Adrenaline is sometimes painful.
The anger that coursed through my body as I mutilated – and that’s the right word for what I had done – the Paul Marcum look-alike faded before I got back in the truck. My hands and legs shook as the effects wore off. I guessed that’s what a junkie feels like after a high, after his head has been totally messed up for a few hours or a day or whatever and reality starts to come back. I was cold and my joints were stiff and I shivered as if winter had arrived and brought with it the northern winds.
I drove the mile to the exit ramp that led to Sommerville. Pulled off the interstate. At the dead light I turned and crossed onto the overpass. There I stopped, got out of the truck and walked to the edge of the overpass. My legs still shook a little and I was tired and feeling weak. I stared off toward Charleston. In the distance I could see a few of the dead shambling about. How many? I couldn’t say, but there was no staying any length of time in Sommerville. It could take them a couple hours to get there. Or it could take them a couple days. Honestly, it’s not something I wanted to risk.
Back in the truck I started the cross over and made my way back toward the interstate. I passed a few bodies lying on the ground, some burned out vehicles. One windshield caught my attention. The blood had dried where the driver’s skull struck. The glass spiderwebbed in all directions. The driver was wedged between the steering wheel and the windshield. I couldn’t help but wonder about the events that led him to the point in time where his head became a ruptured melon. Was he fleeing for his life? Did he swerve to keep from hitting someone or something? The front end of the car was crumpled in, the bumper slumped toward the ground.
“An accident,” I whispered.
“More than likely.” Humphrey sounded more and more intelligent with each passing day. The little girl’s voice had been growing up as we went. I hadn’t noticed it until then. I looked at him–at her–and I didn’t see a stuffed teddy bear wearing a bunny costume. I saw a little girl who was no longer around four or five, but closer to eight. Maybe nine. Her hair was long and brown and there was a braid on one side. Freckles lined the bridge of her nose and spotted parts of her cheeks. The bunny ears were still there, still floppy and in need of cleaning, and the costume had stretched tight over the girl’s body. The arms and legs ended at the armpits and mid thighs.
I couldn’t pull my eyes from her. No matter how bad I wanted to, I couldn’t turn away.
It was a mental lapse that almost cost me dearly.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Humphrey,” she said without moving her lips.
“No. Humphrey’s a teddy bear. You’re–”
“I’m alive and–”
At some point I must have let my foot off the break. The truck rolled, but I didn’t realize it. By the time I did, it had reached the exit ramp, crept off the edge of the road and started down the grass and gravel embankment.
“Shit,” I yelled, mashed the break as hard as I could. I leveled the steering wheel, trying to keep the truck straight as it skidded down the hill. The embankment didn’t look that far down, but it seemed to go on for miles, all in a world of slow motion special effects that if this were a movie the viewer would have gotten to see the truck bounce and jostle and would have seen my face screwed up in determination, jaw clenched too damn tight as I held onto the steering wheel. The front passenger’s side tire struck a large rock. The truck bounced up and over it, teetered to one side, then tipped over.
I don’t know how many times I went head over heels. I do know the truck came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, upside down. I struck my head on the ceiling and my left shoulder felt like someone had stabbed me with a hot poker. My left ankle hurt, as did my legs.
The world sat upside down and the blood flowed to my head. Pressure filled my face and there was a rush of water coming from somewhere in my skull, the flood echoing in my ears. I tried to move my left arm, felt a bolt of pain and forced my hand across my lap. With the other hand, I pushed up on the ceiling, taking as much weight off the seatbelt as I could. I pressed the button and the belt released. My head bumped the ceiling again, but I was free of the restraint. I rolled onto my right shoulder, grimaced as another pain tore through my left arm.
The pain was intense for a few minutes, but the danger I was in… that danger was far more real than the way my body felt. Laying on my side the rushing waters in my ears subsided and the blood seemed to draw back down into my body. A little relief, but not much.
I pulled my feet free and got on my knees. My ankle barked once, but nothing like my arm. I looked at my shoulder. I could see the swelling, the way it had pulled free from the socket.
The windshield was cracked. There were a few trees around us and the grass was grown up considerably.
“You okay, Humphrey?”
He didn’t respond. He just hung upside down in his car seat. I reached over, worked the clasp with one hand until it came free. Humphrey tumbled onto the ceiling, gave a sharp ‘ow.’
She sounded little again. I was okay with that.
“We need to get out of here, Humphrey.”
