This is something I wrote after waking up from a strange dream a few nights ago. I hope you like it and as always - comments are always welcome. xx
“We met at a little bar after the game in Houston. He was really funny and showed me how to play quarters. Don’t laugh but I had never played it before and by the end of the night he said that I was a real champ at it. My friend recognized him from playing for a team in Kansas. I asked him if that was what he was in town for…a soccer game. He said that he was. We exchanged numbers intending to keep in touch. That was the same night that the sirens went off.
When people started talking about the dead coming back to life, I didn’t know what to think. This was a joke, right? It felt unreal and really straight out of a horror film or some end of days book from whatever schlock horror novelist was famous at the time. I sent him a text asking if everyone was okay where he was. He replied that things were crazy and he wanted to meet up with me. My best friend, Tasha and I were holed up in our hotel room so I invited him over. The news report said that it was best to stay indoors and the National Guard would keep everyone safe. The same news station showed people loading up on ammunition. Tasha said this was Texas and we would be safe. Nothing like how things were done in other states, she would tell me later when we started to hear gunfire. Later that night after we raided the snack machine and had eaten one too many hostess cakes did we hear a knock on the door. It was him and a teammate of his. They looked scared and both were carrying shotguns. I noticed they looked like they had fought off a hoard. That’s what the news called them when they roamed the streets. I asked him how he had made it into the hotel and he said that the windows were shattered. Tasha asked if we should leave and his friend said that would be a good idea.
We ran through the streets and ended up hiding out with a friend of a friend. I asked him if the gate to the private country club would keep us safe. His friend joked that everyone here was already a zombie. That night everyone had a warm meal but what we didn’t know was that the power would go out. We were told not to panic. Tasha asked if she could have a handgun. Our hosts handed us each a small pistol. He asked if I had ever shot anything and I told him that I used to target practice with my dad. He asked our host to give me something with a little more firepower.
I slept with him that night. It occurred to me that this was the end. No one knew what tomorrow would bring. I suspect that was what Tasha was thinking when she slept with his friend, too. Early morning showed that a helicopter had crashed not far from the house. Our hosts said there was enough fuel for two vehicles. There was talk on the hand cranked powered radio that people were being asked to make it to Oklahoma. A military base was taking people but everyone would have to pass a screening to be allowed in. Anyone infected would be killed on site. This scared us all. It also was a turning point. One of the family members asked how could they do this to fellow Americans. He said it was the law of survival.
The roads were packed but we had made it to the state line only to see a large rigging with a sensor scanning people as they walked through. We both wondered how long the government had a plan for this. One of the members of our host family brought up the fact that the US had the highest defense budget in the world. I wanted to ask if that was the case then how was it that this had happened. People were silent as they stepped through. So far everyone passed the test. It was only in our group that Tasha set off the alarms. I turned to see her eyes get wide with fear. How could she be one of them? We had been together the last few days. We had gone to a game together. I thought about his friend and how they had been together. I wanted to tell them they got it all wrong but one shot through her forehead told me they wouldn’t be listening. It turned into pandemonium after that. Everyone had started to push forward. I almost lost my footing a couple of times but he held on. He kept telling me that we were safe now. Don’t think about her now, she’s gone, we can’t help her now. His words were sharp and I knew it was because he didn’t want me to break down. I had known Tasha only for a short time but we had spent the last few days living in fear. She was the only family I had now. I wasn’t sure where my own had gone when the outbreak happened.
Oklahoma was sealed off after that day. Our host family, his friend and myself along with him were moved into a house that had been taken over by the military. We were offered food, shelter and safety. The men were told they would have to take jobs. He was asked what he had done before. They laughed when he said he played soccer professionally. They asked what his fallback career had been and he said he didn’t have one but that he knew how to bartend. And that’s what his job was. Nightly he would run the bar and serve the military or anyone wanting a drink. He would tell me that secretly everyone was scared.
We were able to live there a month when the lines were breached. I was on my knees hugging a toilet cursing my body. Of all the things that could happen. The doctors said it would be best to end it since no one was sure about the future. The population was dwindling. When people died – they were cremated to prevent them from coming back. I made him swear that we would stay together no matter what. Everyone was evacuated a few days later.
The procession to Philadelphia had been long. We lost many on the trip. We had said goodbye to his friend who joined up with the military. I asked him if he was sad to see him go but he told me that he wasn’t. When we got to the city we had to pass through another screening. We could see a screen where people who were infected lit up as red while others were grey. He and I passed. I was stopped when a heartbeat was detected. Once again I was told it would be best to end the pregnancy. I asked if other women had done what they had been told. The medic said that most women were killing their babies on account of not knowing what the future would bring.
