Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 88
Zeke shrugs the backpack off and makes himself as comfortable as he can. He is lying on top of a jungle gym. The zees (Zeke refuses to call them zombies) can’t climb. He’s only seven feet above the asphalt surface of the playground, but he knows he is safe from this undead threesome for now.
He lives in a gated community, but eventually and sooner than he would’ve thought, he had ransacked the entire tiny development’s houses of all their canned goods. So now he has to occasionally leave the safety of the closed area and scavenge for food.
The three below shuffle around wave their arms. The seventeen-year-old boy doesn’t enjoy killing the walking dead, not if he can avoid it. Today he feels like he can. He pulls out a 3/4 length sleeping pad and does his best to find a position in which to take a little nap.
Eventually, the three hungry dead people – two of whom Zeke is certain played football with his cousins – will wander away.
TV and the movies got so much wrong about the zombies. The fact that the zombies got bored quickly and eventually shuffled away still surprises him.
The snarling, barking, and generally acting in an overtly hostile fashion is another. These undead didn’t emote at all. The zombie faces were as void of hostility as their eyes were of consciousness.
They were still a threat, but it was a pale comparison to any he can remember seeing portrayed in the movies and TV. They were more of a dangerous nuisance than a terrifying murderous mob.
What was worse about this pandemic, however, was how it changed the uninfected, the living.
When the outbreak started, Zeke had opted to stay with his cousins and a few of their friends. Many of these boys and girls he called friends began to change. They became the murderous, snarling mobs. They rationalized that they were only protecting themselves or liberating the undead souls to be at peace.
The latter always hit Zeke pretty hard. Dying was dying to him, and the act of killing anything had never sat well with him.
His friends, it turned out, were cut from a different fabric.
Zeke tried. He tried to shift himself into their perspective; he emulated their actions and their gleefully excessive violence as they dispatched zombie after zombie. But he couldn’t pull it off. They teased him for being too sensitive, called him names, ridiculed him.
While Zeke had always clung to the adage “There’s safety in numbers.” He knew he had to get away from these kids. They were percolating in a pot of madness, and eventually, they would direct that hostility at the living. The zombies had the empty stares of sleepwalkers; they were dangerous. He never forgot that. Not since he saw his brother eaten by a pack. But he knew it wasn’t their fault. With them, it was never personal. He didn’t hate them. Nor did he kill them if he didn’t have to.
Overnight, the United States had become a deadly place to live. Some experts had predicted this for decades. But they got bits of it wrong; it wasn’t video games that desensitized us and propagated so much aggression and violence. It was political ideologies, racism, and dogma.
Zeke’s friends were happy to vent the years of pent-up frustration and anger out into the world in one senseless, stupid act of violence after another.
Unfortunately, so was most of the country. The United States, divided since the 2016 election, the pandemic was the straw that pushed the nation into another civil war. This one was far more bloody as there weren’t two sides; there were millions. Each clique or group became myopic. The ideas of compassion and compromise felt like anathema, weakness.
Zeke wakes to find the zees gone. He looks down and is surprised to find himself holding his gun. He had somehow pulled it from his pack as he slept. Weird.
“Well, if it isn’t Mister Sensitive,” a voice from behind says.
Zeke turns to the voice. He rises to his feet, still perched atop the jungle gym.
Josh. The worst one of his ‘friends.’ Josh, took to the new age of gleeful mayhem and bloodshed like a fish to water.
“We thought you were dead,” Jennifer says.
“Hey Jenny,” Zeke says weakly.
There are four of them. Each is holding a crudely fashioned spear. The way they were going through ammunition, Zeke isn’t surprised they eventually ran out. And now here they were, like some vision from Lord of the Flies.
“We’re going to need you to come down from there,” Josh says. His voice is cold and oily like a steel trap.
Behind him, Kevin and Stephen brandish their stupid spears. All four of them have something smeared on their faces. It looks like mud.
But it’s not mud; it’s blood.
Zeke raises the gun.
“You going to shoot us in cold blood?” Josh says.
The four of them surround the jungle gym.
“Just leave me here, please,” Zeke says.
“No can do partner. We have unfinished business,” Josh says. “Now, get down from there so we can finish this thing. It will only hurt a lot.”
He is surrounded, trapped in place not by zombies or zees but by those he once knew. It’s only a matter of time before one of them lunges forward with a spear or starts to climb to where he is.
Zeke is tired. He is tired of people and their ugliness, ignorance, small-minded dogma, exceptionalism, propaganda bullshit. He’s tired of all of it.
He thinks to ask them again to go, but he knows they won’t.
He raises his gun and pulls its cold, hateful trigger for the last time ever.