Friday, December 17, 2010

"Dax Plays Faire"

I know it has been a long time since I have added anything to this blog, and if you were hoping for some new Mallville news, I am afraid that this will disappoint you, as it is completely off topic. So what could possibly be so important that I would taunt you like this?

My short story, "Dax Plays Faire" has been recorded for broadcast by the fine people at "The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine" as part of their "Broken Mirror Story Event", and it sounds fantastic. If you are unfamiliar with Dunesteef (and shame on you), they do not just read the stories, but do them as full audio dramas complete with sound effects and music, which is awesome.

So if you want to hear proof that I do in fact write things that do not involve zombies, then please go listen to "Dax Plays Faire".

As far as Mallville goes, I have taken a break from working on the re-write, but I am not abandoning it. I am currently working on a long piece called "Instant Noodles", I've also been working on other short stories, and a NaNoWriMo story. Once the first draft of "Instant Noodles" is complete (and it's about halfway now) I do plan to get back to work on Mallville (although I do have ideas for other short stories, including another couple potential Dax stories) and its re-write.

One last thing, to anyone who has found there way here from The Dunesteef's site: hello! If you are interested in reading Mallville, just click on the link to the first entry off to the right, and you'll be taken there (and away from the last chapter which appears right below this post). I hope you decide to check it out, and if you do, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fifty-Sixth Entry: Write Me A Letter

March 3rd


Today is exactly six months from what some people call VZ day. Evie even unveiled a monument to the memory of everyone who lost their lives defending this town. Your name is on it, so is Gerry's. In total there are 142 names engraved on it.

I know that 142 really seems like a small number given what was at stake, but I would trade a hundred more lives if it meant that your name wasn't on there. I know, very Sith of me, right?

I miss you so much, and I wish we had had at least a little more time. There are things I wanted to tell you; things I wanted to show you, but we just ran out of time. This letter is going to be the best I ever get, I guess.

The monument really is beautiful. It's about ten feet tall, carved out of what I think is marble. It looks kind of like a white version of the monoliths from 2001. It's hard to look at all your names on it, all of you who gave everything so that the rest of us could live.

Why did you have to go back out there? You were hurt, you should have stayed in the hospital. You should have been there with me. You should have been the first person I saw when I woke up! You should be here now, Goddammit! Why did you have to leave me like that?

I'm sorry. I know why you did it. You did it because it was the right thing to do. You always did the right thing, no matter the risk to yourself. You did it no matter what it would cost you. You were as close to an actual good guy as I have ever known.

Evie gave a really nice speech, but she had to stop a few times because I think she was starting to cry too. Maybe Grimm was right, maybe she really didn't understand the stakes of it all, but she does now. Any illusions that anyone here had that we were somehow safe and outside of what happened to the rest of the world were permanently dispelled last fall.

When I was shot, I was so scared, I don't remember much of anything from that night, but I do remember being scared. To be honest, I spent a lot of last year afraid; I know you may not believe it, but I did. Losing you and fleeing Mallville really threw my head for a loop. If it wasn't for the people I was responsible for, and the fact that I knew that you had survived and were out there somewhere, I probably would have completely lost it. When I found out about you and Sharon, I guess I did kind of lose it though, huh?

The last memory I have of you is you carrying me through the rain, blood streaming down your face. You were injured too, but you put me first. Doctor Lester tells me that you saved my life; if you had gotten me to the ambulance any later, I probably would have died.

I know, you aren't the one who got me to the ambulance exactly, but if you hadn't gotten me to Gerry I would have died out there on the cold wet highway. He may have carried me the rest of the way, but it is you that saved me.

They tell me that I was unconscious for almost two days. When I woke up you were long gone; back to the fight to save people like me. The TV was on in my room down in the labs. I was sharing a room with a woman named Cricket, of all the goofy names.

When I woke up, I saw that you had left your satchel behind in my room. I know you said that it was because it would be easier to not have it with you, but I wonder if maybe you knew somehow. You wrote like there was still more to come, but I can't help but wonder.

I also wonder if I hadn't gotten hurt if you still would have gone. If I was still out there with you, or even if I had been awake when you left, could I have stopped you? In my most selfish moments I like to imagine that the you I loved would have put me first, but I suspect you would have gone ahead and done what you thought was the right thing.

The TV was the last place I saw you alive and whole. There were only a few hundred zeds left, and looking back, they probably could have been eliminated without using “The Big One”, but I don't blame Evie for her decision. I'm sure from where she sat it seemed like better option than letting that many of them get into town.

Toni was reporting that the bomb hadn't gone off as planned; she looked panicked, but that was probably as much a lack of sleep than anything. She may not have taken up arms and fought against the zombies with us, but it was just as rough on her and the rest of the people from the TV station.

“I'm being told that a group is being sent out to try and repair the bomb,” Toni said, a look of disbelief on her face, and in that moment she lost her professionalism and became the woman I cam to know, “Is that correct? That's... that's suicide!”

Toni was down in the labs with the rest of us. Everyone had been cleared from above ground for the detonation, and Toni was standing in front of a wall of TV screens, all showing footage from security cameras around town. Toni was replaced on screen by a shot from one of the cameras mounted on the east gate. You could see the trailer with the bomb on it a short way down the road.

The rain had finally let up, and it was bright and sunny, and you could actually see the end of the zombie mob. Unfortunately they had already surrounded the bomb's trailer. I guess Evie was afraid that using the remaining vortex cannons and microwave guns might set the bomb off anyway, that's what she told me later anyway. She spent a lot of time with me after, I mean she spent time with the families of everyone who died in the battle, but she seemed to spend more time with me. It was like she was afraid that I would blame her, but it was your decision in the end. I doubt she could have stopped you anymore than I could.

The TV switched to a shot at the edge of town, and it showed two snowplows driving towards the gate. There were a dozen people perched on the back of each, and I wish I could say I was surprised to see that you were on one of them.

We should have used the snowplows from the start, they did a great job of shunting the zombies off the side of the road and down the hill. I'm sure a number of them survived that initial fall, but it certainly cleared a path.

After you drove out of frame in town they switched back to the shot of the zeds slowly moving under the gate, and over the city line. They were now officially in Lovelock, even if they had not made it to town yet.

Suddenly there were zeds flying backwards as the first snowplow drove into frame, and I got a glimpse of you again as you went past. You were easy to pick out with that bandage wrapped around your head. You looked so heroic, the swords strapped to your back, the rifle in your arms. That's the Daniel Morris that saved my life twice, and it's the you that you never acknowledged in your diary.

Your whole book makes you out to be some sort of bumbling fool; if ever there was an unreliable narrator, it was you! You never understood how much of a hero you were, or just how much you took on yourself that you didn't need to.

The snowplows carved a path through the mob of zombies all the way to the trailer with the bomb on it. The plows themselves blocked a lot of the camera's view of what happened then, but I could see that some of you climbed out and onto the back of the trailer and were firing into the mob.

The person who actually re-armed the bomb was a scientist named Frasier Monroe. There were a tense couple of minutes where the TV was just showing you and Beth and Gerry, and other people just as brave as all of you keeping the zeds from climbing up onto the trailer. Like I said, the snowplows blocked a lot of the view, but I could see you and another man standing at the back of the trailer defending that edge.

I don't know what happened, if you ran out of bullets or your gun jammed, but you threw it aside at one point and pulled those swords. You may have looked a little ridiculous wearing them (especially over your coat), but you looked awesome using them. I was as proud of you as I was scared as you hacked at the zombies below you. You were a cross between Conan and Anakin Skywalker; you really looked like you knew what you were doing with those swords.

Monroe had finished what he was doing, and you all started climbing back onto the snowplows. I saw one woman lose her grip and fall into the mob that was now trying to climb up to get to you. Beth reached over to try and grab the woman, but you pulled her back before any of the zeds could grab her too.

The snowplows started moving forward, away from town and away from the camera, but then each made awkward three point turns and came toward and then under the camera, carving themselves a new path . In my memory I can hear the wet crunching of the zeds being run over, but I know that was not a sound coming out of the TV.

“They're coming back now!” Toni exclaimed, even through the shot of the bomb surrounded by zombies stayed on the screen, “It looks like they lost someone to the zeds, but they are coming back. Did they do it?”

Someone spoke to Toni, but only muffled noise came through the speaker.

“I'm being told yes! They have reset the bomb, and as soon as they're at a safe distance it will be detonat-”

The view of the bomb disappeared suddenly, replaced by static.

“What happened?” Toni said, puzzled. She wasn't speaking to her audience, but to someone in the room she was using as a studio. A second later a heavy vibration ran through the underground labs.

Toni was on the screen again, she looked puzzled and afraid, “Was that?”

It was. The bomb had gone off too soon, and for a few minutes no one knew what was happening. Toni looked like she was listening to someone talk in her ear, and then Regis Stone, the normal anchor came into frame. He looked like someone had just woken him up; his blond hair was a mess, and he had no makeup on causing him to look vaguely undead himself under the harsh lights.

Stone had his own microphone, and roughly pushed Toni out of frame, “We are being told that the device known as 'The Big One' has been activated early. We currently do not know if the team that went out to repair it made it away safely or not.”

I felt this heavy weight in my stomach as I waited. I think everyone in the labs who was near a TV was feeling the same way. Cricket was asleep, so I was essentially alone in my room, but as quiet as it was outside my room I could have been the only person in the entire underground vault.

As it turned out, the bomb worked perfectly, and with the exception of a few broken windows, there was no damage in town itself. Almost all of the zombies were destroyed in the explosion, or in the resulting rock slide which brought a good portion of the mountain down. They are still trying to dig the road out, but I suspect that most of what used to be road there is sitting amongst the rocks father down the mountainside. Still, it can be repaired somehow, someday.

Stone talked for a few minutes, despite his appearance, he seemed a lot more at home in front of the camera doing this kind of coverage than Toni did. I mean she was only a weather girl after all. No, I have no intention of ever letting her, or anyone else for the matter, read this.

“Wait!” Stone almost yelled, “We can see one of the trucks!”

The screen switched back to the camera that had shown you all driving out of town. A solitary snow plow with two flat tires was driving into town. The blade at the front was scraping on the pavement, and left gouges in the road surface as it went. There was no sign of the second plow, but there were more people in the back. I thought I caught a glimpse of you, but I wasn't sure.

It was almost a half an hour later, a half an hour spent watching Regis Stone guessing what had happened to the other truck, before Beth came into my room.

Beth was out of breath as she entered my room, she was dirty, bleeding from her forehead, and looked like she had been crying, “Tara, you need to come with me,” she said, “It's Dan, he's hurt.”

I tried to get out of my bed, and fell to the floor. I was still too weak to walk. Rather than help me up, Beth ran out of the room,and came back with a wheelchair as I was regaining my feet.

“What are you doing?” A nurse was asking her as she pushed the chair into the room, “You!” she said to me, “You can't be out of bed!”

“Her boyfriend's hurt, he was in the group that went out to the bomb,” Beth snarled at the nurse, “She's coming with me!”

I was still tethered to the IV stand next to the bed, and was having trouble trying to work the bag free with my good arm. My other shoulder felt like it was full of broken glass, and even without the sling on I wouldn't have been able to use it

“Does she need that?” Beth asked.

“It's just saline,” the nurse answered, seeming uncertain how to handle this situation.

Beth grabbed the rubber tubing, and ripped it roughly out of my arm. I'm sure it stung, but at that moment the news that you were hurt and Beth's attitude had me numb to it. Beth helped me into the wheel chair, and then started pushing me down the hall towards the lab entrance.

“How bad is it?” I asked.

“I'm sorry, Tara, it's bad,” Beth said as she rolled me down the hallways, dodging around people as she went, “Monroe couldn't get the receiver to work, but he was able to set up a timer... it went off too soon.”

“We were almost clear,” Beth continued, “I mean, we were out of the blast radius, but the debris hit us; It was probably a tree, it was burning. Brent, our driver, he must have panicked or something; the truck rolled onto its side and went off the edge of the road. I was thrown clear, but I think the truck hit Dan as it rolled.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“The doctor said he didn't know, wouldn't until he examined him thoroughly, but that I should find anyone who cares about him. I sent Barbara to find Pippa and Bishop.”

Beth rolled me into the large chamber outside the lab's thick vault-like door. I don't think you ever went down into the labs, but the room is impressive. Picture a twenty foot high ceiling with the Genetitech DNA logo carved into the shining white stone of it. There was no time to admire the room then though, Beth rushed me to the elevators that would take us up into the hospital.

Beth was almost hysterical as we waited for the elevator to get us to the surface, “Gerry, oh God, I didn't see him. I think he went over with the truck. There were only four of us from the truck left, Me, Dan, Monroe, and Ciaran. Everyone else was gone. I think Ciaran's leg is broken, but Daniel...”

The elevator opened onto the ground level of the hospital, and Beth shoved me out, and rolled me down more hallways towards the emergency room. There were no moving obstacles up here with everyone else down in the labs.

