Day 19

 There is food here. Lots of it. Dried fruits and sealed water. MRE’s and jerky as well as crackers and beans and rice (along with many other things). We are all worn out, tired physically and emotionally and decide to stay here for a few days until we recuperate. There is no power, but we find several flashlights and candles that we place around the portions of the building we’ll be inhabiting.

There is also several Hummers in a parking garage to the side of the building and each has a full tank of gas. We load one of them up with weapons and food and some clothing and blankets, leaving it there in case we need to leave quickly.

I take two naps and by the evening I feel well rested. Much more so than I had for some time. By candle light we each sit, I with my machete and a wet sharpening stone, the others simply sitting, thinking, most likely about this world we now live in.

“So,” Josh says, looking up at me, “you think it’s genetics?”

I don’t answer at first but sit and think.

“Yeah, I think that explains best why we’re not infected. I mean,” I pause, trying to get the right words. “If mom or dad had a homozygous gene that had, at some time, mutated to give us an immunity to the disease, all of us would have at least a heterozygous gene, giving us this immunity. And so, when we are infected it has no effect on us, or our body has an antibody that can fight the infection. Like, maybe the gene produces an antibody that goes against whatever antigen this zombie infection has. At least if it’s bacterial.”

“But we don’t know what it is . . .” Chad says, still thinking about the immunity.

“No. I am only guessing. I have not doubt I’m probably far off base, but one thing is clear, we are immune to the infection.”

“And that is why,” Josh starts, glancing over at Chad, “Clive never got back up like Jess and the others did? He got the dominant trait?”

“I think so. Really, I can’t think of any other reason.”

We decide to leave the following day. Before we turn in we add more things into our supply we’d be taking in the hummer. More ammo, and more food. We place our weapons in the vehicle (save my machete, Chad’s sword and Josh’s own machete) and, having some anxiety for the following day, each slowly drift to sleep.

I can’t sleep. Another dream of that man I shot in the head. Crystal and Clive were there. Dead, but living. I kept seeing Ray’s face as I shot him, like he wanted nothing more than to die. And then Jacob. I heard, in my dream, his pounding on the door. It lingered, even after my dreams, like something that needed to get out. Something that I needed to do, or to say. It was painful.

Eventually I lay back down and try not to think. It is hard, but finally, after several long minutes my eyes droop and I close them, allowing sleep to take over.

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Day 18

 Chad and I sit on the couch in the early morning hours. He is holding the pistol in his hands, looking at it. Preparing for what he will inevitably have to do. I sit, one leg crossed over the other, reading a book I had pulled from the book self. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. Using a flashlight I found in a drawer for light I scanned over the words. I had started reading it once, but for some reason stopped. It was his outcry against nuclear weapons. It underlined the damage that would happen in a world where there was nuclear war. It’s interesting the comparisons I could make between that world and this one, covered in zombies with no hope of humanity rebuilding. The damage is too great. Now all we have left to do is survive.

I want to talk, but am not sure what to say. I think he feels the same way. I think it is a subject that needs to be dropped. I can tell it is eating him from the inside out. I turn to him but take several seconds to say anything.

“Are we OK?” I ask. It takes him longer than I would have liked for him to say anything, but finally, he starts to talk.

“We are. I was angry at myself, I think, and took it out on you. I know you had a hard choice to make and I only made it worse. It’s just . . . I should have been there. If I was, maybe . . . maybe I could have saved them.” He goes quiet for a long time. I wait patiently, but after some minutes I eventually go back to by book, flicking the light on. The room is growing brighter, but it not yet bright enough to easily read in.

Chad stands up and paces.

“I feel guilty,” he says. “I feel guilty because I think that maybe it is better. Maybe it really is better to be dead. Maybe Jacob is lucky that soon he’ll be dead and away. I miss them so much. It’s unbearable, but at least now I don’t need to worry about keeping them safe.” He stops abruptly and listens. Nothing. “But I wish so much that they were here. I wish I was protecting them.” He stops again, and this time I heard it too. Grunts and then scrapping on the door upstairs. I move the flashlight beam up the steps and try and see around the turn to the door that he is in. All I can see is the wall leading towards the door that contains Jacob; now a zombie.

