I enjoy writing ;) I'm not particularly good at it, but... I gotta get the poison out. Know what I mean? Been sick for the last week with bronchitis and I've been doped up on pills and Mucinex Cold & Flu for a few days. Been home from my 2 jobs, and can't sleep at all. These shitty antihistamine drowsy states make me feel like a total zombie. That being said, I started writing a zombie story. Why the hell not, right? It's not even half finished, but it's long. Long enough for me to have to post it in segments. Maybe I'll turn it into a weekly or bi-weekly thing until it's finished. That's if people find it worth their while, that is. I've gotten to a certain point of it that I like to call "The intermission". Ya write something and it kind of becomes its own creature after a while. You have to follow the story out to its logical conclusion, but it's grown wild; wants to go where it wants. It wants to go to Where The Wild Things Are and rape and eat all of the silly monsters. It's at a point where I don't even know how it will end. I've never been succinct in anything in my entire life. Certainly have not mastered the art of the short story, that's for sure. I don't know what it is. It's kind of a social experiment. I take some relatively normal people and some artistic geographical license, begin a Zombie Apocalypse and throw these poor sons of bitches in the middle of it. And then write out what happens. It is what it is.
Ah, Jesus. This f'n guy... Alright this isn't my fault; more like I owed someone a favor, can ya dig it? A "friend" stopped by, staying in town for a while... Wants to say hello. Yeah, he's a total creeper, this guy. Last time he visited we had to call Roto-Rooter. Said he was taking a break from bangin' these huge fat bitches in his trailer and decided to come over to my neck of the woods. Shit, here he comes...
Erm...! Howdy Cap! Nice teeth. Who won? You or the f'n rocks? Are you drunk AGAIN? Sweet Jumpin' Jesus! Alright, someone get this asshole a stool, he's 3 sheets to the wind. Maybe get him a bucket, think the Cap's gonna need it in a minute. Alright he wanted to introduce my story. Why the hell not, right? Here's the first couple of chapters. It's been fun to write so far, and I hope ya'll like it :)
- Jonny Sicko
Forward: By Captain Spaulding
Shut yer' face, motherfucker! Oh---!! Well, shit the bed! Howdy, folks! Cap'n Spaulding here, and dun you be forgettin' the Cap'n part! Welcome to one of mah' favorite haunts! Say, hunker down! Stay a while! Have a yer'selves a so-dee-pop! Chicken's almost dun. Reckon' I outdid mah'self this time. It's gonna be bone-er-ific! Got this here story to tell ya'll. Say, lemme' introduce ya'll to a few of mah' pals! They's short on words, I reckon', but they's a hoot'n holler in other ways! Hoooo-haaaaa! Don't have no Facebook accounts, no cell phones, nada. Zippo. No need to Twit'r. The fuck's a twit'r anyways?
These here are simple, grounded folks. People of the earth, ya might say. Do ya ken it? I reckon', don't have much of nothin' no'more 'cept for the shoes on their feet, the clothes on their backs, and the stones at their heads This here's Moses Epstein. 14th row, 8th in. Moses here used to be an orthodontist. Had a bum ticker 3 years back, now he's feedin' worms, and pushin' up the daisies. Had his own flourishin' business, best tooth puller in 3 counties! Wonder what he'd think of that fancy new yankee prick, takin' his place and pullin' teeth like it ain't no thang. That yankster couldn't pull my pud! Ah cha-cha-cha-cha-cha! And this here fine spec-o-mine's named Butch Gatts. 18th Row, 24th in. This feller here, bowled a per-fect-o 300 game 7 years back. Won him a decent sum that night. Do ya ken it? I reckon he pissed it all away on pussy and beer! Hoooo-haaaaa! Oh here we have lil' old Missus Shaw. She--Well I'll be fucked. This here's nothin' but an empty hole. Stood me up again! She'll be back though, I reckon.
I enjoy me some good comp'nay, fo' sho. And sometimes...sometimes these here good quiet folks like to get rowdy, like to shuck and jive, oh hall-ay-loo-ya! Like to walk 'round a bit! Get they's selves some ex-or-size! When this here coffin's a rockin' dun come a knockin' baby! Welcome to this here little piss ant town of Stanhope! Where there ain't no Stan and there ain't no hope neither!
