Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Up on the Housetop by Brian S. Roe

Blog Post “Mark’s Shining World” 12-18-2010:

“Good to see my corporate masters are doing so well right before the holidays. Yes that’s right, Allied Intelligence Technologies is running deep in the red. Bonuses are going to be slight if nonexistent this year. It’s stupid that we come to rely on them but the last couple of years have been sweet. Now when we don’t get them, and need them. They pull them away like we’ve been bad puppies or something. I guess it’s like feeding birds or a stray cat. If they keep feeding us we’ll keep showing up.

XMas is going to be a little barren for the family this year. I’ll still get them all something but I’ve got a ton of DVDs and games that need bought for little ol’ me. And since I can’t count on The Fam to get the right ones then the responsibility falls on my capable shoulders.”

Blog Post “Mark’s Shining World” 01-14-2011:

“Well a big fucking Happy NEW Year to you A.I.T.!!! Lay me off?! Me? I’m not saying that I will but I could shut your whole little playhouse down. I’ve got the I.T. keys to your kingdom babies. And to walk me out on a Friday? In front of everybody else? Were you trying to piss me off? Were you trying to get me to shut you down? I can you know!”

Tweet from MFMark 01-15-2011:

“drunK man drunk. fuck them all man. drunk”

Tweet from MFMark 01-16-2011:

“puking should help my abs.”

Blog Post “Mark’s Shining World” 01-18-2011:

“So I got some friendly emails reminding that I need to keep my mouth shut about certain things at the old corporate slave holders. I guess they actually take those contracts I signed serious.

Fine bitches, fine. I can post what I want and you can’t stop me from speaking my mind.

I got a pretty good severance deal and unemployment for at least six months.

Time to hit Game Stop and Safeway, and stock up. MF Mark’s going into hardcore hibernation.”

Blog Post “Mark’s Shining World” 01-20-2011:

“The rest of you suckers better be on my junk. i’m livin the fucking life. I got the fridge full of pizzas, burgers, pop, and other shit. I spent 1000 dollars flat on DVDs and games. I’m fucking unplugging for a while. No computer shit. No TV. Just me in my crib playing games and watching movies. I don’t want to see nobody. I don’t want to go nowhere. Y’all just gonna haf to git along without me. This is MuthaFuckin’ Mark OUT!”


What day was it? Mark rolled off of the futon and stood on unsteady, chubby legs. He stumbled into the kitchen and tore open a pack of Pop Tarts then opened the fridge and saw that his supplies were getting low. Fuck. Back out into the world soon.

He stank, he’d been wearing the same clothes for a couple of weeks. His skin had gone bad from all the sugar and fat he’d been dumping into himself. He went to the bathroom to piss. The smell that came out of his sleeping pants disturbed him. Guess it was time to shower again.

No clean towels, he used a pretty clean t-shirt instead. Whatever. Fresh clothes made him feel better. That and a couple of cans of soda. Ride that sugar rush man! Might as well get to the store while he gave a shit.

He’d seen only one person in the two months of his self imposed exile from humanity. About a month back the mail lady had pounded on his door and dropped off a bag of letters, flyers, and other shit from his mailbox. She seemed a little shocked that he was still alive. Yeah mail lady, I’m still alive and kicking!

As he tied his tennis shoes he looked over the wreck of his living room. So much trash, foam noodle bowls stacked feet high. Paper plates, soda cans, and cardboard rounds from so many frozen pizzas. He smiled at his junk fueled debauchery. He kicked through a stack of plastic wrappers as he walked to the patio door.

The blaze of light hit his eyes like a punch to the face as he twisted the vertical blinds open. The courtyard of the apartment complex was green and sunny. It actually looked pretty nice outside. He looked over at the paused video game screen on his TV. One more level of Zombie Massacre and he’d have finished one of the most grueling video games he’d ever played. One more level and then he’d start Murder Corps: San Antonio. But first he needed to lay in more supplies.

The light from the patio door was so bright that it took him a moment to tell what had actually happened. The TV screen blacked out. What the fuck? Not only the TV but all of the power in the apartment. The sound of the refrigerator stopping seemed oddly ominous to him.

His phone had died weeks ago and in a fit of spite he hadn’t recharged it. Now he couldn’t call the power company to see what was up. Not that they ever had an answer. Maybe he’d call while he was at the store.