There is a bang. It is loud and solitary, echoing through the house. Another follows it and a yell, gargling and putrid sounding. As though at the moment of the yell the creature had thrown up. Another bang, and with this one was splintering of wood. Chad checks the safety on the gun and pulls the hammer back. The banging grows more aggressive and louder. Josh comes out with his own gun and my machete, handing the later to me.

We three stand there, listening to the growing anger from the zombie. “Did you lock the door?” Josh asks Chad as the banging continues and the splintering grows more frequent and louder.

“No,” he says smiling, “I put a child lock on it.”

We all laugh in spite of ourselves until we hear the final splintering sound and the door fall to the ground. I shine the light up towards the top of the stairs. I see his hand groping the wall, leaving a bloody streak along its white surface. Finally, Jacob, the zombie, comes to the top of the stairs. His face is smeared with the blood he had most likely thrown up and much of it had dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt. Upon seeing us it let out a piercing yell and leaps down the flight of stairs. Several rounds are fired, one of which, (I am not sure whose it was) catches his head and as he hit a bottom step he crumples into a heap.

It is still Jacob. Even behind the dark gore that covers his body it is him. I can see the look in Chad’s eyes as well as Josh’s. This man, only hours ago had been different. Or that is what we need to tell ourselves in order to protect one another. We all knew that he was dead and then brought back—somehow—but that didn’t change that we had to kill our companion and friend. There is a moment of silence that passes. It is easy to forget that each of these zombies was once a human.

There is a yell outside. That horrible, haunting scream. As if these zombies cannot control their anger and must unleash something. It continues and we can tell there are many out side of the townhouse.

“We need to move,” I say. “How’s your arm?”

Josh looks down at his arm absentmindedly. “I think it’s fine. Hurts a bit, but that’s all.”

“OK, lets go.”

There is a window in the upstairs portion that can get us to the roof. I glance into the room Jacob had been in as we pass it and move to the next. There is blood covering the walls and floor. The splintered door shows a hinge still attached at the bottom. Twisted and broken. I go into the other room and see Chad climbing out of a window, getting onto the roof. Josh follows and I last.

Outside, the sky has grown lighter, the sun is peaking through buildings. For a moment I am caught up in the blue sky. I haven’t looked up in some time and it is nice to do for now.

The zombies are no longer screaming, but are still easily heard as their numbers grow continually beneath us. I hear a crunch and it is obvious that they have broken in.

We run from the window and down the roof tops of the connected town homes. It doesn’t seem as if any have noticed our movement and soon we break a window and carefully climb into the abandoned home. The room is pink, filled with dolls and papers with pictures of a young girls family or pets hung on one wall. Chad leads the way and pulls open the door, walking out quickly. The layout of the home is the same as the one we had come from but reversed. Down the stairs and through the kitchen, Chad exits through the back door. Holding his gun in front of him, he eases open the back door and looks around. There is an ally way with a fence and some storage boxes next to the building. No zombies in sight, however.

We pull some of the storage containers over to the fence and quickly jump over. There are more back alley ways of town homes. We run away from where the zombies are.

I take the lead, my rifle strapped to my back and machete out, ready to dispatch of any zombies without drawing them all towards us with a gunshot. Chad as well has his sword out. I lead us to a main road and turn onto it, still running at a quick pace. Soon I see what I am looking for. A small gas station on the corner of an intersection.

I run to the building and without checking if it is safe I open the doors and go in. Chad and Josh wait outside, not asking questions, but keeping a lookout. Near the front, next to the cash register is a stand with some books, movies and at the very top a map of Sacramento. I then walk out side and hand it to Josh, requesting that he open it. I walk over to where there are several pay phones lines up and grab a phone book, hanging by a cord beneath the phone.

I flip to the ‘N”s and run my finger down the list. “Chad . . . can you look for fifty-eighth street?”

There is a moment’s pause while he and Josh look over the large map. “Got it,” Chad says, placing his finger on the map.

“OK, and we’re on . . . Fruitridge road. Can you . . .”

“Got it, we’re kinda close. What’s on 58th?”

“National Guard building.”

It takes us two hours to get to the building. It was not as clear moving as it had been getting to the gas station. Zombies roamed unaware throughout the streets which slowed our pace down greatly. The building was near a university, but I am not sure which one and have not seen a sign indicating the school name.

