Woke Up This Morning And Found Myself Dead

I take it back. The voices weren't hostile, and they were speaking English. I don't have long to talk about it.

The radio sparked back into life about twenty minutes ago, causing Carolyn to knock the uke out of my hands as I was part way through my eighteenth rendition of twinkle twinkle little star.

The voices were clear this time, chatting and laughing with all kinds of in-jokes and radio jargon. Carolyn took the receiver and barged into their conversation.

'Mayday. Mayday. Do you read? Over.'

I didn't point out that she'd stolen my line, because the silence that followed was perhaps the tensest one I'd ever sat through.

A long moment passed, achingly empty. Carolyn put her finger to the talk button once again, but before she could rattle off another message, a voice interrupted.

'We read you, loud and clear. What is your situation? Over.'

What a fucking question. If you could some up our situation in less than ten words I'd personally award you a cookie-shaped medal. Carolyn gaped, lost for words. I took the receiver from her and got to work.

'We're in a place, near another place, there's nobody around, really, except dead people and dead people who forgot how to be dead people, and keep walking around. But enough about me, how're you guys?'

Carolyn glared a flaming hole through me, I ignored her.

'Um. Good, I guess. You're talking to Aircraftman Jeeves of the number twenty-two group. How many survivors are with you? Over.'

I didn't know what the number twenty-two group was, but it sounded impressive, and aircraftman had to mean some kind of aircraft was involved, right?

'Two survivors. One male and incredibly handsome, other female and losing interest in my small talk. Look, we could use a rescue, do you do rescues?'

The VHF grew silent again, and for a second I thought the battery had finally decided to pack it in. I banged the receiver against my head, and Carolyn buried her face in her hands.

'Well, it's not like there's anybody telling me not to. What is your specific location? Over.'

I could've hugged him. If he was a physical presence rather than a detached voice coming through a tiny speaker in an abandoned vehicle.

'Puddletown, you know Puddletown, right? It's practically a landmark.'

'Never heard of it. Over.'

Aircraftman Jeeves was not one for inspiring confidence, I can tell you that.

'My co-pilot has a read, you're just outside of Dorchester. We can be there within the hour. Or if you'd prefer to wait until sunrise – '

'No thanks. Within the hour would be perfect.'

Hell no was I spending another night in this metal box, not when rescue was just an hour away. Carolyn wholeheartedly agreed, in fact she was packing up our belongings while Jeeves laid out the plan.

Vision was limited outside of the protective shell I now called home. Jeeves suggested I look for flares inside the vehicle, or perhaps gather wood to build a fire. I wouldn't need any of that old fashioned mumbo-jumbo. I had a phone that doubled with a torch, and it had seventy-nine entire percents of battery.

Jeeves was mildly surprised, and probably quite impressed, that I still had a working phone. Oh how little he knows me.

I secured the backpack to my back, as intended by the manufacturers, with the ukulele strapped to its side so I could serenade Aircraftsman Jeeves as he flew us to safety. With that settled, Carolyn and I clambered out of the vehicle and onto its roof, torches in hand and ready to signal our rescuers.

We kept still and quiet, aware of the various noises around us that signified the dead were only a stone throw away. I refused to check my phone to see how much times passed, knowing that the light source would give away our position, but it couldn't have been more than twenty minutes before the familiar sounds of a helicopter made its way into my ear holes.

The steady thrum grew and grew, and eventually its lights penetrated the overcast night sky. They were headed towards us, and fast. We only had one thing left to do.

We fumbled on our devices. I powered my phone up to full brightness, and Carolyn thumbed on her torch, and we preceded to wave them in the air like lunatics.

The helicopter grew closer, its noise eclipsing all others, until I could barely hear myself think. From its interior came a searchlight which roamed back and forth across the fields that surrounded Puddletown.

I watched the beam of light as it illuminated the environment we had bundled ourselves into. Broken down cars, heaps of bodies, and clusters of agitated undead were among the wasteland we had briefly called home. Not for much longer, I thought to myself.

Something was groping for my hand in the darkness, and for sudden second I tensed my body, ready for an attack.

It didn't come. Carolyn's hand had nestled into my own. My hand, scabbed and dirty, cupped her own, which I imagined to be squeaky clean and smelling faintly of bubblegum.

