You might have guessed, no Crystal's Call today. Since I'm taking an extended weekend I've been busy making sure I'm caught up with everything at work and getting ready to leave at home. I didn't manage to find any time yesterday to write another post so we'll have to make due with some filler.
I have for you guys today another short story from three years ago, exact date of May 11th 2010, of the zombie genre. On May 7th, 2010, I wrote a short story entitled "Today is Z-Day" which turned out to be, at the time, the most depressing thing I had ever written. It fleshed out a hopeless scenario of a man-made zombie apocalypse that many compared to Left 4 Dead, though I had never played it (and still haven't played it to this day). "Today is Z-Day" revolved around a number of survivors who had built a community and lived there, trading supplies and fighting for survival on a daily basis. It explored the psychological ramifications of the end of days and how it effected people on a deeper level. In fact, "Today is Z-Day" didn't contain any zombies at all.
Four days later I returned to this world in another short entitled "Z-Day Revisited" and looked at the world I had built from a different angle. The first short focused on people within a community, a safe compound protecting them from the zombie hordes, whereas this one focused on a pair of wandering survivors. I also lightened the tone and pretty much turned it into a "buddy comedy" of the zombie genre. I wrote several entries for this second short, intending to turn it into something longer. At some point I stopped, and upon returning to it I found in my notations that I couldn't think of anything past "and then they looted and killed more zombies". Three years later I look at it and can't help but see a diamond in the rough.
Without further adieu, for your enjoyment and consideration, I present to you "Z-Day Revisited".
No one really knows how well they will fare in the zombie apocalypse until it happens. There are those who seem to be born prepared, those who can learn to be prepared, and those who will never be prepared. The zombie apocalypse can prove to be a study on Darwinism at its finest. Those who had climbed the ranks of Social Darwinism and could survive anything that a normal lifetime threw at them had suddenly become the weakest links. Lawyers, politicians, CEOs. They had become the walking undead rather quickly. Those who lived in their parents' basements into their thirties munching on Cheetos and playing video games, however, are still in their parents' basements with a lifetime supply of Mountain Dew and enough shotgun shells and training in just such a situation to possibly survive until a cure could be found. For such an event to completely flip the world's understanding of Survival of the Fittest was one of the most prevalent, but often most ignored, sociological impact. Understandably, it's hard to think about sociology while trying to outrun a pack of bloodthirsty Knights.
Similarly, like the days before the zombies, those who can adapt to any situation are the most likely to survive. Point in case, one Chloe McIntyre. A mousy brown haired woman somewhere in her mid thirties who looked no older than her mid twenties. This woman was one who could adapt. An expert con-artist capable of the most ingenious cons and, not only pulling them off, but getting away too. She had always had a face that blended in with the crowd, not to say that she was too plain, but she could be easily forgotten. This had always been her greatest advantage during her work. However, such a talent does not work so well around mindless zombies.
She had just completed a con that was a year in the making when the virus spread. After stealing so much money and finally being set for life a strange twist of fate had thrown her into a world where money was now useless and personal belongings were no longer a means of determining one's status in the world. In fact, there were now only two status classifications. Human, or Zombie. And seeing that Human was the one above Zombie, she preferred to stay that way. But what does a con-artist do when thrust into a world of survival. She had never been very hands on, in fact most of her cons involved simple trickery or seduction right down to the core. She had never held a gun, only used knives for cutting steak, and while she may have held a cricket bat once in her lifetime she recalled not enjoying it very much. The only thing Chloe still had going for her was her wits and ability to see her way through any situation no matter how poor it had gotten.
Chloe parked the hefty Hummer halfway in the front yard of the abandoned house after three attempts at backing it into the driveway. It didn't matter where she parked it so long as she was capable of getting back to it in a moment's notice. She locked the car manually and carefully shut the door. Loud noises could easily go on forever in the new found silence of the world, and it always had a tendency to attract unwanted guests. It was for that reason that her pistol had been outfitted with a silencer. At least that's what the soldier she had stolen it from had told her before he found himself without it. It had taken her a while to learn to use the gun, and had almost cost her her life when she realized that some bullets she had found did not, in fact, work with the pistol. But all harrowing escapes aside, today was a new day and Chloe was ready to do some looting.