There was a man walking across the courtyard. Drunk or crippled the man zig-zagged back and forth with no real sense of direction. Great, Mark thought. I have to walk right by that idiot to get to the car.

As he was watching the man he noticed a woman who was standing down by one of the apple trees in the courtyard. She was swaying a bit and gnashing the air with her opened mouth. What was her deal?

Mark opened the sliding door and walked out onto the cracked concrete of his patio. He pulled the screen closed behind him and yelled to the woman.

“Hey! Are you okay? Do you need some help, or, something?” He didn’t really want to help but he wanted her to go away. Maybe if she knew somebody was watching her she’d get the clue and go trip somewhere else.

The woman turned towards him and for a single beat of time seemed to be ignoring him. Then her pasty eyes lit up and she stumble-sprinted towards him, lurching up the grass incline that led from the apple tree. She breathed out like she was trying to scream. But her vocal chords didn’t make sound, only a long rasping exhalation.

“Awesome!” Mark thought. They were doing a zombie walk! He’d been in one last Halloween with a bunch of his friends. Annie had done some amazing make-up that had actually made him a bit sick to his stomach when he first saw it. They’d had a great time walking down the street and grossing out the squares in the cafes along the avenue. Zombie walk! Hell yeah!

And then a smell hit him. Puke rot worm dirt hell vomit kill dead maggot rat shit hole burn cry scar grave rip bile pus infection Oh God mommy make it stop! It was the smell of summertime bait shops and the bottom of damp stones, biology class fetal pigs and infected toenails.

The smell woke him up and made him woozy. The woman was still coming for him but having trouble getting up the hill. The smell. It can’t be real.

He saw the drunk man weaving towards him making the same empty and mostly silent roar, his black teeth opened like a bear trap heading straight for Mark.

The screen door was suddenly against Mark’s back as he scrambled backwards. He tried to push through the screen but it wouldn’t give. He didn’t want to turn his back but he couldn’t reach behind him at the same time. They were so close now.

The smell coming from both of the stumbling figures was a noisome shock attack, it made him want to dig into the concrete to get away. Some part of his brain was firing that had never fired in his twenty-eight years. Lizard brain primal, full flight mode engaged. He finally tore through the screen and landed in a heap amongst the garbage in his apartment.

He scrambled up out of the trash. They were on the porch. He rolled over the futon. They were at the patio door. He ran to the front door and undid the lock. They were in the room.

The chain was still on the door. It opened and then bounced out of his grip. The man and woman were stumbling over the futon and garbage in the living room. Mark grabbed the door handle and pulled with a power fueled with desperation and total terror. The chain ripped out of the doorframe and Mark was out of the door before it hit the wall and bounced shut.

Two story apartment building, four apartments on the bottom floor, four on the second. Front and rear doors that opened away from the building, mail boxes attached to one wall, a central stairwell.

At the front of the building two teenagers pushed against the door and smeared their ragged lips against the tall glass windows beside the door. They didn’t seem capable of understanding how the door worked. The back door didn’t have windows beside it but Mark could hear bodies thumping against it. Up. He had to go up.

He edged his way to the bottom of the stairs. The two teens began to furiously push against the glass. It will hold he thought, it will hold. He focused on the teens as he grabbed the railing at the bottom of the stairs. Then he heard a rasping hiss and looked up and behind him at the top of the stairs. An old woman, gray hair and frumpy dress, made her hands into claws and stepped off of the top step.

Which she completely missed and hurtled down the stairs towards Mark. Her black-gummed mouth seemed focused on his neck as she flew down towards him. Gut reaction saved him. As she fell Mark twisted and flattened against the wall. The old woman face planted on the bottom stair with a sickening crunch. Her momentum flipped her body over so she was still looking at Mark. With her head snapped back against her shoulders. And then she started to crawl towards him.

Mark flew up the steps as quickly as he could. He missed one and ripped his shin open. He quickly got to his feet again and topped the stairs. He felt nothing in his leg; shock had set in deeply.

The woman was crawling slowly up the stairs, her head crunching on its broken vertebrae. She would reach him in a couple of minutes.

