfits . . . or funeral clothes.

My heart lurched to a stop as a pulsing buzz started down near my genitals. It was the cellphone in my pocket, set on vibrate since we weren't supposed to even have them on at work. It scared the hell out of me, frankly.

It kept ringing, and I pulled it out and checked it before I answered. It was my best pal Joe, who called from time to time, but not during work hours. I would never be Employee of the Month anyway, so I pushed Talk.

First Joe asked if I had heard the news. Then, not waiting for an answer, he told me that there was some kind of rabies epidemic that was spreading all over the country. "It's happening all at once," he said, "People are getting attacked all over. It's spreading. You get it like the flu, except faster."

"Joe, I--"

"You get it if they touch you. Then you get infected with the . . . the madness as well."

Normally I would've told him he was a poor practical joker and an asshole, but there were crazed-looking people below us on the street, and I'd already seen one person with a bite or gash on his arm.

Suddenly, the people around me gasped. Down below, a pickup truck had apparently come around the corner, and slammed into one of the lurchers. The body hit the pavement like a sack of potatoes, and the pickup screeched to a halt.

"Somebody call 911," a girl cried, and a dozen cellphones suddenly came out of pockets and purses. Down below, the accident victim was rolling on the pavement, trying to get up, it looked like. Hadn't Rick almost hit someone on that exact same road earlier today? The pickup driver got out of his vehicle, presumably to help, and two of the sleepwalkers approached him. They didn't wait for him to explain, they just attacked him immediately. There were shrieks from the people around me, not all of them female. Joe was still on the phone at my ear, saying my name.


"Dude, I'm coming over there," he announced.

But I had brought my own lunch. "Here? Why?"

"They just canceled work. Anyone who wants to go be with their families can leave."

That made sense. Except it didn't. "But why are you coming here?" I asked him.

"You wanna stay there?"


"I'm on my way. I'll call you when I get there." He hung up. So did I.

People beside me were crying, glued to the window, or vomiting. No one was talking to 911 operators. Out of service. Busy. On hold. All operators are currently busy with other customers, please wait. Just ringing.

Denisse Ortega walked past me. "That's it, I'm outta here," she said to a friend of hers, a droopy-eyed Latina girl with more cleavage than Denisse, but less everything else. The friend, whose name I didn't know, agreed and they strode toward the stairs. They were leaving, going out into the dangerous world outside.

I should say something, I thought as she rounded the first bank of pods. Or take Denisse in my arms and stick my tongue down her throat. Or at least let her know that she's the hottest thing since tabasco sauce and I often fantasized about making such passionate love to her that our pelvises burst into flames.

But I just watched her walk to the exit and disappear. Pussy, my conscience told me. It, oddly enough, has a different voice than my thinking brain. A snootier, more disgusted voice. You're going to die alone.

"Denisse is way too young for me," I told my conscience. "And regardless of that, a girl that sextastic has many boyfriends, all higher up in the food chain than me."

You suck, my conscience reminded me. You're never gonna see her again and she won't even remember your name.

"Yes, but she'll probably remember me as the guy who salivated when he looked at her. It's better she not know what my name is."

Pussy, it said again. I don't like that word. I never have.

And then Denisse was back. She walked through the door, quickly, and went to her pod, grabbing her keys from beside the computer monitor and telephone headset. She took a breath and started back the way she'd come.

"Denisse," I said, and she looked at me. Gosh, she was well put together. "You're one of the best-looking people I've ever seen," I said. "You take care of yourself."

She smiled a little bit and I liked what it did to her eyes. "You too," she said, and was gone.

Alright, that was pretty good, my conscience said. But you're still a pussy.

"Thanks," I said aloud, and went to grab my own stuff from my desk.

I took my bag of snacks, pens, vending machine change, and napkins, and started to log off my computer. All around me, people were either sitting in stunned silence, or getting ready to leave. Or already gone. The crowd at the windows was bigger than ever, but nobody seemed to be taking rebate or sales calls. I glanced at my phone. There were only two calls in the queue.

I signed off my telephone.

I took a few steps toward the door, then turned around. Joe had not yet called me and I had to pee. I went to the other end of the building where the restrooms were. I passed a group of employees in the training room. I thought they didn't know what was happening outside, but when I paused to look in, I saw they were all bowing their heads in prayer.

They knew.

