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Days Go By (Cities of the Dead)

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Days Go By (Cities of the Dead)
Days Go By

  by William Young

  Copyright 2011 William Young

  Bridgeport, Pennsylvania – Day 132

  For rotting corpses, zombies don’t exactly smell bad. Rotting corpses are supposed to smell bad. You watch a crime show about a coroner or CSI unit, and they smear that white stuff under their noses sometimes when they’re going to investigate a body. Bodies are supposed to decay, melt into goo and turn into bones. Not zombies. Zombies are kinda like the Energizer bunny: they just keep going and going.

  Until you put a big hole in one’s head. Or chop its head off. Or burn it. Or spray it with enough acid. Or flatten it with a steamroller. Otherwise, they’re sorta like that black knight in that Monty Python movie, you can keep hacking parts off, but they just keep on living, trying to get you. Run, walk, crawl, slither.

  Why they want to eat you is a big mystery to me. They’re supposed to be dead. Or, undead. I’m not exactly clear on that one. Before Kyle got eaten by a pack of zombies on Fourth Street two weeks ago he had been researching zombie history and come to the conclusion that zombies were re-animated corpses, brought back to life by black magic. He thought Holy Water in a Super Soaker might be a way to kill them, so he loaded up a tank at St. Augustine’s and headed down Fourth Street to the Wawa convenience store, which is where a lot of the zombies kind of hang out when there’s nobody to try to eat.

  Almost just like before there were zombies, only back then the people would stand in front of the store with cups of coffee and smoke cigarettes. Now, they groan and shuffle back and forth.

  Anyway, Kyle rode his bike into the parking lot, started squirting at the zombies, and before he could start pedaling away the borough secretary came up on him from behind and grabbed his hair. She must’ve been about sixty before she was turned into a zombie, but one thing about zombies is they’re freaking strong, and all hundred pounds of the lady – Mrs. Scotoline – dragged Kyle to the ground and bit him on the shoulder. A couple of seconds later and Kyle stopped screaming as a dozen or so zombies had him and tore him apart. What’s left of him is still lying in the parking lot.

  Kyle never said how Holy Water would stop black magic, but I thought it was a dumb idea at the time. These are zombies, not vampires.

  But you know what does smell after a while? People. Living people. I’d like to say you get used to it, but you head outside for a while in the fresh air and when you get back home, all you smell is sour stink. Almost makes you want to risk a dash down to the Schuylkill with a bar of soap, but the last person that did that was Marsha something-or-other, and now she’s a one-armed zombie that mostly hangs out around Christine’s hair salon down the other end of Fourth Street. You don’t realize how much that daily shower really does for you even when you’re not dirty.

  So, life kinda sucked before the zombies. My mom and dad made me do homework first thing every day after school: before dinner, before video games, before anything. Homework. And my dad kept signing me up for baseball and football. Baseball is boring and football practice sucks. I don’t know why I just couldn’t play video games or watch YouTube or whatever, but I couldn’t. Some of my friends had parents like mine, but most of my friends had their own televisions and computers in their bedrooms. Not me. Life sucked. Kinda, like I said.

  And then the zombies came. My friends had told me about them, sort of, at lunch. Weird stories they heard about from their parents about Los Angeles and New York and Europe. Or Russia. Russia’s in Europe, I think. Close, probably. Anyway, all I knew about zombies I knew from the movies. So, not much, really. Fast zombies. Slow zombies. All of them want to eat you.

  All that is true.

  The only rule of zombies is there is no rule for zombies.

  Or does that count as a rule?

  Whatever. So, I’ve been mostly living in the second floor of Salvi’s & Friends Pub with eight other people. Used to be eleven of us, but you know about Kyle and Marsha, so now there are just nine of us. Been in here for about five weeks, now, and all the food and beer is gone. The toilets don’t work and there’s no running water, no electricity, no anything like before. I mean, not that I’d been in here before the zombies, I hadn’t, I’m only fifteen and not allowed in bars.

