Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Forty-Sixth Entry: Reverie Hill/Black Beach

June 1st

Today was the worst day of my life. I have nothing to live for anymore, so why am I still here? I have lost everything that matters to me in this life.

I wish I were dead so that I could be with them, but I just can't....

When I woke up this morning, part of me knew this was it. Sharon had spent a large part of yesterday rambling and hallucinating. She had conversations with Alex, with Gerry, with Crispin Freeman; she had a long rant about how Hashmir Kaur needs to step down and let Alex be in charge. It would have been funny in other circumstances.

This morning she was lucid for awhile though. She asked me to read to her again, and I read as fast as I could, trying to finish the book for her, but at the same time afraid that reading the words “THE END” might symbolically end her.

While I read, the others came in, and I guess you would say that they said their goodbyes. Even Maria came in, and even though it was all I could do not to physically kick her out, I let her say goodbye.

“I'm sorry, Sharon, this is all my fault,” said Maria, tears rolling down her cheeks. A big part of me wanted to forgive her then, but I can't do it.

“It's not,” Sharon answered weakly, smiling, “It's no one's fault, and I really hope none of you blame yourselves. I gained so much by knowing you all, and I hate to leave.”

“You may be the bravest of all of us, you little nerd,” Maria said, no malice in her voice.

“I'm not brave, but thank you.”

When Gerry came, he brought a cast iron pot with him; in it was something that was not quite cake and not quite bread. What it was was horrifically sweet. I'm guessing he used sweetened condensed milk in it in place of fresh milk. Sharon ate a piece of it, and thanked him. I don't know if she really liked it or not, but I know she was grateful for the effort.

Pippa brought the record player and records when she came. They talked for awhile, and they both cried. Pippa hugged Sharon, and Sharon tried to hug back, but she was too weak. After a while Beth came back and pulled Pippa away.

“They need time to themselves, “ Beth said as she half drug Pippa out of the room. Before closing the door, I saw Beth look at Sharon one last time, and mouth the words “Goodbye” and something else that I couldn't make out before closing the door quietly.

“I'm sorry,“ Sharon said.

“Don't be sorry, “ I said, my voice a choked whisper. I still couldn't cry, but I felt like I was on the verge of it.

“I should have been more careful I shouldn't be leaving you all behind, but I'll be waiting for you all in the clearing,“ Sharon whispered, “Please make me wait a long time, okay?”

“We will,” I said.

“Play our song for me, please?” she asked.

We never discussed what our song was, but I did not have to ask. I know the rules; the song playing during your first kiss; your first real kiss. I was glad to see that “Hello Dolly & Other Hits” had made it with us. I put it on to the third track and the room filled with piano and horn.

I sat on the bed with Sharon, and held her in my arms while the song played. My chest spasmed like I was crying, but still nothing came. I think I'm some sort of monster for not being able to cry for the woman I love.

When it ended and “The Bucket's Got a Hole In It” started, I got up from the bed.

“Play it again, “Sharon whispered, “Just once more.”

While I crossed the room to reset the record player, Sharon spoke, “Who do you think would win in a fight? The Baskin Robbins spoon, or Mr. Peanut?”

“Mr. Peanut,” I answered,

“Why?” she asked weakly.

“First of all, Mr. Peanut has arms and legs, second, he has a sword concealed in his cane.”

“That's right,” Sharon closed her eyes and smiled at me as the song's intro started to play.

“Give me kiss to build a dream on,” Louis Armstrong sang, “and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss.”

“I love you so much” I heard Sharon whisper, and then she was gone, her chest stilled, and Sharon was gone from this world; leaving me all alone.

“Give me a kiss before you leave me, and my imagination will feed my hungry heart.”

I went to the bed and kissed her cold lips. A kiss to build a dream on....

“Leave me one thing before we part. A kiss to build a dream on”

I shoved my satchel to the floor, and at in the chair by the door. In my lap I held the Glock. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I couldn't.

Louis continued to sing to me and my dead bride, as I sat there and watched her.

A noise, a soft groan came from Sharon's chest, barely audible over Louis' trumpet solo.

She started to move and my heart started to pound in my chest. This was it, if I was to stop her from turning, this was it, and yet I sat motionless; frozen. I couldn't believe this was real, not Sharon, not my wife, my best friend, not the girl I watched grow alongside me from a gawky awkward kid into a beautiful geeky woman.

She started to sit up, and I saw her eyes. They were the same cloudy mess I am used to seeing at the end of a gun barrel or the tip of my sword. Her skin had gone a pale sickly gray, making her red hair seem even brighter. Pain and hunger and confusion. She looked right at me, stretched her arms towards me, and she spoke, “Duyuuh, kuuhhhmuhhh,” she groaned.

Kill me. Oh God she was in there, and she said “Kill me”. I swear to Jesus that's what she said. She was still in there; trapped. Her last request on Earth was for me to kill her.

How could I refuse?

“Give me a kiss to build a dream on,”

I stood.

“And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss.”

I aimed.

“Ah sweetheart, I ask no more than this,”

“I love you,” I said to the monstrous mockery of my best friend to the part of her that was still trapped in there.

“A kiss to build a dream on,” Louis wailed, dragging that last word out like the song never wanted to end.

I fired twice.

Sharon's beautiful red hair kicked up in the back as the bullets tore out the back of her skull. Her blood spattered onto the wall and headboard behind her; the blood contrasting with the delicate blue flowers on the wallpaper.

Sharon's body sagged back onto the bed, dead for real this time, at peace at last.

No one came running at the sound of the shots. I was all alone, and the gap between tracks on the record player seemed infinite just then. The sound of the needle on vinyl filled the room.

I looked at the gun, turned it to face me and looked down the barrel. I could go with her, why not? If I shot myself in the head I wouldn't come back, the others could just leave us here and move on. Things would be easier for them this way, and I would be rid of the pain in my chest; I would be done with all of this suffering.

Heaven. Surely Sharon's in heaven, and if I kill myself I won't go there, but being here hurts so much.

I closed my eyes, and put the barrel of the handgun to the side of my head, it was uncomfortably warm from having just been fired. I took a deep unsteady breath, and braced myself. I started to squeeze the trigger.

At the last moment I pulled the gun from my head and fired it into the ceiling. The sound next to my ear made it ring.

That bucket song started to play on the record player, and that seemed to end the moment for me. I heard the floorboards creaking in the hallway, and I knew I was too weak to finish myself.

I aimed the gun at the wall, took a deep breath, started screaming and fired the gun. I pulled the trigger until the gun clicked empty, and then I just screamed and screamed, drowning out the music.

If you could harness my grief, anger, and pain in that moment, and convert it into energy, then my scream would have split the world in two. I don't know how long I screamed for, but when I was done my throat burned, and that song was still playing.

I threw the gun at the record player where it sat on the dresser. There was a screech as the needle slid across the record followed by a bang of the lid slamming shut. The gun clattered harmlessly to the floor.

I dropped back down into the chair, and sat for awhile. No one came to the door. I don't know if they were giving me time, or if they were just afraid of me. I wouldn't blame them for the latter.

I listened to my heartbeat, and smelled the odor of death. This was not the rotting odor of the undead, but the aroma of the freshly dead by violent means. It smelled of blood, and raw meat, and shit, and urine, and it was coming from the beautiful woman lying in my bed.

I couldn't leave Sharon like that; she deserved better.

I rose from my chair, knocking it over as I stood, and threw the door open. Out in the hallway Beth and Pippa both stood. Their eyes were puffy and red. They looked at me when I came out, but said nothing as I brushed past them.

I went downstairs and outside where I found Gerry sitting on the porch swing, and examining the blade of his sword. “I'm sorry.' I heard him say as I passed him, and headed for the garage.

The door was locked, but I knew that Maria was in there. I pounded on the door hard enough to make the glass in the window rattle, “Open this fucking door right now or I swear I will break it down!” I yelled, my throat raw.

Maria opened the door, and I could see that she had been crying more. There were little bits of wood stuck to the front of her green sweater.

“Is she...?”

I didn't answer. I shoved Maria aside, and stormed into the garage. I found what I was looking for easily enough, and grabbed it. Shoving past Maria one more time I went back outside, and stormed across the parking lot, looking for the right place.

At the edge of the other side of the gravel parking lot, I saw what I wanted. A patch of wildflowers was growing there. I used the shovel I had grabbed from the garage and began to dig.

The sun was well on its way down before I was done. My back, legs, and arms screamed in pain at me with each scoop, and the sweat stung my eyes, but this was the last thing I would ever do for Sharon, and I would not fail her again.

When I was satisfied, I examined my work. The ragged hole was probably four and a half feet deep, four feet wide, and around six feet long. I pitched the shovel aside onto the mound of loose earth, and headed back to the house.

I slowly climbed the stairs back to the third floor; to the room where I had killed my wife. The room was not as I had left it though. The soiled bedding was gone, and a new sheet had been fitted onto the bed, and on that sheet was a large white quilt adorned with multicolored flowers. The quilt was folded and thick black thread showed that it had been sewn shut. Inside that shroud, I knew, was Sharon.

By the window stood Beth and Pippa, they looked at me as if I might attack them. Given how I must have looked, that was probably what they were afraid of.

We-,” Pippa spoke hesitantly, “We cleaned her up, and stuff.” She shrunk back when I looked her in the eyes.

“Maria has a coffin for her,” Beth said softly, “That's what she's been doing out there.”

“Thank you,” I said, my voice hoarse from a combination of screaming, pain, and sorrow.

I gently lifted Sharon's body in her soft burial shroud from the bed; it smelled of roses. She felt so light now, as if it weren't really her in there. I could feel her back and legs through the quilt, I recognized them even through the fabric.

I carried her downstairs, and out to the garage where Maria was waiting. On the floor was a rough coffin, nothing fancy, just a wooden box. Maria had stained it to try and make it look nicer, but it still looked like a plain wood box.

I'm not complaining, mind you. In my initial mindset I had planned on wrapping Sharon in a sheet and just burying her like that. That everyone else put such effort into all of this would have embarrassed her, I'm sure, but I am truly grateful to all of them; even Maria, although I still cannot bring myself to forgive her.

I gently laid Sharon's body in the box, it still smelled strongly of the stain that Maria had used on it. I didn't want to let Maria put the lid on. I knew nothing would ever bring Sharon back to me, but the lid felt like a barrier between me and her; only one of many, I know.

“She deserves better than this,” Maria said as she placed the rough lid on top of the box.. I saw that Maria had carved a cross into the front of the lid, “I'm sorry that this is the best I can do. I'm sorry that you have to live with my screw up.”

I didn't say anything as Maria hammered the nails into the lid, sealing the coffin. I know that box won't keep anything out for long, but it's better than her being left to rot in a pile, or being burned like so many of the other zeds we've killed.

When Maria finished the last nail, Gerry came in, “Let me help you,” he said as Maria and I lifted the coffin. Gerry swung open the big garage door, letting the late afternoon sunlight flood in, and then took a place at the side of the coffin.

As we crossed the parking lot Pippa and Beth joined us, also helping to carry Sharon to her final resting place. Will all of us together walking was a bit awkward, but the physical weight was almost nothing. The weight on my heart however remains immense.