Beth nearly ran over the nurse who tried to keep us out of the room you were in. The nurse stepped aside at the last moment, and Beth and I barged into an operating room.

You were on the table, they had already removed your coat and shirt; they had been thrown into one corner of the room with your swords. Seeing the swords there on the floor told me all I needed to know... Sharon's sword, the one with Hello Kitty on it, was bent about halfway down its length.

What happened next is a bit fuzzy, but I am pretty sure I lost my shit there. I remember trying to get to you, and having a doctor who was covered in what was probably your blood trying to put me back in the wheelchair. I don't remember exactly what he said, but I know he was yelling at Beth to get me out of there.

I remember that Beth yelled back, and I think she came pretty close to punching your doctor. He eventually convinced her that she should get me out of there. I think he said that I shouldn't see you that way.

What I do remember clearly is how you looked on the table. Your jeans were torn, and looked burnt in places. The left leg of them was a dark maroon with your blood, and you leg was slightly bent halfway down your lower leg.

Your arm was visibly broken too, with the end of one of the bones ticking out of your upper arm, but it was your face that was the worst. It looked like your skull had been caved in, and a lot of your hair was gone, like it had been burnt off. I see you that way in my dreams sometimes, and I still wake up screaming for you. I always hope you'll be there to calm me down, but you never are.

It was hours before we were allowed to see you again. Beth found me some clothes while we waited, and helped me change in one of the empty rooms. Pippa, Bishop. Toni, and Barbara all came and waited with us while the doctors worked on you. We waited there for about six hours before the doctor finally came out to talk to us.

“We've done what we can for him,” the doctor, I don't even remember his name, said, ”He has suffered a massive head trauma; he's a strong person to even be alive now.”

Beth, who had gotten cleaned up, but was still in her dirty uniform, asked the question that I couldn't, “Is he going to survive?”

The doctor shrugged, “At this point, I don't know. Like I said, it's a minor miracle he's alive now. He's stable though, and there is still brain activity, but if he does wake up he may not be the same person you know.”

“Can we see him?” I asked.

“Yes, it may help him to have people who care about him there.”

The doctor led us to the room you had been moved to, with the zombies taken care of they were no longer moving people down to the labs. You had a double room to yourself.

You looked peaceful there in the bed. The blanket was pulled up just past your waist, and most of what we could see was covered in bandages. Your left arm was in a cast, and half of your face was covered by bandages too. There was a thick breathing tube in your mouth. The machine next to your bed seemed to indicate that you had a strong heartbeat though.

The doctor explained to us that aside from the broken arm and leg, and the wound to your head that one of your lungs had been punctured, and that they had to remove your left eye. If you pulled through you would have to drastically change your life, and that would be no easy task in this world.

The others came and went frequently to sleep, or eat, or visit other wounded friends, but I refused to leave your bedside. After the first night of me sitting there in that wheelchair they just reassigned me to the bed next to yours. I wanted to be there when you woke up. I wanted to be the first person that you saw, and I wanted to tell you that I love you, and that I was sorry about the last real conversation we had.

I was sorry that the last thing I clearly remembered calling you was a son of a bitch. I hate the last thing I remember telling you was to grow up. You were right of course, I was jealous, and I had no right to be, especially since you knew all about Oliver and everything.

I tried to stay awake as much as possible; not taking the painkillers they gave me helped at first because the pain was more than enough to keep me up, but after the second day the doctor realized I wasn't swallowing them when he looked at my charts and blood tests, and started injecting them into my IV.

Beth and Barbara came and visited a lot, so did Pippa and Bishop, and Zack and Margaret Hutchins. Beth brought Ciaran by once to see you, he was in a wheelchair because of his own broken leg. Evie came by a few times, but she never spoke, not even to me. I think she was visiting all of the wounded, reminding herself what the cost of our survival was.

Toni would stop in when she wasn't on the air, but they had her busy with coverage of the victory celebrations. Most people were celebrating, and I don't blame them. I'm glad that we won too, that we had done what the vast majority of the world had failed to do. Why did the cost have to be so high though?

You made a lot of friends while you were here, you know? A number of people I don't know came to see you. They all expressed their condolences to me, and hoped you would get well soon. I think you're right, I think Beth did tell everyone about what had happened between us.

I talked to you a lot. I told you about what happened to me after the explosion at Mallville; I had intended to let you read the letters I wrote you, but that's never going to happen is it? I think you heard me. I hope you heard me. I hope you knew I was with you.

It was five days before you finally passed. I was laying in my bed reading to you from a book called “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”, it was funny, and suddenly your heart monitor went from a steady beep to a constant tone.

I was at your bedside in a moment, and I pulled out my IV again in the process. I was calling your name and shaking you with my left arm when the nurses and doctors on duty burst in. They tried to bring you back, but nothing worked; you were gone.

That's when I found out that the doctors had been using the wounded to test vaccines based on Grimm's work. They had actually been able to save a few people who had been bitten, and virtually no one who didn't survive got back up. I think you'd be happy to know that you stayed dead; that you didn't become one of those things.

The doctor, the same one who had operated on you, called your time of death as 3:42 PM, and he apologized to me. One of the nurses turned off your monitor, and the room was silent.

The doctor ushered the nurses out of the room to give me a moment with you. He stood in the doorway. I didn't like his being there, but I understand that he was just worried that you might come back; he had his hand resting on the butt of the gun holstered on his belt.

They had pulled your breathing tube out while trying to resuscitate you, and your mouth was not covered anymore. You looked so peaceful there, like you looked when I would wake up at night and watch you sleep. I kept waiting for you to take a breath, but you didn't.

I said goodbye to you for the first time there. I had never really accepted you were gone before, I knew you weren't dead, but now I had to accept it because you were there before me. I couldn't keep hope somewhere inside that you would show up again; that you would come back for me after all.

I leaned in, and kissed your still warm lips for the last time.

I managed to not cry until after they came to remove your body. I managed to keep my composure until Beth wandered in about thirty minutes later.

“Tara...” was all Beth could manage.

Beth put her arms around me, which hurt like hell, and together we both cried. It was probably the last time Beth has spent any real time with me. Shortly after your memorial, we held one for you at Bacchus at Zack Hutchins' insistence, she moved out of the house to live with Barbara.

All by herself, Pippa was facing losing the house, so I moved in with her. I'll be honest with you, hon, it was awkward at first. Pippa alternated between apologizing for the way she acted before, trying to be friendly, and trying to avoid me completely. I needed her help with a lot of things (have ever tried to use a manual can opener with one hand? It's not easy), so we eventually got over our awkwardness with each other.

I'm staying in Beth's old room. Pippa insists that we leave your room and Gerry's room the way they were. She goes in there to keep them clean, and I hear her in one of the rooms crying sometimes. I go into your room and cry sometimes, partly because I miss you, and partly because of what happened last time we were both in there.

I know that eventually we are going to have to at least box those things up. I'm sure that having museum exhibits dedicated to the two of you in our house is not good for us. The therapist has confirmed this for me.

While we almost never see Beth, Barbara does come by every couple of weeks to see how we're doing. She tells me that Beth is in counseling too, but that she can't face either of us yet.

“It's not easy,” Barbara explained to me on one visit, “She's lost most of her family for a second time, and she feels responsible. I tell her that there was nothing she could have done about it, but she doesn't believe it yet.”

“How are things between you two?” I asked.

“That's not easy either, but I love her, and I know she'll get better eventually. I just have to hang in there, you know?”

Does that sound like anyone we know?

Pippa is doing well. She's also in counseling, hell, most everyone in town is in counseling now, even some of the counselors. Pippa's young though, and I think she's dealing with things a lot better than Beth or I am. She's been spending a lot of time with Bishop. They haven't announced that they are officially dating or anything, but she does tend to blush when I ask about him.

She's also doing well in school. Her teachers say that in another year she should be ready to join them down in the labs. I'll probably never see her once that happens, but it's good that she will be making a real contribution to our future. I think you would be proud of her.

Toni is still working at the TV station, and she seems happy enough. I have to admit that I don't really watch her on the air even though we did get a TV for the house. I don't think Pippa watches it much either.

Evie, or Doctor Byron, as you insisted on being formal about her, is a slightly different person than she seemed to be before. She's more serious now; She's still friendly, organizes dances, and she still insists on everyone calling her Evie, but I never see her on 7th City anymore.

The people at the hospital are still in contact with that church you guys stayed at; the one with the biker priest. Evie told me that the preacher, Reverend Thomas, says he and his flock will be praying for you. I figured you would be happy to know that they were still around. Maybe if you had stayed there, you would be too.

Sorry, I'm not writing this to make you bad. I don't really know why I wrote that.

I am working in the hospital now, but not in any sort of medical capacity of course. I am working with the Acquisitions group coordinating raids. Between that and my physical therapy I think I spend more time there than here at home.

My arm is getting better, but I'm pretty sure my therapist is the Marquis De Sade in disguise. Doctor Lester tells me that I am never going to have full range of motion again, but that I should be able to get about 90% back. There go my dreams of playing at Wimbledon, eh?

I do feel it is a bit of a triumph that I am able to write this to you though. This is what I was working toward, being able to write this letter to you in my own hand, not on the computer. I know my writing is a little hard to read, but it's not like you're ever going to read it, right?

I think the most annoying thing about my shoulder is that it aches when there's moisture in the air; all winter it was hurting. So now I have gray hair and achey joints? It makes me feel old. In my head I can hear you telling me that I'm not old, but I wish you were here to tell me in person.

It actually started snowing two weeks after you passed. The winter was pretty mild, and when spring came things didn't get too bad. We haven't had any external zed incursions in town since the fight, although the Acquisitions teams run into plenty of them.. There was one incident where a woman killed her children and herself, but they were destroyed before they could infect anyone else.

We didn't have any new survivors during the winter, and so far have only had 4 or 5 since the snow thawed. Maybe it's just us and that church left out there? I doubt it. There has to be more people surviving than just us.

Now that spring has come, they've started planting crops above ground. It's all genetically engineered stuff that would have gottne people all riled up before, but now we're just glad to have food to eat. Once the canned food runs out or goes bad we're all going to have to become vegetarians too. Try wrapping your mind around that, Daniel, a world with no more Chef Boyardee Raviolis! T'is a sad place indeed.

I guess that's really all I have to say to you now. I don't think I am going to write to you again; I don't think it's right to. I need to let you go so that I can move on too. I know you didn't save my life just so I could waste it sitting in my bedroom crying.

I'm not looking for someone new, but that doesn't mean I won't find someone eventually. Please don't hate me for saying that, but I don't want the last things I say to you to be lies. Know that where ever you are you will always be in my heart, and I will always love you.

I hope that someday, when it's my time to go, that I will find you, Sharon, Alex, Gerry, Maria, and everyone else we've lost waiting for me. I hope it won't be for a long time, but I look forward to seeing you all again.

Thank you for being my lover, my friend, and my hero, and may the force be with you, always.

Love eternally,
Tara Lafferty

April 2008-October 2009

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The End of the Path

It's been a long and interesting road writing and posting Mallville, but that road is coming to an end now. The next chapter, fifty-five, will be the final chapter of the story.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this, whether you stumbled upon this back in 2008 when the first chapter went up, or you just found it last week, thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, all I ask at this point is that you spread the word. Tell friends, post links, give people you think might be interested a copy of the Mallville Collected PDF.

As I look at the 600 pages I have written I chuckle to think there was a time when I was planning to write "Eric the Read" and "Turning to Ash" to use as filler because I did not think the story was going to end up long enough to be a book. Of course I realize now as I do the rewrite that this will be two books, the first covering the material of Mallville Collected Volume 1, and the second covering the rest.

I'm not sure what I am going to do next, aside from the second draft. I'm not sure if I will post something new, or if I'll podcast the second draft, or if I will just try to build up a stockpile of content for the time being. I even have an idea for a third Mallville book (though not a sequel).

I have no intention of ignoring this site after the final entry is posted, but I don't expect to be adding a lot of content to it. I would love to get your feedback on the story though. I may not reply to ever comment made, but I promise you that I do read them, and will take them into consideration while writing the second draft.

Whatever I end up doing next, I'm sure I'll Tweet, blog, or post on Facebook about it. In the meantime I would encourage you to check out the many other great authors, podcasters, and webcomics that are out there, and please support them financially whenever possible.

Fifty-Fifth Entry: And the Skies Wept

September 1st

I'm extremely tired, but this is the first chance I've had to write, and I want to get this down before I go to sleep.

We have been fighting for over a week now. On August 21st the battle for our city, for the future of humanity, began. Doctor Byron's speech on TV was stirring when coupled with the video showing the scythe chariots tearing zeds to pieces. To be fair, she did not show the one that was lost falling over, but that wouldn't make for good propaganda, now would it?. It seemed to work in getting most of Lovelock behind her plan to simply refuse to fall to the zeds though.

Most of the men and a lot of the women turned up for battle. People too old, too young, or unfit for battle for whatever reason are not being forced into battle, but instead are being moved down into the labs now. Even though we fully expect to triumph, there's no point in taking any chances if they do push us back into town. Seeing as we have maybe a day left before we are pushed back to the eastern gate, this is a possibility.

