Chapter 9 - Entry 5
May 31st – June 19th
The world ended all over again. At least for the tribe and I. Very slowly. Very painfully. Dread. Hopelessness. Fear. Anguish. Just to name a few of the emotions that crippled us all over those last three weeks.
They withered away in drips and drabs as I stood by helplessly and watched. A few were found each morning in their beds, eyes wide open but unseeing. Trapped in their own minds. The children had all succumbed in the first few days; their little bodies laid out on beds while IVs kept them hydrated and alive.
A man would collapse during lunch. A woman over dinner. Fewer and fewer faces stared across the table each morning as the days dragged by.
It was a nightmare.
I would hold Molly each night as she cried angry, bitter tears that fell away to soft, empty whimpers before sleep finally claimed her. Time would slow to a crawl as I laid awake in bed, watching her sleep and willing her to awaken the next day. We spent every waking moment together, often in silence atop the tower’s roof. Desperate need fueled spontaneous sex that left us exhausted and somehow magnified the feeling of inevitable loss.
We moved bodies into the Home’s second floor when the RV grew too crowded to walk. Adults took their place on the floor while the children slumbered eternally in their little beds.
It became obvious that there wouldn’t be enough IVs to sustain everyone. Volunteers came forward and quietly offered to go without when their time came, hoping the children would last a little longer.
There weren’t enough able bodies to maintain security by the second week so I pulled everyone to the Home and shut its doors. Zombies filled the vacuum, shuffling about like vultures waiting for their next meal. I didn’t care and could hardly be bothered with clearing them out. Apathy and melancholy stole any anger left inside.
Hope and one of the other Fort survivors went overnight at the third week’s end. They were the first of the non-originally Infected to slip away. She looked so peaceful, curly red hair spread around her face like a bloody halo as she slept. I couldn’t make her eyes close so I placed a silk scarf over them.
Doctor David dropped the next day. His wife, Sally, quietly carried on, caring for those with IVs as she wept softly over their unmoving forms.
Two women, one of whom was a Fort survivor, jumped from the tower that night. They dove head first while holding hands, bodies hitting the ground outside with soft thuds and the crack of broken bones. I put a CD into the radio and turned it up loud enough to mask the sound of zombies feeding on their flesh. It mingled with the sobs and cries of those still left awake inside.
The weather shifted overnight to match our collective mood; thick black and bloody clouds rolled overhead on a brisk wind while a cold, misty rain drenched undead scavengers outside to the bone. Brandon fell face first into his soup over lunch. We found Sally frozen upright over a child’s limp form, staring straight ahead at the wall beyond an hour later.
Cleo had been quiet and distant for several days, writing in a notebook amid gardening manuals spread out in a circle around her hunched-over form. She came to me after I’d laid Sally down to rest, bloodred eyes staring unblinking at the ceiling overhead.
“I’ve written out instructions on how to set up a greenhouse for the plants and what should be planted during each month. There are notes from past experience as well so you know what to look for and how to fix it if there’s trouble. You’ll need to get things going soon before the growing season passes.” She smiled and offered me the notebook with a shrug. “You can’t eat canned food forever.”
I took the notebook and nodded, thumbing through a few pages as she turned away.
“I’m going to go for a long walk in the woods. Don’t worry yourself over me sweety. From the Earth, Upon the Earth, and to the Earth we return.” Cleo’s chin nodded towards Molly, who sat staring into the fireplace while slowly rocking back and forth. “Go focus on what’s important.”
I didn’t hear Cleo step outside as I sat down beside Molly and wrapped an arm around her. She lifted her chin and our eyes met for a moment. “Hey bitch.”
My soft laugh didn’t hold much mirth but I squeezed her tighter and kissed her nose anyway, trying hard to smile despite the razorblades ripping apart my throat.
“Know what I miss the most?” She asked, gaze moving back to the fireplace.
“Big, fat, juicy cheeseburgers. And pizza.” Molly chuckled and shook her head, toes wiggling in the fire’s warmth. “Milkshakes too.”
“Yeah. I’d slap my mother for a ribeye smothered in sautéed onions and mushrooms right about now.”
“What’s your first name?” She asked after I’d spoken.
The question caught me off guard and for a moment I struggled to remember. “Suzanne.”
Her chin dipped as she nodded, then turned to face me with a smile. “I love you Suzanne.”
I nodded and smiled, leaning forward to kiss the tip of her nose once more. “I know you do baby.”
“Let’s go to bed.”
I lost my shit somewhere between the fireplace and our room, wracking sobs that left me shaking and weak as a baby. Molly dropped to her knees and held me tight through the worst of it, then helped me climb into bed and get undressed.
We laid there in each others arms through the night, neither one of us speaking and sleepless as the dead. I felt her slip away towards morning, body relaxing abruptly as the hand that gently traced circles around my scars fell limp and unmoving. Dawn broke, passed and the sun gradually moved to noon before I untangled myself from her limbs and headed downstairs.
I was the only living thing moving as I padded around the kitchen, making coffee and eating stale toast in the nude. Bodies lay everywhere, chests rising and falling slowly in peaceful sleep while I added fresh wood to the fireplace and stroked its flames back to life.
A rifle was in my hands and taking aim at the zombies outside before I realized what I was doing; some mental gap in my memory or trace-like daze that ended when the first shot rang out. One by one I dropped them, focusing on the Zen-like act of firing the weapon rather than the heavy loss scraping jagged nails along my bare spine.
The rain had ended overnight, leaving the ground cold and wet as I stepped outside after finally dressing. For some reason I’d gone out barefoot, toes wiggling as they sunk into blood-soaked soil.
The silence was complete and crushing. No animals called. No children laughed. No work crews made machines of man do their bidding. Stark and lifeless silence.
I wandered through the incomplete village, smoking a cigarette and sipping my coffee. Someone had hung tires from tree branches near one of the homes; swings for children that would never awaken, laugh or play again. They moved gently in a weak, soundless breeze.
Feeling numb and earth-shatteringly alone, my walk meandered through the woods for a time before eventually returning to the Home. I showered in water hot enough to scald and fought the rising hunger when my body healed its wounds.
The sun had barely set as I climbed back into bed and snuggled against Molly’s still form. It would have been easy to forget all that had happened as I laid beside her; body so soft and warm, flooding me with familiar scents and unfamiliar feelings. I let my mind go blank and sent fingertips tracing the outline of her tattoos for the hundredth time.
The maroon twilight of early evening faded to black within our lightless room as I kissed her shoulder and willed sleep to take me. The steady rise and fall of her breathing consumed my attention, hypnotic in a way that made eyelids grow heavy like lead. Almost as an afterthought, my face buried in her hair that laid spread out on my pillow, I finally broke the silence with a hushed goodbye.
“Goodnight Molly. I loved you too.”