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Zombie Short Story: Jud
Zombie Short: Jud
We try our best to muffle the sounds coming from outside the door. It's bad enough that we are claustrophobic, but add the grumbling of the dead meat outside and you have the recipe for insanity. Janice looks at me calmly. The past nights have been hell but my wife's smile keeps me going. I love her for her strength despite this situation I've gotten us into. Marie turns the dial on the radio. This isn't the type of childhood memories a six year old should be garnering, let alone my four year old, Mara, who rests between Janice's legs. Her favorite segment is almost on; I can tell by the way her face lights up. It's a serial about some folks making it out of the forest to barely escape 'zombies'. That's what they call them at least. I listen in as I rest my eyes-
"…destroying the head is the only way to stop them. That's all for the quick tip but as a last reminder before we begin tonight's episode of Turning the Tide ,we'd like to invite all of you listening to join us here at Starlight. We've got food, shelter, and best of all, protection from all of this."
I snarl after hearing those words. I doubt anyone is safe from those monsters outside. Then again, they do have enough time to broadcast throughout the day. I'll admit I've pondered if it's true. Maybe they have a team of scientists or doctors. Maybe they have a cure for this plague. Maybe I'm finally going out of my mind.
This hell-on-Earth flushed through the town like a wind. I never saw anything wrong until the night three goons attacked my buddy Charlie down by the dock. The way they moved while they tore his face apart gives me nightmares. I remember tackling the trio to the ground. I'm far from skinny, over six feet tall and these fists have tasted blood before. But those monsters didn't want to fight. It looked more like they wanted to feed. I stared over their shoulders trying to get a glimpse of Charlie. He was gone. So, I did the only sane thing to do when you're outnumbered by a group of maniacs- I ran.
Now here I am with my wife and my two girls. We're desperate, at least I am. We retreated to the first abandoned place we could find. It was my genius idea to barricade us here without first knowing what supplies we had at our disposal. Turns out, we had very little.
"I'm hungry daddy." says Marie as she crawls into my arms.
"I know sweetheart, but we'll get you something to eat soon. Be a good girl and try not to think about it until then, okay?"
"Okay daddy." she says while smiling and staring at the radio. I'm a schmuck. It burns a hole into my chest having to lie to her like that. I don't know when we'll find any sort of food. For God's sake, I haven't eaten in two days. I've given my portion of crumbs to the kids. But I'm not complaining, just frustrated. I'd feed Janice, Marie and Mara, a hundred times before I eat a grain of anything that comes our way. Her stomach growls and my heart drops again. I hug her tightly and kiss her on the crown of her head. My wife and I lock eyes as she brushes Mara's hair softly. Who cares if I believe the radio personality or not, I just need to get my family to safety or die knowing I did all I could.
"We're going to Starlight."
The window is boarded with all the wood this vacant apartment had to offer. Janice and I remove the furniture from the exit one-by-one. The moans of the attackers outside begin to increase. The window is revealed and I admire my handiwork. Not an inch of the window was visible, which has been an advantage for the past few days, but we intend on making a run now. Our vehicle is just outside the door, maybe three or four steps out. Janice looks at me, confident in my plan. She looks exhausted; both of us are. I press my ear onto the door and hear several hands scratching the other end. My heart rate skyrockets but I've got to stay calm, for her and for my girls. I kneel down and pull my daughters close.
"We're leaving now, okay darlings? I need you both to hold on tight and keep your eyes closed until mommy and daddy say you can open them, okay?" The two nod anxiously. "We love you girls so much. We're going somewhere better…soon."
I turn over and Marie wraps her arms around my neck. Janice imitates, and Mara grabs a hold of hers. The kids are squeezing on us tight and we press our foreheads together. It's my duty to protect these girls. I haven't done a stellar job thus far, but I'm looking to redeem myself. Whatever is outside of that door is standing in the way of my family's well being. The doorknob rattles and I hold it steady. I feel the monster on the other side rivaling my grip. I'm scared, but my only concern now is getting my family into our car as soon as possible.
"Close your eyes girls,” I look at Janice, “I'll lead the way, dear. I want you to wait three seconds, then run as fast as you can to me."