We settled into a small apartment. I watched him play soccer with some children. We also ran into some other displaced players he knew. At night they would have games while the civilians and military personnel looked on. If they had not been wearing their uniforms, it would have been a normal summer evening. He smiled at me when I cheered for him and when he got a goal, I thought I had applauded the longest of everyone in the crowd.
Everyone was safe here in the city. It was sealed off when it reached capacity and no one seemed to complain. I watched him coach the kids while I talked to some other women that had decided to keep their babies. We would have to do weekly visits with the medic since no one was for certain if the virus was airborne. I watched my belly swell and the seasons change. He commented on my size but then we would fall into bed later and he would tell me that I was beautiful.
I was near my date when there was mention of a move to a converted medical ship. Women and children only. It was to set leave port and head for Canada. I cried until I felt like I couldn’t cry anymore. The other women comforted me. Our small community was about to be torn apart. When I asked why we had to leave, I was told it was because the outbreak had spread and the hoard had grown. Entire cities had been destroyed. The men were asked to pick up arms. Later that night he told me he was a pacifist but he would do anything to keep me and the child within me safe. We made love that night for the last time.
I gave birth to a little boy on the medical ship two days later. He was scanned for any illness and passed with flying colors. Another woman on the ship had given birth only to be told her twins were diseased. They were given an injection and when they were dead – cremated. I remember seeing a black bag floating in the water away from the ship with what looked like a squirming newborn. I could see that the babies flailing hands were black from the disease. Why had my baby been lucky when others were not? The women that had given birth to sick babies had been quarantined. Blood had been taken from them to study what had been different. My baby had been tested. No difference could be seen in their findings. There was talk that the virus had mutated. Whatever that meant I only knew that my friends had watched their babies die.
Prince Edward Island was like Utopia. We had landed on an island where the homes were quaint sea cottages. The virus had not spread here. Some said it was the cold and the further north you got – the less you saw of it. Some asked where I was from and I told them a tiny town in Washington that you probably never heard of. I named the baby, Brian after his father. The military here was not as friendly as the unit in Philadelphia or even Oklahoma. Brian was the only baby on the island and for that he was considered special. We were given a home with several women to help with his care. I didn’t know how to tell them that I could handle it. Then I remembered that these women had likely lost children or elected to end their pregnancies.
Brian was growing fast and we had not heard any word about his father. Men had died, of that we were all sure. Late at night we talked about what life was like before. I shared the story of how I had met Brian’s father. Everyone looked at an old polaroid I carried with me and they all agreed that he was quite the looker. He has his father’s eyes, one woman told me. I looked at the bright blue eyes and agreed that he did in fact have his dad’s looks. Another woman found a small soccer ball that was soft and suggested I let him sleep with it. I’m sure he will play like his dad, said another woman.
The sirens went off in the middle of the night. We all feared for our lives but the loudspeaker said that a cure had been found. Everyone would be vaccinated. When I went to the clinic for the vaccine, we were turned away. The medic that had been the one to deliver Brian and follow his progress pulled me into a private room. There was a general and a woman that I was told had once been the First Lady of the United States. Her husband had died from the virus and a vote had been held so that she could assume his roll until congress could be assembled if they ever had another meeting. We want to thank you for the cure, she told me. I didn’t understand what she was saying to me. She ran her hand along Brian’s curly brown hair and smiled when he beamed at her. Your son, Brian, had the proteins in his blood that cured everyone infected, was her response. I hugged him close knowing that everyone had told me to end his life early on. I asked about his father. The general told me that he had fought like a lion. I felt like everything had started to drown out now. We had lost him. I thought about the night not long ago when he played soccer in the park with the children. The friends we had lost along the way. I started to cry when the First Lady said that he was on a medical ship now waiting for me. I was stunned by her words. He wasn’t dead? No, he was very much alive and excited to meet his baby. I started to laugh because it had been two years since I had seen him last.
We were reunited on the medical ship not long after. There was one last scan to walk through and we both passed. Knowing now that our blood had the antibodies that had saved the world felt unreal. Brian stared at his father for a long time before reaching out for him. His baby was a toddler now. We were a family now. I missed you so much, he told me. I ran my fingers along the scar on his chest. Friendly fire, he told me when we were alone. They were jealous of your good looks, I had joked. His face grew dark when he finally told me that his friend had shot him when one of the undead had grabbed him. He had been near death, I started to cry. He shook his head quickly then told me that the bullet never touched a major organ.
So you see, even after it seemed that the world had ended – we all managed to band together and make it through. Brian learned to play soccer like his dad when he was old enough. We decided that we were happy in Philadelphia and settled in to live there. About a year later we had a daughter and named her Tasha since we would have never met had it not been for her. We managed to live as normal a life as could be and prayed that we would never hear the sirens again.”