We find the building and quickly break into it. Remembering Ray, I kick the door open and check cautiously inside. Nothing. At least not in this lobby. It takes us several minutes to find the small armory. Josh and I grab several boxes of ammo, and a few clips while Chad picks out a similar M4 to Josh’s.

We stay the night. There are beds in one of the rooms and we decide before heading out we should get well rested. We first work on barricading the doors. There are several tables we break down to wedge the doors shut. The windows are all barred which is convenient and soon, after feeling secure we each move to the beds. There is light still shining out of the windows but it does not prevent me, or Josh, or Chad from quickly falling asleep.

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Day 17

 I stay up through the night with Josh. His arm looks infected, but there is no fever and he seems to be doing fine. None of us had ever seen what happens when someone gets bit and I imagine that it is rare that someone only gets bit once. I imagine that usually there are multiple bites or attacks that lead to death by the violence of zombies rather than the infection itself.

Jacob and Chad know more about the process than Josh and I do. They said that just before the news stopped they talked about how the disease seemed to spread through blood and saliva but no one was sure how it got started or how it spread so quickly. I think that if it spread so quickly it would kill quickly also, allowing it to spread. Josh, however, is showing no difference. The basic infection just around the wound needed treated and so, finding a tube of Neosporin in the bathroom mirror we began disinfecting it, but that seemed to be the worst of it.

I think of this throughout the day. Why would Josh not have any effects. We know that it is passed through their blood and spit. I think back to the times we’ve fought the things. There was so much blood . . . how are we not infected?

“Chad,” I say, a little anxiously. I know he is still upset with me, but with Josh getting bit he has let up a bit. He walks over to me. “Did they ever mention anything about some people not getting infected?”

“No. Why?”

“I’ve been thinking . . . how is it that we are able to fight and kill these things, get blood everywhere, and Josh get bit, but none of us get infected?”

“I don’t know. I just assumed that we all got lucky.”

“But another thing,” I pause, wondering if I should bring it up or not, “well . . . it’s Clive.” I wait. There is a flicker of something in his features. Regret? Anger, maybe. “Well, he didn’t turn. He didn’t change. Why wouldn’t he but Crystal would?”

“Maybe it’s not as infections as we thought. You know, not everyone gets infected or something.”

“But look around. Everyone is gone. There is no sign of anyone else. It it was a hit or miss infection there would be more people than this, don’t you think?” He was silent.

Before all of this. Before the zombies and the killing I had a mild interest in biotechnology. I had read some books but my knowledge was still quite limited. I sit there for some time, thinking on what would make Josh, or rather, all of us immune.

The answer came as I walked in on Jacob, who is throwing up in the bathroom. He has a fever and throws up every ten minutes or so. Soon he simply dry-heaves, his stomach clinching causing him to moan each time he gags. Then he starts hacking up blood, and not a little bit, either. It is as if his stomach is filling with blood every few minutes and he then need to throw it up once full. Chad makes him some soup from a can in the pantry but he is unable to eat it, or even sip the cold broth. The moment he sips it he runs, stumbling into the bathroom and throws it up.

We all put it together pretty quickly, at least that during the attack he had gotten some of the zombie blood in his system. This infected him and it was manifesting itself.

Soon he can not get up. We had him in a bed upstairs with a mixing bowl near his head which he could throw up into. There is a cup of broth and some crackers, but he never touches it. He asks us to leave the room and I know he is going to die soon. It is getting late and we leave him, closing the door behind us.

We get down stairs and I grab my pistol. I feel like an executioner in doing so, but Chad comes up to me and puts his hand on the barrel. “I’ll do it,” he says, and I lower my gun. I think now, seeing the humiliation that is this disease he, on some level, understands what I had to do. And he, now, is ready to do it himself. Sparing me of the pain of yet another persons blood on my hands.

We wait.

“I think it’s genetics,” I say to Chad and Josh as we sit silently in the living room area. “I think that Mom or Dad have a dominant, Homozygous gene that is immune to this . . . disease.” I point out side, indicating the zombies. “I mean, it makes sense doesn’t it. That is why Jacob is up there dying. It’s why everyone is dead, but we are still alive. We’ve had the blood all over us, but a day after Jacob got any on him he is sick.