For a while nothing else mattered, just us, as we stood hand in hand, looking out at the sky as the lights of the helicopter danced towards us.

Closer and closer.

They were directly over our head.

They wobbled somewhat, and then balanced.

And continued.

Further and further.

Oh god. Oh man. Oh god.

It was like someone had thrown a bucket of ice over my head, and then ripped my heart from my chest and eaten in front of me with a mozzarella salad. I fucking hate mozzarella salad.

Carolyn's hand hung limp at her side, no longer holding mine as I had fallen to my knees in despair. The helicopter stormed away from our position, heading towards Puddletown.

My eyes fell onto the village itself. A distinct part of it was glowing orange and billowing smoke. Perhaps a small cottage, or a children's park. Whatever it was, it was on fire.

A fucking signal fire.

Before my brain could comprehend what this meant, Carolyn had growled several swear words, clasped a hold of my arm, and lurched forward from the vehicle.

She landed heavily, but took the brunt of it on her good leg, while I awkwardly tumbled to the ground, jostling forward to catch her up.

The torch she pointed at the helicopter, flicking it on and off as if it was an imaginary rocket launcher and she was trying to blast Jeeves from the air.

He sort of deserved it, to be fair.

We were an arrow shot from the bow of disgrutlement. We hurtled towards Puddletown as fast as our exhausted and broken feet could take us. Carolyn matched my speed, her resiliency was pretty fucking inspiring. Curse words left her mouth with every exhale of breath, but still she gutted forward.

A small portion of Puddletown was lit up, giving the helicopter an unmissable target. It hovered above the flickering orange lights, its searchlight probing for survivors, within minutes it would find them, and before Jeeves could even realised the mistake, they would be tearing away through the sky.

In a way I knew it was futile; we would never make it in time. It was a thought I should've held onto and embraced. We should've turned back then and huddled in safety until sunlight, or waited near the radio until Jeeves could contact us again. Everything would've been so much better.

We did none of those things, my brain was in alert mode, and I couldn't think past the safe haven that those on board the helicopter would be spending the night in.

Safe from all the Z's; the same ones that Carolyn and I dodged between and grappled with on our way to Puddletown. Carolyn's knife plunged in and out of heads as she soldiered forward, while I swung wildly with my scythe at anything that crept too close.

The overbearing noise of the helicopter and the beacon of light created by the fire did much to consume the Z's attention. Most of the zombies that were scattered around the outside of the town now had a shared target. They moved forward as a unit, the same direction we headed ourselves, except we were faster, even with the injuries.

The helicopter had finished circling. We were roughly half a mile out from the village when the shadow of a rescue ladder was thrown into the flaming abyss.

It should've been our ladder. I couldn't help but hate whoever was climbing to safety, I was ashamed to say. The helicopter was there for us and us only, the shapeless forms climbing that ladder hadn't been through what we had, the things that had led us to that radio, and to Airshipman Jeeves. They hadn't earned their safety.

Thoughts similar to those raged around my head as I gouged my way forward. The throng of undead was becoming thicker as we grew closer to the village.

With a flick of my arm I half-sheared a head from its heavy body, but the momentum of its lunge carried it forward into me.

I fell beneath its weight; a body covered in an overladen uniform, with equipment sticking out at every awkward angle. Binoculars that hung from its neck pressed into my face, and the canteen attached to its hip leaked stale water through my clothes.

Carolyn fell beside me with a groan, rolling the unmoving body off of my own, knife held at the ready, in case the thing wasn't appropriately dead.

It was, I could tell by the way part of its head was missing. It wasn't this distinction that interested me, however. The bulky uniform that it wore was military grade, with some added makeshift protection. Not enough, I guess, considering his mild case of zombie influenza.

Carolyn tugged on the hood of my coat, pulling me off balance and suggesting that she might be more interested in the helicopter than the dead infantryman.

I ignored her, and set my hands to roaming the corpses body, pulling out items at random, inspecting them, and throwing them away as I pleased.

There were no times for explanations, something Carolyn could've likely benefited from. Out of the corner of my eye I watched her, torn between storming of to Puddletown and staying to witness the fruits of my labor.

I'm glad she decided to stay, and not just because I cherished every minute I spent with Carolyn, and will to the end of my days, but because her knife quickly put a stop to the figure that had crept up on me as my attention was focused elsewhere.

