Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thirtieth Entry: Going Out With A Bang

December 24th

It's all gone

It's all gone




I woke up this morning, and everything is normal, and in the space of probably less than an hour it all ended. There's only five of us left, and we're back in the that Snacky Mart where we took refuge so many months ago, and it's freezing cold, and we're alone.

It was supposed to be a nice day. Tara and I had gone down to her storage locker, and retrieved a tacky shiny blue Christmas tree, and a box of holiday ornaments. We were going to decorate the tree and have a nice Christmas Eve together.

I even got her a gift, well, found her a gift. Well Sharon gave it to me for her. In seeing Tara's vast collection of Star Wars stuff, I noticed she did not have the mangas. I also knew that Sharon had acquired some of them during out little “coffee” run (before then, I hadn't even realized they were still in print). As it turned out, she had grabbed all four volumes of “A New Hope”, and she agreed to let me have them. They're still wrapped up in my satchel.

We were in the process of assembling the tacky Tannenbaum when there was a panicked banging at the door. Tara and I didn't move, we just looked at each other. We could hear voices outside, but they were muffled by the door, and we couldn't understand them.

Then one of the voices yelled, “If you're in there, open the fucking door!” It was Alex.

Tara and I rushed to the door, and opened it. Alex was outside looking even paler than usual, and he wasn't alone. With him were Sharon, Gerry, Maria, Milton, and officers Perry and O'Hara. They all looked scared, and they were all armed. Milton had a Browning rifle, the two officers each had MP5s and their standard Glock sidearms, Gerry, Maria, and Alex were carrying an M16 each, and Sharon had nothing but a bright pink backpack. I thought that she was keeping at least a pistol in the bedroom, but I guess not.

“Christmas caroling?” I asked lamely.

“It's happening, and we need to get out of here,” said Alex.

“What's happening?” asked Tara needlessly. I'm sure she knew as well as I did what Alex meant.

“It's fuckin' war, man!” said Milton.

Gerry nodded, “Fighting has broken out in the shopping section, and is spreading through admin.”

“What did you do?” I yelled at Alex.

“I didn't do shit! It happened without me,” replied Alex, “and I knew it would. That's why I wanted to organize a resistance, so that when it happened we would have a chance at actually removing Kaur without massive loss of life.”

“So what do we do?” asked Tara, “Fight?”

“No, “ replied Alex somberly, “We don't have an army, and he does. We run.”

“You asshole!” I yelled, “I knew you were crazy, but I didn't know you were a coward! You started this shit, and now you want to run away?”

“Fuck you! I didn't start this, that fat little Paki bastard did,” he yelled in my face, “And the only reason I'm even alive for you to yell at right now is because Rupe and Beth here came and got me.”

“What do you mean?” asked Tara.

“I mean that Kaur ordered me killed! He's already killed Rosa and Benny. He's taking advantage of this to eliminate anyone who is against him That means you, me, Tara, Sharon, and God only knows how many others.”

“We should get moving, Alex,” said officer Perry.

“Hold on, “ said Tara, and ran down the hall into the bedroom. She came back a minute later with a backpack on her back, and her Glock. I could also see two clips bulging in her jeans pockets.

I grabbed my satchel from its customary place by the door, and rummaged around in it until I came out with my Beretta. I also had three extra clips of ammo in the bag along with other miscellaneous items (like this journal, obviously).

Tara turned to look at her apartment one last time, look at the collection of stuff that she had spent years finding before leaving it behind forever. She bit her lip, but her eyes did not tear up. She turned to face the others, “Okay, lets go.”

“Where are we going?” I asked as Tara locked the door behind her..

“I anticipated having to leave in a hurry,” explained Alex as we started down the hall, “I knew if we didn't build an army of our own, or keep a revolt from happening in the first place, that we would have to leave in a hurry. There are two vans down in the garage level under admin that are stocked with supplies, fueled up, and ready to go provided we make it to them.”

“Won't Kaur have his people guarding them?” I asked.

“If he knew about them I am sure he would, which is exactly why it's a secret, “Alex explained, “I know you think I am insane, but I'm not stupid.”

“There they are!” yelled a woman's voice from the doorway to the stairwell. She was wearing the white polo shirt uniform that almost all of Kaur's newer officers wore. Her blond hair was pulled tight into a ponytail at the back of her head, and she was clutching an MP5.

Two more officers emerged from the stairs; a thin man with a curly jewfro, and a short pudgy guy with stringy black bangs falling into his eyes. Both men were wearing the same uniform as the ponytailed woman. Seeing Perry and O'Hara with us, they seemed unsure what to do.

“The situation is under control. They are our prisoners,” bluffed O'Hara in an authoritative voice.

“But Commander Kaur's orders were to shoot them on sight as enemies of Mallville,” said the man with the jewfro.

“We may be able to get information out of them.” stated Perry.

“Sigler is their leader, we may be able to use him to break their will to fight,” added O'Hara.

“Oh,” said jewfro, lowering his weapon, as did ponytail and black bangs.

“So why do they have guns then?” asked black bangs cocking his head criously.

O'Hara and Perry traded glances, and shrugged, “Because,” started Perry, and then opened fire with his MP5.

The sound was deafening in the enclosed hallway. Bloody wounds stitched a path across the fronts of the clean white shirts worn by the three new officers. They staggered, and then crumpled to the floor, their weapons still unfired.

“That's why,” Perry finished.

Milton rushed forward to the bodies, and struggled to relieve them of their weapons; each had an MP5, a Glock in their holster, and two spare clips for each fitted onto their belts. He had trouble with the straps on the MP5s, and managed to drop his Browning in the process.

“Yeah!” he hooted triumphantly with his armload of weapons, “Now this is what I'm talkin' about!”

“I don't think so!” said Maria. She took the MP5s, all of the ammo for them, two of the Glocks, and all but two of the spare clips for those, “You can keep the pistol if you think you can manage not to shoot your dick off.”

“Or fall down the stairs on it,” chuckled Gerry.

“Now why you gotta be like that, man?” asked Milton as he tucked the handgun into the waistband before going to retrieve his rifle.

Maria gave me, Tara, and Sharon each one of the MP5s, and two clips each .I returned my Beretta to my satchel, along with one of the extra clips; the other I stuffed rather uncomfortably into my pocket. Maria kept one of the Glocks and two clips for herself, while giving the rest to Gerry, who tucked them into the back of his stretch-fit jeans.

“What are we doing?” asked Sharon, looking from the submachine gun in her hand to the three dead security officers.