Tiffany Mills squatted there on the toilet with her right hand holding a First Response home pregnancy test under her urine stream; her left hand trying to stop the other from shaking. Tiffany was 16 years old. This would be the scariest night of her life.
"Supper's ready Tiff!" her mother yelled from downstairs. Supper. She couldn't even hold down lunch, let alone think of the possibilities of what supper might bring. She didn’t want supper. She didn’t want to see the results. She didn’t even want to leave the bathroom at this point. All that went through her mind was what her parents would think, what Scott would think, and what would her classmates think when the news got out. Please God. Don’t let it be so. I was foolish and can’t handle this right now, she prayed mentally. Following the directions, she capped the test kit, placed it on the level surface of the sink counter, and waited. Five minutes later, her fears were confirmed. She had a bun in the oven.
Supper with her family was quite an uncomfortable experience that night. Everything seemed to have a pregnancy reference attached to it. The baby carrots in the covered serving dish, the veal cutlet parmesan, that was once a young calf laying there untouched on Tiffany’s plate. It all seemed surreal.
Her parents sat at the table chatting away about work, and traffic, and a hundred other superfluous activities. Her brother James would chime in occasionally when he felt it was his cue to say something not entirely witty. Sandy, her little seven year old sister was having quite an involved and animated conversation with two of her dolls.
Tiffany sat saying nothing at all, trying to make herself slowly blend into the back of her chair, and slip away through the floor where she could be alone and think. She knew eventually she would have to tell her parents. Her 'boyfriend' too. Tell anyone, before the anxiety of it built up and caused an act of pure irrationality on her part. In fact, Scott wasn’t even her boyfriend. He was more or less a sperm donor who happened to be at the right place during the right activity.
Bill rustled his newspaper. Eleanor would wonder to herself if there sat another man in another kitchen in another small town like this, whom also rustled the paper during dinner. She wondered if he, this other man had a larger penis. He wouldn’t just read it, he’d flap the pages agitatedly when one story or another would ignite some mental irritation.
At least the power was back on. That was some relief. Two full nights of darkness with his family, that was fun. That was purgatory. The dark does funny things to people. Panic and expectation leads to repetition. The same complaints over and over again. ‘When will the lights come back on?’ I don’t know. ‘I’m missing all my favorite TV shows!’ Go read a fucking book. ‘My room’s haunted!’ No it’s not. Go to sleep! ‘It’s too hot and we can’t sleep!’ You’re right, and neither can we. Two full nights. And then the electric world of appliances and TVs and lights and volume came back from their sojourn of disuse and inactivity. And everything was alright again. Almost alright. It’s funny how electric distractions can provide such a stable mindset of safety. Everything is fine as long as there are lights and sound, Jon Stewart, and Rachel Maddow. Take one of those things away and uncertainty begins to stir. Uncertainty and fear.
“Hey Ely, did you read this? About the EPA investigation into NJCP&L? Some kind of waste removal mishap; truck crashed right through a barrier and landed in the Delaware Water Gap. Whole damn area's been locked down. No one allowed in or out. Bridge's shut down. Imagine that?” commented Bill with what might have been mild amusement in his voice.
“Oh Bill, you know I never read the paper. It's always bad news. Does that mean our electric bill is going up again?” responded Eleanor, not without a little sarcasm.
“It mean’s something’s going up. The bill sure, as well as some prick board chairman’s blood pressure.”
And so, in the midst of the buzzing and snippets of conversation that seemed to weave together to form a blanket of noise and non-sequiturs, Tiffany blurted out “I’m pregnant”.
Dead silence. At first. Her sister broke the silence.
“What does pregnant mean?” her sister Sandy asked innocently enough. This was followed by a more dramatic series of responses. Her parents knew Tiffany wasn’t joking. She would never joke about something such as that.
“Oh my God!”, Eleanor, her mother exclaimed. Followed by “Jesus Christ!” from Bill, her father.
Her brother James, being twelve and immature and not knowing how to respond to such information began to snicker.
"Holy shit Tiff, you're preggers?! I've gotta tweet everybody! This is going to be epic! You're gonna to be on Maury!"
James, being the little shit that he was, intended to illicit as much personal enjoyment out of this ordeal as he possibly could.
“James and Sandy go to your rooms, immediately!” Bill hollered. There were no objections from either of the two siblings. Both had scampered off enthusiastically off to their shared room up the stairs, first door on the left, in the hall.
