It took some serious will power to hold out for longer and longer periods of time between calls.
Something about the way Alex was worrying about his folks just made me worry a little bit more about my own. I was super happy to be connected with Cain again, but as the hours passed me by, I started wondering if maybe my short conversation on the phone with my parents the other night was a bit of red herring when it came to our family being reunited the way we were hoping.
I should be more patient though, right? Maybe I should just relax a little? My mom did say that it would take a few weeks for the military forces to get things settled in. I guess the rescue mission is the most important part of the process for right now. They can switch schedules and transport people to be with their families once everybody has been documented and checked out for bites and scratches and the like. I’m sure it’s just a temporary delay, right? They’ll be here.
The more I tried to get through, the more I kept getting an annoying busy signal, or a recording telling me that all the lines were down. I found myself getting more and more frustrated by the second. I mean…arrrggghhhh, what the hell? How can my phone just NOT work?
Just as I was fighting the urge to kick a full blown dent in the high school locker in front of me, my brother, Cain and his best friend, Jamie, came walking down the hallway to greet me. Cain was the first to say, “Don’t even try it, Jake. The phone lines are about as tangled as they can get. You’re not getting through. Emergency lines only.”
I said, “I just need a couple of seconds to get through to Mom and Dad. A few SECONDS! Just so I know they’re ok.”
“Mom and Dad are fine. Alright? The downtown metro is locked up tight. They’re probably even more fortified than we are right now. You’ve just got to mellow out and wait until everything isn’t so twisted.” Cain said.
Jamie gave me a pat on the shoulder, his brown eyes trying to bring me comfort from under a canopy of dark red hair. “I’m sure your folks are ace, dude. You’ve just got to find a way to distract yourself, you know? Take your mind off of things.”
Cain grinned. “Ohhh, my baby brother’s got something to distract himself with, alright. Something hot.”
If anything was going to take my mind off of getting in touch with my parents, it was that particular comment, followed up by one of my brother’s taunting smirks. I hung up the phone and rolled my eyes at him. “Come on, Cain. Really? Just leave it alone, ok?”
“What’s going on?” Jamie asked.
“The little squirt here got himself a certified sweetheart on day one from being locked up in here.” Cain told him. “He’s a catch, too. I’ve got to admit that I’m proud of the little butt sniffer.”
Jamie grinned, “God damn, Romeo! Way to mark your territory.”
“It’s not LIKE that, you guys. Ok? At least…not yet. Or…er…whatever. I’ve got bigger things to worry about right now.”
“No. You really don’t.” Cain said. “Listen, there’s absolutely nothing that you can do about the communications issue, there’s nothing you can do about speeding things up with getting Mom and Dad to join us here in the high school, and there’s certainly nothing that you can do about the zombie outbreak beyond the fences. So just…take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and try to adapt to what’s going on with a little bit of patience. Alright?” He could see the growing aggravation in my eyes. I just felt really helpless at the moment. I hated feeling helpless. So he moved closer to hug me around the shoulders. “Listen, I know it sucks. I’m worried about them too. But there’s nothing but chaos going on out there right now. Until people can figure out a game plan, and they will…we’ve just got to roll with it. It’ll be alright. I promise.”
It felt good to be wrapped up in his warm embrace. It was awesome to have him tell me what I wanted to hear, and make it seem like everything would work itself out as long as I waited for the madness to be over. But I just couldn’t believe him. Not like I wanted to believe him.
It was only a moment later when I let my brother go and heard a bit of commotion in the hallway. The sound of charging boots coming around the corner. Orders being shouted into wakie talkies. We were able to get to the side of the hall just as a group of four or five soldiers rushed past us.
Jamie’s eyes lit up immediately. “Holy shit, dude! Something’s going down!” Cain was going to stop him, but Jamie was already in motion behind them with a giant grin, beckoning us to follow.
Cain sighed and gave me one more squeeze before we too trailed the noise back to its source. There would have been a swarm of soldiers the likes we’ve never seen before had it been something really terrible. I’m sure of it.
The high school has a bunch of doors by the gym that are large enough to accommodate the newly arriving refugees. Two or three times a day, the trucks seem to bring in more. Each load heavier than the last. But as the situation worsened for those few people who found themselves lost or trapped in traumatic situations…their eyes seemed to be a bit more wild. Their level of tension was so high that it looked like they’d snap at any moment if you so much as made a childish face at them. You could see long marks on their cheeks, where a flood of panicked tears caused the dirt and grime on heir faces to run like heated war paint. The tables were turning out there…and not in our favor.
