Author: Sharon Cornet
Photo: Toni McConaughie
Terry took his long sword and grasped its handle tightly with both hands. He trembled and shook as he mentally prepared himself for the door to open. “NOW!” he yelled to Katherine, who turned the door handle slowly, secretly hoping it would magically get stuck shut. The door unlatched. Katherine let it swing open in sync with her slender body as she took a large step back behind it. Terry screamed, “Aaaaaauuuuuugggghhhhhh!!!!!!!” as he ran, sword in tight grip, through the doorway and toward the people headed his way. He never dreamed, this morning, that by noon he would be chopping off the heads of his closest friends in his own front yard.
Katherine slammed the door shut, failing to lock it as she ran to the window, peeking through the curtain to watch. Her breath fogged the window glass as her left hand rubbed against it, making short, bloody, smear marks. The earlier bite from one of their two “friends” outside had done her in, for sure, she thought. Her hand ached, and her body ached even more. She had lost a lot of blood and was feeling weak, and a bit cold. She used her good hand to run her fingers through her long red hair and out of her sweaty face. Katherine was scared, but she watched as Terry, in one fell swoop, sliced through most of the neck of his first and only true best friend. Jacob’s head lopped over and then hung half-sideways, half-upside down, as only a single piece of attached flesh forced it to dangle. Jacob’s bloody, already-gray-colored, decapitated body fell to the ground, flat. He was done. Terry’s eyes began to well up with tears, How did Jacob even become one of them?
Terry heard a moaning to his left. He swiftly turned and instinctively lunged the sword straight into the rib cage of his other friend, Billy. Billy was the smallest – short and skinny – of the three young men, always having needed someone to save him from the neighborhood bullies when they were growing up. Terry had always been his hero. Terry cried out a wail of despair as he realized that he could never save Billy again, not even from himself. Not today. He pushed the sword deeper into Billy’s bosom, piercing through to the other side.
Katherine looked wide-eyed as Terry removed the sword from Billy’s chest and quickly stuck it into his face, penetrating the skull, into what little was left of his brain. Most of it had already been eaten out by other living-dead beings, which is what caused Billy to die the first time. “Why did you have to die?” Terry gasped, letting it escape his lips as more of a whimper. Billy’s body simultaneously fell to the ground as Terry pulled the sword out of the holey skull. Then, with all the strength he had, Terry hit his sword onto Billy’s neck, removing his head, cleanly this time. Chunks of coagulated blood splattered around the grass as Billy’s head rolled over, about eighteen inches away from where it had detached. Billy’s eyes looked straight at Terry, but all life was gone from them; even zombie “life.” He was dead for good this time. The bloody sword fell out of Terry’s weakened hand, hitting the ground with a thud. His knees felt weak as well. His mind, however, was whirling.
Truly dying, to Terry, meant reawakening soon after dying a first time, and being killed again, by way of decapitation. At least, that is what seemed to work to kill these bastards. This intermediate “life” of a zombie was some kind of sick joke, he decided... and the two zombies’ bodies that laid before him, who used to be his best friends, were only a couple of the umpteen thousands, if not millions, suddenly inhabiting the planet. They appeared to be some sort of evil creatures stumbling around in a waking death, whose recent coming were obviously of Biblical proportions. He had been fighting against a couple of dozen or so of these new zombie-like creatures since just after midnight the night before, when he and Katherine had been at the college graduation party. The circumstances had been bizarre, and he was still having trouble wrapping his thoughts around it all.
Katherine, having watched the scene of her boyfriend killing both Jacob and Billy, suddenly felt an extreme coldness come over her, and the aching she had been feeling throughout her body lost its grip on her. She breathed one deep breath, let it out, and then panted, before releasing all tension. She just stood there, by the window, unable to move. She hung her head, and her red, damp hair lay limp like strings of perpetual blood dripping toward the floor; yet nothing was moving.
