It’s a weird fact of life and it still stands, even though what I have now can barely be referred to as a life. It’s an existence. It used to happen to me a bit, the ratio has changed dramatically now though. I only assume you know what I’m talking about. Maybe it never happened to you at all, maybe it was only a fact of my life. I don’t know things anymore. But that thing, the fact that I’m talking about, it happens to me all the time now.
I’d be like, just going about my business, nothing to do for a minute, might make myself a cup of tea. That’s what I’d be like, uh huh, and maybe some toast too. Yes, toast. Definitely. So I’ve done this before. I have a pretty set routine. The toast and tea challenge. You’ve maybe played it, maybe with coffee instead. Flick on the kettle, put the bread in the toaster, quick, grab some condiments and prepare your cup. Some people put the milk in first, not me though. No, not me.
Kettle boils and you fill your cup to stew the tea bag. Toast goes POP and you are good to go with toppings. Toast done, pour some milk in your tea and look, ahhhh, all at once you have yourself some sweetly satisfying fresh toast, a warm brewed tea and best of all, best of all you did it without wasting a second of your time. That pleasant feeling you get when you walk from the kitchen with a warm cup in one hand and toast wafting in the other, it’ll always put a smile on your face. Efficient and beautiful. Smile, smile, smile. That’d be what I’d be like.
What a small thing to enjoy, to smile about……..unless, unless you forget to flick the kettle on. Then everything is just plain ruined. What is one to do? A dark mood cloud would hover on in. Surely I can’t wait for the kettle to boil before I hoe in to my toast, it’ll go cold if I leave it. But I can’t eat it now. I only made it to enjoy it with my tea. With my tea, not before it. Not before it. A watched kettle they say, it never boils they say. Well you just try watching it while you’re watching your toast go cold. It takes even bloody longer! How could I be so stupid? I have made hundreds of cups of tea and toast. I have a routine and everything. Only an idiot would screw it up. Only a bloody idiot!
I’d curse myself terribly. I’d try to cheer myself up by trying to time an eyebrow lift with the click of the kettle turning off. The eyebrow, using the force, kettle game. It doesn’t work. Damn thing seems to bubble forever at the end, blub blub blub it mocks me and I can never time it right. I can only think about how terrible a time and what a disappointment the whole affair has been. I used to get so frustrated, so unfairly mad, at myself, at the kettle, at the whole unjust world. But the fact is, the one about life that I’m talking about. The fact is that I would only get like this if I was alone. Uh huh. Alone. Heaven help my soul if the tea bag missed the bin. But if I had company, someone to talk to while my tea, toast debacle unfolded, I would be fine, not even an issue. I could smile and laugh about it. But alone….
I’m alone all the time now. I get angry all the time now. All the time now. It’s a fact about my life. Everything I do, I do wrong. I make so many silly mistakes by not thinking. Thing is though, the consequences, they are much worse now. Cold toast, man what I would give for some cold toast. There is no such thing as little things anymore. Everything I do is a big deal.
A squeaky door. Wow. Do you know how big a deal a squeaky door can be? Can you understand how earth shatteringly loud a squeaky door can be? In the depths of quiet and solitude a squeaky door is a booming screeching roar. Uh huh, yes it is. A piece of wood, inanimate, unfeeling, unthinking wood. Well, that’s just what it wants you to think. When dead hands and lifeless lungs pursue, those dry clicking mouths beckon and you do your best to hide, contain your breathing, be light of foot and disappear into shadows. When you try so hard to do all that and then the rusted metal hinges on a piece of wood screech out to the enemy, tell me, tell me then that that door doesn’t know exactly what it’s doing. That it isn’t fully aware and evil. Red hot rage would burn inside me. And it’s pointless and silly and I’m all alone. All alone. I don’t think I would get so mad if I had someone to talk too, anyone.
Just lately I’ve been hearing sounds, I think, of other survivors. First it was like a bus, or a van maybe. Bah bumpity bump, squish, pop, bahroooom. I don’t know things anymore. When you can’t trust the doors should you trust your own ears? Somedays I’m not myself, so I’m never sure if its me being someone else when I hear things. Yeah…. But then I looked out the windows. There are bars on the windows, Joe, the previous owner of this Pizzeria had once had some trouble with gangs and break-ins and had taken some burglar proof precautions. Luckily for me those same precautions kept out the living dead. Outside, in the street, there are no dead people, well there is, but they’re proper dead, and squished and pulped too, not walking around like they’re not supposed too.
