Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Part 14



It has been a couple of very unpleasant days.  I am right back where I started from ... maybe not geographically but that doesn't seem to matter very much.

Lee and I were cutting through the park and it was a perfect day for being outside.  Somehow that should have told me to watch out.  Things are always best before they suddenly aren't.  I'd spent another night in the clinic but the sheriff had mentioned that he didn't feel that was appropriate and that he wanted me to come live with them.  I was going to use Laura's room.  For some reason Lee and I started bickering.  It was for no good reason but I guess that's the way it usually starts.

"Don't be a dork."

"Will you stop doing that?" he snapped.

"What?"

"Making me feel ... I don't know ... that you're suddenly older than me.  'Cause you're not."

Nonchalantly I told him, "Nope.  I'm not.  But just because you are older doesn't mean you aren't a dork.  Why my mom and yours always thought Laura would want to play with me when she was a year older than you is beyond me."

"I don't know what your mom thought but mine hoped you'd slow Laura down.  She said she was growing up too fast."

I shrugged.  "Opposite on my side.  My mom thought I was going too slow on purpose.  I suppose they thought if they put us in a shaker that we would at least rub off on each other and even it out a little.  Geez.  For smart people our moms could sometimes totally miss the point."

Lee was silent then said, "How can you talk like that?  I mean they ... they died.  Probably really horribly."

I wanted to kick him in the ankle but didn't because he'd promised to take me to the warehouse where all the "personal items" had been stored.  "Look.  It's not that I don't feel bad if I start you know dwelling on the how they died part.  I cried a lot in the beginning.  I cried so much that I could have been puss brain chow a hundred times over if Sherry hadn't been willing to put up with me until I toughened up. But if you think I'm bad then you just don't understand how bad people can get."

He shook his head in denial.

"Seriously Lee.  People are bad and hard.  Our dads knew that.  Our moms probably did too when they let themselves think about it.  But here's the thing, why should I Iet the way Mom died take away from how she lived?  My mom was a pain but she was my pain and was kinda cool in her own way.  We had a garden.  She made cookies and baked our bread so we didn't have to eat the gross spongy stuff from the store.  She was real organized so that we could live in our little house without going crazy so Dad didn't have to worry about money so much and could focus on staying safe.  Mom may not have worked a job like your mom did where she saved people's lives every day, but she was still a good person."

"I didn't say she wasn't," he said defensively.

"I know.  I just meant I don't want to make how she died to where it covers up who she was when she was alive.  That's all.  Mom would be sad if all I remembered of our time together was the last bad thing rather than all the good and normal stuff that came before it.  I mean why do you do good stuff for and with people if it isn't to balance out the bad stuff that is bound to happen?"

He was silent and then grumbled, "You're even stranger than you used to be DeeDee."

I shrugged trying to show he wasn't close to hurting my feelings.  "Probably.  A year on the run from Puss Brains and perverts will do that to you."

We walked another five minutes in silence when he asked out of the blue, "Were you really in the city the whole time?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and turned on him.  "You know you can call me a lot of things but liar isn't one of them.  Go away Lee.  Leave.  Now.  I don't need a babysitter."

'Hey ..."

"No.  Just like with the puss brains and thinking you're all safe and crap here in town, you are listening to the wrong people.  I could tell you things about what it is like to really have to deal with puss brains.  I could teach you things about how to avoid them, outsmart them, avoid being chomped, win in a hand-to-hand fight.  You haven't asked me one single question about that.  Not how did I survive, what did I have to do day in and day out.  No one around here has.  Not even those so-called scientists at the clinic.  That's sad.  That means you think you know everything.  Well you don't."  We were drawing a crowd but I didn't care.  "For instance, you think it is that dinky, stupid wall that keeps the puss brains out.  It's not.  It's that they've still had things to keep them occupied in the city.  Like when I left they were starting to form a horde ... they do that sometimes.  And the horde was attracted to a big fire that had started downtown.  That's how I was able to get away without having to splat too many of them.  That's why there weren't any to take notice of how I got across the bridge on the scaffolding.  But eventually some puss brain is going to get hungry and they aren't going to be able to find anything left in the city and they are going to look across the river and their tummies are going to growl.  That's what drives them the most, hunger."

Acting superior he said, "Obviously.  The scientists told us that a long time ago."

"Yeah, but did they tell you that puss brains still think?  That they plan?  That they can learn?  That they have strategies?  They aren't all just instinct; yes, some of them are but not all of them.  And some of them still feel pain.  That's why you don't look them in the eye when you are putting them out of their misery.  They heal fast too, the longer they've been infected the faster they heal.  Now put all of that together Lee.  Really think about it.  If they feel pain and don't like it then they'll fight being in pain.  When they don't get enough to eat it hurts them.  They'll figure out a way to escape that pain and they'll be able to take risks that uninfected people wouldn't because they don't have to worry so much about being Humpty Dumpty."

"The infecteds' brains don't work like that," he denied.  "They can't.  They're too messed up.  The doctors all say so."

"All the doctors or only the ones saying what you want to hear?"  I shook my head.  "You and the people around here have bought into that stupid zombie mess.  Puss brains are still people.  They still breathe.  Their hearts still beat.  They still think even if it is in a different way than uninfecteds do.  They still need to eat to live.  They still poop and urinate.  They are more than just animal instincts.  Most of them aren't real bright compared to what they were before they were infected but there are a few that are close ... or at least close some of the time and it isn't just by accident.  And those are the leaders that can gather the other puss brains together and get the hordes started.  And when that happens they get like this hive mentality and work together and work smarter for some reason.  It will be a horde with a smart leader that figures a way across the bridges ... not just the bridge I came across but any or all of them.  And when that happens it won't just be here that the puss brains head it will be every place they can spread.  And when that happens there won't be any place to run."

A man from the crowd said, "Then we'll fight them."

I turned to him and said, "It isn't just a matter of being willing, you have to be ready, and you aren't.  And you have to know the best ways to fight them so the fewest people on your side get chomped on.  And I haven't seen that you know how.  That's why I didn't stay in the city by myself.  I wouldn't have been able to survive.  You need numbers to cover your back and you cover theirs."

A sharp female voice snapped, "That will be enough."

I turned and saw the woman - Major Jeffries - that had all but called me a liar straight out.  I told her, "You just don't want me telling people the truth.  You want people to think I'm a liar, that I'm just a kid with a big imagination.  You want people to forget what it was like a year ago because if they think about it they'll know that it could happen again and some of them will panic and you'll lose control.  Well I tell you what, you wanted me to take you back the way I came.  You want me to prove to you that I did just what I said I did.  OK.  I'll do it.  But not just with you military types.  Some regular people have to go with us so they can see too.  And when ... if ... we come back you have to let them tell what they saw ... the truth, not just what you want them to say.  Deal?"

"I do not make deals with children."

I let the "children" remark pass and asked, "Too afraid that I really am telling the truth ... a truth that you don't want anyone else to know?  What are you?  Chicken or something?"

Lee yelped, "DeeDee!"

I turned on him, "Stop ... being ... so ... nice!  It is going to get you dead or worse, infected!  I've seen enough dead and dying people!  I don't want to see anymore!  I sure don't want it to be my friends!"

Two guys with medic uniforms came up behind me and I couldn't move fast enough.  I felt a pinch in my arm.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  But then again, it was like being the lone person in a world of puss brains.  I didn't have anyone to cover my back.

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