Well, when I signed up to join Roh Morgon’s Back to School Blogfest, I expected to have more time to write and edit my submission… but my boyfriend came to town and then I got sick and life is what it is, so it’s not as perfect as I would have liked, but it’s a fun little story. At least, I had fun writing it.
I based this story on a dream I had. Of course, in the dream she was living on top a high school (rather than a university) and the boy she met was… Well, it was different, but in a way I didn’t have space for in this story. Anyway, I hope you like it, ’cause it merges two of my favorite things: School and Zombiepocalypse.
To read more about the blogfest and to see the other submissions, click here!
I stood on the roof of the science building, looking down at the cement walkway. I pictured myself taking just one small step forward, then tumbling down, down to the pavement below. It was a small fall, really–only four stories. The wind would pull at my long hair, adrenaline would rush through my body and without meaning to, I’d probably twist and turn until I landed on a leg or an arm.
It wouldn’t be enough to kill me. Just enough to leave me immobile, in pain, until nightfall. And then they would come and tear into me until there was nothing left.
I shook my head. I’d promised not to die. But a promise made to dead person, did it really matter? It wasn’t like Carlos had stuck around long enough to see just how lonely the world had become. How quiet the campus got.
But I had promised. And suicide just didn’t seem right, not with the whole world having gone to Hell. So I stood there and waited, like I always did, for night to come. I closed my eyes and returned to the fantasy of ending it all. There’s no one else. I’m all alone. Even if I live for fifty more years I’ll be alone.
My eyes flashed open and I teetered forward. I had to scramble backwards to stop myself from falling over the edge and I landed uncomfortably on my butt, my eyes wide. After a moment, I crept forward and peeked over the edge of the building. There was a boy running towards me, waving his arms frantically to get my attention.
“Don’t jump,” he said again once he was closer, leaning over with his hands on his knees as he gasped for breath. After a moment he glanced up at me through his wild red hair. “I’m John.”
“Tam,” I replied. My voice came out in a rasp. I put my hand to my throat. How long has it been since I last spoke?
“Tam.” He grinned up at me, then let out a whopping laugh. “Am I glad to see you. I was beginin’ to think there were no more people left.”
“Why are you here?” I asked, unable to look away from the laughing boy. “Where are you from?”
He took his eyes off me long enough to glance at the horizon. There was less than an hour until sunset. “I don’t supposed you’d let me up there before I start answerin’ your questions?”
“There’s a stairway over there.” I indicated the direction with a nod of my head. “It’s been blown out, but you can climb to the second floor and I’ll lower my ladder.”
“Much obliged,” John replied, still grinning up at me as we walked toward the stairway. “How old are you, Tam?”
“I was seventeen when it happened.” I grabbed the ladder and pushed one edge slowly over the rooftop. “Just about to graduate high school.”
John reached the ladder and began climbing up. “So you took refuge on a college campus?” He laughed. “Seventeen, huh? That’d make you nineteen now?”
“I–I guess.” I hadn’t been keeping track of the passage of time. Had it already been two years?
“I’m 20. It’s nice to finally see someone around my age. You been alone all this time?”
“Not at first. There was my brother, Professor Prince, Meg and Taylor. Carlos.”
“And now?” he asked, stepping onto the roof.
“Sorry,” he whispered.
I hung my head low so he couldn’t see the tears that threatened to spill and shrugged. “It happens. What’re you doing here?” I reiterated my earlier question, grabbing the top of the ladder and pulling it back onto the roof.
“I came lookin’ for you. You and other survivors.”
I turned to walk back toward the center of the roof, where I had my tent and campfire. I’d been cooking rice before he interrupted me – -it was a little burnt now, but it’d do, there was no point wasting food. Not when it was so hard to replace.
I grabbed Carlos’ bowl and served up half the gruel to John. It wasn’t much, I hadn’t been expecting company, but it was better than an empty stomach.
“What would want to find survivors for? ”
John’s eyebrows furrowed. “Don’t you wanna be around other people? Be part of a community again?”
“Sure.” I offered him a humorless smile. “Communities are great. Until you realize that every stupid decision one person makes puts everybody else in danger, too. You think I want to put my life in anyone’s hands but my own?”
“Are you serious?” John put his bowl down barely touched and moved closer to me. “You’d rather live up here alone, surrounded by monsters, than a place where there are people–real livin’, breathin’ people–to watch out for you?”
I avoided looking at him, though he was standing uncomfortably close. I could almost feel the warmth from his body. The truth was, I didn’t want to be alone. I hated it. The quiet, the emptiness, there was nothing to distract me from death–it was everywhere. Moving in around me, suffocating me until it was all I could see, all I could think about. These last few minutes with John had been my happiest since… Well, since before Carlos got sick.
“I promised I’d stay alive,” I whispered, pulling my knees into my chest and hunching down to stare at my feet. “I haven’t seen a community capable of making that happen.”
“What if I promise to protect you myself?” He laid a hand on my arm, pulling on it until I turned to look up at him. “I’ll keep you safe if you come with me. What do you say?”
Despite the honesty in his eyes, I knew he was lying. There was nothing he could do to keep me safe. I’d be gotten by them, or disease. Old age. People just weren’t meant to last forever. But the feel of his hand on my arm–the heat spread through my body like wildfire. His warmth was more convincing than any words he could have said. I wasn’t alone. That was better than being alive.
I nodded, laying my head on my knees as tears fell. John draped an arm around my shoulder and sat next to me as I cried. We sat that way until the pounding and thumping below told me that night had fallen. The quiet campus was once again filled with bodies, and they were hungry.