Why wouldjuh bring that up!?
Why wouldjuh bring that up!?
Ain’t never been much fer water, but Ah’ll crack open uh bottle ‘er sip from th’hose if Ah haftuh, cus it gits hot as hell here, speshully in th’summertime, an’ it’d be sum real’ fool shit if Ah passed out cus Ah didn’ wannuh drink water.
Plus soda don’t help none. S’mostly sugar an’ shit, righ’? Ain’t gonnuh do uh dang thing fer yuh if yer dehydrated outtuh yer skull. Ah think Ah read sumplace that it makes yuh worse off when yer thirsty… Ah love Pepsi an’ Coke both, an’ Ah’m gittin’ tuh like rootbeer cus mah baby does, but mostly fer eatin’.
Ah like Gatorade when Ah’m out, like, doin’ shit, mahself. Better’n pop, an’ don’t taste funky like water. Ah git thah shit bah th’cases from Sam’s Club an’ stack ‘em up in th’laundry room fer when mah fridge runs out. Ah drink awl th’flavors, too. *Grins* Makes it real’ easy tuh shop for.
No way, man! That ain’t no attitude tuh have.
Ah mean, sure, errybody gits down sumtimes, don’t they? We awl got shit we don’t wannuh deal with, ‘er plans we know ain’t gonnuh go nowheres but downhill. But the way Ah figgur it, best way tuh handle uh day goin’ tuh hell is tuh give it hell right back!
When we wus awn our way tuh New Orleans, naw, we didn’t stay too long in any one place, cus we figgured haulin’ ass tuh evac wus prolly more’mportant than gittin’ sum rest. After that firs’ camp we got tuh from the’whirlybird turned out fer shit, we didn’t have no real’ reason tuh rush no more, so we kinduh took our time sum places, like after me an’ Ro took uh dip in that there frozen lake an’ awl them times Coach got chewed tuh shit.
‘Course after awhile, when we wus headin’ up midwest, it wudn’t actual safehouses no more, jus’ places we found real’ secure.
Shit, though, sumtimes it wus like one uh them shows awn tv where folks awl gottuh live in one house an’ they got cameras watchin’ them fight awl th’time. Cus one day we’d awl be gittin’ along, Nick teachin’ us card tricks ‘er Ro findin’ uh newspaper an’ readin’ it outloud real’ newscaster-like tuh make e’rrybody laugh, then th’next we’d awl be fightin’ ‘bout where tuh go next ‘er who used th’hot water ‘er who screwed up sumbody’s stitches.
Shit, me an’ Ro had it out uh couple-few times, even. Mostly awn accountuh Nick and how they passed the time..
Nick, mostly. He wus real’ worked up from th’moment we got in there, tho tuh be fair we wus treated like rabid dogs, locked up an’ shit.
“Processing,” Nick repeated over and over, his voice husky and low, frantic gaze flitting between the sleek slate tile beneath his feet to the reflective surface of the metal door. “We’re waiting for – processing.” His suit was crusted with grime, thick material splattered with gore and the filth of fluids: but worse than his clothing was his face, filthy hair kept back with gel that flaked from the heat they’d traveled in before being helicoptered to Kansas, his features – now host to a patchy beard – gaunt and haunted from weeks of unspeakable violence and narrow survival. He looked like a man who wanted, beyond anything, to be safe.
Ellis thought they’d finally achieved that goal when he’d tumbled into the helicopter, Coach’s hand had wrapped up in the front of his t-shirt to haul him up before he toppled back into the crowd of screeching zombies and bellowing tanks. He’d thought that even when they had landed and the military had taken his guns, Nick snarling and refusing to relinquish his own until Coach – grim-faced and visibly exhausted – had talked him down. Ellis had believed in their safety even though everyone around them had worn protective masks, and an armed soldier had flinched back when Rochelle – still drowsy on pain killers – had almost stumbled into him, as though she were some sort of threat. He’d been convinced of it even though no matter how many times they asked the same questions – what’s going on, what are carriers, when will we see our families – they had received no answers from their hazmat-suited chaperones, and had been locked in their barren, windowless cell with only a vague warning that the medical staff would be by to process them within the hour.
Ellis scratched at the crisp, crackled surface of a scab on his arm, blunt fingernails scraping it free in red-tinged flakes. He leaned against the cold wall and watched Nick pace from beneath the bill of his cap, plush lips drawn into a soft frown.