Terry’s hands felt numb, and his arms limp as Katherine’s hair. He looked up, but only saw a shadow of her form behind the sheer curtain, standing motionless. He heard a soft but low moaning in the distance behind him. Terry turned his head toward the street. More were coming. The urgent feeling inside him told him that he had to do some research now that he was home, “…before they find me,” he surprisingly said out loud to himself. Terry picked up his sword, walked swiftly back to his house, and entered the door to his home, looking over his shoulder one last time. Katherine stood by the window, a mere few feet away from him. Locking the door behind him, he said, “Are you okay?” She moaned, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. “It’s been too much for you,” Terry said aloud as he grabbed a pillow off the couch and shoved it under her head, “You’ll be okay, just rest now.”
Terry double-checked every door and window in the house, making sure everything was locked, and made sure all inside lights were off. He wondered if his parents were okay on their vacation. They had left from their home in rural Missouri to New York a week and a half ago, but he knew they were due back any time. They were even late, he figured. Had they even made their flight home? Was what was happening here happening there too? Would they ever make it home alive? Feeling insecure about his parents, but fairly secure about his safety in the house, he removed his blood-spattered shirt, sat down, and began searching the Internet on his parents’ computer in the “office,” which used to be his room.
The first thing he did was pull up the local news website, and then the national news, international news, and a host of other sites in between. Nothing was forthcoming, only article after article, and video after video of more of what he’d already seen and been dealing with. Practically no place on the planet, it appeared, was left unaffected. Normal people had mysteriously died, then within minutes had come back as some kind of zombie-like walking dead people, and no one knew why. He was looking for answers, anything; anything that might give him a clue as to what was really going on. Terry was tired, and had been without sleep all night. He glanced up at the clock, which said 12:12PM on its digital face. “Exactly twelve hours ago!” he exclaimed while looking back down at the computer screen. Then he got an idea.
Terry noticed the date on the bottom right corner of the computer – Saturday, December 22, 2012. Yesterday had been the twelfth month, twenty-first day, and twelfth year… Wasn’t there something about that date? This is going to take some time. He got up momentarily to pee and check on Katherine. She appeared to be sleeping. After checking the windows, front and back all over again, and seeing nobody, he washed his hands and grabbed some bread with blackberry jam (because strawberry reminded him too much of Jacob’s and Billy’s coagulated blood), and then went back to the computer room. He just needed to feel normal and hear human voices, so he turned on the small TV that sat in the corner by the bookshelf, although kept the volume on low. He recognized the old 1984 Ghostbusters movie that was playing, so left it on. Terry took a bite of his jammed bread and laid it on the edge of the desk, sat back down at the computer, focused on the date of 12/21/2012.
Terry searched and found strange entries in forums, and off-brand websites that talked about the end times, the Christian fundamentalist belief in the Rapture, and even sites about UFO’s coming to earth to “take” people away, or translate their bodies into some kind of higher consciousness “light” body. He shuddered. Terry took another bite of the bread and jam, placing it down as he continued his search. The Mayan calendar was the date of the “end of the world” according to several sources, none of which were scientific, or anthropologically correct, according to one site where a Mayan descendant – who was a shaman – mentioned that fear-based Americans were making incorrect judgments about his culture and his ancestors’ knowledge by assuming it had anything to do with them, let alone with American culture many hundreds of years later. Still, Terry thought, these dates mark special times of change, from one period to another, and sometimes with change comes upheaval and chaos, at least for a while.
