story and artwork
DEAD TREE JOURNAL of Layla Moran
May 8, 20WTF
As you can see, dear (possibly, lone) survivor, I'm writing this end-of-the-world journal on actual paper with an actual Bic ballpoint pen (and the sonofabitch keeps skipping on me), because everything else is gone. Computers, iPads, Kindles, you name it. Without electricity, they make good paperweights, but that's about all.
Yeah, I know. It's not their fault that all the people who ran the power grid and the Internet providers and the satellites got gobbled up like waffles and sausage at a 99¢ All-You-Can-Eat breakfast special. Gotta admit, though — those techies somehow held out longer than most. Good for them.
I suppose I should give you some details. For all I know, you were camping in the middle of the woods when all this began, and don't have a clue.
First off, I'm Layla Moran, creator of the self-pubbed Warrior Women of Tashgren graphic novel series that sold, like, three copies. I'm an obsessive San Jose Sharks fan, and the daughter of a slightly Stepford wife mom who finally recognized that I can like boys yet still prefer knee-high black leather boots with multiple silver skull buckles to those dumb-ass Barbie-style high heels she always wanted me to wear. My tats and piercings, though, were totally beyond her comprehension.
Until San Diego became Zombieville, I worked at a crappy supermarket, doing a crappy cashier job, for crappy wages. College degree? Oh yeah, got one of those almost a year ago. So did a lot of the other eighty-four people who applied for the position. Theirs was probably in Liberal Arts, too.
Anyway, welcome to Zompoc.
I know, I know. It sounds like one of those drugs they advertise on TV, where they rattle off the side effects to you, including possible death, and still expect you to pop their pills.
Well, this wasn't a drug, but it sure as hell caused death. And also sort of death-and-a-half.
Zompoc, in case you missed the news reports about it, is short for zombie apocalypse. Most people assumed the term was created because it was shorter. Personally, I think it was started by people who just couldn't spell apocalypse.
Like I said, bad things happened.
Good people died, bad people died, and left and right, skulls got popped open like Pringles cans, their pink, squishy contents devoured with lip-smacking enjoyment.
We all watched on live TV. I mean, are there any big cities in this country that don't have video cameras at every major intersection? It is the era of governmental let's suck up every bit of personal data and stick a camera in everybody's face just in case they MIGHT someday do something wrong, after all. Little grey aliens with anal probes would probably be less invasive and more polite.
But, what the hell. We all got used to it, right?
I don't know if it was by choice or if the cameras were hacked, but the video feed was available to everybody, world-wide, 24/7, like a bizarre reality show.
Maybe that's why it became almost like a game to a lot of us who were holed-up safely inside, and whose power still worked. You nuked some popcorn, grabbed a Diet Coke, and munched while the less fortunate (which mostly meant less speedy) got chased down. After the first couple days, few even flinched as they watched, let alone puked. By the end of the first week, people started rooting for favorites and laughing at the dorkier victims, who were no longer called that, but were called “Irkel.” As in, “Run, Irkel, run — they're gaining on you, asshole!”
Euphemisms make everything easier, after all. And so, runners didn't get killed, they got voted off the island. That wasn't blood, it was cherry Kool-Aid. As in, “Girl, you deserved to get voted off the island. What were you thinking? You can't run in shoes like that!” Or “Day-ummm! I can't believe how much cherry K was in that Irkel!”
Some watched together in groups like it was a horror movie sleepover, others texted back and forth, but it was a shared experience.
Obviously, society was messed up long before the zoms came along. You don't get that detached from your humanity in a week.
Did a messed-up society give us a messed-up government, or did a messed-up government cause our messed-up society? I guess we'll never know, because the government at its highest level is gone. The highest-rated zombiefest turned out to be the one where most of the audience cheered for the zoms. The target: the Capitol. Congressmen & senators had been trapped there for days, having gathered in that supposedly secure building (surrounded by hundreds of well-armed soldiers) to watch the Speaker of the House sworn in as head of the most powerful zombified country in the world, now that a member of the White House staff had “turned” and given the President a nibble. The Prez had then promptly chased Mrs. Prez down the corridor, the Vice President stopped by to say howdy-do at just the wrong time, and...well, that was all she wrote, with regard to the White House.
But, the Capitol...
It wasn't dozens that came after them. Not even hundreds.
It was a freakin' horde.
I like to think it was every former-person-now-zombie who'd had to scratch and claw to hang on financially, to keep from ending up living in a refrigerator box under a bridge, while lobbyists “lobbied” our representatives and got their way time and time again, passing laws that benefited whoever hired them and screwed us. It's funny how, when the Mafia does it, it's called bribing.
Anyway, it was mesmerizing to watch. The zoms swarmed over the soldiers, then covered the building like ants, piling onto each other's shoulders, climbing, smashing windows, and eventually making their way inside.
Anderson Cooper did the play-by-play, all emotional like he gets, ya know. I guess it's good that somebody still felt something.