“What we've been doing since April,” replied Maria. She walked over to the three dead security officers, and shot each one in the head with the pistol, “We're doing what we need to in order survive. If you have a problem with that, you're welcome to stay here and try and talk things out with the next group that comes to kill you.”

“Not now!” cautioned Alex.

We started back down the hallway, and past the stairs without descending. As we walked, we only ran into a few people. It seemed like word of the battle apparently raging on downstairs had not really filtered up here.

“So what actually happened?” asked Tara.

“Kaur cut refugee rations again,” answered Perry, “Just for non-security refugees of course. Security officers still get full rations for themselves and their families.”

“He was still trying to 'encourage' volunteers, “ said O'Hara, emphasizing the word “encourage”.

“Some of the refugees took great exception to this, “continued Perry, “so security was dispatched.”

“Newbs, of course,” added O'Hara.

“They handled things about as badly as they could. Punches were thrown, shots were fired, shots were fired back, Molotov cocktails were thrown, and before you know it, the food court is in flames, and a full scale riot has broken out.”

“I would like to note that I had nothing to do with any of it,” said Alex defensively.

“Short of stirring the pot you mean?” I asked, prompting Sharon to shoot me a dirty look.

“Get off your fucking high horse already,” Alex shouted, ”Yes, I failed, but you know what? I could have left you all to be executed, but I'm not. I'm trying to save all of our lives, and I think I deserve at least a little credit for that.”

Perry continued as if Alex and I had not said anything, “Shortly after the reinforcements were sent in, another order was sent out.”

“A list of names; people supposedly responsible for feeding information to the Postmen, people responsible for starting the riot, and amongst those names were all of you.” explained O'Hara.

“Naturally we started tracking you guys down. We were too late to help Rosa or Benny though. They were murdered in their offices,” said Perry with a hint of defeat in his voice.

I noticed that we had strode past a directory sign next to a stairwell access that indicated that we were in the administration section, or at least that we were three floor above it, “I thought you said the vans were down below admin?” I asked.

“There is too much security down there,” stated Perry, “We're going to go down through the shopping section, and across to the stairs near the door to the park.”

“Isn't that where the riot is?” asked Sharon.

“Yes,” said Alex, “Which means the security down there is not only far too busy to be looking for us, but they would never expect us to go down into the center of it all.”

“Because it's an insane idea,” said Tara, not criticizing, just stating the obvious.

When we were over the shopping section, our security escort stopped at the first stairwell we came to. “Okay,” said Perry, “This is it. We go down to the first floor, and make a run for it.”

We entered the stairwell, and could hear faint sounds of chaos echoing up the stairs. There was also a faint haze of smoke in the air.

“If there's a fire, “ I asked, “Then why aren't the alarms going off?”

“Kaur had them disconnected after Halloween,” explained O'Hara,” It's not like the fire department was going to come and fine us for it.”

As we descended the stairs we heard voices as someone entered the stairs from below; it was more security, “We have to find them,” echoed a man's voice, “Kaur says that they may have some rogue officers with them; traitors.”

“I do believe they are talking about us, Rupert, “ quipped O'Hara in a mock British accent.

We heard footfalls coming up the stairs. It was clearly more than one pair of boots, but with the echoing in the stairwell it was impossible to tell exactly how many.

“Milton,” hissed Maria, “Give me your shotgun.”

“What? Why?”

“Because if you are armed they'll shoot you on sight.”

Milton slid the strap on his Browning down his arm, and handed it reluctantly to Maria's outstretched hand.

“Cover your gun with your shirt and stand there,” ordered Maria, pointing to the landing just below us.

“What if they shoot me anyway?”asked Milton as he pulled his two sizes too large Kings jersey out of his pants.

Maria didn't say anything, she just shrugged.

“They won't, “ assured O'Hara, “They probably won't even realize that you're one of the people on the list. I'm not even sure why you are.”

“That's what I've been saying!”

“Shh!” urged Gerry.

We moved as quietly as possible back up to the next landing, the one that opened onto the fourth floor, and waited. The footfalls on the steps grew louder until we could hear them right below us on the landing to the third floor. Milton stood there on the landing between floors waiting. He started grinning a big nervous gold-toothed grin that let us know he could see them now.

“Freeze!” yelled a gruff man's voice.

“I ain't goin' nowhere” said Milton, putting his hands up and behind his head.

“Identify yourself!” commanded the gruff voice.

“Ummm,” Milton thought for a second, “Uhhh.”

“Identify yourself or we will shoot!”

“I am the terror that quacks in the night?”

“What?” asked a voice with the distinct rasp of a heavy smoker (former heavy smoker now, I would guess).

The three security officers, also refugee recruits judging by their polo shirt uniforms, strode up the stairs into our view. They were so intent on getting Milton that they never looked up behind them to see us standing there.

“Freeze!” ordered Officer Perry.

The three officers spun to find us standing there pointing weapons at them. The big guy in the center with the bald spot on his head was holding an MP5, while the officers flanking him, a pale guy with deep shadows under his eyes, and a hispanic guy with a thick mustache, were both holding M-16s

“Place your guns on the ground, and your hands in the air,” ordered O'Hara. The officers, survivors who were suddenly our enemies, complied cautiously.

“Terror that quacks in the night?” asked Gerry, “Really? That's how you answer that question?”

“I panicked,” answered Milton, “It was the first thing came into my head.”

“You're such a dork!” laughed Gerry.

“A dork that's gonna kick your ass!”

“Well make sure you take off your 'Bolex' first; I wouldn't want you to damage it.”

A minute later, and their weapons had been distributed (and my satchel was suddenly quite heavy from ammo clips and a Glock being stuffed into it), and the officers had been cuffed to the stairwell railing with those heavy duty cable tie cuffs that they carry.

“Commander Kaur's not going to let you get away with this,” spat the gruff voiced man with the bald spot hatefully, “He'll never let people like you destroy what he has built here.”

“Hashmir Kaur didn't build anything,” snarled Alex, “He killed the people who did, and took it for his own.”

“Big words from a man trying to take over by force,” retorted the pale guy, who was the owner of the smoker's voice, “You're the one who started a war! You're the one causing the deaths of all these people.”

“I was trying to avoid this,” said Alex regretfully.

“Kaur's attempts to gain and keep power caused this, “ said Officer O'Hara, “This blood is on his hands.”

I think we could have stood there all day arguing with them, and all things considered, maybe that would have been better, more merciful for us all, but we didn't. We finished our trip down the stairs, leaving the officers to their fate, and emerged into what was once a clean, bright, sterile, and yet still comfortable shopping section.

