Glen watched the monitors carefully, still seeing no movement for the fifth day in a row. He had been noting a gradual decline in zombie activity over the past two months, but the last five days had been totally devoid of any activity at all, even animal movement. When the outbreak had first occurred, Glen was the only one he knew that had been prepared. The total breakdown of social order was something for which he had been ready for a long time. The idea that the event would be precipitated by walking, flesh-eating corpses was something that surprised the hell out of even him. As disturbing as it was to watch men, women, and children being eaten alive, Glen still reacted in pretty much the same way as he would have if the entire U.S. population would have started rioting at the same time. He walked to his security control panel, typed in a few commands and locked everything outside. Glen’s home had been converted from an old brick building and had been modified to withstand all forms of break-in or unwanted entry. He sometimes joked that it could withstand anything short of a direct nuclear attack. Although nuclear attack was unlikely, he didn’t have to worry about Molotov cocktails or pipe bombs tossed about by some would-be anarchist. If regular locks are to keep honest people honest, Glen’s six inch thick steel doors with three inch crossbars were designed to send criminals the fuck home. Once locked down, Glen knew he was safe inside his home and all he had to do was wait the situation out. He had enough food and fuel for his generators to last a year if he rationed carefully.
And he had been very careful who he discussed his preparedness with. In fact, the only person he had talked to had been his brother, David. He wasn’t sure why he did, only that his brother was the only family he had left after his overbearing bitch of a mother had died. His relationship with David wasn’t much better as David had always looked down on him like he was some kind of insect. Once, during one of the few (and last) times his brother had visited him, Glen had shown David the safety measures he had taken. David had laughed his ass off and told Glen that he was a “paranoid fool who was wasting his money.” Glen said nothing to counter the accusation, but silently swore if something ever did happen David could find his own fucking shelter. Shortly after things went bad, that is exactly what happened. Two days after initiating the lockdown of his home, Glen awoke to a proximity alarm on his main control panel. His security system had detected movement at the front door. He looked at the monitor and saw his brother, along with his family, standing outside. He could see David was yelling something while he pounded on the steel door. Glen pushed a button to turn on the intercom.
“-us in, Glen! For god sakes, hurry! They’re close, you gotta open up!” David yelled. Glen watched David’s wife, Barb, holding their baby and glancing wildly around. Henry, that’s his name, Glen thought briefly. Henry was wearing a blue jumper and holding onto a bottle of milk, trying to drink. Glen could hear faint moaning in the background.
Glen started to push the buttons to unlock the front door, and then remembered what his brother had said. How his brother had laughed.
“You laughed at me, Dave. Remember? You laughed and said I was a paranoid fool. Who’s the fool now?” Glen said. He watched as David backed up and looked quizzically at the intercom, as if he couldn’t quite believe what he just heard. “Holy fuck, Glen! I’m sorry I laughed. You were right, OK? I’m sorry. Please, let us in! My wife and son are out here and those fucking things are getting closer. We drove through a crowd of them to get here and theyaregettingfuckingcloser!” David yelled at the intercom.
Glen looked again at his sister-in-law and nephew. He could see tears in her eyes and could hear the baby starting to cry. He wavered a bit, hand hovering over the control panel to open the front security door. He could open it, let them in, and have it closed within a minute.
“Sorry.” Was all he could manage. His brother again looked at the intercom incredulously for a few seconds before he realized what Glen had just done.
“What? Open the door, Glen! You can’t do this. You can’t fucking do -“, David screamed before Glen turned off the intercom. Even with the sound off, he could hear the faint pounding coming from his front door downstairs. One other thing he heard before killing the sound was louder moans. Closer moans. He continued to watch his brother pound on the door until the first zombie reached them. A rather large zombie in the shredded remains of his bath robe arrived first. Part of its neck had been chewed through, exposing a torn esophagus. David rushed forward to push it away, standing between it and his wife and son. The zombie latched onto him like some praying mantis from hell and drew him in close. David fought hard to get away, but the implacable strength of the undead man overcame him. Glen watched his brother open his mouth in a silent scream as the zombie bit down on his face and pulled away flesh and muscle. He saw Barb screaming, also, and the baby crying. She turned to run, causing the baby to drop his bottle, but was met by two more of the undead. One zombie appeared to be an older man, suit and tie smeared with blood. The other zombie was a woman with half of her face torn off. The man bit into Barb’s upper arm and the other pulled the infant from her arms. She lunged for her baby but was stopped by the zombie holding onto her, ripping most of the skin and muscle of arm away with its teeth. Meanwhile, the woman carried little Henry briefly off camera. When they appeared on another surveillance camera near the corner of his home, the zombie was holding Henry to her mouth, tearing mouthfuls of flesh away. Glen felt a slight twinge of guilt at that point, seeing blood running freely from his nephew’s tiny body.
“He shouldn’t have laughed,” Glen said quietly before switching off the monitors.