Doctor Byron wasn't kidding when she said that she has been planning for this. She has pulled out all the stops. Aside from having enough weapons to arm a small country she has also provided a number of less conventional things like snowplows and bulldozers, and there is a truck with what looks to be a large bomb on the back. I don't know what it is, but I have heard the term 'Daisy Cutter'.

The side of the bomb has been painted with the words “The Big One”, and the truck it is on is parked right outside the east gate. The plan as I understand it is that if we do get pushed back that far we are going to retreat for the hospital and the labs underneath, and detonate the bomb. The hope is that there will be few enough left that it will finish them off. I hope it doesn't come to that though.

Since our battlefield is only four lanes wide and we are constantly falling back, we have essentially set up shift points. At first each shift consisted of three vehicle mounted weapons, a scythe chariot, and twenty ground troops like me. When the force you are fighting in reaches the next line of soldiers, which are usually about a half a mile behind your starting point your shift is over. You can then fall back to the next base point for food, rest, and resupply.

I think we look pretty fearsome out there all lined up, weapons in hand (I've even gotten to use one of those FN 2000s, and they are awesome) between the truck mounted VRGs, machine guns, and microwave guns. It's too bad that the zeds don't seem to experience fear, or else the battle would have been half won before the first shot was fired.

This system was working really well for the first day and a half. In fact I only know of one fatality that first day, someone moved in front of one of the Vortex Ring Guns before it fired, and was flung into the wall of walking dead. I hope he was dead before he hit them. It was on the second day that things started to go bad.

The first problem was logistical. You see, while people can rest wherever a place to rest is set up (mostly on cots or in the backs of the trucks that are being used to bring supplies out to us) the trucks and scythe chariots have to go all the way back to town to charge up. The one big downside to electric vehicles I guess. The end result of this is that we were ending up with shift points that had no vehicle mounted weapons at all. These lines get pushed back farther faster and this combined with with the second problem is leading to the majority of our losses.

The second problem is fatigue. I imagine that this is what being in a warzone feels like. I am currently running purely on what I am told are caffeine pills (I honestly think they are something more, because as a former energy drink addict I can tell you that they never made me feel like these things do). They have made me jumpy, twitchy, and shaky. When this is all over I think I may just get in bed and sleep forever; I'm frankly unsure how I am still awake now.

As bad as I feel, I'm doing better than some people. Our lines now fall apart within minutes because when it comes down to it we are not trained for this. We are teachers and accountants, retail clerks and truck drivers; we are not soldiers and it shows. Some people getting too close to zeds, and end up being pulled into them. Other people are just getting hit by friendly fire as they stray in front of other fighters. I have heard of a couple of front line suicides too, people who just give up when faced with the sheer number of zeds we are up against.

I can understand how some people are freaking out when faced with this seemingly unending stream of walking corpses. I have personally shot zeds in suits, underwear, pajamas, jeans, leather, and even nothing at all. I have killed zombies that were clearly police, firefighters, soldiers, goths, and children.

The children are the worst, not only are they usually faster than their adult counterparts, but they're fucking kids. I've seen two people get bit because they couldn't bring themselves to shoot kids. I had one charge me while I was reloading, and barely had time to grab my sword (I have been carrying mine and Sharon's with me, they make me feel safer) and hit the little bastard in the side of the head before it got to me.

The third problem, and this is mostly minor, is that some of the zombies are firing back. As I've seen before, some of them remember how to use some weapons and its those ones who are picking up our lost weapons and using them against us. I say this isn't a huge issue only because they are for the most part firing into the zombies in front of them instead of into our forces, and they don't know how to reload. This is of course why I am here in the hospital writing, and not out there fighting right now, but I'll get back to that.

Our biggest obstacle has nothing to do with the zombies at all, but with the weather. Those clouds that were threatening us during the first assault with the scythe wagons made good on their threats the second day of our battle. It was like suddenly the clouds opened up and the skies wept at the horrors occurring under them. Right now is the first time I have been warm and dry in a week.

Aside from the obvious problems of fighting in the rain adding to fatigue, hurting morale, and making the ground a little more slick it is also causing problems with our fancy sci-fi weapons. The water seems to interfere with both the VRGs and the microwave guns, causing them to have less of an effect on the zeds. Did no one think of this ahead of time? I mean I didn't, but then I'm not one of the brains here.

The rain is also doing no favors for the scythe chariots. When I left the front I heard that there were only two left working. The rain did not ruin all of the others though, one was accidentally fried by a microwave gun, two were blown over by badly aimed VRG fire, and one had the misfortune to intersect with a hand grenade. The other four are being blamed on the rain though.

Still, despite all of this, I think we're winning. I think we will be able to pull this off without using The Big One. If that bomb makes as big a boom as I think it does, then it may well seal us off from everything to the east without taking massive detour to the west first. I'm sure it'll take out the zeds, along with the road, and possibly a chunk of the mountainside.

I need to focus. These pills, they say they're caffeine, but I think they're speed, they make it hard to focus now. I'm sure the two or three hours of sleep I have been getting a day are not helping any, but there will be plenty of time to sleep later. I want to get this down on paper now... part of me doesn't think I'll remember it too clearly later.

Of course if none of this makes sense, then what was the point? I need to focus.

So here is an average shift on the front line. I load up on ammo, it won 't be enough, but I can only carry so much at a time, even with the satchel, which I think I will leave here in the hospital. I know I'm not doing my best now, and I'm sure that carrying that heavy-ass thing isn't helping me any, especially when I have to use the swords.

Focus focus focus! Get it together!

So you form a line with however many other people showed up and maybe some of the vehicle mounted weapons like the VRGs or the microwave guns; we ran out of ammunition for the machine guns yesterday, which is a shame because they could cut those bastards in half. Maybe there will be one of the scythe chariots as well, although you can hardly recognize them as the gleaming metal whirlygigs they were; now they are just gore stained monsters in their own right.

I've seen a camera crew from KVMS out on the front line a lot too. They are reporting live a lot of the time for the people down in the labs and at the hospital. I've had it on the TV the whole time I've been here in the waiting room. I saw Toni out there at one of the releif points holding the mic once a couple of days ago. I guess she must not have been on camera at the time since she was talking to Tara. I didn't go say hi.

I assume that while Toni is out there that Bishop is with Pippa. Pippa wanted to fight with us, but Gerry, Beth, and I all forbid it. It's not that I don't think she can handle herself, or that she would have any less a chance of survival than the rest of us, it's just that, for me at least, she is part of what I am fighting for.

“But I have to fight!” she protested when we told her no.

“You need to stay safe,” I said.

“But there are people my age fighting! It's my responsibility as a member of this town!”

“It is your responsibility as a member of this family to stay where you are safe,” answered Gerry.

“Pippa, honey,” said Beth, trying a less overtly protective tactic than Gerry or myself, “You need to stay behind and help watch Bishop and Oliver. Toni is going to be working for the TV station again, and she would really appreciate your help.”

“But I want to fight too!”

I caught on to what Beth was trying to do, “Everyone contributes in their own way. You aren't going to see Doctor Byron out there with a gun shooting zeds. Her contribution will probably be from the hospital, but it will still be a contribution.”

Even though it turned out to be totally untrue, it did seem to satisfy Pippa that she was still helping by not fighting. As for Doctor Byron, she has been out at the front or at the relief point a lot. She's not been shooting zombies or anything, but she has been there with us in the rain and the cold.

It's a shame the zeds didn't come a month from now; it will probably be snowing by then, and they'd be even less of a threat. Of course fighting in the snow would present its own difficulties I suppose.

I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open now. I need to finish this.

You form up a line, you and your friends, and neighbors, and complete strangers, and you wait. Maybe there's a friend with you. I've seen Beth, Barbara, Gerry, and Zach out there, and they all look awful. They look like they have seen hell firsthand, and have been sent back to warn the rest of us about it. Do I look like that too? I didn't really pay attention in the bathroom.

I feel stupid for not trying to talk to Tara out there. I almost lost her today, and what would I do if something happens to her and I never got to patch things up? I think I'd go and throw myself into one of the scythe chariots if that happened... I wouldn't be the first.

We're all saying that the people killed by the scythe chariots were accidents, not user error mind you, just accidents. I don't believe it though, even over the constant sound of gunfire it is impossible not to hear one of those things slicing through the air nearby... assuming they're not slicing through flesh and bone which makes them even louder.

I think we've lost something like twenty people out there like that, not all to the scythe chariots of course, but to suicide. Some people just cannot face that and stay sane. These are people who clearly never had to face these monsters; they weren't used to how killing things that were once human makes you feel inside. I don't have that problem though because once you kill the undead body of someone you loved, there's nothing you can't kill. It may still horrify you, but you can do it.

So you're in line, and waiting. You can see the previous front line backing up towards you, hear their guns firing, the explosions of the grenades (at least until we ran out). They get closer and closer to you, and before you know they are right in front of you. They turn and run/limp/hobble/drag themselves away towards where the relief point has been moved to now, and suddenly there is nothing between you and the zeds but a number of yards, and that is shrinking.

You start to pick your targets and fire. There's no point at firing wildly into the zeds, you're just going to exhaust your ammo that much faster without actually taking many of them out of the fight. It was best to leave that sort of tactic to the machine guns.

It doesn't matter how conservative you are with your ammo though, you're still going to run out well before you reach the next line. Every zed that goes down with a new hole in its head is just trampled underfoot by the others in the stream of rotting monsters. The redhead in the pink pajamas goes down, and is instantly replaced by a bald man in a wifebeater. You put a hole in his skull and he's replaced by a small Asian lady who looks to be in her sixties, and after her there's a teenager in black leather, and after him a fat woman in a stained mumu, and after her a soldier.

The soldier, he was a different sort of issue. It's not that I felt any sort of reluctance to shoot a soldier, it's that he was wearing a helmet. It looked like he had been shot in the chest; it could have been friendly fire, or maybe he was shot by another survivor for his weapons. I'll never know why he was killed, only that he managed to die without losing his helmet, and that my bullets were just bouncing off the damned thing, and it was pissing me off.

What I did was stupid, I know that, but I had to do it. I placed my rifle on the ground, pulled my swords, and charged the undead fucker. I swung both blades at this man who probably died trying to protect his country, and they sliced into his upper chest and throat. He fell backwards, landing only feet from the zeds behind him. I should have let him be trampled, or pulled my glock and put a round into his face, but I didn't.

I stomped by booted foot down onto the zed's torso, and black ooze flowed out of the fresh wounds on his neck and chest. He tried to push himself up, but I was able to hold him down, and I brought up one of the swords, Sharon's as it so happened, and I drove it down into the monster's face. The blade punched through the monster's right eye with a crunch as it cracked the bone of the eye socket and pierced the brain. The soldier lay in peace at last.

It's too bad that the same could not be said for his brethren. I was way too close to the zeds, and one, a girl wearing the remnants of an Apollo Coffee barista's apron, reached out and grabbed the sleeve of my soaking wet coat. As I turned to face her, her head snapped back, and she let go, falling away from me.

“What the hell are you doing, man?” yelled a security officer. It took me a minute to realize that it was Kyle. His last name is Yagan, by the way.

He was right to yell at me, it was stupid to get that close to the zeds; that's how people get killed. I am lucky that he had my back. I am doubly lucky that it was him that happened to see me being stupid, had it been Beth I would probably be in a hospital bed of my own.

I got a chance to even things out with Kyle a short while later. He was trying to put a new clip of ammo into his rifle, and he stepped into a pothole. He cried out as he went down, and the clip, his last apparently, fell out of his hand and bounced along the road surface away from him.

As if sensing his weakness (maybe we put off some sort of smell?), three zeds broke from the pack, a man in a western outfit that was probably hideous even before he died, a woman in the remains of a coral colored business suit, and a little girl in a gray school uniform, she had one ragged pigtail, the probable other having fallen out long ago. They seemed to be aiming straight for Kylr who was trying to scramble for the lost clip.

I opened fire, and sent the little girl, who was in the lead, sprawling onto her side in front of the cowboy, who tripped over her and fell on his face. I fired again, hitting the business suit lady in the side of the neck, and then the side of the head, and she too crumpled.

I moved to where the cowboy was trying to crawl at Kyle, who had managed to grab the clip, but was fumbling with trying to get it into his gun (he had it backwards, but was panicking). I stomped hard on the cowboy's back, and fired two rounds into the back of his skull. He stopped his struggling.

“Hey, thanks, man,” Kyle said.

I extended my hand to him to help him up, and pulled him roughly to his feet, “I had to return the favor,” I said, trying to sound cool despite the battle raging around us.

Kyle winced as he tried to put weight on his left foot, “Shit!” he cursed.

I fired at a couple of zeds who were also starting to pull away from the front of the tide, which itself was getting dangerously close now, “Is it broken?” I asked.

“I don't think so; hurts though.”