We lowered the coffin into the grave as gently as possible, but it still thunped loudly against the ground. Maria went back to the garage for the other thing she had been working on.

Gerry looked at me expectantly, but I just shook my head slightly. There was nothing I could say at that point that wouldn't have turned into me trying to scream curses at God , so I really wanted someone else to do the talking here.

Gerry moved to stand at the head of Sharon's grave, “I wish Alisdair were here, he would know what to say right now,”

“Just say what you feel,” Beth said.

Gerry stood for a moment, either in thoght of just trying to work up enough spit to speak, “We are here to say goodbye to Sharon Sparks. She was a friend, a comrade, a wife, and a bright spot in a dark world,” he said in an unsteady voice, “She leaves us too soon after coming so far with us all.”

Pippa started bawling then, and Beth put an arm around her.

“Even with things the way they are I think we sometimes take each other for granted, maybe this is just a natural human trait. We look at each other every day and think that we'll all be together forever,” Gerry was struggling, 'I don't know how we can do this, I mean, we've lost so much already that we should be used to it, right?”

“Losing Sharon is like losing a part of ourselves,” Gery continued, ” and I know that we will all feel that loss for a long time to come. Sharon was a unique person; friendly, caring. She accepted each of us as we are, and I think she loved us all unconditionally. Does anyone else want to say anything?”

“I didn't know Sharon as long as the rest of you,” Pippa said through her sobs, “but she was like a sister to me. She treated me like one of the group from the first night. I mean, you all welcomed me, but Sharon treated me like I had been here with you from the start. I'm-” Pippa couldn't continue, and instead burying her face in Beth's shoulder.

Maria walked back to the group clutching a shining four foot long wooden plank in her hands.

“Like Pippa, I didn't know her as long as you guys, but I knew her well enough to love her, and to know that she did love us all. She would have given her life for any one of us,” Beth said tears running down her face. She looked at me “And I know she loved you with everything she had. You were there for her whenever she needed it, and I know she'll be waiting for you in the next world, but she made me promise to make sure you don't get there too soon. I intend to keep that promise.”

Maria held up the object, it was a tombstone. Maria had shaped it out of a piece of wood, carved it, stained in, and lacquered it to try and make it as resistant to weather as possible. On the front of the tombstone were the words:


“I'm sorry for all the things I did and said to her,” Maria said softly, “I'm sorry that my actions led to this. There's nothing I can ever do to fix this, but I hope that you'll treat me better than I treated her; than I've been treating you all. I didn't know it would end up like this, I....”

“It's okay,” Gerry said.

“It's not,” Maria handed Gerry the tombstone, “I'm so sorry, Sharon,” and turned to walk away. We let her go.

“We will never forget you, Sharon,” said Gerry. He then picked up the shovel from where I had tossed it.

“No,” I said, “Let me do it.”

“Don't you want any help at least?” Gerry asked, holding out the shovel to me.

“No, she is my responsibility, remember?”

“No one meant that that way,” Beth said.

“I took responsibility for her, and this is the end of it. Please let me do it, okay?”

Gerry nodded, and I took the shovel from him.

“There's no shame in needing help,” Gerry said, “We'll be around if you need us, okay?”

“Thank you,” I rasped.

I slowly, my back screaming and my head buzzing the whole time, filled in the hole. When there was about three feet left to fill, I put in the tombstone Maria had carved. It was really a nice piece of work, especially considering that she didn't have any power tools to help.

Have you ever noticed that filling in a hole is so much easier than digging it? Physically it was, but emotionally each scoop of soil felt like it was landing on my soul.

I was almost done when I heard Beth scream my name, “Look out!” she added.

It was almost full dark, and I was physically exhausted, and my eyes weren't focusing well. I hadn't drank any water all day, and I'm sure that was part of the problem. All of that meant that it took me a moment to see what Beth was trying to warn me about. Crossing the parking lot was an undead fat woman, like Mimi Bobeck fat.

I clutched the shovel in my hands, but did not move. I seriously considered letting it have me. What more do I really have to live for anyway, right?

Beth must have known what I was thinking too, because she leaped off the porch, sword in hand to come to my rescue, but there's no way she could have made it in time, the zed was too close. Nothing could interfere now.

Except me.

I opened my mouth wide to roar at my would be attacker, but all that came out was a gravelly hiss. I swung the spade, and slammed it into the side of the tubbo's head; it made a dull clanging noise. She staggered back, but did not fall.

“Fucker!” I hiss-roared.

I swung the shovel, hitting her again.

“Fucking die! You fucking bastard!”


“How dare you!”

Clang! Down she went.

“You took her from me!”

I raised the shovel over my head., and brought it down sideways onto her head. The flesh split against the shovel's blade.

“Why did you have to take her from me!”

I brought the shovel down again, opening another gash in the zombie's face, this time I'm pretty sure I sliced her nose off.

“Why couldn't you just leave us the fuck alone?”

The blade of the shovel wooshed through the air again, and this time I heard bone crack.

“Give her back!”

This all felt like a dream, like someone else was inside my body, someone else was feeling this pain, and had come completely unhinged. This couldn't be me.

“Fucking give her back!”

The blade struck the zeds neck, and sliced into it. Something black and wet flowed out onto the gravel, but in the fading light it could have been chocolate syrup for all I could see.

“Give her back, and leave us the fuck alone!”

The handle of the shovel splintered, and the spade end of the shovel bounced back up and hit me in the face. I could feel the blood start to flow from my nose as I fell backwards into the soft dirt of Sharon's grave.

I lay there looking up at the few stars that had already appeared in the sky, and I knew that just a couple of feet below me the process of decomposition had begun in the remains of my last connection to the old world.

Beth looked down at me, even in this light I could see she was afraid, “Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” I replied hoarsely, “I don't think I'll ever be okay again.”

Beth bent over, grabbed my hand, and yanked. She's stronger than she should be for her size, because she practically yanked me out of the loose dirt. I looked back down at my impression for a moment before Beth grabbed my shoulder and spun me to face her.

“Did it bite you?”

I looked down and the motionless blob on the ground.

“Did it bite you?” Beth asked again.

“No, it didn't bite me,”

Beth slapped me hard across the face, “You son of a bitch!”

That brought me out of my depression for a moment, how was I a son of a bitch?

“How dare you do that! How dare you scare me like that! What if Pippa had seen that? Do you know how sick she is right now over losing Sharon? Do you know what losing you too would do to her?”

“She'd be fine. She has you and Gerry.”

“You know how she said that Sharon was like a sister? Guess what that makes you, asshole! Aside from which, I made a promise to Sharon, and I plan to keep that promise if it means dragging you around by a leash!”

I was shocked.

Beth punched in the chest hard enough to sting, “Don't you ever pull shit like that again!” she was crying now, again, “I don't want to lose you too. I know you won't understand this, but I loved Sharon too.”

“I understand that,” I whispered.

“You don't, but it doesn't matter. Getting us all to Lovelock is what matters now. Now you get inside, get cleaned up, and get some rest, and goddamn it, cry!” fresh tears spilled from Beth's eyes, “I've not seen you cry over any of this, and if you don't you're going to explode. It's okay to cry!”

Per Beth's orders, I came inside, and trudged up to the third floor room I had shared with Sharon. I found Pippa sitting outside it reading by candlelight.

Pippa looked up at me, and was visually taken aback at my appearance, “You're bleeding, are you okay?”

“I think the bleeding has stopped; I'll survive.”

“Are you okay?”

I looked her in the eyes, and said nothing. It's not just that it was a stupid question, because it was, but the I found the candle's flame reflecting off of her eyes somehow entrancing.

“You shouldn't sleep in there,” she said to me trying to sound firm.

“How long have you been here?”

“A while,” she put the book down, and I saw that it was “Nina Kimberly the Merciless”, the book Sharon had been reading before, “You should stay in another room.”

“I'm staying here.”

Pippa got up from the floor, and stretched, “Okay, but I think it's a bad idea,” Pippa gave me a gentle hug, and then pulled back, “You smell, by the way.”

“Thank you, Pippa,” I said, and entered the room.

“You're not gonna do anything, are you?” she asked as I started to swing the door shut.

I turned to face her again, ”What do you mean?” I asked, knowing what she meant.

“You'll still be here in the morning, right? I know that it hurts, but you're not gonna....”

I struggled to answer that, as I really hadn't made up my mind myself yet, “I will see you in the morning, Pippa.”

“Okay,” Pippa replied, “I'm sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” I said, and quietly shut the door.

It became obvious that they knew I would sleep in here tonight anyway. The bed had been remade, and the wall was clean, or mostly clean, and there was a glass pitcher of drinking water and a drinking glass on the nightstand on my side of the bed.

On the dresser was a ceramic pitcher of lukewarm water (I guess it had been sitting there awhile), and a ceramic basin with a wash cloth in it. I slowly undressed, cleaned up as best I can without a proper shower, got dressed in a fresh set of clothes, drank half of the pitcher of water, and sat down and started writing.

I still haven't cried; the tears just won't come, but then again I am feeling pretty numb right now. I am emotionally burnt out, writing this has taken the last I had in me. This might not be such a bad thing though, as I feel I am thinking clearer than I have in days.

I know Sharon would want me to keep living, in fact she would probably try to beat my ass for even thinking about doing otherwise, but I have trouble imagining how I will do that without her. Even when we were just friends, when she was dating Alex, when she would date other men before the end, even during all of that she was still in my life. I feel so completely alone. I know I have Pippa, and Beth, Gerry, and even Maria, but I feel all alone.

I also know that I have a responsibility to them, to do my part to keep them alive, and get us all to Lovelock where hopefully this madness can end, and we can feel safer. This is what Sharon would want, and if it had been me that had been killed, I know that it is what she would do.

I just noticed that Sharon's sword is leaning against the wall along with mine. I should have buried her with it, but even if I had thought of it, I don't know that I could have. That sword is something of hers that I can keep with me, that and the little gorilla she gave me for Valentine's day; I still have it, it's tucked safely away in my satchel.

Even though our swords are identical, I can tell which one is hers even from here. Hers is the one with the Hello Kitty sticker on the hilt. God only knows where she found it. Seeing it makes me smile.

I don't know where our sword belts are though, I guess they're still in the car.

I'm sorry that I failed you, my love. I hope that wherever you are now, the clearing, heaven, a giant Dave & Busters, that you are happy, and you feel loved, and that you are not alone. I hope God is taking care of you. I miss you so much already; I don't really know how I will keep going without you, but I will because it's what you would want. I love you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mallville Collected Volume 1

Just in time for WINTER I finally bring you the long-promised "Mallville Collected Volume 1".

"What do I get in this 'Mallville Collected Volume 1'?" you ask. Well you get:

The first thirty entries of "Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse".
The short story "Eric the Read Skips to the End".
The even shorter story "Mallville" originally heard on "Air Out My Shorts".
Answers to questions asked by two readers just like you.
Deleted/Unused/Alternate scenes.
All presented in one lovely PDF.

How much would I ask you to pay for so much content? Not $100. Not $50. Not $5.99. Not even the price of an order of fries from McDonalds (although if you're going....). You can download "Mallville Collected Volume 1" for free right now!

