Day 23

 The strain on my leg has set me back, but I still insist that we leave today. It is midmorning, however, and we are still here. Charlotte has a can of spray paint in her bag and paints the words AREA NOT SAFE. On the door. When asked she says that everywhere she goes she leaves a note for any survivors.

I am sitting in the Hummer, waiting patiently for them to pack the rest of the supplies before moving out. I am frustrated, but I hide it as there is little I can do to help. Charlotte and Josh left early this morning into town and found some new clothes for everyone and I am now wearing a new pair of jeans, (they are a bit larger, as I’ve lost a lot of weight from a lack of food), and a sweater. I look into the passenger mirror under the sun block and scratch the thickening beard on my face. Chad and Josh both saved this morning, but I opted out. I’ve never minded having a beard.

Eventually the three of them get in and we are off. Chad stops at a gas station to fill up on gas, and while I fill up the tank, (insisting that I need to use my leg), Chad goes into the station with Josh to see if there are any spare gas cans. There are none. I figure that most people grabbed them during the few days the outbreak was infecting people. As I pump I wonder idly if there are any colony’s of people surviving, trying to wade through this and hope that it ends soon. I don’t think it will end but it would be nice to come across some people that had not been changed. I know the longer the amount of time, the less and less humans there will be.

I can see several zombies loitering down the street, maybe a mile away but they do not see us and so I do not alarm the others. If they start this way we can run. My machete is leaning against the Hummer and I had brought it out just in case. I don’t think you can be too careful, and from just my experience in the last few days, not to mention weeks; one moment things can seem fine and the next your leg could become a zombie chew toy.

I finish and get back into the Hummer, leaving the gas nozzle on the ground in an odd sense of defiance.

It doesn’t take us long to get to the redwoods. Chad drives fast until we reach the redwoods and slows drastically down to about twenty-five or thirty miles an hour so we do not miss the red cloth tied to a tree.

There is a peace in the forest and I want to walk in its shade. We stop for a few minutes to allow me to stretch my leg. It is cold and my breath is visible as it raises. I limp around the vehicle a few times, balancing with my hand against the frame, and finally I walk into the woods. Using my cane I am able to make it with no major issues. I do need to stop every so often to take any weight off of my leg, but all in all, I can feel my strength coming back. While the leg has a long way to heal, I should be able to use it more frequently and with more ease, soon.

It took us another hour of driving before we see the first ripped red cloth tied around one of the smaller tree’s. There is little room to maneuver the Hummer, especially since we do not know where to go exactly so we each get out, grabbing some weapons and start to hike into the forest. Chad hits a button and the Hummer’s horn honks once. I look at him questioningly.

“I locked it,” he says. After a moment he adds, “you never know.” It is slow going and after what I would guess was a mile it is getting dark and cold but I cannot concentrate on that with the pain in my leg increasing with every step.

“Aaron,” Chad says, after I have to stop for a rest. “Charlotte and I are going to run ahead while you and Josh wait here.” I begin to protest, but he continues. “If it gets dark we will not find them nor will we  be able to find our way back. We’d freeze.” Charlotte says something but it is muffled by her mask.

“OK,” I finally say, and without another word Chad and Charlotte take off. Josh comes over and sits down next to me.

“Do you think she’ll be there?” He asks me, looking up at the sky. It is still light out side, but we don’t have anymore than an hour.

“Yeah, I do. She has to be.”

“Do you want me to check your bandages?”

“Not now.” I say looking down at my leg. “Maybe once we get to their camp.”

We don’t talk anymore and I just sit, eyes closed, listening to the sound of wind through leaves. They rustle and I am reminded of the sound in times that I was not fighting for my life. I loved nature and nature sounds. I use to listen to the rain and soundtracks of rain while I worked on my undergraduate work. I learned that trick from Chad only a month ago and it may have well of been a life time or so. I am not the same person I was a month ago. I am a killer. I am a survivor. I am a man who has to become like these dreaded things, these zombies in order to beat them. I wonder what my family will see. I wonder what they have had to do to survive. What have we all become?