Words fail me when trying to describe what I saw. Many of the lights were out, either from being disabled or broken, plunging the area into twilight. There were bodies on the ground, both security officers and civilians.

Across from us was African Swallow Outfitters; its windows had been smashed and the interior of the store was in flames. Smoke belched out of the empty window frames, and while the fire sprinklers were putting up a good fight, they seemed to be doing little to stop the inferno. Laying face down in one of the broken display windows, halfway inside the store, and halfway out, was a thin woman's body, and even though I could not see her face, I am certain that it was Parasite. I guess she died trying to protect her store.

In the distance we could hear the popping of gunfire, but none of it was close enough for us to see. In fact, we appeared to be the only living people in the immediate area. Who knew how long that would last though? No doubt that at least some of the dead would be rising again soon.

We could see the doors to the stairwell that would lead us to safety, but we still had to get there. We started across the open floor at a fast pace, stopping suddenly when we heard voices.

There were a pair of black riot armored officers with their backs to us. Both were holding M-16s, but they had failed to hear us over the ambient noise of the popping of gunshots and the crackling of fire. We could have snuck past them if Milton hadn't gotten it into his head that he was John McClane.

Milton raised the MP5 he had been allowed to keep from the security officers in the stairwell, and called out to the officers, “Hey motherfuckers!”

The officers turned in surprise, and brought their weapons up to fire as Milton pulled the trigger. Milton's gun did nothing, there was not even an audible click. He had neglected t check the fire selector to make sure it was set to anything other than “S” for safe.

The officers in their black suits however did not forget to take the safety off of their weapons, and opened fire. Small explosions of blood erupted from the back of Milton's basketball jersey as the bullets tore through him.

Before Milton had even dropped to the ground, Officers Perry and O'Hara along with Maria, Gerry, and Alex started firing back. Only one of the other officers even managed to get any shots off in our direction before being cut down in the hail of bullets. The back of Rupert Perry's head blew off as the result of one of those shots.

“Rupe!” cried O'Hara, as her friend crashed to the ground.

O'Hara knelt down beside her fallen friend, and we were all so busy watching her that we never saw where he came from. Somehow, from somewhere, Alexandre Rontreal had come up behind us. We didn't even know he was there until it was too late.

If Milton hadn't gotten himself killed, or even if he had been shot in the stairwell,, then maybe things would have been okay. Maybe we would have passed through there without running into him. Maybe one of us would have seen him standing there behind that skinny little potted tree. He would have been visible to anyone who cared to look, but none of us did.

Shots rang out, and I swear I felt one buzz past my ear like a wasp traveling at the speed of sound. Alex cried out as one of them struck him in the left shoulder, and another in the stomach. Maria, who was standing next to Alex, had a bullet graze her right arm, but I didn't realize this until later.

Alex clutched his stomach with his right arm, and dropped to his knees as Sharon screamed in horror, “Alex!” her voice was almost shrill enough to shatter glass.

I searched around for the shooter, seeing Rontreal standing behind that tree, grinning. He saw me, and started to turn to run. He didn't make it. I opened fire with my MP5, spraying bullets wildly in Rontreal's direction. Gerry was behind me and to my left, so I didn't see him, but I'm pretty sure it was him that fired too.

I don't know who got him, but Rontreal appeared to trip as multiple bullets slammed into his retreating back. He sprawled forward onto the slick white floor. Without hesitation, and possibly opening myself up to attack from someone else I hadn't seen, I stormed over to him. My emotions had taken over, and I had become the same person who killed Merrit Sokolenko just the other day.

There was no blood on the back of his shirt, and I could see the outline of a bulletproof vest through his shirt. There was however a large amount of blood flowing out of a hole in the back of his leg; probably what brought him down. I would guess that by the amount of blood pouring out that something important had been hit. He probably would have been dead in a couple of minutes anyway, and it probably would have been the painful death he deserved, but I couldn't let him have that death.

He was struggling on the ground, trying to crawl away. He wasn't saying anything, just sort of gasping and grunting. I guess that all those shots to the back knocked the wind out of him. He never looked at me as I approached, I don't know if he even knew I was coming, even when I was standing right next to him.

For the second time in the space of a week, I shot a man in the back of the head . Alexandre Rontreal stopped moving. It was a minute too late to do any good though.

I looked around me, and noticed that Parasite's body was starting to move, slowly crawling the rest of the way out of the flaming remains of African Swallow. She was reanimating, as were a few of the bodies I could see strewn about the shopping area.

I realized that I could hear Sharon sobbing loudly, and rushed back over to the group. O'Hara was still kneeling by Officer Perry's body, and Gerry was with Milton, Maria, Tara, and Sharon were with Alex, who was gritting his teeth to keep from moaning aloud. Tara had propped Alex up against herself so that he was half sitting up.

“We're going to have more company soon.” I said to the group, and then to Alex, “Can you move?”

“I don't think so,” he said through clenched teeth, “You guys need to go on without me.”

“No!” screamed Sharon, “We're not leaving you!”

“I'm sorry hon,” replied Alex, “but you have to. I don't think I'm going to make it.”

“You can't leave me! You promised!”

“I know, I'm sorry. I failed you. I failed all of you.”

“Sharon, I'm sorry, but he's too badly hurt, “explained Maria, putting a hand firmly on Sharon's shoulder.

“Get your hands off of me!” howled Sharon, shoving Maria's hand away; a move which would likely have resulted in a punch in the face at any other time, “Get up now! You're coming with us! We're all leaving together!”

“You need to go without me; I can't go with you,” explained Alex.

“No! Fuck you!” Sharon howled, “If you stay, I stay.”

“ You can't stay, Kaur will kill you,” Alex explained.

“Sharon,” started Tara, “he's-”

“Don't you speak to me!” Sharon hissed, “You just want him for yourself! First you steal my best friend, and now you want my boyfriend too, you scrawny little slut!”

Alex mustered up one of his last reserves of strength, “Goddamnit, Shar! You are going with them! I will not allow you to die because of me.”

“You can't leave me alone!”

“I'm not. I will never leave you, I will always be with you where it counts, but right now you need to leave.”

“I won't!” Sharon's fury drained out her voice with those two words, leaving behind just fear and sorrow.

Alex looked back and forth at the rest of us, a tear rolled out of his left eye as he spoke, “This may be the last thing I ever ask any of you to do; do not let Sharon stay! Get her out of here, now!” I never would have thought I would see the day when tears would escape from the eyes of Alex Sigler, but I did then, and it hurt me to see it.