But, to be honest, for most of the rest of us it was awesome.
How did Zompoc begin? Various interviewees on CNN had theories, and some had first-hand, eyes-on experience and told their stories over and over, in ever-increasing detail. I suspect they were trying to remain useful to the network so they could stay in the big, barricaded building.
Who knows who got the very first bite, or what bit them, but the first reported mass bloodfest was at the very second that Manchester United scored a goal, in the Old Trafford Football Stadium in England. As the soccer ball sailed into the net, people — normal-looking people — started running onto the field, ripping into players and each other and then back into the stands to get everyone else. Live. I'll bet those ratings skyrocketed.
Within days, most of Western Europe was screwed. Then, South America. Then, the U.S. Somehow, it skipped Mexico. Or maybe Mexicans are immune, what the hell do I know?
What matters to me is here. The good ol' U.S. of A. Not because I'm so freakin' patriotic, but because I live here, for chrissakes. In San Diego, which was a great city. Ya know, before.
Washington, DC, I don't give a shit about. They for damn sure never gave a shit about me.
Ironically enough, according to an unnaturally calm and amazingly handsome lawyer named Brad Haverford, who was interviewed by Anderson Cooper no less than three times (I mentioned he was handsome, right?), one of the Senate interns brought it into Washington, DC, in the first place. And hunky Brad should know, because he was with her when she was bitten. Harvard student Shayna Reynolds was one of those totally focused, “going places” types who planned on becoming a corporate lawyer (are blood-suckers one step up from brain-munchers?), then moving on to politics.
His family and hers were part of the Wealthy-As-Shit-White-Folks community in Falls Church, and the day before, he and she had attended her dad's huge and pompous fifth wedding to a woman barely three years older than his daughter. The event did not go as planned.
At the reception, one of the bride's relatives, cousin Harlan Something-or-other, had a bit too much to drink (or so it seemed), got into a fight with one of the groomsmen, and bit him. Took a damn chunk right out of his arm.
And then the nutty bastard ran around the reception hall trying to bite everybody, including the cute little flower girls. At that point, he was tackled by a former Princeton Tigers quarterback (now stockbroker), cops were called, and freaky Harlan left the reception hall drooling and wearing handcuffs. Paramedics took the injured groomsman to the hospital, and eventually things calmed down.
That is, until one of the adorable little flower girls, a 6-year-old with bright orange hair and freckles and a missing front tooth, bit her mother, three guys in the band, one of the bridesmaids, and the little boy who was the ring bearer.
Also, Shayna the intern.
That was Day One.
Despite the strange violence, it didn't even make the news. It would have marred the occasion, so favors were called in, cell phone photos disappeared, and all was well. Until the guests went home and succumbed to their bites, scratches, and even the tiniest nicks. The rest of that day became a brutal, bloody line of falling dominoes.
And the next morning, Shayna Reynolds walked into the Russell Senate Office Building, scratching her itchy hand.
The rest of Day Two was ugly, and ended like that scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Atticus Finch shoots the rabid dog.
Shayna was the dog.
At the far end of a wide corridor, she snuffled and twitched and growled very much like a rabid animal, and she'd left a trail behind her: blood-splattered walls, bodies piled atop each other, dismembered limbs tossed everywhere. Internal organs had become external goo, and as a security guard skidded through it, he still managed to put a round right between her eyes. The bullet exited the back of her head, spewing skull fragments and brain matter and blood all over the people she'd trapped in a corner behind her.
Unfortunately for them, it turned out that zombie bodily fluids that enter your body through spatters to your eyes, your mouth, your nose, or even absorbed through your skin, are just as infectious as those from bites. Who knew?
The time it takes to “turn” varies wildly. Some go utterly wacko within minutes. For most, it takes hours. A few even last days. But in a crowd, if there's even one of the quickies, they will do so much damage, so fast, that it doesn't matter. The whole building is doomed.
And then, of course, the street, the quaint little shops, the Starbucks on the corner.
And then the entire neighborhood.
So, that's where it began in Washington, DC.
The show from New York was just as ugly and audience-satisfying when waves of zombies finally broke into some of the Wall Street buildings and were treated to some sweet One-Percenter meat.
That's all I know. The rest of the world? A mystery. There never was any communication coming out of Russia, China, Australia, Japan, or anywhere on the African continent. Are they all gone? Or were they spared, and barricaded themselves, so to speak, against the rest of us? I mean, will Putin send troops into our cities eventually, to take over? Will he nuke us, instead? Or is he shuffling through the streets of Moscow, eyes all glazed, shouting, “Brains!” in Russian? Damn. I'd pay to see that.
I'll finish this journal for you, dear survivor — whoever you may be — a little later.
I may not have TV now, but that doesn't mean the entertainment is over. There's a chase going on across the street, on the rooftops, and the dude has a sword. Yes, an actual sword. I don't want to miss that.
I suspect heads are gonna roll.
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