Monday, July 9, 2007

Garage Days

I cannot pretend I wasn’t angry. I had camped out for a while on the roof of the garage looking for any sign of Colleen and Finn. That is, until I started coughing.
I couldn’t help it. The acrid fumes from the burning house were drifting toward me, covering me in thick, oily black smoke. I wondered vaguely which of my treasured belongs was being incinerated and spewed into the air, drifting onto me, covering my body, burning my eyes, and caking my lungs with what seemed like pure acid. Were these fumes the photos of my family; were they charred and vaporized bits of wedding gifts, or the ashen remains of the dogs I had yet to move out of the house before the fire began? Regardless, I could see through the smoke wandering figures moving through the neighborhood. They didn’t seem particularly interested in the burning house, but once I started coughing, they grew very interested indeed.
I tried to stop coughing, but sitting on the roof, the smoke was thick and heavy, and I couldn’t get away from it. Within a couple of minutes, there were six of them moaning and reaching for me up on the roof. A few moments later and there were a bakers dozen, all groping and clawing at the garage, as if they could climb straight up its walls by the sheer force of their indomitable hunger. I looked around frantically, still coughing, tears streaming from my burning eyes, hoping to find something other than the couple of crowbars I had grabbed earlier. I desperately began peeling off shingles from the rooftop and slinging them down at the creatures below. I must have thrown fifty of them when I noticed something. Not only was this a grossly ineffectual waste of time, but the ghouls didn’t even raise a hand to protect themselves. As shingle after shingle whizzed into their heads and faces, often opening wide, if not particularly devastating wounds on them, they quite literally didn’t blink. They just kept scratching and clawing upward in the same dead mechanical motion. Experimentally, I took my longest crowbar and held it loosely down toward the unruly mob. Although they pawed at my nearer arm with some renewed vigor, not one of them thought a moment to reach up and grab a hold of the steel bar that waived down at them. I lay on my belly, and reaching out as far as I dared, I swung the bar in a wide pendulum arc and crashed the steel of the crowbar into the skull of the nearest zombie. The horrid thing’s skull cracked with a sort of hard thud, and the old woman’s corpse unceremoniously fell to the pavement below. In a moment, another zombie filled in the gap left by the fallen monster and met the same fate. One by one, they came into striking range, and one by one, I crushed their skulls. It was easier and easier as their bodies built a grisly stepstool, bringing each of them closer and closer into the reach of my swinging steel.
As soon as they were dispatched, I jumped down and opened the garage ducking inside. As much as I wanted a better view to wait for Colleen and Finn, I needed to breathe, and no view was going to do Colleen any good if I was swarmed by hordes of the undead.
Amusingly, I wasn’t in the garage organizing my provisions much more than twenty minutes when I heard Colleen screaming and yelling. I opened the door. Over their shoulders, I saw what looked like the whole neighborhood shuffling and rumbling their way toward us. I nearly threw them inside and slammed the door shut. There was little time for celebration. I held my wife and son for only a few minutes, breathing in their scent, and crying softly in gratitude. Our reunion was interrupted a few moments later by the sound of their hands scratching and clawing insistently at the heavy garage door. It was impossible to tell how many were out there, but their sound grew louder and louder as more and more of them tried to scratch their way in. I knew we couldn’t stay here too much longer. Sooner or later, either they would get in or we would be forced out for food or water.
I handed Colleen a hatchet and a small crowbar. I had Excalibur tucked in my belt, a crowbar in one hand and a large shovel in the other. Hastily, I pushed the lawnmower over to the main door and turned it on, clamping a zip cord over the throttle to keep it going. I hoped the sound of the lawn mower would draw them to the front of the garage. Without waiting to see if it worked, I jumped onto a worktable and kicked out a boarded window in the rear of the garage.
Thankfully, there were no zombies immediately behind the garage. I climbed out, and Colleen followed, climbing out the window with some difficulty. Trying to stay as quiet as we could, I hopped my back fence, and again helped Colleen over. Staying low and quiet, we jogged quickly to the neighbors house.
I broke the window in the door, reached inside and unlocked the door without a moments hesitation. Funny how quickly we lose our social taboos in a crisis. We hurried into the dark and silent house, straining to hear the sound of undead footsteps above our frantic beating hearts and panicked breath. I heard nothing, but didn’t feel too reassured. Once I had checked each room of the house, I relaxed a little. In a small wooden box hanging above a coathook in the hallway, I found a neatly labeled display of what I assumed were spare keys, and including what I had been hoping for, car keys. Without a word, and with Finnegan strangely sleeping through it all, Colleen and I crept into the garage, got into the dark green SUV that waited for us there. Feeling safer, I backed out of the garage, pausing only briefly at my burned out shell of a home and the dozens of undead pawing and moaning at my garage door.
I thought we were in the clear, at least for a while, but as I turned onto route thirty, I was immediately forced to a stop. In front of me was what looked like a military blockade, and without a moments hesitation, three soldiers leveled their rifles at us in an unmistakable sign of hostility. Quickly, and not particularly kindly, we were forced out of the SUV. It looked like martial law had been affected, and it looked like we were stuck right in the middle of it all.

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