I ended up helping him back to the next relief point, which was about a mile away at that point. It would probably be moving again in another hour or two as the front line moved closer. I saw him later hobbling over towards the back of a truck where other people with minor debilitating injuries were reloading the empty clips brought back from the line. His ankle wasn't broken, but it's going to be a few days before he can walk on it normally again, so he is effectively out of the fight.

That's what I forgot! I mentioned that I always run out of ammo before the shift change. To remedy this there is one person out with us with a cart, kind of like the one Pippa was pushing in my dream. It has two baskets. The lower one starts out empty, and is filled with empty clips that the person pushing the basket retrieves from the ground before they get lost under the feet of the zeds. The top basket starts out full with full clips to be handed out as needed. When the top basket is empty, the person runs it back towards the relief point and hopefully meets up with someone pushing a full basket back. They trade baskets, and we at the front line get more lead to throw at the zeds.

Doctor Byron is being interviewed on the TV by Toni right now, even though it is so late. She doesn't look good, I mean she always looks pale, but now she just looks like she's sick. Maybe she is, she has been out there in the rain with us a lot, and don't albinos have weaker immune systems, or something?

Toni doesn't look too good either. I hope Pippa is taking good care of Bishop. I should go down into the labs and look for them and say hi before I head back tomorrow. I miss the little brat, I haven't seen her since this all started.

Doctor Byron is saying, “At this time, we are still viewing the use of what has been dubbed 'The Big One' as a last resort, but I will not hesitate to order its detonation if it comes to it.”

“And do you think we will need to?” Toni asked.

“I really cannot say at this time. We are unable to make a reliable estimate as to how many of the animated corpses remain. If they do reach the Eastern gate, I will order all remaining forces to retreat into the labs, and the device will be activated.”

“And what will the effects of that be?”

“The BLU-82 has a blast radius of up to three hundred meters, so any of the corpses within that area should be destroyed. We do expect that the road will also be destroyed which will be a hindrance to our future acquisition efforts, and there may be some damage to above ground buildings from the shockwave but I feel that saving our town is the utmost importance; we can make repairs as we need to later.”

“Now isn't 'The Big One' designed to be dropped from an aircraft?”

“Yes, Toni, but we have altered this one to allow it to be detonated by remote so that no one needs to put themselves at risk to do so. Unfortunately dropping the device from the air is not at option for us. If it becomes necessary we will make sure that everyone is at a safe distance before we activate it.”

There was just some yelling down the hall. Someone who was badly injured with multiple zed bites just reanimated and had to be put down. I thought they were already destroying the brains of people who didn't make it. The zed, a security officer who looked like she was missing most of her right arm, was already out down before I got there.

I'm just glad it's not Tara, she's still asleep in her bed.

I mentioned earlier about the zeds picking up fallen weapons. That's what happened to Tara. It was two or three shifts after Jacob got hurt, I can't really remember right now. I didn't even realize that she was so close to me until I heard her cry out.

The rain was pouring down on us, and it was already dark despite the fact that it was still the middle of the afternoon. I never heard the shots, or at least not in a way that I could distinguish from our own gunfire. It wasn't until I felt a burning sensation on my right ear that I realized I'd been hit. Burning sensation is actually too weak a term, it felt like my ear was on fire.

The bullet took off the top of my ear, and they've given me some painkillers to take for it, but I know they'll knock me out as soon as I take them, so I am waiting until I am done with this. Doctor Rossi tells me that I'll be fine as long as it doesn't get infected, but I may notice some hearing loss as a result. Something about that part of the ear funneling sound to the ear drum or something.

I heard Tara scream out just fine though. I looked over to my right when she yelled, not realizing it was her at first. I was just in time to see her stagger backwards and fall down. She was clutching her left shoulder with her right hand, her rifle lay on the wet ground next to her.

“Tara!” I called, and ran to her, the pain in my own head momentarily forgotten even as the warm blood mixed with the cold rainwater on my neck.

I don't know if it is a result of everything she's been through, or just a result of the stresses that this fight has put us all under, but the woman sitting on the wet road with blood flowing over the front of her coat around her fingers was not the Tara I've known. She was not angry, or even strong then; she was scared.

She looked up at me, and said my name, but she looked dazed and out of it. Too many of those “caffeine” pills I imagine, “Help me!” she said. I'm not making a judgment of her here; just an observation.

I panicked. The expression on her face will be one of those things that is going to haunt me for the rest of my life. She looked terrified; she looked like someone was else inside the body of this woman that I love. In that moment she was little more herself than Sharon was when....

Just as they had with Kyle, the zeds seemed to somehow know she was injured, and some started to pull out of the pack and come towards us. I fired into them a little more wildly than I normally would as I fought back my own panic. Not only was I injured, but so was Tara, and probably quite badly; I didn't know just how badly yet.

If it were just the two of us out there, I would not be writing this now, but some of the others noticed what was happened, and closed in to defend us. Most of the zeds away from the front of the pack fell in a hail of gunfire from both sides of me, but one, a woman in surgical scrubs, was right in front of me. I suppose no one took the shot for fear of hitting me, or maybe they figured I had since I was right there.

Unfortunately for me, my gun was empty, and it was the last of my ammo. I could see Stan, the guy who was pushing the ammo cart, coming my way, but there wouldn't be enough time. I could pull my Glock, but instead dropped my rifle to the ground, and pulled the two swords out of their sheathes which were criss-crossed over the back of my coat.

As the undead medical professional charged me, I held out Sharon's blade in my left hand and it impaled itself on it, slowing its progress towards me. It opened its mouth wide in a silent roar, or at least not one that I could hear over the gunfire as it slid along the blade. I swung my own sword with my right hand, and sliced into the zed's neck, but not hard enough to decapitate it.

I swung again, and even though I still failed to actually cut her head off, I must have severed the spine, because the zed sagged , pulling the sword in my left hand downward as she slid off of it.

“What happened?” yelled a woman with frizzy brown hair to my left.

“I think she's been shot,” I called back.

“Looks like you have been too,“ called a man with long blond hair matted to his head by the rain. He was on my left, and was grabbing full clips out of Stan's basket while Stan retrieved a couple of empty clips off of the ground. I could feel the warmth of my blood mixing with the cold rain on the side of my face.

“Get her out of here!” yelled the brown haired woman, before shooting another pair of zeds that were pulling away from the shambling wall death moving towards us.

In another couple of minutes, the main force would be on us. I had to move her now. Stan was coming my way, and I handed him my rifle, and picked up Tara. There was no way I would be able to carry her and the gun at the same time, and even if I could I would have no need for it while running away.

While Stan retrieved Tara's fallen rifle, I retrieved Tara. She shrieked as I picked her up; I'm sure pieces of ruined bone in her shoulder were scraping together, but she was already too weak to walk. Weariness, pain, shock, and blood loss had taken all of the fight out of her, leaving behind only fear.

I tried to run back to the relief point with Tara, but after a couple of minutes I started to get dizzy. I don't think Tara was the only one suffering from exhaustion and blood loss. I ended up in sort of a middle speed jog because if I passed out then there was no hope at all for Tara.

“I'm shot!” Tara exclaimed as I carried her; she grimaced with each step, as the impact traveled up my body and into her.

“I know, but you'll be okay. We just need to get you to a doctor.”

“I don't want to die. Not now, not like this!” she said, the panic plain in her voice.

“You're not going to die. You can't yet; we have unfinished business,” I was trying to sound calm myself, but I don't think my panting from the exertion was helping much there. I could feel the warmth of her blood soaking through my clothes and to my skin. She was bleeding so much.

“You're hurt!” Tara observed.

“I'm fine,” I answered, “It's just a flesh wound.”

Tara made a sound that was sort of like a laugh and sort of like a groan; I don't know if this was in response to my joke, or just caused by pain.

“I'm scared,“ Tara said in a voice that I could barely hear over the sounds of the storm and the pounding of my own heart in my ears.

“Everything it going to be fine, just try to stay calm. We'll be there soon,” I lied, not knowing how far it really was to the next relief point.

“I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything,” Tara said, almost babbling now.

“You don't have anything to be sorry for.”

“I do! There's so much I want to tell you before I die! There's so much you need to see!”

“Stop it! You're not going to die!” I practically yelled, and then caught myself, ”We'll have plenty of time to talk things through when this is all over, but you need to try and calm down now,” I urged, thinking that her panicked state might be causing her to lose blood faster.

“But you need to know,” she said, her voice getting weaker, “You need to know that I....” her voice trailed off, and she went limp in my arms. I looked down and saw that he eyes were closed. She had passed out; I knew this because I could still see her chest rising and falling as she breathed,

I felt relief when I saw light up the road ahead of us, but then quickly realized that it was only the next shift line, and not the relief point. I heard someone call my name as I came into the light, and saw a woman break from the line and run towards me; it was Beth.

“What the fuck happened?” she asked. She looked awful, there were deep circles under her eyes, and her hair gave her the appearance of a kitten who had been dunked in a bucket of water.

“One of the zeds got a gun and shot her,” I said, not stopping. I needed to get her to safety, and I was starting to feel dizzy even without running.

Beth's eyes widened more as she looked me in the face, “Is that a bite?” she asked, looking at the remains of my right ear.

“What? No! I was shot too, but we need to get Tara help,”

“Gerry!” Beth yelled, and before I knew it, Gerry was walking alongside us.

“Oh shit!” Gerry exclaimed, seeing Tara lying limply in may arms when he approached, ”is she...?”

“She's fine!” I snarled, “She just needs a doctor!”

“Let me carry her, man,” Gerry said to me. He looked like someone had tried to drown him too, but he still looked better than I must have.

“I've got her,” I insisted, “how much farther to the relief point?”

“They were just moving it again when we left,” Beth explained, “I don't know how far they moved.”

“You look like you're going to collapse, just let me carry her for awhile,” Gerry insisted.

“I'm fine,” I insisted, as much to myself as the Gerry, “I just need to get her some help.”

“Give Tara to Gerry, or I will kick your ass!” Beth ordered me.

Even in that state, I knew there was no point in arguing with Beth. I stopped walking, and gently transferred Tara into Gerry's arms. He took her, and looked sadly down into her wet pale face. He put his ear as close to her mouth as possible to check that she was still breathing. Part of me was mad, but I realize now that he just didn't want her reanimating in his arms if she had died. The condition I was in, I really can't blame him for doubting my judgment.

Dizziness overtook me, and I dropped to one knee in a cold puddle. Beth knelt down next to me, “Get her to the relief station. We'll catch up,” Beth told Gerry, and he took off at a fast jog through the line of my fellow townsfolk who were waiting their turn to face off against the living dead again.

I looked into Beth's weary face, “Why does everyone I love leave me?”

Beth put her arms around me awkwardly as we both knelt there in the rain, “Tara's going to be fine, just like you said, and not everyone who loves you leaves. I love you, Pippa loves you, Gerry loves you; none of us are going anywhere.”

Beth let go of me, and then got back to her feet. She took my right hand, and pulled me up, “Come on, we need to get that ear looked at. It looks like you're out of this fight too.”

By the time Beth got me to the relief point, Tara was already loaded in the back of an ambulance. I found enough energy to jog at that point, and made it to the back of the ambulance before they could shut the doors.

“We'll come visit you guys when this is over,” Gerry told me as the medic allowed me up into the back of the ambulance.”

“I'll be back as soon as I'm sure Tara's going to be okay,” I said.

“You'll do whatever the doctors tell you to do,” Beth corrected me.

The whole way to the hospital the medic, who had a handgun holstered on his hip, kept checking on Tara's vital signs. He gave me a few gauze pads, and told me to hold them against my ear. The pressure hurt, but it also cleared my head a little I think.

Once at the hospital Tara was rushed into surgery, and disappeared into the bustle of the hospital. It looked like anyone with any amount of medical knowledge had been put to work dealing with the flow of gunshot wounds, cuts, broken bones, and bites that had been coming in from the front line.

I tried to follow Tara's gurney as they rushed away, but a pair of nurses in blood speckled scrubs stopped me. I would have just pushed past them, but one of them looked more like a linebacker than a nurse, so I felt it wise to take a seat in the waiting room with a fresh set of gauze pads for my ear.

It seemed like forever before Doctor Rossi came and got me, but my injuries are minor compared to the other stuff they are dealing with, so I tried not to be impatient. I really wanted to know how Tara was doing more than I wanted any attention for my ear.

“Miss Lafferty is in surgery now, I stopped in there on my way to get you,” he said as he led me deeper into the hospital to an empty room to treat my ear, “She's lost a lot of blood, but Doctor Lester thinks she's going to pull through okay. I'm not going to lie to you though, the bullet did a lot of damager to her shoulder, so things are going to be hard for awhile. You're her boyfriend, right?”

“I think so,” I said.

Doctor Rossi gave me a puzzled look, “Well, things could be hard on her while she gets used to whatever limitations this injury imposes on her, so she's going to need a lot of support from anyone close to her.”

I'm not sure what all Doctor Rossi actually did to my ear, but it hurt like hell, and he shaved off some of the hair on that side of my head to do it. When he was done I had a fat bandage wrapped around my head with a big bunch of gauze packed over my ear.