It takes an hour and it is nearly dark when I hear movement. Out of reflex I grab my machete and pull it from its sheath, awkwardly standing, using the massive tree at my back. It gets louder and I can see Josh holding his rifle up ready to fire if needed.

“It’s me,” comes Chad’s voice and we see him coming into view, around a large tree. He is holding my son Connor, and my wife Dawn and youngest son Seeley are with him. I start to run towards them and fall instantly. I try to get back up, but before I am able Connor has run over and is hugging me. Dawn is there weeping her beautiful tears and I find that I am crying as well, holding my wife and boys as though I would never let them go. Connor, who is two, is not crying but is now pulling my arm, telling me to follow him and I finally stand, sheath my machete and carry him in one arm back to their camp. Holding my wifes hand and balancing off of her I grin idiotically, tears still rolling down my cheeks and walk back with my family. My wife. My sons. My brothers. And for the first time since this all began I can say that I am happy and that things will be OK.

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Day 22

 Dawns letter is as follows:

Jan. 19, 2012


We had to leave, and I’m sorry. They were coming nearer and nearer to us and so your Grandpa decided to leave. We are going to the Redwoods to camp and to wait for you to find us. There will be a red cloth tied to a tree on the west side of the road and every day an hour or so after the sun comes up someone will be there for about an hour. If no one is there than follow the red cloths on trees back to our camp. There will be a few of us there. (More than just your grandparents and us).
The boys are OK, I am OK. At least as OK as you can be in this. They miss their Daddy, and I miss you more than I can tell you in this letter. Please come find us. We need you. 
I love you, Aaron. I know you will make it to us. Be careful and I will see you soon!
I love you with all my heart,

My first reaction is to stand and go to the Hummer and find her and my boys. But as soon as I put weight on my right leg the pain shoots through my leg and right side. I swear loudly and Josh comes in. He sees me sitting up with no weight on my right leg, holding it up off of the floor.

“You OK?” he asks walking over to me with some food.

“Not really. I really want to get going.”

“Can you put any weight on it?”

“Not yet. It feels better than it did yesterday,” I say, touching the bandages slightly. “It’s probably because the bullet is out.”

“Probably. We may need to wait a few days before we can leave.”

“No.” I have already made up my mind. “I will rest today, trying to put some weight on it occasionally but tomorrow morning we are leaving. I need to find my wife.”

Josh doesn’t argue and I know he knows that there is no point to it. He lets me know that he will tell the others and they will get things ready today. Several minutes later Charlotte comes in with a cane and hands it to me. I try to stand with its aid, but am only able to stay up for several seconds. But it’s an improvement. I would like some crutches or something, but there are none. This will have to do. She then goes to work changing my bandages. There is no blood on these ones, but as she takes it off, I see that the inner layers still show that I am bleeding.

“I’m really sorry about all of this,” she says, lightly cleaning the edges of the bites and slowly starting to put more of the the gauze on. She is still in her clothes, covering any of her skin but the gas mask is hanging at her side. She has, instead replaced it with a medical mask. It’s odd being around someone who feels they need all of that protection, but at the same time, we did not know that it could be airborne or that we were most likely immune until a few days ago.

“Where did you find all of this?” I ask pointing to the mask and gauze.

“It is on the counter in the kitchen,” she says. “Looks like they all raided a pharmacy or something from the look of it. There is quite a bit in there, but I’m sure that most of it they took with them.”

Seeing the mask on Charlotte gave me hope for Dawn being OK and protected if it was airborne. While I was immune, and I knew that my kids could have gotten the gene (if it was even gene related as I felt it to be most likely) Dawn most likely does not have it. With the amount of people we know have died, it seems as though it is a very rare thing to have.

Chad, Josh and Charlotte each come in to keep me company throughout the day, and I try to stand and walk about every hour. I am able to stand, and take a few steps before falling hard on the carpet. But there is progress and I know that if I have to practice through the night I will. I need to find my wife.

