a man is caught in the horror of living a world filled with zombies. He is alone until 'she' joins him and together they make their way across a desolate Australian landscape
1. Michael, Alone
Oh my god!
The air is burning in my lungs as I run through the thick scrub. My shirt, drenched with sweat, the material dark with blood and dirt, clung to my chest and back. Every breath was a loud gasp. I had been running at full tilt since leaving the fuel depleted sedan a few miles back. I didn’t know if they were still behind me but they had been a few moments before, so I just kept moving. My limbs were like lead weights now and exhaustion made me stumble several times until I fell, burying my head in the earth. Dirt now coated my dark lank hair and crusted around my eyes. Quickly I pushed myself up and twisted my body to face back the way I had come, the pistol shook in my hand but it was ready for anything that was about to attack. Nothing! God damn it... I almost cried out clenching my bearded jaw and my filthy free hand. The Australian bush was quiet except for the gentle breeze teasing the gum and eucalyptus leaves, everything else was silent but the gushing of my breath through my teeth and flaring nostrils it sounded like a hurricane to my ears. The trail I had made in my hurry was clear and only after several minutes did I let myself go limp and drop back onto the ground behind me.
In those few moments some memories stirred, from when the ‘outbreak’ had began to when the news that this strange virus had been diagnosed in Washington and was closing down all the airports, I had been waiting to go home to Australia after a week spent with my parents. I paid little attention to such things since the chicken flu and SARS outbreaks in the past so I just turned my rental car around and went back to my parent’s home to wait it all out. They lived in a prestigious part of the city since my mother was a retired American diplomat and my father a surgeon in the Memorial Hospital. I had no idea that these few weeks would see the end of every thing I had ever known and loved.
How the hell I escaped was amazing even to me, but to lay here and think about it was stupid. Despite my exhaustion, I hauled myself up and after taking a swig of precious water; I moved on and made my way out of this god-damn place. It was near dusk when I reached the road. As I stood under the cover of the trees, I could see both ways at the curved country road, littered by huge potholes and debris caused by months of neglect. When winter comes, I would be struggling to get through snow and ice to survive. The road was clear I begin to walk east toward the smaller townships and away from the danger behind. Light was failing and I was facing the night in the open.
It was a stroke of luck that I found a small car that had crashed into a tree many months ago. The carcass of the driver was lying across the bonnet, bone and rotted remains was all that was left of him. I ignored him and slipped into the back of the car where I found a dark dusty jacket which I put on as the air was beginning to cool down quickly now. There was some papers and rubbish in the front but nothing that I could salvage so I sunk back into the rear seat and spent the night cold but not exposed.
I don’t have the greatest memories of my past. I was kicked out of home when I was fifteen for smoking pot and having sex with a guy twice my age. That same guy that got me pregnant, luckily for him I was sixteen, but unlucky for me when I had a miscarriage in my third month and he left me without a backward glance. Was I scarred? Yes I dreamt about that baby for years afterwards and that man. But they were just a moment in my sordid youth, a part that filled me with pain and regret and one I tried to run away from in the relationships that followed.
When the virus hit I had been serving bar in a pub for a living. Twice divorced and currently screwing my boss, I was probably considered a tough chick with attitude to boot. No regulars in the bar caused me any problems and we often had some way ward drunks with dirty groping hands. Maybe my height and athletic look was enough to deter most people. And maybe it was my burley boss hovering in the kitchen where he made toasted sandwiches and chips for hungry guests. He was really my only problem. Ned seemed almost obsessed by me and would drag me into the confines of the pantry or the cellar and screw me against the wall, panting and heaving until he came. Thank god it was quick and I learned to tolerate his lust.
The virus hit him early. We shared a flat above the bar. Three rooms made up the flat. Bedroom come lounge-room, bathroom and a small kitchenette the décor was something out of a sci-fi with images of star wars, star trek, a half naked young Jane Fonda in her Barbarella outfit. Dimly lit and smelling of stale beer and pizza our menu of choice. Ned was once a NFL player, a fullback for two years with Miami Dolphins until he was busted with drugs and sacked on the spot. Since then he let himself go and by the time I met him, he weighed about 135kg and was running a cheap bar in the bad side of the city. I was desperate and hooked up with him rather quickly, penniless and homeless he took me the first time in the cellar on a keg and from there I got a place to live, a fat oversexed lover and a job that kept me in money I had paid little attention to the news about some virus that seemed to be proving fatal to many and causing others to act in strange ways. But then Ned developed a fever and didn’t go down to the bar for work.
The next day he lay dead in our bed/ I was horrified. The bed was soaked with sweat and the odour of human excrement assaulted me. I let out a bit of a cry from shock more than anything and rushed downstairs to the bar, which was becoming increasingly quiet in the last week. One of the regulars, an aging alcoholic, went up stairs to check on Ned but soon rushed down yelling out about Ned going nuts. With utter terror I watched dead Ned appear at the top of the stairs, grey in colour, staring down at us with heavily bloodshot eyes. Everyone left in the bar yelled and bedlam broke out. Chairs were thrown to the floor, glasses smashed and people began to push and shove their way out of the pub. I was amongst them.
Where do you go when your home is no longer safe? I went to the local homeless shelter. It was nearly midday and strangely, the place was empty. It made my skin crawl but I went inside and looked around. Usually a local minister would be here but there was no one. Not game enough to stay, I grabbed a jacket that was laying on one of the fold up beds (I had only the clothes on my back) took a bottle of coke from a small fridge in the office and then found an unopened cherry ripe on the desk which I quickly pocketed. I was only in there for less than an hour but when I got outside it was as if I was in a ghost town. The streets were empty. I stood still for a moment then decided to go and get Ned’s Truck. I had to get the hell out of here…