“And then,” I continue, “it happened to Crystal and Clive.” I glance up at Chad before moving on. “Crystal was infected and was . . . but Clive, he never came back. The infection didn’t get to him. He got the dominant trait from you, Chad.” That’s the only explanation I can come up with. That is why we are all still OK.”

We mull over it for a while. Discussing it further and speculating. I am not sure if this is correct, of course, but using the information that we have it seems the most likely scenario.

A bout of hacking is heard from up stairs and I get up to check on him but Chad cautions me not to. We must respect his wishes.

The three of us sleep in shifts. One sleeping at a time while the other two stay up and wait for the change. Waiting for Jacob, who will no longer be himself, to walk down those stairs and attack.

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Day 16

 I am sitting alone. My head in my hands, a pistol held loose in my right hand. I can feel the weight of it and its cold metal pressed against my head. The others are not near me. I left a distance away, sitting on a curb in the middle of Sacramento, letting the chill winter air freshen my lungs. I hear noises around me but ignore them. They are not near me. My brothers are not near me.

The pre-morning light seems to speak against the city. Betraying it. The light reflects on the downtown buildings and shows the gray and red and brown of the city. But there is no life, and this city, like all others, is dead. Cars parked on streets, broken shops and signs of destruction everywhere. From riots. From attacks and panic. And there are no dead bodies. None littered on the streets. No zombies, even. Not yet anyway.

I consider traveling alone. Just leave, I tell myself. Find your family. The ones you didn’t kill. It doesn’t matter if Crystal was already dead, although a zombie. I killed her. I killed something, because something made her do this. Something must have brought her back to life. And that life was within or apart of her . . . and I destroyed it. I destroyed her.

Chad blames me. He blames me for both of their deaths. I tried to explain that Clive never woke up, but he doesn’t care. And really, I know it doesn’t matter. None of it does.

I see them running down the street, running towards me. Their guns are out as well as blades. Josh, with his machete, Chad with his sword. Jacob has a shotgun; I doubt it has many rounds left. They are shouting something. Josh is waving his arms and pointing to something. I turn around and see it. A zombie, running towards me—running fast. I raise my gun and aim, squeezing the trigger. I am unable to do so. The safety is on. I grab my machete with no time to flip the safety off and wrench my hand upward, stabbing the zombie through the jaw. It stops and falls near me, bleeding greatly. I jump back, away from the blood and turn to the others, running towards me.

“Why did you leave,” Josh demands.

“I,” I start to talk but am not sure what to say, or what he wants to hear.

“Never mind,” he says, waving it away. “We need to move.” This city is over run. There are no people and Chad said he could see quite a lot while he was looking out over the buildings from the roof.” Josh points to a tall building.

How did it spread so quickly? I ask myself. To cause this whole city to be so completely over run.

We start to walk. my pistol is out in stead of my M21. Ammunition is low and I only have one full clip left. I have at least three clips in my bag for my pistol and so I choose to use it, saving the other.

The sun is peaking through the buildings and down the street. It lights the asphalt and cars and debris in its orange tint. It is hard to look down the streets where the sun is shining brilliantly. I do not see any movement not can I hear anything other than our careful steps and my stomach rumbling. Its been over a day since I’ve eaten anything and I am starting to feel its effects. I am tired and weak. We need to find food and soon.

After an hour of walking we see our first zombie. It is alone and wandering away from us. Josh walks a head of us, balancing on the tips of his toes, trying to stay quiet. He nears the thing and pulls out his machete from his bag. He holds it to the side, out a little ways from his body, ready to swing it at the zombies head as soon as he is within range. The zombie in front of him stopped and turned around as Josh is about ten feet away. Both stand there for an abnormal amount of time before the zombie lunges forward towards Josh. He swings hard, but as he does the zombie raises its arm and the blade sticks in the bone. The zombie lunges at Josh and we all run forward as Josh is knocked over. He fights the thing but as he blocks his head from the zombies face it sinks its teeth into his forearm.

I raise my pistol once I’m a few feet away and fire right into the things head, kicking it off of Josh who is holding his right arm with his opposite hand.

