Halfer: My Life in the ZA
So, if you’re reading this, I guess there are survivors. And, I guess I’ve long since turned.
Maybe it’s been 2 months since I straggled in here, carefully evading the black helicopters that relentlessly circle—those guys can’t tell us from the herd. I get it, though. Physically, we look like full-on Zs, even if we still have a chance. We do, or…did, you know? If they’d worked towards a cure. We kept our faculties for a while. I’m proof positive. I mean…hello! I’m writing this aren’t I?
You’re probably wondering why this place. Why would I choose this place to spend my final days? The answer is really as simple as it is complicated. We had a plan in the beginning. The boys—my boys—were just going to get food. I had to be where they could find me if they…I mean…just in case.
We weren’t stupid or careless like some. We’d laid in enough supplies to last us for months the minute, probably the second, the news of the first “unexplained” death hit. Both sheds were chocked full to the rafters with water, canned goods, first-aid stuff, gasoline, and, of course, all the ammo we could get our hands on. We’re survivalists by nature. No way a few moaning, limping Zs were gonna take us down.
And they didn’t. We trapped rabbits and squirrels that happened to make their way into the yard to extend our protein. When spring came around, we grew a garden from all the seeds we had left from last year.
My daughter-in-law and I made quilts and clothes for winter. She and I canned food over the fire pit my sons built for us in the yard. All summer we stayed busy readying ourselves for what seemed more difficult than the Z part of the ZA: learning to survive as our ancestors had.
We’d seen a few at first, but our town was small, and we were already amidst a deep freeze when it hit here in our neck of the woods. That slowed ‘em down, I guess. We put as many of ‘em out of their misery as we could. We reinforced the fence, and planned for the future. It’s a small town. There could only be so many. Not to mention, back before we only had RFA (Radio Free America), all the radio stations were saying the government “was working hard to contain the situation and guarantee the safety of EACH and EVERY United States born citizen”. Unfair, probably, but we would be covered, or so we hoped. But of course, they lost. Big shocker. They were never prepared for real home born terror. Nope. They were too busy creating imaginary threats and increasing the empire to see death of US citizens as a cottage industry.
To be honest, we’d been screwed since Trump was elected in ’16. After his inauguration, he continued to ignore climate change, and by 2020, just as scientists had predicted, the Arctic turned into a massive 7-11 Slurpee instead of the ice rink it had been for centuries. Whatever was lying dormant in that thousands year’s old ice floated downstream straight to where it could do the most damage.
First, it was a swimmer of Miami. She lost her shit on the beach, taking out a couple dudes who’d been ogling her all day, hoping by night she’d be drunk enough to fuck. They laughed at her hobbling along the beach for hours until she finally went full-on Z. The hot Miami sun must’ve helped the virus bloom, because by the time night came, those dudes were nothing more than her moonlight snack. Hell, she probably picked them specifically before she turned-Dumb bastards. They had it coming, if you ask me. As usual, the Trump administration blamed immigration—said it was probably Ebola or some kind of typhoid. If he didn’t really know better, he sure learned when he put his thousand dollar boots on the ground in Texas for that emergency meeting they had. First president to die in the ZA. We barely noticed he was gone.
It wasn’t until the leaves started to turn that we noticed them coming more frequently to the fence. My boys said they didn’t recognize the faces anymore. The way they had it figured, as cold as it gets up north, they were making their way south—a zombie migration along with the geese they seemed to follow. I guess even people go back to their animal roots if we don’t have a choice. Darwin in reverse, but it means survival, so it makes sense.
Anyway, we made it pretty good, though. La Niña visited us with a cold, wet, early winter. So, by December, we were safe in our own home, nothing stirring outside. The basement was full of our summer’s work, and we stayed warm by the fireplace my boys had built. We even had clean drinking water because of the water filtration system my DIL and I devised. You had to think smart and not drink the water after the water plant was shut down. God knows the shit lurking in that water.
By and large the first year was okay. We made it until February, when as it usually happens with an early winter, it turned 72 one week. The ground turned sloppy from the melted snow, and the Zs who were too slow to make it to their macabre vacation destinations awoke from their icicle haze.
We fended them off as long as we could mostly stay indoors. Once our supplies started running low, we had a problem.
The bunnies and the squirrels quit traveling through the yard. I guess they ended up Half-Z food. My DIL lost so much weight we could see her ribs. My sons decided they simply must hunt. Folks can’t live on poke and wild strawberries. We needed protein and fat. It’d be too long before our garden would grow in earnest. “she might die,” he’d said.
“Hold down the fort, mom, we’ll be back soon.”
They’d been gone about two hours when they broke through the fence.
My sons were out there somewhere looking for food, fighting off a herd, and I couldn’t protect us from 4 Zs.
She wouldn’t listen to me. I wanted her to say in the house. I had them by the willow tree all together. It was too hard to get them with the brain smasher we’d made. I had to use the gun. She came running out the door as a fired the third round into the head of the next to last walking corpse, but the gunfire drew more. As she ran out across the yard, two more who’d squirmed through the fence took her down.
