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,”
“And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss.”
“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.
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:
FRIEND, WIFE, GEEK, SWORD
YOU WILL BE MISSED
“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.
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.