O'Hara, who had gotten up from the body of her dead friend, and returned to the group, grabbed Sharon's left arm. Gerry grabbed her right arm, and the pair of them started to pull her away without a word.

“No! Let me go! Let me fucking go!” Sharon struggled against their grip, but so much of her energy had already been spent, that she couldn't escape their grasp.

“Goodbye, Sharon, I love you,” Alex said solemnly, “Go, please!”

With pained, but determined looks on their faces, Gerry and O'Hara continued pulling Sharon in the direction we had been heading. She kicked and struggled, but could not get free. Maria followed them, after giving her wounded boss one last look. Leaving just me and Tara behind with him.

“You guys go too,” Alex said, “Keep Sharon safe.”

“You're not going to die alone, Alex,” replied Tara.

I motioned in the direction of where Parasite's corpse was crawling towards us; apparently her legs had been broken before she died, so she was not able to move very fast, “But what about-”

Tara raised the MP5 in her hand, at me. I ducked out of the way as she pulled the trigger; hitting the cold floor hard. I rolled in time to see the zombie in the bloody blue button-up shirt thud to the floor.

“I'm not leaving him to die alone. He is my boss, and my friend, and I love him. You know that,” Tara said, placing the gun on the floor.

“Don't stay for me.” Alex said. Whether he wincing from the pain of his wounds or from Tara firing a gun right next to hit head, I don't know.

“You go.” Tara told me in a voice that was not to be argued with as I got back to my feet.

I argued anyway, “He told us to leave,” my voice sounded whiny, even to myself.

Tara gently lowered Alex's head to the floor, but he still winced, this time clearly from the pain of moving. I could see his blood covering her shirt and jeans as she got up, and walked to me, “I will not leave him. You go with the others, and when it is over I will be right behind you.”

“But, “ I struggled for words, “but, I'm your boyfriend. You can't choose him over me.”

“You are my boyfriend, and I love you more than you know, but I told you not to make me choose.”

“I didn't.”

“No, but someone did.”

“What if something happens to you?”

“Then it happens. If it were Sharon, you would stay no matter what the risk. I know how much you love her; you would never let her die alone. You would never leave her behind. Now please, go,” she didn't hug me, but she gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. Her eyes were cold emotionless icebergs, but her voice and that kiss were the Tara I planned to spend Christmas with. The Tara I was making a new life with. The Tara I loved.

“You promise you'll come?” I asked, not knowing if I could convince the others to stay and wait, especially not if there were more security officers down there waiting for us.

“I promise I'll be right behind you.”

It was so hard; deep inside I knew it was a lie, I knew there's no way she could keep that promise, but I did it, I gave in, “Okay. I love you.”

“I love you too, now go,” there was the chill in her voice again.

I'm not sure how I got there, but I found myself running down the stairs to the garage levels. Outside the stairwell I found two freshly dead security officers lying in pools of blood on the cement floor. Both had been shot in the head to ensure that they did not get back up.

About fifty yards away I saw Maria standing there, clutching an MP5 in her hands, “Where's Tara?” she yelled, her voice echoing in the underground cave.

“She's staying with him until....” I started to say but trailed off as I jogged over to her.

I could see two large white vans sitting there next to each other, their engines idling. Through the windows I could see Gerry and O'Hara behind the steering wheels. Next to the vans was a cement wall, and on the other side I could see the front of a tanker trailer that I knew was full of gasoline for the scavenger and security vehicles. The semi that had once pulled the tanker had been disconnected and stored somewhere else.

“But she is coming?” Maria asked.

“She promised.”

Maria shook her head, “I don't know how long we can wait.”

“Where's Sharon?” I asked.

“She's in the van with Gerry. She stopped fighting halfway down here, and just went limp and started crying,” Maria explained to me, and then almost sadly “We almost all made it.”

I nodded sober agreement, “So we're going to wait for Tara, right?” Was it a selfish question, or just acceptance of the situation? I couldn't really tell you, but probably a bit of both.

“I wouldn't suggest doing that,” came a familiar voice, followed by a mad giggle.

Guns in hand, Maria and I cautiously walked past the front of the vans (while getting curious looks from O'Hara and Gerry). On the other side of the wall, sitting on top of the fuel tank was the source of the voice.

Atop the fuel tanker was Jimmy Chen wearing a smart suit, and clean shaven. If it weren't for the fact that his eyes spoke volumes about madness, I would say he looked better than I've ever seen him. The ceiling in the garage was pretty high in order to accommodate delivery trucks, but his head was practically brushing against it

“Umm, what are you doing up there, Jim?” asked Maria.

“Putting a plan into action.”

“What sort of plan would that be?” I asked.

“Well, I realized a while back that that Ash guy we met was right, Mallville cannot survive.”

I heard one of the van doors open, and someone walk over to us, and then I heard Gerry exclaim from behind me, “Holy shit, Jimmy, what're you doing up there? How did you even get up there?”

The giggling stopped, and was replaced by a snarl, “I used a ladder. I may never run in the Bay to Breakers again, but I'm not a cripple!” then the giggling returned,” and what I'm doing is this.”

Jimmy held up a large can in his left hand that had once contained nacho cheese, but now contained a duct taped bundle.

“That's not... is it?” asked Gerry.

“It's always the same when you cook in larger batches, “chuckled Jimmy, “you end up with leftovers, and it would be a shame to let them go to waste.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Maria.

“I'm going to put an end to all of this, but I know you are good guys, so I'm willing to give you a chance,” he put the cheese can down, and thumped the top of of the fuel tanker with his fist, “This sounds pretty full, you'll probably want to go now before it detonates.”

“This is ridiculous, Jimmy. I'm getting you down from there; you can come with us,” stated Maria.

“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” Jimmy brought up his right hand, in it was a shiny silver Desert Eagle handgun.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“It's Hashmir's, he won't be needing it anymore since I put a bullet through his brain with it. He destroyed the only thing I had that was worth living for!”

“Kaur's dead?” asked Gerry.

“Oh most definitely,” Jimmy laughed,” but the others need to go too, Rontreal, Sigler.”

“Rontreal's dead,” I said, not exactly proudly.

“Alex is dying, if he's not dead already,” explained Maria.

“Good! It's people like him that don't make humanity worth saving!”

“So you don't need to do this then?” asked Gerry.

“Oh no, it needs to be done. Mallville in its very concept was an abomination, and it's still full of people like Kaur and Sigler who are too concerned with killing each other to worry about what's important. Well fuck them!”