There is a shout, from Chad, I think coming from the kitchen. I see Charlotte and Josh run by, not stopping to say anything to me. Charlotte has her crossbow loaded, and Josh is holding my machete. I try and ask what is happening but they are through the door into the kitchen before I can say anything. There is some banging and then it stops. I hear Josh, or maybe Chad say, “outside” and a door opens and after several seconds it closes again. There are no shots fired and so I assume that Chad is using his katana along with Josh and my machete. Charlotte’s crossbow would make no noise.

Suddenly there is banging on the other side of the couch and, looking over I see, through a sliding glass door I see a zombie trying to get in. It is banging on it with its fists and head.

“Help!” I yell. It is still banging, and I am not sure if they can hear me. I look around but there are no weapons near me. Instinctively I reach for my pistol but it is not beside me. I look at the cane and hear a crack at the door. Looking towards the zombie, there is a large crack stretching the length of the large window.

I have only seconds.

I wheel my body around and place my cane on the floor. Pushing hard on the cane I stand up, leaving almost no weight on the injured leg. I hobble away from the couch, wincing with each step I move slowly to the kitchen, listening to the banging behind me. My leg is on fire, but I push forward. I start to open the door and hear a crash as the sliding door breaks into hundreds of tiny shards.

“Help!” I yell through the crack of the door before spinning around, putting weight on both legs, grunting, or rather screaming in exasperation and anger, and swing the cane at where I think its head will be. It connects hard with the things neck, causing it to stumble to the side. I swing again, and connect with the things head. We both fall over, him from the hit and I from putting almost all my weight on my right leg to swing the cane.

I am scrambling to get up when I hear the thing give that awful yell. I spin to my back, sit up as much as I can and swing at the thing again. It raises its hand to stop the swing, but I connect all the same. To the temple with a crushing blow. I can feel it indent. It crumbles to the ground, but I know it will get back up soon.

It takes several seconds, several long seconds for me to get up. First I get to my knees and try crawling, but the carpet rubs against my calf and even with the bandaging I can feel it. I get my left leg under me and push up hard, balancing on just the one leg. I make it up and, with the canes help, get through the door to the kitchen and see what I was looking for. There, on the counter is a block of knives. I find the largest, pull it out and walk back to the kitchen door. I begin to open it, and as I do the door is violently pushed open. I fall backwards, still holding the knife, and the zombie, attacking, follows. It lands on top of me as I stretch out the knife, piercing its eye and then brain.

The full force of the zombies weight lands on me. I can’t wiggle free with my leg and so I try rolling if off using just my arms. Finally, I get the thing off of my as Chad, Josh and Charlotte (with her gas mask) each walk in their clothes stain with fresh blood. Their features sharpened by the setting suns light.

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Day 21

 From the moment I wake up my leg is on fire. The pain is almost unbearable as I open my eyes and look down. There are stained bandages wrapped around the hole in my leg preventing me from seeing it and probably going into shock again. There is an indent, but without the direct gore I am able to handle the sight of my mangled leg. My breathing is heavy as I squint my eyes, trying to get the pain under control. Turning my head to the side I see a table next to me with water and several bottles of pills. I grab the nearest and read “Lortab”. I open it, get out two pills and swallow them with the water.

I lay there and try to concentrate on anything but the pain, turning on my left side and pulling my legs up. I find a blanket on the back of the couch I am on and pull it over me. As I do so, I see Chad sitting at the end of the couch on a chair. His head is leaning forward and his breathing is heavy. I let him sleep.

The pain is still strong and I wait for the pain killers to take hold. I consider taking a third pill but disregard that . . . for now. At some point the pain dulls out. It is still there, but I don’t seem to notice or don’t care. I drift into a comatose of odd thoughts and consider becoming a zombie so I don’t get hungry but then shake that thought off. I know I am getting tired because my mind is wandering, just like we’ve been wandering through the motions of surviving but only just getting lucky.  I had gotten lucky once in Vegas. My wife insisted I do the slots and so I did. I won all my money back before blowing it again. So, maybe not lucky. I need to focus my thoughts, or maybe let them drift, and they do drift like drift wood drifting down a river until finally I fall sleep.

