Yes, I’ve not posted in a while. I’ve been writing a lot of fiction. I do want to finish my travel posts about Europe. They are pending! Next week I’ll have some big blocks of free time and may get them up then (don’t hold your breath). In the meantime, here is something to read. It’s the second or third chapter of a novella I wrote a few years ago for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It was my attempt to answer the question: “What would the zombie apocalypse be like for someone like me, a Black stay at home mom to a young child, living in Seattle?” I’ve not done anything with the novella, so I’m posting this for fun.
I will only say a few more things about it: 1. It’s more ‘light’ and action oriented than my typical fiction, 2. I was inspired to share it after my friend Everett Maroon posted an excerpt of a zombie story at his blog, Trans/plant/portation (go and check it out here).
Maybe Zombies aren’t dead after all! If you choose to read this chapter, I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to comment even if you don’t.
Warnings/info: This story features a gun, several deaths, a little profanity, has undergone only one revision and is close to 3000 words.
Seattle Zombie Apocalypse: A Semi-Autobiography
I was standing at the door, balancing a paper bag full of recyclables. “I’ll be right back. I’m taking out the trash!” I called to Adween.
“Okay, Mommy.” My daughter was in the living room banging pots together in her toy kitchen.
I had my keys in the other hand, and turned to lock the door. I always locked up, because it was too simple a thing not to do. The consequences of someone kidnapping my precious, one and only child were too horrible to imagine. All it took was a few seconds. And how well did I really know that guy across the hall, anyway?
I walked past the elevator, passing through another door to the half-flight of stairs that led to the building’s entry. Another flight of stairs led to the underground garage. Blue recycling bins were lined against a concrete wall. I dumped my bag of papers and glass in one and took a look around. The garage had bright new lighting after a break-in the year before. It was almost too well-lit, especially during the day. But at night, the lights did make me feel safer. Nothing was amiss. Just cars and storage units, a few bicycles. Our condo building was small – only four stories and 16 units.
I knew the names of most of my neighbors because of their mailbox decals. I talked to a few residents – the retired couple below me and the friendly artist from Tennessee who lived one story up. There was also the guy across the hall who had the decency to mumble hello to me. The rest were a blur, sometimes purposely avoiding eye contact due to social awkwardness, or just too busy, breezing to their Land Rover or whatever that was way nicer than our 15-year-old Geo Prizm.
I jogged back upstairs to the lobby and paused. There was someone at the building’s front door, tapping at it and pressing their palms against the intercom buttons. I could hear static and a voice answering, “Hello? Hello?” The person at the door froze and slowly turned their face to me. We gazed at each other through the glass for a moment. I saw a grey faced youth, maybe 17 years old. His clothes were disheveled and splattered with dark spots. The light over the front steps cast a yellow sheen on top of his brown hair, which stood up in disarray. His eyes were wide and uncertain, but as they perceived me, his mouth began to move. I could hear him through the glass but all that came out was growls and low grumbles. Now both his hands clawed at the door, and a second figure appeared behind him, reaching. My first thought: Zombies. What the hell. Zombies?
But this was Fremont, home of the world’s largest zombie walk, surely this was a prank. That’s what my brain said, but my guts said, “Adween!” and I moved toward the half-flight of stairs leading up just as I heard the BZZZZZZZZZ of one of my neighbors unlocking the front door.
All you had to do was push. This was convenient when your hands were full of groceries, a box full of books, or a toddler, but I cursed it then, I cursed that damn door that could open without a turn of the knob. My heart leapt in my chest in sync with my foot leaping up two – no, three – stairs. I have no idea how I scrambled up those stairs so fast. I might have flown.
I heard the kid behind me, not shuffling, but bounding. What the hell. Zombies don’t run. Then again, zombies aren’t real, so why did I keep thinking about zombies? I reached the door to my floor and pulled it open, three feet more and I was pulling open the second door leading to my unit. SHIT. The door was locked. My keys! They were on an elastic band around my wrist, and I was shaking, trying to find the key. The keyring suddenly seemed littered with tiny membership cards. I also had extra house keys – for my brother’s place, the storage unit, and my in-laws’ house 300 miles away. SHIT. I was in the hall outside my door, trembling all over. I couldn’t register anything that was happening in front of my eyes, but I heard the pounding in my chest and then, the second door opened.
There he was, five or six feet away. I felt the key slip into the keyhole and I leaned into the door, turning the handle, my mouth wide open.
In the split second it took to yank my key out of the doorknob, he had replaced me on the welcome mat. I pushed with all my weight against the door from inside and tried to slam it shut, but he was on it already.