From the top of the tanker, without ever moving his handgun from our direction, Jimmy produced a small remote control.

“Don't do this, Jim,” pleaded Maria, “You'll die too!”

“I'll be with Sara again!”

“Sara wouldn't want you to do this.”

“Wouldn't she? I'll have to ask her when I see her.”

As Jimmy pressed the button, I remembered that only half of the thermite packs ignited before, so maybe this one wouldn't either. No such luck, first smoke, and then a shower of sparks erupted from the cheese can. The burning metal hit Jimmy, who screamed in pain, and fell over backwards. I heard him thud on the ground on the far side of the tanker.

“Fuck!” yelled Maria, “We need to go now.”

“What about Tara?” I asked in a panic.

“We need to go now!” Maria repeated, “ride with Gerry and Sharon, or stay and die, but we're leaving now!”

Maria and Gerry ran for the vans, Maria jumping into the passenger side of O'Hara's, and Gerry returning to his own. I saw Maria yell something at O'Hara, who put the van in gear, and started driving towards the gate.

I ran back to where Maria and I had been talking, and looked back at the door to the stairwell; praying that Tara would come bursting through that door. That she would run to me, and we would escape with only seconds to spare. I prayed that God would not take her from me.

I guess God had better things to do just then.

“Come one!” Yelled Gerry through the van window at me, “Sharon needs you! We need you! Tara wants you to live!”

I looked from Gerry to the stairs a couple of times, and Gerry started moving the van forwards slowly.

“Seriously, dude, last chance!” Gerry begged, “I don't want to leave you behind, but I'll be damned if this how I die!”

I broke for the van, pulled open the side door, and threw myself into the back as Gerry floored the gas. The tires squealed on the cement as the van went off in the direction that O'Hara had driven. We pulled up right behind the first van just as the gate was rolling up allowing us to escape with our lives.

I sat with Sharon in the first row of seats, she looked vacant, there was nothing behind her eyes, and a seemingly endless river of tears flowing from them. The back of the van, including the row of seats right behind us, was stuffed to the ceiling with supplies and gear, so much so that I couldn't see out the back window. Alex really had planned for this.

O'Hara didn't wait for the gate to finish rolling up, and started forward. The gate wasn't quite far enough up, and scraped against the roof of the van as she passed under it. Gerry followed. The van's engine roared in protest as Gerry tried to make it move faster.

Up the ramp, and out into the parking lot where the rain continued to pour down. Once on flat ground we started to pick up speed, and leave our old lives behind us forever. My home, my job, my girlfriend were all there, and now they are all gone.

I couldn't see the explosion, but I felt it. The ground bucked under the van like we were a crumb someone was trying to remove from a bed sheet by shaking it out. I think the van may have actually left the ground momentarily as Gerry struggled to control it, I could see O'Hara swerving a short ways in front of as a split second later.

Sharon, still just looking off into space, reached over with her right hand, gripped my left, and squeezed hard enough that I thought she was going to break something. I let her. I was too busy gritting my teeth and trying not to cry myself as small pieces of debris rained down on us, pinging off of the van's roof, and littering the ground around us..

I had this horrible image in my head of Tara running down those stairs to meet us, and finding that we had left her. I know that if we waited for her I would not be writing this now, but it doesn't make it any easier to get the image of her being incinerated in the blast out of my head.

“Are you okay?” Gerry asked me, as O'Hara slowed to a more normal driving speed in front of us, and he matched speed.

“No,” I answered honestly in a choked voice.

“I'm sorry, man. I know that doesn't help, but I truly am,” Gerry said, and then added, “for both of you.”

“Thanks,” I replied. Sharon said nothing, only loosed her grip on my hand, and sobbed quietly.

I don't know if it was part of some plan or not, but we ended up back here at the Snacky Mart, which, aside from now being completely stripped of food and drink, is exactly as we left it. O'Hara, Gerry, and Maria went through some of the supplies in the back of the van to find us some sleeping bags and food for the night.

I had a can of cold ravioli for my Christmas Eve dinner. Sharon wouldn't eat, she just sat there staring into space, and crying. I got her to drink some water at least. With Gerry's help, I was able to get her into a sleeping bag where she eventually passed out. She keeps moaning in her sleep though.

I can't sleep myself, but I don't think the others trust me enough right now to stand guard. Beth told me just to take care of Sharon; that that was the best thing I could do for the group right now. I didn't argue.

I can't, or maybe just don't want to, wrap my head around the idea that they are all gone. That it's all gone. No more Mallville. I know it's not the end, not yet, but it's another huge part of the old me that is gone now. My world dies around me, yet somehow I keep living.

No tears; Tara wouldn't want me to cry, and I'm not sure if I can anyway. I need to be strong like she was. I need to keep Sharon safe. I couldn't save Tara, but I will keep Sharon safe somehow. Alex and Tara would want me to.

That's it, that's my day. I'm sure it's after midnight by now, so Merry Christmas, Tara. You promised you'd be right behind me, so I'll just hold onto your gift until you get here. Just please don't take too long, okay?

I'm waiting for you.

I love you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Twenty Ninth Entry: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

December 20th

I almost lost Tara today. It was only sheer luck that she still alive. That son of a bitch was going to kill her, he was going to...

I'm getting ahead of myself; she's still alive and okay, so let me take things in order.

Kaur made a announcement about our attack on the Hell's Postmen yesterday. He held it on the fountain stage in the center of the shopping area again. This time there was less of militant feel to it. Alex, Tara, Rontreal, Mike and a few others who had led groups during the attack were on the stage with Hashmir as he spoke.

“Citizens of Mallville,” Hashmir began, “I come to you today with good news. One of the great external threats to our survival has been dealt with. The gang known as the Hell's Postmen have been eliminated thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the men and women of my security force, Alex Sigler's scavenging force, and Michael Clowes' roof patrol force.”

Sharon and I had taken a position as close to the one that we had watched Hashmir's last speech from, only this time we were not afraid of having to make a hasty retreat. Tara and Alex both looked up at us from time to time. I was a little surprised to find Tara smiling as I was sure that she would be in professional mode for this, and her professional smiles are generally not pleasant ones.

“As you all know, “continued Hashmir, “The Hell's Postmen were responsible for the attacks on a number of our scavenging crews as well as an attack on the clean up crew, the attack on Halloween day that breached the walls of our very community, and the attempt on my life with the attack targeted at my office. They cost us the lives of many brave citizens, but no more. Not one more person will fall at the hands of these destoryer”

“We cannot rest now that we have eliminated this threat, however, for we must remain ever vigilant against other attacks. I refer not just to the undead that daily come to storm our sanctuary, or even to other outside humans who would try to take our home from us, but to internal forces who would rot us out from the inside like an infected tooth.”