"Mallville Collected Volume 1" is the perfect solution for that last minute WINTER gift for the person who has everything, and lets face it, you can't beat the price. Download your copy while supplies last!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last Chance to Ask

I've done all the proofing I am going to do for "Mallville Collected Volume 1", but I would still like to do more in the Q&A section. If you have any questions about anything from the first thirty chapters of "Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse", this is your last chance to ask them, as I intend to post the file up next week.

Send your questions to me any way you can; here, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, heck, even Xbox Live if you want, and I will include them. If you have a preference on how you wish to be credited, let me know, or I will just use your first name or the screen name you have sent the question from.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Forty-Fifth Entry: Infected

May 24th

We have been hoping Sharon's going to be okay, she's been okay except for complaining about feeling a little stiff and achy, and having a bit of nausea over the last couple of days, but that could just be from the antibiotics. We thought maybe we had dodged a bullet; Sharon has been her normal self except that she keeps looking at her bandage.

I've changed her bandage a couple of times for her, washing the area with hydrogen peroxide. The two little cuts are red and puffy, but I tried to let that go, hoping it was just a normal infection. That changed tonight.

We are staying in a library. I did not see the name of the town on our way in, and to be honest, I've been kind of distracted with Sharon's health the last couple of days to pay too much attention to anything else.

We managed to destroy the three zeds we found in front of the library with no problem, but we found that we are not the first ones to hide in the library.

In the librarian's office we found some blankets and a mattress on the floor along with a stack of books, some canned food and bottled water, and a double barrel shotgun and a box of shells. Judging by the fact that the empty food cans are completely dried out, I am guessing that whoever this was has not been here too recently.

I was setting out our sleeping bags near the others in the children's room when I heard Sharon call my name. I ran towards the sound of her voice. The others stood frozen, looks of worry on their faces.

“Where are you?” I yelled, my voice sounding dull in the library's main room.

“Over here!” She called back.

I found her on her knees in front of a pile of books that she apparently pulled off the shelves as she fell.

“What happened?” I asked, “Are you okay?”

“I don't think so,” she said, and I realized that she was crying, “I got dizzy, and I couldn't stand up anymore. “

I knelt down next to her, and put my hand on her shoulder; she was shaking violently, “Is it...?” I couldn't finish the question.

She looked at me, tears streaming down her face, “I think it is,” her voice quavered as she spoke.

“But the antibiotics!”

“Didn't work.”

“This could be side effects then!”

“Oh God, I'm dying!”

“No you can't be; it's the flu or something, or stress. You've been stressed the last couple of days,” I blurted out, as if saying it would make it true. I couldn't accept it. This can't be happening.

“ I don't want to die,” she said.

“Are you okay?” a voice said from behind me. It was Pippa, she had apparently broken the paralysis that had overcome all of our friends and followed me.

Sharon just looked at her, and started sobbing.

Pippa looked at Sharon, and at me. I felt like my head was going to explode with fear, and pain, and I wanted to join Sharon in crying; I could feel the tears behind my eyes, but none came.

“She's going to be okay, right?” Pippa asked me.

I just looked at her in reply, and I guess that told Pippa everything she needed to know. Pippa dropped, joining the two of on the floor on her knees, “You can't die! I don't want you to die!” she said, and she started crying too.

Sharon crawled past me, and put her arms around Pippa, hugging her tightly. I put my arms around both of them. We were a family, and one of us had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I held the two sobbing women in my arms, conscious now that every second we sat there brought my wife one moment closer to death. I know that every second before then did the same thing too, but now I was conscious that her death was close; the clearing at the end of her path is almost in sight now.

I don't know how long we sat there. The women crying, me holding them, not wanting to ever let either of them go. Not wanting to let Sharon go, as if somehow holding her would keep her safe; keep her alive. My chance to keep her safe had already passed though.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to see Beth standing there. Her eyes were red, and her cheeks were wet, she mouthed words to me, “Is it?”

I looked at her, and realized now that I was shaking too. I couldn't speak. I couldn't say it. My vision blurred as my eyes watered, but still no tears. My chest felt ready to burst, but I couldn't cry.

I blinked to clear my eyes s that I could see Beth again, “I'm sorry,” she mouthed a tear slipping from her right eye. She spoke aloud then, but quietly, “Come on. Let get her to lie down.”

I felt like I couldn't stand myself, let alone help Sharon. I managed to get to my feet though, and while Beth helped Pippa to stand, I helped Sharon to her feet. She made it a couple of steps, and then almost pulled me down to the floor as he legs gave out.

Despite feeling so weak, I was able to lift Sharon back up from the floor, and carry her to our sleeping bag. She shook and cried in my arms during the short walk, and there was nothing I could do for it. There's nothing I can do to save her this time.

I thought she would need something to help her sleep, but she dozed off, or passed out, almost as soon as she was inside the bag.

Gerry was sitting on the edge of one of the small tables that used to accommodate children, and wouldn't even look at me. I could tell he was upset though, he kept wiping at his eyes. As for Maria, she was gone and so was her sleeping bag. I think she's in the librarian's office. I don't really want to even see her right now.

Beth sat with Pippa for awhile, while I sat on the sleeping bag next to my Sharon, and did nothing. I wasn't zoned out or anything, I think I was just in shock. I could hear Beth talking to Pippa, and I think ultimately Beth may be the strongest and least screwed up of all of us, are at least she is to me what Gerry is to Maria.

After a time, Beth left Pippa, who had also fallen asleep, and came over to me, “Do you want to talk?”


She ignored my answer, “Are you okay?”

I looked at her like she was an idiot, “No, I'm not okay!” I said too loudly, but didn't wake either Pippa or Sharon. Then, more quietly, “Sharon's dying and it's my fault.”

“How is it your fault?”

“I should have protected her! I should have told her how I felt years ago, and then we wouldn't have been there. I should have made her stay at the church.”

“I've heard this before,” Beth said.

“I'm sorry my pain inconveniences you! Feel free to piss off like Gerry did.”

“Gerry's upset, and he doesn't know how to handle it. He feels responsible for asking us all to come with Maria. We're all responsible one way or another for this, including Sharon herself.”

I realized something, “Oh my God! You're my Gerry, aren't you?”


“Gerry is the only one who will really tolerate Maria, is that what you are to me?”

“Are you drunk?” she asked me, “Everybody likes you. Pippa views the two of you as the family she never really had. Sharon loves you. Gerry likes you, hell I think Maria likes you down beneath her issues.”

“Then why are you always the one having these conversations with me?”

“I worry about you. You never seem to talk about what you are feeling. Pippa told me about your diary, but I think you should get it out in the open.”

“So she has been reading it.”

“When we were at the lake, yes. Don't worry, she hasn't told me what you write, just that you're really brave. She's right about that, you know?”

“I'm not brave. “

Beth shrugged, “Have it your way.”

“What am I going to do?”

“The same thing we are all going to do. You're going to love her, and stay with her until the end, and then....” Beth trailed off and just looked at me for a minute, when she spoke again, her voice was choked, “and then we'll still be here for you, and you'll still be here for us, and we'll figure out how to go on.”

I nodded. I didn't want to talk anymore, so I just said, “Thanks for being a friend, Beth.”

“You would do the same thing, whether you believe it or not.”

I think Beth is asleep now. I don't know what happened to Maria and Gerry, but I'm sure they're off somewhere.

Part of me is still holding out hope that Sharon's just got the flu or something. The rest of me just keeps praying.

May 26th

When Sharon woke up yesterday, she was doing better; still achy and stiff, but better. She felt a little warm, but said she was feeling okay. She took her antibiotics, and had breakfast with us; us being everyone except Gerry and Maria.

Gerry made breakfast, like he does most days, but he didn't stay with us. He took his can of Beefaroni along with one for Maria and went to the librarian's office where Maria had slept.

While we were packing up to hit the road, Sharon hit the books again. She filled up one of the “I Support My Local Library” tote bags that they apparently sold with books to read. I wish I could believe she was going to live long enough to read them all.

It was another day of slow travel, we went through a pretty built up area, and had to deal with a number of abandoned cars, and a telephone pole blocking the road that caused us to have to make a detour and add something like two extra miles to the drive.

We tried to stay in the cars as much as possible in the built up areas, as there were a lot of zeds out there, and I think we're all a bit scared of facing off against them now. I know I feel a lot like I did when I first went face to face with one of those monsters.

It wasn't so bad once we were back into the more heavily wooded areas. They are strangely less creepy than the abandoned towns are, maybe because out here it is easier to believe that things are closer to normal.

I haven't checked the map, but I don't think we're more than another couple of days away from Lovelock, providing we don't come across something completely impassable.

We had just decided to start looking for somewhere to spend the night when Sharon complained of not feeling well. She looked even more pale than normal, and when I put my hand to her forehead it felt really warm.

“When did this start?” I asked her.

“A little while ago. I just need to lie down for awhile, and I'll be okay.”

I wish that were true.

Beth got Gerry's attention in the brown Excursion by honking the horn. He stopped, and got out of the car, sword in hand. Beth met him out between the two cars, and they talked for a minute. I don't know what they said, but Gerry looked over at us in the middle of the conversation, and then lowered he head and shook it slowly.

When Beth climbed back up into the car she said, “We're going to find a place. He saw a sign for a bed and breakfast a while back. We're going to see what that place looks like. Can you hold on for a little while longer?”

“Yeah, I just...” Sharon trailed off, “I'm sorry, you guys.”

“There's nothing to be sorry about, “ Beth said evenly.

I put my arm around Sharon, and held her close to me. I keep reminding myself of What Beth said to me; I have to stay with her until the end. I may have failed in keeping her safe, but I can't fail her now. I want to make sure she feels loved up until the end.

I keep telling myself that she is going to die, but I cannot fathom it. I cannot accept that she won't be in my life anymore. I can't understand why God would take her from me, from us.

Pippa looked back at us from the passenger seat, and I could see that her eyes were red again; she was trying not to cry, “I bet this place will be really nice!” she said, trying to sound hopeful.

Pippa was right, it is really nice, if a bit creepy looking; Norman Bates' mom would feel right at home here. It's a Victorian house' three stories tall with a wraparound porch. The outer walls are a kind of purplish blue, and the shingles look almost a dark purple. I suppose in a different situation it would look romantic.

The house is surrounded by trees, and I'm sure it's full of paths leading off to secluded little picnic spots. Part of me wishes I could have brought Sharon to a place like this even though it's totally not either of our type of scene. Maybe if I had spoken up.

There are also some zeds in the woods it seems, judging by the old man we saw shambling in front of the house. Maria was leaping out of the passenger side of the brown Excursion before Gerry had even come to a full stop, machete in hand. She charged the old zed, and swung the machete at him hard.

The blade looked like it hit the zombie in the side of the head, which snapped hard to the right. He fell to the gravel of the driveway, and Maria started hacking at him with her machete, raising it and bringing it down on her prey until she was satisfied it was dead again. Apparently the requirement for satisfaction was beheading, because I saw he kick her right foot hard, and the monster's severed head go flying off like a soccer ball.

Satisfied, Maria tossed the machete onto the ground, grabbed the old man's feet, and dragged him over to the edge of the parking lot. She stooped to pick up the blade again on her way back to the car. Gerry met her a few feet from the Excursion, having gotten out of the vehicle while she was dispatching the zed.