  Kyle and I got in here the day the zombies came over from Norristown. They were mostly illegal Mexicans, the shorter, darker brown kind that you sometimes see hanging out in the parking lot of The Home Depot or Lowe’s early in the morning, or like the guys who did most of the construction on the townhouses on Union Avenue last summer. You’d walk by there and all you heard was table saws, hammers and Spanish. Only in America, right?

  So, it was about one o’clock in the afternoon and Kyle and I were at the park on top of the hill behind the grade school when we started hearing the shots. Lots of shots. And then the siren from the Swedeland fire company went off and Old Man Joe Morris told us to get the hell home because the town was done for. Then he and Don Fox took their rifles and headed toward the school on the other side of the park. Haven’t seen Old Man Morris since, but Don Fox is a zombie that mostly hangs out around the Rib House, only he’s missing both arms and looks like someone set his head on fire.

  I didn’t make it home. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to be outside of home, either. Dad took Mom, Kelly, Molly and Craig up to Pop Pop’s house out in the country with our dog, Rocket, thinking maybe it’d be safer up there away from so many people, since zombies seem to be drawn to people. I was supposed to stay and guard the house, only Dad took the HK .45 and the Mossberg shotgun and left me with Mom’s little five-shot .380, which is good for shooting muggers and carjackers, but not so much for zombies. Not that it matters, since I forgot it on coffee table in the living room right next to the keys to the house.

  All because of Kyle, of course, who came by that afternoon to tell me he heard Old Man Morris and Don Fox were going to snipe zombies from the top of the hill and did I want to come watch? He had two pairs of binoculars, so I said sure, and then – you guessed it – click!, the front door locked behind me. And since the windows on the first floor were all boarded up inside and out, well, there was no way back in if you weren’t Spider-Man.

  I’m not Spider-Man, I’m Ralph McGuire. That’s “Rafe” like the actor, but I get "Rahlf" all the time.

  So, I ended up in Salvi’s. Just barely. Like I said, some zombies are fast, and there were some fast little illegal Mexican zombies that came across us as we were walking down Grove Street talking about how bad my Dad would kill me if I had to pry off some plywood from a window, break the glass, and kick my way into the house. I knew there was canned food, water, and all my clothes in there. Plus, that’s where my Dad was coming back to after he dropped off my Mom and sisters and brother.

  And then the zombies were just there, kinda running up the alley at us in some sort of stutter-step half-skip run, if you can imagine that. I think they must have played a lot of soccer when they were alive to have been able to run like that.

  So, Kyle and I had to start running down the street looking for someplace to hide, and – of course – every house in town is locked and most of them are boarded up, more or less. So we ran a couple of blocks with those zombie Mexicans on our tails and Kyle sees a bunch of people prying open the door to the pub while a lady with a shotgun is blowing holes in a handful of zombies – the normal American kind – and we ran over to them. Almost got shot, too, but at the last second the lady – Valerie – realized we weren’t fast zombies and didn’t shoot us.

  Plunked a couple of the Mexican zombies, though.

  After we got inside, everyone started pushing things against the door. The first floor windows already had some metal screens on the outside, altho
ugh most of them were high enough on the walls than nobody – well, no zombie, anyway – would be able to climb up and in through them. After that, nobody really knew what to do, and all the adults started kind of arguing about who should be in charge, almost like we were on that television show Survivor.

  I guess maybe we kind of actually were. Only nobody gets voted off, they get eaten off.

  Valerie was the only one with a gun, and even though she only had seven shells left everyone sort of let her be in charge. I mean sort of in charge, because Steve “I’m a trial attorney” Douchenozzle was always horning in with his opinion on what should be done and how. Not that there was really anything to be in charge of: there were just eleven of us in a bar, it’s not like we needed to write a Constitution or something.

  That first night was the only real excitement. About an hour after sunset, there was a huge commotion a couple of blocks over toward Swedeland. A lot of gunfire and shouting moving down Prospect Street. A couple of us managed to get up on the roof, but you really couldn’t see anything except a sliver of Fourth Street near the industrial park building. Looked like twenty or
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