Roger couldn’t hear them from inside the Civil Defense bunker, but he knew the grounds above were swarming with the dead. The noise they made would only attract others. It was just a matter of time before the fence collapsed and they were at the bunker door–visiting Bert was a priority.
He had barely made it back from the Crestwood Apothecary–every path had more of the dead lurching towards him–but make it he did, with his mission failing by about thirty feet.
Nothing can be done of it, Roger thought, then sighed heavily. It was nice to be holding Mary’s hand again, even if she wasn’t aware. He looked at the familiar lines and wrinkles of her face, lines that had slowly appeared and deepened over their sixty-plus years together. It was like a map of shared experiences, with the laugh lines the most prominent.
Her breaths were erratic, each one drowning in the fluid that filled her lungs. Not wanting to hamper Mary’s breathing, Roger kissed her forehead instead of her mouth.
The bag of medication he carried from the pharmacy was somewhere outside the fence, with its side torn open and the contents trampled under the dozens of zombies that walked the perimeter. He still had the two syringes that had fallen from the bag while leaving the pharmacy; these lay on the table beside Mary’s cot, currently empty and useless. Just like he felt.
In the end, it didn’t matter, Mary couldn’t take the antibiotic because she never woke up, she was lost under the weight of the illness that robbed her breath of oxygen. Still, Roger would have liked to try, but injecting the drug directly into a vein was out of the question, the drug guide made that clear. He had been so damn close–zigged when he should have zagged. Now it was down to plan B and whether or not his wife was immune, as the dead lady in the pharmacy had been.
...so damn close--zigged when he should have zagged.
“Fifteen minutes,” Roger said, slapping his hand against the mattress, making a muffled sound like two of the dead colliding. Fifteen minutes. A little younger, or one less zombie encounter, and he would have been ahead of the horde and back at the bunker with everything. Even five minutes would have had him ahead of the race.
Old man stumbling, zombies shuffling; the most pathetic chase since OJ and the white Bronco. Roger couldn’t find the laughter to go with the thought.
**PLACE HOLDER FOR MAP – coming soon**
The Mackenzie ravine ran directly behind the Civil Defence bunker, which made the only nearby access point the 142nd Street bridge. How so many showed up so quickly, Roger couldn’t say. He certainly hadn’t heard any loud noises that may have attracted them. But that is how it worked sometimes, the dead joined up and just moved in whatever direction the ones at the head were going, like cows in a field. When late-night news was still a thing, he once watched a dead hiker, with a jangling bear bell attached to its jeans, leading a string of zombies through the woods like some undead Pied Piper.
The path he had taken to the pharmacy, over the fence, and between the condos, was full of the dead with the fence having folded under the mass of them. More came up 142nd Street and filed in from his left on 96th Avenue. He had no choice but to turn right and head West. The next intersection was much the same, filling up with the dead, he continued on past the Crestwood Curling Club, where he cut through the park that ran behind the Community center.
Coming out at 144th Street, no zombies were in sight, but once at the intersection, they were strolling 95th Avenue and closing in on him. Roger hurried across to the next avenue, a block closer to the bunker. Looking back, he could see the two groups joining at the intersection behind him. If only he had a few bags of marbles, even one bag might have been enough–they’d be stumbling and falling all over each other.
A zombie wandered onto the road from 143rd Street, followed by another. Roger crossed the street and entered the grounds of one of the affluent homes in the neighborhood. Crossing the back lawn, he opened the gate that allowed access to the ravine behind the property. Closing the gate behind him, Roger made his way to the bunker through the trees.
Coming out in the clearing, he saw the fence in front of Bert crowded with the dead, probably drawn by the movement of the lone zombie contained within the fenced-off bunker grounds. In front, where the car and gate were, more of the dead came, spread out in ones and twos. It would be a chess match; moving around and trying to outmaneuver the pawns. If he played it right, he could make the gate without getting trapped. If he didn’t, well, there wouldn’t be a stalemate.
He, and the bag of meds, almost made it back intact. He should have gone around and come in between the car and fence from the back. But with all the dead in pursuit, Roger chose the route with the shortest distance. As he tried to squeeze by the last group of three, one of the dead snagged the bag where it was already slightly torn from when it caught on the broken glass at the pharmacy. The side tore open, spilling everything to the ground.
He should have just thrown the bag over the fence when he was close enough–solutions often present themselves after the fact. But again, it really made no difference, how could he have administered the drugs without Mary being conscious?
A wasted journey. Almost.
Roger kissed Mary’s wrinkled hand and placed it gently on her chest, which shuddered harshly on each exhalation. He had to leave her one more time.
“I won’t be long, dear,” Roger said to her, “just a short trip to the yard.”
He grabbed the syringes and walked across the bunker, and before entering the walled-off kitchen, he turned to look at his wife. His beautiful Mary. Standing beside her, time and illness showed how they had beaten her down–Death, getting impatient. But, as always, from a distance, she was simply beautiful Mary waiting for her husband. Waiting for him. This wonderful illusion of life.
At the bunker door, Roger took the syringes from his pocket. While he brought both–just in case–he planned to only use one; Mary could always assist him later.
He thought of the dead girl who walked continuously into the fence. He couldn’t bring himself to put her to rest–Mary was portrayed in that blank stare. But it was more than that, someone had infected the girl. A parent, sibling, a close friend, perhaps. Did the dead attack to keep the connection they had while alive? Was there still a connection even in that undead state? Did they feel the pain of loss, of separation, loneliness? Love? He couldn’t kill the teenager because he just didn’t know. Would he rob her from another as Mary’s death would rob him of his wife? No one knew what the mind of the dead share; it functioned on some level.
Do they love? It was the question Roger kept asking himself since this all began. He didn’t have the answer, but one thing he knew for certain is that they did keep moving. For now, that would be enough.
No one knew what the mind of the dead share; it functioned on some level.
Roger opened the door. The zombies skirting the grounds became more animated at the sight of him. The fence, to the right of the gate, leaned inward at an alarming angle.
As he walked towards Bert, he took the cap off one of the syringe needles. The zombie, at the end of its tether, could do nothing but reach for him. Those outstretched arms making things easier.
“This won’t hurt a bit, Bert,” Roger said.
Grabbing the zombie’s arm, he pushed the needle through the necrotic flesh and into the dark vein. Pulling back on the plunger, the needle’s chamber began to fill with the black, noxious fluid that was once its blood.
“This won’t hurt a bit.” He repeated, no longer sure of who he was trying to convince.
This concludes the first story of the Deadmonton–a zombie apocalypse happening in Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, Canada.
It was a test to see if presenting a story in this manner–being able to include images, maps, and such–would make the story a bit more immersive. I would love to hear your thoughts, not so much on the story itself, but how it was presented (though thoughts on the story are also much appreciated). I look forward to reading your comments below or on the
Deadmonton Facebook page . Thank you again for reading, I hope you enjoyed the tale. See you again, for another stroll through the undead city of Deadmonton.