Ma always told me I shouldn't be a writer; that it was a pointless waste of time… that it would never pay. She was right for the most part, but she was also wrong. Now there's no one else to write this. No one else to tell the story of how it all came about. How it all started. How the world ended.
Maybe I'm the wrong person for the job, but I'll try my best. I owe them that much.
* * *
Pa was a conspiracy theorist. Aliens landed in Roswell. Jesus was revived by alien technology too, he said. Of course he also said he was one of the Chosen that Christ would take away with him in his Holy Mother Ship on Judgment Day. I can tell you for a fact that he was wrong about that much. I was there, after all. I'm pretty sure that Jesus wasn't.
My father wasn't entirely wrong about his theories. Big Brother was to be feared. Viral weaponry, black ops, human cloning, gene splicing… all to be feared. All real. And, when combined, all dangerous.
* * *
The first one was a man. At least we're pretty sure he was a person once and not just a clone grown in some tank, but there's little evidence left of how he came to be. Mostly what we have left is speculation. When he escaped his prison, he looked like a man. His actions, though, were those of an animal. A savage, rabid beast whose sole impulse was to kill and feed. To kill and feed off of other men.
The police that shot him didn't know he was already dead, not even when he kept getting up and attacking them, riddled with bullets and yet eerily fast and strong. It was several minutes before they managed to take him down for good.
Within hours of being bitten by this man-beast, his victims developed symptoms of a systemic infection, went into shock, and died. The problem was that they didn't stay dead.
What person in their right mind would pause to think of zombies? Thankfully, my dad was completely insane. I'll say one thing about the Paranoid: they sure are well-prepared.
* * *
"Carrie, come and see this," he said to me in his patented get-a-load-of-this-but-don't-tell-Ma whisper. It was Easter Sunday. Ma was making lunch in their cramped kitchen. I was home for the weekend because it was the Right Thing To Do. Pa was watching what I thought was one of his freak shows… until I saw the news channel logo in the corner of the screen. "Watch this bastard get back up," he said softly. There were what had to be twenty cops converged around a murderer, in full riot gear. They shot the man dozens of times, yet he wouldn't stay down. "Watch him get 'im in the head," Pa added with a hint of admiration. "There! Down he goes! Did you see that, Carrie? Do you know what that means?"
"He's super-human?" I ventured, humoring him.
"Naw. You know better than that," he drawled. "He's dead."
"Yeah, Dad, they shot him," I reminded him, wondering where his medication was and if he'd been taking it lately.
"He was dead before they shot him. This time he'll stay dead," he said gravely. Looking into his eyes, I knew he was serious.
"A zombie?" I ventured.
He nodded. "We ought to hitch up and get out of the state."
"Pa, I've got class—"
"If you want to live," he added gravely.
"How do we convince Ma?" I pressed, feeling stupid for playing into one of his paranoid delusions, yet at the same time feeling quite certain that he was right.
"We'll go to your Gran's house," Pa told me. "There's not many people up her way, and if she turns I ain't gonna be too sorry to take care of it," he said with a wink. Grandma Constance was Ma's mother, of course, and even more of a conservative, domineering matriarch than she was. Of course it was much easier to be that way in a brick house than in a trailer, but that never stopped Annie Grier from telling us constantly what a waste of oxygen we both were.
I'd been trying to find an excuse to drop out of Business Management anyway and figured that the end of the world was as good as any and better than some. Before the sun set on Resurrection Day, we hitched up our trailer and set off toward Gran's. Behind us, though, the plague was spreading much faster than we thought.
* * *
"Doctors are baffled as to the nature of the mysterious illness which seems to be spread through bites or other contact with the blood of the infected. A viral outbreak has not been ruled out. The CDC has declined to comment at this time."
* * *
"We're headed away from the cities, too," the dark-haired boy, a complete stranger, whispered to me at the counter of the rest stop mini mart. "I hope not too many folks get the same idea or the rural areas will be swamped with refugees."
"That's a lot of junk food you're buying there," I remarked, astounded.
