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Authors: H.E. Goodhue

Tags: #Zombies

Dry Rot: A Zombie Novel (9 page)

BOOK: Dry Rot: A Zombie Novel
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-26-

 

Lucas, how could you do that? Why would you waste our money on such stupid, pointless crap? What about Kara?

Lisa’s words ran through my head on a constant loop. I dreamt the same dream most nights. It was our last conversation before she left me. I had screwed up the week’s shopping by purchasing supplies for the bunker instead of the refrigerator. Lisa looked like she wanted to kill me. Sometimes I wish she had.

There’s no way to argue with someone who can fire off questions like rounds from a machinegun. By the time I was answering the first question, four more were already on top of it. I sat in my kitchen and stared at Lisa. I knew I had screwed up and felt bad about it. I offered to fix it, to return something and get what she really wanted.

It’s like living in a fucking fairytale, Lucas! I send you out to do something simple and you come back with beans! But these aren’t even magic. No, you saunter in with a twenty-pound sack of dried kidney beans and have no idea why I’m pissed?

It wasn’t true. I did know why she was pissed. I wished I could have made her understand why I was doing what I did. I guess sometimes even I didn’t know why I did things. But I was doing them for her and Kara. Someday, we would need those beans. At least I thought we would.

Now I have to go back out in the rain to get milk and eggs and everything else that you left off your doomsday-shopping list. So help me, Lucas, there had better still be money in the account.

I thought there was, but I wasn’t sure. I said nothing. Work had been slow and the time between paychecks was growing larger. I watched Lisa pull Kara’s raincoat on and then the two of them walked out the front door.

Bye, Daddy! See you soon! Love you!

I told Kara that I loved her too. I loved them both.

Lisa and Kara never came home with the groceries.

I hated this dream.

 

-27-

 

The next morning Jared and Danni were still asleep when I woke up. The stress of Danni being sick stacked on top of being attacked had worn the two of them out. I slipped into my NBC suit, grabbed my mask and snuck out of the bunker.

The front door looked solid enough. I had reinforced it with some two by fours. It didn’t look like anyone was getting in without letting us know. With the Hummer parked behind the house and the bodies moved to my neighbor’s yard, I figured we were pretty safe. Whoever those guys were, one thing was clear – they were barely clinging to survival. They weren’t an organized group. It was just a bunch of people that had worked in the same place and been lucky enough to grab some respirators. Even with the masks, they were dying. I hoped that they would all be dead before Danni and Jared head towards South Dakota.

The stairs leading up to the second floor of my house creaked with each step. I had told Lisa I would fix the stairs more times than I could remember. The truth was that I liked the sound of creaking stairs. It let me know that Lisa and Kara were in the house. It was the sound of a house that was filled with life.

Now, the sound felt closer to the whine of coffin hinges. There was still life in my house, but it wasn’t the same. Danni and Jared were good people and I cared about them as much as I could, but they weren’t Lisa or Kara. It was just different. There was no other way I could rationalize it.

More pictures of Kara and Lisa hung in the hallway outside of the upstairs bedrooms. I tried to avoid looking at them, but couldn’t stop myself.

Dust coated the glass and gave the pictures a dull, hazy look. I used my glove to wipe away some of the grime. Kara’s beaming smile broke through the grit like some long-forgotten treasure.

The next picture was from my wedding. Lisa and I didn’t have the money for an expensive ceremony or party, but we had been happy. Younger versions of ourselves stood on the steps of the church smiling and surrounded by friends and family. We had been so full of hope and promise. Our lives had become intertwined and we couldn’t have been happier. I don’t know when we lost that feeling. It was something that slipped away bit by bit with each argument. It withered a little more each day we spent giving the other one the silent treatment. Looking back, I see how childish we had been. We were given the amazing gift of each other and then Kara, and we never stopped to think about how lucky we were. People could be so stupid. I had been stupid.

Life just got in the way. That was the truth of it, but it didn’t make it any easier to accept. We wasted time worrying about bills and money. We stressed about saving more in the bank, even though we never would have enough to feel safe. So much time had been spent worrying and fighting about things that no longer mattered. The banks and bill collectors were gone. All that was left was our house and the memories it contained. That’s probably all that ever should have mattered to us all along.

The door leading into Kara’s bedroom was closed. The door was covered with pictures and artwork, all that had once been vibrantly colored, but that had now faded and curled. I gently touched a few of the sketches and paintings Kara had hung there. She had a real talent for art. Lisa and I couldn’t draw anything beyond stick figures. But Kara had been an amazing artist from early on.