“Where are we going to go?”
“I don’t know. Maybe find somewhere to hole up for a day or two–my shoulder’s killing me.”
Outside I could see only the grass and trees around us. The engine hissed as fluid leaked from a busted hose. The handle lifted easily enough and I pushed the door open. It groaned as metal on metal tend to do. I grabbed the pistol and carefully poked my head out. I didn’t know if any zombies heard the tumble, but I saw none of them either on the road just beyond us or on the hill at the top of the overpass.
A few minutes later, I had my pack over my good shoulder, Humphrey tucked in the top part, the zipper tight to keep him from falling out. The food and weapons were scattered about the ground. I grabbed as much ammo as I could fit in the pack and in my pockets and slung old Babe over my left shoulder and around my neck. The strap tugged on the wounded shoulder and I grimaced as fresh pain raced down into my elbow and up into my neck.
At the top of the hill my worst fear had become a reality. Several of the dead had heard the truck crash and made their way toward me. One of them–a thin man with a chunk of hair missing on the side of his head–saw me. His upper lip twitched and he groaned.
I reached for my machete. A panic came over me so sudden it felt like electricity along my skin. The machete lay in the road a mile away where I had mutilated the Paul Marcum look-alike. I didn’t want to fire the weapon. Not then. Not with only a handful of them nearby. The truck crash was one thing, but the gun would echo and carry further.
Limping, though not as badly as I thought I would, I hurried away from the overpass and down a stretch of road that led away from the stores and restaurants the other direction promised. The center of the road provided distance between the buildings and I hurried as fast as I could, keeping eyes on the corners of the structures and the zombies trailing behind me.
I don’t know how far I walked. My shoulder pulsed, my ankle ached. I realized one of my knees hurt and that there was a good chance it was swollen. The skin felt tight, but stopping to check wasn’t an option. Eventually what seemed like a small shopping district gave way to an open road with a few cars along its side. Off in the distance and across what looked like a world of tall grass, stood a house. No zombies came from that direction.
Behind me shambled a dozen or more of the soulful dead.
I started to cross the grass, then thought better of it. What if there was a wayward zombie in there? Instead I went to the end of the road that led to the house. It was more like a long dirt driveway with gravel and rock lining both sides.
The house easily sat a hundred yards or so off the road and though the dead were still a good distance behind me, walking didn’t feel safe. I ran the best I could. At first the pain in my ankle was like slivers of glass tearing at the muscle and bone, but after a dozen or so steps it loosened up and I ran with a slight limp. In my younger, less beat up days, I could have run that hundred yards in twelve or thirteen seconds. Not then.
At the house I had my gun at the ready, arm extended, finger on the trigger. It was a two story wooden structure with ornately carved rails and designs along the windows. The white paint flaked a little on the edges and what was probably once red trim had faded to pink. A dozen or so steps led up to the landing where the door stood closed. The windows were boarded from the outside. Maybe someone still lived there. I could only hope.
I knocked, waited, looked out toward the road. The dead still lingered about. Some of them had shuffled back toward town. I knocked again. When no one answered, I tried the knob. It turned–it actually turned. I couldn’t believe it. For a moment longer I stared at the door, then pushed it open.
Once inside, I closed the door, let it click shut. I set Babe on the floor and lowered the pack.
“Stay here, Humphrey.”
Like he–she, damn it, she–was going anywhere. The kitchen was empty. The hall that led away from it had two rooms to the right, a bathroom to the left. No one occupied these rooms. Stairs led up to the bedrooms. I braced myself as I went up one step at a time. A few creaks sounded louder than they probably were. I cringed with each one and prayed the sounds didn’t alarm anyone–living or otherwise–to my presence.
Four bedrooms and a full bath and not a soul to be found. Each of the bedrooms held their own particulars; their own characteristics telling what type of people had lived there. The one at the end of the hall, closest to the bathroom held my attention for a few minutes longer than I wanted it to. Posters of baseball players were tacked to the walls. Baseball bats sat in a rack bolted to the wall closest to the bed. A banner that said RED SOX 2004 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS–THE CURSE IS DEAD had been put up along the edge of the ceiling like a border. A ball sat in a glove on top of the dresser. It was definitely a boy’s room. By the size of the bed, I would say a little boy.
