09-29-09 – Little Children

Something strange has happened. Phil is suddenly a trusted voice of authority.

Ted and I expressed our considerable doubts to each other, our fears that, while the apartments upstairs were nice and a general improvement, we still weren’t sure about making a permanent move. There were more pros than cons to moving, but like me, Ted wasn’t fond of the general malaise of evil that hung around the place. But Phil, the son of a bitch, went right ahead and gushed to Matt and Janette about Ms. Weather’s apartment. It had a good view of the street, it had generators and silverware and peas!

Matt and Janette, accustomed to taking order from Phil, jumped on board Phil’s train, leaving Ted and I to voice our doubts. As you can imagine, it was a confusing conversation.

“But it was your idea,” Matt protested, rolling his eyes at me for probably the fifth time that morning.

“I know that, but you have to understand… It’s just, I feel like maybe we should talk about it some more, ya know? Maybe take a vote.” Phil hadn’t told them about the dead body, the slit throat. I think he may have mentioned something about moving Ms. Weathers out of her apartment, but that didn’t seem to bother Matt or Janette. It was tempting, so very tempting, to let them know that Phil had been ready to abandon us at a moment’s notice. When the scent of freedom was on the air, even briefly, Phil had taken a big whiff and dove face-forward. Both Matt and Phil had stopped using the disposable razors and arguing with them was a bit like facing down two angry mountain men.

I was hoping that they’d go for the vote idea. Holly would vote which ever way Ted did and then we could pronounce a stalemate and stall for a while.

“Fine,” Phil said, throwing up his hands, “A vote it is. All in favor of moving upstairs, raise your hands.”

One, two, three and – what’s this? – four hands go up. Ted and I whip around to glare at Holly at the same time and she takes a step back, shrugging her shoulders. “I just… I think it would be nice, don’t you? I’m sick of it down here.”

I elbow Ted, hard. “Control your fucking woman, dude.”

“Hey!” Holly shouts.

“It was a joke, Holly, pipe down,” I say, pinching my head between thumb and forefinger. I can hear Phil laughing, chuckling at my frustration. This was not the intended outcome and now Holly has put us in a very difficult position. I suggested the vote and it’s too late to back out. Briefly, I consider telling them about the murdered man in Apartment C but decide against it; I haven’t seen Phil, Matt and Janette this happy since before this stupid shit storm began. This unfortunate turn of events has, sadly enough, given even more credence to Phil’s authority. I can feel my tenuous grasp on the group’s loyalty slipping by the minute.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” I remind them, tugging at my side of the power struggle rope. This isn’t going to be easy, but Phil still has a ways to go before the rest of the group look to him for tasks. “We encountered some groaners up there so we need to be vigilante. I think we should stick to two apartments, divided up however, but we shouldn’t spread out too far.”

Having won the argument, Phil is practically exuberant as he goes about hauling whats left of our food upstairs. We organize teams, only one taking a trip at a time, two people on the look out while one person carries food or books or cleaning supplies. It takes three trips to get it all upstairs. I wait to go on the last team, lingering in the safe room. We have to say goodbye to these monitors, these little beacons of information. Dapper is whining and hungry and I know he doesn’t want to leave the break room; I should be more confident, more optimistic, but it all feels too hasty. This is how mistakes are made, I keep thinking, this is how we end up cornered and fighting for our lives.

Hollianted and I will be taking one apartment, the other three are inhabiting the other. They’re right next to each other, so I take the initiative and take the ax to the drywall. It takes a few hours on and off of work, but eventually Ted and I have got a respectable hole straight through the shared wall. We have no phones, no walky talkies and we need a reliable way to stay in touch across the apartments. Ted takes a permanent marker and draws an arrow pointing at the hole, at the end of the arrow he writes: Thus spake the assholes.

It’s funny, sort of, and I remind him that should the others visit, they might not find it so amusing. Ted isn’t concerned, he feels freed and that’s good enough for me.

There are several things preoccupying my mind, but one in particular: it makes me sincerely nervous that I still haven’t found the source of the wireless. With Ted and a golf club, I scoured every apartment looking for the router. I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be in the maintenance area midway between the store and the apartments, the sort of no-man’s land at the bottom of the stairwell. We’ve decided to leave exploration of that room for another day; it’s likely to be very dark and cold and we only have a few candles and one flashlight. Luckily, Ms. Weathers kept a healthy supply of batteries around. We hope this will be enough to power the flashlight and the radio indefinitely.

And there’s something else that worries me: as soon as we arrived and started settling in, Dapper began barking and growling, turning in circles and bearing his teeth. Ted and I are trying to keep the nervous, meaningful glances to a minimum, but we couldn’t help a shared moment of anxiety when we noticed Dapper’s strange behavior. I thought maybe bringing him up here would be a good thing, a welcomed change from the cramped living quarters we’d forced him to stay in. He would have more room to stretch his legs here but that didn’t seem to interest him.