I am awake again. It is very bright outside and the sun light shines through the windows. Looking out, I can tell that it is cold and I miss the mild temperature of California already. Chad has left his seat and now no one is near me. My leg is hurting, but not as bad as it did last night. I grab the Lortab bottle and throw another pill into my mouth. There are other pills there. Many seem to be antibiotics. I wait to take these, hoping someone knows more about them than I do. I look down at my leg. The dressings have been changed, but there is still a blood stain slightly soaking through. I move my foot slightly and the pain radiates throughout my leg. I gasp and shut my eyes trying to will the pain away.

There is a sigh beside me and I hear Josh say, “Oh good . . .” and then yells behind his shoulder, “he’s up!” The other two come in quickly.

“Are you OK?” Chad says.

“Where is Dawn? My kids?”

“They aren’t here,” he replies. “They left.”

“Are they OK?”

Chad pauses for a moment, “I don’t know. I hope so. They left a note.”

“Where are they?” I say getting frustrated, the pain making me anxious.

“I . . . The redwoods. That’s what the note says, anyway.”

“Note?” He can tell I’m getting short and the pain is picking up.

“Just rest. I’m sure they’re fine. For now we need to focus on you. How are you feeling?”

“Not good. My leg is killing me.”

“We were worried you’d taken a lot of Lortab last night. The bottle was left open and we thought . . .”

“Just took two,” I say, interrupting Chad.

Charlotte steps towards me and looks directly into my eyes. “You should be obviously infected by now. Have you seen someone change?”

I nod. The pain is growing and I am doing everything I can to suppress the pain.

“You’d have a fever and would be constantly throwing up. I . . .” she pauses. “It’s incredible.” I want to tell her all I know about it, what I think it means, but I can’t. The pain is growing and the others can tell. I reach for the  bottle of Lortab and grab another pill. No one says anything as I put it in my mouth and drink the water. Josh hands me two pills he had taken from the antibiotics bottle.

“Take these. I think you’re pretty susceptible to an infection.” I take them and lean back. “When that kicks in,” Josh says, I can tell he doesn’t want to bring whatever he is about to bring up but does anyway, “we are going to have to clean the bites and then . . . and then Charlotte is going to take the bullet out of your leg.”

“Bullet?” I manage to say.

“When Chad shot it, the pullet went through its skull and into you leg . . . where the bit is.” I can feel my face visibly going white. I look at my leg and then at the bottle of Lortab. I grab one more pill, (there are not many left) and put it in my mouth. I can tell the others are uncomfortable with me taking so much, but their sympathies take over and they allow it.

My head is relatively clear when the medicine kicks in. I feel OK. Not great, but the pain has deadened a lot. Josh tells me that Charlotte had two years in medical school done and so was the most qualified to clean and get the bullet out. While the Lortab tricks me into not care about the pain, it does nothing for my nerves. I am anxious and I can feel the uneasiness through my body, causing me to shake slightly, or at least I feel like I’m shaking.

I see Charlotte, Josh and Chad come in and my stomach feels like it is in my throat. Charlotte is in an old button up shirt of my grandpas and has some plastic gloves they had found in a closet with cleaning supplies. Josh comes and sits next to me, grabbing my hand. “Try not to break it,” he says, smiling. I don’t reply.

“Do you need me to hold your leg still?” Chad says.

“I can keep it still but it might start shaking involuntarily. So . . . yes.”

He grabs my leg just under the knee and holds it tight. He is sitting on the couch’s edge and blocks my view of my right leg which is probably for the best.

“I am really really sorry about this,” Charlotte says. I can tell she is very uncomfortable with doing this. “They didn’t have any disinfectant. So I made some rough saline solution, but I think I’ll need to use alcohol at some point. It looks pretty infected.”