Marie clenches tighter around my neck and her whimpers get louder. I grip my small hammer while I build my courage, then I rip the door open and cause the first two attackers to become off-balance. My boot flies forward and crushes the dead man's chest. He flounders backward and knocks two others to the ground with him. I run straight and another creep on the right reaches toward me. He's met with a hammer to the temple which leaves him crumbling to the pavement. These bastards are slow to get up and I yell for Janice to sprint to the car. I pull the driver door open and watch Janice lug quickly with Mara bouncing on her back. Suddenly I feel a tug. An attacker pulls on Marie violently and I fall backward. My head hits the street hard and my vision gets blurry for a second. I try and shake myself conscious, then I see the dead man attempt to bite my daughter; she squeals. His saliva drops onto her face but I notice her eyes are still shut. I've seen enough.
I jump to my feet and launch the hammer into his skull. There's a heinous explosion as a result and I leave the hammer lodged into his open head. Marie is crying and as I reach to carry her from the ground, she kicks upward, hitting me on my chin.
"It's okay sweetheart, it's daddy. It's okay, it's okay."
There are a dozen more of these bastards closing in on us. I see Janice's arms reaching for Marie and I hand her off.
"What happened?" says Janice.
"We got pulled."
"Is she hurt?" I slam my door shut and call for Marie. She continues to cry loudly, drowning out the sound of my voice.
"Get us out of here, Jud, please!"
The man on the radio gave an address, but I haven't lived in New York long enough to know my way around. However, I do know the city he mentioned and if I can just get close enough I'm sure I'll spot the safe zone. I ask Janice how Marie is doing. There's a concerned look on my wife's face. It's the same look she gave in the months following the market crash. Needless to say, it's a harsh reminder of how unfortunate we've been as of late. I look back at the girls, quickly. Mara is sitting quietly with her hands crossed over her lap. She's staring to her left at Marie. My oldest, Marie, is in bad condition. Her face is pale and there are black circles forming around her eyes.
"Momma… Marie." says Mara. She exhibits the overall feeling inside the car. We're scared and worried for our daughter, and Mara's sister.
We've been driving for nearly one hour now and for the past three miles Marie hasn't answered our questions. Janice places her hand on mine and begins to sob. This is my fault, all my fault. I should have thrown Marie into the car as soon as I opened the door. Now something is happening to her and I'm helpless. Perhaps she has a concussion from dropping to the ground. We're almost to Starlight which fills me with hope. The radio host gives advice and tips regularly, so they must've been exposed to a situation like this themselves. I'm sure they have medication that my daughter can take to make her feel better.
"Marie!" screams Janice.
I turn quickly and see Marie with her chin down on her chest. Her head wobbles, almost lifeless. I pull the car to the right and shut it down completely. I run to her side and pull her into my arms.
"Sweetheart, you're okay, please wake up. Marie, open your eyes for daddy. Marie?"
"Jud, get help." says Janice as she points to a shack, a quarter of a mile behind me. I place Marie softly into her seat and shut her door. Janice is hanging over the front seat pulling on Marie's hand.
“Stay in the car. I'll try and find someone to help.”
I start sprinting to the shack, when I hear my wife's wild scream. Marie is shaking in her chair and I can't hold back the tears from pouring out of my eyes. My poor daughter is suffering for my stupidity. I sprint faster than ever before and reach the entrance of the shack. There's a candle light coming from an elevated window opening. I bang my hand on the door, but there is no response. I'm pleading to the occupant to help my daughter, but still no answer. My shoulder presses to the door and I jimmy it open. There's an old man in the room, but he's of no help to us, especially because he's dangling from the ceiling with a noose around his neck. I run through the man's house to find that he's alone. I shoot out the rear door hoping to find more neighbors. The bittersweet nature of not living in the city, is that there isn't anyone around. I rummage through his cabinets for supplies but find nothing useful. In an act of desperation, I begin searching this hanging man's pockets. If I can find some medication or anything of that nature, then this trip to the shack would have been a godsend. Instead, I find a heavy revolver, cold to the touch. I wonder why he didn't just shoot himself, instead of hang and risk prolonged suffering. Then again, I wouldn't have the guts to shoot myself either.
