The First Draft Beginning of Waiting on the Dead
It’s the first draft, so forgive me if it sucks. Let me know if it does, though, just so I can try to fix it.
Anyway, this is how it begins:
Foreword, I Think. Or Is It Prologue? How Am I Supposed to Know?
In my experience, the first thing most would-be survivors of the zombie apocalypse do is look for a shotgun and start a diary. Well, actually the first thing they generally do is bludgeon and dismember the shambling corpses of their family and friends in a state of revulsion and fear. Then they look for the shotgun and start the diary.
By now, I’ve become somewhat of an aficionado of Zombie Diaries. It gets a little dull after a while, holed up for the night in some “safe” cubbyhole while the moaning and shuffling goes on all around you, and I’ll read just about anything to pass the time between migrations. Since pretty much everything published in the ten years before all hell broke loose was either a thriller (five word synopsis for all of them: Horrific murder, investigation, twist, end) or a young adult novel (Shy teen. Exciting stranger. Love.), finding something halfway decent to pass the time wasn’t easy. Luckily, the only thing more common than the walking dead nowadays are the remnants of some poor sucker’s chronicle of their time trying to deal with said dead. Granted, most of them suck balls, but at least they’re topical.
Let’s face it. Most survivor accounts read more like gun porn than anything else: “I ran my hands down the forged lightweight aluminum receivers of my M4A3 carbine with the removable carry handle and optional expanded clips and nylon carry strap. The blued steel shaft of the barrel gleamed supplely in the fading light as I sighted down the dual aperture rear sight system calibrated in meters, lining up the ragged face of the first of the oncoming horde before neatly headshotting a dozen of the monsters with three tight but easy squeezes of the hair trigger. The six-position telescoping buttstock rammed into my shoulder firmly with each pull as I thrust my body against its reassuring recoil. The long hard weapon and I become one, joined together in a flurry of oiled steel and sweat.”
I swear, the pages of those diaries are all sweaty and sticky and ooze testosterone and other fluids I’d rather not think too much about. They can usually be found behind some homemade barricade of sandbags or tables or improvised tank traps surrounded by MREs from the local Army/Navy Surplus store or outdoorsmen’s paradise, guarded by a fat guy shambling around in old camo fatigues with half a face and no intestines. The Rambo Wannabes never seem to fare too well or last too long. They might do better if the Kill Counts they relate in their sweaty journals matched up with the two or three No-Longer-Walking-Dead riddled with scattered panicky holes around their one-time safehouses.
Actually, my attempt up there to replicate one is completely inaccurate. As far as I can tell, I spelled everything right. It is hard to know for sure: in the Zombie Apocalypse, there is no spell check.
It’s been something like 18 months since the accepted start date of the whole shebang. You can call it the Apocalypse (like the Times) or the Zombie War (like the Post) or the Rise of the Dead (the Journal) or the End Times (every religious publication) or Fuck Yes, It’s Zombie Time (my former friend Rusty). Whatever your particular Appellation of Choice, scholars (well, journalists, really) have marked April 14th, 2012 as the Official Start Date, since that’s when the shit really began to get started in the U.S. Little facts like the start and spread of the first reports of walking dead in Mongolia half a year before that day didn’t interfere with the chosen date which marked the Terror in Terra Haute (I hate the people who somehow get to name shit. I swear, if some media douchenozzle could’ve, he’d have called it ZombieGate in an orgy of revolutionary creative thinking). Some outlets tried to make it March 15th, when a report of a shambling, foam-mouthed dog bit a kid in some Bible Belt dustbin town, just so they could get all Ides of Marchy with it, but everyone knew the fucking dog had rabies and the efforts went in vain. I think the cable news channels hated making it April 14th, since it’s a day that’s hard to tie anything else cool to. Yes, it’s the day that videotape was first demonstrated, but that didn’t give the talking heads much to go on.
So for the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been collecting and reading the accounts of the survivors who didn’t. At first I did it because I was bored. And, I have to admit, I got a thrill out of reading about people I’d outlived. It was like a little tapdance of joy that I was still alive and kicking when everyone else was becoming Zombie Food. I laughed at the shitty grammar and poor sentence structure and third-grade vocabulary, and I felt all smug and superior and alive. I was a zombie apocalypse survivor, the waiter who outlived every suburban commando and modern-day cowboy. I was also a world-class prick.
I did all that until I found a diary written by a real third-grader. But that story’s for later. I’m not ready for that one yet.
After that, I started my own diary. This isn’t it. I’ve decided to put this together like a memoir while the diary sits on the floor at my feet. I have six rubber bands holding its cover shut. I do that to keep all the horrible things inside there trapped forever, or at least until some smug motherfucker finds my body wandering around this room and scoops it up to pass the time while he takes a dump.
I’ve done a lot of good, or tried to anyway. I helped people I didn’t need to, risked my life to save strangers, gave my last pack of beef jerky to a girl who I wasn’t even trying to bang. But I’ve also done some pretty terrible things, things I’m not proud of, things that haunt me. I’ve committed the Biggest Sin of the Apocalypse, the one thing I swore I’d never do. I could use this history as a way of absolving myself, shifting blame, rewriting everything entirely. No one can stop me. Hell, it’d be a lot easier.
“My name is Randy Steed. I have a 22-inch neck to match my 28-inch biceps, and I could kill every man, woman and child in any given room, all at once. My cock is 14 inches long when soft and I’ve pleasured the most beautiful women in the world while simultaneously beheading a vampiric super-zombie with a pair of salad tongs as my perfect teeth gleamed in my tanned and robust face and throngs of adoring hero-worshippers looked on.”
It’d be easy, but sadly, it ain’t true. I might as well spill it all, tell it as accurately as I can, with all the blemishes intact. I’m sure to mess some things up, get distances or details wrong or whatever, but any nitpicker who takes offense can pucker up and kiss my asshole. It’s hard to get too accurate when you’re stuck in the loft of some house in the middle of fucking Delaware with a few dozen zombies pushing against the only door and the lone window leads to a twenty-foot drop smack dab in the middle of another bunch of wandering corpses. So forgive me if I get the occasional mileage marker wrong.
My best estimate gives me a week before I join the long list of the No Longer Alive. On my side of the door I have a typewriter, a shitload of paper, four bottles of single-malt Scotch from the smallest distillery in Scotland, a case and a half of Teriyaki Flavored Beef Jerky, a half-full Pez dispenser, and not much else to do but wait to die.
So here’s what happened.