“Josh!” I plead. “No, please, no.” He moves his fingers from his arm and I see the wound. The teeth marks are deep and if the zombie would have lived for a few more seconds it would have torn the chunk of skin and muscle right off.

Chad comes over and gets him onto his feet. “Come on,” he says quietly, “we need to get you somewhere safe.” He leads him down an alley, looking for somewhere to take him. I am ripping part of a spare shirt I have in my bag to use as a bandage. As we walk I wrap it around his bleeding arm and try to stop the bleeding, but that isn’t really what any of us are concerned about.

Turning onto a main road I see three or four zombies coming towards us. We all halt and look around, “this way,” Jacob yells, pointing and we follow him. We turn on another street, cars abandoned here and there. There is trash covering the street. Down a ways are some town homes and we run towards those. I have gotten the bandage around Josh and Chad has let him run in his own. I can tell he is in pain, but ignores it for now. First we need to get somewhere where we can take a look at him. I know our running is making a lot of noise as more and more zombies come out of alleys and alternate roads. In our hast to get to the town houses and to safety we begin firing on the zombies, dropping those directly in front of us.

This brought more into the chase as we grew near to the town homes. I pull my machete out and hold it in my left hand. Chad has his katana out and has slashed at two zombies, covering it in blood. Josh runs between me and Chad, with Jacob in the front firing the shotgun sparingly, looking to us to cover him. I slash at my side, knowing I’m only wounding most, but it slows them down. We get near the building and I put my pistol away, swing my rifle around and start shooting as they each climb the stairs. They yell for me to follow once they’re all in the building. I do, and we lock the door and dead-bolt behind me.

I run over to josh who is sitting on a couch, unused for some time. He is looking at his arm. The bandage still in place.

“I am going to die, aren’t I?” he says, still looking down. I don’t answer but just sit beside him with my arm around him. I feel broken inside. None of us could have ever been prepared for this. And here we are, broken, deadly and hunted. Chad sits down on the opposite side of Josh.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I tried to do what was best. I tried to save her the agony of being like them.” I point out towards the door that Jacob is barricading. I realize I am not talking to Josh, but Chad. “I didn’t want you to see. I . . .” I trail off and look at Josh. “How do you feel?”

“My arm hurts, but that is it. No different.”

“Lets get some food in you. I’m sure they have something around here.” I get up and look through the cupboards. There is some stuff available and I bring him a bag of chips and can of soda. He takes them and drinks and eats. Jacob has blocked the door, wedging things between the door and staircase adjacent to it.

We all sat there, listening to the mayhem outside, waiting for something to happen, for some sign that Josh was going to die. There was nothing else to do but to wait.

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Day 15

 Chad, Ray and I leave in the late morning, first to retrieve my bike as well as the supplies. We then will go to several different locations to try and find weapons and more ammunition. Josh stays behind, wanting to rest, I think. Chad offered to let me stay while he and Ray go to get the bike but I reject the offer.

I slept little again. Same dream as before and then I was unable to fall asleep again.

I have my bag on, machete is now strapped to the back of my bag, horizontally. The handle sticks out the right side and all I need do is reach under my arm and pull it out. This seemed fastest and so I worked hard to strap it to my bag in this way. My Rifle is hanging in front of me and I rest my hands on it. Chad and Ray both have pistols as their shotgun ammo has run out. Chad also has his katana strapped over his back.

It takes about forty minutes for us to get back to the house. It looks different during the day and I imagine that it was a pleasant neighborhood to live in. I wish I would have visited it in different times. Everything is as we left it except the bike has fallen over—probably from the weight of all of the bags. Chad laughs when he sees it. It does not look like a bike but rather wheels with bulging cloth connecting them. Little of the bike is visible. I begin strapping the shotguns and CZ 750 back onto the bar when Chad and Ray both put their pistols into outside pockets of bags and each grab a shot gun. After checking the rounds we head out. Going north to a local gun shop—TDS guns—north of his place.

We walk through neighborhoods for two hours, walking in the middle of the street and watching for any signs of zombies. There were none. In fact the trip was relatively calm and by the time we arrived at the gun store we were walking casually, talking amongst ourselves. The doors were locked, and after trying several cars, (to copy what Josh had done back in Reno) I finally shoot the lock. The door slightly swings open. Ray walks forward to open them and is grabbed by the arm.