As the soldiers attempted to calmly get people off of their respective rescue vehicles and line up at the doors to be processed by the doctors on hand and given a ‘bite-check’ before being allowed entrance into the building, the uniform lines that had been set up quickly began to fall apart.
The rescue trucks come by so fast sometimes that you really don’t have much of a chance to get all of your loved ones in the same convoy. The moment their feet hit solid ground, the frantic search for their families begin. Eye contact is made from across a crowd of chaotic strangers, and both people instantly step out of line to run towards one another and offer comfort. Others make three or four mistakes before finding the person they’re looking for. The soldiers try to keep order, but the people won’t listen. They yell and scream and fight hard to regain some illusion of ‘control’ while they defy every well thought out procedure put in place to keep them safe.
My brother and I watch as minor scuffles begin to erupt within the crowd. And it was a big crowd. Bigger than the convoys Cain and I came in. As people started to push and shove one another, the entire mass of people began to sway like stalks of wheat in the wind. They pushed the soldiers, the soldiers pushed back. The doctors stood up on chairs and tried to get everyone to “PLEASE, remain calm! We will have room for you all to reconnect with your loved ones inside once you’ve all been individually checked for for possible infection! Let us do our job!” The crowd barely settles at all. If anything, the mass becomes even more turbulent…with half the crowd agreeing with the doctors and soldiers trying to help…and the other half still forcing their way out of line to look for their brothers, their sisters, their children. Horrified by the idea that, during all of the madness that was going on as they ran towards the trucks to be evacuated…they may have left someone special behind.
A few older men put up quite a struggle, and soldiers had to detain them by forcing them to the ground and practically bringing their boots down on their necks and holding them still while thing plastic restraints held their wrists together behind their backs. The force wasn’t overly excessive, but it looked like it hurt. Jesus…
But it was a fresh, young, face that caught my eye. More than any of the others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in this high school before, but he was certainly of high school age, albeit a grade or two higher up than I was. He was wearing mostly black, including a slightly worn leather jacket, and a small chain bracelet on his right wrist. It was the eyes that really fascinated me, though. Light blue, almost silver. With the softest, most comforting, almond shape to them. A harsh contrast to the dark mass of nearly black, loosely twined, curls that sit above them. He had the smoothest, olive skin, and a face that was undeniably cute…even when it was frowned up in anger.
The boy had somehow been pushed to the front of the line by the mosh pit behind him, his arms spread out, his sneakers digging into the cement. The soldiers as well as a few police officers and, what looked like, a couple of random security guards that the military could grab from any bank or shopping mall in the area, all stepped in to suppress the bedlam before them. Some of the people who tried to get out of line were pulled aside and restrained. They were roughed up a bit too, if the officers deemed it necessary. Hell, after all they’ve been through they probably see beating people up as a great stress reliever.
But that one boy…for a moment…just one moment…I could have sworn that his eyes connected to mine as the crowd continued to push and shove behind him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, PLEASE! We need you to keep it together!” Shouted one of the doctors, barely being audible over the rabble rousing being created by the sea of refugees.
There was some more pushing. Followed by more pushing back. Things were escalating quickly and soldiers moved in to find the troublemakers and yank them to the side. And that’s when a few punches were thrown, and the front of the crowd lurched forward, pushing the boy out of line and past the guidelines set for incoming civilians. I was looking right at him, so I knew it was an accident. But the local police officers that had rushed in to help didn’t see it that way. As the boy stumbled forward, fighting to keep his balance, two officers apprehended him and brutally pushed him down to his knees. Then forward onto his chest. Shouting orders at him and binding his hands behind him like they had done to all of the others.
I could see the anger in his eyes, but he didn’t protest at all. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn that he was used to the bullshit treatment…even though he had done nothing wrong.
Our eyes made contact one last time. There was such a subdued sense of fury burning behind the stunning beauty of those eyes. It wasn’t directed at me personally, but he made no attempt to hide that it was there. Then I watched as he was haphazardly yanked to his feet and dragged out of my sight. This whole situation is getting more and more insane by the hour.
Cain put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It looks like things around here are getting a little intense for my tastes. Let’s get out of here.” I could hear the sounds of so many people shouting. Crying. Confused. Angry. You could feel the negative energy radiating off of the masses in waves. And the heat was rising.
