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!

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