And so we’ve moved upstairs. In a way, it was easier than I expected; Matt, Janette and Holly took the journey well and they really didn’t have to see much of anything. We told them to keep their eyes forward but I’m sure they glimpsed the trail of carnage in the back store room. Most of the undead were still cleared out from our adventure the other day. They’ve each been given a golf club which, in a matter of hours, ended up coming in handy.

Not three hours after we’d handed out the golf clubs, I hear a scream come from the other apartment. There are many kinds of screams – horrified screams, pain screams and surprised screams. This was on of the ladder. I peeked through the jagged hole in the wall to see Janette covering her mouth, her golf club on the floor and a man I’d never seen before kneeling there with his hand rubbing his forehead.

Hollianted and I sprinted into the other apartment, where Phil and Matt were just coming on the scene too. The man wasn’t dead and certainly wasn’t undead, but he did have a reddening bump on the right side of his forehead.

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, in what I believed to be a remarkably calm voice given the circumstance.

“Jesus, I was thinking just about the same thing!”

Ted was raising his golf club up over his head, winding up for a big, brain-bashing swing. The stranger flinched, covering his blonde, curly head with both arms.

“Don’t! Fuck, don’t hit me again, I’m not armed.”

Phil raced forward to confirm this, lamely patting the stranger down, mimicking whatever he had seen them do on Law & Order. When he steps back, he nods solemnly, giving a little comical grunt of acquiescence. I ignore this and put myself between Ted and the newcomer.

“Why the hell were you hiding in a linen closet?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest. He’s still kneeling on the ground, which is good. It makes me think he at least recognizes who has the upper hand here.

“I live here,” he retorts with a laugh of disbelief, “But I heard all these noises and voices so I got scared.” He swallows a big lump in his throat and glances to his left. Something is wrong. An idea comes to mind and I know I have to get him alone.

“What’s your name?” I ask, trying to sound gentle.

“Zack, my name is Zack, but we can’t stay here there’s a – ”

“We’ve cleared them out, checked everywhere,” I interrupt him, widening my eyes to let him know that whatever it is he wants to say, he’ll have to save it.

“Apparently not!” he mutters, rubbing the bump on his head.

“This is really your apartment?” I ask.

“Not this one, Apartment D. It’s my brother-in-law’s place,” Zack replies. I look at Ted. D is where we found the man in the rocking chair.

“So why are you in here then?” I ask.

“I couldn’t… I couldn’t stay there! Not after – ”

“They got your brother-in-law,” I finish for him. He squints at me, checking his head to the side. I can hear Phil squishing around on the carpet behind me, fidgeting. Through the hole in the wall I can hear Dapper yowling. I don’t want the others to know about the man in the rocking chair. It won’t help anything to put them in a panic.

“Can you stand?”

Zack nods slowly and then digs his heel into the carpet, lifting himself to his feet with one strong push. He stands and looks around at all of us, his eyebrows touching over his anxious gaze.

“I guess we can’t kick you out, seeing as how you live here and all.”

“Um, Allison, could I have a word?”

“Sure, Ted.”

He hands the golf club to Phil wordlessly. I follow him to the master bedroom and he shuts the door. His hair is getting in his eyes again so he pushes it away and glares at me.

“What?”

“You know what. We can’t take him in, it’s out of the question.”

“Really? And why is that?”

“We don’t know anything about him. For all we know he could’ve killed that guy!”

“His own brother-in-law? And why would he stick around? Murderers generally don’t hang around after they kill somebody. Not to mention, he was hiding in the linen closet. If he was gutsy enough to slit someone’s throat, why would he hide from us?”

“Because he’s outnumbered? Because we have a dog? Any number of reasons!”

“It just… It just doesn’t seem right to kick him out. How can we do that? You know as well as I do that he’d probably die out there on his own,” I explain, “and besides, do you really want to make enemies?”

“We know there are other people out there. We know that now, you said it yourself. Those people, whoever, on your, whatever…”

“Blog?”

“Yes. Look, if we didn’t know there were other survivors then maybe it would be different, but the way things are… I just think it’s a bad call.”

“Our food supply is better, we have room, I can’t in good conscious send someone out to their death,” I say. I lean forward and grab Ted around the collar and yank him toward the window. The chintz curtains are closed so I push them back. “Look. Look at it down there. There’s nothing left. Where would he go? We can’t be barbarians, Ted, we just can’t. I won’t let us start acting like humanity means nothing. It means something, it does, and when things get back to normal little acts of kindness will add up.”

“Jesus, you sound like my girlfriend.”

“Is that such a bad thing?” I shout. I’m losing my temper, I try to breathe. Just a few deep breaths and everything will be easier to handle…

“You just want him around because he’s good looking.”

“I – what? Are you completely fucking insane? What does that have to do with anything?” The deep breaths aren’t working now, nothing is working…

“Well if it turns out we need to repopulate the Earth he’s a big upgrade from Phil.”

