Authors: Robert Brown
The Last Blade Of Grass
Copyright 2015 by Robert Brown
The Journey Home
Be careful what you wish for. I always knew the saying had meaning, but never imagined my wishes for a global re-start would be caused by zombies. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say I never imagined it. I was a big fan of zombie books and movies before the world fell apart. What I mean is that I am a realist and a skeptic, so while thoughts of zombies once were entertaining, I knew the odds of some type of disease taking hold that could be considered a zombie illness was extremely remote.
To humanity’s good fortune, the zombie-like infected population is like the old school movies in the way they move. They creep up on you slowly and silently, only sometimes giving themselves away with a raspy breath or a scraping shoe. Their shuffling pace is nothing faster than a regular walk. This slow movement has helped those groups of survivors such as us overcome the sheer volume of actual infected people that are out there.
Another fortunate thing for us is the infected aren’t actually the risen or walking dead. It’s just a disease, an infection that was spread intentionally, but with the unintentional consequences of turning the population into zombie like cannibals. But that’s not so important right now.
Based on what we have been able to learn from other survivors around the world with Ham radios, it seems that like here, most of the human population in urban centers became infected in the first week of the diseases’ arrival.
The primary reason for the high level of infection was an inability of people to effectively defend themselves against the diseased. The only way to fight back without fear of infection is using firearms from a distance, because any physical interaction with a diseased person exposes you to the infected blood or saliva.
Unfortunately for humanity, most countries had low gun ownership rates and high restrictions for the general populace, so those nations and the U.S. states and cities with the lowest firearm ownership saw the highest infection rates. Even with firearms the fighting was difficult, because any noise, especially the loud report of gunfire, attracts the infected.
Now, eight months into this situation, the numbers of humans both infected and un-infected have dropped sharply. The severe winter we just made it through in the U.S. and other nations in the northern hemisphere killed off many of the people that had managed to survive the infected. People just aren’t used to living without the comforts of electricity or oil or natural gas heat. The die off was particularly severe, because for sustained periods the temperatures around the world dropped well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Oregon, the temperatures were more like what we had when we lived in South Dakota, in the range of -10 to -15 °F for weeks at a time. Even now in June, the weather is unusually cold.
So here I am eight months after the first reports of “rioting” began, crouched down and hiding in an abandoned store with my family. My wife and our five kids have been on a supply and training mission of sorts. Since the numbers of infected have dropped off and the weather started to turn better we’ve been looking for other groups of people, news, supplies and any unusual concentrations of remaining infected, that we should be concerned about. We are heading back to our property where there are several other families waiting for us to get back.
We didn’t have much luck with finding other survivors this trip. Yesterday we ran into a man named Jim Margrove in a small town on the outskirts of Medford, Oregon. He was dying from an infected cut. He told us he had been scraped up pretty bad in a fight a week earlier, that’s where he got his infection. His broken leg prevented him from freely searching for medicine, and you could see blackish spider veins over nearly his entire right thigh and abdomen. The blood poisoning had spread too far for antibiotics to help at this point. We both exchanged our incredulity that one could survive the zombie apocalypse for eight months, only to die by what was once considered a minor infection from being cut.
The worst part of the situation for Jim is that it wasn’t a fight with an infected that did him in. He happened to cross paths with what sounded by his description like one of the druggers of the past. Druggies are the current and former users of illegal drugs, but that definition didn’t fit the new threat we had to deal with. We started calling the formerly medicated population “druggers.” This is to distinguish them from those individuals that just went bat-shit crazy from dealing with all the fighting and dying since the end times arrived. The druggers are the people that were on meds to allow them to properly function in society. You know the ones, the severe paranoids, schizophrenics, manic depressives, and others.
Not that we have many problems from the depressives, if they survived the initial attacks, even their meds couldn’t help them deal with the psychological impact of seeing people they know get run down and chewed up. Hell, it hasn’t been easy for any of us, but when you throw in a medical tendency to get depressed when things are good. Your life expectancy isn’t very long when the world literally turns to shit, and you no longer have modern medicines to help regulate your moods.
The schizophrenics are the ones we really have to worry about, and one of them is probably what happened to Jim. If anything will help you survive a zombie-like pandemic apocalypse, it is being paranoid about everything. The schizophrenics have the market cornered for that realm. I mean a lot of them died in the early days of the infection, because they were medicated and thought the bloodied up corpse-like looking people coming toward them were illusions. So unfortunately, many of them died as a result of learning to ignore things that they felt shouldn’t be real.
I shouldn’t say unfortunately though, because it is truly fortunate for us that there aren’t more of them out there. The schizophrenics are amazing survivalists. It seems that their deep down instincts to hide, distrust, scavenge, and kill have truly blossomed in this world. And once they were no longer assisted by the hallucination blocking drugs they were used to, every human became an infected to them.
So I’m going off on a tirade against people that were once considered mentally diseased, and I could never have gotten away with bashing them like this when times were good, but then I also didn’t have a cause to. Now I’m just pissed that it isn’t just a plague of infected cannibalistic humans that I have to worry about, or the gangs of criminals and violent opportunists. It is also those that are just plain crazy that will walk up to you like it is a wonderful morning, happy as a clam to see another human being, and they will pull out a knife or a club and try to kill you.
My anger over the situation runs a little deeper since I can imagine the pain he was going through before his death. Jim didn’t just break his leg and get cut up in his encounter. His wife was killed in the fight as well. Jim and his wife were heading through the town of Central Point and into Medford for the same basic purposes as us; to try and find supplies, people, and maybe some information.