I walked away, trying to forget the look in that boy’s eyes. In all of their eyes. With every new delivery of civilians…we’re reminded of just how bad the world has gotten since we’ve hidden ourselves away from it.
I spent a great deal of the morning and most of the afternoon all alone. Wandering the halls of the school, practically going in circles. So lost in a haze of my own thoughts that I might as well have been a zombie myself. The skies had turned gray, and the town was treated to a soft drizzle for a few minutes before turning into a storm. I put my headphones on to drown out the thunder, even though the sound of rain against the school windows could be eerily soothing at times.
There were a lot of new faces there now. All scanning the school’s many rooms to see if they could find someone they knew. Perhaps someone to latch onto in a time of need. We were far from being crowded, but there was a certain thickness to the amount of foot traffic roaming the halls that wasn’t there before. How many did this last convoy bring in? One hundred? Maybe two? Hard to tell.
It wasn’t until I went up to the second floor for a change of scenery that I noticed a small crowd standing over by the giant library windows in the main hall. All huddled together like that, I couldn’t help but to be magnetized to the rest of the herd, wondering what could be so interesting after what we’ve seen. I had to move to the sides, trying to edge my way in at one of the corners, and was extremely delighted when I saw Alex pressed against a nearby window as well.
My heart started pumping double time, but I didn’t want to come off as being too nervous. My hands were already shaking and he hadn’t even noticed me yet. I side stepped and squeezed myself past a few onlookers as I made my towards him. It was pleasantly frustrating being so close to his brilliance and still feeling unsure of what it all meant. There was SO much more I wanted to know about him. So much more that I wanted him to know about me. If we could only spend more time together. You know…alone.
“Hey…” I smiled.
Alex smiled back at me, and I felt goosebumps raise up on the surface of my skin. “There you are. You’ve been a ghost all day.” He said.
“Yeah. I guess I just…figured everybody needed their space today. Maybe I needed some too.”
He nodded, then asked, “Have you been watching this?” He directed my attention out of the window, but between the rain and the darkness, I couldn’t see much of anything. “What’s going on?”
“Wait for it…” He said. So I stood their watching, waiting for something to happen. And then…lightning flashed in the sky overhead, and the brief moment of illumination revealed the many zombies standing there just outside of our perimeter. Slowly lumbering closer to us in a huge mob, the pouring rain cascading down on them with a relentless assault of its own.
“Oh. Yeah. That’s nothing new. You’ll get used to it. There always out there. The soldiers keep the fences well guarded though, and they’re constantly doing checks to see whether or not…”
“Shhh, wait…” He said. “Just keep watching.”
I looked back out the window, but I wish I could just talk to him some more. It almost hurt to have him pay attention to a random thunderstorm and not to me. I wasn’t trying to be selfish, I just….oh God, he’s right THERE! I want us to sneak off somewhere and go back to kissing! I want to feel the tender pressure of his lips touching mine and experiencing the dizzy swoon that comes with sensation. He smells good too. So good.
I tried to concentrate on the outer fences but…my eyes were continuously drawn back to the splendor of those bright green eyes instead. Do you have any idea how SEXY his pretty lips look from the side. My breath had gotten so short that it almost felt like I was crying. Aching to get his focus back on me again. On us. So many distractions. I already know that it’s ok and that he likes me. I just don’t want to be the guy who’s like, “Sure hope your parents haven’t been eaten alive by the undead. Hey! Wanna make out now?”
Suddenly, as another few flashes of lightning soared across the sky, Alex said, “THERE! You see it???” Other people behind us began to crowd us as they moved in closer to the windows as well. I looked back out and saw pretty much the same thing. But then…I noticed it.
The silhouettes of a few choice zombies, maybe only one or two…were actually on the fences. They were…climbing up the side.
“What the…?” I stared at the few zombies trying to reach the top, and then I heard a few loud ‘popping’ sounds coming from the windows on the floor above us. And in an instant, the heads of the few zombies climbing the fences absolutely exploded into a shower of brain matter and skull fragments before they fell back into the horde and ceased to get up again. “Shit!” I gasped.
“Yeah. The soldiers sealed off the whole third floor from all inhabitants so they could set up a crow’s nest for shooting anything that looked like a major threat. They’ve been picking them off for almost an hour now.” Alex said. “So weird.” Other people in the crowd had a variety of reactions to what was happening. From getting fired up over seeing a zombie’s head blown apart from a direct sniper shot, to people crying over the fact that the enemy was still searching for new ways to get inside. “Why is it that only some of the zombies try climbing the fence?”