I didn’t mean to, I don’t think I even wanted to, but I slap Ted, hard, right across the face. He reels back, holding his cheek, his glasses askew.

“When have I ever made a decision out of purely selfish motives, Ted? Do you think that by only considering myself we would be where we are now? Do you? Answer me.”

“It was a stupid thing to say. I’m sorry.”

“He stays. Get it? He just… He just fucking stays.”

I leave Ted behind, letting him hold where it smarts. There’s something ugly inside of me, it’s not just my temper, it’s something worse. I can feel all of the questions, all of the doubts, swirling into one terrible mass of anger. It’s too much to handle, too much for one person. And it’s worse because I know if my mom was here she could help, she would know what to do. She was always so strong, so put together… She would know just what to say to me. Maybe my instincts are wrong and maybe Ted is right, but I’ll be damned if I start acting like nothing and no one else matter. It all matters, every little last vestige of humanity matters now. The books, the radio, the people… We have to carry it forward.

In the living room they’re still standing around, useless, staring at Zack like he’s Santa Claus just fallen out of the chimney. I push through them, through the close together wall of Janette and Matt, and take Zack by the wrist.

“Everybody, this is Zack. Zack, this is Janette, Matt, Phil, Holly and guy in the other room is Ted. I’m Allison. It’s good to have you with us.”

Zack is staying in our apartment because the suspicion and dislike rolls off of Matt in a pungent, intolerable wave. Ted is doing his very best, but I know he’s swallowing his pride and his frustration. Holly, of course, is affable and kind. She’s an asset to us, I can see it now. When everyone else refuses to smile or laugh, Holly is a bright ray of sunshine bouncing down the halls. She’s begun an art project in the living room of our apartment, something to make it look a little cheerier and more like home.

Zack has volunteered to sleep in the bathtub with some pillows and a comforter, which gives me the bedroom all to myself. I can hear Zack’s elbows bumping the walls next door, and Dapper is stretched out on the end of the bed, but otherwise I have solitude, a quiet place to write and rest. Hollianted use the hide-a-bed out in the living room. I think they’re grateful for the privacy and I envy them their relationship. I hate that Ted is a little bit right. I’m lonely, and he can see it. Maybe everyone can see it.

Goodnight moon, goodnight Bruce and anonymous, goodnight Texas. Arlington will hold for another night and so will we and tomorrow morning the struggle continues.

7 Responses to “09-29-09 – Little Children”

  1. Brooklyn Girl Says:

    Bed Stuy still here. We’ve managed to block the stairs to our apartment and use the fire escapes to go out for supplies. So far the fires have managed to burn away from our block, but the smoke is making visibility horrible. You don’t see the things until they’re right on you. We’re raiding the bodega down the block tonight. Keep the faith.

  2. Seattle V Says:

    I hope you are still ok…your updates have been keeping us going.

  3. Let your faith be your shield! Your arms will tire, your blades will dull, but the Lord’s light will carry you past harm.

    Be not afraid! His righteous judgment has fallen on this world of sodomites and non-believers, and only we, the faithful, will be taken up to heaven after he has culled this herd. As the dead marched on Jerusalem when Jesus was hung upon that cross so too do they march on us in this final hour.

    When the rapture comes– and fear not, it will, and soon– the Lord will see the faithful into Paradise while leaving the satanists, atheists, and homosexuals behind to eek out an existence before being consumed by the fires of hell.

    Only 144,000 of His Chosen will survive to be taken into heaven, the rest must be made to suffer and die in this earthly prison.

    The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth, He told us. It wasn’t a promise, it was a warning! All you who were too cowardly to accept the Lord into your hearts, who were too quiet and ashamed of your morality to stand up and scream NO MORE at the excesses of this society, you will be left to reap what you have sown.

    Indeed there is much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth, but the damned aren’t in Satan’s hell–they knock on our doors and shamble on our streets. We are a fallen world, and the only ones surprised by this are the ones who blinded themselves to the Lord’s Good Word.

    • Bob in Rhode Island Says:

      Try to make it to a supermarket if you can, ther won’t be much left unless you hurry.

  4. S.W.A.T SGT. jason jeffery Says:

    I live 30 miles from Arlington in a small town, so its not so bad, my guys scott and jerrod are the only survivors I found, and we 3 are holding up pretty good at scotts house, keep posting, your a light in the darkness

  5. Allison, you really need to calm down a bit, the move and the appearance of Zach seem to have affected your writing….. You used ‘vigilante’ instead of ‘vigilant,’ and ‘ladder’ instead of ‘latter.’

    We still have power out here in the country-side north of Kansas City, but all we have for radio is that giant i-pod shuffle they call Jack FM, the news stations are out of commission, thankfully, we’re far enough from most residential areas here that they haven’t been making frequent appearances… yet.

  6. NO POWER HERE.

    HELP ME, ALLISON.

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