“I'd like to admit you to the hospital for the night,” the doctor told me, “You are suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition and I'd like to take a look at that ear again in the morning.”

I reluctantly agreed, and that brings me to where I am now. Part of me wants to rush back out there right now and rejoin the fight, but I know I'll be a lot more useful after a decent night's sleep, so

Doctor Lester just came in; he looks to be in his mid forties, and has about three days worth of salt and pepper beard growth. He told me that Tara is out of surgery, and she's stable. I should be able to see her in the morning, but that she may still be unconscious. I thanked him for the news, and he rushed away before I could ask any questions. He looks like he could use a good night of sleep too.

I just took the pills they gave me for my ear, and it feels like they are working already; I'm feeling impossibly groggy now. It's probably just a placebo effect though, there's no way they are kicking in this fast. Still, I'd better stop, I only have like two blank pages left in here anyway.

When the fight is over, I'll get a new journal, and let you know how it turned out. Whatever happens I'm going to be 100% honest with Tara; tonight I came just too close to losing her again. I spent all those years just taking Sharon's presence for granted; believing that there would always be a tomorrow, and I could always tell her how I felt when I was ready. I was wrong, and I squandered so much time with her. That's not going to happen with Tara.


Hopefully we'll all live happily ever after; me and my family. Tara, Beth, Pippa, Gerry, Toni, Bishop; I love all of you guys. Oliver... well, we'll see.

And Pippa, I'm standing right behind you, put the journal down!

Made you look!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mallville Special - Turning to Ash

Hey, hey, don't try to sit up so fast. You're safe, just relax. You're lucky to be alive, I guess we all are though, right? Here, have some water, you've been out for awhile.

Who am I? The name's Ash, and I'm the chosen one.

What? Okay, so that's not totally true. I'm not the chosen one (not as far as I know anyway), and I'm not THAT Ash. Actually, I didn't even used to be Ash. I'm not gonna bore you with that though, don't worry.

So where are you from, anyway? I haven't seen a lot of people since after Mallville blew up. Oh that's okay, you don't need to tell me al that if you don't want, I won't be offended.I'm sorry if I'm talking too much, it's just I've not had much chance to talk to a living person in awhile, you know?

What? You do want to know about me? Okay, well I was born Samuel Haff, but when the world took everything from me, that me, the Sam me, died and I rose from the ashes. Rose from the ashes, get it? Heh heh... yeah, sorry.

Anyways, I was always a big fan of Bruce Campbell, so when it came time to re-invent myself, who else would I choose? I mean, I didn't really choose or anything, not consciously, but some part of me chose. You know, I like to think that he's still out there somewhere slaying the undead. I think he'd be proud of me if he could see me.

I once told this guy I met that no one would want to hear my story. Of course I then proceeded to tell him my story, and he did legitimately seem interested. Those guys were in a bad way, but if there are such a thing as good guys and bad guy, they were the good guys. I haven't seen those people since Christmas, I wonder what's become of them.

Anyway, as I'm sure you remember, the end of the world started on a Sunday afternoon in March, although I don't think anyone knew it was the end of the world at the time. I was at work at T-Mart, where I worked in, of course, housewares. This was supposed to just be a job to earn some money to enroll for classes in the summer, not the last job I would ever have. I was about halfway through my shift when I saw the first signs of the end of everything.

I had noticed that it was quieter than normal for a Sunday, but I liked having time to re-merchandise some shelves without people moving stuff or leaving their trash on the temporarily empty shelves. I swear, some of the people that shopped at Tyranno Mart... I should have started a website about it.

Being inside of a T-Mart was kind of like being inside a casino, you know? Is it daytime? Nighttime? Raining? Summer? Winter? Has the world ended? Who knows, it's always midday bright and seventy-eight degrees. Even our TVs were just a DVD on loop most of the time. As a result I had no idea what was happening in the rest of the world until a co-worker told me.

“Did you hear what's going on?” Hector asked me as he was heading to the back. Hector Rodriguez was an interesting guy, maybe not the best worker in the world, but not a slacker either.

“Nope, someone getting fired or something?” I asked.

“Naw man, something up at the hospital,” Hector replied, “A riot or something.”

That got my attention. You see, my mom was a nurse at Covenant General, and she was supposed to be on duty.

“A riot? Are you sure?”

“They were sayin' on the radio that there's a bunch of police and stuff there, an' that some people were trying to bite people.”

And that was when I figured that Hector was just making a lame joke, “Biting? Get out of here, stop wasting my time, man.”

“No, I'm serious. Go check out the TV in the lounge, man, I'm sure it's on there too.”

I would have, but a scream echoed through the store at that moment. Hector and I both headed in that direction; not because we knew that something bad was happening, but because we were nosy. I figured someone saw a mouse or something, or maybe a shoplifter was getting busted.

The scream had come from the front door; it was our greeter, Dotty. She musta had quite a set of lungs in her seventy year old body for her voice to carry across the store like that. Dotty was laying on the floor clutching a wound on her left arm while two of our cart wranglers were wrestling a middle aged man to the ground.

The man was wearing a thin blue bathrobe over a white t-shirt and blue striped pajama bottoms. I could tell immediately that something was wrong with him, and it was the pajamas or the fact that had bitten Dotty that were the clue, we got people in the store dressed like that all the time. It wasn't even the fact he was fighting Raj and Edgar, trying to bite them either, as that wasn't really all that uncommon either.

What seemed off about this guy, the thing that set him apart from your average meth-head, was his color. I mean, he was a white guy and all, but really white; his skin was almost gray. He was the first zombie I ever saw... first of many, unfortunately.

“It's jus' like on the radio, man!” Hector said to me, pointing at the struggling man.

“Ow, fuck!” Edgar yelled as the gray man bit him on the upper right arm; his teeth making a ragged whole in Ed's blue polo shirt. Edgar shoved the man away from him, and Raj let go too, sending the man stumbling towards me and Hector.

The man looked at me for a moment, and I could see that his eyes were milky white. The zombie started to stumble towards me as Hector backed away. I didn't know what to do, so I turned and grabbed the nearest thing, a shopping cart from the corral, and shoved it into the man.

“Someone do something!” I yelled as the ghoul tried to reach me over the length of the cart..

“Sam, in here!” called Odette Walker, one of the cashiers. She was standing next to the Game Zone family friendly arcade room (which consisted of two rigged crane games, two hunting light gun games, and an old Crazy Taxi with the seat stuck as close to the steering wheel as possible so that no one over five feet tall can even play) with her hand on the controls to raise and lower the room's gate.

I turned, keeping the cart between myself and the gray man, and shoved him in the direction of the arcade as hard as I could. The man stumbled towards the doorway, still trying to reach for me over the cart as we went. Together, myself, the zombie, and the empty shopping cart charged into the arcade. I let the cart go at the doorway as Odette started lowering the gate.

The cart stopped rolling forwards as soon as I let go, but the zombie kept stumbling backwards, its arms flailing like a man trying to regain his balance. Like most zombies though, this one wasn't very coordinated, and he ended up stumbling into and tripping over the Crazy Taxi game's seat.

The gate finished coming down as the gray man struggled back to his feet. He shamble-ran to the gate, and pounded his fists against it while pretty much everyone in the front of the store gathered around to look at this strange creature with the gray flesh and ring of red around its mouth, kinda like a little girl putting on her mom's lipstick for the first time, or maybe a person who really enjoys their watermelon.

“What is going on up here?” bellowed a voice better suited for football field than the storefront in front of customers (all four of them). It was Tom, one of the assistant managers (or “ass man” For short).

Tom was the very model of a modern T-Mart manager, always clad in a white dress shirt and a T-Mart neck tie the same color as my hideous green vest with Terry the T-Rex's smiling face on it. If you saw Tom it generally meant you were in some sort of trouble since he only ever came out of his office to berate someone for something.

No one answered Tom's question, as we were all still too busy looking at the gray man throwing himself against the gate to the arcade, as if he could pass through it just by sheer effort and get to us.

“Why is there a man locked in the Fun Center?” Tom asked, and then he saw Odette helping Dotty to her feet, “What happened? Are you hurt?” his tone was still severe, but not as confident.

“That man bit Dotty and Edgar, Mister Wingates,” Raj answered.

“It's like on the news!” Hector said.

Tom looked angry, “Raj, take Edgar and Dotty in back to the first aid kit. I'm going to call the cops,” and he started to take long strides across the front of the store over to the Customer Service Manager's stand in front of the long row of cash registers.

As a point of fact, Tom should have already been up there that day. He was scheduled to fill in as CSM since he had not wanted to schedule one for the afternoon, but Tom's office was his own little fortress in the land of T-Mart, and he was always reluctant to leave it for anything.

“Get back to work all of you!” Tom yelled, rather inappropriately in front of the customers I thought, as he stomped away from us. Odette and the other cashiers scurried back to their registers while Hector went to clock in from lunch. I stayed, looking back and forth between the gray man and Tom as he got on the phone.

“Sam, don't you have work to do?” Tom called to me.

“I'm on break,” I replied back, and slipped my green vest off, folding it in half, and then in half again and stuffing it into the pocket of my khakis.

“Go find something else to do then!”

So I went into the Burger Bro next to the Fun Zone.

“Hey bro, what can I get you today,” said Xuxa Tarico in a tone that said I-would-rather-be-anywhere-than-here.


“Oooh, big spender there, Sam.”

“That's how I get all the ladies,” I replied. Xuxa laughed and got me a cup of ice water from the soda dispenser.

When I came out of Burger Bro, Hector had returned with a mop bucket and was cleaning up the blood that had dripped on the floor from Dotty and Edgar's wounds. He kept looking up at the gray man as he mopped, and he looked seriously freaked out.

I thought of going back to my locker and calling my mom, but at that moment I was too interested in Tom's phone call.

“What do you mean you can't send anyone?” he said too loudly, “Someone just assaulted two of my employees, they need medical attention and he needs to be arrested!”

Tom listened for awhile, his face alternating from scared, to impatient, to pissed off, to confused, and then back to scared again. I wouldn't be surprised to have found out he crapped his shorts there, but in the next few days we all would, yeah?

“Yes, gray skin,” Tom said into the phone, and then a pause, “well, yes, we sell guns, but,” another pause, “What do you mean shoot him?” he bellowed.

I walked casually over to Tom as he looked at the phone curiously before hanging it up, “Problems, sir?” I asked in my best employee voice.

“They're not sending anyone. They said that they don't have to resources to send someone out for just one of them. They said to just shoot him.”

I sucked some water through my straw, and said, “Sounds like maybe we should close up.”

Tom looked at me, fire in his eyes, “I am not closing this store.”

It ended up that Raj tried to drive Edgar and Dotty to the hospital, but they were back before the end of my shift. Raj said that the hospital was all blocked off, and that they couldn't get near it for all the cops and news vans.

“The cop at the roadblock said that everything was under control, but that if their injuries weren't life threatening that he couldn't let us through, “Raj explained to me, “He said a lot of people were bit today, and to just clean and bandage the wound, that's all they were doing for people at the hospital anyway.”

So yeah, they totally did not understand what was going on, but it was about a week before anyone really put it together. It wouldn't have made any difference to the people who were bitten even if they did know that first day. I suppose it might have saved the rest of us though.

When I got home that night, mom was already there, a thick white bandage wrapped around her left hand. She was in our smallish kitchen, I say smallish because it was big enough for all four of us to be in there together, but only just barely.

Mom was making Hamburger Helper (she worked long hours, so I never gave her crap for the fact that most of our meals came out of boxes and cans, at least they didn't come out of drive-thru windows) , while my sisters helped. Mel, she was nine, was making a salad, and Becky, eight, was gathering up silverware to set the table with.

Dad was not in the picture, he left shortly after Becky was born to move to Utah and marry three other women, so neither of the girls have any memories of him. We never saw him, and rarely heard from him, but the Christmas and birthday presents from him and our step-moms were epic. I don't know why mom tolerated that, but she did.

Mom had changed out of her scrubs and was wearing a blue sweatsuit and a grease stained apron with the phrase “Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'” on it over a caricature of Paula Deen's face. She generally only changed before making dinner when she had gotten blood, or some other nasty substance on her clothes at work.

“Mom, what happened to your hand?” I asked before she could even say hello.

“You've heard what's going on, right?” she asked.

“The crazy people?” I asked, “Yeah, we had one in the store, still do actually. Do you know that the people at nine-one-one told Tom to shoot the guy? Is that insane of what?”

“They're not crazy people, Sam,” her voice sounded unusually shaky when she said that.

Let me get something straight here, my mom was not a weak person; she was not one of those cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, Lifetime-watching, Oprah-following women (although she did read Twilight, but I guess everyone has a vice, right?). Hearing that shakiness in her voice was really unusual.

Mom put the skillet on one of the cold burners, and motioned for me to go into the living room. She followed me in there, “Sam, these people are dead.”

“The guy seemed pretty active for a corpse, he bit Dotty, the door greeter. They wouldn't help her at the hospital, what's up with that, mom?”