“You guys stay here, “said Beth, “We're going to check the house first. Pippa, if you see anymore zeds, just honk, and we'll come out. “

I could hear a snatch of Gerry and Maria talking while Beth got out of the car.

“-if there had been more of them? You need to be careful!” Gerry said sharply.

“Like anyone even cares if anything hap-” Beth closed the door, cutting Maria off in mid sentence.

“Everybody's upset because of me.” Sharon said weakly.

“No one's upset because of you,” I said.

“We're just upset,” Pippa said, “We all want you to be okay.”

“I'm sorry,” Sharon said softly.

“Don't be sorry, you're going to beat this, “Pippa smiled. I don't know if she really believes that or not. I wish that I could.

“I'll try,” Sharon said.

We sat there in silence, Sharon breathing shallowly against me, as the other three disappeared into what the sign over the porch declared was the “Lil Hidden Bed and Breakfast”. They were in there for what seemed like an hour, but it was probably only about ten minutes.

When they came out, Maria was carrying the legs of another body, while Gerry had it by the arms. This one looked to be an old woman; the man's wife maybe? She had a long dress on, and Maria kept catching it under her feet as they walked, and almost fell down the steps leading from the porch.

Beth kept looking from side to side, I assume for other zombies, as the other two carried the body over to the same spot at the side of the parking lot that Maria had dragged her first kill. I wonder if we will add to that pile.

The inside of the house is really nicely decorated; the wallpaper if a sort of country flowery thing, and all of the furniture is antique, and probably quite shiny under the layer of dust on everything. It's exactly the sort of place I would normally be afraid to touch anything in for fear of breaking stuff.

Amongst the ceramic figurines, vases, and knick knacks adorning most of the surfaces in the place there are a large number of oil lamps. Judging by the fact that they all have oil in the, and the wicks are all blackened. I am guessing they actually got used. Maybe, as secluded as this place really is, it suffered from power outages a lot.

I helped Sharon up to a room on the third floor. It has a big soft bed with a frilly flowery bedspread. The room is rounded for the most part, looking a bit like a castle tower from the outside. The fading light from outside was enough to see through the three windows once I pulled the curtains aside.

“This is so quaint,” Sharon said happily, but she still sounded exhausted. She was leaning against the door frame while I pulled the curtains.

“I don't think they had free WiFi though.”

“It's still cute.”

I pulled the bedspread off, a small cloud of dust came with it, and sat Sharon down. I removed her shoes, and had her lie down. I almost forgot to remove the pillow sham, which was also dusty.

“You stay put, I'm going to help the others unpack,” I said as I inspected the oil lamp on the fancy old dresser next to the door. It was about half full, so I lit it with matches from my satchel.

“You'll be back though, right?” she said in tired voice.

I looked at her, the flickering lantern light playing off of the lenses of her glasses, but adding some color back to her cheeks, “Yeah, of course, why?”

Sharon struggled to sit up, “What if they want to leave me here? I don't want to be alone,” she was starting to cry again.

“They wouldn't do that.”

“Maria might, she hates me.”

I thought on that for a second, “Fuck Maria,” I said, “The others would never let her do that. We're in this because of her.”

Sharon wiped a tear from her cheek, “Okay, just hurry back, please. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said, and then to prove that I would be back I took off my satchel and placed it in the claw-footed chair with the embroidered seat next to he dresser. Sharon smiled at that, knowing I would not leave my bag behind intentionally.

Gerry caught me coming down the stairs to the bottom floor again, “You should check out this kitchen, “ he sounded more like the Gerry I've known for the last year, not the miserable person who has been avoiding me for the last few days.

He led me in, and it was really quite nice. The whole room looked totally out of place compared to the rest of the house. It was a fairly modern kitchen with a big stove, a grill, a huge stainless steel refrigerator, and a big double oven. The only things in the room that fit with the look of the rest of the house was the rack of cast iron and copper pots and pans hanging from a rack over the island at the center of the kitchen. And the large white sink under the frilly curtained window.

“Wow,” I said, “It is really nice. I bet some great meals were made in here.”

“Yeah, it's too bad nothing works anymore. Still the pantry has a lot of stuff in it that we can use, and there's a water pump out there than works, “Gerry pointed to the black metal hand pump on what looks like a wooden pallet at the edge of the overgrown prairie of a backyard. I could see some tables and chairs sticking up out of the tall grass.

“Water is a good thing to have,” I said, unsure what else to say.

“I'm sorry, man, “ Gerry said after a few moments of awkward silence.

“Pardon?” I said.

“I'm sorry about Sharon, and I'm sorry I've been avoiding you for the last couple of days. “

“It's okay,” I lied.

“Maria's sorry too,” he said cautiously.

I tensed, “Yeah, well so am I. That doesn't fix anything.”

“She didn't want this to happen, you know?”

“Then she should have put some effort in with Alisdair. Then we could have stayed there.” I almost threw his words about anything happening being her fault back at him, but I held my tongue.

“I know, and I think she finally knows now too,” Gerry said sadly, “Just try to find it in your heart to forgive her, it really isn't all her fault.”

I know it's not all her fault, and I'll forgive her for her part in this right after I forgive myself, and that's not really likely to happen anytime soon.

Gerry told me he was going to get a fire going in the parlor fireplace, and try to heat up some water from the well for washing with., so I left him to it, and went out to the cars to get some of our stuff.

I heard before I saw Beth dragging another headless corpse scross the gravel parking lot. This one looked to me a male in t-shirt and jeans. Almost a headless version of me actually. I wonder if zeds are going to be a big problem with this house.

“I got another one!” Beth panted, as she neared the growing pile of the dead.

“Are we going to be okay here?” I asked.

Beth dropped the body next to the others and dusted off her hands on her pants legs, “As long as we pay attention and don't get swarmed, or cemetaried if you prefer, we should be okay.”

“Do you need any help?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, walking over to the back of the black Excursion, “How's our girl?”

“She's not feeling well.”

“If you don't mind, I'll stop by later, maybe give you a break, okay?”

“I don't need a break from her.”

“I know, but you can't keep her all to yourself. I think we're going to be staying here for a few days, and the rest of us want to see her too, you know?”

“A few days?”

“Well, we discussed it, and-”

“Who is we?”

“Me, Pippa, and Gerry; and we decided that we are going to stay here while Sharon's sick.”

“But maybe she's not....”

“Maybe she's not, but she's still sick, and she needs to rest. And if she is, we should make her as comfortable as we can. This place has fresh water, and there are still some supplies that we can use in the pantry. I don't think we're going to find a better place, do you?”

I had to admit that I did not. I took a bag of clothes and the bag of books from the library out of the back of the Excursion and headed back upstairs. Going back into what may be our room for the rest of Sharon's life I found Pippa sitting next to her on the bed; they were hugging again.

“Oooh, hot! Can I join in?” I asked, placing the bags on the floor in front of the chair where my satchel still sat.

The girls pulled away from each other, “Disgusting pervert!” Pippa called, and laughed. Both of their faces were wet from tears; they had been crying again.

“Are those my books?” Sharon pointed to the “I Support My Local Library” bag, smiling, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” her smile was beautiful.

I gave her the rather weighty bag of books, and she started taking them out and setting them around her on the bed, “Can you bring the light over here?” she asked me.

I took the lamp from the dresser, and brought it over to the nightstand next to Sharon. I put the electric lamp with its delicate glass shade from the table, and place it on the floor to make room for the oil lamp.

Pippa asked if she could take a book to read, and of course Sharon said yet. Pippa took a copy of “Personal Effects: Dark Art”, from which the library had either removed or lost all of the little things that came with it, and went back downstairs.

I lay next to Sharon on the bed for awhile as she read from “Nina Kimberly the Merciless”. She looked happy there in the lamplight, reading her book.

I think I dozed off for awhile, because the next thing I knew, Pippa was telling me that dinner was ready.

I went down to get something for Sharon, who agreed to stay in bed despite the saying that she was feeling a bit better. Dinner was chunky soup with rice that Gerry had found in the pantry. It took me two trips to bring up the food and glasses of room temperature tea that Gerry had made (more stuff from the pantry, I need to check out this pantry).

Sharon told me that I should eat downstairs with the others, but I wasn't going to leave her alone.

After we finished eating Beth came up and said that I should go downstairs for awhile and socialize. I grabbed my satchel and the dirty dishes and left. I only went because I knew she wanted to have some time with Sharon, and she was right, I cannot keep her all to myself; as important as she is to me, I know the others love her too.

I'm not sure who I was meant to socialize with, Gerry and Maria were out back doing dishes under the water pump and splashing each other with water.. This left only Pippa for me to socialize with, and she's laying on the couch reading. She did offer to let me sit on the couch by her feet, but I declined. Instead I found a nice old rolltop desk to write at.

While I've been writing, Maria did come into the room once. I pretended not to see her while she filled a bowl with some of the water from the two metal buckets Gerry placed in front of the fireplace to warm up. She left without saying anything to me.

Beth just came down and said that she and Sharon are done talking, and that I could go back up, so I guess I'll stop writing for tonight. I hope Sharon continues getting better; maybe this really is nothing more than the flu or something.

May 30th

Sharon is bad today. She's been getting worse quickly over the last couple of days. I haven't written because I don't want to lose anymore time with her than I have to. We cannot even pretend that we think this might be the flu anymore. Sharon has the zed virus.

I don't know if we should even still be having her take the cefuroxime, but what if it is keeping her healthier longer? What if stopping it makes the virus or bacteria, or whatever the fuck it is move quicker?

Oh God, why are you doing this to us?

I haven't seen Maria at all for the last couple of days; Beth and Pippa have both told me she's off in the little detached garage doing something. She has locked herself inside and won't let anyone in. Good, fuck her!

The zeds continue to trickle in, and Beth, Gerry, and Pippa continue to destroy them, I can see them down in the parking lot through one of this room's windows. I don't know what sort of watch schedule they have worked out with only three of them, since Maria is doing her own thing, and I am tending to Sharon.

I was awakened this morning by Sharon calling my name, and hitting me frantically with her hands. I shot up in bed next to her, grabbed her hands to both let her know that I was there and to make her stop hitting me, and asked her what was wrong.

“I can't see very well,” she said, weak but panicked.

“Put your glasses on.”

“They don't help,” she looked at me, “Is there something in my eyes? Can you see?”

Sharon's beautiful eyes were cloudy now. It was as if cataracts had formed overnight. “Yeah... I can see something,” I said after a pause.

Sharon dropped back down onto the bed and began sobbing. The one hint of normalcy she had left was being able to read. She spends most of the time sleeping now, but when she's awake she reads. She's too weak to do much of anything else.

I put my arms around her, and hugged her to me. She tried to hug me back, but could do little more than just lay her arms around me. Her fever is gone, but that is somehow worse, because her body temperature seems to be dropping. I hardly felt any warmth coming from her at all through the nightgown we found for her.

Sharon asked me to read to her, so that's how I spent today. Either watching her sleep, or reading to her. She had finished “Nina Kimberly”, and had started reading “Playing for Keeps”, a book I know she has read before because she borrowed my copy.

I read to her the adventures of Keepsie and her friends as Keepsie fights to keep her bar. The last chapter I read was getting close to the climax; Keepsie learned about the origins of Light of Mornings. I enjoyed reading this the first time back when it came out, but not so much this time. It's not the story's fault though.

