Writing Prompt: “A young man and his girlfriend walk the since abandoned streets of a western city in the wake of an infected outbreak in hopes of surviving and making it further south.”
“Close the door! Close the door!” Quinn yelled as she stepped through the doorway.
I looked out and saw a small crowd of walking corpses shambling toward the house. It was a collection of hungry, feral humans with sunken eyes and blank expressions. Many of the zombies walked with broken bones, decayed muscle, and missing skin. I could even see a few in the back crawling their way toward us, dragging themselves across the ground. Always moving and unrelenting no matter the conditions they had to endeavor to get to their food.
“Kai, the door!” Quinn yelled again.
“Oh right,” I shook my head and slammed the door, putting up a wooden barrier between us and the zombies outside.
“Now help me with this bookcase,” Quinn said as she moved quickly to an old, wooden bookcase.
I ran over to her and saw that this bookcase was covered in a layer of dust. On it’s shelves were a wide variety of books, most of which were about travel and cooking. On the lower shelves were several pictures. Pictures of a smiling family. Grandparents, pets, small children. All of them immortalized in the frames.
“Kai. Snap out of it. I need your help,” Quinn said as she started to push the bookcase toward the door.
“RIght. Sorry,” I said as I helped her push.
Many things fell off the shelves but we kept on pushing. We could hear the dull thuds of hands and fists striking the front door mixing with eerie moans of the zombies trying to fight their way in.
We shoved the bookshelf up against the door, adding some extra protection from the undead horde.
“How’s the windows? Still holding?” Quinn asked me.
“Yeah they’re all boarded up,” I said.
“Are you ok? Did you hit your head or something?” Quinn asked as she cupped my face with her hands.
“I…” I stuttered a bit. “No I’m fine. Really.”
“Ok good,” She said with a smile. “I was worried about you for a second.”
“Me? I was worried about you. You seemed to bring the whole town with you,” I replied.
“Yeah unfortunately the supply run didn’t go as well as I thought. The local vet was basically empty. But I did get some canned food from some of the neighbors,” Quinn walked away from the front door and placed her backpack on what was the dining room table. “One of the houses was booby trapped.”
“What? Really? Are you ok?” I asked.
“Yeah I’m fine. Some zombie already sprang the trap. This whole barbed wire thing trapped the thing but it didn’t die. It was just stuck there. So when I broke in through the backdoor, the thing started moaning and calling its friends. Before I knew it, there was a whole pack of them.”
Quinn began pulling out cans of stuff. Most of the stuff was in aluminum cans. Canned corn. Spam. Canned dog food. That sort of thing. But then she pulled out two large, glass mason jars.
“Woah. What a steal,” I said as I lifted one up.
“Yeah I know. One can of tomatoes and another of peaches. Apparently some old lady had a garden or something. I found these just sitting on the kitchen counter,” Quinn said.
My smile drifted off my face as I lowered the mason jar and put it back on the table.
“Just sitting there,” I muttered.
Quinn reached out and grabbed my hand.
“Hey. We don’t know what happened to them. They could have gotten out. Lots of people fled and left stuff behind,” She said.
For me it was hard to not think about where we were and the people that used to live here. Part of me knew it was stupid to be so sentimental about places I’ve never been and people I’ve never met. But for some reason every place we stay and every town we scavenger from, I think about it. I think about the people the zombies outside once were. Was one of them that gardener or the doomsday prepper with the barbed wire trap? Maybe.
Ultimately it didn’t matter. It didn’t affect our plan. We were hopping from house to house, collecting the necessary supplies as we traveled south. That was the last thing I heard before everything really fell apart. That there was some sort of large military base or safe haven set up where they were actually able to keep the infection at bay.
It seemed almost ridiculous to head south. Everyone was heading north. Seattle was only 130 some odd miles from the Canadian border. Many of my classmates were taking their family and friends north hoping that the ice and snow would keep the zombies at bay. Maybe Canada had a better plan for fighting the zombies. But I knew deep down that going north would only lead to freezing to death or being eaten by the hordes of zombies trekking across the great white north. South was the answer.
And Quinn believed in the plan. Believed in me which honestly might be crazier. I mean she really just met me. We are – were – both students at The University of Washington and had met on Tinder early into the semester. I remember reading some stuff on my phone about a new disease out of India before our first real date. I was nervous. But I took her out to this local sushi place. It was great. We really hit it off.
We spent a lot of time together. Really any moment where we weren’t in class or Quinn wasn’t working her part time job at Starbucks. We both kept our eyes on the news and all the reports of a possible global pandemic. But really our focus was on school, and each other, and just enjoying college life. I thought things were good.