“OK,” is all I can manage. I am terrified. More than I have been when facing zombies or any time I can remember. Once, when I was twenty-one I had gotten bad sores on my back. A resulting disease from Ulcerative Colitis, (which I have) called Pyoderma Gangrenosum. I had to endure nearly twenty minutes with no pain killers while a nurse scrubbed the soars clean. It as the most pain I had ever felt. I had a feeling this would be much worse.

“Ready?” she says, looking at me. I nod and stare at the ceiling. Josh is squeezing my hand harder than I am his. Chad squeezes my leg and I know she’s about to start.

The pain is nearly unbearable. The moment she begins the cleaning with cotton balls and saline I take a sharp inhale of breath and grip Josh’s hand hard. He winces and I try to loosen my grip. I can feel her moving around and it is all I can do to breath somewhat steadily. Chad is gripping my leg hard and I can feel him struggling against the involuntary shakes. Charlotte says something but I ignore it. Chad lets go and hold my leg differently. My leg is on fire. I grit my teeth and my jaw starts to hurt. I can tell that I am hurting Josh and so I let go and grip his forearm.

“OK,” Charlotte say, and I know what is coming. I watch as she reaches beside her and grabs the alcohol and presses the lid to a cotton ball. “This is really going to sting.” Sting is not the correct word for the pain that shoots through my body. I let out a moan which quickly turns into an unwilling scream. I can feel her pressing the alcohol soaked cotton into me, pushing hard in some places. My breathing is sporadic at best and I close my eyes, rolling them into the back of my head.

“Hold on,” Josh says. “You’re doing good.” I smile at this, but only for a second. Suddenly the pain lessens significantly and there is only an uncomfortable burning or itching.

“The bullet looks as though it is still in one piece,” Charlotte says. “I think I’ll be able to get it out . . .”

“Have you done this before?” I hear Chad say. There is no response and I know she is shaking her head, no. She grabs some oddly clean looking pliers and runs them under a match flame for several seconds—until the match burns down. I put my hand to my nose. The break along with the the straining gives me a headache, the pressure at the arch of my nose.

There is no warning given this time. I feel the pliers go into my gaping hole and scream. I clinch Josh’s arm hard and Chad is leaning on me, putting his weight on my legs to hold them still. I can feel Charlotte digging around the bullet, trying to find it with such limited resources. There is a sharp pinch and I scream again.

“Sorry, sorry,” she says, still concentrating. I grunt and turn my head towards the couch, searching for somewhere to put my other arm. I want to pull my leg away, I want to turn it or shake it. I want to get this foreign object out, but Chad is holding me tightly, not allowing any movement. There is another sharp pain and then it is out.

I give a sigh of relief as Chad gets off of my legs and Charlotte rocks back into a sitting position, holding the pliers in front of her, the smashed bullet between them. She holds it out to show me but I do not have the energy to care. I can feel the Lortab effects coming back, or maybe it’s exhaustion. Regardless, I say a quick thanks and close my eyes.

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Day 20

 It is foggy outside. The air is thick and wet. Looking out of the window I could only see some fifteen feet in front of me. Not ideal for driving in, especially when we do not know the way and will be relying on a map, but, nevertheless, we will be leaving today.

I am anxious to get going. With the hummer we should be able to make it up near Salem, Oregon by tonight. That is if nothing goes wrong. And according to our luck, thats unlikely. I sit near a window, eating dry cereal and a nutrition bar, looking at the fog. I cannot see anything. For all we know there are zombies surrounding the building. The thought brings little comfort for our trip, but I am still too anxious not to go.

I have not see my family for almost a month now, and not heard from them for almost as long. I push the feelings of doubt away each time we are attacked or have a close call. I know they’ve survived. They must have. I wonder how differently things would have been if they were not in Oregon. We may never have come out here. Crystal may still be alive, but would they still be trapped in Costco as well?

