This story is a prequel to my upcoming zombie collection The Z Word. Like it here on facebook.
Click the photograph to see WhiteStag’s Etsy account where this print and more are available!
Zachary Ward was sitting in his old bean bag chair reading the recent Walking Dead when it happened. A scream ripped through the open window of his bedroom and he barely looked up from the issue. But then, who would? The second scream was the one that forced him to carefully place it on the shag carpet in the basement bedroom he “rented” from his grandmother and walk up to the eye-leveled window.
It had started. He saw two of his neighbors chased down by another, who seemed a bit slower than usual, and a bit more…gray? The slower neighbor latched on to one of their jackets and pulled the woman in, biting her arm as her scream reverberated off the walls of neighboring homes. Blood splattered across Zach’s window as her eyes met his and she reached for him.
It was time.
He ran to the comic he’d thrown to the ground in frustration and held the cover up, looking from the image to the view outside. It was definitely time.
He turned to find his grandmother standing in his doorway, the light from the basement steps silhouetting her figure.
“Mom-mom, how many times have I told you to knock first! I don’t care if you have to do laundry!” he whined. She stood, waiting for something, and that was when he looked back at the comic he’d been reading and flipped to the fourth page. It showed a back lit silhouette of someone in a doorway, a similar scene. He carefully placed the comic onto his sofa bed and reached under, feeling for something.
“Mom-mom, I would answer me if I were you…”
She made a sound, guttural, coming from deep inside, and that’s when his hand hit what he was looking for – a baseball bat. She lunged at him just as he pulled it out, and he swung it at her side, knocking her away from him.
“Mom-mom?” He looked into her eyes, a milky white. He sighed and knew what it was he had to do.
“Sorry mom-mom. You’re no longer the person I knew. I love you.” She stood again, her flowery moo moo flowing behind her as she jumped at him and he swung the bat at her head. The crack sounded different from those of the star baseball player’s he bench-warmed for. After all, his bat had never connected with anything other than wind that whole season his dad forced him to play.
She dropped to the ground, blood oozing from a crack in her skull. Zach looked at her for a brief moment and then started gathering items around his room and throwing them into a backpack. He’d been reading about these things for years now. He’d seen all the movies, even the terrible ones. The books, the graphic novels, everything prepared him for this moment. And he knew what he had to do next. It was time to save the hottest girl in his old high school who just so happened to live across the street and also, however unlikely, never pulled the blinds when she was changing. Why else would a twenty-year-old live in his grandmother’s basement?
As he burst through the old front door of her home, the screams got to him and he winced and lost his nerve for a moment. At that point he pulled out the iPod his cousin had given him when the new one came out and threw the buds into his ears after pushing random. With the bat in his hand he entered the street filled with monsters and victims alike, trying to catch some food or survive, depending which side they were on. He stepped to the other curb and was ready to swing the bat when a song started. The first few notes made him stop as the lyrics “Well no one told me about her…the way she lied” and he laughed at the irony of this song of all songs being the first to play. As he ran across the street one of the zombies came after him and he swung, this time right at its head. It went down fast as two more turned to look at him. He ran around her brother’s van parked in the driveway and checked to see if he could make it to the front door. He took off for her house and got to the door to find it locked. He rang the doorbell and turned to find the two from earlier coming at him rather slowly.
“Just like Romero said,” Zach actually said to himself as he gripped the bat tighter before thinking better of it and swing the bag around from his back. He pulled out a half-filled bottle of rum and stuffed a rag in it as they got closer, dropping the iPod and letting it yank the buds out of his ears. A quick flick of the lighter and the cocktail was lit. He threw it at the oncoming creatures and watched them ignite and fall, bringing three more into view who were apparently following them.
He turned and banged on the door, rang the doorbell again and started yelling. Finally he heard a voice.
“Who is it?”
“Lucy! It’s Zach! Let me in!”
“Who? I can’t. Something’s going on! I’m not opening the door!”
“If you don’t open it I WILL DIE!”
He waited, the closest undead thing within reach of his bat and he took it down with one swing. The click of the lock turning caught his attention and as she opened the door he fell inside onto her.
“Quick! Lock it!”
She sat on her ass looking at the monsters slowly approaching and began to shake so he jumped up and slammed it shut in their faces. He threw the latch and slid the chain into place, then offered her his hand.
“Are you okay?” She nodded and then wrinkled her nose at him.
“Oh, you’re that creepy guy from across the street. You live with that old lady.”
“Um…yeah. I was also in your homeroom.”
She brushed herself off. “What do you want?”
“I was trying to save you.”
“Well, I’m fine. I’m locked in. Safe. You can go.”
“We need to barricade the door, block up the windows and do a quick survey of what you have in here. Got a lot of food? We’ll need it.”
Lucy just stood there staring.
“What?” he asked her.
“Why should I share with you?”
He pulled open the curtains to get a view of the street. “You want to be alone in all this? They’re zombies.”
“Zombies. Dead people come back to life. Eating people.”
“That’s stupid. They aren’t even eating the people’s brains. Zombies eat brains.”
“Where in the hell did you hear that? It’s a myth.”
“So are zombies.”
“Then what are those?” he yelled, pointing outside at the chaos.
She looked outside and her confidence wavered. “They can’t be z- they just can’t be.”
She rubbed her arm and looked at him as sweat began to form on her forehead. “Well, what do we do?”
“We do what they always do. Lock ourselves in. Hold down the fort. Hope others find us so we become stronger in numbers.”
The two of them went to work moving furniture and blocking the doors and windows with as much as they could find. A quick inventory found them plenty of food and he filled up the bathtub with water.
“Why do we do this?”
“If the water stops running you’ll thank me.”
“What if I need to take a shower?”
He rubbed his temples for a moment trying not to yell, but ended up losing his temper a bit anyway. He yelled “YOU DON’T TAKE A SHOWER IN THE MIDDLE OF A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!”
Her lower lip trembled and he instantly felt bad. “I’m sorry, Lucy. I didn’t mean it.”
She took a good look at him and collected herself. “I’m fine. I get it. We’re in trouble. I’ll be tough.” She looked out the bathroom window and gasped. “This is for real, isn’t it.”
She turned and looked at him, a small smile forming. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m actually glad you’re here.”
He smiled and felt his heart skip a beat. The hot girl from his high school days was happy he existed. That’s when they heard the thump. Zach ran down as fast as he could, Lucy close behind, to find the front door being rattled. He ran to it and pushed up against it, Lucy copying him. That’s when the window shattered.
“No! Lucy get back!” By the time she realized what was going on, a hand grabbed her nearby arm and pulled it through the window. Zach grabbed her waist and pulled her back in, and as she turned he saw the distinct marks on her arm. Bite marks. She looked at it and said “I’m fine!”
“You aren’t. When you get bit you become one.”
She looked at the cuts, wiped away some blood and passed out. He picked her up and put her on the couch.
“Shit.” He knew what he had to do. He ran to the front door and added a heavy armoire to their makeshift barricade and then went back to her. She didn’t wake up. “I’m sorry. I have to leave you. It’s too late for you.”
At that he grabbed the keys to her brother’s van off the counter, ran to the back door, turned to take a last look at the hottest girl in his grade, and left through the backyard.