“Nicolas,” Coach murmured with vaguely exasperated patience, like a parent after a long day running errands with difficult children, “Sit down. Yer agitatin’ th’boy an’ Rochelle.” He had slumped down the wall opposite of Ellis, the still bleary-eyed producer cuddled up to his side as they awaited their fate like trusting cattle.
“Naw,” Ellis said after a long moment without Nick ceasing his movements, “Naw, this don’t feel right, Coach.”
The former teacher’s dark eyes fixed on the mechanic for the passing of several seconds, disbelief and irritation slanting his thick mouth with a frown. Ellis had been steadfast in his support of the military and their assured safety as soon as they had decided to strike out to New Orleans; the change of pace was startling.
Ellis’s hand swatted his face several times, the loud, rapid smacks doing little to disturb his slumbering teammates as he huddled close to the saferoom’s metal-sealed door, sagging eyelids partially hooding his bloodshot gaze as he watched common infected mill around the street outside. His AK-47 was battered, lack of cleaning tools and a couple of spills on pavement leaving it worse for wear, but he clutched it fondly regardless, trusting its consistent kick-back and the how it took fresh magazines and made dead zombies from them like an aging war hero still hot on his game. He’d have to swap the gun out soon, but for now, he would keep his companions the safest they could be with old reliable at his side.
It was in the way he crouched, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, and smiled even after a smoker yanked the breath from his lungs; it was in the way he laughed at all of Coach’s jokes even when the big man had come down too hard on him over running his mouth earlier in the day; it was in the way he always took the first watch, insisting on bouncing heels that he was not exhausted like the rest of them, then let Rochelle sleep through second shift. It was in the way that when his little brothers sobbed from a nightmare he promised there were no monsters and kissed the tears away; it was in the way he didn’t insist on keeping Keith’s guns in the bedside table and brushed off the occasional autumn flu going around while others panicked; it was in the way he didn’t flinch when a Talker approached him to say hello.
Ellis’s lies held strong – strong enough that even he believed them.
*Rubs the back of his neck self-consolingly* Well there wus this one time… See, when CEDA screwed up, th’military started takin’ over sum uh their safe zones… They were awl over, man, set up real’ quick-like, but they were awl run different. Most were jus’ like small towns all fenced in so th’military cud protect folks, but we ran intuh uh bunch that were like prison camps ‘er freaky test labs, where errybody wus locked up cus th’guys in charge were scared ‘er summin. When we got outtuh New Orleans we got brought tuh one uh them lab ones fer carriers.
We were only there uh couple hours cus Nick heard uh bunchuh thangs he didn’t like an’ it spooked him real’ bad. He started pacin’ th’lil’ cell they thrown us in, jus’ losin’ his shit, til Ro agreed she didn’t like th’place an’ she wanted tuh leave too. *Pauses to scratch his stubble* We had tuh fight our way out, an’ there wus this lady…
Now Ah don’t agree with dudes hittin’ ladies under no circumstances ‘cept summin like mine. Ah’ve never laid no hands awn uh girl buhfore ‘er since, an’ Ah won’t ever. An’ Ah’ll kick uh guy’s ass if he tries tuh do it infrontuh me. *Clicks his tongue*
Nicest? *Whistles in consideration, tucking a hand over the back of his neck* Well, shit, th’man wus mah family - he made me strong. Dunno how much more uh felluh like mah buddy Keith cud do tuh be nice.
[Author’s note: For those of you unaware, El’s boyfriend Ask-Keith is not “his” Keith, they’re from different universes which converged through Tumblr. To reference his own Keith, I tag posts with “friends: keith” instead of “ask~keith” to avoid confusion.]
“People,” the black girl whispered in a horrified murmur, the whites of her eyes bright against her terrified face. She looked up from the carnage that now occupied the stairwell, clutching the railing as though feeling faint. “We just killed people.”
“Naw,” Ellis said firmly, standing up from where he’d been crouched beside a body. The door from the emergency stairwell that lead to the roof was busted in, wood flecked with blood from fists that had pummeled clear through to get to the four people that had hidden behind it. “These are zombies.”
“Zombies?” echoed the greasy-haired man in the suit, now splattered with blood – and not particularly alarmed that it was blood, Ellis noticed with distaste.
“Zombie zombies,” Ellis confirmed with a quick nod. “They ain’t people no more.”
“They’re sick,” the woman hissed, pistol trembling in her grasp as she slid down the stairs a little, “They’re sick and we killed them.”
“We ain’t got no choice,” rumbled the big black man behind her, taking her thin elbow and hoisting her back onto her feet.
