I don’t need your pity. There are the whiners who will go on and on about how we’re the unfortunate ones, like somehow surviving is worse than being turned into one of them. Bullshit, man, that’s just utter crap. Sure it’s tough, surviving, but it beats the crap out of the alternative. Dead is, well, dead and undead is worse. Fucking whiners. I mean, I know where they’re coming from, there’s a reason the pharmaceutical companies were among the first things to be re-organized and given resources and trust me, I pop a rainbow of meds everyday just like the next guy, but still…
I was in right here in Edmonton when it happened. Strange that after so much time this is where I’m at again. Full circle or some shit. It’s funny, ya know, I’d always planned for it. Seriously, it was like this game I’d play in my mind all the time. Like, okay, if the zombies were to come right now, what would I do, where would I go? I had all these contingency plans, you know? I’d want to get out of the city first of all, right? Too many people there… problem was, everyone was going to be trying to leave and that was going to mean traffic jams and a freaking buffet for the zombies. So I figured I was going to have to hunker down until the first wave passed and then make a break for it.
I thought I’d go west into the mountains, cross them somehow, because I’m uber like that, then settle on one of the little islands out there. Small island, small population. Figured the climate would be good enough for growing shit and whatever. Yeah, I had great plans. Was pretty sure I would be one of the survivors, just never imagined I’d be doing it alone.
So when the shit went down I was in Edmonton. It wasn’t too bad at first, there were a lot more cops and soldiers on the street but life was mostly unchanged, if a little tense. Hearing gunshots on a regular basis and having the dead come back to life and try to eat you has that affect; it makes things tense. But people went to work, kids went to school. We’d hear on the radio about how the really populated places like China and India were pretty much fucked. Well, more India really…the Chinese weren’t talking very much about their situation, sorta like that SARS thing from back in the day. Anyway, we could imagine. That many people crammed into such a small place…
Things weren’t bad here. Like I say, everyone went on with their lives. Occasionally traffic was backed up when the soldiers had an area closed off for Q&E, that’s quarantine and elimination, but mostly it was just tense. Then gas started to run out. People started leaving their cars at home.
I sure would have liked to own a bike store around then, would have been some pretty sweet business. Maddie had gotten too big for her bike so we went to get her a new one—it was like five hundred bucks for the cheapest one in the shop, so that wasn’t happening. Instead we took her training wheels off and lifted the seat. It worked well enough. She didn’t have far to go to school anyway, and you can bet we didn’t let her go alone.
Then the people started flooding in. You need to remember, with the gas shortages came everything shortages because the trucks weren’t running to deliver it. You ever hear of the 100 mile diet? It was pretty big back then among the eco-types, but once we started running out of gas it became mandatory. Remember also that here in Alberta we pumped a fuckton of oil. Maybe we didn’t process it here or something? I don’t know, but if it was that bad here it had to be worse in other places.
So the people came. They came, mostly I think, for the remoteness and the hard winters. They’d all read Max Brooks’ books it seemed, and he said the zombies would freeze. Of course, his zombies were fictional, but turns out he got that part right. They do freeze. Still, the influx of people was the beginning of the end for here.
We didn’t have the resources to feed them all, hell, we didn’t have the places to house ’em. Office buildings got turned into shelters and filled up in no time. There were food riots and all the weapons everyone carried around started to get used against people with pulses as much as those without. And lots of the refugees were infected. Many were in the early stages when we had no way to detect it, and besides, it’s not like the city had a wall that could easily be defended. The military tried to set up check points, but they were about as useful as they are on the Mexico/US border. Infected got through, turned and created more infected. With our suddenly over-filled city, it was a recipe for catastrophe.
I decided it was time to book it. I’d done the hunker down part of my plan, now we had to get the fuck out of dodge. My husband, Amir, agreed so we packed light bags and grabbed Maddie. A friend of mine who worked for the railway told me a train was leaving that night, heading west. Trains had once been common things, but not so much anymore, and especially not ones that would take people. I had him pull a few strings, thankfully Amir would never know the currency I used, and got us spots on the train. Three spots. Three beautiful tickets out of here. We knew Vancouver was just as bad as Edmonton, worse even, but I thought it we could just get there we could keep going north into the wilderness, or to one of the islands like I planned.
Getting to the train station was difficult. We didn’t live very far away from it and we’d left with lots of time to spare, you had to because blockades and shit were pretty much the norm by then, but apparently there was an outbreak nearby. The military had a whole area between the station and us blocked off. We could hear the gunfire and knew it had to be bad – they used snipers mostly, to conserve ammo, so if you heard a lot of shots you knew it was a lot of freaking zombies.