While originally skeptical, Carolyn was equally happy she had stayed by my side, especially when I finally pulled a gun from one of the dead soldiers pouches.

Not a bullet gun, but a neon orange flare gun, which was almost as good.

At the very least, we were spared a half-hours dash towards Puddletown. At the very most, we were fucking saved.

That was if we could keep our arms from being bitten off by every creeper around us. I tucked the twin-barrelled pistol into my belt, and began cutting the Z's down like weeds. I was a farmer posessed, scything everything that passed within ten meters of me. I beheaded a monstrously curvy blonde, pierced the skull of a one-armed teenager, and tackled frail being to floor before plunging the handle of my scythe into its temple.

It was gritty work, and between bouts I would snatch glances at the helicopter as the remaining popuilation of Puddletown clambered into its cockpit. They went achingly slow, crawling up the rope-ladder rung by rung, step by step. I would've done it at least seventeen times as fast.

We held our own, Carolyn and I. A two person unit, watching eachothers backs and leaning on one another when there was a gap in the action. Her hair was matted with blood, dirt and grime. She was about as Amazon as you could get, and I'm not talking about next day delivery.

I used Carolyns back as a launching pad, propelling myself forward into the nearest Z. The scythe sliced cleanly through its throat, snagging on the chain necklace that hung from its slender neck. A second blow, aimed at her skull, put a final stop to its momentum.

I allowed the next Z to wander harmlessly past, more interested in the commotion of the helicopter than my lovely fleshy body. Instead I inspected the necklace that hung from the blade of my scythe. Some kind of star, made from silver or something vaguely metallic.

I held it out to Carolyn, I figured it could be an early Christmas present.

'Necklace. Want it?'

'The Star of David? I'm not Jewish.'

'Alright then, eBay it.'

I'd like to think she wouldn't throw it away the first chance she got, or trade it for a slow-roasted mouse on a skewer in whatever refugee camp she ended up in.

Before that happened, however, we would need rescuing. I laid out the delicate plan to Carolyn as we watched the last remnant of Puddletown scale the helicopters ladder.

We only had two chances at this, we were going to make them count.

I aimed the flare gun in the air, pivoting my arm so the flare would arc as close to the village as possible.


For a moment my surroundings were lit up in an eerie light. I blinked the stars of my eyes, and glimpsed the orange ball of flame skittering into the sky, the wind taking it further and further away from us.

It was about as successful as I could've asked, and it even worked as a helpful distraction to the Z's that roamed by us, or at least it did for several seconds, before they realized they were standing among two warm-blooded creatures.

The closest of them lunged for Carolyn, latching onto her knife arm and lowering its gaping jaw to her to her delicate, unprotected skin.

I shoved the flare gun through its eye socket, and pulled the trigger.

It's head errupted in flames, searing my fingers and forcing me to drop the gun. It was useless now anyway, its two shots depleted.

The zombie fell to the ground, a sizzling wreck. Carolyn looked at me wide-eyed, equal parts impressed and thankful. I shrugged away her admiration, uncaring that I'd wasted our last flare. The Z's head smouldered, its clothing and skin catching fire.

Increduously enough, I'd just made us our very own signal fire.

The Z's converged on our position, their faces illuminated by the corpse that was being quickly engulfed by fire. The benefit of darkness was gone, all we could rely on now were our near-blunt weapons, and our rapidly beating hearts.

They wouldn't last long. I knew it. Carolyn knew it. The Z's probably knew it too, if they were capable of knowing things. Our time was borrowed, if not straight up stolen from hell itself. My arm was close to agony, each swing of my scythe took me closer to exhaustion. I couldn't even fathom how Carolyn was still standing on an injured ankle.

I'd swapped to my left hand, rendering my blows stronger, but far more awkward. It was all I could to buy us a few more seconds, painfully important seconds.

Carolyn had fallen to one knee. She was content with letting the Z's fall towards her, before plunging her knife upwards through their jaws. Bodies piles before her, too many to count.

Something had grabbed me from behind. I dropped the scythe, grabbed both of its arms and swung it around, launching it into another zombie, sending them toppling like disgustingly radical bowling pins.

The fear was getting to me. The cold sweat was running down my head, down my arms, down my sides. Carolyn screamed a last war cry, as I fell to the ground, searching for the scythe amongst the wreckage of bodies.