Even as Mark had run back into his apartment there had been a small yet nagging doubt that this was an amazing and disturbing put on. The best zombie walk ever, super make up and acting, and a stink bomb designed to mind fuck anybody who smelled it. Although his body had reacted without him he would have been okay if someone had shouted “Surprise!” “You’ve been punked!” “Candid Camera!” God how he prayed that that was the case.

But as he watched the broken old woman drag herself up towards him he realized exactly what she was and what had happened to the rest of the world. All of the movies, and books, and games, and Oh God it can’t be real! He knew it already. So much fiction had told him exactly what to expect, there was a survival guide for Christ’s sake! He had killed millions of zombies in video games. Last year he had acted like one in Annie’s disturbing makeup.

Here it was. Crawling up the stairs towards him. Real. Horrible. And hungry.

There was a laundry room on the top floor and Mark walked back to it. He couldn’t run anymore. Like prey that knew its time was up but still couldn’t lay down to die. A sense of utter calm caused by too many nerves and neurons firing. He looked at the ceiling and saw an access hatch to the roof with an attached folding ladder. He reached up, grabbed the cord, and pulled the ladder down. He climbed up the ladder. He opened the door to the roof and climbed out.


Journal Entry 1:

“What day is this? April something? I’ve been living up here for a couple of weeks now, hidden in a space between two buildings where they can’t see me. As long as I stay hidden and don’t make noise they just mill around. But the second they spot me they rush against the building like a wave of walking corpses. No, not like. That’s what they are.”

Journal Entry 2:

“I’m writing this in a Batman notebook that I found on one of my apartment scavenging missions. I found a way to swing down onto the second floor balconies that lets me have access to all of the second floor apartments. I get canned goods and dried food. I even found a pistol and box of bullets. I figured out a way of getting water from the hot water heaters. It tastes nasty but is clean and doesn’t make me sick.

The little cubbyhole on the roof is getting pretty cozy. And thank God I found a box of earplugs. When the air gets moist their vocal chords start to work again. A couple of thousand rotten voice boxes moaning at you will surely keep you from falling asleep.”

Journal Entry 10:

“I found a girl on the roof of one of the other apartments! Her name is Theresa. She was sick in her mom’s apartment when everything fell apart.

We had to figure out a rope bridge to get her over to me. I was so afraid that she would fall. But I also knew I would dive down after her.”

Journal Entry 14:

“It’s getting colder. They are getting sluggish, slower. Good to see that even though they’re against the laws of God they still have to obey thermodynamics.

We’ve cleared out several apartments and started knocking holes into the walls of the other buildings. We’ve got enough food and vitamins to last for a while. We found another gun. It seems so worthless.”

Journal Entry 16:

“Theresa’s asleep on the pallet, covered in sleeping bags. Her hair is getting long but she always keeps herself clean and beautiful. Her body smells sweaty, smoky, but so alive. I kissed her and she jerked awake reaching for the pistol. Then she saw it was me, smiled and went back to sleep.”

Journal Entry 20:

It was a warm, moist day and it made them so loud. We have been trying to build up the roof shack and every time I moved the whole mass of them followed me and roared at me. I got pissed off and stood on the edge of the roof. “Hello Cleveland! Are you ready to rock?” I had the largest crowd ever assembled and the fuckers just wanted to eat me.

Journal Entry 28:

“Really cold tonight. We’ve rigged up a small stove so we’re warm. I remember reading My Side of the Mountain so I made sure we had vents for air. We slept well.”

Journal Entry 29:

“We woke up to a surprising sound tonight. The sound of the wind. We haven’t heard anything so subtle in months. We looked down and all of the bastards are frozen. But their eyes still glisten with frost as they look up towards us.”

Journal Entry 32:

“We’ve decided that we have to leave while we can. We’ve exhausted the food here and don’t have what we need to grow it. I figure we have another solid month of freezing weather.

Maybe with so many of them frozen around us there will be clear spaces somewhere to the north. And honestly we just need to move. We feel trapped on our little island, trapped and slowly sinking.

This will be the last entry for a while.

We leave tomorrow.”

Brian S. Roe lives in this very same apartment, minus the food garbage and at least for now the zombies, and often ponders how screwed he would be if an actual zombie plague occurred. And while a part of him really has no problem with becoming one of the walking dead, he’s really never been much of a joiner. Living in Indianapolis is too much like being surrounded by zombies anyway.