I watch Sharon breath while she sleeps, waiting for her chest to stop rising and falling. It hasn't happened yet, and for that I am thankful. I realize that I am putting myself at a lot of risk by still sharing a bed with her, but I guess no one else has realized what might happen if she passes in her sleep.

I know I should get someone to watch while I sleep, or I should at least sleep in another room, but I don't want to leave her. I've hardly left this room at all in the last couple of days.

One mercy of this whole thing, at least so far, is that she has not complained of any pain. I don't know what I would do if she was in pain. I don't know if I

Maria just left. Not only did she have the nerve to show her face in here, but she came to tell me to kill Sharon. I want to hit something. I want to cry. I know what she said was reasonable, but I can't!

Maria knocked on the door, and I put down my pen to get up and answer it. I was not happy to see her, and what she had to say did not improve matters. She looked pale and tired, I don't think she's sleeping out there, or not sleeping well at any rate. No one is forcing her to stay in the garage though.

“Hey,” she said, looking doubtful.

“What do you want?”

“I want to talk to you about something no one else has the guts to,” she seemed to find her resolve, her face still looked pale and tired, but now she looked determined.

“And what's that.”

“What are you going to do when she changes? She's going to become one of them.”

“Fuck you!” I said quietly so as not to wake Sharon, “Get the fuck out of here.”

“I'm serious. I don't want to see her like that, and I know you don't either. We can't leave her like that. If you want, I can put her down,” she said sincerely.

“You're not going to touch her!”

“So you're going to do it?” she asked. From the back waistband of her jeans, she pulled a Glock, and held it out to me.

“I'm going to take care of my wife.”

“Then take this. You'll want to make it quick. Trust me, it will be easier if you make it quick.”

I snatched the gun from her, “You get the fuck out of here before I use it on you. How dare you tell me to shoot her.”

Maria shrugged, her resolve fading, “I'd probably deserve it. I'm not telling you to shoot her now; you'll know when the right time is, but if you wait until she rises it will be something that will never leave you; seeing her like that will stay with you forever.”

I couldn't restrain myself anymore. I shoved her back away from the door, “Fuck you, you fucking murderer!” I slammed the door in her face. I was breathing hard, and gripping the gun in my right hand.

“What's going on, are you okay?” Sharon asked from behind me, her voice weak and sleepy.

“Everything's fine, honey, just go back to sleep.” I said through clenched teeth, trying to make my voice sound calm. I didn't bother hiding the gun behind my back, I doubt she can even see clearly enough to tell that I'm holding anything let alone what it is.

“Was that Maria?”


“She's right.”

“You were awake?”

“Yes,” Sharon answered, “and she's right. I don't want to be one of those. I would come after you, or Pippa, or one of the others. I don't want to do that, and I don't want any of you to see me like that.”

“I can't shoot you.”

“You can, “she said, “and you will. If you love me as much as I love you, you will. I would do it for you.”

“Do we have to talk about this?” I asked.

“Yes, I don't know how much longer I have. I don't want to leave you, any of you, but there's nothing I can do about it. I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about it, so please just promise me that you won't let me be one of those things.”


“Promise me,” she said in as strong a voice as she could manage.”

“I promise....”

“Thank you, “ her voice sounded weaker than ever, as if yelling at me took a lot of her remaining energy, “Finish your writing, and come to bed, okay? Don't stay up all night, I think I'll be okay until tomorrow.”

“Okay. You get your rest honey.”

“I don't want to spend the rest of my life sleeping,” she said, her voice fading, “I'll be mellow when I'm....”

I rushed across the room to her when she stopped talking, but she had just fallen back to sleep, her chest was still rising and falling slowly. A smile had formed on her lips from her little unfinished joke. I leaned over and kissed those cool lips, and thought about all the mistakes I have made that wasted all the time we had together.

My chest feels like it's ready to implode. I wish there were some way I could trade my life for her. I wish I knew why God is punishing us. I wish there was some miracle cure we could find. I wish I could go back and do it all differently. I wish... I wish... I wish...

Oh God, why?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forty-Fourth Entry: Once Bitten

May 22nd

We set out early the morning after my last entry. We wanted to have as much daylight as possible. It's not as if the zeds are more active at night or anything, it's just harder to see with no lights on.

Maria doesn't even care about what she's done; that this is all her fault. I know I have to take some of the blame for going with her, but what choice did I have? Could I let my friends, my wife, go out here own?

Maybe it wouldn't have made much of a difference though... maybe Sharon wouldn't have gone after all, maybe she was bluffing. Maybe I'm a fool, and now I'm paying for it.

The whole church turned out to see us off, our fellow Swords who we got to spend so little time with sent us out as if we had been friends for years. Peter hugged us, and Alisdair shook our hands. Camilleon even gave me a kiss of the cheek, which I'm glad that Sharon did not see.

Of course during all of this Maria was sitting in the brown Excursion sulking. I'm sure that, despite all of the shit she caused, they still would have treated her the same of us... well, most of them would have anyway; I think Peter still wanted to hurt her.

“We will let Lovelock know to expect you the next time we speak to them,” Alisdair reiterated for the umpteenth time, “I truly am sorry to see you go.”

“I'm sorry we're leaving,” I replied.

“If things,” Alisdair paused, seeming unsure how to continue, “if things change, you are welcome to return. I know you don't see much in yourself, but God sees a lot in you. You should be more confident in yourself; you're much more competent than you realize.”

I wasn't sure how to reply to that, so I just thanked him.

I know that I tend to be down on myself, but I didn't think I was that obvious. I've always had issues with myself because I am generally a failure at most things. It is more luck than skill that has gotten me this far, and it still eats at me knowing that, had I said something years ago, Sharon would have said yes to me, and maybe things wouldn't be like they are now. Any way you look at it, this is largely my fault.

So for the third time in recent memory, we got onto Interstate Five and left our sanctuary behind. We drove away from the town cleaned of garbage and wreckage, making it look almost like a movie set, and back out into the world.

It was not even a mile outside of Palma that we found things back to what we had been used to. The odd abandoned car on the road, the occasional fallen tree limbs evidence of small rock and mudslides. We had to stop frequently to get out of the car and clear debris from our path; tree branches as stuff mostly; luckily we did not run into anything we could not move, or go around or over.

We spent last night in a furniture store. It was one of those ones that you used to see more often in the eighties in a big warehouse of a building. No windows, a roll up door in the back to allow entry for trucks (or in our case, SUVs), and overall quite secure. Of course there was no power, and the water there did not work, but at least the beds were soft, if a bit musty smelling.

It was important to find somewhere secure to stay, as there were a number of undead roaming around. We had to kill a couple of them that heard us, or smelled us, or saw us as we were opening up the furniture store's roll-up door, but our swords did their usual fantastic job of dispatching the unholy in a silent, if somewhat messy, manner.

We did not unload much of our stuff, just some clothes, some food, our swords, and Pippa grabbed the record player and some records. After the noise of the people around us at the church it was a bit jarring to spend a night alone in the dark again, but the record player helped a little.

Pippa played DJ for us, going back and forth between genres in the single box of records she saved. She played some Crowded House, followed by Sinatra, Followed by Chopin (she stopped it once the funeral march came on), followed by Dead or Alive. It was as cheerful as things could be given the situation. It was the last even remotely good night I think I will ever have.

Maria of course still sat off to the side with her own lamp toying with one of those damned hand grenades she has. I wish Alisdair had not given those back to us. Part of me keeps worrying that she will accidentally set one off... or not accidentally. Part of me wants her to.

Sharon and I danced. Beth and Gerry danced. Pippa and I danced. Beth and Sharon danced. I think the only pairings that did not happen were myself and Gerry, and Maria and anybody.

Pippa and Gerry both tried to get Maria to join in, but she refused, ”I don't need your pity,” were the words I heard drift over from where they were trying to physically pull her off of a black faux leather sofa.

Before it got too late we decided to get to sleep. Beth sat up for the first shift to make sure we were safe. We kept in a close group so that we would be together in case of emergency.

This morning we hit the road again, once more we pointed the cars in the direction of Lovelock, Washington. More slow travel, more obstacles. It amazes me how fast nature seems to want to take back the world now that we have all but abandoned it. Grass is growing through the cracks in the roads and sidewalks. Areas that used to be landscaped are now masses of overgrown shrubs and weeds. It truly looks like a post apocalyptic world to me now.

Everyone in our car, Me, Beth, Sharon, and Pippa, were in good spirits. When we would stop to try and clear some blockage or another even Gerry seemed to be in a good mood despite having to sit with Maria. The only person who seemed miserable was Maria herself, who thankfully was keeping her mouth shut.

One worrisome thing was the number of zeds we were seeing. Where are they all coming from now? It's like every time we turn around there's another one coming up from behind us. We have gotten so used to not looking out for these things during the winter, and even during out time in Alisdair's church, that we are having trouble looking out for them.

I suppose it is ultimately our slip into comfort that is responsible for what happened. Surely it is a least partially Maria's fault for putting us in this position as well, she has to own up to some of this.

Of course it is also my fault. It is my fault for the way things have played out between me and Sharon. It is my fault for not being there when it mattered, for not protecting her. It is my fault that she is going to die now. If only I had told her I loved her before....

We had decided to stop for the night at a roadside hotel. The lure of sleeping on a bed was just too much for us to pass up. Had we known the price it would cost us, I'm sure we would have kept driving though.

The place was probably a dump before the end of the world, and a year of sitting empty and unmaintained has not improved it any. The sign out front is missing, probably broken during some winter storm if it was even these to begin with, but the name painted on the window of the office proclaims this to be The Breeze On Inn, and the office itself would seem to indicate the place was last remodeled sometime in the seventies; lots of browns and shag carpet.

The place was pristine, or at least a pristine as it likely ever was. Nothing was broken into or ransacked, the vending machine was undamaged, but mostly empty anyway, so maybe no one saw any point in breaking into it? Even the keys to all the rooms were neatly hung on the old fashioned cubby holes where people would get mail or notes that were left for them.

We picked up the keys to rooms one through four, which as it turned out are the ones farthest from the office instead of closest. I guess this makes sense if you read from left to right as the office is on the right end of the motel.

Rather than move the cars, we decided to just carry stuff down there. It's not like we were bringing in too much, some clothes, sleeping bags, butane stove and some food. Of course Pippa insisted we bring in the record player. I think she hates silence.

We didn't hear them at all; I'm not even sure where there came from. They may have been around the side of the building, or beyond the treeline at the edge of the parking lot; it doesn't really matter though. My first knowledge of them was Pippa screaming.

I looked over in time to see Pippa drop the sleeping bags she was carrying, and turn to run back towards the cars. She wasn't wearing her sword, none of us were. It was stupid, especially considering how many zeds we have seen in the last couple of days, but not a one of us strapped on our swordbelts before wandering around the hotel.

Coming towards us was a whole cemetary of zeds, a good two dozen of them at least.

“Zombies!” Gerry yelled out, and we all dropped what we were carrying, and dashed towards the car. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sharon come running out of room one, the room we are sharing. One of the zeds lunged at her as she passed it; it's fingers grazed her shoulder as she ran, her pigtails bobbing with each step.