I watch in slow motion as the creature bends its head downward, opens its mouth and bites Ray in the forearm. He screams out in pain, raising the shotgun awkwardly up and tries, with one hand, to shoot the zombie. He misses, and the kickback from the gun hits his shoulder hard. Another scream as the arm pops and it falls limp. Another zombie walks out and grabs Ray’s head, biting at his shoulder, tearing of skin and muscle. Ray screams and pleads for help. I shoot the first zombie as the other bites at his ear. It is too close for me to get a good shot. More start to come out, grabbing at Ray and biting and mauling him. He turns his head screaming as I fire round after round. Chad just stares and I think he is in shock at the gory sight.

His face pleads with me between screams and finally I move the gun slightly to the left and fire. It hits Ray in the forehead and he drops completely to the ground. Ten, twenty zombies fall out of the doors and pile on to eat our friend. Some come towards us. I fire single shots, killing each from a close range.

Chad finally regains himself and starts firing into the crowd of zombies. They abandon the mangled body of Ray and begin running towards us. Chad continues to fire. Not moving.

“Come on!” I yell, starting to run away. “Come on!” Almost reluctantly, he follows. Sprinting with his gun in one hand. There is no time to grab the bike and so we run, shooting behind us when we can. We make it some distance, but with the horde still following.

“We need to hide,” I say, out of breath.

Chad points to an apartment complex just off the road and we turn, running towards it. It is locked and I shoot a round through the glass door, shattering the glass instantly. We run through and up the stairs, trying to get to the top level so that we can better see the large group of zombies. They follow us to an extent, but barely any (from what we can tell) enter the apartment. I sling my gun across my back and pull out my machete. Chad does the same, holding the sword in front of himself.

“I only saw a few come in,” I say, walking towards the door. “If we can get out without them noticing I think we will be able to make it back.”

I lead the way, opening the door slowly and peering out. There is nothing in the hallway that leads to the stairs. I walk quickly and as silently as I can down the hall, Chad following close behind, both of out blades ready to strike at a moments notice. The stairs weave back and forth and we descend down them quickly, stopping abruptly at the bottom. The door is jammed. I take a step back and kick it hard, near the door knob. It crashes open louder than I would have though and I watch as a zombie stumbles away from the door. Chad rushes through the door, swinging the blade of his katana downward in a slicing motion severing is head from its shoulders. I follow behind him, stabbing another in the face and then kicking it down.

There are three more in the room and we both turn to face them. Chad rushes towards the nearest, the point of his blade aimed at its head. It goes straight through the skull like butter. I swing sideways, cutting the chest of one that was running towards me. It stumbles as I stick my blade in the side of its head. Its weight pulls the wedged machete with it and I lose it from my grip. I bend down to pull it out but am grabbed by the shirt and thrown down.

“Chad!” I yell as the third descends on me. I see a blade on top of it head cause blood and brains to fly out and on to me. I cover my mouth and nose with my arm and roll away from the gore. My machete is there, still sticking out of the head of the fallen zombie. I pull it out violently, hearing a crack from the things neck as I do so.

“Let’s go,” I say, and we run out of the building. There are none in sight and so we continue to run, into the backyard of a nearby neighborhood, and cut across the lawns. Running for our lives.

Some hours later we arrive at the apartment. The lower door’s glass paneling is broken out and the door is wide open. I look at Chad and we both run up the stairs to the top level. There, the door is open, broken at the doorknob. We hear screaming coming from somewhere down the hall. Another office. We both run, following the sound. I can hear Chad’s screaming in the back of my head, but it is not present in my thoughts and I block it out. There, at the end of the hall, are Josh and one of the other men, Jacob, I think, fighting off several zombies. I pull out my gun and shoot them each. Chad has run in front of me and begins hacking them down. Yelling. Screaming.

“Where are they!” He is panting. Looking at Josh and Jacob who have stopped and stare at him. “Where the hell are they!” he yells again, swinging his sword down. It sticks in a desk.

Josh speaks first, stuttering, “they . . . they’re gone.”

“What do you mean,” Chad says, his face fierce and I worry he may punch Josh, or worse, “gone.”