Mom held her bandaged hand up to me. There was a splatter of greasy gravy on it from the Hamburger Helper, “I saw it with my own eyes, okay?”

“What happened?”

“A girl who was brought in. she had fallen down the stairs is what we were told; she died before we could do much for her. CPR failed, everything failed, and Doctor Cosroy had called her TOD. We were getting ready to move her down to the morgue when she opened her eyes.

“We thought we had made some sort of mistake, maybe the EKG was not working right or something. When Cosroy tried to check her pulse, she bit him; took a big chunk out of his arm. When I tried to restrain her, she bit me too.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, comparatively,” she said shrugging, “It happened in other parts of the hospital too. Another one in Emergency, one up in ICU, and four down in the morgue. Marvin Dellindo was killed by one of them.”

“Wow, mom, that's horrible.”

She shook her head, “No, it's worse. He turned into one of them. They had to shoot him; had to shoot all of them.”

“Are you going to be okay?”

“I feel fine, but the hospital is still a mess. They've been turning away anyone without major injuries. A lot of bites, like mine.”

Thinking back on all this, and even considering that my own mom was one of those effected, why the hell did no one think to quarantine people who had been bitten until they knew what they were dealing with? How many people around the world were just left to roam around until the infection, The Zed Virus, killed them? Turned them?

Maybe it wouldn't have saved the world in the long run, but maybe it would have saved Becky and Mel. I'm sorry about my mom, but if I could have saved my sisters....

No need to dwell on that though, right?

I watched the news that night, not something I normally did, and was surprised to see that this was going on all over the world, and that absolutely no one knew what to do about it. Some people were saying it was God's wrath, some said it was because there was no more room in hell (yeah, I saw that movie too). Still others, the ones that could maybe have been called more rational, were saying it was some sort of mutated viral infection, but that didn't make sense, I mean how would it mutate the same way at the same time all over the world? I guess I should have paid more attention in biology.

Then there were the real nutbags; you remember these type, right? You know, the ones who didn't know what the cause of it was, but they were damned sure that it was the end of the world. One point for them, I guess.

Looking back, there is only one thing that was certain on that first day. It was a worldwide thing, and no one, not the president, the press, the brainboxes, no one knew what to do about it. They were able to kill the things easily enough, but no one knew it was communicable. We would know soon.

I went to work like normal the next day. The streets were emptier than normal for a Monday, and instead of the usual golden-ager greeting at the front door to the store there were two of our larger stockers, Aiden and Rocco, and they were armed with baseball bats.

I noticed that the gate to the Fun Zone had been covered with a blue tarp. I didn't hear anything moving inside there, but I don't know if there was any real significance to that. I headed to the back to clock in.

I ran into Bob Valentine, the supervisor of the electronics department, at the time clock. Now if Tom was the epitome of retail management, then Bob was the opposite of it. Bob usually wears short sleeved shirts instead of long sleeved ones like Tom, and spends almost no time in his office.

Bob was essentially still more one of us hourly workers than the salaried management, and how he got to be in management I'll never know. He was the sort of guy who would take his “Ask Me, I Care” name badge and add the word “if” to the middle of it in tiny letters. Basically he was a good guy.

“Hey Sam, how's things?” Bob asked as I swiped my badge to clock in.

“I'm a little surprised the store is open today.” I said.

“Why?” Bob asked, “With Seras off in Hawaii, and Wingates in charge it would take nothing short of the end of the world to close this store.”

“Some people are saying it is the end of the world.”

Bob waved a hand in the air, “No way. I don't know what's going on, but the government will figure something out and kill those things. We're safe in here in any case, Rocco and Aiden aren't going to let any of those zombie people in.”

Bob was reading an email that had been thumbtacked to the corkboard next to the timeclock. It was an email from home office telling us to run like normal unless directed to close by local authorities. I guess in some of the more urban markets they were already having a problem with looters and the spread of the undead.

There was one paragraph that had been highlighted towards the bottom, “In order to protect Tyranno-Mart associates, customers, and property, we are authorizing employees to incapacitate any undead aggressors present on the premises of your store. Store management is to replace scheduled door greeters with willing associates they deem most suitable to this end. According to government officials then best ways of incapacitating the undead are by removing the head or destroying the brain. Please keep your own safety as well as the safety of merchandise and customers in mind if you are forced to do this.”

“Wow, never thought I'd see that in a corporate email,” Bob said after reading, “Hey, doesn't your mom work at the hospital? That's where it all started. I she okay?”

“One of those things bit her, but she says she's okay,” I said, “She was a little freaked out by it all, but she was going back to work today, so I guess she must think it's under control.”

“Uh oh,” Bob said, pointing to Tom Wingates coming down the hall towards us, “Prepare to get yelled at.”

“You two need to get out on the floor,” said Tom in a much more subdued tone than normal, “We had a lot of call-ins today. Bob, I need you in your department, Sam finish getting the stockroom ready for tomorrow's delivery as fast as possible, and then come find me; I may need to put you on a register.”

Bob looked at him curiously, “You okay, Tom?”

“Huh?” Tom asked, distractedly, “Yeah, I'm fine. Go on, get to work.”

I never had to get on a register, as it was really quiet, even for a Monday. There were a few of the regulars in; the Hot Wheels collectors pestering Toys and Sports to see if any new cases had come in, the old guy who just seems to wander the store for two hours and then just buys one thing, that sort of thing. Then there were a few of the doomsdayers; the ones who were certain that this was the end of the world and wanted to stock on before the store was cleared out.

The doomsdayers were right of course, except that the store shelves never did clear out before we closed.

Mom didn't come home at all that night, but she called to let us know that she was okay. She said that the hospital had taken on an almost warzone-like atmosphere with armed police officers along with the normal hospital security stationed all over the place, especially the emergency room.

She told me that they were seeing an increase in suicide attempts, people trying to get help with bite wounds, accidental shootings, and that sort of thing. She sounded pretty freaked out by it all, but told me to keep the girls inside and safe, and that she would be home in the morning.

It was announced on the news that night that the school would not be open on Tuesday, which made Becky and Mel happy. They found a friend that they could stay with so I could still go to work, and so that mom could rest if she was able to come home.

Even less people showed up for work that third day, and there was no email from home office at all which was odd. The truck showed up three hours late, and the driver told us that the highways were a nightmare; people trying to get from one place to another for no obvious reason since the problem was everywhere. He also told us that after this he was heading back home to Alabama to be with his family until this was all over. I hope he made it.

There were more doomsdayers in that day, and we had quite a run on baseball bats, axes, crow bars, and tire irons. We had none of our regulars though, not even the old guy who just wanders. That massive over-order of ammunition in the sporting goods department finally resolved itself as a lot of people came in for ammo. We didn't sell any guns though, no one wanted to wait the ten days until we could release them. Good call.

I think the lack of contact with home office freaked Tom out more than anything up to that point; even more than when Rocco had to fight that zombie in the parking lot that had a woman and her kids trapped in their car. I helped him drag the body around to the side of the store were there were already three other bodies stinking to high heaven, including our original gray man. Of course that is a smell I would come to know well, since everything smells like it now.

At the end of my shift I decided that maybe the doomsdayers had a point, and stocked up on some canned foods. Whatever happened we would have a couple of weeks worth of canned ravioli, soup, vegetables, and Beefy Cheese and chips. Alright, the last one was not really an end of the world provision, I just liked the stuff.

Mom came home that night, but she went right to bed. She said she was feeling tired, and who could blame her? I mean she had just worked something like a thirty hour shift. Of course that wasn't the real problem, but I wouldn't know that for a couple more days, and by then it would be way too late.

On the fourth day, Wednesday, a number of things happened. Tom totally freaked out because not only did we not get anything from home office in email, but he couldn't even get a hold of our district manager. No replies to email, no answers on the phone, nothing.

Then there were the zombies. Aiden and Rocco had both not shown up for their shifts as armed greeters, so Tyrone took up the bat at the door. There were maybe a half a dozen of us that showed up that day, so no one noticed when Tyrone went out into the parking lot after one of the undead, and three more got into the store.

Odette was the only cashier that day, but she had left her register to find Tom, and didn't see them come in. Bob was the first one to see one of them, and he alerted the rest of us.

The overhead music stopped and Bob called over the speakers, “There's one in the store, in electronics!” he called into the phone, followed by “Shit! Aaagh!” and then the sounds of scuffling.

I was working on restocking the canned vegetables aisle, trying to do an entire pallet by myself. I got up from where I was kneeling, taking my box cutter and a can of peas as the closest weapons to me, and ran for electronics.

I cut through the crafts section, and as I was rounding the corner to the kids crafts aisle (tempura paints, glitter, construction paper, sheets of felt, that sort of stuff) I had my second up close and personal encounter with the living dead. It was a middle aged woman with bright red hair and gray roots, and I ran smack into her as I rounded a corner, knocking her into the shelves.

“Sorry, ma'am,” I said, and then she grabbed for me, and I noticed her skin and eyes. I pushed her back away from me against the shelves, knocking over a few bottles of glitter glue, and sending a couple of small jars of glitter to the floor where they burst open, and scattered gold and silver glitter everywhere.

I threw the can of peas at the dead woman; it struck her in the face, and then thunked to the floor. Far from killing the woman, it seemed to kinda piss her off. “Stay back!” I yelled, holding my box cutter out in a threatening but totally useless manner. What the hell was I planning to do with it? It would take a long time to decapitate her with it.

The zombie woman started towards me, and suddenly a three foot long shaft appeared in the side of the woman's neck, sending her stumbling into the shelf again. As the woman tried to regain her balance a second one appeared in her right shoulder. I realized then that these were arrows.

Turning in the direction that the arrows had come from, a third arrow thunked solidly into the zombie's chest, knocking more crafty things to the floor.

Another arrow, this one in the throat near the first one, and the zombie was starting to resemble a pin cushion. There was a long pause after the fourth arrow, and the zombie actually got a couple of steps, almost past the edge of the gondola and out of my view when the fifth arrow appeared in the woman's forehead. She stumbled back hard into the shelf, and slid down it to the floor, pulling a bunch of bottles of glue and glitter down on top of her.

Some of the glitter bottles broke open, covering the dead woman with little metallic sparkly bits.

“Hey, it's Esme Cullen!” Odette said pointing to the sparkly corpse as she stepped around the endcap and into view. She was holding a dark green hunting bow in her left hand, and had faux leather quiver of arrows hanging from her right hip.

“Where did you get that?” I asked, my heart pounding in my chest.

“Sporting goods. I was near there when Bob called,”

“And rather than get a gun you grabbed a bow an arrow?” I asked, “Couldn't you find the Red Ryder BB rifles?”

“I don't have keys to the gun case, now do I?”

We heard a crash a short distance away, and headed in that direction together, Odette with her bow and arrows and me with my mighty, mighty, completely useless box cutter.

We found Bob standing over a dead man, blackish blood leaking from its head. He was clutching a badly dented frying pan in his hands, and there was blood dripping from a wound in his neck and shoulder.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I'm doing better than him,” Bob panted, pointing to the corpse on the floor, “Clean up on aisle 42, eh?”

The third zombie was killed over in automotive by Betsy Zimmer, who had brained the monster with one of the last tire irons in stock. She had managed to kill it without any injury, but she lost a part of herself in the fight. For the rest of the day she just stood around wide-eyed and silent, like something had broken inside of her..

That was it for Tom, he must have decided that it really was the end of the world, and he ordered the store closed. The gate was pulled across the front, that final register, with its three or four transactions, was counted down, and Tyranno-Mart closed forever. Kinda makes me a little misty-eyed thinking about it.

The fifth day, Thursday, I stayed at home with my sisters. Mom had not come home again on Wednesday night, but she called to let us know she was okay. She sounded bad; really tired, but I chalked that up to how much she was working.

In the afternoon I got a call from Bob from work. He said that a few of them, him, Tom, Hector, Xuxa, Tyrone, and a couple of others, were going to hole up in the T-Mart. It had food, it was secure, and they could protect the place from looters. We hadn't actually had any looting in Covenant yet, but I don't consider what I've done looting. If you do it merely to survive, it's not really looting, is it?

I thanked Bob for the offer, but turned him down. “I've got my mom and sister to look after,” I said.

“You can bring them too, we have plenty of food here for a few weeks, and I'm sure this will all be over by then,” Bob offered, “Tom's bringing his wife.”

“I got some supplies here, I'm sure we'll be fine,” I said, having no idea just how wrong I was. Although being inside the T-Mart wouldn't have made a difference in the end; might have made it worse really.

“Well give us a call if you change your mind, and we'll let you in.”

I thanked Bob again, and hung up.

Mom came home that night, and she looked horrible, all pale and stuff. She assured me that it was just exhaustion. I made dinner, and served mom in bed. She spilled her glass of juice; it was like she was having trouble seeing clearly. She barely ate anything that night.

In the morning mom told me to call the hospital and tell them that she couldn't come in; that she had a bad flu or something. I wasn't able to actually get anyone at the hospital to answer their phone, so I left voice messages at a few of the numbers I tried.

