This is the prologue to a novella I started back in 2011 and never finished. I’m posting it in an effort to get myself motivated to finish the story. I started it right when The Walking Dead TV show was getting off the ground and I felt I shouldn’t try to write a zombie(?) story because of it. But now, 13 years later, I’m ready to start on it again. So here’s the prologue:
“Are you ready yet?”
“Not yet, I still can’t find it.”
“Okay, well hurry up, son.”
“Don’t call me son! You’re not my dad.”
“I know, sorry. Old habit.”
I’m not sure why I do that. Years ago, seems like ages ago now, I dated a woman who had a son about this boy’s age. I called her boy that and he found it both annoying and funny at the same time. It seems ironic since I’ve never met his mother, yet I call this one “son” too.
I finish cinching up my pack and think back to life before this phantasmagoria began. Not much of a life really; I had a house, a girlfriend, a beater for a car, a job I hated, and a family that I saw occasionally. I still have the house, for a few more minutes anyway. I’m sure I still have a girlfriend but the lines of communication were severed last night. The car is still running and that’s good, but it’s a gas hog and these days that is a real problem. The job? Well let’s just say things are dead there.
I hope my family is still out there somewhere; I’m torn between going that direction or trying to find the love of my life. She’s “just a girlfriend” to the people who called themselves my friends but to me she is everything I’m living for now. I make my decision: She’s closer by nearly thirty miles, and it would make more sense to find her first and then backtrack to the little town on the edge of nowhere that my family calls home.
I look out the window and the boy is playing on the front porch, obviously aware of the danger as the sun seems slow to rise on this chilly morning. Still, his youthful nature takes over and he is, for a few moments, oblivious to the nightmarish reality of life these days.
“These days!” I whisper to myself. “Hah!” It’s been just a few weeks since everything went to shit. I don’t have high hopes for the planet; the last radio broadcast I was able to pick up spoke of the dangers of being outside at night, and all the other public service announcements our woefully unprepared government could come up with. There was a brief interview a few days before with some scientist, just a numbers guy really, saying that approximately one percent of the world’s population would survive this event. That’s still a hell of a lot of people, so I doubt our odds are even that good.
Then again, we do have a daytime advantage. Anyone who’s come in contact with one of the things knows what the sun does to them. And they’re not mindless like all the movies would have you think. Oh no, these ghouls are crafty! You would think they were the ones trying to cling to life and not us, hiding in houses and anywhere else they can avoid the sunlight during the day, like so many rotting vampires. But they don’t want our blood, they simply want to eat us.
I tap on the window to let him know it’s time to finish packing. Grabbing some canned dog food from under the counter as a last resort reminds me of my hairy roommate, lost to the creatures during the first few days of this nightmare. He was not their goal, I was; they don’t care for the taste of dogs but they were quick to rip him apart when he was bravely tearing off their legs for daring to invade our home. The next day there was a knock at the door and this boy was standing there, bloody, disheveled and scared but wise enough to have survived on his own for nearly a week.
For one thing, he was holding a pistol and pointing it at my forehead as I opened the door. He obviously knew that one of the creatures would never open the door during the day, so I had to be human. Still, he wasn’t taking any chances. “Where are your parents?” was, oddly enough, the first thing I could think of while staring down the barrel of his .22 caliber Ruger.
“I don’t know, I got separated from them when we were trying to get to my grandma’s house,” he said, barely holding back a sob.
“Well put that thing away before you blow my head off!” I told him, with what I hoped was a warm smile.
“Okay, you don’t act like a monster.” He lowered the pistol and immediately ran inside, still checking out the darker corners of the room as he went.
That was two weeks ago, and we’ve been holed up in the attic at night since then, only coming out when we’re sure the house is empty. From this vantage point I’ve been able to determine that the plague hasn’t spread this far yet; I haven’t seen any creatures out at night and there’s never been a breach of the house itself. But after losing radio contact with my family yesterday morning and my girlfriend last night, I have to leave this haven behind and go find them. I’m sure their batteries have just run out; those cheap Radio Shack CB walkie-talkies eat AA cells like our zombie friends eat us. I’m on my last batch too, so it makes sense. Better to think of that than the alternative.
“I’m ready!” the young man shouts from the attic, and he starts climbing down the steps with my huge backpack strapped to his shoulders. It’s really too big for him, but it’s light and it carries his share of survival gear with room to spare. I pick up my gym bag full of food, water, shotgun shells and other necessities of life and head to the door. One last look at my tiny castle as I’m loading up the trunk with as many supplies as I can; I doubt I’ll see it again.
To Be Continued
© 2011 Morgan Johnson