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.



Viktim said...

Hmm. I now hate Maria about as much as I hated Carter Burke in Aliens. No painful, torturous death would be too much...

Void Munashii said...

Wow, Carter Burke, really? I don't see her as being that cold or heartless as he was; she's just really badly damaged from something.

It's rewarding to know that some of these characters do create an emotional response from people other than me.

Viktim said...

Ah, but admittedly, you know things that I don't. ;)