She approached the front door of the small split level house and checked that her gun could be removed from the holster easily in case she needed to, and did the same for the machete at the small of her back. After making sure that both weapons could be accessed at a moments notice she tightened up the green bandanna on her head and tapped on the front door. She didn't know when "Shave and a Haircut" had become the universal signal for "hello, I'm about to enter your building so if you're not zombies please don't shoot me" but it had come in handy during her travels. She counted to ten as she watched her surroundings and rapped on the door a little bit louder. A second count to ten, and a third attempt. After no response the final time she checked the door handle and was forced to pick the lock.
A locked door meant two things. Either someone was currently using the house or someone actually remembered to lock the door behind them when fleeing the zombie apocalypse. Locked doors were usually welcome because it meant that unless some zombies learned how to use the key underneath the fake rock amongst the petunias out front it should be safe. Doors that were left askew and slightly open or torn down likely meant that a zombie or a pack of zombies had been through it at least once. Chloe didn't leave anything up to chance, there was more than one way into the house and any of them could have been open or unlocked.
The foyer of the house split the building into an upper and lower level. The bottom level of the house was washed in shadows while the upper level seemed to have just enough light filtering through the windows to make the safety of the house look completely questionable. Chloe let out a little sigh and cautiously made her way up the steps to the upper level. Light meant she could see what she was stealing and if something was coming for her. The first room in the upper level was a small family room with a sofa and a pair of chairs, end tables, and a television and pictures adorning bookshelves. Chloe browsed through it, putting the pictures on the shelves face down and flipping the ones on the walls over. It was depressing having those faces looking at her. Not because she was planning on stealing whatever was useful that they did not nail down or take, but because there was a very good chance those people in the photos were dead or worse.
There was a checklist that she needed to go through first and foremost. She made her way to the attached kitchen and ran the tap. The water came out slightly brown at first but after a few minutes it cleared up and it passed her taste test. She shut the water off and made a mental note to restock her water supplies before leaving. Next, she checked the bathroom for medical supplies. She found some bandages, aspirin, and the holy grail: a container of chewable Vitamin C. In a world where you don't know where or what your next meal may be, Vitamin C was important. Scurvy was not something fun to be battling with alongside zombies. She set the medical supplies at the top of the steps so she'd remember to take them with her on the way out.
There was one bedroom on the upper level which she spent a good amount of time in. There was at least one woman who had lived there that was close to Chloe's size and she made sure to go through the available clothing while keeping in mind that it could never be as high brow as she had once been accustomed to. Before the apocalypse she had never worn anything from Wal-Mart by choice. She grabbed the pillowcases from the pillows and stuffed the first one with underwear, shorts, shirts and anything that looked like it would fit. She'd sift through it all later when she had the chance. She grabbed the pillowcases and dropped the empty one at the top of the steps. She grabbed the medical supplies and stowed them and the clothes in the back of the Hummer with the rest of her supplies and returned once more to the house after giving the area another look. She retrieved the second pillowcase and flipped a light switch in the stairwell to turn the lights in the lower level on. She let out another sigh and cautiously stepped down.
The lower level had three rooms, two bedrooms and a small rec room, and a bathroom. She checked the bathroom first and found rubbing alcohol and more bandages which she promptly dropped into the pillowcase. There were prescription medicines as well which she contemplated taking, but left them where they were. The rec room had a small fridge she checked next. It was full of liquor which she left for the time being and returned to the first bedroom she had passed. It was in greater disarray than the one upstairs had been in and she came to the conclusion that a young boy must have been living there. She ignored the majority of the room aside from taking the pillowcases and then stepped into the second bedroom. She figured that this must have been the parent's room and started going through drawers. She found jewelry that she dumped into the pillowcase and and money that also went in. She went through the belongings until she had filled the bag and placed it at the bottom of the steps.