“You’re not welcome!” I screamed in delirium, confusing my monsters, I suppose. I kept pressing and pressing, and was puzzled as to why this wasn’t working, how could one young kid be so strong? Then I realized there were two of them now. With my back against the door and my feet braced on the tiled floor of the entry way, my brain swam with profanities. There was nothing here to brace the door – no chair, no table. Nothing to hold them back.
Just then Adween came scamping down the hallway, “Mommy, someone buzzed on the wall phone!” she said, her face the picture of joy. She stopped when she saw the look on my face.
I made the call. I slammed back one last time against the door and used the recoil to run forward. I raced down the hallway, grabbed Adween with both hands, and nearly tripped over a step-stool under the intercom phone. I veered into my bedroom and shut the door. There was no lock on this damn door. No lock on any of the doors except the bathrooms. I tossed my confused child onto the bed and pulled at the side table. Jason and I didn’t have a large bedroom, but we had a full set of bedroom furniture. I heaved at the side table and practically threw it at the bedroom door.
“Mommy!” Adween was gaping at me.
“Not now, baby! You have to be very quiet!!”
I pushed the side table against the door. I could hear the grumbling and scratching already. They’d obviously seen me come into this room. I weighed my options: dresser or the second side table? The dresser was heavier and I might not be able to move it, but the side table was on the other side of the bed, and would be tough to finagle out of its tight space. I opted for the dresser. I pushed and pushed. Adween jumped off the bed to assist.
“MOVE!” I screamed.
She protested, “I want to help you!”
“I need you to move out of the way and BE QUIET!” The space between the wall and our bed was narrow, there was barely enough room for me to do what I was attempting, never mind with her underfoot. If those … things outside my door figured out how to turn the knob, we were fucking toast.
“PLEASE sit back on the bed!”
I pushed and pushed, the dresser began to lift up out of its ruts in the carpet and I leaned low and heaved again. It slid. Adween climbed back onto the bed.
“What are you doing, Mommy? Are you being silly?”
I grunted and the dresser slid magically across the carpet to the narrow doorway, right up against the side table. Thank god for cheap particle board. I took a deep breath, then ran to the closet. Up on the topmost shelf was the gun, and on another shelf, a box of bullets. I reached for them, then paused. I plucked Adween off the bed and carried her through the closet into the master bath. I looked around for a second and set her in the tub.
She laughed, “Mommy, why you put me in the bathtub? There’s no water in here.” She poised one finger in the air. “And I have clothes on!” She was giggling.
I shut the door between the closet and the bathroom, and grabbed the gun and bullets. I loaded the gun and jammed a handful of bullets in the thigh pockets of my pants. My one pair of carpenter pants, thank the laundry gods.
With a moment to breathe, I could hear something other than the sound of my heart, and the two guys were pushing against the door. They were excited now, almost babbling, “Gagagagagagagagaga!” I could hear their tongues flopping around in their mouths, and the scratching. I looked around. Where was my cell phone? I usually took it with me when I left the condo, even for a minute. I felt around and found it in my back pocket. For the first time in my life, I hit the emergency call button on purpose.
“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
“There are some sick looking men in my house! My condo. I’m at 4291 Milwaukee Ave N; it’s a green building. I’m on the second floor. These guys chased me into my unit. I’m here with my little girl – she’s 3 years old – and I have a gun!” That seemed to cover all the important bases, right?
“Please don’t shoot me!” I added for extra measure. You can’t be too careful as a Black person in America.
The 9-1-1 operator was calm, and repeated my address to me, and asked me my name.. “Officers have been dispatched. Can you stay on the line?”
“I think so. I – I don’t know how long. They’re trying to get in the room.”
The dresser was inching back steadily. I stood in the doorway of the closet, ready to shut the door in front of me, but that would do little good. There was no lock and nothing to stop them from turning the handle and walking right in. I thought about locking Adween in the bathroom and holding these guys off – maybe they would get me, but the lock could be delay enough to give the police time to arrive and take care of them.
I opted to wait. One, I wasn’t ready to rely on anyone else to protect my baby, and two, knowing her, she’d just open the door for them once they started banging on it because what did she know? She was three years old. This wasn’t comprehensible to her. She had no concept of dangerous people who wanted to … whatever these guys wanted to do.
I was going with the zombie thing, and about the worst thing that can happen to a person is being eaten alive, so I looked over and – holy crap! They were in! The first one – not the kid I’d seen at the door, but a man who looked to be in his late 20s wearing red skinny jeans – had clambered on top of the side table and the dresser, and was taking the long way around the bed to get to me. I gulped, took a deep breath, aimed for the head like the movies all say, and squeezed the trigger. At the firing range I’m a pretty good shot, but that was shooting at paper! The sound startled me and the bullet hit the wall right behind him – a hole right in the frame of the window. He paused. I don’t think he was afraid, but maybe curious about the noise. It seemed like there was something going on in his brain about what to do next, and I took that opportunity to aim again – from the corner of my eye I saw the kid opting for the bed route – and fired again. Bullseye!
