The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse (3 page)

BOOK: The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse
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“You okay?” I asked.

“That’s Steve Harks.”

“That’s what I keep hearing from the two of you,” I said. “Stars! They’re just like us.”

“Do you think I should tell him about my play?” Bruce asked.

“The one that’s been cancelled indefinitely,” I said. “Can’t hurt.”

“I’ll bet he could help me out. Think of the networking I could be accomplishing.”

“I doubt he’ll come to your play.”

He broke his gaze with Steve and looked at me, hurt puppy eyes. “Why would you say that?”

“Sorry. I just thought you were joking.”

“Why would I be joking?” he asked. “If he came to my play, he’d be really impressed. He’d probably have a part for me in his next movie.”

“Aren’t we getting a little bit ahead of ourselves?” I asked. “Are we even living in world where they make movies?”

His face turned stony. “I should have known.” He turned away.


“You’re being sarcastic and unsupportive again,” he said. “It’s like how you think every play I’m in is called
Death of a Salesman

“That’s not true. You just always play a guy who’s sad and wears suits.”

“What about
The Happiest Millionaire
?” Bruce asked.

“My mistake,” I said. “You made me believe you were a very happy millionaire.”

“No!” He mouth was getting tight, the way it does when he gets annoyed. “I was the guy trying to marry the millionaire’s daughter! And he wasn’t happy. Remember?”

“So why was it called that?”

“Called what?”

“This isn’t the point. What you’re forgetting is that the world ended a week ago and none of this matters.”

“Whatever,” he said, staring piercingly hard at Steve. “It’s not important. If it was one of those fighting housewives from that show you like, I’d introduce you.”

“See,” I said. “You say that, but the fact that the only thing you’re focused on at this moment in time is Steve Harks says differently.”

He sucked in his breath. “He’s in the yellow group. How could someone that important be there?”


He fingered his green bracelet. “Dammit. He’s a yellow? I would have two things to talk to him about instead of this stupid green group!”

I looked at him. “Are you wishing you stayed a yellow? Maybe not as useless a group as you thought?”

It took him a moment to answer, but then he came to. “No, no, no,” he said quickly. “Of course not.”

“Great,” I said. “Wait for me. I’m going to use the bathroom.

He still stared after Steve Harks as he disappeared into a crowd of fellow yellow wearers. He looked as if he was about to cry, so I patted his shoulder.

“I’m sure they’d probably give you back your yellow—”

“No, it’s okay,” he said. “Better this way. You and I are together. Certainly not thinking about trading your bracelet I guess.”

Finally, he met me in the eye and smiled. It wasn’t convincing, but I decided to take it and move on.

“I’m glad,” I said. “It’s been a long week.”

Robert came up behind me. “Get me signed in, will you?” he asked. “I’m going to try to make some calls, so I’ll need a green bracelet.”

“I don’t know if they’ll let you do that,” I said with a heavy sigh. “And I’m pretty sure the phone is just for whoever works here.”

“Trust me,” he said. “There’s a phone somewhere around this place, and I’m going to use it.”

He disappeared into the crowd and I smiled at the overtired worker behind the table with the bracelets.

“Hi,” I said. I could feel the eye roll behind her covered helmet. “I don’t suppose you saw what just happened. Just to save us some time.”

“He needs to personally get his bracelet and sign in his information,” she said in a voice that was either boredom tinged with hatred or hatred with a side of soullessness. “It’s our way of taking a census on survivors.”

“I understand,” I said. “Completely. But could you just make an exception just this once? I probably know his information better than he does.”

“If I make an exception for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone.” She shrugged. “And I don’t want to talk to everyone.”

“Don’t think of it as an exception!” I said, trying to make my voice gentle and amiable. “I’ll say nothing but great things about you, and assure whatever new government that’s about to spring up that if anyone can be counted on to keep order in a new society, it’s you.”

The woman was silent, and I was unable to see what her facial expression was to see if I had gotten through to her.

“And that’s it?” She shrugged.

“Well, obviously, we don’t have a new government yet, so I don’t know who I’d talk to.”

“I need something tangible.” She pointed her heavily gloved hand toward my bag of hastily put together supplies. “What do you have?”

“Probably nothing,” I said.

Bruce nudged me. “Ask her if she can get me back into the yellow group.”

“Shhh!” I said, opening my bag. “Not much.”

Bruce watched Steve wistfully. “He’s doing magic tricks for kids,” he said.

