Friday, February 6, 2009

Poor, but not in Spirit.

The cop was right about something’s, wrong about others. The ATV is both good and bad. While it is an “off-road” vehicle, and its speed is fairly good, it was really made to ride on downtown paved streets. The wheels are flat and wide, unlike the normal oversized knobby gripped tires that these vehicles normal sport. This means that getting up on the tracks is tough, and the ride is very bumpy. The suspension was made for speed and maneuverability on pavement, not on unstable ground. I decide that riding on the tracks isn’t my best course of action and ride in between them, on the rock bed that separates the two tracks. The going is slow, but not as dangerous as walking. I see a few creatures here and there, but there are no masses of them until I get to the projects.

The train tracks ride right along some of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. Large apartments for low income families sprout on one side of the tracks. The bodies of hundreds of undead clamor at the sides of the building and on the windows. Suddenly the risk of being in a poor neighborhood is a benefit. All the windows that line the ground floor for each of these buildings is covered by thick wire or bars, and all the doors are covered with bars as well. These places were made so humans couldn’t get into them, and the zombies are stopped cold. 

On the porches, hundreds of people sit. It is still before noon and the temperature is still rising, it may reach 100 degrees today. With no hope of circulation these people go to the only place that is relatively cool, outside. They look down lazily at the creatures and out at me, seemingly unphased but the horrendousness of it all. I can’t tell what they are thinking exactly. They could be resigned to the fact of death. Having lived in a dangerous neighborhood for so long they might not even be affected by the fact that their apartment is surrounded by creatures that want to kill them; this isn’t much of a change from before there were zombies. In a way they were separated from the world before, segregated to a small community of like incomes and colors, how is this different?

But my cynical side isn’t firing this thought process up. Instead my optimistic side takes hold. Hardship isn’t new to these people. Lean times and mortal danger was already a daily occurrence. This new threat is just another in a long line of threats that they will overcome. 

When some of them notice me they hoot and holler. They yell and wave, some of them laugh, others cry out for some help. I cannot do anything really, but ride by and give them something to mark the day as different from the others. I am going slow when I hear gunfire. I am not sure if it is a gun aimed at me or not, so I hit the throttle, leaving the poor to fight their own fight. If I had to pick a side, I’d say the tenacity of these people will win out.

A little after noon, I get to a point in the train tracks that is going to be a challenge. There is a trestle just outside of a town called Blue Island that crosses a shipping canal. I maneuver the ATV onto the tracks and start to ride over, there are no rocks and the wheels are smallish, so the ATV is bouncing as the wheels fall between the supports of the railroad ties. It is too hard to drive and I am afraid that I will be thrown off into the water below. I get out and try to pull it. It is slow going across the bridge, each tie takes a few seconds, and a lot of effort. 

It isn’t until I get to near the middle when I see them. Some creatures are coming down the tracks from toward Blue Island. I start o furiously pull the ATV when I spin around and see a couple of others ambling toward me from the other way. There are about twenty of them, slowly plodding their way toward me, and I know there is nothing I can do. The way on foot will be too difficult, this machine is really my only chance of survival, but there are too many creatures, and the footing on this bridge is too poor. All the options that I have are quickly running out. The highest probability for survival is the only choice I really take seriously. I jump.