“I mean…there’s gotta be hundreds of them out there. Most of them are just mindlessly pawing at the fence or bumping into other zombies. But a few of them are…I don’t know…they seem to be smarter than the others, you know? It’s just weird.”
I heard the muffled cries of a lady behind me who was sobbing softly into her husband’s shoulder while he tried to comfort her. Some of the other people around the window kept an eye out to see if anything else tried to get over that damn fence. The whole scene was really creeping me out. “Say…um…do you wanna go get some coffee or something?” I don’t know what made me say it, but I didn’t want to think about any more of those monsters finding out that fences can be climbed and that bullets are limited. We’re all dead meat if they ever get wise to the concept of them outnumbering us a million to one.
Alex remained distracted for a few moments longer. He didn’t respond until the next flash of lightning revealed that there were no more zombies on the fences and the coast was clear. Then he said, “Yeah. Ok. I’m coming.”
We had to press and push our way back from the window, the hungry spectators quickly closing in on the space we left behind. I heard some more thunder as we left the library but didn’t bother to turn around. Even if Alex did.
I became infatuated with his beauty all over again. He smiled at me, and those glorious dimples of his appeared, nearly knocking me into a full blown stupor. I know what Cain told me before. It’s not really love that I was feeling just yet, but it was more than just a temporary crush. I was sure of it. The way that I was being drawn to him was so damn powerful that I could hardly put three words together without giggling. I knew that we were in a hallway full of people, but I kept looking for little corners and potentially empty rooms to pull him into. I wanted to kiss those lips so badly. I didn’t realize how addicted I had become to the memory of holding him close until I was walking by his side again.
“They were talking about getting a divorce, you know?” He said.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“My parents. About six or seven months ago…just before the world went to shit.” Alex seemed troubled by the thought of it. I felt bad for not paying attention while shamelessly ogling him with my eyes and my heart while he was going through such a tough time. “Everything was a fight with them. Every cold dinner and unwashed dish. Every unpaid bill, every spot on the wall…right down to who was the last to put gas in the car. I tried to get them to grow up and stop bickering about stupid stuff, but…it’s like they wanted to be angry. They pushed each other’s buttons deliberately, waiting for a mean-spirited reaction so they could argue again. It sucked.” Then he lowered his head a bit, and he said, “So I told them that I was sick of it. SO sick of it. I was going to stay at a friend’s house until they sat down like a couple of mature adults and quit barking at each other like wild dogs. And…that was the last time that I saw them. The last thing I remember is the looks on their faces when I told them I was leaving. It’s the first time they looked like they even want to TRY to put their pride to the side and work things out for a change.”
“I’m sorry, Alex. Honestly.” I said. “I’m sure you’ll get in touch with them soon.”
“Heh…thanks. But I’m not really keeping my hopes up at this point.” He said. “My dad can be selfish sometimes. My mom can be really neurotic. I just…I don’t trust them to take care of one another, you know? Maybe if I was out there with them. But by themselves…I don’t know.”
I tried to cheer him up by saying, “You know, I’ve been trying to call my parents all day too. But no calls are going through. My brother says that all the lines are tied up for city emergency contacts only. I’m sure they’re tying up the lines like crazy right now. Your parents couldn’t get in touch with you even if they tried.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure of it. Once the shelters are all checked out and deemed as being safe, they’ll work out all of the other details later. You’ll see.” I said, and Alex gave me another one of his magic grins, causing me to feel all wiggly on the inside.
“Thanks, Jake. I’m sorry if I’m being a downer. It’s just been a really lousy day today.”
“Heh…s’ok. Hopefully, I did a little something to make you feel a bit better.”
“A lot better.” He grinned. And there it was! That adorable blush of his! Omigod, omigod, omigod! Can we go somewhere and kiss now??? I REALLY hope we can go somewhere and kiss! “You know…”
“AHHHHH!!!!! No no no no!!! NO WAY!!!” Came a screeching teen boy voice from behind one of the closed doors on the side of the hall. Everybody jumped and looked around as a table was turned over and a bunch of metal bowls and pans were tossed to the hard floor. “Don’t you DARE! Unh unh!!! GET AWAY!!!”
“What the hell is that?” Alex asked.