We scrambled for our swords. We were horribly outnumbered, but we were confident. God was on our side. We were not mere survivors beating at these things with bits of pipe or fire axes, we were members of The Sword of Gabriel, and no unholy could stand against us. We were cocky, and prideful, and foolish.

Swords raised, except for Maria, who grabbed Gerry's baseball bat from where it sat in the back seat of the brown Excursion, we charged the rotting mob. I had that Lord of the Rings feeling again as we set upon our enemies. Our swords cutting through them like a weed whacker through tall grass.

The wet sounds of blades cutting through meat filled the air. I saw Pippa slice the thumb and first two fingers off of the hand of a female zed with dark matted hair as it reached for her. I saw Sharon stab forward with her sword, and slide into the throat of a male zed. The zed was unimpressed, and pushed forward, sliding down Sharon's blade.

Sharon started to back away, trying to pull her sword free from her attacker. I started towards her, intending to help when a baseball bat blurred through the air, and caught the monster in the face, knocking it back. At the narrow end of the bat Maria stood, grinning savagely. She raised and swung the bat again, and this time hit the thing in the forehead, knocking it backwards. It puled Sharon's sword down with it as it fell before sliding off, and freeing her again to attack.

I heard Beth yell my name, and turned to see what was probably a very pretty blond woman in life just inches from me. I stepped back while thrusting my left hand forward. I gripped her by the front of her grimy orange sweater, and shove her back while swinging my sword in my right hand. My razor sharp blade caught her throat, and tore threw it, not severing the head completely, but leaving it attached only by a piece of flesh. Another zed hit the pavement.

It seemed to go on for hours, but it couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes as we hacked through the uncoordinated ghouls who dared to attack us. It wasn't until we were down to the last two or three that it happened.

My back was to her, and I was dispatching a middle aged bald man when Sharon yelled out, “Motherfucker!”

I turned to see Sharon with some hippie in a brown leather jacket with the little fringe on it, and a raggedy ponytail right up on her. She was pushing away with her sword. I yanked my sword free from the bald man's eye socket and charged.

It was a lot like when I attacked Maria on the road all those months ago... it seems like such a long time, but it's only been a couple of months, hasn't it? I was no longer a person, but a freight train. I barreled into the hippie zed, knocking it fully off of its scrawny formerly vegan feet.

The hippie fell to the ground on its stomach, and before it could roll over I drove my sword through its back, and felt the tip of the sword dig into the blacktop on the other side of the beast. I began stomping the back of its head, feeling the impact through the sole of my boot; finally feeling the bones crack and crunch under my repeated attacks.

When the hippie stopped squirming I turned back to Sharon. She had switched her sword to her left hand and was looking at her right. I saw blood.

“Are you hurt?” I asked.

Sharon looked at me, her eyes wide with terror, magnified by the lenses of her glasses. She held her right hand out to me, I could see blood on it, “I think I need a cleric,” she said in an unsteady voice.

It was like my insides had been turned to lead and dunked in liquid nitrogen. I stepped over to her, and took her injured hand in my left hand, “Did it bite you?” I asked.

“I-I-I,” Sharon stammered, “I don't know.” she was starting to breath heavy as the fear overtook her. Inside me my own fear and panic were raging against the bars of the cage they had been locked in for most of the last year. It tried to get out and get control, but I couldn't let it; I wouldn't let it.

I grabbed Sharon's wrist, and started walking fast towards the cars, yanking her behind me. I did not run, I was trying to remain calm. It hadn't really sunk in yet what this meant, but the realization had hit certain parts of me.

When we got to the back of the black Excursion, I released Sharon's hand, and started digging through our supplies. I tossed a bag of clothes out onto the ground, and a box of food, trying to find the right box.

“What are you doing?” Gerry called.

“Are you okay?” I heard Pippa ask.

I heard two sets of footfalls on the surface of the parking lot as I searched, and ignored them both. Sharon must have shown them her hand though, because I heard Pippa gasp.

“What happened?” Pippa said, her voice unsteady.

“I don't know,” Sharon answered.

“Did you get bit? Is that a bite?”Gerry asked.

“I don't know!” Sharon was on the verge of crying now,” I was fighting one of them, and it got close to me, and when I tried to shove it away I felt a sharp stab.”

I found it then, the box with our meager medical supplies. A glorified first aid kit with bandages, an actual first aid kit, some boxes of gauze pads, and what I wanted, a couple of bottles of hydrogen peroxide. I grabbed one, and turned back to the others.

Beth and Maria were now making their way towards us, Beth looking worried. Gerry and Pippa were looking at Sharon's bloody hand. Gerry looked shocked, and Pippa looked on the edge of crying.

I unscrewed the cap of the brown bottle of disinfectant, and dropped it into the back of the car. I grabbed Sharon's hand away from Gerry, and splashed the peroxide on it. The peroxide washed away the blood as it fizzed, leaving behind two small fizzing wound on the back of Sharon's hand, right by her pinky.

“ That could just be a scratch, right?” asked Pippa, “Maybe one of those things had a zipper on their clothes or something?”

Beth was looking at the small wounds now, “Those look like teeth,” she said, sorrow playing across her face, “Did you maybe hit it in the mouth or something?”

“I might have,” Sharon was terrified now, tears started running down her face. I felt that same fear too, but no tears.

“ That's not enough to get infected though,” Pippa said, hope in her tone, “I mean on the news they had been saying the infected had been badly bitten. Those are just scratches. That's not enough to pass on the infection, is it?”

“I don't know, “ Gerry said quietly.

“We could cut it off to be sure, “Maria suggested.

“Shut up!” Gerry said without looking at her.

“I'm just saying, it works in the movies,”

Gerry turned on her, “Shut the fuck up, Maria!” he snarled.

Maria took a step back, and then turned and headed for room three; her room.

I took Sharon to our room while the others cleaned up the mess I had made. I washed her hand with some of our drinking water, then with the hydrogen peroxide again, and then more water. She was shaking badly as I was.

I heard one of the Excursions' engines start outside, and drive off as I packed the small wounds with gauze, and wrapped the whole hand with a bandage. Sharon was quiet during this whole process. I'm sure she didn't know what to say anymore than I did.

There was a knock on the door to our room, “Come in!” I called in as steady a voice as I could manage.

Pippa opened the door, “Gerry and Beth went looking for a drug store. They want to get some antibiotics.” She closed the door behind her.

“It's almost dark,” Sharon said, noting the dimming light coming through the windows. We would need to light candles or a lamp soon.

“They didn't want to wait until morning,” Pippa explained, “Are you feeling okay?”

“I think so,” said Sharon, looking at the bandage on her hand. Frankly the bandage was overkill for such a small wound; I know the amount of bandages I used won't make a difference between whether or not she is infected, but I didn't know what else to do.

Pippa and I sat with Sharon on the bed for awhile, none of us speaking. Sharon was still shaking, and breathing quickly. I wanted to calm her down; to make her feel better, but how do you comfort someone who may have just received their death sentence?

There was another knock at the door. Since we had not heard the car come back, I figured it must be Maria. I did not invite her in, but instead went to answer her knock, not wanting her to start anymore of her crap and make Sharon feel worse.

Opening the door, I found no one there. I looked out of my room, and saw no one, but I did hear another of the motel room doors close quietly. Looking down I saw that there was a mostly full bottle of bright red cherry flavored vodka sitting there. It was a brand I had had before, cheap and sweet. Maria must have either had it, or found it somewhere in the motel.

Accepting this bottle in no way meant that I in any way forgive Maria. I think I can forgive her no more than I will ever be able to forgive myself.

“No one there?” Sharon asked as I turned with the bottle of red liquor in my hands and swung the door shut behind me.

“Just this,” I said, holding up the bottle, “Want some? It might help you relax,” I offered.

Sharon looked at it, “Cherry?” she asked.

“Indeed, lucky you, eh?”

Sharon chuckled unconvincingly, “Yeah, lucky me.”

I took one of the plastic wrapped cups that had been placed in the bathroom long ago by some housekeeper who is likely now dead, and filled it halfway with vodka. Sharon gulped it down, and then held the cup out for more.

After the second cup she seemed to stop shaking. I laid out our sleeping bags on one of the room's beds after discarding the tacky rough polyester bedspread, and Sharon laid down. In about ten minutes she was snoring softly.

Have you ever noticed that all hotels, even nice ones, seem to have the same nasty polyester bedspreads? I mean, I've never stayed in a thousand dollar a night hotel or anything, but I've stayed in places that were not total flops like this, and still they had these same ugly rough bedspreads.

Pippa went back to room four, the room she is sharing with Beth, a short while after Sharon went back to sleep. I wasn't feeling terribly talkative, and I think it made her feel uncomfortable.

Before leaving, Pippa offered me the record player, but I declined it. She told me to come get if I changed my mind, and gave me a hug, “She's going to be okay, right?”

In that moment Pippa looked every bit the child she is. I wanted to tell her yes, I want the truth to be yes, but instead I said, “I hope so.”

I sat there in room one until it was full dark without lighting the candles that Sharon had brought in before the attack. The moonlight coming through the window was enough for what I was doing, which was just sitting there and watching Sharon sleep.

After a time I heard a car's engine, and knew that Beth and Gerry were back. I heard rapid footfalls outside, and then banging on the door. Beth was calling my name.

I rose and answered the door, “We got something,” she said holding up a large white bottle. In the dim light I could make out the word Cefuroxime on the label, but couldn't read the smaller print on it.

Gerry came up from behind her, “We found a pharmacist's reference that said this is used for sepsis, and that seems about as close a comparison as we could come up with,” he explained trying to look cheerful.

We woke Sharon up, and made her eat something, and take one of the blue pills. I wish one of us knew anything about medicine. What if this makes her worse? What if it does nothing at all? Surely someone tried antibiotics on infected people before, right?

Sharon said she was feeling okay, just sleepy. That could easily be from the vodka though. After taking her pill she fell back to sleep, and Beth and Gerry left.

Before leaving, Beth put her hands on my shoulder and looked up into my eyes, “This isn't your fault. Even if she really is infected, this is not your fault.”

I nodded, but didn't say anything. Beth is wrong, but I wasn't in the mood to fight.

“Maybe we got the meds in time, maybe the bite is too small to actually infect her. Maybe it's really not even a bite. Don't give up on her yet, okay?”

Again I only nodded in reply.

Beth bit her lip, and looked up at me with sad eyes; I don't think she believed what she was saying anymore than I did, “If you need to talk, or if you need anything at all, come talk to me, okay? Don't do anything stupid.”

I nodded.

“No, promise me. Promise me that you won't do anything stupid.”

Trying to be funny, I said, “Well I suppose it depends on how you define stupid, but I won't try and do anything.”

Beth smiled, “Okay, I guess that will do. If anything happens during the night, you come get us.”

Once Beth was gone, I sat down at the little writing desk in the room and started this entry while drinking a bit of the cherry vodka; it's really sweet. The walls here are thin, and I can hear Gerry and Maria arguing next door. I can't make out all of the words, only bits and pieces.

“-my fault?” I heard Maria ask.

“-told you that anything-” Gerry yelled, “-responsible! “

“-assuming she's... just a scratch!”

“-fucking hope so, because if... as well have killed her yourself!”