The two of them encountered a young man sitting on the steps outside a house. After they said hello to the man, he started crying, and asked them if they were real. What should seem to be a light bulb going off type of question was actually a common one now with most people isolated and displaced, surviving on their own for months with no non-infected human contact. So when a normal person approaches another survivor, each of them often think the other person they are seeing is just wishful thinking, or at worst, a minor hallucination.
When this guy asked Jim and his wife if they were real, started crying and walking toward them, they weren’t thinking danger as he approached, they were thinking lets comfort this kindred spirit. Not so kindred of a spirit though, because when he reached them, as quick as a flash, he pulled out a blade and cut Susan’s throat. Jim told us the fight with the guy wasn’t long, twenty seconds, maybe thirty from the first swing at Susan to Jim killing their attacker. Jim got cut and broke his leg in an awkward fall while struggling with the guy, and still managed to pull out his own blade to kill his attacker. But it was all too late.
I’m pissed because I keep reliving Jim’s story whenever we rest and I have a moment to think. I can feel his loss as if I was him and it was my wife Simone that was killed by the stranger. Part of my anger, though, is guilt. I think most anger contains some form of guilt, but my guilt is because I have been doing so well. My whole family has survived this disaster for humanity. Of course I was a prepper, but the odds of us all surviving this long were not high at all, even with our preparations.
There are seven of us, and since the winter hopefully ended and encounters with the infected have dropped off, we all travel together. My wife and I figure any day could be the last one, and we want to be together if it happens. So either we all go at once or at least we will know what happens to our loved ones if they die.
I’m sure it sounds insane to take small children out into an infected world, but this is the reality we live in, and they have to grow up knowing what they must do to survive. This makes me think back to a movie I saw with my wife before the collapse. The movie was good, but it still pissed us both off, because the kid in the movie was so unprepared for the world he lived in. At the time we watched it, our kids were already more prepared to deal with a disaster, and weren’t born into it the way the kid in the movie was.
Because we did consider the negative possibilities in life and prepared for them, it just made the movie that much more unbelievable that a kid born after the end of the world wouldn’t have been toughened up by their parents’ to learn to survive in that new and dangerous environment.
Once upon a time, before this world descended into hell, our children were not only learning how to save money and find out which store had the best deal on milk. Those were the necessary survival skills of the modern age. But we also taught them things like knowing how to be quiet with approaching danger, how to hide effectively, and of course, how to shoot and how to fight.
Even if the world never fell apart, there were murderers and rapists in the world, as well as rabid animals or mountain lions when out hiking. My wife and I figured the children that were raised on the plains of Africa around lions, elephants, and hippos already knew the skills we were teaching our own kids. It’s too bad more people didn’t raise their children with a proper understanding of the dangers in the world, as opposed to trying to shield them from all mention of harm.
Looking back at the faces of my family around me in the store, I hope my five kids will live to be the start of a new human society. I’ve done what I can to give them the right start. Now I just have to keep them alive so they can grow into well-rounded adults. Well-rounded in this current version of the world, of course, means being able to scavenge, kill, and survive.
Our kids are young. They are Hannah, age 12; Olivia, age 10; William, age 7; Amelia, age 5; and Benjamin, age 1. Benjamin was born just four months before this disease started to hit. Normally I would say that the eldest children have the best chance of surviving in a disaster situation, but in this world I’m not so sure.
Our four oldest kids can remember, like Simone and I do, the fun and easy world of America. A world where we spoiled our kids with tons of toys, took them to the lake and the beach, went on hikes, played games on the computer, or just sat and watched movies at the theatre.
We still have a good amount of food stored, so we don’t starve, but there are no longer the visits to Subway for sandwiches or IHOP for some pancakes and eggs. And no more trips to the toy store to pick up the latest plastic toy made in China. The world we were accustomed to changed, and we are constantly struggling to deal with it.
Our youngest, Benjamin, however, will only know this world. We will do our best to teach him what things used to be like, but he will never have the longing for what he once had as the rest of us do. I think that will make him stronger. All of us have the
here and now
to deal with and for our kids, the brief moments of entertainment, like reading or singing songs, are small parts of their day if we can fit them in, rather than being the rule of the day in the world for us before the collapse.
The infected with their steady lumbering pace are finally shuffling past where we are hiding. They were probably trying to follow us but didn’t see us hide, because Benjamin saw them before they got too close and told us the infected were coming, in his own way. Benjamin is our one year old, and when he sees an infected, he gives a growl. So when we heard him say, “GRRRR,” in his baby tone, we all turned to see where he was looking. Far off down the road shambled two infected. We would normally be able to outpace them, but are moving slower due to the supplies we are carrying on our bikes and trailers. Fortunately it is just two, so it's better to kill them now than have to deal with them later.
Back to our present situation, the two infected have finally walked by the front door of the store we are hiding in, and it is time to deal with them. My job is to walk out behind them and kill them before they have a chance to turn to kill me. It is a basic ambush tactic we successfully use regularly when we are out. We would use our guns, but I’d rather not attract other infected, or other survivors for that matter, with us moving so slowly and loaded with these supplies.
“I love you, Simone! I love you kids. You know what to do if I don’t make it?” I ask.
“We know what to do, Eddie,” my wife replies. “Just be careful and quick. We are right here watching.”