Bobby played baseball. Second base. His old man played third, though I was a lousy hitter. Bobby swung a bat much better than I ever did. I closed my eyes and I saw him in uniform, taking cuts while standing in the on deck circle. At the plate was Charlie Rose’s little boy, Chuck–yeah, he was a junior, but instead of calling him that, we all just called him Chuck. The pitcher was a kid I didn’t know, his hair sandy blond and long, with thick strands hanging out the back and sides of his cap. A large A in Old English font was plastered across the front of the opposing team’s uniforms and hats. He threw the pitch and Chuck singled into left field. The outfielder bobbled the ball and Chuck, even at ten years old, knew to run to second base.
Bobby came up to the plate, swung his bat a few times then stepped into the batter’s box. A first pitch strike was followed by a ball, then another strike. The pitcher wound up and…
I didn’t know what brought me away from my thoughts. I was startled to see that the sun was setting. How long had I stood there?
“Shit,” I said and hurried out of the room and back down the stairs. With no one there, I thought it safe to lock the door. But, with all the windows boarded up with plywood, I couldn’t see outside. I opened the front door, looked out with the gun ready if needed. At the bottom of the steps I saw what snapped me from my memories: one of the dead had made it from the road to the house. I reckon it tried to climb the steps, but only managed to fall backward. It struggled to stand, but its legs were too rigid to bend.
I went back inside, very aware of the pain coursing through my shoulder. The arm had grown stiff. I grabbed Babe from the floor and made my way down the steps. White film covered the man’s eyes and his mouth snapped open and shut, open and shut. “End of the line,” I said and brought the butt of the gun down on his head. It cracked, but he still squirmed a little. Again, I brought the butt of the gun down, this time much harder. His head split from forehead back.
A shiver traced up my spine and I hurried back up the steps. That’s something I never got used to, physically striking one of the dead. As a kid I hated fighting or even the idea of hurting someone with my fists. The thought of it made me nauseas. With the dead, a pulled punch could be the end of your life. Still, my skin crawled and I wanted nothing more than a shower that I wouldn’t get.
With the door closed and locked, I went over to a couch in the front room. I was thankful there was no carpet on the floor. If there had been, I would have never been able to move that couch to in front of the door.
I walked the downstairs a second time. All the windows had been nailed shut from the inside, boards covered them from the outside. The backdoor window had also been covered with wood, but a hole had been drilled in it at about eye level. I wondered why the person who had taken all the precautions to board the house up didn’t bother with drilling a hole in the wood in the front door as well.
Like a lot of houses, there were pictures on the walls and these pictures showed a happy family. Two adults, a teenaged daughter and a young boy, blond haired and shining blue eyes. He looked like a baseball player. Add a couple years to him and he could have been that pitcher…
I grabbed my pack and Babe and headed up the stairs to the second floor. I was exhausted and wanted sleep, but there was the matter of my shoulder. In the bathroom mirror – one that was as tall as the door it hung on – I pulled my shirt off. The skin was tight and purple and red. The swelling covered the clavicle completely.
I tried to lift my shoulder. Bright bolts of pain shot through my arm and I let go. I spun in a slight circle, tears in my eyes.
”Come on,” I said, looked at myself in the mirror. When did that beard grow in? When did those dark gray bags form under my eyes? When did I grow so damn old?
The pain was bad, but would be worse if I didn’t get the shoulder back in place.
I put my hand under the elbow and lifted my arm. The growl from my throat scared me. The pain of locked up muscles being forced to move brought fresh tears to my eyes. With a quick shove upward, my shoulder moved with several pops.
I screamed. My vision filled with dots and my stomach grew sour as the immensity of the pain threatened to swallow me. I yelled, long and loud as I jammed the shoulder up a second time. On the third try there was an instant of relief as the shoulder went back into place. It was like an extracted tooth: it may be gone, but, God you still felt the phantom pain of it. My head grew light and those spots in my vision became larger. I stumbled from the bathroom and into the room that belonged to the boy. With the door closed, I slid the dresser in front of it.
To tell the truth, I don’t remember crawling into the bed or setting my pistol on the nightstand beside it. I don’t remember pulling Humphrey from the bag and setting him – her – on the pillow next to me.
What I remember is waking up with the sun shining through the slats in the blinds, my body aching and a tickle in my throat. I sniffled a snot runner and wiped my nose. A moment later I sneezed. Then again. And again. And several more times after that just because my body wanted to.