Suddenly, the door to one of the classrooms was flung wide open, and this tiny late bloomer boy came spilling out of it at top speed. Barefoot and wearing nothing but a hospital gown that was wide open in the back. Both Alex and I gasped as the boy gave us a full flash of his taut little bottom as he looked both way and took off running down to the other end of the hallway! He was seriously one gust of wind away from being completely naked!
Two nurses and a male doctor came running out after him, and everyone just kind of had to stand back and watch as they tried their best to catch the brown haired cutie before he could wiggle out of their grasp. The kid was definitely fast on his feet. He couldn’t have been more than 12 years old at the most, but those short legs were carrying as fast as his boyish muscles would allow. He was zigging and sagging so fast that the doctors were tripping over their own feet trying to keep sight of him. He spun around other people in the hall, turned over trash cans, and gave them a chase that they’d never forget! All while experiencing a draft on his backside that made those pouty little cheeks pucker up from the cold.
Alex and I couldn’t help but to laugh as he did everything from crawling between their legs to practically running up the side of the wall like some sort of cartoon character. Hahaha! There was a time or two when they put their hands on him, but he squirmed right out of their grip like a greased piglet. And that’s when we saw him running our direction. Those big blue eyes wide with fright as he attempted to keep up with his momentum.
“STOP HIM!!!” The nurse shouted to us.
It was sort of a reflex to the voice of authority that made us do it, I think. The kid ran right for us, and Alex and I suddenly reached out to grab him by the shoulders to keep him from running. The real key was to keep his slender hips from wiggling. Otherwise he would have spun right around us too.
Before the poor kid had a chance to come up with a new strategy, the nurse ran up behind him, and since his bare booty was already exposed for the world to see…she jabbed a needle deep into the meatiest part of his rump and pushed in the liquid in the syringe.
“YIPE!!!” He squealed. I looked down to see his eyes look up at me with such a sense of betrayal. “I really…really hate needles…” He moaned, and then his eyes went all funny and he fell down to the floor in a heap at my feet.
The nurse took a moment to catch her breath, the other nurse and doctor still trying to pick themselves up off of the floor where the bratty little imp had given them a run for their money. “Dammit…huff huff…” She wheezed.
“What kind of sedative did you give him?” Alex asked.
“It’s NOT a sedative. It’s just a vaccine.” She puffed. “He just fainted.” That only caused us to snicker some more. She called her assistants over, and breathlessly told them, “Take him to room 212 and check his name off of the list. I don’t want to lay eyes on him again until it’s absolutely necessary.”
The doctor grabbed his clipboard, still limping a bit after banging his knee on a trash can. “Which one is this again?”
The nurse checked his wrist band. “Preston Miles. Check him off. Get him out of my sight. I mean it…” She said. “Ouch. Damn kids!”
They wrapped his open gown around him as carefully as they could, picking his waifish frame off of the floor, but they didn’t have much material to work with. Good for you, Preston Miles! That’s showing them! You had a damn good run before it all came to inevitable end.
I was grinning to myself at the moment, but before I could work the involuntary giggles out of my system, Alex turned to me and gave me a surprise kiss on the lips. A short one. My body went rigid for a moment, then melted into this marshmallow fluff that barely had the strength to stand while looking him in the end. “I…I uhh…hehehe…what was that for?”
“It’s for being away from you all day.” Alex said. “And…for helping to make me smile.” Awwww, GOD! It felt like someone had a giant pink feather and was using it to tickle the living shit out of my heart! He said, “Listen…I want to stick around the check in downstairs for a while. Just to see if my parents come in with one of the evening convoys. But…if they’re not mixed in with any of the incoming refugees…it would be cool if we could just, hang out. You know?” He lowered his eyes when he said it, but those dimples were too sexy to hide. “Maybe your company can help to keep me patient.”
“Maybe yours can keep me patient too.” I giggled. “Well…you know where to find me. Right?”
As I watched Alex walk away from me, I felt renewed somehow. I still wish that we had gone down to the cafeteria to get some coffee together, but I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I didn’t understand what it was like to just have stress on the brain for the moment. It’s ok though. He’s interested. I’m interested. In a different world, at a different time, this would be the PERFECT romantic set up. But for this giant global mess that we’re dealing with…we’ve got a few kinks to work out first. Hopefully…the same potential ending is attainable for us both.
We deserve a fairy tale…not a horror flick….