Memories of Kara’s first week of kindergarten flashed through my mind. She had come home on Friday with a stack of artwork. An amazingly accurate painting of a cow caught my attention and I asked how much her teacher, Ms. Felder, helped her. I just couldn’t see how such a little kid could paint it alone. Kara lost her temper and began screaming at me. I was shocked by her outburst, but she was enraged that I didn’t think she painted it all by herself. From that day on, I knew better than to question my daughter’s artistic abilities. I hung that cow painting on the fridge for months. Kara eventually made me take it down to make room for more artwork. She said it was babyish and demanded that I throw it away.

I pushed the door open to Kara’s room. Dust coated the plastic that covered her things. After Lisa and Kara left, I kept the room immaculate. That was Kara’s room, but it was my shrine to her. This was the museum of my daughter and I would visit it everyday after I came home from work. It was testament to the fact that I had been part of something amazing, that I had mattered.

I turned and walked across the hall to my bedroom. I lifted the plastic covering my dresser and pulled open the top drawer. Bunches of socks sat inside like an old clutch of dinosaur eggs. I pushed them aside and dug towards the bottom of the drawer. A wrinkled, yellow piece of paper lay buried beneath my socks. I grabbed the paper and walked back to Kara’s room.

Sitting on Kara’s bed, clutching a faded cow painting in my hands, I cried.

 

-28-

 

At some point, I must have fallen asleep on Kara’s bed. An NBC suit and mask weren’t exactly comfortable, but I was exhausted. My run to the pharmacy followed by a shoot out drained me.

The muffled shuffle of footsteps across carpet shook me from my sleep. Visions of a horde of husks surrounding the bed filled my head. I bolted upright and thrust the barrel of my shotgun into the nearest face.

Behind her mask, Danni’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates. Her hands trembled at her sides.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” I said.

“Um, could you please lower the gun?” Danni asked.

“Oh. Yeah,” I said, not realizing that I still had the weapon raised. “Sorry about that.” I leaned the shotgun against the wall.

“I shouldn’t have startled you,” Danni said. She sat down next me on the bed. “I’m feeling better, not one hundred percent yet, but still better. Jared told me what you did to get me medicine and to keep him safe. Thank you, Lucas.”

Danni did look like she was feeling better. She must have cleaned up in the decontamination shower that was set up in the basement. Granted, I couldn’t see much of her behind a facemask and under a NBC suit, but she did look better.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said and shifted away from Danni a little bit. She sat down next to me, our legs brushing against each other’s. The bed was small, but not that small. I moved a little further towards the end.

“Lucas,” Danni said. I waited for her to say more, but she simply let my name hang in the air. I didn’t know if she was waiting for me to say something or do something. I choose to stare intently at my boots as they left impressions in the carpet.

Danni’s hand touched my shoulder. She gently pulled me towards her. I resisted and tried to inch further down the bed.

“Danni, what are you doing?” I asked, staring at the floor. She was beautiful. She was broken too, but still beautiful. Somehow that combination made her even more attractive. I pulled away. Complicating things further wasn’t going to help anything.

“What’s wrong, Lucas?” Danni asked. Her voice was husky and full of mischief. Her other hand settled on my knee.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I stammered and leapt up from the bed. “Danni, hold on. Look, we shouldn’t…I mean we can’t…”

“Why?” Danni asked. “Jared is downstairs asleep.”

“No, not that,” I said.

“Well, what is it then?” Danni stood up and moved towards me. She wrapped her arms around my waist and pulled me closer. “Is it the masks? I know we have to keep them on. It’ll be kind of kinky.” Her laugh sounded strange through her mask.

“No, it’s not the masks,” I said and gently pushed her away.
Was she really trying to seduce me while wearing a biohazard mask?
I thought.
Were people really into that sort of thing? Apocalyptic foreplay? If they weren’t, I’m sure anyone left would be soon enough.

“Is it your wife?” Danni asked. She sounded hurt, slighted maybe, but not angry. “I thought you said she left you. I thought this would be okay?”

“She did leave me, but I still love her,” I said. “I’m sorry, Danni.”

“I get it,” Danni sighed. Her shoulders sagged and tears welled in her eyes. “It was a stupid idea. I just wanted to feel something…something, I don’t know – normal, I guess. I just didn’t want to feel like the world was over, even for a little bit.”

“She did leave,” I repeated, “but that doesn’t change anything.”

Danni was crying. I felt bad. I didn’t know if it was the stress, my rejection or all of the above. I stood nailed to a spot on the floor.

“I wish I had met someone like you before all of this,” Danni said. I studied her face. Was she still trying to seduce me? “Your wife was lucky to have you. I screwed up Jared’s life so many times by hooking up with the wrong guy. I always seemed to meet the wrong one.”