I didn't watch TV much that weekend. When I wasn't busy taking care of mom, I was taking care of the girls. They helped me with mom as much as they could, but they really were making more work for me. I didn't have the heart to tell them that though; they were scared enough as it is.

I sleep with my door closed, have since I was old enough to value my own personal privacy. It is this fact alone that probably saved my life. The girls always slept with their door open, and so did mom. I wonder if I had closed mom's door if it would have made a difference? I mean, I've seen that some of them can work door knobs.

It was Sunday morning, one week from when it all started, when my own personal world ended. I woke up to the sound of something crashing somewhere in the house. I leaped out of bed, and opened my bedroom door. My first thought was that someone had dropped something in the kitchen, but the lack of either mom cursing herself for dropping something or the girls arguing told me that wasn't the case.

My second thought was that one of the zombies had wandered into our neighborhood, and was trying to get into the house. My mind went to the shotgun in mom's closet. The gun was one of the few things my dad left us, and mom said I could take it with me when I moved out, but for the time being it stayed in her bedroom. I knew she had the shells for it in there somewhere too, and I went for her room to try and get her to tell me where they were.

Umm, things get pretty bad here, are you sure you want me to go on?

Okay, just gimme a second here...

So I went into mom's room to ask her about the gun, but the thing was she wasn't in her bed. The sheets and blankets were dragged halfway across the floor, and the lamp on her nightstand was on the floor, broken into a dozen blue ceramic pieces. There were other things on the floor too, the pictures of me and my sisters that usually sat on top of her dresser had also been knocked to the floor, the glass in a couple of the frames had broken and the pieces of glass glittered in what little light was peeking in around the curtains.

I completely forgot about getting the gun, and went to the girl's room next to check on them. What I saw there froze me in my tracks. The room was bathed in blue light from the sunshine coming through their thin curtains, and it made the blood look almost black.

The bedding from both of the girls' beds was tossed on the floor, and the nightstand between their beds was tipped forward onto the floor, the carousel lamp that sat on it looked like someone had stepped on it, and some of the crushed horses seemed to look up at me from the floor, pleading with me to put everything right again.

The sheets were more black than white, blood that could only have been from the girls was soaked into it in large splotches. Had someone broken in while I slept? Was it looters? What had they done with the girls? I should go get the gun, even if it's not loaded, maybe I can scare them off.

I started to go back towards mom's room when I heard the noise again; it was something crashing in the kitchen. I went as quietly as I could to see what it was. There was a person standing at the sink, on the floor next to her was the dish strainer with pieces of what had been the dishes I washed after Saturday night's dinner. Two of the chairs from the kitchen table were knocked over, and there was a big splash of white powder next to the stove from the flour canister that used to sit on the counter.

The person was my mother, I recognized her nightdress. She stopped moving as I approached, as if she sensed me there.

“Mom?” I asked quietly, “Are you okay?”

As I reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, she turned to face me. I'm not ashamed to admit that I did piss myself then, you would too if it was your mom, and you're a goddamned fool or a liar if you say otherwise. What stared me in the eyes, mouth open in a silent howl, was a ghoulish impersonation of my mother. Her face and the front of her nightdress were stained with drying blood. It was a deadite right out of the movies.

What I might have known, not that I would have had the balls to do anything about it, mind you, if I had watched the news the night before was that the people who had been bitten in the first couple of days were dying from an infection apparently transmitted by the blood and saliva of the zombies. You didn't have to be killed outright to succumb to the Zed Virus, you could be infected and die slowly before rising up too.

I think I said something upon seeing my zombified mother and drenching my shorts, but I don't know what it was. It was probably just gibberish; certainly not anything snarky or courageous. Bruce Campbell would have had something clever to say there, but that was still Sam Haff facing his undead mom, not me as I am now, not Ash.

Mom came at me, trying to grab me, but I stepped back, and threw one of the two chairs that were still upright down in front of me as I did. Mom tripped over the chair, and went down into the pile of flour on the floor.

I rounded the table, looking for something to use as a weapon. I passed up the knife block, there was no way I was going to be able to use anything in that against her.

Mom turned to look at me, the flour on her her face making her look like some nightmare mime, as if mimes weren't scary enough to begin with. She started to get to her feet, and I grabbed the first suitable weapon I saw, a frying pan that had been in the dish strainer was sitting on the floor.

“Stay back!” I warned my mother, brandishing the pan like a club. She came at me and I swung. It sounded, to my ears anyway, like someone ringing a church bell when the pan struck her head. She staggered back into the kitchen table, making its legs scrape on the linoleum floor.

I swung the frying pan again as my mother came at me, her milky white eyes staring at me; through me. “CLANG”, the pan hit her, “CLANG, CLANG,” I hit her again and again. She fell to the floor, and I kept hitting her until she stopped moving.

I dropped the pan on the floor with a final clank as I stood over my dead mother. I was panting from the exertion, and I realized that I was crying. My tears were not the only moisture on me though; I looked down at the white t-shirt that I has slept in and saw that I was covered in sprays of her reddish-black blood.

I think one of the most interesting things about the zombies is their blood. They seem to bleed, you know? Like a normal living person, but their blood is more black than red. Is this caused by some sort of oxygen deprivation? Is it just a byproduct of the Zed Virus? Maybe someday I'll try and find someone smarter than me who might know the answer.

After standing in the kitchen for what seemed like hours I suddenly felt the need to be somewhere else. I had to get out of the house; I had to get outside. I knew the street would look normal, and I had to get somewhere normal, I couldn't cope with this.

I ran from the kitchen, through the dining room, and into the living where I stopped short. The girls were there, trying to open the front door. I guess they wanted to get outside too. I'm not sure why they didn't come for me in the kitchen, maybe they thought it was still just mom in there making noise, maybe they can't really hear that well (I don't think this is true, as later experiences have taught that they damn well can hear). All I know for sure is if all three of them had come at me, the old Sam Haff me, in the kitchen I would not be telling you this story right now.

Mel and Becky turned on me, and if I hadn't already pissed myself, I would have then. My mother looked almost normal compared to the nightmare the girls had become. Their pajamas, cute matching things, white with lots of little blue birdies on them, were soaked in blood; their own blood.

It looked like Mom had gone for Becky first, which makes sense since her bed was closest to the door. I like to think that Becky never woke up as Mom attacked her. Her throat had been torn out, and there was just a gaping bloody hole, her blood, was still slowly flowing from the wound and down the front of her pajamas.

Mel must have woken up while the thing that was our mom was killing her sister. The sleeves of her pajamas were torn and bloodied. She must have fought hard, but she was just too small to fight off an adult, even an undead one Her head was hanging at an odd angle, I think Mom may have broken her neck.

The one thing that haunted me then, still does I guess, is that I slept through it. Mel must have screamed; must have made noise and I didn't hear it. I failed them totally and completely. Of course that's only part of what killed Sam Haff, a big part, but there's more, and I'm still getting to it if you still want to hear.

You do? Okay.

My sisters, or at least the undead monsters that had been my sisters, ran at me and I froze. The thing about kid zombies, and it's kind of an odd thing, is how fast they are. I haven't run in to too many, but they all have been so much faster than adults, and I can't figure out why.

Mel and Becky hit me, and drove me off of my feet. I hit the carpet hard with the girls on top of me, and something in me clicked. I think maybe it was beginning of who I am now; the first bit of Sam Haff turning to Ash, or maybe that was when I brained my own mother with a frying pan.... Yeah, it was probably then really, so this would be the second part of the change.

I fought; the girls were light, and I was able throw them off easily. Becky recovered first, and was back at me. As I struggled to my feet I grabbed the first thing available; the lamp on the end table next to the couch. I swung it as Becky closed on me; there was a brief resistance as the power cord tore free from the brass-colored base of the lamp. I could feel the crunch as the lamp caved Becky's skull in through my whole body. I hit her so hard that the lamp, a cheap thing to begin with, snapped in half, leaving me only a couple of inches of metal in my hand.

Before Becky had even collapsed to the floor, Mel was on me again. I stabbed her with the broken base of the lamp, turned, and threw her over the back of the couch. She crashed to the floor hard, but I could hear her already trying to get back to her feet.

I moved to the fireplace, spying what was easily the best weapon in the room. I grabbed the fireplace poker from its rack, knocking the rest of the tools onto the bricks with a clatter, and rounded on my sister as she came for me. I swung low and hard, and caught her right in the side of the head.

Mel stumbled and fell, but was still moving so I hit her again.

And again...

And again...

And again....

I realized that I was yelling at the top of my lungs as I did this. By the time I stopped my sister, young Melanie Haff was completely unrecognizable as the little girl I put to bed the night before.

I was alone in my family home surrounded by the corpses of my family. I had failed to protect them, had failed to even allow them a dignified death, but the least I could do now was to give them the proper burial that so many people would never get.

I'm sorry, give me a second here. Even though that was another lifetime, I still find it hard to remember. I know, not macho at all, right?

I didn't even bother changing clothes, all I could smell was blood and death anyway, I carried my sisters out to the backyard, and laid them down on the small patio. People talk about the idea of dead weight, but even Mom was easy to carry out there.

The back lawn, which is probably too grand a term for our backyard as it would have been too small for a medium sized inflatable pool to fit in, was overgrown. Mom had been after me for weeks to mow it, but I kept using work as an excuse not to. Personally I had thought that one of the girls could do it; I was mowing the lawn when I was nine.

I got the mower and a shovel out of the garage, and mowed the lawn quickly, which took all of maybe five minutes, and started digging. The sun was high overhead when I finished digging the three graves. Filling them in however took a lot longer, not because it was harder physically, but because....

Anyway, I felt that I should pray, or at least say something. I've never been terribly religious though, nor much of a public speaker. In the end I just sat on the grass and cried for awhile.

I guess I must have dozed off or something because the sun was disappearing over the neighbor's house when I woke. Sleeping outside like that is incredibly stupid, but I was still Sam then, and didn't think like that. What woke me up was someone calling my name.

“Sam!” a woman's voice called; it was familiar, “Sam, please be here!”

The yelling was coming from the front of the house. I got up and went inside where I could clearly hear the person pounding on the front door. I made my way through the mess that used to be a living room, and opened the door to find Odette Walker there looking slightly panicked. When she saw me her look of panic changed to one of fear, and she took a step back.

“Sam?” she asked cautiously, as if she were afraid that I were one of the undead.

“Hi, Odette,” I said.

“Are... are you okay?”

I shook my head, “No. I am very very far from okay. I'd invite you in, but the house is a bit of a mess right now.”

“What happened?”

I gave Odette a brief rundown of what happened, the first of only two times I have told anyone about that morning. Well, I guess it's three times now. It's easier this time though, like it really happened to someone else. It's like Sam Haff was a character I played in a video game; like I was never really him.

“Oh God, Sam, I'm sorry,” Odette said, her eyes wet with tears. Even though Odette lived just a couple of blocks away we didn't hang out all that much, so she had only been over to the house a couple of times before. She had met my family, but didn't really know them.

“Did you come over for something?” I asked, trying not to sound like she was inconveniencing me.

“Well, my parents went to the hospital a couple of days ago, and never came back, and neither of them are answering their phones. I was hoping you could take me there to look for them, but it's okay. If I could borrow your car though,” she said, motioning towards my old forest green Toyota Tercel in the parking lot next to Mom's brown Aerostar.

“No, no, Odette, I'll take you,” I said, knowing already that it was a horrible idea, and would almost certainly get us killed, but what did I really have to live for? “Can you just let me get cleaned up first?”

“Yeah, sure,” Odette said, smiling shyly.

I'll be honest with you, I've always found Odette attractive; she has skin the color of one of those sugary coffee milkshake things that Apollo Coffee sells... sold, and long dark hair that normally framed her face, although it was tied back in a ponytail that day. She's slim, but not skinny; well proportioned with a body that is maybe a couple of Bacon Cheese Big Bro's this side of athletic.

Now Odette was no supermodel or anything, but she had that cute girl-next-door thing going on. The main reason I'd never asked her out is that I've always felt that workplace romance is kind of inappropriate; not the romance itself, but the face that people cannot keep it outside of work. When they are still in love you always catch those people sucking face In the stockroom when they think no one is looking, and when the relationship ends they can never keep their attitudes to themselves. I just didn't want to be one of those people.

I stood there in the doorway looking at Odette, and she stood on the doorstep looking back at me, “Ummm,” she said after a few moments, “Can I come in though? It's kind of creepy out here.”

I looked back at the living room, at the mess of things knocked over by my sisters, the drying blood from when I beat them back into unlivingness, and thought that it was kinda creepy inside too. Then again, if looking at me didn't send Odette running in terror, then I guess the crime scene that was my house wouldn't be considerably worse.

“Yeah,” I said hesitantly, “You can wait in my room if you want,” I said, “No one died in there.”

Yes, I really said that.

No, I'm not offended that you ask; I know if I read that in a book or heard it in a movie I would call bullshit on it, but I didn't know what else to say. What did you say the first time you killed a zombie?