Now, as he stared at his security monitors, Glen pondered a new development. Even with all of his planning, Glen hadn’t anticipated how badly he would miss being outside. Not that he needed to go outside. He still had plenty of supplies. He had plenty of books. But at this point, reading books was like starving and eating a bread crumb to take the edge off. He didn’t want to go outside, he needed to go outside. Only that was a mild way to put it.
He craved it.
In polite company, he might admit to being a little stir crazy. A case of cabin fever, perhaps. But since he wasn’t in polite company (mainly because polite company had started eating everyone’s brother and their family) he could admit something.
He was going crazy.
Bonkers, ga-ga, loony tunes, completely bat-shit crazy. All of the above. Pick your poison. Glen needed outside. He had stayed busy the first month watching his monitors and picking up what scattered news reports were on television and radio. The news was on 24/7 at first, and then it slowed, and finally stopped altogether. The activity outside his home kept him somewhat distracted, but you could only watch zombies stumbling about so long before your interest waned. Then, the worst part had started.
Glen had tried to keep a pretty regular schedule, thinking that a regimen would keep him thinking straight. That it would help him stay clear headed just in case things went south and he had to leave quickly. He had done well with sleeping a full eight hours a night until halfway through his third month. Glen had just laid down when he heard it.
A baby’s cry.
Glen sat straight up in bed and swung his feet to the floor. He paused to listen again and heard nothing. He listened for another ten minutes before deciding he was hearing things. Maybe a stray cat getting eaten or something, he thought. He lay back in his bed and was almost asleep when he heard it again. The sound was distinct this time and coming from the front of the house. Glen leapt out of bed, ran to his monitors and flipped them on. Nothing. No sign of any movement and no sound. Glen sat up, watching his monitors and listening. Although a few zombies passed by, they never stopped and certainly never made a sound other than their awful moaning. By the time he went back to bed it was 5 o’clock. He awoke at 6:30 feeling terrible.
That was how it went every night from then on. There was always something keeping him from sleep. Pounding coming from downstairs, a scream, and most often was a baby’s cry. Henry’s cry. Glen was sure of it, even though he had the sound off when the zombie ate him. The sounds never happened when he was awake. Only when he tried to sleep. Which was all the time, now. Glen could barely stay awake during the day and, when he would start to drift off, the sounds would start.
He had to get out. Glen thought that if he could just get outside the sounds would stop. There was no logic in this, he knew, but he felt in nonetheless. It was the knowledge of a man who was slowly losing his mind. An obsession, if you will. So Glen had started taking notes on the activity outside his home. He hadn’t seen a zombie in days, so he felt the time was right. It was time to put an end to the impending madness.
“Time to end that ever-fucking crying” Glen sobbed softly.
Glen pushed the button to unlock his front door, took one final glance at his monitors, and went downstairs. He grasped the handle of the door, took a long, hitching breath, and opened the door. Light and a slightly pungent air greeted him. The air wasn’t as fresh as he would have hoped, having an undertone to it. Almost like milk does right before it goes all the way bad. Rot, he thought, rot and death. Rotten air or no, he felt like a thousand pound weight was being lifted off of his chest. He glanced left and right and, seeing nothing, took a step outside.
His stepped on something and his foot shot out from under him. He was able to briefly note that it felt cylindrical in shape before he landed hard on his back. Glen felt something in his upper back snap and the pain shot through his body. Before he could help himself he screamed. Loudly.
Loud enough to wake the dead, he thought. He knew that was close to the truth. If there were any zombies nearby, they would have heard him. They would have heard him and would be on their way. Glen started to push himself up to a sitting position. Only, he wasn’t moving. He tried again and noticed that his arms, although they had always done what he had commanded, didn’t move. They didn’t even twitch.
“Oh, fuck” Glen said. “Oh no…this is bad.” He tried to move his legs. They seemed to be in cahoots with his arms because they, also, refused to budge. He tried to glance around and succeeded in moving his head a few centimeters and causing himself tremendous agony. He spotted an object lying near the door to his house. It was a baby bottle. It had a clot of black, rotted milk still inside. That is what he had slipped on.
“Henry’s bottle,” Glen muttered. He could picture the baby dropping the bottle as his mother tried to run. She had tried to run because Glen wouldn’t let them in. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. He was close to passing out from the shock and pain. Then he heard it. Not a baby’s cry this time, but a chuffing sound. Like the sound a dog makes when it is sniffing after a gofer in its hole. The chuffing was getting closer and it was coming from behind him. He tried to move again, but failed. His breath was coming in ragged gasps. Glen felt a small hand grasp his shirt collar and another hand grabbed his ear for purchase. As the creature pulled itself up to eye level, Glen didn’t recognize the torn, bloody face. But he did recognize the ragged blue jumper it was wearing. And he noticed something that he had missed when looking at his nephew through the video monitor. Henry had cut his first tooth.