I entered the men's room and hit the urinal. I smelled vomit in there too. Somehow it was worse mixed with the urinal cakes. I flushed and turned to wash my hands. I saw blood in the sink and some on the mirror in front of it. There was a still-wet trail of blood leading down to the handicapped stall. There was a lot of it, on the wall, on the closed stall door, on paper towels all over. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. This was like a bathroom at a rugby stadium, not a call center.


The noise came from the far stall. My body tightened up at the sound, like I'd been shocked turning on a desklamp. It had been a moan of some kind, though like nothing I'd ever heard outside of medical dramas. Or really bad dreams.

"Hello?" I said softly, aware that I was breaking men's room protocol by addressing someone in a toilet stall, but uncaring.

The moan came again. Strained, low, suffering. The sound made snowcones from my blood.

"Dude, are you alright?"

At the sound of my voice, the guy in there banged on the stall door. It wasn't locked, but it opened inward and the man was pushing on it. He moaned again . . . not the sound of a normal man. This was what Joe was talking about.

I had to get out of there.

I left the bathroom at a half run, expecting a hand to close around my arm before I could reach freedom. I still heard the moaning as the restroom door swung shut behind me and scooped up my bag where I'd set it.

My cellphone vibrated again. I was sort of expecting it this time, but it still startled me. I didn't stop walking as I pulled it out of my pocket. It was Joe. "I'm on my way," I said at the same moment he said, "I'm pulling in now." I glanced back at my workplace. Ms. Endora was holding someone in her arms. I could hear muffled wailing, but I didn't know if it was her or the woman she was holding. I hit the stairs.

Normally there was a security guy who would go through our bags before letting us leave, but there was nobody there now. The door to where the time clock was located stood closed, but there were people in there . . . some lady had her face to the window in the door, looking out at me. She shook her head as I walked by. I didn't know if she was telling me not to go outside or that I couldn't come in where she was.

Either way, I wasn't listening.


Joe's gray Pontiac was parked by the main entrance, the engine still running. It was a warm day, but his windows were all closed. I could hear sirens and horns honking and some kind of intercom voice, but I couldn't make out what it was saying. I could see smoke in the distance, by the freeway entrance.

I tried to get into the passenger seat, but Joe's doors were locked. He pushed the button to unlock them, but I had been holding onto the handle and it didn't work. As I tried again, I saw a girl walking our way in the parking lot. I didn't know if she was one of the infected or not, and I told Joe to hurry and unlock the door. He shouted something from inside the car and I have to admit that I was close to panicking. The girl in the parking lot looked my way, took a couple of steps in my direction, then reached her own car and began fumbling for the keys.

Joe's door unlocked and I got in. "Thanks," I said.

"Lock the--" Joe started to say, then locked the doors himself. He backed out of the parking space, a little faster than usual. "Dude, this is way beyond insane."

I nodded, though I didn't really know what he meant, exactly. "What's up with Maggie?"

Joe lived in Praisden, a few miles south, with Maggie, his long-time girlfriend. Er, fiance, I guess, since--and this is something of a secret--she was a few months pregnant now and they were going to get hitched at the end of the summer.

"Maggie's fine. She's at her sister's. I told her to wait for me."


"Right, us." Joe drove out of the parking lot, turned right, then immediately hit the brakes. There were three columns of stopped cars headed toward the freeway entrance, even though there were only two lanes. No one was moving.

"Damn," Joe said. "We'll have to go anothe--"

"That's fine," I said, distracted by the sight before me.

ChotusLink was at the top of a hill, and I could see at least three car accidents from where I sat. One of them looked horrifically bad, with a UPS truck on its side, half crushing a PT Cruiser.

Joe turned the car around, turning down a side street, and heading subtly southward.

I turned on the radio, but there was only the emergency broadcast signal. I turned it off again.

"Man, Center Street was a mess," Joe said. "Wrecks are everywhere. Somebody actually hit into a fire hydrant, like in the movies."

"I've never actually seen that before," I told him.

We drove on, passing a major intersection (the stoplights were blinking red). We drove through, slower than usual, and I could see people walking here and there, in the Albertson's parking lot, outside of McDonalds, on the sidewalk. The people with blood on them, their faces unnaturally grey, walking the way the homeless guy had, the way the people from the cemetery did.

"I've never seen anything like it," Joe muttered.