Terry looked up information on astronomy next, and the 7% degree difference in the galactic (not planetary) alignment. Next came astrology, and the hard lessons that Saturn’s influence would give, as well as Mercury being in retrograde, which evidently only brought communication issues and computer or other electronic problems, but nothing seriously harmful or dangerous… just a bit of temporary bad luck or delays. Stupid, he thought. Nothing like this zombie apoca-lapse (lapse, he figured, because there was about a 12-minute lapse in time between midnight and when the zombies began appearing). Something about the end times, the date changes, the times, and chaos itself sat deeply inside of Terry, and made him think that perhaps the Bible might have some answers. Jacob’s dad, who was a minister-turned-agnostic, had taught him some things about the Bible. The only reference Terry found, regarding dead people, and prophecies, was Rev 20:13 “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
“Aha!” Terry said aloud, “Revelation is a symbolic book, and the ‘sea’ is always a reference to the masses… the mass of people on the earth.” He studied the verse in detail, realizing that it was all the people he knew, personally, who had believed in the 2012 “end times” or the “rapture” or a host of other strange cultural beliefs – at least strange to him – that had been expecting something to happen yesterday, and when it didn’t they became sullen, and began acting strange, and then turned crazy with anger, and their behavior changed, as if they had become possessed. Then their bodies simply collapsed. That is when their bodies changed, visibly, and their breathing stopped, and their eyes glazed over. It is when their skin became ashen in color, and their hunger for flesh and brains began, and their anger consumed them to the point that they acted hungry and angry at the same time… hangry!
Terry reached for the last third of his bread and jam. Just then, as he was staring at the verse on the computer screen, he realized the depth of his thoughts, and the evil incarnate that had been bestowed upon his life, which he equally felt responsible for having to deal with. Suddenly, and in apparent synchronistic timing of some kind of disgusting humor of the current apoca-lapse, the voice of Bill Murray from the TV movie, Ghostbusters, yelled out, “dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!” and caused Terry to drop his bread, which landed jam-side down. He knew that this was bad news. A bad omen. These zombies were here to stay a while. These hangry zombies didn’t even know what they were anymore. They had no future because all of their dreams, hopes, and faith had died, and their bodies died right along with them. They were empty shells, walking around, filled only with notions and ideas and spirits that were already dead and gone. Their hangry-ness was all they had now, hungering for peoples’ brains, Perhaps for the knowledge that existed in the livings’ heads, which they lacked. It seems a stretch to believe this was happening to people, but it was all he had to go on.
Little did they know, Terry thought, that they were even becoming zombies! They died and came back via another reality altogether. Zombie reality. They no longer had a purpose, or anything to hope for. He contemplated the immensity of this revelation concerning the zombies.
Meanwhile, Katherine stirred in the other room, unbeknownst to him. His attention was so focused that he did not hear anything but the TV and his own voice inside his head.
As Terry sat, in full and absorbed contemplation of the big picture, a shiver and tangible sensation went up his back. A long thin fingernail gently traveled up the bareness of his lower spine, between his shoulder, toward his neck. Katherine had a habit of doing this to him, and he turned to smile at her, realizing she was probably feeling better, finally. But this felt different somehow. As he turned and looked at her the smile on his face fell into a look of terror. Her eyes were completely vacant, and mottled with irregular colors of white, black, and gray, and her skin the familiar zombie-ashen lack of color as Jacob and Billy had been. Her only intact hand reached out and grabbed the soft part of the front of his neck as the bloody stub of her other arm pushed into his cheek. Her mouth opened wide, as if to hungrily French kiss him, but as her teeth barred he realized she wanted to bite him, as the newly born zombies had previously bitten her. He struggled to break free of her grasp but she was very strong. His rolling chair fell backwards, hitting the desk and sliding sideways.
He crashed to the floor, and her grip slipped. Terry instantly reached up and felt his neck to see if she had made him bleed, but before he could check fully he instinctively rolled sideways, and got out from under her body-of-death as it hovered over him, moaning. He jumped up, with Katherine – or what was left of her – following him out of the office and into the hallway. He ran to the kitchen, grabbing his mom’s chef knife from out of the knife block that was on the kitchen counter. Katherine’s body slammed against the wall as she, unbalanced and not quite all there, attempted to go after her former boyfriend. Terry realized right then that bites from a zombie were infectious. Contagious. It wasn’t just the dead from hell itself that overtook otherwise perfectly good people, but evidently being damned was catching! He did not want to catch any zombie-death sickness! He did not want to die with them in their misery.