“Yeah, well there’s a hell of a lot more of them. Stats just weren’t on your side,” I said. “Come on, let’s go get some breakfast.” Danni nodded.

It was easy to write Danni off as a weak female, desperate to latch onto a man, but that wasn’t what was going on here. Danni was scared. I was too. She wanted to feel a respite from the ash-choked insanity that threatened to consume us both. Oddly enough, a recently paroled criminal with a doomsday bunker in his basement was the most normal person in Danni’s life and all she was trying to do was feel something other than scared. I couldn’t blame her for that. If not for Lisa and Kara, I would have been doing the same thing.

As I reached over to grab my shotgun, I saw Kara’s cow painting on the floor. It must have slipped from my hands while I was sleeping.

Danni saw that I was staring at the painting, knelt down and picked it up. “You should hold on to this – hold onto them.”

“Thanks,” I said and tucked the painting into my pocket.

 

-29-

 

“So when do we leave?” Jared asked. He sat on the edge of his bunk, what should have been Kara’s bunk, with an industrial-sized can of peaches cradled between his knees. I watched him swinging his feet in time with his chewing and realized how young he still was. Jared was just a kid and Danni was terrified. Could I really send them out on the road alone? I didn’t want to be responsible for the bad things that might happen to them, but could I really forsake my own plans to ensure that they arrived safely in South Dakota.

No, I couldn’t do it. I needed to see Kara and Lisa again. I didn’t care that they left me. I was going to be with my family again and that was all there was to it. I would make sure that Jared and Danni were prepared, but that was where my responsibility ended.

“Your mom needs a few more days to recover,” I said as I fished a peach-half out of the can and popped it into my mouth.

“I’m feeling better,” Danni said. “You don’t have to worry about us, Lucas. I know that you have your own family to worry about. You’ve done more than enough for Jared and me. Whenever you need to go, just let us know.”

“You’re still not coming with us?” Jared asked.

“I can’t,” I said.

“You mean you won’t,” Jared said. His face was pouty and only added to making him look his actual age.

“No, Jared,” Danni cut in. “Lucas can’t. He has to find his family. We have no right to try and stop him from doing that. You would do the same thing.”

“I guess so.” Jared stared into the amber depths of the canned fruit.

I opened my mouth to say something, what I wasn’t really sure, but I felt like I should say something to Jared. The rumble of an engine sounded outside. I could hear the muffled roar in the street. It was something big. It sounded like a diesel engine.

“Stay here,” I said and grabbed my mask and shotgun.

Creeping up the stairs, I edged around the side of the kitchen and towards the front of the house. I started towards the windows in the front of the house, but stopped myself. I didn’t know who was out there and the last thing I wanted was to let them know that we were in here.

Skipping steps, I made my way upstairs and into my old bedroom. I knelt down by one of the windows and peered around the curtain.

A large flatbed truck idled in the middle of the street. Husks stumbled around the sides of houses and limped into the streets. People began firing on the husks with an array of weapons. The shots were sloppy, hitting the husks in the chest and limbs, but they fired enough to eventually clear the streets. I counted fifteen people, all armed.

I wanted to believe that this was some sort of rescue effort. It wasn’t. Every one of the people outside my house covered their faces with the same masks that Rich and his men wore. They were looking for the missing part of their group.

Groups of twos and threes split off and began walking towards the houses on the other side of the street. They were searching the yards and homes. Soon, they would turn their attention on my house and find the Hummer in the backyard and then the bodies next door. I had seen enough.

I slipped out of my bedroom and made my way back to the basement. Jared and Danni could tell from the look on my face that the news wasn’t good.

“What is it?” Danni asked.

“It’s more of those guys, isn’t?” Jared added.

“Yes,” I said. “I counted fifteen of them. They’re all armed and it looks like they are searching for the men I killed. It won’t be long before they find the Hummer behind the house.”

“What are we going to do?” Danni asked.

“We’re going to stay down here until they leave,” I said.

“But what if they find out that we’re down here?” Jared protested. “The other guys did and I heard them threaten to burn the house down. These guys will do the same thing.”

I grunted. Jared was right. These guys were going to find the bodies and the Hummer and it wouldn’t be long before they found the bunker.

“Alright,” I said. “I’m going out there.”

“Then we’re coming with you,” Danni said. She moved towards the gun rack. Jared still had his pistol. I saw there was no arguing.

“Okay,” I said, “but we have to have a plan.”

BOOK: Dry Rot: A Zombie Novel
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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