Chad drives. I am in the passenger sear with Josh directly behind me. I have my gun ready, leaning against the seat next to me but hopefully I will not need to use it. We pull out of the garage and slowly—very slowly—begin to make our way out of the city. I have a map of the city and I try to get us to Highway 70. From their, at least until we are out of California Chad knows the way. I suspect their will be maps to grab at the Redwoods tourist attraction areas. We will stop there and get one.

Chad is driving slowly while we all try to see through the thick fog. I do not see anything, but with every passing moment I fear that the sound of the Hummer, in an otherwise dead city, would eventually be heard. None of us speak. The fog blurs everything. A simple lamp post could just as easily be a zombie and while there is some measure of protection in the massive black Hummer, I cannot help but feel anxious and quite frankly, scared that something could happen. If there are enough of them attracted to the sound of the vehicle then I don’t think even it could keep them out.

Instinctively I reach for the lock on the top of the door frame. The doors are locked.

I see something move, just to our right, out of our window and gasp. Chad stops the car. No one speaks as I squint and look through the dense fog. There is no movement.

“I thought I saw . . .” There’s movement again. This time Josh sees it as well. All three of us peer out when a body, dead and mangled hits my window. I jump back and let out a gasp. The body is, or rather was a zombie. It did not hit the window to attack. It was killed. There is a hole through the side of its head. It slides down the door, leaving a bloody smear down the side of the car. As it falls, I see another object. A person, wearing a gas mask, emerge from the fog, crossbow in hand. Every inch, (as far as I can see) is covered. Gloves, jacked zipped all the way up, covering his neck, the gas mask, and a hoodie. We stare at each other for some time. Finally, he points at himself, and then the hummer and back at himself. I nod and he walks around the front of the hummer and to the rear door, behind Chad.

He opens the door and speaks through his mask. It is muffled and hard to understand. “Did you de-sanatize?”

I look at Chad, and then back at this man. “De-sanatize? What do you . . .” Without another word he pulls a bag from off of his back and pulls a spray bottle out, spraying it on the seat, and anywhere around him. He then shoots it into the air, saying, “hold your breath.” We do. Finally, after a minute or two he gets in, buckles his seatbelt and closes the door. He does not remove his mask.

“You can take your mask off if you’d like.” Josh says to him.

He looks at us, there is some blood on our clothes along with filth that has built up. “I do not think that is wise.” There is blood on you and I could . . .”

I cut him off, “the blood is dry. It can’t infect you. Anything dangerous in the blood is long dead.” He waits for a few seconds and then takes it off. The he was a she, her voice being muffled and distorted made it seem like a man. She spoke and her voice was deeper than average, but still womanly.

“Thanks,” she says to us all, looking at each of us, (Chad, through the mirror). “For the ride.”

“It’s no problem,” Josh says quickly. I look at him deliberately. He clears his throat. “So, what’s your name?”

“It’s Charlotte,” she says, placing her crossbow on the floor to her right. The bolts are connected underneath and it is not loaded.

“I’m Aaron,” I offer and then point to Chad and Josh, giving their names as well.

“Well, again,” she responds, “thanks for the ride.”

We talk a little and find out she’s from Sacramento and has been living in the city, alone for almost two weeks. Her family had been effected early on, but never bit, not as far as she knew. And so she was sure that the disease was airborne.

“How long did it take for your parents to . . . change?” I ask, still worried about Josh.

Before she could answer there is a thump on the front of the car and I fall forward towards the dash. I spin around and there, on the hood, gripping the top of the engine hood is a zombie. I can barely hear it’s screaming, but can tell it is yelling loudly.

“Damn it,” Chad says, swerving the car. “Shut that thing up.” I grab my pistol and push the button to unroll the window but before I have my gun out there is a bang and the zombie drops dead, still on the hood. Chad swerves to get it off.

I look back and Charlotte is climbing back in through the window, a pistol in her hand is quickly put into a holster at her hip. All I could thing then was, damn it, we forgot holsters, again. I put the safety on my gun and place it on the center console near the cup holders.

