Tuesday, April 22, 2008


By the grace of God I spin around with barely enough time to flee forward from the three undead Burns children that had emerged feral and angry from the screen door of the farmhouse. I drop my canteen - the organic juice jar half full of lukewarm water. It shatters on the pavement and I take off in a sprint down Gorham road. I am less than a quarter mile away from Mom and Dad’s house. The crowbar in my hand wobbles about madly as I run, pitching me slightly off balance. My arm aches and I feel sweat trickle down from my armpits and it itches. The Cat keys are tight in my jean pocket and rub raw against my thigh as I pump my legs. The undead kids are either moving faster than the regular undead I have encountered, or I am just damn slow. They seem to gain faster than they should. I calculate that I cannot make it all the way to Mom and Dad’s. From Gorham Road I cut right through the lush green yard of a very military man and wife whom I grew up next to.

The McCormick’s yard, once immaculate, grew upwards to reclaim the space betwixt expensive patio bricks and curling vines snaked around their metal clothesline poles. The shade from their yard provided a brief few-degree cooling as I dart through its tall grass to reach the property line of my parent’s immediate neighbors. The property line is backed up against the woods I love and I remember the old tree house on the yard’s border, perched in an ancient White Oak. That thing was rickety when I was young but I need it to be there, rickety or not, as the snarling of the mutants grows louder behind me.

I reach the base of the enormous oak and search for the two by fours nailed to the tree that serve as the ladder. There were still several but they were gray and rotting. The nails are rusted and the years had grown around them. Dead wood nailed to live wood. A sick irony if one views it as nature necrophilia.

I have only seconds to get up this tree. In a decision of wretched stupidity, I drop the crowbar on the ground, as I need both hands to scramble and scrape to pull myself up the old wood pieces. I didn’t even think of putting it through the loop of my jeans. Dumbass. I clasp the first “piece of ladder” which looks to be covered in poison sumac and yank myself upward, grateful that the dead and dry wood doesn’t threat to break away. As I whiteknuckle the pitiful wood pieces and grunt to raise up further, a dead hand tries unsuccessfully to grasp my foot. The undead children’s heads are about level with my feet. I swing my foot up wildly to the next piece of wood. I feel a bit of pressure on my foot and kick it away from the source. I look down to see part of the black rubber sole of my shoe being gnawed grossly in the mouth of the little girl. By God, she bit part of my shoe off. I do a quick self-check and assess that my foot is not bit and turn my attention back to scrambling further up the tree.

I am halfway up the gigantic oak before I hear a different growling. I look up above me to see the menacing masked face of a huge female raccoon. She is hunched in the opening of the battered tree house, crouching in an attack position. Her growl is deep like one long internal burp; but more guttural and serious. Shit. Of course it’s not that easy. I grimace and look down; well below me now, the undead brats circle and uselessly claw at the huge old grooves in the oak’s bark. So, here I am with a decision. Well, not really, I don’t have a choice but to keep moving up the ladder. The longer I put pressure on these old pieces of wood, the greater the odds of them crumbling and giving way to my death. My fingers that have gripped the wood sustain a few deeply lodged splinters. My chances of getting mauled by a big raccoon and surviving are better than my chances of jumping to the ground to break my ankle and meet my fate at the mouths of three rabid kids. I would have to fight a raccoon…fuck, and meanwhile my crowbar laughs at me from its snug place in the grass at the foot of the tree. The brats mull around it, here and there unintentionally kicking it and tripping over it.

Oh God, I pray, grant me the strength. I slowly move up another rung, a signal to the hunched raccoon to escalate its defenses to the “baring teeth stage”. It hunches lower and looks more prepared to attack. I’m scared as shit. I do the only thing that comes to mind: I reach into my pocket for the Cat keys. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with them. What? If I toss them past the raccoon into the farthest corner of this tiny one-room tree house, do I think it will go after them like a dog chasing a toy? I hold out the single long Cat key like a little knife between my sweating fingers. I slowly move up the second to last rung before the opening. This is it. Fight time. And I have to do it with one arm wrapped around part of the wood rung as best I can. I don’t even hear the continuing of the moans below or notice Farmer Burns slumping up with his one pitchforked arm to join his brood around the bottom of the tree. I know that if I fall I am done for and the adrenaline surges once again. I have to pee really badly.

Moving up the last rung I take a deep breath and swing out my arm at the raccoon, hoping to (at the very least) catch and scratch its face with the metal key in my hand. It growls loudly and jumps back only to jump forward in a flash and plant its sharp teeth into my forearm creating an instant jolt of red pain. Fucking thing (what if it’s rabid?). I manage to somehow grab one of its black-furred legs by its soft padded foot and pull it down with all the force I am able through the opening of the tree house, screaming and also dropping the Cat keys as I yank it down. It must have weighed fifteen pounds. The animal plunges past me, falling downward the fifteen or so feet, fur shaking like a bear as it lands on top of the little dead boy’s head, knocking him to the ground and biting him in the neck before it scurries away injured into the woods. If I wasn’t so scared and hurt I might have laughed at that ridiculous scene. The little boy, unfazed, clumsily stands up with nothing but a black gaping wound in his neck the size of a half-dollar, devoid of fluids, whereas I am dripping small dots of red everywhere as shaking I desperately climb up through the opening into the old tree house and huffing and crying roll onto my back on the old wood planks, hoping I don’t fall through the old and rotten wood. Fuck….all I can do is cry and press on my trembling arm with my hand to create the pressure of a tourniquet…and say fuck over and over.

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