“They . . . they came some hours ago.” He is barely able to talk, but he continues, trying to stay calm and upright. “They came and, and it was so sudden. Like they knew we were here. They grabbed . . .” he chokes. “They grabbed them. Everyone. And . . . it was horrible. There was blood and we . . . We had to run. Please . . . we had to run, or . . .” he trails off.

“No,” Chad shakes his head. “No.” That is all he can say and he says it over and over, falling to his knees. All I can do, all any of us can do is watch as he sobs into his hands amongst the bodies of the zombies. There are tears littering my eyes and I try to get them out, wiping them on my sleeves.

I hear movement from down the hall and silently walk down, leaving the others there. I place my gun on my back and draw the machete, holding it in front of me. The hallway is dark and I squint trying to see. The noise is coming from our sleeping area and my heart beats as I dread what I know I will see, and what Chad cannot see. There, starting to move are Crystal and two others; each trying to get to their feet. All mangled and bloodied and broken. Zombies, truly dead zombies, litter the floor but I cannot look at them. I can only look at Crystal, my family, my sister-in-law whom I love, and that Chad loves, more than anything. More than his own life.

I walk towards Crystal and whisper an apology, tears streaking my cheeks. I can’t let him see, is all I can think. I take my blade and push it into her head, quickly. I can feel her go limp and a sob escapes my lips. I lay her down gently. I then turn to Clive, the beautiful two year old boy, he is not moving. Unlike the others he is still. Dead. I look at the others and then back to him. I pick him up and hold him in my arms, cradling his lifeless body. Crystal is still, and Clive along with her is dead.

I am struck hard and fall to my side. I feel something pulled out of my bag and hear two gun shots. I am then struck again, in the face. I open my eyes and see Chad on top of me, his fist raised. He brings it down on me and I can feel a tooth dislodge itself from my jaw. There is shouting and he is pulled off of me.

“Damn you!” he screams, spitting at me. “They could have been OK. Maybe they were OK!”

I try to speak but my jaw hurts too much. It takes me some time, but I form the words, “It’s better.” He tried to break free, but Josh and Jacob hold him. “It’s better than what they would be.” I can see him visibly relax. Josh lets go, and soon Jacob does too. “I couldn’t let you see them like that.” I whisper, holding my jaw.

“So you thought that was your job, did you?” Chad yells, his voice cracking at the end. I don’t know how to respond.

He storms out, still holding my pistol he had taken from my bag. I stand there, horrified at what I had to do . . . ashamed. But I knew he could not do it. I did not do it for survival, or to keep us from danger. I did it so Chad wouldn’t have to see them like that: snapping their jaws in the air trying to get to me. I did it so they would not have to live like that. I did it for mercy.

I hear shots. They are coming from the street. We run down and out of the building in time to hear the last shot go off and see Chad throw the gun down on the ground. He pulls out his sword and waits. Slowly, zombies begin to trickle out from the buildings and side streets. He walks towards the nearest and decapitates it. Another he chops down through the skull. He continues killing them, one by one. I swing my rifle around and begin shooting them. One by one, taking careful aim.

“Chad!” I yell. It hurts my jaw. I look at Josh.

“Chad,” Josh yells over the mayhem, making his way over to him. “Chad, please. We need you to come with us. We need to get out of here.”

“No!” he yells back. “I am going to kill each one! They killed her. They killed Crystal, and Clive.” I am firing faster now. And with it comes worse aim.

“Please!” Josh says again. “What would they want you to do?”

He stops and stares at Josh. “They’re dead. They don’t want me to do anything.”

“What would they want? Don’t stain their memory with this.” He fires several shots at some oncoming zombies. I change my clip quickly and throw another towards Josh. Jacob stands near me with the shotgun Chad had dropped when first entering the room I had killed his family in.

With every shot more come. Following the noise. Josh is pleading with Chad and I know we need to go soon. I am firing constantly and Josh’s words are lost in the noise, but I can see that he is still trying to convince him. Finally I yell, “You’re killing us, too.”

He looks at me with absolute loathing, then at Josh and Jacob. Everything seems to go quiet as he thinks until finally I watch as he grabs Josh by the arm and, running, leads him past us and slowly out of the fray. Jacob and I follow and soon we are away from them, running into the night, tears blurring each of our eyes.

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