I tried to get them in time. There was nothing I could do. They disemboweled her as I ran, firing all the way. She was gone. I dropped my gun as soon as I knew no more were coming. I held her close as I pushed the knife through her brain. I couldn’t bear to watch her become a …a…one of them.
I mended the board on the fence while I tried to find the words to tell my son. She was like a daughter to me, but to him. Fucking Christ. He might never forgive me for letting her die.
Somehow we made it through the next few months. Life was hard without her. It was hard for my son to accept her death. He buried her next to the cherry tree—it had been her favorite place in the yard. I think he forgave me. I guess I’ll never really know.
Summer came and went, and once again, the leaves began to turn as frost set in. We didn’t have so many encounters this time, so we relaxed a little knowing the herd slowed in the cold winter.
Except it wasn’t a very cold winter. Every couple of weeks the temps would rise, giving way to more broken through fence. In January, our food supplies were running low again. The boys decided to leave me there alone. It’s a decision I’ll regret forever.
It seems like it was before 7 am when they left, but being winter, it’s hard to tell. My middle son stayed with me, the boys having decided it wasn’t safe to leave me alone. After some hot biscuits, I hugged my sons tight.
“We love you, Mommy, and we’ll come to you soon,” are the last words I ever heard my eldest and youngest say.
All I remember is my middle and I chopping wood. Then there were those fucking black helicopters. The whir of their blades must’ve stirred them up. Those “combat experts” had no idea how to maneuver in the ZA. They’d never been trained for that.
This wasn’t fucking Iraq or one of those other places where they went to be Badass of the Year. This was home soil they had their “boots on the ground” on, and those were Zs—-fucking Zs, man. They had to know they’d attract a cosmic fuckton of those things. Surely they knew, but they hovered there for so long they probably knew what color my eyes were, anyway. I guess civilian casualties didn’t mean anymore to them at home than it did across an ocean.
I probably couldn’t have counted to 100 after they left before we heard them. There must’ve been hundreds of them, maybe more. Real Zs—no half-lifers. This was the real deal. Shit had hit the fan. You couldn’t get their attention like you could with some of the halfers. There’d be no trying to distract them and put them down easy. Nope. These monsters were ravenous. I guess their food supply was low, too.
My middle yelled, and I did just what he said: I followed him into the shed, and we secured the door. His brothers would know there was trouble if those doors were closed. They’d see the closed doors as soon as they walked up the sidewalk. They’d hear us. They’d save us.
There were just so many.
Looking back now, it was probably only seconds. Those bastards smelled dinner. They pushed open the doors on that decade’s old hunk of metal, and…well, before I knew it….
He was screaming so loud. His voice reverberates through my ears, into my soul. I can feel his wet blood on my face. I see him… I just….God. My middle. My son.
I failed him.
Somehow, I made it to the house. The herd was so busy with my son that they didn’t notice me squirm away. I had to, at least, try to protect my last two boys.
Once the door was closed tight, my head started spinning. Maybe that’s when I was conscious of the fact he was really gone. I was in the house, and he was still out there.
I must’ve fallen backwards down the basement stairs, because when I came to, my ankle was facing the wrong direction. That wouldn’t matter much, though. What I would eventually notice was the set of teeth marks on my shoulder. They’d gotten me, too.
I knew I was infected, but I hadn’t turned. I was a halfer.I was also a danger to my other two sons should they be near me when I made the turn. I wrote a note, and closed myself in the closet.
I’M IN THE CLOSET. HE’S GONE. I’M INFECTED. PUT ME DOWN. I LOVE YOU. SURVIVE!
Who knows how long I waited. Hours turned to days, but they never came back. Eventually, the house was overran with Zs. They could probably smell the recent kill. It pulls them in like catfish to stinkbait, you know. Luckily, I guess, for me, the full-blowns couldn’t tell I wasn’t one of them anymore than the dudes in the choppers. Maybe they can smell the infection. Who knows?
After a few weeks, I decided if my boys came here, they’d be in too much danger. There must’ve been thousands of the turned. I grabbed some spray paint, and left them a note on the outside of the house.
OUT FOR PIZZA. YOU KNOW WHERE.
It was something no one else could decipher. It seemed logical. When my boys came back to me, they’d find me easy enough. We’d been going here forever. Although, now, the smell of rotting flesh had probably overtaken the smell of fresh made sauce. I don’t really know. Once you’re infected, it’s hard to tell.
The weather is warmer now. It must be March, April maybe? I could feel the infection taking over more and more of my body as the temperatures warmed. Once in a while I stare off into space, looking over and over again at that sign that says “A La Familllia”. A strange hunger grows ever stronger inside my gut.
Every now and again the whir of the helicopters make some of us move by the front door, catching my attention. Today, some of them stopped out front, shuffling in place, mumbling the mutter of “ma ma ma ma”. Today, I joined my family.
(Image source: http://coolwallpaperz.info/wallpaper/entertainment-zombie-apocalypse-academy-183902-wallpaper_w8905.html)