Prompt: A zombie outbreak occurs. It was contained and eradicated in short order with minimal deaths. It’s been several months, now the government is trying to coax out the various nerds who bolted to their zombie apocalypse hideouts and haven’t come back.
When you think of a zombie apocalypse, images of large armies of the “undead” appear in your head along images of desolate land and scattered humans. A total end to humanity as we know it and a life changing event that we could never come back from. All survivors would have memories where they had to put down their loved ones and managed to scrape by, barely surviving. Maybe humanity would band together enough to fight off the hoards of the dead, or maybe the zombies would win and the world would belong to the dead.
Well that didn’t happen. I mean we live in the 21st Century with Modern Medicine where zombies have entered the public conscience. Teenage boys and girls sit around and discuss their zombie plans. People became fatigued by the number of books, movies, and television shows with zombies in them. Even Governments came up with “In case of Zombies” plans and large medical organizations like The CDC monitored any suspicious things that could possibly lead to a full blow zombie outbreak.
When the undead showed their ugly heads, we were ready. We acted quickly putting down the zombies before a full blown apocalypse happened. Countries went on red alert watching for bite marks, scratches, fungal infections, and airborne illnesses. It was pretty mild to say the least. A few infected islands in the Pacific which were quarantined and monitored. The healthy people were evacuated while the dead were put down. The islands were firebombed just in case, but in retrospect, they may have been overkill. The remaining people were relocated and things seemed to go back to normal.
There was a short period where claims of zombies were all over the internet, and people were in a frenzy. Stores were wiped out. People held on to their loved ones. Tensions were high as people expected zombies to be on their doorstep at any moment. But in reality, that never happened. For the majority of the world, nothing really changed. The undead did not rise up and conquer the Earth. There was a lot of panic and some countries went into lock down for months, but after that, the lock downs were lifted. Trade went back to normal, government relations went back to normal, food production went back to normal. Everyone just went back to their jobs and their lives returned to normal.
Aside from a few people. Again we live in an age of technology and information is everywhere. That includes “Fake News” and lies on the internet. Even though the end of the world did not come, some people believe it did. The government was lying. Zombies were everywhere. The world was spiraling and the only thing between them and the plague of the walking dead, was the walls around them and the boobytraps they set up.
That’s where I come in. I’m supposed to get people to drop their defenses and return to their normal lives.
I stood outside a nice suburban home with a SWAT Team on my left and the local Sherriff on my right. I held a megaphone up to my mouth.
“Cody Hetch, this is Special Agent Lyston. Please come out of house so we can talk,” I said, the megaphone amplifying my voice.
The home was boarded up with metal bars on the windows and planks across the door. There was some kind of sniper’s nest set up on the roof and strings of barbed wire surrounded the yard.
“I’m not going to fall for it,” Cody yelled from the upstairs bedroom.
“Cody, there is nothing to fall for,” I called back to him. “There’s no need to hide out in your home. It’s over. We won.”
“You’re a liar!” Cody yelled. “There’s zombies in China. All over the news.”
I let out a sigh.
Even though there was never a confirmed case of a zombie in China, every three weeks or so a video would go viral on YouTube showing a village in China full of zombies, chewing off people’s faces and scratching out their eyes. Most people knew that is was all fake. Just a mix of bad CGI interlaced with real footage of an earthquake that hit China in 2006. However these doomsday-preppers and zombie nerds saw one sight of it and boarded up their homes. Many I dealt with hid in titanium bunkers with years worth of food or houses rigged to blow if a walking corpse walked into the area. I once arrived to a house partially collapsed with a WWII landmine blew up in someone’s kitchen. People were willing to do anything to survive, but there was no reason for it. All of these people locked themselves up thinking that they would never walk out into their regular life again. Maybe they were hoping for it.
“Cody! I promise you. That footage from China is fake. There are no zombies out here. There never were. Any sightings of zombies were thousands of miles away and they were taken care of and anyone saying otherwise are either lying or stupid. Now come out so we can talk,” I said.
The Sheriff tapped me on the shoulder.
“Uh, Agent? Do you think we should just march in there with your SWAT Team?” He asked.
“We could Sheriff, but you never know what kind of booby traps or other hazards might be in the home. It’s much better to get him to come out of the home,” I said.
I turned back to face the home.
“Cody, please can we talk. That’s all I’m asking for. Just come out of the home, so we can talk,” I said.
There was a brief moment of silence before it was broken by the sound of a creaking door. The SWAT Team raised their riot shields and weapons, but I waved them down.
“Hold,” I said.
A college aged man stood in the doorway, wearing a solar blanket around his bare torso wearing heavy, camo pants. A hunting rifle was slung over his shoulder.
“Cody. Stay there. Put your hands up. Do not reach for your weapon. I repeat, do not reach for your weapon,” I said as I slowly moved towards him.
“I…I had a plan,” He mumbled, barely audible.
“What?” I asked him.
“I…I had a plan. For all of it. When the world ended, I was free. I didn’t have to go to my boring 9 to 5 job. I didn’t have to worry about student loans or credit scores. I was ready to survive against the undead. I was going to survive,” He said.
“Cody, you did survive. It happened and you lived through it. It’s over. Now you can come out of your home. You can return to a normal life,” I said.
He looked at me with wet, teary eyes with large bags underneath the eyes.
“What if I don’t want to return to a normal life. I…I accepted this new life,” Cody said.
I approached closer and closer to him and he was almost within arm’s reach.
“Cody. This new life. How was it any different from your old life?” I asked. “You had running water, food, internet, and even Netflix. Nothing changed. You just locked your door and put up some boards.”
Cody let out a sigh.
“Yeah I guess you’re right,” Cody said. “I guess this is pretty silly. I spent months in there, all by myself. But really I could have just walked right out of my house and done anything else.”
Cody began to chuckle and I laughed a long.
“Well now you have a chance to live that life again,” I said.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Cody said.
He reached over his shoulder and I tensed up. I could see that the SWAT Team was on edge, out of the corner of my eye.
Cody grabbed the hunting rifle off his shoulder and held it out to me.
“Here. I wont’ be needing this,” He said handing the riffle to me.
“I grabbed it slowly and lowered it to the ground.
“Thank you Cody,” I said.
“There’s some stuff in the house I need to undo,” Cody said. “I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“Alright,” I said. “We have some people who are experts in taking apart traps. You don’t have to do it.”
“No. No. It’s better if I do it. It’s pretty simple,” Cody said.
“Ok, just don’t take too long and keep the door open. We’d like to take you to the local hospital to be checked out, to make sure you’re physically alright. Then psychatirc help if needed.
“Very kind of you,” Cody said with a slight laugh. “I’ll be right back.”
Cody walked back into the house and I turned back towards the SWAT Team and Sheriff.
“Seems like we’re all good,” I said.
I hit the ground and The Sheriff jumped behind his car. The SWAT Team raised their shields and weapons again.
But there wasn’t a second shot.
The team entered and they found Cody lying on his bed, gunshot through the head.
He was right. He wasn’t ready for his old life. The end had come for him and he was already dead. Even though he was locked himself inside his home and prepared for the dead to attack. All the while, he had given up on returning to a normal life. He was going to die in that house one way or the other.
That was the last time I let a person re-enter their hideout after coaxing them out, but it was not the last time I lost someone who was unable to return to a life without the threat of zombies looming over them.
Header Photo Credit to CBS Local Boston
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/SYLOH