"To greed, all nature is insufficient." – Seneca
Let me guess, you are probably expecting the "normal" type of zombie story? You know the one with the wide range of characters? There is the token Black, Asian or Mexican guy. There is the hero who seems to know what he's doing despite the fact he has no direct experience. There is the helpless girl who ends up been a sassy butt kicker about mid way through the story. Then you have the guy who provides comic relief. We can't forget the guy who knows how to use a gun and make a place defensible. The story normally has a scene where there is a tossup between the useful guy and the token character and which of them dies first. This is a chance for the only "useful" or minority character to die early, which in turn hurts the other characters chance for survival or else plays havoc with their drive to survive. Chances are, this leads to a more intense and suspenseful plot. Maybe. You might have a nut job or a selfish jerk somewhere in there too, just to spice things up.
They usually end up in a shopping mall, a school, a prison or the like. Maybe they take a road trip through an infected countryside. There always seems to be a nearly equal number of men and woman. That's another thing—the majority of the main characters are adults, Caucasian, heterosexual and are police, military or some form of medical personnel. Why is the adult to kid ratio stacked in favour of adults in a zombie story? What are authors afraid of "offending" people? By NOT having kids in it, you are implying they are already dead, which is kind of depressing when you think about it.
It wasn't like that with me. There was no Johnny Cash singing "The Man Comes Around" to a montage of civilization descending into violence. No hero going down firing a machine gun while he is swarmed, saving the life of his team mates. No wrecked cars or burning buildings while the infection swept the globe in a few short hours. The infection wasn't quick and violent, at least in the beginning. It was slow and insidious. It took weeks- a slow burning infection in plain sight, just enough time for the government to mount a "containment programme." Like that would work. How long did it take FEMA to get water to the Superdome? At the end though (sigh), the blight took off faster than anything I could imagine.
Most of the damage that happened to property only came after the infection had taken its toll, and it made survival hard. This is my story of survival.
There was a cold wind coming from the north. It promised snow, ice and a hard winter ahead. I would have to start heading south soon, find somewhere warmer, where I could find a supply of water that wouldn't freeze and I wouldn't run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. I also needed to find somewhere for fresh supplies.
In the beginning, many people had talked about "heading north," because the infected supposedly froze in winter. Would you do that? Head north and hope they would freeze? Sorry to tell you guys, but the Maple Leaf Curtain had come slamming down. All heading north had done was make sure that a lot of people from Sun Belt states were unprepared for winter. They couldn't drive south again, because they had run out of gas. A lot tried to walk back home, but they ended up as food for the zombies that had followed them. Those whose stayed, alongside the remaining people from the northern states, had pretty much stripped the place clean of supplies.
As the situation got more desperate, after the looting, the shootings had started. Crazy random shooting. People shot anything that moved, which lead to a lot of people who might have survived and fought the zombies been turned into zombies themselves.
I shook my head, trying to clear these thoughts. They were for later or maybe for never again. For now, I needed to focus on the job at hand. I tightened my grip on the lead reins in my hands and lead the horse through the mass of wrecked cars. No car would be able to drive down this street now, and the horse whickered in fear when we passed a car containing the reanimated corpse of a cop.
"Its okay girl," I soothed the horse, feeding her a sugar cube and picking up speed.
Once we were passed the car, I tide the horse to a lamp post, and took a shovel out of the pack slung over her back. By the time I made it back to the car, the cop had climbed out of the shattered front window of the car and was just about to pick himself up from the ground. I brought the shovel crashing down on his head, caving it in. I took off his gun belt, checking the gun and the clips, fastening it around my own waist when I was sure it was OK. I reached into the car, popping the boot and took the shotgun. I rummaged in the boot and got the shells. When I had everything of use, I walked back to the horse and secured the extra material in the pack. The horse whickered again, but I wasn't worried. The minute she started pulling on the reins and trying to escape, then I would worry.
I scanned the street again, like I had done ever couple of yards. Nothing had changed. Just a load of abandoned cars and looted stores. Most of the infected had followed the remaining civilians when they fled with the Sheriff, and I had taken care of the rest, only to find my food supply dangerously low. There might be some burger patties left at the fast food joint on the corner. The electricity had remained on for longer than I had thought it would. It had only died yesterday. I untied the horse, leading her down the road. I passed a garbage truck that had a bright yellow and black poster plastered on the side, with a large biohazard sign dominating the top. The poster read:
THIS VEHICLE CONTAINS
INFECTIOUS HUMAN REMAINS!