Then a few days later. I think it was a few days, uh huh, it’s hard to tell because I’m always asleep unless I’m awake and the days are hard to follow when you have nothing to do and you can’t play the tea and toast challenge. I believe I heard another vehicle. I’m running out of tinned foods and places to do my toilets so it is possible that maybe I only think that I hear all these other survivors because I want and need reasons to leave this place. I don’t know.
Apparently too much of a good thing can be bad. Well, I can attest to that. Thinking is bad now. But what are you going to do when there is nothing to do? I try and not think about it anymore. I think so much now. Alone and thinking. I don’t think I’m stupid, but maybe I am because I keep doing stupid things. Like thinking. Just recently I think I heard a motorbike in the street outside. Outside, not inside. I think I should maybe check.
Nothing! There is nothing to do. I should go look outside. For the noises. I’m almost out of tinned food and I’m running out of places to do my toilets. Yeah, I should go check outside. Look for survivors. Everything dead is proper dead. That I can see. No, I’m not myself, going outside will be stupid and I don’t want to be stupid. Being stupid only makes me angry.
But not if I’m not alone. I look out the window. It’s pretty dark out, moonlight shines though. I see nothing. A thick mist has come in, slowly walking its way down the road. A thick wall of it is crawling down the street towards me here in the shop. Great, more nothing. The fog is turning everything into nothing. But wait, a silhouette walks on the very edge of the mist. Tall and dark. It’s a man. The figure of a man, tall and straight backed stands not ten feet from the bars on my window. But, yep, he is only a shadow where he stands. I can’t see his face but I feel his harsh gaze upon me.
I don’t think he’s there. How could he be? Everyone walking is dead. One step more towards me and I see his feet. Boots. Snake skin boots. Another step and his jeans become visible. They are black and blood stained. On his third step forward I see a flannelette shirt. Still tucked in with the sleeves rolled up. A gift given to me by the fog? His face though. I can’t see his face. No? I eagerly wait to see his face, his mouth, is this Nothing Man alive?
Retreating to where it came from in the same spectral fashion as it appeared the mist begins to drift away. The Nothing Man takes another step. This time, backwards. No, yes? He is a part of the mist and starts to disappear with it as it pulls back in rewind to where it came from. No time for introductions. No formal catch up or even cautious sizing up. The mist is swallowing and enveloping this man. Thieving and fleeing with him.
Wait! A people! A real life person. I’ve been alone so long I believe I’ve finally lost it. SNAP! There goes my sanity. A man? But not really? A nothing man. SAH-NAP! Bonkers, I’ve gone completely mad. There is no other possible explanation. Well, except that there was a man outside. Walking alone in a dead zombie filled city, strolling aimlessly clouded in an unnatural mist. With no face. Uh huh.
Annnnnd screw it. What’s the damned point now anyway? Is there a point? Was there ever a point? I grab my solid stainless steel kettle. Fumble with the locks and open the door to the outside. To the outside. Yup! Bonkers!
Gone. My brain is gone. I’ll go look for it. And that man. Maybe he took it. I feel like I’m doing something stupid and I hate being stupid. Being stupid makes me angry. But I’m not angry. I’m not. I’m happy. And excited. I half expect the outside to smell of flowers and daisies on a fresh spring morning. It smells of dead shit. I wipe my nose just to be sure there is no shit stuck to it.
They don’t make sense anymore, things, everything, nothing, things just don’t make sense anymore. I’m not an angry person, I’m not, I’m gentle and clever. I’m clever but I don’t understand and I think that’s why I get angry. I grind my teeth at the squeaky doors. Wave clenched fists at torches with flat batteries and some things, the small things, like a stubbed toe, make me do voiceless screams and want to explode with rage. I don’t understand where the rage comes from. No. It’s silly and I’m not silly……I’m angry.
Kettle. Got my kettle. Good! Like an ocean wave being taken by the tide the mist and the man get sucked away from me. Oh cheeses rice this is exciting. At a slow and steady pace I follow, the mist and the man, worried that if I run they will speed up themselves, it’s like a dance.