Again, I look out the window. Looking to see if any hear the yelling. Chad is going faster, but still cannot drive too fast as there are abandoned cars throughout the city. Charlotte and Josh are look out their windows as well. I decide to drop the question about her parents, or family. I can tell that Josh is still uneasy about his bite, I could see it in his face when I asked.

The fog is clearing up and we can see better now. I catch a zombie through an alley way occasionally, but nothing close. I check the map and we are five or so miles from HW 70.

Chad saw him first, and at his gasp and sudden stop we all looked forward and saw the man ourselves. He was alone, in the middle of the street, his back facing us. In front of him was a massive horde of zombies. It was obvious that they had been chasing him. Even from our distance I can see his heavy breathing.

“Go!” I yell to Chad, and he soon comes to his senses and pushes his foot on the gas, trying to get to the man before the zombies. We speed towards him but just as Chad begins slowing and I open my door to help him in he raises his gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Blood and brains spray on the front of our car and we hit into him as he falls over.

“NO!” I yell, and pulling my gun from its place beside me start to shoot at the oncoming zombies. I roll my window down as Chad turns and I close my door, pulling my body out and as we drive off I fire at them.

I hear Josh doing the same, however Charlotte remains seated, her mask is back on and it looks eerie.

I am disturbed by the mans suicide. We were right there. Could he not hear or see us? The front of the Hummer is still smeared with blood and I want to hack because of it, but we drive on. No one speaks as we take highway 70 through a mountain pass and turn onto Highway 1. But finally, as we pass Fort Bragg, in the mid-afternoon, I ask Charlotte again about how long it took her parents.

“They got sick at the same time as my younger brother. There was a lot of blood and there was no one to take them to. They changed in about a day. Maybe a little less.” I could see Josh visibly relieved at this. “Why do you ask?”

I hesitate but it is Josh that speaks up. “We had a friend, well, who got infected. He died in the same amount of time.”

“So . . .”

“We want to make sure we weren’t infected.”

“Quite frankly I’m surprised you’re not, you are just out . . . exposed. Have you killed many walkers?”

“Walkers?” Chad says. “Like the comic?”

“Whatever,” she replies. “It sounds better.”

“Yes. Lots.” There is a pause.

I can tell she’s puzzled. And so I tell her about my theory regarding our immunity. We discuss it until we get out of the redwoods hours later. We fill up in the dark and afterwards I drive, Chad giving me directions to Eugene. They are just out side of the city in Pleasant Hill and I believe I can find it, having been their recently, but I’ve never driven from this direction. Usually we come from Salem, a bit north.

The house is dark. But I am not surprised at that. I grab my machete from my bag and step out of the vehicle, the engine is still running and lights on. I go to the door and knock. There is no answer. I yell that it is me, but still no answer. My heart is pounding and so I open the door. I am suddenly tackled to the ground. I can feel the struggling, over excited body tearing at me. An elbow connects with my nose and I can feel it break. Still, I am able to push my self away, machete in hand. I hear the yell coming from it and feel something dig into my leg. I scream. There is shouting behind me, but I can’t make it out. It rips away from me and I grab my machete and hack at it from the side. I can tell I’m hitting it, but not its head. Blood from my broken nose is running into my eyes and I cannot see it. It bites me again, near the same spot, digging into my muscles and flesh. I am yelling and kicking, trying to swing my machete but losing strength. I can feel footsteps by me and then a shot, ringing in my ears, and another intense pain in my leg.

I look down and see the zombie laying on my legs. It is kicked off by someone and there is a massive chunk of flesh taken out of my right calf; an inch or so deep and four in diameter. “No!” I cry, trying to move away from the thing but cannot move well. Each kick glances off the ground and the pain surges through my leg. I am bleeding. I can’t breath and someone is talking to me, holding me head. I try concentrating, breathing through my nose, but it doesn’t help. Oh, shit! My leg! I am still not able to breath until finally everything goes black and the pain leaves.

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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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