"Maybe in movies," I suggested. "Like a vampire movie or somethi--"

"These aren't vampires. They . . . I don't know what they are."

And then there was one moving toward us, stepping right into the street from the Del Taco entrance and heading for my window. He was a middle aged man, dressed in a t-shirt and jogging shorts. His hand was all mangled . . . a couple of fingers missing. And also missing was the life in his eyes, the humanity. He looked like a maniac, a Holocaust survivor, a lobotomy patient.

The man gritted his teeth at us and kept moving toward the car. Joe hit his brakes to not hit the man, but the man hit into us anyway, walking right into the Pontiac like he hadn't seen it was there. The blood from his injured hand spattered the glass beside my face.

"His hand," I said. "I think he'd been bitten."

"That must be how they're spreading the infection," Joe said. "It is like vampires."

The man pounded on the window, trying to break the glass to get at me. I swear, he didn't look human anymore. I guess I keep repeating that, but I can't really get over it.

Joe drove on, having to go around a banged-up Camry abandoned in the middle of the road. Behind us, the lurcher was following, stumbling along too slow to ever catch us.

Joe switched the radio on. The emergency signal was still blaring and he changed the station. It sounded like a news bulletin. It turned out to be a CDC spokesman reading a statement. We were supposed to stay in our homes and not answer the door for anyone. If we came in contact with strangers or people behaving in a violent or unusual manner, don't touch them. Get away. The rabies spread quickly. There were also reports--unsubstantiated at that time--of cannibalism in those infected.

At that, Joe and I shared a look. "Man, I have to pee," he muttered. "Praisden never seemed far before, but it is."

"Why did you come and get me?" I had to ask.

"I don't know. It was on the way."

True enough, but it wasn't exactly an explanation. I kept glancing at the blood on the passenger window, as afraid of it as I was the creature it came from. I wished Joe could wash it off somehow.

I turned our attention to the other side of the road, where a bicyclist was speeding along, going much faster than we were. A pale man in a suit and tie lunged at him and the cyclist hit into the sidewalk. His bike flipped over, and he hit the pavement hard, laying there stunned. The pale man leapt upon the bicyclist. He very much appeared to be eating him.

Don't worry, my conscience told me, This may just be a dream.

I turned to Joe. "Is this really happening?"

"I think so. Cody at work was saying this might be some kind of germ warfare. It's all over the country, all at once."

"I don't know Cody."

"Sure you do, he's the guy who named his kids after Pirates of the Caribbean."

"Oh yeah." He had named a son Jack and a daughter Sparrow, at least according to Joe. Joe swore he was a sane, even cool guy, other than that.

My throat felt very dry and I wished I had taken a drink before leaving work. "What did Cody say?"

"He said it was maybe in our water supply, or an airborne virus."

"How come we don't have it, then?"

Joe shrugged. "Cody thinks that it was just in major cities, and now it's spreading through saliva."

Saliva made me think of Denisse Ortega, for some reason, but I shook that thought off. "So, terrorists, then?"

"I don't know. Some girl at work was saying this was the end of the world."

"End of the . . ." I started to repeat. "You mean, like in the Bible sort of way?"

"Yes.  Eric, she was hysterical, she said that the world got too corrupt, so Jesus hadn't come after all, that we were all gonna burn as sinners."

"Yeah, a guy on the phone said something like that too. I didn't know what he was talking about at the time, but--"

"Maybe he was right," Joe said quietly, and it gave me the shivers to hear him say that. I'm not a religious person, and the concept of Armageddon was one of the least comforting aspects of that sort of belief system. That, and Hell, I guess.

Joe slowed the car once again. A semi was jack-knifed in front of us, blocking off ninety percent of the road. We had to drive up on the sidewalk to get around it. I heard the undercarriage of the Pontiac scrape and thump under us. Joe's was a nice car too.

Just past the semi, a woman with no lower half was dragging herself out from under a crushed car, a smear of gore beneath her. Joe kept driving.

"Did you see that?" I asked, my mouth drier than it had ever been.

"No. What was it?"

I didn't say. That had been impossible. Nobody could survive that. You'd either bleed to death, or be dead instantly. But she was moving, like a squashed cockroach somehow pulling itself along, defying death right in front of you.

I'd heard somewhere that a cockroach could live a week without a head.

