To ZSC Brigade leaders and 1st Lieutenants:
I’m sending this from a tiny town outside Moab called End of The Line. I’ve holed up in an Old West museum with a Navajo named Joe Holiday. The walkers have thinned out, but that won’t last long. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, so—
We Take Care of Our Own is about a tight-knit family dealing with survival amidst the Zombie Apocalypse in a small Midwestern town and was inspired by the The Walking Dead. The treatment of both the graphic novel and the TV series inspired this tale because it’s brilliantly complex, poignant, and shockingly real. We Take Care Of Our Own examines the human reaction in the shadow of the Zombie Apocalypse.
I’ll be moving on in the morning with Joe. We’ll be heading to Monument Valley, where his people are. In the meantime, keep up the good fight…I know I will.
Please note because the characters are dealing with a zombie outbreak, this excerpt may have some strong language.
We Take Care of Our Own
My brother and I are the only two left in Churchville, Illinois, population once 112. I’d say last two alive, but that’s not really right. I’m alive, but my brother, Tom Nolan, is very dead. He’s a zombie now. An undead man walking. Tom used to call them flesh-heads, like the towel-heads he fought over in Iraq, but that was before he got bit. I know I’m supposed to put him down, but he’s my brother, and we promised Dad that we’d take care of each other no matter what.
Dad always said, “Us Nolans, we take care of our own.”
It’s the six hundred and sixty-sixth day since we stopped using calendars. I only know because 665 is written on the little chalkboard I keep up here. Beneath it are the thin remnants of all the numbers that have been written and erased. I take up the nub of chalk, erase the 5 with my finger, and draw a 6 in a looping motion.
666…the number of the beast. I think of the Iron Maiden song. It was one of my brother’s favorites. I remember their mascot, Eddie; tight dead skin pulled over his skull face. In one of their posters Eddie was dressed like Uncle Sam, grinning and pointing his rotten knife of finger. That’s right; UNCLE EDDIE WANTS TO EAT YOU! Welcome to The Zombified States of America!
I lie still for a minute, breathing in the warm attic air; wood and dust, mixed with my own stink. I’ve long taken to sleeping in my clothes. Tom used to say they’d stand up on their own if I bothered to take them off. I don’t sleep very well anymore. Mostly because my mind always goes back over all the things that have happened, and partly because of the Metallica that plays all night long. I play it for Tom, and for me. They were his favorite band, and it helps to drown out the racket he makes the minute darkness falls. I don’t know what it is with flesh-heads, but the night wakes them up, like rats or coyotes; gets their zombie engines runnin’ full throttle and sharpens their senses. Even though Tom is walled up in Grandpa’s bomb shelter, he always knows when night has come.
I sit up on my mattress. My butt sinks down through whiny, shot springs to the wooden floor beneath. The emptiness in my stomach howls. Man, I’m hungry. Maybe I’ll find some food today in town. Maybe.
The lone window in the attic glows white hot with sunlight that blots out Illinois farm country below and beyond.
I pull on my boots, and remember buying them with Dad and my brother. I reach for my brother’s belt and stand up, careful not to whack my head on the low eaves thick with shadows and cobwebs. I thread the belt into my jean loops, and pulling it tight, see I’ve punched six new holes in its cracked leather. My brother used to say I looked like one of those starving children on TV.
I take up my shotgun that stands against the wall like a cowboy leaning on a post. It’s a Remington 870 express pump action. Dad gave it to me when I turned thirteen. I’m seventeen now, and I miss being thirteen something terrible.
I start down the attic steps, each one creaking its own note like piano keys.
The basement is cool and dark as a moonless field. Morning quiets my brother, and all the Metallica albums on the mp3 player usually run out about four in the morning.
I snatch the mp3 player, with its cracked plastic face, out of the speakers it spends the nights docked in. Mom gave us the mp3 player and the speakers. She bought them right after she got herself a eBook reader. Mom said we shouldn’t be afraid of technology, especially if it helped a person appreciate the arts. I guess Metallica, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen are as much art as Mom’s books.
I stare for a moment at the thick steel door that keeps my brother safe. I touch my hand to it, wishing I could still touch my brother. I wish I could still muss his hair, or try and make him flinch. He stirs behind the door. I hear the slow clicking and clacking of his teeth, tired from gnashing all night, followed by a low, growling grunt, then silence. I slip the mp3 player into the front pocket of my jeans and bound up the steps, thinking of Mom instead of my zombie brother.
The sunlight leaks into the kitchen around the edges of the ply boards that cover every window on the first and second floor. I hate it because it makes the whole house feel like a cardboard box, lit by seams and cracks, but without them, there’d only be a pane of glass between you and death. Not that plywood keeps death out, ‘cause it doesn’t, but it’s a good first line of defense.
I set my rifle on the kitchen table, next to the boxes of shells, and go to my bike angled against the counter. I check its chain and return to the table. Man, I’m tired. I sit down. Just for a minute.
To read more and find out the depths to which Lord Henry Abercrombie falls, check out Undead Is Not An Option.