I found it, using the light given off by my human-shaped signal fire. I brought it up two-handed, and carved a bloody etch into a hulking zombified so-and-so. The blow didn't even pierce its skull, perhaps he was too fresh, perhaps I just didn't have the strength. He stood there, a scythe implanted in his face, growling and grunting as he stretched its arms out towards me, demanding that I sate its hunger.

Bullets ripped through him, sending his body falling. They didn't stop there either. Bursts of automatic fire shredded its way through the zombies that surrounded us. Tearing limbs from bodies and driving holes through chests.

I fell backwards, huddling against Carolyn's twitching form. The guttural roar of an overworked helicopter engine emitted from fifty feet above us. We were lit up, our very own spot light. If there was a microphone it wouldn't have been an inapropriate time for kareoke.

No microphones though, something better. A ladder. All rope and aluminium, solid as a rock, dangling a few feet above of us.

I found Carolyn's arm, and threw it around my neck. With a heave I shouldered her to her feet, and lifted her into the air.

Teeth gritted, she grasped the closest rung of the ladder, and with her last remaining strength she pulled herself up.

It was perhaps the proudest moment of my life. I'd saved someone, and nobody could argue that I hadn't. I could have dropped dead right there, zombies ripping out my insides, and died with a smile on my face.

That didn't happen, obviously. I waited as Carolyn climbed, with the grace and speed of a sloth. A sloth missing its hands, and the memory of how to climb.

My pride quickly turned to desperation, impatience, stress and other things I won't mention. Zombies were mown down around me, but the ocassional Z slipped through the gunfire. I shouldered one of them to the floor with my backpack, producing a groan from the ukulele still strapped to my bag. Another I held by the chin and punched at repeatedly with the handle of the scythe, until its face resembled a childs drawing of an incredibly battered face.

Carolyn had altogether given up on climbing, pain and dirt written into every line of her face. I nodded, knowing that the next few moments would be the most intimate and terrifying of my life.

I angled myself on the other side of the ladder, jumped, and grabbed hold of the same rung Carolyn hung off.

Our fingers touching, I dragged myself upward with one arm, the other still clutching the scythe that I owed my life.

The helicopter lurched with my sudden weight, dropping us a few inches closer to the ground. The chaos around me suddenly eased, perhaps the soldiers above were reloading, or thought their jobs were over.

I was on Carolyn's level now. We were face to face, on either side of the straining ladder. Tears began to sting my eyes, and she gave me a full smile, a smile filled with relief and disbelief.

We were suspended in midair, above a sea of destruction and death, the fear of death inside of our bodies, and the taste of laughter on our lips.

I didn't even care when something latched onto my leg. How could I? How could I care about anything else other than that moment?

If Carolyn hadn't seen decaying arm pulling at my body, I probably wouldn't have noticed it. I saw only her, her face and features. I watched them turn from joy to horror, a beautiful sort of horror.

The moment was ruined, a fleeting glimpse of perfection. Gone.

She released a hand from the ladder, and dug into her belt with it, grasping at her knife, at the same time the helicopter lurched upwards.

She was going to do something stupid, and I couldn't let it happen. After all, that was my job.

So I let go. I just dropped, and hoped for the best. My eyes never left hers, and my last image of her was that. Hanging onto the ladder with one hand, the other holding the knife that she used better than anybody I had ever known, a curse leaving her lips at the sight of me dropping out of thin air, angry as ever. That's my Carolyn.

The helicopter had lurched upwards as I fell, and was retreating into the air as I hit the ground. Some part of my brain had registered what was about to happen, it had tucked my chin and steadied my breath. I landed awkwardly, and hard, but I landed prepared.

I rolled and stood, grabbing onto the zombie that had just ruined my life. I headbutted it squarely in the skull, feeling the already rotten flesh and bone melt beneath my forehead.

I spared a single look at the helicopter, its spotlight searching elsewhere, the ladder shaking in the turbulent wind. I couldn't see Carolyn, just a shapeless shadow.

The remains of my bonfire zombie had sizzled out, and I was left with mostly darkness. That suited me just fine.

I chose a direction at random, and began running. I didn't let myself think, I didn't let myself cry or scream or lash out at the things around me. I was sealed tight against the realities of what had just happened, I focused only on what would happen next.