“An’ we ain’t got no mommas tuh run home to,” Ellis noted, offering a grin as he held out a new clip for her pistol; his baggy coveralls were host to more pockets than her slim jeans had provided. “We’re gonnuh git tuh that evac an’ back tuh our families, miss – Ah promise yuh.”
Sumtimes we kept track, sumtimes we didn’. It annoyed th’shit outtuh Coach if he wudn’t in uh good mood, an’ Nick wus uh lousy, cheatin’ asshole, so mostly it wus me an’ Ro when she wus feelin’ frisky. *Grins wide* She’d catch Nick exaggeratin’ e’rry damn time, too. Won like two grand once, an’ she freaked his ass out bah burnin’ it awl.
If we covered uhlottuh ground, like goin’ through uh city ‘er summin, Ah’d git me two, three hundred sonsuhbitches in uh day easy. Speshul ones counted fer more. But th’longer we wus travelin’, th’less we ran intuh, so sum days Ah’d only git like ten.
Total? *Whistles low* Damn, prolly like… thousands an’ thousands. Yuh gottuh tha’hnk, uh good pipebomb’ll take uh twenty, twenty-five suckers in one go, an’ if yew chuck like five in uh day… Plus, we wus awn th’road fer months, fightin’ zombies every day. Them numbers add up.
Prolly ninety-five thousand at least. *Rounds his eyes, whispering loudly* Maybe uh hundred thousand.
Th’apocalypse is one messy place, man — Ah had blood an’ puke in mah eyes more often’n not, seein’ as how zombies’re full uh th’stuff an’ we wus mowin’ ‘em down left an’ right. *Rubs the scarred bridge of his nose with his thumb* It purdy much rained guts awl day, lucky fer me mah hat caught uh whole bunchuh that stuff.. *Grins fondly* Weren’t so bad off as Coach, cus he didn’t even have hair tuh catch that stuff, it jus’ slid awn down his big head intuh his eyes.
Th’way Ah figgur it is, if Ah’duh been blinded when we wusn’t in too much danger, Ah’duh been scared. But when yer fightin’ zombies yew ain’t got time tuh be worryin’ ‘bout that — yuh jus’ squint an’ keep firin’ ‘er swingin’ ‘er wotnot.
Lotsuh times we went through places in th’dark, too, since there wudn’t too much electricity tuh go around. *Clasps both hands over the back of his neck* Shootin’ in th’dark’s always uh bitch.
*Pulls a face* Eugh, why wouldjuh wannuh know ‘bout that? Yew ask sum doozies sumtimes, miss Scythe.
*Waves hand dismissively* No she didn’t have no problems, she took care uh that shit awn her own an’ she didn’t say much about it cus it weren’t nobody’s business but hers. We went through loads uh Wal-Mart’s an’ drugstores so it wudn’t like she cudn’t find th’stuff she needed…
She did act awful weird though when she wus… uh.. gittin’ uh visit from Aunt Flow an’ awl. *Wrinkles his nose, scratching his stubbled chin* Real’ weird. Nick had him sum, uh… theories ‘bout that.
Another military-guarded safezone had denied them entry. When Ellis had lost his temper, beating his fists bloody on the broad iron door, they’d fired two warning shots from the watchtower, and Coach had hoisted the kicking and screaming twenty-three year old up and hauled him out of harm’s way.
Their blood carried the same disease that had ended the world around them. Carried. Carriers. The were just as dangerous as the zombies to normal people; just as deadly. They could — had — killed people, actual people, just by breathing. And now no one would let them in.
The boy was silent now, staring into the steady crackle of their rock-encircled firepit, wrecked knuckles wrapped up in gauze and buzzing on pills with names none of them could pronounce. His eyes were glossed over and iron-dark with hopelessness, the lazy dance of snowflakes around his hunched shoulders going completely unnoticed as he watched the fire eat through the underbrush they’d gathered to burn.
“Ellis, sweetie?” Rochelle murmured, crouching down beside him; they’d cleared the crystal glisten of snow from their little campsite, but the ground was still cold and unforgiving in its rigidness. “Honey, we’ll find a safezone that takes car— us. There’s still five more on the list.” Her fingers slid through the damp whorls of his curls but he didn’t look up.
“Ellis yew’ll make y’self sick, mopin’ around like this,” Coach attempted a little while later, and Ellis’s shoulder lifted a fraction before dropping back into a slump. He took another mouthful of pills, chewing the capsules up without water, and fell asleep for a few hours sitting up.
“Hey, Inbred,” said Nick the next morning, “Me and the big guy found the shit to make s’mores.”