Terry knew what he had to do, and this time there was no thinking twice. He had felt sadness for re-killing the already dead Jacob and Billy, his two best friends, but dammit, he was NOT going to go down for any girl, especially not a zombie-bitch! As she lunged, almost falling onto him, Terry stuck the 9-inch blade into her mouth, cutting through the back of her throat. Chunks of blood tumbled out of her mouth onto his hands as he severed her flesh. He pulled the blade from her, and pushed her backwards down to the ground with his hands, knife still in his grip.
She reached for him, wailing her arms around, and screamed a low but loud moaning type of growl, and tried to attack him, but he placed his knee down onto her good hand so she could not scratch him. Her bloody stump was of no use. He simply rubbed the sharp blade of the knife back and forth on her neck, and when he realized it was not cutting as well as a serrated knife would, he stabbed it over and over, working hard to cut the flesh enough to remove the head. It only wound up a bloody lump of irregular flesh, sitting there staring at him in jest, like multiple clumps of raw liver on top of determined bones that refused to give up to his efforts. He suddenly realized what he was doing, and to whom. A horror came over him, and he had to leave.
Terry jumped up, and ran into his parent’s bedroom, locking the door behind him. He heard the zombie-bitch that used to be his girlfriend crawling or shuffling down the hall toward his direction. Her moaning turned out more like a gurgle and lacked all definition of any kind of a voice. He was disgusted and started to wretch into his father’s dresser drawer he had pulled open. After three heaves he shut the drawer and opened another one, grabbed one of his father’s clean t-shirts, put it on quickly, and stopped all motion to listen. He heard her at the door, thumping against it. Thump, thump, THUMP! It grew louder. THUMP, THUMP, T-H-U-M-P!! He went to the closet, grabbing the shotgun and rifle from the top shelf, behind the box of his mother’s keepsakes, from his childhood. T-H-U-M-P, T-H-U-M-P!!!! The doorframe began to crack and he knew it was only a matter of time before the door would swing open.
He knew the shotgun was loaded, in case of emergency, but Terry still took the time to check, just in case. Katherine pushed the door in, making the door slam against the wall. She limped over toward him as he fiddled with the shotgun. Her head was tilting slightly to one side, whether from the injury or because of what she was, he did not know. Her bloody hand-stump and her sharp fingernails from her other hand were both reaching out to him as she gurgled one last time before lunging at him. He winced as she neared him, his fidgeting with the shotgun finally coming to an end. Katherine was within less than a meter from him as he pulled the shotgun up and aimed it at her head, shooting her directly in the face. BAM!!! The heaviness of her body fell forward onto him, but her head bent backward from the blast, all at the same time. Her body landed on top of him with a dull flesh-slapping thud.
Terry heaved her dead body off of him, letting its weight roll over to the side on its own. He grabbed the guns, all the ammo his dad had in the closet, and grabbed his old backpack from the front room coat rack. He stuffed all the dried and canned and other foods he could find, along with a few canned lemonades from the fridge, into the backpack. He knew that the house would be safe, for now, but realized he might have to leave in a hurry. He grabbed his car keys, put them into his jeans pocket, and was ready to go, if needed. For now, he thought, I will try to rest. He was so incredibly exhausted. He sat on the couch, backpack on, shotgun in his arms, and laid his head back.
Three hours later, bumping sounds at the locked front door awoke Terry. He distinctly heard voices talking. He jumped up, looked out the window, which was still covered in smears of dried blood from Katherine’s pre-zombied stump. It was a last reminder of the scene that had happened just before he had fallen asleep. He glanced down the hall, but realized her dead zombie-bitch body was likely still in his parents’ bedroom. Looking out the front window, he was relieved when he saw his dad fiddling with the keys while his mom was screaming at him to hurry. They looked normal, but upon opening the door to let them in he realized that both of them were bloody.
Had they killed some zombies too? Or had they been bitten?
Terry was ready, either way.