My breathing came in phlegm filled rasps. I sat up, fully alarmed at what appeared to be a cold setting in. My shoulder hurt, but not like it had when it was out of socket. It was more of a dull throb that let me know it was there. At any other time, a cold would be just that, a cold. But, in these times where a cold started this whole mess, my mind seized on the only truth it could: I was dying and sooner or later I would be one of them.
I sat up in the bed, swung my feet to the floor. My boots scuffed against the hardwood floor and I stood too quickly. The swooning in my head forced me to sit back down. I waited, eyes closed, head down, for the world to stop spinning. When it did, I stood slowly. My heart hammered my chest and the thoughts… the thoughts that traipsed across my mind…
What if I’m dying? What if this is the Zombie Flu that took so many others? What do I do? There’s no cure. Do I…
I shook my head to that thought. If push came to shove, I guess, then I would. That reminded me of what someone said long before the zombies became a reality: Always keep a bullet for yourself just in case the worst happened. I checked my weapon. Plenty of bullets there. Which one had my name on it?
A tickle formed in the left nostril, provoking a sneeze that was followed by four more. I coughed, told myself that the scratch in my throat was nothing.
I limped my way to the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet. I don’t know who owned the house before the end came, but they had medicine, both for colds and pain. I took two of the cold pills dry and wished I had grabbed a couple bottles of water before I took off. But, I hadn’t.
Another snot runner sniffled back up into my nose.
“I can’t be sick. There’s been few people… barely enough to…”
The Paul Marcum look-alike came to mind. I bludgeoned him badly and this was Karma biting me on the ass. Humphrey said something when I got back in the truck. He said I had blood on my face. I wiped it away – black gunk, thick like sludge.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Like my brother, I had been done in by Paul Marcum – Lee by the real deal and me by the phony. How do you like those apples?
Down the hall in one of the other bedrooms I found some clothes. They were a little big for me, but they were clean and clean was good. I changed, dumped my old clothes into a trash bag that would probably never be moved outside that house. With my old boots on, I grabbed the pistol. The end of me may have come, but I wasn’t going to go without a fight. And if I was going to fight, I needed my guns…
“Stay here,” I told Humphrey after shoving the couch out the way. He sat in the center of it, a loaded pistol on his lap. “I’ll be back.”
“Are you sure?”
I gave a nod. No, I wasn’t sure. To be honest, I had no intentions of going back. Humphrey had been with me for a short while and he – she, damn it – had probably kept me sane through much of the Hell, and I didn’t want to turn into a zombie with her there to see me. I wanted to leave and die somewhere else without Humphrey having to know. In a way, I guess I was sparing her the pain of watching me die. “You bet, buddy.”
The door closed with a click and I lowered my head. He – she – was just a stuffed toy. She wasn’t real. All of the conversations we had were in my head. Right? Still, the guilt of lying swelled in my chest. I bit my bottom lip and shook my head. A deep breath and I headed down the steps, passed the dead person at the base of the stairs and kept going.
I limped, but barely. My ankle and knee were tight, but my shoulder hurt more. I sneezed and grimaced as something tore free in my chest. I spat a string of yellowish phlegm out.
Life is funny sometimes. Not that haha funny, but more like a curve ball you just can’t hit. There were no zombies walking around when I reached the road. I walked that same stretch back toward the shopping district, saw the overpass in the distance. The closer I got the tighter my chest became. The anxiety of meeting death head on scared me as much as dying itself.
The first of the dead that appeared made my skin prickle. I moved between two cars, ducked down and hurried around it. At the overpass I looked down at my truck. Bottled water lay on the ground and the dryness of my mouth begged me to run down and get some, but I didn’t. Instead, I eyed a drug store about a block or so away. I hurried around the burned bodies and the car with the man’s head splattered against the windshield.
After crossing the overpass I realized that I had made a mistake. They were there, many of them wandering aimlessly about. I didn’t have near enough bullets to take them all out. I detoured into a parking lot where several cars sat and then hurried along the edge of a building, checking the corners when I had to step away and out into the open. At the drug store, I stepped over a body in the doorway. Flies hummed about it, no doubt getting their daily fill of rotting flesh and laying their billions of eggs.
I eased into the door and my heart trip hammered. A little girl leaned against the counter, her hair dirty and matted. I eased down a side aisle, almost frantic with panic. If I shot her the others were sure to hear.
The pharmacy sat at the back of the store. Several corpses lay back there. I went through the half door, made sure it closed behind me. It would take a little work for the girl to get it open and with the upper half clear, I could see her if she heard me and managed to make it back there.