That was until Quinn texted me asking if she could spend the night. Apparently her roommate was not feeling well and Quinn was afraid of catching some sort of cold. I told her that she could stay with me and that’s the only reason why we were there together.
It seemed like it was only a matter of day until we heard about outbreak after outbreak happening all over the United States. The university canceled classes and told us all to go home. It was Chaos. Quinn was trying to find a plane ticket back to the East Coast where her family lived, but nothing was available. Only small private planes were taking off. Airports would quickly be shut down. Everything hit the fan. It all collapsed.
One week everything seemed fine. We were on top of the world. The next week Quinn and I were running for our lives through the streets of Seattle while the living dead chomped at our heels. We made it out of the city alive and we traveled south. Away from the people fleeing north. Away from the 700,000 potential zombies swarming Seattle. Again, the last thing I heard was that the South was doing better with this thing. More guns. More trucks. More crazy people preparing for the end of days. Maybe there we could find a place to stay until this whole thing settled down.
I had no idea if this whole thing would go away. If these zombies had a lifespan. If there was even a government or military left to fight these things. Cell Phones, the internet, and even electricity was long gone. Now all we had was whatever we could salvage.
I looked over at Quinn and squeezed her hand.
“You did great,” I said with a smile.
“Well you did a good job boarding up the place,” She said as she looked around.
“The homeowners did most of the work,” I said. “Boarded it up themselves.”
“It’s almost like they thought this was just a hurricane or something. Boarding it up and then hoping to come back later,” Quinn said.
I was quiet for a moment and then I asked.
“Do you wish you were back home when…everything happened?”
Quinn stopped unloading canned goods and contemplated the question.
“No. For all we know the East Coast could be even worse. New York City must be an absolute nightmare. And all the people fleeing. More people out east then here on the west coast,” She said. “I think I’m better off here.”
“But your family -”
“Kai,” Quinn interrupted.
I shut my mouth.
“I’m here. With you, ok? No point of wondering about what ifs,” Quinn said. “If my family is out there, they’re probably just surviving like the rest of us. And if they’re not -”
Quinn’s words faltered.
I grabbed her hand with both of mine.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“No it’s fine,” Quinn said, wiping tears from her eyes. “But now you have to do the cooking.”
Quinn laughed a bit but I could tell she was still upset. She shoved the mason jar of tomatoes into my hands.
“See what you can fix with this,” She said, her eyes not meeting mine. “I’m going to do another quick skan of the house. Make sure everything is secure.”
“Ok,” I said, not sure what else to say.
Quinn just nodded and walked away from me.
The house was pretty quiet other than our own footfalls and the occasional growl or moan coming from outside. Now that we were safely away from the infected, they seemed to calm down and become almost docile. I had no idea how the virus worked or the biology of the walking corpse, but for some reason they had two moods. One was when food was within reach. They would run, chase, knock over obstacles. Whatever they could to get to you. Then once they were done eating or their food had gotten away, they would just stop chasing and stand still. Eerily still like statues. These zombies didn’t breathe or blink or anything. Just stand there seemingly staring at nothing.
I took the ingredients we had and made some sort of chili. The tomatoes and canned beans mixed well with the canned meat and canned dog food. It wasn’t the tastiest but it was honestly the best thing they had since being on the run. You could barely taste the dog food.
We ate in silence, only the sound of chewing to keep us company.
“Want to have the peaches for dessert?” Quinn asked, breaking the silence.
“Huh?” I snapped out of a thought.
“The peaches. Do you want some?” Quinn asked, handing me the mason jar.
“Oh. Yeah of course,” I said as I took the jar.
Quinn smiled, her eyes still red from crying. Then she snuggled up next to me and placed her head on my shoulder.
“I’m glad we’re together,” She said. “I really am.”
“Me too,” I said as I ate a peach from the jar.
We sat there again in silence, passing the jar of peaches back and forth. It kind of reminded me of that part of “Holes” where Stanely and Zero shared that jar of peaches together when they were trapped in the desert together. It symbolized survival away from everyone else and it was sweet relief from all their problems.
These peaches weren’t that good but it was a nice treat after that chili. They reminded me that without Quinn by my side I never would have gotten this far. And in this moment I could almost close my eyes and pretend things were normal. We were just staying the night together, in a stranger’s house with zombies right outside the door.
But maybe soon we wouldn’t have to worry about that. We’d find that safe area and we could focus on rebuilding society or whatever.
I looked over at Quinn, who had fallen asleep on my shoulder.
“I’ll take the first watch,” I whispered to myself as I let Quinn sleep.
She deserved the rest.
Header Photo Credit to Pexels.com
Writing Prompt Submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Bronzi_Maboy