Most days when I walked down my front porch and across my lawn to the bus, I saw things like a big yellow bus or neighbors watering their lawn, occasionally a kid on a bicycle. Today, I spotted a zombie.
In the mornings, when your head is still fuzzy with sleep, and you're putting around the house trying to get ready for the day, it takes a moment for something shocking to really sink in.
I stood frozen, one foot on the top step of the porch stairs, and the other on the second. My right hand was clasped firmly around my keys, left dangling at my side.
I watched it stumble in my direction, decomposing face viewable by the morning light. It's mouth opened and closed, chewing on invisible things and tasting something in the air my senses couldn't taste of smell.
When it's hands came up, body moving quicker—though still somehow sluggish—my instincts kicked in. Holding in my shriek of fright, I turned and dashed back inside, shoving my keys in the pocket of my coat and looking for the nearest blunt object I could as I slammed the door shut.
The only thing I kept inside the house was a wooden bat that my father had given me when I had first moved away from home. I never had a good swing—mandatory P.E. in elementary, middle, and high school wasn't much help—but it was the only thing I had.
Pulling the door to my hallway closet open, I shoved aside various jackets I had hidden away and wrapped my hand around the shaft of the bat, jumping at the sound of someone—or something—beating on my front door.
Holding the bat out in front of my body, I slowly moved towards the backdoor of my house, trying to plan out a safe way of getting to my car without being killed by the thing on my front porch.
I opened the door slowly, checking my back porch as efficiently as possible, before slipping out into the sunlight and heading around the side of my house.
That's when I saw him. My next door neighbor—an older guy named Gary—at the top of his wooden fence, skin decaying, eyes wild. I bit my lip to keep the yelp of surprise from escaping, eyes sweeping towards my front yard in hopes that the zombies hadn't tripled.
I could see my beat up old Volkswagen parked on the street, and without a thought, I took off running across the yard.
I couldn't stop, even when I heard multiple grunts and groans behind me. Struggling with the car, I finally yanked it open, throwing the bat on my passenger seat and pulling my keys from my pocket. I jumped as a fist slammed against my window, looking up in fear as a zombie attempted to maul me through the glass.
Shoving the keys into the ignition, I blew out a long shakey breath, shifted out of park, and hit the gas.
That first day was a doozy. Now, a year later, I sat inside an abandoned building surrounded by a group of people who had come to be my family. I knew how to shoot a gun, and I knew how to survive.
But zombies weren't the biggest threat anymore. People—healthy people—were turning on each other, hell-bent on being the last person standing. How do you survive in a world diseased with violence, when the people you're supposed to turn to only want to shoot you down?
"Ellie," Looking up at the man who called my name, a stocky and tall, much more intimidating man—looking down at me for answers. "We need to do a supply run. We're running low on... everything."
I pursed my lips, thinking for a second, before nodding. Reaching for my gun, I stood to my feet and tucked it into the waistband of my jeans. "Okay, get Ralph, Joe, and Iris. Make sure Kenny and Patrick stay here, though."
"You know they'll throw a fit, right?" He retorted, knocking his shoulder with mine as we headed back down the dark hallway towards the group.
Nodding, I tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear and shrugged. "We need them here, and that's that."
He agreed, looking me over for a second. "You okay?"
I nodded, because I was their leader. And I couldn't let the scared person inside of me out, even for a second. Vulnerability wouldn't help me survive the life we lived.
I needed to be strong. Even if I didn't feel so strong anymore.