She returned to the rec room which had a large glass door leading outside to the back yard where there was a shed. Any tools that could come in handy would be in there. She frowned at the glass door, wishing it had been nice heavy wood instead, and exited through it. She stepped quickly to the shed and found it had been locked. She picked it quickly and opened the door. The stench hit her like a truck but she recovered quickly enough to take two steps back and drew her pistol. The door creaked the rest of the way open and the first zombie of the day came creeping out. She pushed aside the thought that the creature's bloodied and torn face looked vaguely like one of those in the pictures and placed two silenced rounds into its head. She shuddered and clenched her fists tightly after returning the weapon to its holster. She stood for a moment, unsure what to do next, until she managed to focus once more. She ignored the shed and returned inside the house, locking the glass door behind her and closing the curtains.
Chloe went to the upper level once more after throwing the rest of her loot into the Hummer. With her last pillowcase she began rummaging through the kitchen. Anything that was in a can was dropped into the bag. Creamed Corn? In the bag. Raviolis? In the bag. With more than enough canned food to last her some time she placed it into her car and locked it manually once more. She quickly checked the surrounding houses mailboxes. The ones to each side, and the ones across the street. After confirming that the flags were all down, she stepped to the one in front of the house she had looted and raised the flag. Chloe then went inside and locked up behind her.
She had left out some food for herself for the evening and managed to find a can opener and a bowl. Her Chef Boyardee was delightful, despite the fact that she was used to french cuisine from Chefs that were real. With her preliminary looting and check of the house completed and a meal inside her Chloe went about exploring the house a bit better. She found batteries and flashlights and set those by the steps so she could get them in the morning. In the boy's room downstairs she picked up a hand held game of some sort and positioned herself on the sofa upstairs and sat playing it well into the evening. As the sun began to set in the horizon she double checked the doors and windows and made sure they were locked and secure. The glass door in the lower level unnerved her, but it was too late to find another place to stay for the night. She set herself up in the girl's room upstairs and locked that door too. The window gave her a clear view to the front yard where her Hummer was still parked. Chloe pulled her shoes off and slipped into bed.
She dreamt that night. Horrible dreams of bloodshed and brutality that awoke her from her sleep. She guessed it was somewhere around midnight or one in the morning. She tossed and turned for a while until she finally gave up and retrieved a flashlight. She fumbled for a few minutes until she found some candles and matches and brought a low light to the room. Chloe opened up the closet and began to rummage through the remaining clothes that had been hanging. She went through all the clothes, trying on ones she liked, and made sure to put some into a pile to take in the morning. In the back of the closet she found a pair of leather knee high gothic boots. None of the other clothes in the closet hinted that the owner had been gothic at one point, so it must have been a phase and the boots must have been too expensive to get rid of. Chloe sat down on the bed and pulled the boots on, taking longer than she expected to strap all the belt buckles. She felt taller wearing the boots and it took her a moment to get used to wearing them.
After trying on the boots she continued digging through the closet until she found a small box. Inside the box was a bag of weed and small slips of paper. Chloe thought about it for a moment. She couldn't sleep anyhow, and maybe this would help. It took her a moment to wrap the joint and she was about to light it when there came a banging at the front door.
"Let me in!" a voice called from the front of the house. Chloe grabbed her pistol and quickly stepped out of the room and down the hallway. She stomped down the steps to the foyer as the screams and bangs continued. Chloe threw open the door and saw a young girl who was about to pound on the door again. In the light from the flashlight Chloe could see that the girl had purple and blue hair and was wearing a pair of earphones. She wore a pleated black skirt and stockings which had been torn.
"How did you know someone was here?" Chloe asked quietly as she pulled the girl in, closing the door and locking it just as quick.
"I saw the flag on the mailbox up, and the light from the room. You really shouldn't have a light on at night you kno-Oh!" her voice suddenly rose a pitch. "We're wearing the same boots!"