Ellis looked up, eyes blank but a hopeful little o to his plush lips, and found the conman’s lifted hands to be empty. Rochelle socked the gambler in the shoulder, hissing, “Nick! That was a nasty lie to tell him!”
“What?” Nick groused, looking disgusted, “He looked up, didn’t he? Jesus, he’s hogging all the good shit.” The older survivor gestured his gun towards the greatly depleted orange bottle.
“Well what do you expect me to do? Sit around and wait for him to OD so we can get going?”
Ellis stared, unseeing, as the pair began to squabble back and forth, Coach’s heavy grumble of a voice adding to the tangle when he stomped back with fresh wood. He finally turned his face back to the flames, fingers trembling as they clicked the cap of the medication open again, turning the bottle over to dump its remaining contents into the fire. Nick cursed him, but Ellis wasn’t listening, standing with a grin. They had another safezone to get to.
“Hold up, Coach,” Ellis grunted, grabbing the older man’s arm and drawing him back a step; heat rushed over them in a putrid burst, the wet splatter of a Boomer bursting from a single-handed magnum shot splashing down just a few feet in front of them. Fleshy chunks and strings of gore were strewn across the sidewalk, the bloated remains toppled back where the zombie had uttered its last burp. “Hey!” Ellis said excitedly, stepping around him, “His top didn’t totally blow – take uh look!”
“Have I told you today you’re fucking disgusting?” Nick wasped, dispensing of the last infected on the street with his crowbar. He shook out his sleeves, tugging them back down over his wrists neatly despite the blood splattering his hands.
“Lookie, lookie,” Ellis purred to himself as he dropped into a crouch beside his kill, smoothing two fingers in the still-hot air just above the body.
“Because you’re fucking disgusting.”
As always, the Boomer’s legs and lower body had remained, but in this case half of its torso had as well, the stomach’s eruption turning its upperbody into a gorey cave of bile-singed innards still gurgling. “Yuh can see sum uh th’ribcage still, blown out over there,” he murmured, rubbing his thumb over his lips thoughtfully before pointing towards the top of the chest, “They held strong up here. An’ that there’s th’heart.”
“Okay, I’m gonna be sick,” Rochelle moaned, turning away.
Nick followed her, green-faced. “Yeah, I’m pretty done with heehaw’s little Biology lesson too.”
“Boy, git away from that nasty shit,” Coach barked, cuffing Ellis on the back of his head hard enough to dislodge his hat, “Th’hell’s uh mattuh with yew?”
Ellis frowned, grasping his cap as he stood to fix it back over his curls. “Anybody else hungry fer sum ribs?” he questioned lightly, and grinned when Nick tossed him the finger from where she was slumped against a concrete barrier.
“Let’s jus’ git th’hell outtuh Savannah,” Coach rumbled, shoving Ellis in the shoulder to get him moving, “Without playin’ no more CSI with th’zombies, awlright, Ellis?”
Fer th’firs’ month, month an’ uh half, we had plenty uh ammo cus so many folks wus totin’ guns around, findin’ it in stores ‘er houses an’ leavin’ it in safehouses fer other people. Man, Ah wus drownin’ in bullets! *Laughs* Me an’ Ro usetuh shoot up targets an’ stuff after th’firs’ evac went bust, cus we didn’t know wut th’heck tuh do no more an’ kinduh wandered around fer uhwhile, lookin’ fer rumors.
But shit got worse an’ there wudn’t s’many survivors travelin’ no more, either cus they died ‘er cus they found sumplace tuh hol’ up, like them safezones… a’fore they started turnin’ away anybody they figured fer carriers. *Grumbles bitterly, tugging his hat off to fuss a hand through his curls*Th’spare stuff left buhind got less an’ less til there really wudn’t nuthin’ at awl, an’ th’higher north we went, th’farther apart safehouses wus, cus CEDA fell apart real’ fast from Kansas awn up. We started havin’ tuh look fer ammo an’ guns ourselves, an’ it wus an’ apocalypse, man – there wudn’t uh whole bunch tuh be found.
*Grins cheekily, shoving his cap back on* Good thang we ended up awl bein’ real’ good shots.
Aw, shit, though, there wus plenty uh times we were down tuh nothin’ but crowbars ‘er bats ‘er axes n’shit. This one time Ah went uh whole mile with nuthin’ but uh bedpost cus uh hunter bit mah bat clear in half, man. So Ah called mahself th’Sandman. *Titters* Puttin’ awl sonsuhbitches tuh bed!