It felt like an eternity since I was last moving around on my own, even though it had only been a few days. My muscles were still shaky, and I couldn’t go far, but every rocky step and potential fall was worth it knowing I wouldn’t have to come in physical contact with Tom anymore. I noticed it had been quiet in the house for a few hours, and my stomach kept growling, so I decided to head downstairs to eat something.
As I made my slow way to the kitchen I couldn’t help thinking about him. Tom. I still couldn’t believe he was alive, but even harder to believe was what he’d become. So different now, so far from the husband I remember. The Tom I knew would never have done this to the world, would have fought against anyone who did, but the Tom here now relished in what he did. I shuddered as I thought about the proud look on his face when he told me what he’d done and his future plans.
He was sick now, so far from the Tom of old. Part of me wondered if I could help him, help fix the broken parts of him, but another part of me realized I’d be an idiot if I tried. Just looking at him disgusted me, and I had to work every waking moment to hide that from him. Just one look of horror and shock from me had sent him into a rage, and shortly after I could hear someone screaming in pain outside for far longer than any person should be able to handle.
I suspected it was some unfortunate he suckered into his plan, like the man who injected me with whatever concoction before I woke here. I ached for them but knew there was nothing I could do to help them. I knew now that if I hide how I truly feel, if I pretended to want what he wants, Tom wouldn’t go into a rage.
Reaching the kitchen, I realized how eerily quiet it was in the house. No sounds of movement, just silence.
Silence. I moved to the base of the stairs before calling out again and I felt a trickle of excitement. If I’m alone…
“Tom? You there?”
A surge of adrenaline rushed through me when I realized what the silence meant, I’m alone in the house. No Tom, no guards, nothing. I may be able to escape, but the adrenaline and excitement are quickly followed by a wave of trepidation. What if this is just a trick? What if Tom suspects I’ve been playing him, and he’s set this up to see if I can be trusted? Crap.
If it’s not a trick and I can escape, I won’t be nearby to kill him and end this. But I can’t kill him in my current state, and if I stay I don’t know what he’ll do to me. Crap, crap, crap!
My desire to escape battled with my fear. I knew I had to decide soon, this could be my only opportunity, but it still takes a few moments before I finally make my decision. I will run. Well, hobble run, and as far as I can. Even if it’s a trap, I can’t pass it up. I have to go, I have to get away and get back to Chris…and Alex.
I stepped towards the door but quickly paused. Food. As if my stomach had ears and heard my thoughts, it grumbled loudly in reply. I know I won’t get far as is, and I certainly can’t do it without food or water. I don’t know what’s out there, is it still going crazy? It’s been quiet here, calm even. Maybe it’s only pockets of crazy? No, I can’t be sure. I have to assume Tom arranged something here to keep it calm and quiet. Especially since I learned he has some freakish ability to control the infected. What was going on was already crazy and terrifying, but when I saw him tell a zombie to be quiet and it stopped instantly I felt a new level of terror spring up.
Tom was insane, and right now I was seemingly safe from his wrath, but it was only a mater of time before I said or did something that shot him over the edge and led to my death. Probably a horrible one too at the hands of an infected. I shuddered at the thought and pushed it aside, quickly grabbing a canvas grocery bag from under the sink to throw some canned food and bottled water in.
After a few minutes of searching I had two 1-liter bottles of water, 15 random cans of food, a can opener, a towel, a small pot, a box of matches, and a spoon shoved into the canvas grocery bag. I considered searching longer for a knife or some other weapon but decide against it. I had no idea how long my chance would last and I hadn’t found even a butter knife so far, so I decided to worry about a weapon later and trudged to the door.
Cautiously I peered out through the window to the right of the door and see nothing outside, not even the silver car that had been in the driveway every time I had looked out the window before. It could be in the garage, but I’m counting on my luck here and hoping it’s nowhere nearby, along with Tom.
Sucking in a steadying breath I pulled the door open and dashed as fast as I could outside and down the street. After half a block I glanced behind me, no one there. Hope zings through me and brings with it a surge of adrenaline, which keeps me going at a quick walk away from the house. It’s several blocks before I noticed the silence. The street is almost as eerily quiet as the house was, but the occasional bird chirp can still be heard and helps calm my jittery nerves.
After only a few more blocks, I realized I had to rest, but I was on a residential street with nothing but houses all around me. Houses and silence. And I couldn’t just sit in the open, not when I had no idea where Tom was, or even where I was for that matter. The idea of being seen and caught again drove a spike of fear through my heart, so I decided to leave the sidewalk and check the houses nearby. I hoped that maybe there would be some lawn furniture in a backyard, because going into a strangers house felt both wrong and completely unsafe.
I lucked out on the fourth backyard I checked, which had a pool and several cushioned lawn chairs, one of which was positioned so I could see the house and gate I came in through. Perfect.
I couldn’t help feeling awkward and anxious as I leaned back into the cushions of the lounger. This was someone else’s house, their yard, their furniture. To top it off, I still hadn’t heard any noise other than a few birds chirping. No dogs barking, kids playing, vehicle noise, or the general chatter you usually hear in residential neighborhoods. It was definitely freaky.
A low, guttural growl broke the silence a few minutes after I settled myself on the lounger. Crap, crap, crap! Panic surged through me and I quickly glanced around, looking for the source. At first, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, so I switched to looking for something to defend myself with. Naturally, I venture out without protection. I’m brilliant like that.
My eyes came to rest to the left of the house where I saw a long wooden handle resting against the fence. The grass was too long to see it all, but even if it turns out to be a flimsy rake it would be better than nothing. Which I’m currently equipped with.
When I tried to stand I realized how much shit I was really in. I couldn’t get up! Even using my arms to push myself up, my muscles rebelled and refused to lift me more than a few inches before giving up on me. I realized quickly I was too weak and too close to the ground to get to a standing position, so my only option would be to crawl.
I looked around quickly and, still not seeing the origin of the growl, I rolled awkwardly off the lounger and crawled as fast as I could towards the wooden handle. I was sure an infant could crawl faster than I was right then, but I pushed on. Thankfully it wasn’t a huge yard and I’ve almost crossed it when the growl comes again, fiercer this time, and closer.
Shit! I scrambled faster and finally reach my target. A long-handled garden hoe!
I grinned as I used it and the fence to haul myself up off the ground. It takes a few minutes, and my body is not at all cooperating, but eventually I’m finally standing with my new weapon in my shaking hands.
I felt steadier and more secure as I turned back towards the yard. The feeling quickly faded though when my eyes came to rest on the source of the growls.
A zombie. A real-life fucking zombie standing before me. It’s technically not the first one I’ve seen, but my mind still freezes for a moment at the absurdity of it and the fear. Zombie’s don’t exist, the logical part of my brain knows this, but the greying torn skin and bloody stump of an arm can only translate to ‘Zombie’ in my head. This was the first aggressive one I had seen up close, the first one not standing docile on the porch. And I was truly terrified.
I jerked back when it started to move towards me. No growl this time, only a gross sounding gurgle coming from it’s bloody and torn lips. Somehow that sound was much worse than the growl. It sent both fear and disgust through me, and my limbs began to tremble as panic caused my thoughts to become sluggish.
I realized I’m probably going to die without much of a fight, at least on my end, and unconsciously my eyes closed and my head turned away, as if blocking it from my vision would somehow lessen the fear or danger.
Run! I need to run! My mind was screaming commands, but my body seemed incapable of following them. I realized the only thing my tired and weak muscles could do was hold me up against the fence. I prayed it would end quickly.