Chloe looked down and finished examining the girl. It was true. They were wearing the same kind of gothic boots with far too many buckles. Chloe sighed and then stopped. She pointed the flashlight back at the girl's leg. "You're bleeding," Chloe said as she grabbed the girl's arm and dragged her to the bathroom. "We need to wrap that fast."
"I tripped, it's just a scrape..." the girl said as she sat on the toilet. Chloe was busy washing her hands with soap and water. After lathering up her hands well she began cleaning the wound and looking for more. "Oh come on, you could at least let me take my stockings off."
"No time. They can smell the blood and you shouldn't have been banging on the door like that on top of it. Don't you know 'Shave and a Haircut'?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"How old are you?"
The girl looked away for a moment. "Old enough to do anything you had in mind," she said playfully and pointed at the joint that Chloe had still been carrying and had placed on the sink at that point.
Chloe almost growled in response but it was her fault. "OK, where did you come from?"
“I was separated from my group while we were traveling today. I couldn't find them and got lost..." the girl looked down and frowned.
Chloe sighed, wanting to comfort the girl but instead she washed up her hands. "What's your name?"
"Your name is ‘Clear’?" Chloe asked incredulously.
"Well, it's not my real name but it's the name I go by," she smiled. She had at some point grabbed the joint and was smelling it slowly. "I don't know where my group was heading, but my friend is with them and I'd really like to get back to her." Clear's voice had risen in volume again and Chloe had to motion for her to keep it down. Clear giggled and blushed. With her leg cleaned up Clear stood up and made her way to the bedroom that Chloe had been staying in. "Did you just find this place today? It looks pretty good."
"I won't be staying, and neither will you." Chloe said but Clear wasn't listening. The girl had already leaped onto the bed and was playing with a stereo system on a nightstand. "Hey, don't play with that!" Chloe said harshly. "You really should know that they're attracted to loud noises and the smell of blood. You could have lead them here if you weren't careful."
Clear sighed. "So what's your name and how old are you?"
"My name is Chloe and I'm th-"she coughed "-enty-five years old." Chloe coughed again.
Clear smirked. "So what were you planning on doing with this?" she said as she held up the joint.
"I couldn't sleep," Chloe said as she blew out the candles causing smoke to drift lazily through the room. It took a moment but her eyes adjusted to the low light coming through the blinds. It was amazing how bright the night could be when there was no artificial light drowning out the moon and stars. Chloe slipped over to the window and peered through the blinds and let out a soft curse. "Shit...."
Under the moonlight Chloe could clearly see the five zombies that had congregated in the street. They just stood there watching the house as if they couldn't comprehend how it had come to be in their way.
"We've got compa-" Chloe turned on her heels and stopped speaking when she saw Clear taking a long drag of the now lit joint. "There are zombies outside and you are smoking?" she hissed.
"Five Pawns," Clear said nonchalantly as she offered the drugs to Chloe, "I ran circles around them for a while outside before I got here. Lost them pretty easily."
Chloe, clenching her fists and tightening her jaw, counted to five and relaxed. This was no problem. They hadn't figured out how to get into the house yet. There was a tall fence around the backyard so the glass back door on the lower level wasn't a security risk. Almost immediately after Chloe thought of it, there was the sound of glass shattering accompanied by a long shriek that echoed through the house.
"Five Pawns and one Knight," Chloe said as she closed the bedroom door and began dragging the nearby dresser in front of the door. "Well are you going to help or what!?"
Clear moved from the bed as she put the joint out and placed it behind her ear, tightly secured by the earphones, and helped Chloe move the dresser in front of the door. After it had been placed Clear looked around for more furniture to stack up. Chloe was already collecting her belongings and suiting up so to speak. She grabbed a shirt from the floor and pulled it onto her neck, ignoring the sleeves. She wrapped it a couple times about her face quickly until it made a mask that covered her mouth and face. She moved to the dresser and opened drawer after drawer until she found a pair of swim goggles and pulled them on.