I could swear that Kaur looked towards Alex and Tara as he spoke again, “There are people amongst us, people watching me speak right here and right now who would destabilize the strong community we have all worked so hard to create. If we let these people have their way, then the work and sacrifice we have made so far has all been for nothing.”

Alex and Tara's expression's changed. Even Mike was looking at Hashmir questioningly now, “It is only with absolute loyalty and determination that we can continue to survive, and so I remind you that it is your duty, and in your best interests, to report any malcontents to security so that any threat they may pose can be addressed.”

And with that the air of cooperation and teamwork ceased to exist. The rest of the thirty minute speech was not about the operation to eliminate the bikers at all, but about being loyal to Mallville, Hashmir's Mallville. You could feel the mood of the crowd shifting as people were once again choosing sides. In the space of a few minutes he managed to undo the progress and goodwill that had been created by his actually working with Alex.

It was after that was over that Tara almost died, and you may be amazed to know that Hashmir Kaur had absolutely nothing to do with it. It also answered a question I've been writing about for weeks.

After the speech, Tara and I went back to her apartment (I was in no mood to listen to Alex rage more about Kaur, Sharon's his girlfriend; that is her job). This didn't mean that I would not have to still listen to Tara do a bit of raging (which as her boyfriend is my job), but hers tends to be a little more, what's the word? Oh, yes, sane, as well as a little less profane than her boss'.

Tara talked about packing a bag and keeping it by the door in case we have to leave quickly. I pointed out to her that if we are in the apartment when the security force comes for us, we wouldn't be able to escape, and that if we are somewhere that we could realistically escape from (not that escaping looks very promising anyway), we would not be near the apartment to come get the bag. She gave me a frosty look for that, but it was quickly replaced by an extremely weary one which made her look much older than she is.

I don't like seeing Tara like that. She so rarely ever drops what must be almost all of her defenses that it almost seems like she's ready to give up when she does. Still, I must look pretty hopeless most of the time, so who knows what she thinks of that.

We decided to lay down for a bit, and both quickly fell asleep. I dreamed about the attack on the Postmen, and while I couldn't call it a good dream, at least it did not involve me killing Tara, Sharon, or anyone else I care about. At this point any dream that does not end in me waking up gasping for breath is good enough for me.

I wasn't asleep for more than an hour or two, as it was still light out when I woke up. What did surprise me when I woke up was that I was alone; Tara was gone. I sat up and called out to her; I got no reply.

I got off of the bed, quietly went around it to her side, and opened her nightstand drawer. Her Glock was sitting on top of the jumble of pens, sudoku books, hand creams, and other miscellanea that filled the drawer. I took the gun, and closed everything else back in the drawer.

I know that it's stupid, but the first thing I did was check the closet. For a second I really believed that a zombie would jump out at me when I opened the door, but the only things I found in there were Tara's clothes. I almost shot them anyway, just out of expectation.

“Tara!” I called out again, and still got no reply. She wasn't in the bathroom, or the game room. She wasn't in the living room or the kitchen, but the front door was sitting open. I stuck my head out the door where that smell once again assailed me, and looked up and down the hallway, but I saw nothing.

I crossed the hallway and knocked on Hans' door. After a few seconds, I heard it unlock, and his wrinkled face appeared in the gap between the door and the frame as he opened it, “Oh,” he commented in his German accent, “It's you! How can I help you, young man?”

“Have you seen Tara, my girlfriend?”

“ I know who Miss Lafferty is, I have not gone senile yet,” he said, clearly meaning to be funny, “But no, I have not seen her. I heard some noise out here in the hallway about ten minutes ago, but when I looked, there was no one out here.”

I guess it was at this point that Hans noticed the handgun clutched in my right hand, “Has something happened?” he asked?

I followed his eyes down to the gun, and realized that I must look insane, “Umm, I don't know, “ I said, “It's probably nothing to be worried about.”

“Then why the gun?”

“Better safe than sorry?” I answered his question with a question, “I need to go look for her, thanks Mr. Gruber.”

“I've told you, call me Hans, and let me know if she's okay; she's such a nice girl.”

After leaving Hans behind, I started knocking on other doors. I didn't get answers at some, but I didn't hear any noise inside of those apartments either. The doors I did get answers at hadn't seen her.

The last door I knocked on was two doors down from Tara's. I had met the guy who lived there a couple of times, his name was Merrit Sokolenko. Tara had told me that he had a wife named Heidi, but I had never met her (or rather, I had once without knowing it was her).

Merrit opened the door only wide enough to stick his pale haggard looking face through, but not wide enough that I could see past him, “Yeah?” he asked.

“Have you see Tara Lafferty? She lives a couple of doors down.”

“Yeah, I've seen her, but not today.”

“Oh,” I replied, “Because she left without telling me, and she left the door open, and what with all of the disappearances around here lately....”

“I can see why you'd be worried, but I ain't seen her,” He pulled his head back, and looked at something in the apartment behind him. When he stuck his face back into the gap he said, “If you'll excuse me, I'm a little busy.”

“Right,” I said, rather dejectedly, “I'm sure you-”

A loud crash came from behind him in the apartment. He jerked his head back again, and looked.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Uhm, just the wife, she can be a bit clumsy,” sounding about as convincing as a child standing over a broken cookie jar and claiming he knows nothing about it.

“Is she okay?”

Yeah, she's fine, just knocked over a table-”

Another crash, and what sounded like a muffled voice. Merritt tried to slam the door shut, but I stuck my right foot in it. Unfortunately I had forgotten that I was only wearing socks, so it hurt like hell, but it kept the door open.

“What are you doin'?” Merrit asked.

“Let me see what's going on in there, “I demanded.

“Fuck off, man! Go find your girl,” The pain as he tried to shut the door with my foot still in it shot through me, but I just shoved back. I think the pain from my foot may have actually made me stronger, it was either that or the fear. The door practically flew open, and sent Merrit staggering backwards into his living room.

It was then that I realized that the smell of rot was stronger in his apartment than outside. The smell was coming from there. The apartment was a completely different layout from Tara's or mine. It looked to be another one bedroom layout with the kitchen along the inner wall to my left, and two other doors on the wall. The door nearer to me must have been the bathroom because the one closest to the outer wall was the bedroom door.