Bodies and body parts litter the streets. Squished battered and smeared. Dismembered. Yuck! I trip on one and stumble drunkenly. I disturbed the smell. I’m sure it is really bad. In the past, in the before the pizza shop, a smell from a rotted puddle corpse would surely of had me vomiting. Should of been retching with stomach convulsions. In the beginning the smell, the oily acrid throat stinging, eye watering stench persisted. Persisted, persisted persisted. In every hole or crack I hid in it followed me like a loudly buzzing fly. I got angry at the smell. All the time alone I’d get angry at the stupid bad smell. I guess I must of forgot, or got used to the smell. Like when you take a book to the toilet, and sit there awhile, and it’s fine. Then the poor bastard who follows almost passes out from the odour. Yes, just like that. Uh huh.
Kettle. Got my kettle. Good! Almost glowing with a lazy shine of reckless abandonment I hop scotch my way through the streets. The freedom is amazing. It smells depressingly like microwaved arseholes but even that can’t stop me from enjoying my skip through the corpses.
People. Some people, not all of them. They’d be like, work hard and play hard. Not me though, no. I’d be like work a bit, maybe just hard enough and then play really gentle. Enjoy a lie down. Everyone should enjoy a lie down. They’d be like rock climbing or mountain biking. Gotta enjoy the great outdoors, that’s what they’d be like. I’m enjoying the outdoors now, just walking. Just go for a quiet walk, that’s what I’d be like.
Hansel and Gretel may have been this way, but instead of bread crumbs they left for me to follow a path of splattered Zachs. Right at Beats Music Shop and three blocks down. Here, it’s like a car park. Yes and the interesting thing, the vehicles, a van, an old farm truck and a four wheeler, all of them are facing the wrong way. The wrong way. They have been driven in to the city. Not out. In!
The weird mist starts to disperse, no longer running away from me, now it has lead me here it is happy to evaporate to the skies. But what of the stranger? But what of the Nothing Man? About two blocks down I squint and I see. The mist is gone and a man remains. On the other side of an ocean of death, a cursed battlefield where so many have been laid to rest, stands a man, by a door, to an old apartment block. Through an already opened door, the Nothing Man disappeared. Nothing Man, gone.
Oh hoooo boy. Where has he gone? Where is he going? Please. I don’t want to be alone. Not alone. Not again.Panic. Panic grips at my throat and heart with a white knuckled fury. Kettle. Got my kettle. Good! Now run. I run as fast as I can. It’s hard. I’m malnourished and have not exercised for ages. I assume I can jump and sprint but I can’t. No. My passage to the door is filled with a lot more staggers and trips than I can account for. Yuck. Boooo.
The piles of meat, that’s what they are now. Not bodies. Just black and rotted piles of meat. They make me angry, so, so mad. Not one of them moves or is kind enough to worry about what I want. They have no intentions. But they still trip me. Slow me down. I hate them. With a passion so deep it welts in my eyes.
I need to find this man. Not want. I need. No, no,no. I continue on down the starlit street. Bubbling with horrible exploding emotions, through the door I enter. He is not there. A door to the stairwell closes. I race.
Up the stairs, heart thumping, blind in the dark I hear another door squeak and bang shut. It’s not fair. I just missed him again. Up and through the door I go. An empty hallway greets me. A crumbled heap of bones in one corner catches my attention but it does not move. Nobody is here and no more doors squeak to me.
Then like in a dream I hear music. Above the sound of the thumping in my head or the heaving, wheezing of my lungs. Yes, sweet and soft it draws me to it. Music, sweet, sweet music. From behind a door it calls me. I stand in front of said door. Still, so still determined to be quiet I wait. With just one finger I push on the door. The music stops suddenly. The door, the blasted door squeaks so loud and draws pairs of eyes upon me.
Like a rabbit in headlights, startled I cringe in the door way. Before me is people. Real live people. A lady with hair so frizzled it may even be burnt. A teenage boy with the look of a serious adult. An old man, by his side a mother and her daughter. And lastly, a tattooed musician holding a guitar.
Kettle. Got my kettle. Good!
Anyone for a cup of tea?