The sounds of sirens were loud and omnipresent. I didn't see any police cars or fire engines, but they were all out and about.

"We could go to my dad's cabin in the mountains," I suggested.

"Maybe," Joe said.

"It's in Fairview, miles away from any cities or towns. Probably even farther away from . . ."

Joe waited for me to finish. When I didn't, he tried to answer for me. "From what? Anybody with this infection?"

I had been thinking cemeteries. But I just nodded and let him drive.


We were just about out of town, not going fast, but making fairly good time when Joe tensed up. Ahead, there was a little boy, walking in the road in front of us. Joe slammed on the brakes, bringing us to a stop right in time. The child was in the middle of the intersection, with a little suit and bowtie on, like a miniature gentleman. But one look at the way the boy was walking told me he was either severely intoxicated or one of them.

I looked over at Joe. He was eyeing the boy with a cross between nervousness and concern. Joe had a son in Montana about his age, so I understood him being a little freaked out. I looked back at the boy. It turned, slowly, and looked toward us. There was nothing childlike about the boy's face. Its teeth were beared like a snarling dog, its eyes rolled up to the whites. God.

I looked back at Joe, about to tell him it was too late for this kid. But I couldn't say anything. On his side, a big black pickup truck was hurtling toward us, much faster than necessary. It was too late for us too.

A remember seeing a flash of white, and the sensation of sudden falling, like the feeling you get right before falling asleep sometimes. I opened my eyes and saw the windshield opaque with cracks in front of us. My shoulder hurt where the seatbelt had dug in, but I thought I was alright.

Joe seemed to be knocked out, from what I could see of him. Joe had taken the majority of the hit, his window shattering and the airbag obscuring my view. Fat lot of good it did. Side impact airbags, folks, look into them.

Beyond him, the black pickup was rolling slowly away from us. I didn't know if the driver was backing it up, or if it was just drifting. My ears were ringing, but I was in no pain.

I unlocked my door and went outside. I thought I was alright, but the truck's driver might not be. The pickup truck's front end was smashed in, both headlights broken, the grill hanging halfway off. But it was drivable, apparently.

The pickup shifted into Drive, making a grinding sound I could hear even through my ringing ears.

"Hey!" I shouted, and the pickup pulled away, driving as best it could down the road. I had gone out there to see if the other driver was hurt, and there he went.

I swore and got back into the car, closing the door behind me.

"Joe, you okay?"

He didn't say anything, he just moaned and pressed himself harder against the still-deployed airbag. Like he was trapped in a particularly bad dream.


I knew he was alive, just dazed, or whiplashed, or concussed. Fat as I am, Joe outweighed me by a good forty pounds. There was no way I'd be able to support, pull, or carry him to safety.

"Joe," I said louder. I shook his arm.

He turned his head my way, still leaning forward like the airbag was a pillow. His glasses were broken and there was a cut where they rested on his nose. His nose might've been broken, but it wasn't bleeding.

"Hey Joe, can you hear me? We gotta go. Does the car still work?"

He moaned louder, definitely in pain, and pulled his head back. My point of view shifted from Joe to the person standing at the window, his little blond head previously hidden from my sight. It was the infected boy. There was fresh blood all over his mouth and nose. It looked almost black on his pale skin.

"Joe!" I shouted. He stirred again, raising his arm. The one the boy had been feasting on. A half dozen silver dollar-sized bites had been taken from Joe's meaty flesh. It bled copiously and--

That meant my friend was infected.

"Oh shit, Joe," I said, fumbling for the door handle again.

Joe said, "Ehh?" and looked at me sleepily.

Seeing his movement, the boy made a quick snapping movement, like a junkyard dog. I didn't see what it did until it pulled away. There was a wet clacking sound--the infected boy's teeth coming together--and when I could see the boy again, he had something in his mouth . . . part of Joe's ear.

I was on my own.

I wished I had stayed at ChotusLink, at least it was on the second floor and you could only get in with a by swiping your keycard. Why hadn't I told Joe to come in with me? I guess I was scared, 'cause I was so near the cemetery. And that's where they had been coming from, of course. But it had been a mistake to run.

Now Joe would be dead soon.

Then he'd be one of them.

And he'd try to bite me as well.

I left the car and ran.

I'm pretty out of shape, but adrenaline was coursing through me now. And the lurchers were even slower, lucky for me.