I can't get my head around this. Is this what Merritt went through? Is this some punishment on me for judging him? Is Sharon being punished for something? Ego? Some other sin? What? I know that I'm not a good person, but I can't deserve this, and sharon certainly doesn't.

Please, God, don't take her from me. I know it is selfish, but please. I'm sure you have some reason, but you've already taken so much, please don't take her too. You took Tara from me, you took my home, and my entire life. Please leave me this one last thing, please don't take her.

Please just let it be a scratch; let us be panicking for nothing. I'm sure we will learn something from this if she's okay. We'll not take the zeds so lightly. I'll try and be a better person, please!

Please don't take Sharon.

Please don't take my wife.

Please, God.

Please, God.

Please, God.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forty-Third Entry: Cast Out

May 19th

Well that didn't take very long.

She did it; it took her more than a month, but Maria finally managed to push shit too far and get us kicked out of Alisdair's church. To be fair she really only got herself kicked out, but....

It's not going to be easy to leave all of that behind. We have people other than the six of us to talk to. We have clean clothes, like cleaned in a washing machine clean. We have hot water not heated over a fire, and electric lights, and music not on vinyl, and all of the other things we used to take for granted.

We really did plan on staying here. We had unpacked the Excursions and everything. Our food supplies have been added to the church's, our weapons cataloged and secured, our fuel supplies added to those of the church, and our other possessions moved into our sleeping areas. Pippa even found herself a boyfriend, although I just found out about that.

In the last couple of weeks Maria has managed to piss off pretty much everybody here, and ruin every attempt at trying to make her feel welcome and get her to put in some effort for the whole group. She has been rude, combative, and downright horrible to pretty much everyone.

I really wish I understood what the hell is wrong with her; what her damage is. Once she realized that the female Swords would not fight her she did start on the men. It is a testament to the serenity and discipline the more experienced members of The Sword of Gabriel have that no one had knocked her into next week. I know if she kept on me like that I would have hit her... again.

Speaking of discipline and serenity, Gerry puts me to shame. He really is the only friend she has left in our group (which is not to say that Sharon and Pippa aren't still trying), and he is also the only one she seems to have any respect for. She looks at me and Sharon with utter disdain, Pippa is still a little afraid of her after our first day of sword fighting practice, and whenever she's around Beth the two of them look like they are one off comment away from getting into a fistfight.

It's going to be real fun once we're on our own again. I mean it's not like we don't have a target in mind, someplace where maybe Maria won't be such a problem. I don't know what we'll do if she is. I don't know if Gerry has it in him to do what he said he will.

It all went down like this; we've spent the last few weeks trying to settle in here. Alisdair has continued to have us go on runs to exterminate zeds (or the unholy, as he prefers). He's even been trying to teach us to ride motorcycles, although not with their Harleys and Indians, but with dirtbikes. It's been going pretty well actually, I wouldn't want to get involved in a car chase or anything, but I feel pretty confident about staying up on two wheels now.

We've been having zed sightings every couple of days now. I don't know what it was like up here last year, but this is almost as bad as it was last summer in Covenant. Still, with us going out in force we have not even had any close calls; every run is an absolute slaughter. It's a real confidence builder.

While we have been doing this, Alisdair has been trying to get Maria involved in something, but she resisted all of his efforts to get her to contribute. When he tried to get her to help in the farming efforts she managed to flood an entire field of corn, and that may still die.

When Maria was assigned to kitchen duty she managed to somehow over salt canned soup, making that night's dinner nearly inedible. I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky that it was salt, and not something worse. She probably couldn't get her hands on any laxatives.

I'm not even sure what the hell Maria was doing when she managed to knock Marty's forge over. That probably would have been the last straw for us if she had managed to actually ruin it, or set the place on fire. Thankfully the forge was cold when it happened.

As I have written before, there are some pretty strict gender separation rules around here, but let me elaborate on them now. There are four “dorms”, which is to say areas for sleeping. There's the men's dorm, the women's dorm, the married dorm, and the family dorm for couples with kids (there are three families in there). In order for me and Sharon to sleep (in the literal sense) together, we had to get married (and that is going fine, thank you).

Maria, in another attempt to anger people (Alisdair in particular, I assume), decided to just go waltzing into the men's dorm one morning last week. It's not so much that she particularly offended any of the guys, but her blatant lack of respect for Reverend Thomas' rules is what angered people.

I asked Gerry what her issue is, and he says that he doesn't know, “I've begged her to talk to me, but she won't. She won't tell me why she has been acting like this, why she wants to make Alisdair and the Swords angry. Why she seems to be mad at the rest of you,” Gerry explained to me, “She's pretty normal with me, but she just kind of shuts me out as soon as I start talking about that kind of stuff.”

The final straw was two days ago. Maria stole one of the motorcycles from the parking lot, and started riding it around the church, tearing up the grass, driving through one of the new vegetable fields, and scaring the hell out of people. As if all of that weren't enough, she finished her display by riding into the church building, into the chapel, and driving the bike through the reverend's podium, and crashed into the ten foot tall cross at the back of the stage.

By the time I got there, Peter was pulling Maria out from under the big cross, which had fallen over onto her, the bike, and the band's drum kit. Peter was pissed, and was holding Maria in the air by the collar of the dark green sweater she was wearing, her feet dangled a good six inches off of the floor.

“Peter!” I yelled, pushing past the others who gathered to see the damage. He looked like he wanted to put her through the wall.

Peter turned to look at me, “This is too much,” he said, although I am not sure if it was at me or Maria.

“You don't want to do that, man,” I said, trying to defuse the situation, “If you do, you'll regret it later.”

“Oh, I do want to do it,” Peter said, this time looking Maria in the eyes, “but you are right; I would regret it later.”

Peter placed her down on her feet, “Are you injured?” he asked, his voice straining to remain even.

“Like you care,” Maria replied.

“I care about all of God's children,” more straining in his voice,” No matter how misguided or ill-behaved they may be.”

Reverend Thomas arrived at this point, “What is going on here?” He asked in genuine shock as he surveyed the scene.

“The troublemaker desecrated the chapel, reverend,” Peter answered.

Alisdair looked past Peter and Maria to the splintered stump that used to be the base of the cross. He looked at the broken top of the cross, the damaged motorcycle, and the crushed drum kit. He looked at me, and a sad look came into his eyes, and he signed heavily, “Peter, please take Maria to classroom three, and keep her there until I come for her.”

Peter nodded, placed a hand on Maria's shoulder, and shoved her forward none too gently.

When Peter and Maria had left the room Alisdair walked up to me, “Please gather your friends and come to my office. We need to talk about her future with us.”

On my way out of the room, I was nearly bowled over by Gerry, as he came running down the hallway, “Where's Maria?” he practically yelled at me.

“She's okay, but Revered Thomas wants to see us in his office.”

“Shit. I knew this was going to happen,” Gerry answered, and continued past me without any explanation.

It took me a few minutes to track everyone down. Beth and Sharon were out back dueling with practice swords, and I found Pippa playing Barbies with one of the few children here, a little girl named Latonya. Gerry was already waiting in Alisdair's office when we go there.

Once we were all in his office, Alisdair rose from his desk, crossed the room, and gently shut the door, closing us in. Without speaking, he returned to his desk. He looked sad and a little conflicted.

“So I suppose we all know what happened by now, right?” Reverend Thomas asked in a gentle voice. We all nodded a reply.

“I've tried talking to her, but she won't open up to me, reverend.” Gerry said.

“I know you have; you have been as good a friend to her as anyone can expect, but she still shows no sign of changing,” Alisdair replied, “In better times I would have been willing to give her as much time as would be necessary to find out what is tormenting her so, but these are not better times.”

“So what are you saying?” Beth asked.

“This is not a decision I have come to lightly; in fact it is one I have been trying to not have to make almost since you all arrived here. Maria's behavior is inexcusable, and it is putting the lives of the other people seeking shelter here at risk. Not only is she unwilling to help out around here, but she seems determined to ruin things for everyone. She needs to leave.”

“What?” asked Pippa, “You're kicking her out?”

“You're turning your back on her?” asked Sharon.

I said nothing; this is pretty much what I expected when Alisdair asked me to get everyone together. I could tell that this was hard for him to do.

“You can't do that, reverend!” Gerry yelled, as if he had been expecting this too.

“I don't want to; I have never turned away anyone seeking my help before, but she is endangering the lives of those under my care. What if she had hit someone with that motorcycle? Never mind that she stole it, never mind the complete contempt she showed by riding it through my chapel, and never mind the damage she caused; she could have seriously hurt or killed someone.”

“But she didn't,” Gerry stated.

“Thank God,” Alisdair said, “but she will eventually. I have to balance the chances of helping her against the potential hazard to my flock. She needs to go. She may take whatever supplies she wishes, one of the SUVs you showed up in if she wants, but she needs to leave. She doesn't want to be here.”

“Then we're going with her!” Gerry said firmly; and then not so self-assured, “Right guys?

Gerry looked at the rest of us, a look of desperation on his face. I know what he was thinking; he thought we would say that Maria could just fuck off and die, and a huge part of me wanted to say just that. I may even have done so if not for Pippa.

“I'll go with her,“ Pippa said softly.

“What?” asked Beth, her face a display of shock and anger.

Pippa looked like she was getting ready to cry, “We can't let her go alone. It's horrible out there alone. She'll die alone.”

Sharon put an arm around Pippa, “She's a strong woman,” she said.

“She's my friend,“ Pippa said, a tear running down her cheek.

“She's not either,” Beth yelled, “She wanted us to turn you away! She wanted to leave you out there alone!”

“I know. I heard your conversation, but we can't do that to her. She needs us.”

“She hates us!” Beth said

“No she doesn't,” Gerry chipped in, “She's just hurt somehow. We've all been hurt,” he focused on Sharon, “We didn't abandon you!”

I couldn't let that go, “She wanted to.” I said.

“She doesn't know what she wants. Please, guys!”

Alisdair kept quiet during our argument. I think he knew what decision we would eventually come to; why else meet with all of us to tell us he was kicking her out? He didn't want to influence our decision any though.

“We'll go with you,“ Sharon said, and then looked at me, took my hand in hers, and squeezed it, “Right?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“She's sick too,” Sharon's eyes sparkled through her glasses at me, “Maybe not sick like I was, but she is sick. We can't abandon her.

'You people are fucking crazy!” Beth almost yelled, and then looked at Alisdair, realizing what she had said, “Sorry, Alisdair.”

Alisdair just nodded a reply.

“You said there's another settlement, right? Lockheart or something?” Gerry asked.

“Lovelock, yes. Depending on the road conditions it is probably a two or three day drive from here now.”

“We can try there then, maybe Maris will get better there,” Gerry so clearly wanted to believe this, but wanting something to be true doesn't necessarily make it so. I guess we'll find out though.

“But what about what we have here?” I asked Sharon.

“We've had each other since the beginning, and we've done fine. We need to stay together. When it has really mattered Maria has always been there.”

“And if I say I'm staying?” I asked.

“Then I'll have to go without you,” Sharon said, her face sounding lie she felt the same pain at that answer that I felt in my heart.

“You would choose her over me?” I asked, a little shocked on top of the hurt.

“The man I love wouldn't make me choose.”

Ah yes, fantastic. A guilt trip! It's not like I was going to let Sharon go off with them without me, so what choice did I have but to say, “I'll go with you then.”