They’d blocked off a huge area, huge, we had to go a very long way around and time was short. Really freaking short. That’s why we did it, you understand. Why we took the risk. There wasn’t another way out of the city. This was likely going to be the last train out, and it was certainly the last one we’d be able to get on. My friend wouldn’t pull more strings for us, he wouldn’t have the power, and in those days each train had a soldier on top of the cars. They would shoot anyone hanging on or sneaking into the cars.
We had a long way to go, and not much time. Maddie was exhausted, so Amir put her on his back. You should have seen him, I know he was tired too, we all were. No one slept well in those days, and hoofing it for twenty blocks already was far from a pleasant stroll, but he smiled and said ‘Here, take a ride on my back like when you were little’ and picked her up like she weighed next to nothing. Like when you were little, he said. As though six wasn’t little. She was six…
The safest thing for us to do would be to keep going around that area, stick to the more traveled road with its better lights, or we could cut through the warehouse district. The safer route meant we’d have to run another twenty blocks, praying we’d make the station before the train left or but the shortcut would mean we only had to go five or six blocks. We’d make the train for sure.
Amir and I looked at each other in the orange light of the streetlights. “Well,” he said. “There’s not likely to be a whole lot of people in the warehouses.” I nodded in agreement, and took his hand. We stepped off the main road and into the shadows.
The thing we never realized, you see, is that the warehouses, like the office buildings, had been turned into housing. Mostly by those people who wanted to stay under the radar, as much as there was a radar back then.
It only takes one infected to start a swarm. One bite.
It was dark. Despite the power shortages they always made sure to have enough to power streetlights, the better to see the zombies, but we were in an industrial area and those lights were few and far between.
We were three blocks in when it happened. One of the things lunged out of the shadows and grabbed at Amir. He tumbled to the ground, I heard his knees crack on the pavement and felt his hand pull itself from mine. You can imagine, I’m sure, how fast a person could turn around in those circumstances, and I did, I spun around like a top but already Amir’s screams were filling the night and there was a pack of them on him, chewing at him like hungry dogs.
Maddie…sweet Maddie. She screamed and tried to stand but—I reached for her, caught a hold of her fingers, her pudgy little fingers that gripped mine with a strength I didn’t know she had. Her big brown eyes, filled with terror and tears looked up into mine. “Daddy…” she said, like something out of a movie, and then they tore her away from me.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could, but I still heard them, I still heard what they did to my little girl…
I made the train. Part of me wanted to miss it I think, I know what those people mean when they say surviving is harder. Part of me wanted to give up right then, but I didn’t. I went out west, where it was, indeed, worse than Edmonton. That didn’t last long though. Because it is a port city it became a priority for the military. They recruited us, anyone able-bodied and willing to fight, and Vancouver, eventually, became the first clean zone. I know, who’d have thought it, eh?
When we started moving west I volunteered to be in the forward unit. They didn’t usually like to have those of us who never did the whole military-indoctrination crap in those units, I guess they worried we’d go apeshit or something, not having been brainwashed and all, but I got in. Lucky perhaps, or maybe they just realized I wasn’t going to lose it. Whatever.
I saw shit… I was a shrink before the war you know, criminal psychology if you can believe it. I thought I’d heard and seen everything back then. I was so wrong. You wonder how it is people can get so fucked up, now, in peacetime when zombie sightings are less and less common. Let me tell you, when you come across a barricaded farmhouse out in the middle of fucking Redneckville where they’ve set up a little commune and you wonder how it is that they’re staying fed with the tiny little garden they’ve got going, then you see the cages in the basements, and you find piles bleached bones in the back yard…
Shit like that happened all the time. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
Here I am though, back in Edmonton. I’ve got a cozy position as the army shrink, ironic, isn’t it, that someone as messed up as me can be the most sane person in a group? There you have it though, war is hell, and this one was worse than others. So I take my pills each morning, and every night that I sleep without hearing Maddie’s screams is a good one, and these whiners who say the dead have it better? One day someone’s going to put a bullet between their eyes to show them just how wrong they are. I’m not sayin’ it will be me, but every time they bitch about surviving that’s a little bit more disrespect their showin’ those who didn’t, and that, my friend, is a fucking crime against humanity.
Bio: Rhonda writes fantasy, YA and horror stories and poems when she’s not procrastinating or playing video games. She also maintains a blog and website at http://www.rhondaparrish.com and loves sushi