I pivoted and shot at the teenager standing on the bed. I got him in the chin, but given his position, it went all up into his face and came out somewhere out the top or back of his head.
I backed up several steps so that I was further in the closet, but still had them within sight. The older guy was slumped against the window, his hands in his lap. The kid had fallen back so that his legs were still on the bed but his head and shoulders were on the toppled dresser. The phone was next to me on a little rack I keep in the walk-in closet for papers. I picked it up, holding the gun as steady as I could in front of me.
“Ma’am? Ma’am? Kalissa!?”
“I’m here. It’s me. I shot them. They got in the room.” My voice sounded strange to me, like it wasn’t mine. I felt light-headed, queasy. I wanted to close my eyes, this couldn’t be happening. But I kept my eyes open and on the bodies. What kind of mess was this. Zombies are not real. Do shots to the head even work on them?
“Are they moving, ma’am?”
My senses returned and I shook my head, what living thing can be shot in the head and still walk – never mind attack a person?
“No. They’re not moving. I need to check on my daughter.” I considered whether to shut the closet door or leave it open to keep a view of them. I kept it open and continued backing up, opened the bathroom door and called to Adween.
“Mommy! What’s going on? Wow, that was a lot of noise!” She was still in the bathtub, playing with Jason’s back brush, and looking at me with a raised eyebrow. Like she was thinking, “You’re in big trouble, missy!”
“There were some bad guys in the house, baby girl. I’m protecting you. Stay in the tub until I come get you out.” I looked back through the closet. No movement. I asked the 911 operator, “Do you know when the cops will be here? Tell them not to shoot me. I’ll put my gun down before they get here but I don’t want to put it down yet until I know for sure these guys aren’t going to get up.”
“They should be there any minute.”
“Okay. I’m going to wait in the bathroom with my daughter. Someone else is going to have to buzz them into the building because I’m not walking past these guys. I am putting my gun down in the closet. It will NOT BE WITH ME IN THE BATHROOM.” I felt ridiculous emphasizing this but I had no idea who they’re sending to my place, it could be a dumbass or anybody.
“Please, tell them. The gun is on the floor in the closet. I’m going to be unarmed in the bathroom with my THREE YEAR OLD daughter. Tell them not to shoot us.”
“Kalissa, I’ve told them what you said.”
I had to take her word for it. I put the gun down and grabbed a spare tension rod that was in the closet, slid into the bathroom, and locked the door. I huddled with Adween in the tub. I know I’d said I was unarmed, but I needed something more than a toilet brush to defend myself. Anything could still happen..
I heard the sirens ten seconds later, and waited for the police to somehow get into the building. Surely one of my neighbors had heard the three or four gunshots? I felt the floor shudder a little – that was the sound of the front hall door slamming, and I could hear footsteps tramping up the stairs, voices. I took a deep breath, and lowered the curtain rod.
Adween thought it was hilarious that I was in the tub. “Mommy, you’re silly! Why we in the tub without any croves on? Are we having a party?”
I grabbed her with one arm and gave her a tight squeeze. I was still worried about being shot by the police, and I didn’t want to be near her if they fired at me. Paranoid? Stranger things have happened. Like zombie looking dudes chasing me into my bedroom for no damn reason. I’d rather be alive and paranoid than dead and the deceased plaintiff of a civil suit. I stepped out of the tub and stood ready at the door. I listened.
“Ma’am! This is the police! We’re in the bedroom!”
I heard some mutterings of complaint as they maneuvered around the furniture and bodies.
“I’m in the bathroom with my three year old daughter. I am NOT ARMED.” I quietly put the curtain rod between the toilet seat and the sink, then returned to the door.
Another cop’s voice, closer now – he must’ve been in the closet. “Gun here on the floor. I got it.”
Another cop, “Calling it in.”
I heard another sirened vehicle pull up to the street out front.
“Ma’am, you can open the door now.”
“Okay, I’m opening the door, please don’t shoot me. My baby is in here.”
“Ma’am. We’re not going to shoot you. You can open the door.” He was sounding a little irritated now.
I opened the door, and held my hands up.
As his eyes adjusted to the bright bathroom lights, I could see a moment of understanding pass across them as he looked at me.
He nodded grimly, and peered behind me. Adween had popped up, all wide eyes and big smile, “Are you here for the bathtub party, too?” Then she cupped her mouth and howled, “Arrooooo arrooo!”