I turned and looked. There was Steve Harks pulling handkerchiefs out of his sleeve.

“I can do two magic tricks,” he said. “He and I have two things in common now so I should be with that group.”

“Open it wider,” the woman said, standing, peering into it.

I obeyed her as she stuck her hand in. A tube of lip gloss fell out onto the table and started to roll off the edge. She caught it and held it up to the bad lighting above as if it were Indiana Jones’ golden idol.

“I keep this and call it a deal,” she said.

“But that’s my favorite,” I said. “And the color’s probably discontinued.”

She shrugged. “Suit yourself. You had your chance.”

“Wait,” I said. “So you would have let me get my boss into his color group or any favor for you for this lip gloss?”

She turned her head away. “Snooze you lose. Now it’s mine. Next!” She waved me away.

Robert waded through the crowd. “Son of a bitch!” he yelled. “Next person who coughs on me is getting a royal ass kicking.”

“Wait!” I rolled my eyes. “Fine,” I said. “You can have it. Just give me the bracelet.”

She smiled smugly through that helmet and handed me the green bracelet. “What’s his name?”

“Robert Jamison,” I said.


“Uh,” I said. “Robert?”

“Nope!” Robert said, coming up behind me. “It’s October third something.” She handed me the bracelet, which I then handed to Robert. He frowned at it. “Is this the only color they come in?”

“You’re in the green group,” I said. “It’s how you can be found later on. You also get a better bathroom.”

“Later on what?”

Myself and the guard shrugged as Robert turned to Bruce and pointed at him.

“Is this the guy who used to deliver breakfast burritos to the office?”

“That was one time, and he happened to be in the area,” I said. “But this is Bruce. My boyfriend.”

“I thought you were dating that guy with the hat,” Robert said. “Came every day with a salad.”

“That’s the cafeteria delivery guy,” I said, trying to ignore the alarmed look on Bruce’s face. “I don’t know his name.”

“But he came to see you every day.”

“To deliver my food,” I said. “At lunch.”

Robert raised an eyebrow. Bruce seemed confused.

“Can we just say that this is Bruce, my boyfriend, and move on while you put on your bracelet?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Waste of time if you ask me.”

“What about me?” Bruce asked.

The girl behind the table stared at my now lost tube of lip gloss, which I was immediately regretting losing.

“I’m using the bathroom,” I said. “Enough is enough.”

“Attention visitors,” screamed a woman with a bullhorn, standing on empty crates. They too were clad in a hazmat suit and headdress, giving them an eerie sense of authority.

At the sight of her, everyone shut up and stared in awe.

“If you have been classified into a group, please find your color group’s bus outside, ready to take you to your new destination,” she said. “So don’t even try to use the bathroom.”

Before I could hit the door of the bathroom, two guards approached. One gave me a stern shaking of the head.

“God, another bus?” Robert asked. “Those seats were not made for those who haven’t had a spinal adjustment in a while.”

“There’s a business idea,” I said.

“Oh my God,” He snapped his fingers. “You may just have something there. When all of this is over, we make friends with a chiropractor. Put together for me some projected numbers and a possible prototype when we get back to the office.”

“Good plan.”

“Seriously,” he said. “Write that down.”

I opened the palm of my hand and fake wrote it in the air. “How do you spell chiropractor?”

His face was super serious. “I don’t know why you’re making jokes. That’s a great idea, and you’re just not getting it.”

I grimaced slightly but smiled. “My mistake.”

“Really not the kind of team spirit we pride at Mitchellwide Insurance.”

One of the hazmatted figures approached us.

“Do you have a color group?” he asked.

I nodded. “We’re in the green group.”

“Stay here,” he said. “We’re letting yellows go first and in the buses headed toward that spa that’s been turned into quarantine.”

“Come on!” Bruce said. “Are you kidding me?”

Robert snapped his fingers. “We’ve got to get better buses,” he said. “I don’t think my joints can take it.”

We watched yellows get on the bus, then a group of greens before us. Then we were allowed onto one with what looked like the windows shot out of it and a weird smell inside.

“I take it back,” Robert said. “The other bus was better. There better be a seat in the back for me.”

I looked around, wondering why Robert and I were the only ones standing around. Steve walked slowly with five other people, all clamoring for his attention, one of which being Bruce.

“I’m doing a play right now,” he said, practically jumping up and down for his attention. “It’s called
and really tackles the issue of racism in America. You would have really liked it.”

Steve didn’t seem to be paying attention, just unraveling strings of what was left of his sweater.