I moved into the apartment, and saw what had caused the noise. A tower shelf full of knickknacks between the bedroom and bathroom doors had been knocked over, and its contents were scattered across the floor. This was the third thing I actually noticed though.

The first thing that caught my attention was the blond haired woman in the filthy once pink nightgown. The front of the nightgown was smeared with dried blood, and her skin was a pale sickly gray. She had a filthy bandage on her right arm, and a thick rope tied around her waist, and leading back into the bedroom. The zombified woman was straining against the rope to get at the second thing I noticed.

Tara was wriggling on the carpet which had once been beige, but in many places was now stained and streaked with dried blood. Her legs had been duct taped together, her hands were taped behind her back, and a piece of blood spattered tape covered her mouth. Blood covered her face from a cut on her scalp, and she was trying to wriggle away from the struggling zed, and looking like a fish out of water.

Tara saw me enter the room, and looked me in the eyes as she struggled. Her eyes were a mix of terror, and rage; there was no panic in those eyes, no loss of control. Her eyes spoke of fear and murder to me across the rancid smelling apartment.

It turns out that Merritt had come to Tara's door asking her to help him, that his wife was hurt (which wasn't really a lie, I guess). Tara of course went to help, and as soon as she was in the apartment he hit her over the head with something, knocking her to the floor. Before she could get up, he hit her again, and the next thing she was aware of was him placing a piece of tape over her mouth so that she could not scream.

When I knocked on the door, Merritt was just about to throw the woman I love to his undead wife. Not being the type to let a chance get by her, Tara struggled enough from her place on the floor to first knock the tower shelf against the wall, knocking things off of it, and causing the first crash I had heard. She then managed to knock it over completely; that's where I cam in.

“What the fuck is this?” I asked stupidly.

Merrit had regained his feet, and put his hand forcefully on my shoulder as he spoke, “She's my wife.” Was all he said; all he had time to say.

I turned faster than I would have thought possible for me, intending to punch him in his weary face, but I forgot that I was still holding the handgun. His arm was pulled back to punch me, and tears were running from his eyes. In the second before the side of the handgun connected with his head I was able to read his eyes.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, and it's certainly not an idea I came up with, but I have always believed the eyes are truly the window to the soul. His eyes spoke of fear, sorrow, and love. I suppose that he was doing what he was doing out of some misdirected love for his wife, and I'm sure he's not the only one to have done it since the world ended, but I could also see that deep down he knew that the ghoul in his bedroom was not his Heidi, not anymore.

I slammed the side of the Glock into his face, and he went staggering backwards into the half open front door. The door swung shut from his collision with it, and he slid down the inside of it to the floor in a daze. In that moment, I realized that I had been blaming Hashmir for some shit he really hadn't done.

All the disappearances around the 'Ville? Well they obviously weren't all Kaur's secret police. Some of them, certainly Mrs. Dwonch and her baby, became food for Merritt's wife. I recognized her; we had seen her on Halloween She had been the woman with the paper pumpkins. She must have been bit by the zeds following us before she could get somewhere safer.

Of course Merrit knew that if he took her to the med center, she would be killed and destroyed, so he didn't. Merritt Sokolenko stayed with his wife, and over the days or weeks (however long it takes) he watched her get sicker and sicker, and finally die and turn into one of the undead. I cannot even imagine what that must have been like for him.

I rushed across the room to Tara, and dragged her farther away from the thrashing Heidi Sokolenko. The zed was pulling hard enough on her rope to cut off air to a living person, but Merritt had tied her to a wall stud (I saw the hole in the drywall after it was all over), probably right before she died, and it was holding.

I tore the tape from Tara's mouth, “Ow!” she hissed, and then in a breathless voice, “He was going to feed me to her! He killed Mrs. Dwonch! He's been feeding people to her for weeks!”

Merritt slowly got to his feet again, “You don't understand man, she's my wife.”

“And this is my girlfriend!” I spat. I pointed the Glock at Heidi, as she struggled at the end of her rope.

I pulled the trigger on the Glock twice, and at this close a range I almost didn't even have to look to hit the ghoul in the head. The back of her head burst open, and she tried to collapse forward, but being at the edge of the tether, she kind of fell sideways in the doorway. Heidi's feet slid out from under her, and she fell to the carpet, still at last.

“Heidi!” Merritt screamed, “No!”

Merrit turned red, all signs of the weariness that had been on his face vanished, and bloodthirsty rage replaced it.

“Motherfucker!” he bellowed, and charged.

Without even thinking, I aimed the gun at him, and fired before he had even gone three steps, less than halfway across the room. I shot him four times before I even knew what I was doing. Two bullets tore into his chest, one into his throat, and the last through his left eye. His momentum carried him forward, and he landed on the spindly wooden coffee table in front of an IKEA looking couch with blue flowers on it. The table collapsed under his impact, and he lay still.

I walked over to Merritt's corpse, and shot him in the back of the skull, just to make sure he stayed dead. As his blood flowed out, staining bits of carpet that had not been stained yet, I realized that I had just murdered a man. I stood there over his body as the idea of what I had done solidified in my head.

It wasn't until a voice spoke from the door that I moved from my spot over Merritt's corpse, still pointing the gun at him, “Hello?” called an older German-accented voice from the hallway, it was Hans, “Is everything in here? I heard gunsh...” his voice trailed off as he saw the room.

I can imagine how it must have looked to Hans; there I was standing over a dead man, another dead body visible in the doorway to the bedroom, and Tara bound up on the floor. Not only all of this, but in an apartment that smelled of death, and had dried (and fresh now) bloodstains all over the carpet. It must have looked like something out of a horror film, and I guess it kind of was.

“Are,” Hans started cautiously, “Are you okay?

“I don't think so,” I replied, my voice sounding dull to my own ears.

“Get security, Mr. Gruber, “ called Tara from the floor in her all business no emotion voice.

“I think I had better, yes.” agreed Hans, not admonishing Tara for being formal this time. Hans disappeared from the door.

“Are you going to help me, or just leave me here all day?” Tara asked, a tad impatiently.

I looked over at her, into her cold blue eyes, but did nothing.

“Come on!” she urged.

“I just killed him.” I motioned towards Merritt's body with the gun.

“I'm glad you did, he was trying to kill me!” she replied, struggling against the tape binding her hands behind her back, “Now can you please help me?”

I looked at her for a few more seconds before tucking the Glock into the waistband of my jeans, and going over to Tara. I helped her get to her feet, and guided her to one of the chairs at the small dining table by the window. I then crossed the living room to go the kitchen, looking down at first Heidi's body, and then Merrit's as I passed them.