In the pharmacy I nudged the bodies. Someone had given them each a bullet to the head. I rummaged around in the semi-dark area. Though a lot of the drugs had been looted, there were still several bottles of good painkillers and cold medicines. Even better was the large bottle of 500 mg Amoxicillin in pill form. I set my pack on the floor, unzipped the front pouch. The Amoxicillin and painkillers went in, along with the prescription cold syrups.
I realized as I stashed the drugs away that I wasn’t ready to die. It had been extremely foolish of me to leave the safety of the house, but maybe… maybe if I could make it back with the meds, things might be okay. And even if I died, at least I would have Humphrey there to comfort me.
The sneeze was as sudden as the longing for my little stuffed traveling partner was. Snot and phlegm shot out of my mouth and nose. I inhaled deeply and several more sneezes came. After the sneezing fit subsided I heard the shuffling feet from outside the pharmacy door. I scanned the back part of the area for anything that could keep me from firing either of my guns. Sure, I could have used old Babe’s butt again, but swinging the rifle with the arm as stiff as it was didn’t seem feasible.
What I found was a broom. That’s all. I grabbed it, and broke the broom head off on one of the counters. It made a loud crack that seemed to echo in the room. By the time I looked up, the little girl stood in front of the half door. She groaned or growled or mumbled. I don’t know, but she sounded angry.
“Hey there, little girl,” I said. She looked to be eight, maybe nine. I thought of Humphrey, of the voice I heard the day before. That girl had sounded about the same age as the one in front of me.
She growled and bumped against the door hard. She reached a stiff arm out that seemed to creak when she moved it.
Deep breaths wheezed in my chest and that tickle came back in my nose. I stepped forward, the broom handle raised over my head. My scratchy throat only got worse as I swallowed hard.
The girl tried to break through the door, the one arm outstretched with blood crusted under the nails. Her eyes were cataract white and seemed to glow in the gray of the building.
“I’m sorry.” I swung the handle down on her head as hard as I could. She stumbled back. If she had been alive it would have dazed her and knocked her to the ground. She was far from alive and though it seemed to daze her, she stumbled forward, a howl in her throat and black blood oozing down the center of her forehead. Again, I swung the handle, then opened the half door before she could step forward again.
I was vaguely aware of the pain in my shoulder, but not enough to lesson the force of the blows. The next swung was like a baseball bat, coming across and catching her in the side of the head. She toppled over and I quickly brought a boot down on her throat. Still, her jaws chomped at me. A moment later, the jagged end of the broomstick jutted from the center of her skull and she moved no more.
“I’m so sorry,” I repeated.
My breaths came in wheezing gasps and my eyes itched. A sneeze came and snot bubbled from my nose. I wiped it on the shirt and went back to the pharmacy, grabbed my pack and old Babe. I scrounged about a little more back there, found a shoulder brace and arm sling. I pulled it from the packaging and tucked it in the center pouch of the bag.
Out in the store, I scrounged the few water bottles left behind. There were some chips and, holy cow, a can of beanie weanies. I drank down one full bottle of water, let the coolness of it relieve the scratch in my throat and quench my thirst.
I caught a glimpse of the dead girl and my heart began to ache, not only for her, but for my little stuffed buddy and the girl in my head that owned her. That guilt resurfaced and I thought of Bobby. Would I have ever left Bobby alone in an unfamiliar house with the dead walking around outside while I went off to die? No. But, I had left Humphrey, my travelling companion these last few months. I hated myself. In my mind I could hear her–cause that’s what she is, a girl–crying and I could feel her fear as the dead surrounded the house and threatened to bust down the door. And I hadn’t bothered locking up, so getting in wouldn’t be all that hard for an intelligent walker.
Before leaving the pharmacy, I checked behind the counters. There had to be–and there was–a weapon. It was nothing more than a steel bar that someone had placed back there, something you would use for leverage on a lug wrench, but it was sturdy and hard and would probably only take one shot to take out any of the dead if they got too close.
As I had before, I hugged close to the buildings on the way out. In the parking lot, blocking my way to the road stood an emaciated zombie. Skin hung off his body as if he had been a huge man at one time and lost a full person’s worth of weight. His head was bald and he held that blue/gray tint of a person who had asphyxiated. His jaw hung slack and the steps he took were nothing more than toe drags along the ground. I ran toward him, my knee and ankle no longer hurting like they did the day before, my pack heavy on my sore shoulder.