“Bruce?” I asked.

Maybe he heard me, I don’t know. I just watched him try to follow Steve onto the bus and then get steered away from it and toward the bus I stood in front of. Steve’s bus pulled away, and Bruce threw his hands up.

“I was originally a yellow!” he shouted. “Doesn’t that count?”

Defeated, he wandered back to our area. He seemed sheepish about it, but I smiled, anyway.

“They put us over here,” I said, playing dumb. “Probably pretty confusing when all the buses are the same color.”

He gave the worst fake laugh I had ever heard. “Right,” he said. “I get it. I switched to green, but thought I was yellow. It’s a joke on me.”

“Not really,” I said. “It’s a made-up system. None of this will matter tomorrow.”

“Of course you did.”

Debra came out walking in tiny steps, purse clutched close to her body. “Jessica!” she yelled. “Is Robert on that bus?”

“Tell her I’m in a meeting!” I heard Robert call out.

“Of course he is,” I said to her. “You know Robert. Has to get the best seat he can find. Also it’s Verdell.”

“Well, I’ll fix that,” she said.

Chapter 3
East is Where the Sun Sets

headed toward us and the parked buses in waves. A loud alarm rang, and I immediately covered my ears. Bruce just calmly looked up at the sky as rain started to fall. It hit the ground with a hissing sound, followed by steam.

“What is that?” he asked as a drop hit his arm. “Ouch!”

“I think it’s time to go!” I shouted. I grabbed his hand and tried to lead him toward the bus before he jerked away like a manic Golden Retriever, running after the yellow group again.

A guard soon returned Bruce back to the bus. “This guy belong to you?” he asked.

Bruce looked surly and on the verge of an outburst.

“In a matter of speaking,” I said. “Yes.”

The guard let go of him and shook a finger in Bruce’s face.

“Why do we have any rules at all?” Bruce snapped. “Just because you’re wearing a yellow suit doesn’t mean you can treat us like children.”

“Get on the bus or you won’t get a grilled cheese at the quarantine.”

Bruce turned around and quickly boarded the bus.

“We’re getting grilled cheese?” I asked. “What if I’m lactose intolerant?”

He shrugged and turned away to join the other group of buses.

It was a bumpy ride, and we sat in one of the middle rows. Bruce mostly stared outside, not so much to take in the urban decay going on around us, but probably daydreaming about lunches and moonlight walks on the beach with Steve the actor. Deep down I understood. I wouldn’t have minded sitting next to him either. Good Lord, he was hot in that movie where he played a cowboy with no shirt.

When I came back to reality, I heard rain drops and sizzling as it hit the roof of the bus.

“What is that from?” someone shouted. “Are we going to be all right?”

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see a middle aged Hispanic woman. She smiled.


She shoved a folded piece of paper at me. “Can you pass that to the man in the blue shirt up there?”

I took the paper and gestured to the man up ahead. “Him?”

“It’s my husband,” she said. “I can’t get his attention otherwise.”

I smiled and nodded. I leaned forward and tapped the man on the shoulder. He turned around.

“Your wife,” I said.

“Who?” He seemed confused.

“Your wife?” I handed him the note. He unfolded it, then promptly rolled his eyes and turned back around. I turned and mouthed the word “sorry” to the woman. She waved me away.

At that moment, before I could say a word there was an explosion from outside that rocked us out of our seats and we collided with one another. Screams went up. Terror was at an all-time high as there was the crunch of metal and human bodies. I was huddled in a fetal position too paralyzed to move, even if I really wanted to, but at this point in time, I wanted to disappear into those bus floorboards. I tried to take several deep breaths as opposed to hyperventilating, which was my natural response. When I squeezed my eyes shut I imagined my parents. Mom, petite and full of worry, Dad shaking a finger, saying, “I told you so…”

When the rolling stopped, there was a sharp ringing in my ears and I lay still under a bulk of something that I hoped wasn’t a dead body. I wasn’t going to move. I knew I was hurt, I knew I was bleeding somewhere, but I was afraid of coming apart entirely if I were to stand. Secondly, I could see in my very limited view through the broken window that there was a rogue force getting on board the bus and they had a walk that said they were not to be messed with.

They were masked with what looked like old dish rags and had makeshift weapons—guns with pipes and sharp objects attached with what looked like silly putty. They were dressed in dirty jeans and distressed army pants, but the look was somewhat lessened by one of them wearing a Bugs Bunny shirt.