Feeling defeated, I shove the revolver into my jacket and sprint back to the car which I see in the distance and notice rocking slowly. Janice must be doing CPR. The thought causes me to race up the hill at a break-neck speed. I reach the car door but Janice and the girls are facing the other direction. My spirit lifts seeing that Marie is sitting straight. I call out to the girls who turn in unison.
My jaw drops along with my heart.
They are covered in blood. Finally, I notice the red splashes on the interior windows. Janice growls and smashes her jaw onto the glass before me. I don't move. It takes me all of two seconds to realize what happened. My family has turned into those people who have been assaulting us. I stare at Mara and Marie. They are shoulder to shoulder beating their hands onto the window. Tears stream down my face, uncontrollably. My head falls to my chest and I drop to my knees. The poor girls; they share the infection among themselves. It should be me in there, suffering and clamoring, wildly. The guilt doesn't take long to set in. Mara is just a baby and Marie trusted me to the end. My wife, God, my wife was confident that I would keep this family whole. Now I'm on the outside, looking in. I walk towards the rear of the vehicle and begin to push. I told my family I would get them to Starlight, I intend on keeping my word. There's a cure there. They'll give it to me. These aren't monsters- I know that now. This is my family. All they need is a cure. I'll make sure they get one. I'm alone now.
The one-way street is occupied by a caravan of vehicles. They are loud and rambunctious; you'd hardly be able to tell there was an infection going around. I peer at the company of cars, maybe six strong. I'm on the right side pushing my car from the rear. There are trees separating me from the main road. I can't have anyone seeing my family. Not until I have the solution in my hands. I treated these sick 'zombies' in a heinous manner, and I won't let anyone do that to my family. The ground is dry and surprisingly even. It's a heavy push, but necessary to conceal my girls.
It's daytime now and I veer our car into a small space concealed by heavy bushes. I desperately need the rest. I lean onto the passenger window and feel the car rock.
"Janice dear, we're almost there. I'd say, we'll see the place after that ridge there." I say as my wife slams her shoulder on the glass. "Careful sweetheart; don't hurt yourself." I stare at my daughters who continue clawing at the small crack in the window. "Now Marie, Mara, you take care of your mother until I get back. See that tree there; I'm going right past it to see how far we are. I'll be back, I swear." I walk briskly into the forest, confident that I'll find the help I need at Starlight. I kick the leaves up as I trail by and grab a hold of the thick trees. My legs are wobbly due to my lack of food and from pushing our car on dirt for a prolonged period, not to mention the mental breakdown that's becoming increasingly evident.
I pass the trees that I pointed out to my daughters and my smile grows. There's a large gate in the distance. I can't make out their faces but I can clearly see figures. There are two guards at the entrance, checking the vehicles as they enter. It's the perfect setup. I'll push my car to the entrance to have my family checked out, then I'll get the necessary aid. They'll understand what's going on. They'll help.
I turn around and begin my trek back to the car. Suddenly, I hear a woman screaming at the top of her lungs. I squint to assess the situation. One guard holds her back while she kicks the air and wails loudly. The other guard is looking into the car, at what, I'm not sure of. He pulls out his gun now and places the tip onto the window. I watch intently but deny what is inside the car. The woman squeals again and a shadow inside the car jolts toward the window. The vehicle rocks and the guard fires a single bullet, shattering the glass and covering the windows with red. I lose my breath at the sight and turn in a sprint. I crash to the ground, once again running for my life, or more accurately, for my family's. Nobody is going to hurt my girls, nobody. I reach my car and collapse onto the hood. I look up slowly, praying to God that they're back to normal. He doesn't answer my prayer. My girls try to pummel the front glass to reach me.
I push the car for another 15 minutes, finally coming into a vacant circle in the forest. The trees have been taken down and all that remains in a few waist high weeds. Our car is in the open but we're a considerable distance from the road. Only a fool looking for trouble would come this deep into the forest and I guarantee if they get near my family, trouble is what they will find. I'll go into Starlight and search for answers. I press my palm against the blood stained window and Janice does the same, while chomping at the glass. Our hands are aligned and I can feel the coldness coming from her palm. The girls aren't as animated at the moment. Instead they bob around their seat slowly.
"We're here my darlings. Everything will be okay."