The ringing in my ears had faded and I looked up to a new sound. There were helicopters in the sky, passing overhead. They weren't news choppers, but the bigger, uglier military type. I should have been happy to see them, since it might mean rescue, but I don't know what it was--maybe too many bad movies--but I was scared to see them there.

I kept running south for one, two blocks. I saw one or two people running around in hysterics, and several more hiding in their cars. But mostly the streets were empty. Empty of live people, that is. The creatures were recognizable by the way they staggered around, by their dazed slowness, by the blank expression on their faces. And the fact that most of them were spattered, smeared, or covered with blood.

There was a high school up ahead, and as I ran toward it, a voice shouted, "Over here!" I looked her way and saw a middle-aged woman holding a big steel door open a few inches so she could wave me over. She looked motherly enough, so I turned and ran in her direction.

As soon as I slipped through the door, she pulled it shut after me. It was cool inside, the air conditioner blowing away. Apparently, there had been summer school classes going, and the school was fairly secure.

A janitor named Hector asked if I was alright, looking me over before I could go any farther into the building. After seeing Joe back at the car, I knew what he was looking for. Hector deemed me acceptable and led me down the hall. I breathed heavy as I followed him, pausing to gasp over the drinking fountain and splash cool water on my face from the restroom. Two classrooms had people in them, and I joined one of them, sitting at a desk, my body sweating and my nerves thrumming like an overstretched elastic.

The school currently held four teachers, twenty one students, Hector the janitor, and seven people like me, in from off the street. They had been watching the news for hours and filled me in on what was happening so far.

Law enforcement was mobilizing. Word was, they had some way of containing the disease. Or whatever you called it.

From the people who wanted to talk about it (and there weren't many), a surprising few would admit the truth: this wasn't some sickness or contagion. Those people had been dead.

And a lot more were now.

Though "dead" is a relative term, isn't it?


In the end, I wasn't involved with any of the newsworthy stuff. The soldiers came in and loudspeakered for people to stay in their homes if they didn't want to get shot (this they did in English and Spanish), and spent the next three days fixing the problem, most of which I wasn't a witness to. The military seemed to do something good for a change, and all of that Red State/Blue State nonsense went away for a while.

I never went back to that job at ChotusLink. Life just seemed too important--and too damn short--to waste it somewhere I was that unhappy. I've done a lot of thinking, a lot of reading (turns out there isn't a seventh chapter of Ephesians), a lot of pondering about my existence, about life after this one, and about the point of it all.

In the days since I started this post, the world has gone through some significant changes, but just like every major shake-up, I'm sure things will return to normal soon. At night, when the shadows get thick and I'm left with my thoughts and a lot of images that seemed burned into my eyelids, I wonder if the world will ever truly be like it was before. I wonder if there might be something lurking in my room (they can't have gotten ALL of them, can they?).

And I wonder about Joe--did he stay in the car? How long did he last before changing? How long did he last after that? What was he thinking at the end? Did he feel abandoned by me? Angry? Sad? Did he come looking for me after he changed? And what if he didn't change? What if he . . .

Well, there's lots of things now to fill my normally empty head.

I think about all the people whose lives June 13th affected, and if they will ever forget. I worry about the children who experienced this thing, and who now will think about death differently than any of us ever did. I wonder if they'll grow up used to the new status quo, the way my parents grew up thinking television was no big thing, and I grew up thinking videos were common. I hope that this event will make the next generation better than Generation X or Y, that there's some positive to get out of everything.

The plague only lasted for a few hours. The infection stopped spreading before nightfall, and even those infected that were not "dealt with" by the military laid down and died that evening or the next day.

What if they hadn't? What if it had continued like it did, into the 14th, into the next week, into July? Would I have survived?

Would any of us?

Something that bothers me, though it seems to bother other people less is . . . why did it happen? Doctors and scientists and researchers and government-sanctioned panels say that it will take some time to nail down the source of the "reanimation epidemic," but they'll let us know as soon as they find out. A lot of people seem satisfied by that explanation, figuring that since the danger is over, it's something to put behind us, like an earthquake or a fire.

But I lie awake at night, worrying about the implications of the dead not being that way anymore, listening for that awful sound of moaning, and wonder if it will happen again.

Time will tell.

The End

"I will never say the word procrastinate again,
I'll never look myself in the mirror with my eyes closed."

They Might Be Giants

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