I ran for a good twenty minutes, until running become impossible. Until I settled into a jog, shifting my direction whenever the arms and mouths of the zombies forced me to.

I made it to the outskirts of Puddletown. It's insides were still a mess of flame and smoke, not somewhere I could safely holdout until morning.

Instead I roamed its edges, looking for a barn, a tree, anything I could climb into and make myself small.

There wasn't much to go on, a couple of broken down cars that I could lock myself inside, but that would be ultimately fatal if surrounded.

I circled the village, stopping only to scan the night sky for signs that the helicopter might be coming back to collect me, and to swing scythes at any Z's that cottoned onto my being alive and tasty.

Eventually I chose a school bus. It looked vaguely familiar, as if I'd passed it before on my travels into and out of Puddletown. It's interior was dark, and probably full of chomping cretins. I instead climbed onto its protruding front, and then up onto the roof.

I mentally judged it safe, rolling onto my back, shifting my backpack to underneath my head, and then lying in absolute stillness.

I recited several songs in my head. I went through the names of every person I'd ever known. I mentally recalled every lesson and lecture I'd ever been in. I thought of anything, anything I could think of. Anything except that fucking helicopter.

I didn't sleep. Not that night. Not even the next. I didn't eat either. I just sat and ached, and ocassionally cried. Sometimes I even laughed, for no reason at all.

I gathered quite the audience. At least forty admiring fans, reaching up to me to give me zombie high-fives.

I watched the sun rise, and by daylight I watched the fire of Puddletown die out. I watched the sunset, and listened for the helicopter.

I went crazy. Not full crazy, but a little crazy. I caught myself, on the third day, making a meal for two, as if Carolyn was going to climb up onto the schoolbus and share my last tin of pineapple slices.

I coughed blood. I pissed blood. I threw my own feces into the waiting face of the best looking zombie, just to ruin his day. I wrote poetry in my head. I played ukulele. I got fucking good at ukulele.

I'm still playing ukuelele. I'm still pissing blood and crying myself into a stupor. It's all I can bring myself to do.

The last thing I ate was the scab on the back of my head. The one Ian had given me. The one Hendryk had patched up.

My phone screen is a mess, a spiderweb of shattered glass, and the solar charger refuses to work. I imagine they carried out some kind of ritual suicide during the melee, or were crushed as I fell from the helicopter.

I've got five percent battery. I could do a lot of things with five percent battery.

I could tell you how I met Mo, or the first time we smoked pot. The first time I was arrested, or the first time I had sex. So many memories, good fucking memories – good memories of fucking, too.

What about the other end of the scale? What about the worst day of my life?

You already know that story.

The worst twenty-four hours of my life. The day humanity let me down, and then beat my face into the cold earth. The day Carolyn was ruined, ravaged and still refused to give up. Since that day, the thought of Ryan caused my heart to skip a beat. The thought of Jarvis' bullet-riddled corpse made my insides crawl.

The thought of Ian made me smile.

Not quite an eye for an eye, but it was a life for an earlobe, and that's close enough.

She isn't coming back. Carolyn, I mean. They aren't looking for me.

I've got no batteries and a three stringed ukulele. I'm out of food, water and fucks to give. I guess it's time I got up and did something. I've gotten tired of feeling sorry for myself. It's not like I can just sit here forever, fingering my missing earlobe and starving to death.

Starving to death. That's not my way, not after everything that's happened. After everyone I've lost and left to die.

There's a lot of things inside of me. The kid with no parents, who could barely read or write, but still had to fill in declaration forms before anyone acknowledged his existence. The boy who thought tuition fees were the end of the world. The boy who thought the end of the world was the greatest thing to ever happen. The guy who wanted to save the girl and run away into the horizon. The man who killed, and would kill again.

Pre-apocalypse trauma. Post-apocalypse trauma. Everything in between.

Campfire vodka and second hand nicotine.

There's fire inside me yet, smothered but still flickering.

So thank you, whatever you are. Diary. Confidante. Friend. You showed me a light at the end of the tunnel, and hey, it's not your fault that it was the dim light reflecting from the shovel that is slowly digging my grave.

After all, it's not easy being me. But nobody else is going to do it.

Luigi out.

The End.