"You look like a weird ninja," Clear said with a sideways glance.
"Yeah, well, my stuff is in the car so I have to make due." Chloe went to the window again and checked it. The five zombies out front had heard the Knight's howl and moved to the front door. They were shuffling along the front of the house trying to find a way to enter. "We can kill the five zombies out front and then escape through the window." There was a bang from somewhere in the house and another frightening call. Chloe raised the blinds, opened the window, and popped out the screen. She took careful aim with her pistol, making sure that she would hit her targets in the low light, and shot the nearest two zombies. There was a closer bang in the house, and Chloe finished off the remaining three Pawns.
"There are three bullets left in that magazine," Chloe said as she handed the gun to Clear, "There are more magazines in the glove compartment." She then handed the car keys to the girl and pointed at the window. "Theres some bushes right below the window so you should be fine. Get the car started, wait for me."
"Why am I going alone?" Clear whined. "Where are you going?"
Chloe pulled out her machete and pushed the girl toward the window. "That Knight will hunt us unless we kill it. I'm going to take care of that."
"With a knife?" Clear was still protesting as she climbed out of the window. The girl dropped down, avoided tripping over a fallen zombie, and made her way to the Hummer. Once Clear was inside and the car was started Chloe moved over to the side of the room and waited. There were no noises in the house anymore.
A loud thunk resonated outside and Clear screamed. Chloe dashed to the window and saw that the Knight had left the house and was now on the hood of the Hummer. The Knights were clearly distinct from the Pawns. Knights had mutated and become lithe and fast with clawed feet and hands. And right now the Knight was trying to bust through the windshield of the Hummer. Clear screamed again and the Hummer's engine roared. The large wheels spun and it reversed at an angle and through the large fence with a crash. With the vehicle out of view now, Chloe pushed the dresser away from the door and made her way through the house.
After making it past the shattered glass door and into the backyard Chloe could clearly see the Hummer idling now between the house and the shed. Clear was still inside, frantically looking around, and the Knight was nowhere to be seen. Chloe began running to the car and halted when the Knight screeched and leapt from the top of the house. With the Knight between her and the car there was nowhere to go but backward. Chloe didn't run, but instead calmly walked backward toward the house. The Knight bellowed and cleared the distance between them in seconds. The frantic zombie was in mid leap when it suddenly dropped from the air and landed at the ground in front of Chloe. She slammed the machete into the zombie's skull and looked up. Clear was now out of the car and holding the pistol in her trembling hands.
"That was the first time I've ever fired a gun..." the girl admitted.
Chloe didn't know what to say to that, but simply nodded and ushered the girl into the passenger seat of the vehicle. She cleaned off her machete with the impromptu ninja mask and then tossed the blood covered shirt and swim goggles out into the backyard. She put the large car into gear and drove it out through the ruined fence and back to the front of the house. "I wish I was back in France," she said to herself as she stopped in front of the house. She stepped out of the car after retrieving a baseball bat from the back seat. "Or back in the Bahamas." She put the flag down on the mailbox, hefted the bat, and slammed it into the mailbox post, knocking it down. The building had been compromised. There would be no safe refuge there anymore. "Anywhere but the middle of bumfuck America with.." Chloe climbed back into the car and saw Clear, holding up the lit joint in one hand and returning the cigarette lighter with the other. Chloe took it and took a long drag before returning it to the girl. "I guess it could be worse." She put the Hummer back in drive and started down the street.
"Where are we going?" Clear asked after taking another hit.
"We're going to drive until sunrise and find another place for tomorrow night. It's easier to loot and deal with zombies during the daylight."
"You're a thief?"
"I am now. I used to be a con-artist, but when there's no one not zombified there's not a lot of people left to con."
"I don't have anything worth stealing," Clear said.
"I wouldn't steal from you anyway. You saved me there. And besides, I already have a pair of ugly boots." Chloe laughed with the girl. Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be so bad having her around in the mean time.