The sink was piled with dirty dishes, and there was more dried blood on the floor. I started pulling open drawers, and on the third try I found a drawer with a jumble of steak knives in it. I grabbed one of them.

I went back to Tara, and cut the tape that was holding her wrists together. Once her hands were free, she snatched the knife from my hand. She steadied herself against me to keep from falling forward out of the chair, and leaned down to cut the tape off of her ankles.

I must have still looked dazed, I certainly felt numb, “What?” she asked.

“I killed a man.”

“You helped kill a hundred or so people the other day, so what?”

I tried to speak, but no words came. I wanted to say that I did not know those people, but I didn't really know the Sokolenkos either. I wanted to say that they were bad people, but what do you call someone who murders people and feeds them to the undead? Even if the undead in question was their wife, that's still pretty fucked up. I wanted to say I had never killed someone so close up; seen someone killed so close, sure, but never pulled the trigger myself. All of these thoughts seemed stupid and weak, and they seem even more so as I write this.

Tara gripped my shoulders, “You saved my life, hon,” she looked into my eyes, and in the miniature glaciers that are here eyes I saw a mixture of fear, rage, and disgust, but also gratitude and love.” If you hadn't knocked on the door when you did, or even if you had knocked a minute later, I would be dead by now.”

“I know, and if something happened to you-”

“But nothing did,” she cut me off, “because of you. You are my hero.”

Tara smiled at me, it was a cold smile, but it was still a smile. She leaned forward and kissed me; our foreheads touched, and she pulled back suddenly, and grabbed the sides of her head with her hands, and groaned. I could feel wetness on my forehead from the blood leaking down hers.

I gently urged Tara back down into the chair she had been in; The couch would probably have been more comfortable, but then she would be right by Merritt's body. As she rubbed her wrists (which were already starting to darken into bracelets of purple bruise) I went over to the bedroom.

I nudged Heidi's head with my sock covered foot, but she did not react so I looked into the room. It was dimly lit, with just a little light filtering through the curtains, but it was enough to see.

The bedroom was a nightmare, and smelled worse than anything I have ever smelled. Aside from the general disorder of the room, missing bedding, overturned nightstands, that sort of thing, the room was unevenly painted with what looked to be black in this light, but was almost certainly dried blood.

The floor was littered with the contents of the room's drawers and closet, but also with bones, some still with rotting flesh on them. I don't want know exactly how many people he killed, let alone how he managed to get them all here without being noticed. I'm sure someone will answer the first question, but we'll never know the second now.

On the left side of the bed a large ragged hole had been cut into the drywall, and the rope around Heidi's waist led to a thick stud in the wall. Not wearing any shoes, and really not wanting to step on the filth and piece of bones littering the carpet, I did not take a closer look.

I don't know how long I stood there staring into the Sokolenko bedroom, but it was the arrival of security that got me to move. Four riot armored officers burst into the apartment, sweeping the room with their MP5s. One of the officer rushed across the room to cover Tara, while another rushed to me, and threw me up against the wall. He took Tara's Glock from me before letting me go.

A lot of what happened next is kind of a blur to me. I know that Rontreal showed up at some point, and interviewed us both. He asked us if we still thought the idea of threats within the walls of Mallville were some sort of joke. I told him that I never questioned that there were threats, only who those threats actually were. Asshole.

We were then hustled off to the med center for thorough examinations. The cleaned Tara up, and closed the quite large gash on her forehead with a stapler that reminded me a plush tagger.

Alex and Sharon showed up while we were at the med center, and we had to tell them what happened. They were both glad that we were okay, and Sharon gave us both hugs (although maybe a little more gingerly to Tara, who still had blood from her head wound on her t-shirt.

After being satisfied that neither of has had been bitten, they told us to come back in three days for another check-up. I think this is really more for Tara than for me, since I didn't actually have any wounds (my foot wasn't even broken or anything); they want to make sure she's not infected. I'm not sure how they can really check though, since no one knows what it is to begin with. I guess if she starts getting pale or something maybe.

It was late when we got home, after eight and we went to bed after showering (Tara was upset that she could not wash her hair because of the staples). Even though we hadn't eaten since lunch, I wasn't hungry, and Tara didn't say anything about being hungry.

As we lie in bed, listening to the rain outside, Tara started to cry.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

“I almost died today,” she said softly.

“I know.”

“Even when those fuckers were shooting rockets at us, even when we were surrounded by those zeds downstairs, I wasn't as scared as I was today,”

“It's okay now,” I tried to calm her.

“It's not,” she replied, “I was helpless; I let him make me helpless.”

“He hit you from behind.”

“He tricked me, goddammit!” She wailed, “He made me weak! You had to come and save me, because I couldn't take care of myself!”

I struggled for something to say; I know there was nothing I could have said that would make things all better, but I wanted to at least try and lessen her pain.

“You saved yourself,” I finally came up with.

“No I didn't.”

“Yes, if you hadn't knocked over that shelf, I wouldn't have known you were there. I would have just kept looking, and Merritt would have kept on killing people. Who knows how many lives you saved today.”

“But I was weak.”

“You sure didn't seem weak to me,” I replied.

“I felt weak.”

Neither of us spoke for a long time after that, but she slowly stopped crying. I thought she had gone to sleep, but she spoke again,” Thank you,” her voice was sleepy, “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Shortly after that, she started snoring softly. I lay there holding her for awhile until she rolled over, but I couldn't sleep. I got up, and went out to the living room, where I am now, to write all of this down, and think in my usual self-indulgent way.

What is on my mind tonight, other than just the events of the day, is me. Who am I? I re-read my first entries in this journal just a few months ago, and I don't think I am that person anymore. That person could never have just shot a man in the face like I did today.

What happened to me? I am not the person who cos-played as Mr. Kimura. I am not the cashier at Insert Coin. I am not the person who fell in love with Sharon so many years ago. I'm not sure I'm even still the person who fell in love with Tara. I am something more, but not necessarily something better. A fighter? Maybe. A killer? Certainly. Someone other people depend on? Hopefully I'll never be in a position where people need to depend on me.

I may not have been shot or eaten, but the me I was is dead all the same. I haven't changed my name and started wielding a chainsaw like Ash, but I'm someone else all the same. I am sad about this, but the old me could never survive in this world, and that's why he is gone. He died, just the same as Bud; I guess that means that in my own way I'm just as much a zombie as the shamblers.

I cannot think like that. I cannot be weak. I must be like Tara. I must be strong when it counts. If I fail my friends, then I will have nothing. They are all that I truly have.