Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I used to like Wednesdays

Today is Wednesday. Right now I should be eating a burrito and buying comic books in the Square, but instead I'm sharpening my ax and trying to scrub the blood of a dear friend off my hands. That'll teach me to get less than four hours of sleep on the night before the Zombie Apocalypse...

For some reason the Internet is still up and running - God bless the nerds of the world (besides, a server room is probably the most defensible place in an office building). News sites are getting slammed of course, but from what we can glean from blogs and other sources it looks like it's not just Boston that is overrun with the undead, but the entire world. How it started is still something of a mystery. My friend Jason reports that it may have started in Louisville, Kentucky, whereas other people are saying Asia. Not that it really matters at this point, I guess.

I still haven't heard from my wife. Gloucester gets lousy cell coverage to begin with, so she may just be in a dead patch - I can't believe I just typed that - but who the hell knows? I know I have to be judicious with the power on my phone because I don't have the charger with me and who knows how long the electricity is going to hold out in this place. Computers, cell phones - they all seem so fucking useless right now anyway. I wish I could get back there right now but I know that I can't, as local bloggers say there's a line of zombies stretching for as far as the eye can see from the ocean all the way to the Merrimack Valley devouring everything in their path. Someone said the Air National Guard has been trying to firebomb the shit out of them but their ranks are so depleted by the Iraq War that they can't muster enough sorties to make a difference. Then again, the story out of the Middle East is equally grim, so it probably wouldn't have mattered whether we had our soldiers here or not.

But I'm avoiding telling you something awful. Because it's Wednesday. And Wednesday is supposed to be comic book day...

There were only a handful of us in the library after they locked it down - the early-birds, the janitorial staff, and the security guards who stayed rather than try to make a break for it when they first heard the news. Though I'm not sure where they'd have gone. Someone said that there was a cruise ship down along the Boston waterfront, but getting there would have been a suicidal journey with the T crawling with ghouls all around downtown and zombies prowling the wide boulevards of Back Bay. Maybe with a gun, but somehow I doubt it. Because what use is a pistol when you run out of bullets and the dead keep coming?

Better to have an ax. A sharp one. All the better to split open the skull of a zombie. Or someone about to become one...

My best friend M. was at the library as well. He'd been smart enough to get the hell out of his Central Square offices and hightail up to Harvard as soon as the Internet started to buzz with strange reports of the living dead sweeping up into New England. Not only was the library one of the most solidly-built structures in Cambridge, but it also had a commanding view of the surrounding town and was large enough to permit a helicopter rescue if anyone managed to mount such an operation. Fortunately he remembered that I'd given him a Stacks Pass ages ago, so he used the dog-earned yellow square of card-stock to get admittance. I still can't believe that they were turning people away up until the very end, when it became terrifyingly obvious that there was noplace else to go. What a day to be a victim of our library's strict access policies!

M. had seen the initial waves working their way through Cambridge. Before the zombies had reached a critical mass it was still possible to try to avoid them as he did, but as they waylaid unsuspecting souls and turned them the streets choked at an exponential rate with their ranks, just like all those funny little simulations you'd find linked on Digg or Fark. Except avoiding these ghouls wasn't a game, and you didn't get time to figure out how deadly serious it was until it was too late. Briefly M. had considered getting into his car and trying to plow his way to freedom before good sense prevailed.

"Maybe in an SUV," he said. "But not my piece of shit Chevy."

I was glad to see at least one person who was dear to me still alive. Not only was the fate of Mrs. and Baby Exile gnawing at me, but I hadn't heard anything from the rest of my family as well save for a frantic text message from my dad shortly before Verizon's network got swamped:


If it meant what I hoped it did, my dad was on the Cape May Ferry, which could easily put out to sea and get away from the insanity at least until the food and fresh water ran out. Maybe that would be enough time...

"Dude, I don't feel so well."

It was then that I noticed that my friend M. had a long scratch running down his left forearm, like from a cat only larger. The wounds were a mottled purple and exuded a powerful smell of decay as he rolled up his sleeve to examine them more closely.


He was quick, but he hadn't been quick enough. While a zombie can turn a man on the spot with a bite - already we were becoming ghoul experts through Blogger and a sense of life-or-death necessity - scratches took some time to fester, which is what made the outbreak so easy to spread. Whereas a full-blown zombie was easy to spot and perhaps try to avoid, these walking infected could go for hours before suddenly attacking their neighbors without warning. And it was possible that even just their touch could infect a healthy host, although right at that moment that was so much idle speculation fueled by panic and fear.

Before I could even think I had the fire ax in my hand. We had recently been running through a series of Emergency Preparedness drills thanks to the carnage of the Virginia Tech shootings, and although I don't know what in God's name I would do with an ax in the event that a lone gunman stalked our library for some reason I made a point of memorizing its location when we did our assessment nevertheless. And now I knew why.

"Dude?" M. looked at me with horror mixed with a grim sense of understanding as I raised the blade over his head. I didn't even have the decency to tell him that I was sorry when I brought the ax down on his skull, splitting it in two. The brain is the only way to stop them, the reports all agreed. Makes the undead dead once more, and keeps the dead from becoming undead in the first place. It was the only way, I think to myself, but I know that won't keep me from replaying those awful moments in my head over and over again until the day that I die (which looks as if it will be sooner rather than later).

I sharpen my ax and scrub at my hands. Did M.'s blood infect me as well? I don't feel like a zombie. Zombies don't crave comic books and burritos. Zombies don't wonder whether their loved ones are alive, dead, or something worse. Zombies don't grieve for the friends they just killed with their own two hands.

Or do they?

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