Body bags were visible in the back. The truck was a reminder of the failed government attempt to contain the spread of infection- before things got really bad, before the mass wave of people all trying to make it to Canada, or somewhere, anywhere, that promised a colder climate. All I cared about was that it was far enough away from the burgers so that it didn't pose a health risk. I glanced briefly at the bags, wondering in morbid curiosity which one belonged to my girlfriend, then moved on before I ended up bawling like a little kid. That happened more than I liked to admit. I always liked to think I was tough, but after seeing everything I cared about eaten away by a creature that should only exist in a little kid's nightmare; I didn't feel tough any more.
I belched loudly after I had scarfed the last of the burger, tossing the paper plate onto the ever growing pile of rubbish. My "sanctuary" was a two story brick house on the outskirts of town. The owner had done a pretty good job of securing it- it was just a pity he was an idiot who didn't know to unload a gun before he started cleaning it. Sucked for him. Good for me. I got a sweet pad, and my horse got her own room too.
I flicked on the CB radio- my only form of entertainment now- to listen to the chatter from a few of the other survivors. From what I could gather, the Unholy Trinity was on. The Unholy Trinity was this collection of guys who spewed theories as to what could have caused the infection. So far the possible sources of the infection included: Al-Qaeda, an international Jewish Conspiracy, Al-Qaeda, Catholics, Al-Qaeda, the British Monarchy, Al-Qaeda, Michael Moore (don't ask), Al-Qaeda, the French, Al-Qaeda, Max Brooks, and their personal favourite, Al-Qaeda. It was going to be another boring night.
Perhaps I should use this time while the Unholy Trinity is babbling on to introduce myself. My name is Brandon Summers. I'm fifteen. I have grey eyes, black hair, and I am very fit and muscular. Until two weeks ago, I had a normal family. A mom, a dad, two younger brothers who got on my nerves, an older sister and a dog. Honestly, I don't know what happened to any of them. We all knew what was happening around the country. We had seen the cars from out of town pulling into the gas station with frantic looking drivers. We had seen the news. It just didn't affect our daily life as much as you would have thought. Sure, my parents were putting in overtime at the hospital and factory they worked in due to sick colleagues and basic essentials were becoming harder to get, but that was it.
Then one day, my mom dropped my brothers off for a sleepover before going to work at the hospital, my dad rang to say he would be late home from work and my sister went on a date. That was the last I saw of them. I put on my Xbox 360, and when I woke up the next morning, the garbage truck with the bodies was parked at the end of the street. Even my dog was gone. I searched all over for them, in the panic. It was only when I got home that evening and still no one was there that I broke down for the first time. I freaked out. I alternated between sobbing and punching holes in the walls, just wanting to get attention- anyone's attention. I was having a total break from reality. I think that was the moment I finally realised what was happening.
What I got was one of them- the reanimated remains of Mrs. Morales from next door. She had shambled to the door. I wasn't scared, not right away. But I was very worried. She looked ill, with her greyish skin and unfocused eyes. She began pounding at the door with a heavy fist. I thought she wouldn't get in until, in a spastic jerk, she head butted her way through the door. She cut herself pretty badly on the shards of glass, but there was no blood. She had fallen in such a way that a large shard had imbedded itself in her stomach. Once she had regained her footing, she came at me in this slow, methodical limp, her arms raising, her jaw dropping and making this weird, choking rasping noise, the glass still poking from her belly. I think I punched her, because she was on the floor, getting up again. I think I pummelled her for several minutes and didn't even get a bruise. I broke a few ribs, but nothing slowed her down. Finally, I snapped her neck. She dropped, her jaw still snapping and her eyes were still following me, but she didn't get up. By that stage, I had drawn in more. Mrs. Morales's son was limping over the broken glass. He was ten years old, the front of his jumper stained red from a wound in his neck. He ignored his mother and made straight for me. I slammed him in the face with a fist, knocking him to the floor. He began to pick himself up, with his father was following him through the broken door, and that is when I ran.
I ran, I hid and here I am now. Alone. I flick off the CB radio, crawl into bed and turn off my torch. The question now is, do you feel like keeping me company on my journey? God knows I could do with the company.
Authors Note: I have to address some things brought up in reviews. One) While in the beginning, Brandon had been living at the "shelter" for two weeks, he hasn't settled into that sort of life that quickly, he had time to mentally prepare himself for it. The whole infection thing didn't go down in two weeks. The time frame of the infection was actually several months, and it was a constant news story—it just it really started getting bad two weeks before the beginning of the story. In the beginning, it was an easily contained illness in some small country towns, places where the military could easily surround and "disinfect" so to speak. But the more infected that began to crop up in places such as Boston, New York or Chicago, places with populations in the millions, and where it was easy for one or two infected to slip through the cracks, places with people of questionable legal status, the more the military began to lose control. The whole length of the infection, from beginning to full blown pandemic, is hinted at in later chapters. Two) The horse. Where Brandon learned how to ride will be explained in later chapters. As to where he got the horse, that's for a little later.