Beth looked me in the eyes, her mouth hanging open, “Seriously? After what she put you through? After all the things she said?”

Sharon reached out and placed a hand gently on Beth's shoulder, “She's one of us, Beth. I know you understand that.”

“But we fit in here. We are part of a group again. We are wanted here; no one is trying to kill us. We can have a life here.”

“Could you really sleep at night know that she's out there alone?” Pippa asked.

“Yes, I'm sure I could!” Beth replied, and then more softly, “But I couldn't knowing that you guys are out there. “

“So you'll come with us?” Pippa asked.

“Yes; someone has to keep you guys safe,” Beth turned from us to Alisdair, “I'm sorry, Reverend, I wanted to stay.”

“And I wanted you all to stay, but I cannot chastise you for doing right by your friend even if I am personally unhappy with your decision. I am sorry that I failed Maria so completely that I put you in this situation.”

“Isn't there anyway I can change your mind?” Gerry asked, “She's just not well, and I don't know what is wrong with her.”

“I recognize that she is ill, but the only thing that any of you could do would be to get Maria to give her word that she will make an effort. She has not tried to fit in since the moment you all got here, and maybe it is partially my fault, my way of handling newcomers is a bit heavy handed, and I could have handled our first practice a bit better,” Alisdair acknowledged.

“Still, I have tried to make amends for those things, I have tried to make her feel a part of this community, but I have failed in all of those attempts. Nothing could make me happier than for her to solve whatever her problems are and become a part of this group. She is in classroom three if you want to try; I will wait here for you to return.”

With that, we set off for the school area. Aside from holding Sunday services, The Church of Christ's Light also did early childhood education, Preschool to third grade classes were held here, so there are six classrooms up on the second floor. One of them is the family dorm, one is still used to try and teach the few kids that are here, but the other four go mostly unused.

Classroom three was not hard to find, it was just a matter of finding the room being guarded by the giant scowling black man. He looked curiously at us as we came down the hall.

“So what did Alisdair say?” Peter asked.

“He said we can stay if she will promise to try, “ I answered.

“'We'? He's making you all leave?” Peter asked in disbelief.

“No, but some of us won't let her go alone, even though she clearly doesn't give a sh-, doesn't care about us,” Beth said bitterly.

“I will wish you good luck, but I doubt it will do you any good. I'm going back to the Rev's office, please don't leave her unattended; she might try to burn the whole place down.”

Peter left the five us us standing outside of classroom three unsure how to continue. We looked at each other, as if each of us was thinking on how to best approach her.

Finally Gerry spoke, “Would you guys mind if I talked to Maria alone? I think it might give us our best chances.”

I certainly didn't know what to say to her, so I just shrugged. The rest of the group just kind of mumbled our agreement. I don't think any of us thought we had any chance at all of getting her to pull her head out of her ass.

“Wish me luck then,” Gerry said.

When Gerry opened the door, I got a momentary glimpse inside the classroom. Maria was sitting at a short table in a chair that was clearly meant for someone much younger than herself. If it weren't for the fact that our future was on the line, the scene would have been comical. Actually, it was comical anyway.

After a few moments, Pippa out her ear up to the wooden door.

“What are you doing?” Beth asked.

“I want to hear what's going on,” Pippa whispered.

“Don't you think we should give them some privacy?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, but I also want to hear.”

“Fair enough,” said Beth, and put her ear against the door too. Not wanting to be left out, Sharon and I crowded against the door so that we could hear as well.

“-st tell me what is wrong?” Gerry asked.

“Nothing's wrong, Gerry,” Maria answered, “I don't belong here.”

“But you are screwing this up for everybody, don't you understand that? Alisdair is going to tell you to leave.”

“Then that sounds like things will get better for everybody. They all hate me anyway.”

“No one hates you, “ Gerry replied, “They just don't like who you've become; how you've changed.”

“I haven't changed. My goal is the same as it ever was; survival.”

“You have changed. You've been a complete bitch since Christmas, and you've progressed from bitch to spoiled child since we got here. Alisdair just wants you to be part of the group, and that's all I'm asking of you too.”

“If you think I'm so horrible, then you'll be glad to see me go too.”

“I don't think you are horrible, Maria. I think you're sick.”

“Oh fuck you!”

“No, Maria, fuck you! This needs to stop before someone gets killed over it. Just tell Alisdair you will try, and then do it. This is a nice place, and it's more stable than Mallville ever was.“

“This place is a joke; as if God is protecting these people. They survive based on the same things that have kept us all alive this whole time. Luck and their our own skills. They did not get those skills from God!”

“Is that what it is? Are you mad because this is a church? Since when are you not a Christian? I've seen your place, I know you're a Christian.”

“I was a fool, that's all. I know better now.”

“So you're mad at God? You've been putting us all through this shit because you're mad at God?”

“There's no God, Gerry. No benevolent being would do this to his people. If there ever was a God he's dead and gone, or he just doesn't give a shit. Either way, I'm not wasting one more second on the bastard!”

“If that's all your problem is, I'm sure Alisd-”

“If that's all my problem is? You make it sound like I disagree with his choice of paint colors. I disagree with the idiotic fairy tale that Reverend Thomas is feeding all of you. I am not going to take part in this bullshit.”

“What if Alisdair was willing to leave you out of the religious stuff then? What if he let you eat alone so you wouldn't have to say grace? What if he excepted you from Sunday services?”

“So your solution is for me to make myself an outcast here anyway?”

“You have been making yourself an outcast; no one here has done anything but try to include you, and yet the only person you don't treat like crap on your shoes is me. Just make an effort. Stop sabotaging things, stop trying to pick fights with the Swords, stop trying to ruin things for everyone. If you can just act civil then things will be okay.”

“No, if the good reverend thinks the Christian thing to do is tell me to fuck off, then I will, no problem,” there was a crashing noise inside the room as Maria overturned something, or threw something onto the floor

“Then we're going with you. All of us.”

“What? Why?” Maria sounded genuinely puzzled.

“Because, believe it or not, we are your friends. Pippa, Sharon, everyone would rather put themselves at risk than think of you out there on your own.”

“Thats... that's ridiculous.”

“That's the way it is. The only way to keep us all safe is for you to stop being such an ass, or at least try.”

“No, if you all want to throw in with me, then do so. It's your decision, I'm not asking for your help, and I'm not taking responsibility for you. “ the meanness returned to her voice.

“Fine, Maria. If that is your final choice then that is what we'll do. I want you to keep something in mind though, whatever happens now is your fault; we are all your responsibility now. Anyone who gets hurt is on your head. We'll make for Lovelock, but when we get there, if we get there, you had better knock this shit off. If you fuck things up for yourself there, and they want to kick you out I will not fight for you again. This is it Maria, I love you like a sister, but this is it!”

“Gerry,” Maria started.

“No! Not another fucking word! Whatever happens next is on your head, you keep that in fucking mind the next time you act shitty towards any of us. You keep it in your head that we are all willing to risk death for you!” Gerry yelled, and he sounded on the edge of tears. There was another crash, presumably from Gerry knocking something over.

“Stop being so dramatic!”

“I am not being dramatic. I am going to hold you responsible for every cut, bruise, and scratch that anyone gets on the road, because it is all you!”

We all jumped back from the door as we heard Gerry's feet clomping across the classroom floor. He threw the door open to find all of us trying to look inconspicuous, which is of course the worst way to not look guilty.

Gerry scowled at each of us as he slammed the door behind him. He put his hands to his face to wipe at his eyes for a moment.

“Didn't go well then?” Asked Beth somewhat smugly.

“Fuck you, Beth, I know you were listening,” he replied crossly, “So are we all still in agreement to go with her?”

Sharon and Pippa both nodded, while I shrugged noncommittally. I don't really want to go with her, but I'm hardly going to let Sharon go without me. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to her because I wasn't there.

Beth shook her head slowly.

“What?” asked Pippa, “You're staying here?”

“No, I'm going with you,” Beth said sadly, “I just can't believe we're doing this. This is insane. We stayed at Mallville while being attacked by a gang and being threatened by Kaur, but we're going to leave what we have going here because Maria is acting like a petulant brat? It's insane.”

Gerry, still cross, turned on Beth, “No one is making you go!”

“I've stuck with you guys this long, I'm not leaving you now,” Beth smiled, “That doesn't mean I have to be happy about this though.”

Gerry stayed outside classroom three while the rest of us went back to Alisdair's office. Alisdair was less than surprised to find out that we had not been able to convince Maria to change her ways.

“So are you still all sure that you don't want to let her go on her own?” Alisdair asked solemnly.

We nodded our replies, even Beth.

“Okay. I'm not going to lie to you, I am truly disappointed to be losing you all, but standing by your friend is the right thing to do. I have told Peter to retrieve your weapons, have you gas cans refilled, and get you a couple of weeks worth of food and water. It should be more than enough to get you to Lovelock.”

“So I guess this means we're out of the Swords then?” Sharon asked.

“No, it just means that you will be spreading our mission to Lovelock. Maybe this is what God wants; maybe He just wanted me to train you, and send you on to fulfill your purpose elsewhere. Your swords are yours to keep, and you will always be considered members of The Sword of Gabriel.”

It was decided that we would leave in the morning; tomorrow morning. We spent the early evening loading up the cars. I think we are leaving with almost as much food and water as we came with, but then water in particular is not such a big deal here.

One thing I did not realize is how much we are carrying around in the way of firepower. We've got quite a bit of ammo, but I know that it will run out fast if we start using it on a regular basis. Besides, I kind of like my sword. I can't really figure out how to describe how I feel about it; the best way I can think to put it is that when I am holding my sword I feel like I have the entirety of The Sword of Gabriel standing behind me.

Yeah, I know that sounds dumb, but I really can't think of any better way to put it.

Alisdair told me that they would be letting Lovelock know that we are coming in their next radio communication, and that he expects to be told when we've arrived safely. I hope we'll be able to do that. I feel a bit of hesitation about hitting the road again after a month in relative comfort and safety.

So I mentioned before that Pippa has herself a little boyfriend (did I just write that? I am getting old). I discovered this when I was heading up to the bell tower to write this entry. It's clear out there tonight, and I wanted to get one last look at that view under the moonlight. Unfortunately someone had a similar idea.

When I got to top of the stairs, I found that the hatch was already open. I poked my head through and saw Pippa and a boy named Mark leaning against the waist high wall with their mouths glued together.

“Oooh!” I said mockingly, and maybe a bit cruelly, “Pippa's got a boyfriend.”

Pippa jerked back from Mark so hard that for a split second I thought that she would fall out of the bell tower.

Pippa yelled at me, “Get out of here, you pervert!”

I retreated down the stairs, singing the whole way, “Pippa and Mark, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G”

“Jerk!” Pippa yelled after me.

I ended up in classroom five, surrounded by children's drawings of flowers, and Jesus, and angels. I wonder how many of the kids who drew these pictures are still alive?

I'm going to get to bed now, Sharon's probably wondering where I am. I'm sad to be leaving all of this behind, but it's not the first time I've lost my home, right? As long as I have Sharon though, I think I can face anything.

Tomorrow we venture once more into the unknown; into a world that looks both familiar and alien. I hope Maria appreciates this, but I doubt she does.