His skull cracked and he collapsed to the ground. Very little blood spilled from the gash in his head. Later on, I would think about that slight bit of sludge that leaked from the wound and wonder how long he had been dead. I would wonder about the longevity of the deads’ afterlife and if all the living had to do was wait them out, until they finally rotted away.
That was for later and if there was going to be a later, I had to hurry. The mass of dead seemed to have grown since going into the pharmacy. How many were there now? Forty? Fifty? A hundred? I always thought one was one too many. In this case, I faced a hoard of shambling, stumbling zombies and if they…
The good thing about being alive during this… this… zombie apocalypse is you could run a hell of a lost faster than they could. Even on a bum leg. Many of them turned to me, their groans loud and I could hear the hunger in them. They were still pretty damn fast.
I ran and I didn’t break the one rule you always see getting broke in horror movies: looking back. No, I ran straight ahead, passed a car where a woman reached out for me. Her head cocked to one side when I hit her and she slumped against the car. At the road I darted across the overpass.
Being sick didn’t help me, though. My breaths came in sharp bursts and sounded like weak whistles in my chest. I reached the long dirt drive and turned. That’s when I looked back. I had thought there were maybe a hundred zombies behind me. I thought wrong. They seemed to come from everywhere, as if someone rang the dinner bell and I was the main course. They weren’t slowing down.
I ran on up the road and wished I were young again. At the yard I saw a zombie in all its glory come from around the corner of the house. She was an older lady, her hair somewhat blue and gray and matted, not one tooth in her mouth, but blood caked along her chin and the front of her moomoo just the same. I didn’t bother with the steel bar. The bullet split her skull and she crumpled.
I took the steps two by two and reached the door. For a moment I thought the handle wouldn’t work and at first it hadn’t. Then I realized I turned it the wrong way. Looking back, I could see them on the road. Some of them had already reached the dirt driveway.
The door came open and I hurried inside. I slammed it, locked the knob and dropped my pack to the floor. I ran to the couch, pushed it in front of the door.
Then I grabbed Humphrey…
“You came back,” she said. Always a she. Never, ever a he.
“Yes, I came back. I told you I would.”
“I thought you were lying.”
Tears touched the corners of my eyes and I pulled the bear from my chest. “I did.”
She said nothing.
“But, I came back. And I promise, I’ll never leave you behind again.”
It was all in my head, but Humphrey felt warm. Or maybe it was me. A fever had taken hold by then and the weakness of being sick settled into my muscles and bones and I could feel the rattle of death in my chest.
The thump on the steps outside brought me from the embrace of a stuffed animal. I looked to the door and hoped it would hold against the hoard outside. I grabbed the pack and the shotgun and Humphrey’s gun that lay on the couch and took them up the stairs. I ran back and moved the coffee table and a couple of nice chairs in front of the stairwell, even pulling them up the first couple steps for good measure.
At the top of the steps I looked around, saw nothing I could use to barricade that portion of the floor.
“I’m scared,” Humphrey said in her small voice.
In the boy’s room, I closed the door and set Humphrey on the bed. The dresser went back in front of the door and I moved the stuff from off the end table next to the bed. My guns–I only had three of them, the others lay near my truck off the ramp heading out of town–went onto it, loaded and ready. I cracked Babe open. Two shells. Maybe one of them would be for me.
We sat and waited. In the meantime, I took an antibiotic and a pain reliever, then pulled the sling and brace from my pack. I slid the shirt off and read the instructions on how to use it, then slid it up my arm, put the flap over my shoulder and put the Velcro ends together. The next part went around my chest where I again connected two Velcro ends, holding my shoulder in place. The pressure of the brace relieved some of the pain and kept my arm from sagging.
With the shirt back on, I pulled a chair to the window. Part of the roof extended out from there and I realized that it wasn’t a roof, but more of a patio area, a means for escape if I needed to. I longed for a rifle as I watched the dead approach the house.
I sat quietly, watching from that window, all the way up to when the sun began to go down. Some of the dead had turned course and went back up the road. Others stood idly, as if they slept on their feet. I went to the bed, lay down beside Humphrey. My head was in a daze and the room spun. I reached for a pistol, set it on my chest.
“What’s that for?” Humphrey asked in her soft child’s voice.
“Just in case,” I said, but didn’t tell her in case of what.
I closed my eyes and prepared to die…