"Yeah, well my mom was in too big a hurry to pack any food," he told me with a shrug. "The outbreak was two towns away already when we left last night."
"My dad has a bunch of MREs and bottled water. He said one can never have enough water, though, so here I am," I told him.
"We don't have any water," the boy said, wide-eyed with dismay.
"Want some help? I'm pretty good at this stuff," I offered with a smile, hoping like hell that I didn't sound condescending.
The boy agreed to my assistance and we wandered around the store together, choosing canned goods and the like. "I'm Andrew, by the way," he finally said.
"Carrie," I said in turn. He was a city kid and comfortable with his full first name. I was white trash and unable to admit that my name was really Carolynn. It's funny how none of that matters now, but back then it still did.
We chatted for a while and I discovered the boy was only 15. I was 20 and suddenly felt ancient in comparison. Andrew paid for his supplies, I picked up mine, and we made our way back outside to our respective vehicles. Every so often I'd catch a glimpse of Andrew's mother's silver SUV in the rearview and would smile. It was comforting to have a friend in the middle of the crisis. Maybe I shouldn't have been so comforted at that. But we learn the hard way, don't we.
* * *
"Shoot them in the head. It's the only thing that seems to make them stay down permanently. Then burn the bodies. We need to be sure that they are completely dead and this is the only way."
"What are you saying is happening here?"
"I'm not saying. No one else is, so I'm not either. Just shoot them in the head… Oh, my god… They're here."
* * *
As we drove down the highway that clear Monday afternoon, we believed that we were leaving the danger behind. We thought of the possibility of it following us, but we had no idea how close behind us it truly was until the SUV in the rearview started swerving about drunkenly, coming to rest against the guardrail with a loud crash and a nails-on-a-chalkboard scree of metal against metal.
"Pa, stop! Pull over! Andrew just went off the road!" I'd told him about the nice boy I'd met, knowing he'd be proud that his advice to me since childhood (expect the worst, hope for the best; prepare for the worst just in case) had been helpful to someone else.
He pulled over as I'd asked and we jumped down from the cab. He took his rifle with him in spite of the frown I tossed his way. As we neared the SUV, the hissing and screaming from within became louder and louder. Andrew's mother had turned into one of Them and was clawing and biting at her son's neck as I looked on in horror. My father didn't hesitate. He lifted his rifle and put a bullet through Andrew's mother's head. Two seconds later, he put one through Andrew's. I punched him and called him a bastard. He just looked at me gravely and said, "He was bitten, Carrie. Sooner or later he'd have turned, and then he would have come after you. It's better this way."
"He told me it was two towns away when they left," I said rather dumbly. It had obviously been a lie.
"Let's see if they've got anything useful," Pa told me. I tried to squelch my feelings and get back to the business of survival, but sometimes it's easier said than done. He opened the driver's side door and popped the rear hatch, then began removing the cartons of canned food from the back.
"Pa," I said, pausing beside him. "Do you hear crying?" I made my way forward and looked over into the back seat. There was a little girl there, no more than two or three years old, strapped in and crying softly, some of her family's blood on her clothes and in her hair. "Dad, I think it's his kid sister," I called out.
"Is she infected?" he asked.
"She seems okay, but she's scared and there's a lot of blood," I replied.
"Get her out," he said. "We'll take her along."
War changes people. I've always known that. It changed my dad, after all; made him weird but somehow more capable. When the edges of reality became blurred, he could still see clearly. Now I've been to war, too, but I'm not sure I'm a better person because of it. I still have so much to learn…
A/N: Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it! I started writing this story in March of 2005. The title was inspired by a friend's LiveJournal post that stated "Happy Zombie Jesus Day" on that particular Easter Sunday. I didn't know whether to be amused or offended! ^_^
All but the last few chapters of this story have already been written, but I'm always looking for inspiration… particularly zombie movie clichés to exploit and/or make fun of. What's your favorite? Which one peeves you every time you see it resurface in a different setting? Add it to your review and I'll see what I can do!
Happy reading! ^_^