So Odette sat on my bed while I went and took a shower. My room was not exactly clean, but there were no splatters of blood or anything in it. It seemed a bit odd to leave her in my room alone to see what a dork I really am, but the only other room that hadn't had a zombie in it was the bathroom, and I was using that.

When I came back into the room wearing a fresh t-shirt and a pair of jeans she was watching TV. On the screen they were showing the fighting going on in New York as the National Guard tried to stop the spread of the zombies and evacuate the city. This was after that briefly famous video of the Wolf News New York studio being overrun live on the air, so I knew it was probably old video being run out of the network's LA studio which wouldn't go off the air for a few more days still.

“It's really the end, isn't it?” Odette asked me.

I shrugged, “Probably.”

“Can we go look for my parents?”

“Yeah, but did you bring any weapons with you? Weapons seem like a really good idea right now.” I said.

“No, I left my Robin Hood set at the store,” Odette said, forcing a smile, and that made me laugh.

“Then let me go find something,” I said, and left Odette in my room again while I went to my Mom's room.

I turned on the lights, and went to Mom's closet. The shotgun itself was in the black hard-sided plastic case leaning up against the back wall exactly where it should be, and the key to the case was stuck to the back of the Thomas Kinkade print next to the window. The challenge was finding the shotgun shells.

Mom wasn't anti-gun or anything, but she didn't want to risk one of the girls hurting themselves, so she kept the gun and ammunition separate, and didn't even tell me where she kept the shells. I'm not sure what the point of that was because I could have just bought my own at work if I had wanted to.

I eventually found two boxes of shotgun shells hidden inside of a shoebox under the bed labeled “2002 tax receipts”. As you may guess there was no thought ever given to needing the gun in an emergency.

When I got back to my room with the shotgun and ammo I found Odette asleep on my bed as two people who looked like they haven't slept in a couple of days argued on TV over whether or not the loss of New York City would have an effect in the next election. Idiots.

The streets of Covenant were downright eerie as we drove towards the hospital to try and find the fate of Odette's parents. They were almost totally deserted I think we saw two other cars, and a half dozen of what were either people on foot, or zombies.

Now I knew that chances were good that Odette's parents met a similar fate to my own family, but I wasn't going to say that to her as we slowly moved through the streets. At this point trying to help her out was keeping me going as much as anything else. If she hadn't come along I would probably have still been in the backyard feeling sorry for myself.

The inside of a Toyota Tercel was clearly not designed with carrying a shotgun in mind. Odette had to roll down the window and have the barrel sticking out of it to hold it comfortably. The alternative was to have the barrel pointed across the front of me, and there were a number of reasons that I didn't want that.

We didn't make it to the hospital that day; we didn't even get within two blocks. We could see the hospital building towering above the shorter buildings around it from a distance, but the streets around it were crawling with the undead.

I have never figured out why there are so may of them there; even today the only place that seems to have more of them around it is what's left of Mallville. Is it because so many of them rose there, or are they drawn there by something?

Three blocks from the hospital I stopped the car; there were at least a dozen zombies on the road ahead of us. Now maybe if this had been in a movie I would have just plowed through the things, but it wasn't; I knew this because if it were a movie I would have been driving something nicer than a beat up old forest green Toyota Tercel. A van, a Hummer maybe, but not my piece of crap car.

We ended up abandoning our quest, and I took Odette back home. She asked me to stay with her, and I agreed. I was not ready to face my house, nor did I really want to be alone. Nothing happened though, I slept on the couch, the shotgun on the floor next to me just in case.

Odette and I spent the next two weeks together living out of her house as the rest of the world died. I know you're expecting me to say that we did all the things that young people in end-of-the-world movies do like break into stores and try on lots of clothes, and steal fast cars and drive around the city at ludicrously dangerous speeds, and then abandoning them, doors left open of course, when they get damaged or run out of gas. We didn't.

What we did do is start stockpiling supplies. We went back to T-Mart to try and see if they would let us have some food and ammo, but no one answered our banging on the doors, and the power and phones had gone out by then, so we couldn't even call them. That didn't stop us from trying other places though.

I guess it was when we broke into that hardware store that I really started to become the me I am now. I saw those chainsaws there, and just could not resist taking a couple to use.

“Umm, Sam,” Odette had objected when she saw me with two chainsaws in my cart, “Don't those things have safety devices to keep them from being used on people?”

“Yeah, but I'm a smart guy, I'm sure I can figure out how to fix that,” I told her confidently.

I did too. Of course I realized shortly there after that a gas powered chainsaw had some dramatic drawbacks. Aside from the obvious use of gas that we really couldn't spare there was the fact that leaving it idling all the time made quite a bit of noise. The noise not only bothered Odette and covered up any noise that creeping zombies might be making, but it also seemed to attract them.

We found this out the hard way while searching the neighborhood for any survivors. We had gone around the back of one house to look in through the windows, and when we came back around the front there were three of the zombies there waiting for us. Odette took out two of them with the shotgun, and I killed the third with my safety-free chainsaw. We figured that they must have heard the saw idling, and came after the source of the sound.

The saw did work really well though, it tore through zombie flesh like it were a thin tree limb, and I found that if I hold the saw in front of me in a defensive posture it made it impossible for the zombie to get close enough to bite anything but my arm; I just had to make sure my arm didn't get anywhere near its mouth.

As far as survivors go, we only found one. A guy a couple of blocks away who threatened to shoot us if we didn't get away from his house. He seemed pretty dangerous, so we left. It's kind of a shame since I imagine he was well armed. He had this big camouflaged truck with an NRA for Life bumper sticker on it. I've never bothered going back there though.

After a couple of days of lugging around the gas powered saws we hit the hardware store and picked up a couple of cordless electric chainsaws. According the the signage in the store these were new models with “the longest bar of any cordless chainsaw on the market”. Not only were they silent unless I was actually running the chain, but they weighed a bit less than the gas powered ones as well.

I also picked up a bunch of spare batteries, chargers, and this weird scissor looking chainsaw called The Alligator. I think was planning on catching the zombies arms in the thing or something, but I've never found a real use for it.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, “but if the power was out already, how did you plan are charging the batteries?” That's simple, the sun. We also picked up some of those solar charging mats that they used to use for charging RV batteries and stuff like that. They work beautifully for charging spare batteries for my saw.

Everything went great until I failed Odette utterly and completely, and I lost the new world I had created for myself.

We had strayed too close to the police station and found a roadblock set up with cars parked across the road. There were at least two dozen dead bodies there, zombies we thought, but I don't know really. If I had known what would happen I would have turned around and got the hell out of there.

I parked the car by the roadblock, and got out. “Hello?” I yelled into the empty street on the other side. I figured someone had to block the road, and maybe that someone was still over there.

“Get back into your car, and leave immediately!” an amplified voice replied.

I looked around, but didn't see the source of the voice.

“Who are you?” I called out, “Are you from Mallville?” I asked, figuring that if it was those bikers they would have just shot me.

“Return to your vehicle and leave immediately or we will open fire!” the voice commanded.

“Are you nuts?” I asked.

The was a cracking noise, like a branch breaking, and Odette screamed. I turned to see a small hole in the windshield of my car. They had shot my car. While I watched there was a second cracking noise, and another hole appeared next to the first.

“Sam!” Odette screamed.

A third crack, and I felt bits of the road spray up and hit my legs. They had shot right in front of me; I was lucky that the bullet didn't ricochet into me.

I jumped in the car as fast as a I could, started the engine, and slammed the car into reverse. Two more bullets struck the windshield while I tried to turn the car around. They were shooting at us; I don't know if they were trying to actually hit either of us since the bullets kept hitting the center of the windshield, and maybe what happened was an accident when I was turning around, I do know, but....

I sped away, and even though I could'nt hear the rifle shots anymore, I could hear bullets pinging against the back of the car; the rear window shattered. I looked over, and saw Odette's head lolling forward, blood leaking from her mouth. They had shot her. She was my chance at redemption, and I had failed her just like I failed my sisters.

My world spun, not from anxiety or anything like that, it literally spun. I'm not sure what happened; maybe they hit a tire, maybe it was my shitty driving, but the car flipped. I saw the world outside rotate, and felt the butt of the shotgun hit me in the jaw as it slipped from Odette's hands and flew around the interior of the car.

Mercifully darkness took me.

Something pulling at me woke me up. Everything was blurry at first, but I could tell it was dark. There were actually two things pulling at me, one was tight across my chest, my seatbelt, the other was a cold hand reaching through the gap between the deformed window frame and the road. The car had ended up upside down, and it was a miracle that I hadn't broken my neck of cracked my skull open when the roof collapsed in on me.

I looked to my right, and saw Odette hanging there a pool of drying blood was on the ceiling under her with the shotgun laying in it. She didn't rise, I think one of the shots struck her in the head; she was dead before the crash. I had to get out of there, and not just because something was pawing at me from the outside.

What exactly happened at that point is all a bit fuzzy. I remember being in pain. I remember dropping to the ceiling of the car, although I'm not sure if I unbuckled the seatbelt or if I had to cut it with something. I remember sliding under Odette; through her blood, and out the window on her side where the car hadn't collapsed as badly.

I am pretty sure I shot the zombie that was trying to get at me through my window with both barrels. When I went back later there was a nearly headless body next to the car. I did give Odette a decent burial in my old backyard next to my family; next to the other people that I failed.

I lost most of a couple of weeks after that. It was kind of a blurry fuzzy montage sequence of me building stuff, killing zeds, gathering supplies, that sort of thing. Hopefully there was a catchy tune that went along with it, but I don't remember what it was.

The next clear memory I have is of me as I am now. Sam Haff was gone and now there's only Ash. I had built a bracer out of aluminum that attached to the end of one of the electric chainsaws and it not only covered my hand and forearm, but it distributed the weight so that I could swing it easier with only one hand. I suppose that I'm lucky that I didn't actually lop off my hand and try to attach the saw to the stump during that lost time.

I was also not wearing my standard t-shirts and jeans anymore, but a blue denim shirt and brown work pants along with thick boots. Some might argue that this look is not fashionable, but it is badass.

So, from my mind anyway, I went from this kinda dreamy existence of those lost weels to being surrounded by five zombies in a grocery store with my chainsaw in one hand and my good ol' double barrel in the other. I don't know how I got there, or how I got in that particular situation, but I do know one thing, something I mist have learned during that missing time.

I knew that the were two keys to survival. One, don't be afraid to die. Two, take the fight to them.

I squeezed the trigger of the chainsaw, and struck out at the three zombies on my right while giving one of the ghouls on my left a face full of buckshot. My saw tore into the zombies, and I saw a hand and a few fingers fly off as I cut through them.

I fired the other barrel into the remaining zombie on my left, making its head resemble a rotten soft-boiled egg that someone had dropped on the floor, and leaned into the attackers on my right, tearing deep into their flesh until they fell to the ground. Once all the zombies were down I reloaded the shotgun, not easy to do left handed, let me tell you, and shot the one zombie that was still twitching.

That's it, that's my story. I found myself a nice little apartment above a used book store and filled it with supplies and spent my days and nights hoarding supplies and kicking deadite ass. I didn't need anyone, and no one needed me.

Sure I had to hide from the cops and the bikers, and there was that time I helped those people from Mallville, but for the most part I've been on my own because I knew none of those groups would survive; they would all fail eventually, and I was right.

Someone attacked the cops, I'm not sure if it was Mallville of the Postmen, although I'm pretty sure it was Mallville, but they slaughtered every last one of them as best I can tell. Then the Mallville people attacked and killed the Postmen. That left Mallville as the only large group of survivors in the city.

You know, when I first ran into that group from Mallville; they invited me to join them, they knew that they needed a badass like me, but I said no. I knew that they couldn't last, and now Mallville is overrun with the dead and unlivable. Even I am not crazy enough to try and get in there for supplies, and believe me, I've been tempted

I ran into a couple of groups from Mallville shortly after the explosion there. The funny thing is that the first group was mostly the same people I had seen before, and the second group was looking for the first. Both invited me to go with them, but I still wasn't ready to be around people yet, and they were pretty much the last living people I've seen.

Well that's not totally true. Last month I saw a skinny guy in a brown coat running down the street outside with a red haired woman. I went after them, but they disappeared around a corner and I lost them. Then of course there's you.

That was quite a stunt you pulled, trying to slide across that power line with your bat like that. Too bad it sagged in the middle, huh? How did you even get trapped on that roof like that? Still, I got to you before they did, and with a little bang-bang and a little buzz-buzz I got you out of there. Too bad you weren't awake to see me, 'cause baby, I was amazing!

Don't try to get up. As far as I can tell you didn't break anything, but you should probably rest. You should stay here for awhile, maybe. I'm used to being on my own and all, but maybe it would be nice to have someone to talk to sometimes. I had this volleyball for awhile, but I had to get rid of him when he started talking back, you know?

Besides, every king needs a queen, right? Hail to the king, baby!

Ow! That hurt!