A dirty boot came down dangerously close to where I hid and its owner pulled out someone who had been in the seat ahead of me, possibly the Hispanic woman’s husband. My hearing was slowly starting to come back and I could now make out indiscernible shouting. Someone fired a gun, which made me jump again.

I can honestly say I’ve never been more terrified than that moment right then and there. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to make it.

“Dear God,” I whispered. “If you save me, I promise I will take a more definite direction in life and listen to wisdom when it’s offered.”

There were plenty of people hiding, pretending to be dead, and I wanted to know if Bruce and Robert were amongst them or actually gone. The thought of being alone was too much and I had to stop thinking or the fear would surely kill me faster than these attackers surrounding me.

People were being grabbed, there were new screams, new struggles going on around me. I should have been actively fighting for the safety of our group, but in all honesty I didn’t know what to do. So I lay still like a coward.

Someone fired their gunshot and then laughed. That was the first sound I registered with my hearing gradually coming back. The ironic thing was I hadn’t heard anyone laugh in weeks. And now there it was in the wake of people’s suffering.

“Listen up, people!” shouted a gruff voice. “If you want to live, you’ll hand over any of the following…” He paused, clearing his throat. “Water, Doritos, Skittles, cookies, battery packs, lotion, aspirin, those wipey things that get stains out or anything along those lines.”

I felt a finger on my exposed wrist. It startled me and I jerked it away.

“Shhhh!” I heard.

I couldn’t tell who touched me or who shushed me. I just didn’t want to be rudely pulled away or laughed at or shot.

Someone jerked my sleeve. I ignored it, mostly because I couldn’t turn my head in the right angle without a sharp pain that had been forming for the last few minutes or attract any unwanted attention. That’s when more stomping came in and the renegades started going through the lost luggage left on the bus.

My heart tightened, and I refused to move. I heard more noises, more shouting and then they marched out. I shivered and felt blood in my mouth.

“Come on!” someone whispered.

I ignored the voice until the person kicked me. “Hey!”

“Stop that!” I said.

“Don’t say that,” whispered the voice.

“Shh!” I hissed.

“That’s you?” Bruce’s voice was far more recognizable now as he crawled over to me and whispered. “Verdell?”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re going to get us caught. And why would you kick me?”

“That guy who sat in front of you,” he said. “Was that the guy from
Battlestar Galactica

“Bruce,” I said.

“Oh,” he said. “Right. Forget it. But I’m glad you’re okay.”

He crawled to me, reached out and took my hand.

I smiled, confused. If we were to be stuck together, I guess I could do much worse. He leaned over and kissed me hard on the mouth.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Kind of bleak right now.”

“We’re alive.”

“I think there’s some renegades outside. Pretty sure they’ve got weapons, and didn’t see you in
The Happiest Millionaire


“Wait,” I said. I reached for my bag, which was lodged under my knees. I opened it and pulled out that bag of Funyuns.

“Okay.” Bruce raised an eyebrow.

“I’m going to get us out of here,” I said. “Plus, Funyuns are disgusting.”

“Look, I was trying to be optimistic.”


Another voice came out of the shadows. “Is it safe?” he asked.

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“I was very important,” he said with an extremely serious face. “I’m head of my division. I’ve held many meetings.”


“Please be a hot girl,” he said.

I could hear him coming toward me on tiny footsteps. He was ducked low, but looked down and saw me. The disappointment on his face was painful and obvious.

“Oh,” he said. “It’s just you.”

“Yeah, glad you’re alive too,” I said.

“It’s not that. I loaned out my Chapstick to someone on the bus. Don’t know if I’m getting it back.”

I sighed. “Is the coast clear?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Can you see out the windows? Are we still surrounded?”

“I didn’t look.”

“Could you look now?” asked Bruce, who did nothing to hide his annoyance.

He looked up. “Yeah, it’s fine.” He looked around. “Where’s Debra?”

“Weren’t you sitting together?”

“We were,” he said slowly. “Just before the accident she thought someone in the front row had one of those gluten-free snack packs she wanted.”

“Did they?” I asked.

“Accident happened,” he said. “I don’t know.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Bruce said.

“Wait,” Robert said. “Someone has to go out first and make sure the coast is clear.”


A voice came out of nowhere.

“Who’s there?” Bruce asked.


Bruce poked his head up. “Do we know a Frank?”

I poked my head up and saw a man standing in the back. “Hi, Frank,” I said.


“Is there anyone else alive?”

“I am.”

