I was wrong about not having anyone to curl up with at night. The Girl couldn’t sleep, so she came and got into bed with me. I think we may all be sleeping in the same room for a while, all of us are too wigged out to sleep alone. The cat and the dog are even staying close to each other at night, before all this the cat avoided the dog like the plague. I wish I could say that we kept the pets strictly because we love them too much to get rid of them in this crazy situation. Don’t get me wrong, we love our animals. But there were practical reasons for keeping as well, despite the risks that having to care for them adds. They give us a place to focus our attention besides the world outside. The cat and dog can both help keep pest animals under control as the world becomes less sanitary. The dog’s excellent sense of smell can help us find food or animals to eat.
Today was the day that we became unlucky enough to know for sure that the undead had reached our neighborhood. We’ve heard looters and desperate people outside looking for supplies or simply destroying things out of frustration. We get very quiet and wait them out, the noise they make is very human and doesn’t really sound different than the street noise that we are use to or the noise that the dumpsters make when being picked up by the garbage trucks early in the morning. The only reason it sounds strange now, is that everything is normally so quiet since everyone was ordered to stay inside. This noise was, well, different. At first we didn’t notice it; then we thought we were hearing things because we aren’t use to such quiet in the city limits. It was a raspy, shuffling noise. Then we heard a rather quiet rattling, like a stack of pots that were bumped slightly and resettled without failing over. Again we hear the shuffling, and some more rattling. We decide to peek out very, very carefully. My heart is pounding in my chest, the sound of the blood in my ears almost drowns out the noise from outside. The Girl is staying with the dog in case he tries to bound into the window to get a better look, or starts barking. Even though he’s a beagle, we’ve never had an issue with him barking or howling, but we are taking no chances that he will attract the attention of other survivors or the undead.
As we look out the corners of the window together, we have to fight not to gasp or call out in alarm. Though we can’t see its skin, and in any other situation it would be mistaken for a drunk homeless person, we know that we have just seen our first undead in person. This is confirmed when The Girl comes up behind us, and quietly tugs on our shirts to get our attention. I am so proud of her caution, but am sad that her normally positive and perky self is buried beneath all this worry and sadness in her eyes. The dog has sensed the undead corpse outside as well, and instead of barking as we feared he might, he has dropped on all fours and is having a bought of submissive peeing. This means we don’t have to worry, at least for now, that he will bark crazily when one is near and draw more to us.
Once we got over our shock at the reality being so close to home, and that the corpse had moved on, we logged into our social networks and posted the news. It seems so silly, even looking back just a few hours ago. Hell, I felt silly right after I did it. I don’t know if it was a case of old habits dying hard, a need to be “normal” again, or a need to tell someone outside this apartment. Other than checking on family, none of us had even thought of being online. Part of me wishes we hadn’t gotten online. The Girl gets online as well, she needs to talk to someone other than her aged parents about this. She notices a friend of hers from The Cities has her webcam open. She glances as us, afraid and hopeful all at once, asking us silently if she should open it.
The husband and I exchange looks just as confused as hers and slowly, cautiously nod our heads. It is her friend Becca, she is in her room sobbing uncontrollably and trying to talk. In the background we can see her bedroom door vibrating, she has blocked the door with her dresser and bed. We can hear what sounds like several people banging on the door. The Girl tries sending her a chat message, but we aren’t sure if she sees it. I am watching The Girl and Becca become more and more agitated and scared.
“Mom, Dad, should I turn on my web cam? Should I let her know I’m here?”
I don’t know what to say. Will it be better or worse for Becca to know that someone hears her pleas, but can do nothing for her? We know what’s on the other side of that door.
“I have to let her know I’m here, that she’s not alone.” The Girl chokes out around the lump in her throat.
I watch my baby girl take two large, calming breaths and turn on her webcam. She invites Becca to view it. We all see the light of hope ignite on Becca’s face as she reaches to open the cam. I step away under the excuse of bringing The Girl back a drink, I can’t bear to view the moment when this wonderful young woman that has stayed with us many nights realizes that we can’t rescue her.
When I return, my spouse squeezes my shoulder as I squeeze The Girl’s. The Girl has flipped the record button on, maybe part of her wants to make sure that if we get out of this certain things and people are not forgotten. Becca relays to us how her little brother became ill, and they took him to the hospital but were turned away because the hospitals were already overflowing. Her family had to bring him home and take care of him, they couldn’t break the fever and he soon died. She relays how they couldn’t get anyone to pick up the body, the noise from his room, the attack on her parents, her actions of self-defense, the attempt to nurse her parents back to health, and how those efforts failed. She finally glances back at the door, where the banging continues. Her eyes brim with tears, and the sobs begin anew. Without her saying a word, we know who is on the other side of the door. I grab my spouse’s hand behind The Girl’s back in horrified sympathy.
I have always been proud of the empathy my daughter has shown for others when they are upset or hurt. Today, she convinced me that it is her superpower. She found topic after topic to distract Becca from what was going on. They discussed embarrassing situations from school, wonderful times at slumber parties, cute boys at school, and plans for college and the future. They talked for hours, The Girl refusing to eat or drink because Becca didn’t have that choice. I am worried, not only because my daughter isn’t eating or drinking, but because I know there is only one ending to the scene before her. I also know that she has inherited the family’s stubbornness and will not abandon her friend until it is over or the power forces her to do so.
At dusk, the inevitable begins to happen. The door begins to splinter. Becca turns to see the arms of her parents reach for her in a macabre version of the thousands of hugs she has received from them throughout her entire life. The Girl gets Becca’s attention again, lets her know that we love her and we wish we could help. My husband and I add our own expressions of love. Then the creatures see her and begin to moan, it is the most horrible noise I have ever heard. We watch Becca begin to hyperventilate, and cry again.
“I love you guys! Thank you for staying with me. Stay safe.”
Becca then reaches up towards her computer, all the while The Girl is screaming, “No, Becca! No!”, and turns her computer off.
The Girl screams and collapses. I will be eternally grateful to Becca for sparing The Girl the sight of her demise. We got The Girl in bed and made her drink some water. Then we gave her a sedative to make her sleep for a while. Now, maybe we can deal with today’s events.