A weak voice came from the other direction. I looked over to see the Hispanic woman from earlier. She had a little bit of blood coming down above her eye.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“My husband,” she said. “I think they took him. He’s not here.”

She was on the verge of tears. Her shoulders shook as she fought for composure. “He was here a second ago,” she said. “He was reading a note from me. And then he was gone.”

Bruce and Robert were silent. It was horribly awkward.

“I’m sure it’s okay,” I said. “He’s probably fine.”

She wiped her nose with her sleeve. “He was just here and now he’s not. He had a cold. He won’t know what to do.”

Debra stuck her head out. “Does anyone have any gum? Preferably the sugar free kind?”

She also had a large gash above her eye, but seemed unaware of it. The five of us were silent, until Frank cleared his throat.

“I have breath mints,” he said.

Debra rolled her eyes. “This is when the survivors envy the dead.”

Frank moved forward. “We have to get out of here,” he said. “I was an Army man. I’ll check it out.”

He marched past us and then stomped out of the overturned bus. He slammed his hand into the door, which now was sideways and stuck. We watched in silence as he kicked and kicked and kicked until it gave way with a shattering of glass.

Bruce leaned over. “Didn’t someone just open that door on their own?”

I shrugged. Frank just seemed to be enjoying things.

Once it was open, Frank jumped out. We huddled in silence as we waited.

“It’s real quiet!” he shouted.

“Frank, shut up,” I muttered.

“I don’t think there’s anyone around,” he yelled.

“Frank, please,” I said.

“I think it’s a shame that you’re so intolerant of someone else’s happiness,” Debra said. “He’s just expressing being himself in the solitude of a new world.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“You are really negative,” Bruce said.

Suddenly, gun shots rang out. I jumped, startled and hit the floor again. Frank yelped in pain for a moment, then his body hit the ground.

I gasped. The rest of the group just stared. The Hispanic woman slowly sank into her seat and held the sleeve to her sweatshirt to her mouth.

“Geez,” Robert said. “What do we do now?”

“Clearly,” Debra said. “The last thing we do is announce to the world that we’re by ourselves and unarmed like Frank did. Idiot.”

“What about this,” I said as I lowered my hands for a moment to let my thoughts out. “Maybe if we get out a different way. I’d like to find my family, so we could head east. Bruce’s family is that way.”

Debra looked down at me. “That is literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said.

“I’m with Debra,” Robert said. “We’d be heading toward the ocean. It’s not as populated, and maybe we can find some better help than hanging out in a school bus.”

An older woman approached us, small and stocky, dark hair and dark eyes. She wore baggy shorts and a t-shirt with a patchwork teddy bear on it, offering flowers.

“My aunt lives out that way,” the woman said. “She could help.”

“I’m sold,” Bruce said, looking at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said to the woman. “Who are you?”

“Does it matter?” Robert said. “She wants to give us free room and board.”

“It does matter,” I said. “I shouldn’t have to explain why.”

The woman smiled again. “My name is Priscilla,” she said. “My husband didn’t make it and I don’t want to be alone.”

“There,” Robert gestured to her. “Are you happy? Lets just follow this stranger.”

I briefly thought about parting ways to look for my family, but the fear of being alone was stronger. So I nodded.

Reluctantly, Debra and Bruce agreed, and we followed Robert out, trying not to look at the bodies along the way, crouched low to the ground so no one would see us.

We followed a wide road that at one time was heavily trafficked and now was completely desolate now. Priscilla pointed out things from time to time, but we were mostly silent.

“If we can get to my aunt’s house,” she said. “We’ll be safe.”

In all this time, I still hadn’t gotten to go to the bathroom. My bladder was in pain, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

“Guys, I’ve got a thing to do,” I said. With that I dashed behind someone’s Dumpster and crouched down. I unbuckled my pants and relaxed, closing my eyes.

“Verdell, I was thinking,” Robert said.

I opened my eyes to see Robert standing over me.

“Do you mind?” I asked, startled, trying to cover myself. “I’m taking care of some private business here.”

“I can’t talk to Debra about everything, so I thought I’d ask you,” he said. “Do you think I’m filling out around here?” he said, touching his gut. “I try to keep in shape, but lately, I’m not doing the same schedule I’m used to.”

I tried to stand while maintaining all modesty. “Sir,” I said. “You look great, but please pick better timing.” He looked slightly hurt. “Seriously, you look great,” I said. “Don’t sweat it.”

BOOK: The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse
4.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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