James didn’t much like sharing a room with his little sister. It wasn’t either of their faults, living in a small house. The situation couldn’t be helped. James didn’t have a choice in the matter. He certainly couldn’t share a room with his older sister. Tiffany would not allow that. Tiffany’s privacy meant more to her than allowing her brother to room with her; as it probably should be. Sixteen year old girls need their privacy.
Privacy for James meant a black curtain divider on a draw-string separating their room (his room) into two hemispheres. One hemisphere contained a small bed, the one closet, a small wooden dresser, and a green plastic Tommy the Turtle Toy Chest filled with dolls of every hair color imaginable. A small lamp rested on the desk, and a clown-faced night light took the other remaining wall socket. The other hemisphere contained the only window, a modest single bed, WWE Pro Wrestling posters on the wall, another small wooden dresser, a computer desk with a lamp, a small television set and a computer tower cramped on it. The room itself might’ve been two small rooms at one point, with the dividing wall and adjacent door removed. Now it was a shared occupancy. All because poor little Sandy was the broken condom baby.
James now in his room, stood crouching with his ear close to the door in an attempt to eavesdrop on the details of the conversation ensuing down below. His little sister, stood idly by tugging at her brother’s loose blue Giants sweatshirt and repeated her previously unanswered question.
“Would ya shut up a minute? I’m trying to listen!” her brother moodily responded, animatedly waving a hand to indicate he wanted silence. At first the voices were muffled. Only barely audible murmurs made their way up the stairs and to his ears. These murmurs grew louder, becoming shouts, which the words “What were you thinking?” was now clearly audible, as well as “For heaven’s sake! That bastard boy!”, and “I can’t take this!”, followed by feet stomping up the stairs, and past the door. Another door slammed at the end of the hall.
Bill collapsed in his favorite Lazy-Boy chair, held his head in his hands, massaging his own temples. Eleanor quickly followed and sat on the nearby ottoman. The situation was quite tense. She was a woman of 36, who in 9 short months would be a grandmother. She was not mentally able to accept that. She wasn’t even finished paying off her student loans. She wasn’t even finished raising her own kids for heaven’s sake! Everything to her was for heaven’s sake. She still felt young! She had dreams! She still had her figure! What would her friends down at Tanya’s ‘A New You’ Hair Salon think? Never mind that Bridgette Gable admitted to blowing the mailman once a week when her hubby Charles was out on business. Never mind Cynthia Hayworth’s gambling problem, or Anita Carr’s son was in rehab for getting caught in school smoking pot in the girl’s bathroom. Those others were insignificant to her. This was her daughter. This was her life.
Bill’s mind was on a somewhat different avenue of thought. His thoughts were far more specific. Who was it? Which one of those little bastards was it? He was a man who liked to solve conflict physically. Directly. Bill worked in construction when there was work to be had. The way this economy was, companies weren't expanding. Nothing new was being built. Hell, businesses were looking to cut back. So he worked a lot of odd jobs. He volunteered for the local Methodist Church food bank, which subsequently, allowed him to feed his family this week. For the last several months he dug ditches at the local cemetery. Backbreaking work; left him quite irritable. He was a corpulent, hefty man, with heavy hands. Strong hands.
Bill also liked to drink. And on one particular night down five years ago at this little pub, Bill was feeling exuberant having drank several tall-boys of what the old-timers liked to call Liquid Courage and decided that some of the (what he perceived to be) negative comments he picked out of the air were meant for him. ‘That Eleanor has a pert rack!’ is what Bill thought he heard. In actuality what was said was ‘Matt Belanor has a hurt back’, and it wasn’t even directed at Bill. It was directed at Steve Cobb who was bar-tending that night, inquiring why Matt didn’t show up for the first night of the bowling league at Center Lanes. That little misunderstanding ended in a brawl with bottles broken and chairs thrown through the large stain glass “Stevie’s Wonder Pub” window. The small memorial shrine dedicated to a local man named Butch Gatts; the only man in town who ever bowled a 300 game came crashing down onto the floor amidst the debris. Suffice it to say, Bill was well known in this quiet little town of Stanhope in north-west New Jersey. And once his pub acquaintances found out about his little baby getting knocked up, he might be liable to break a few more windows. Maybe a few skulls.
Upstairs, Tiffany was in her room pacing between her bed and the closet, clenching and unclenching her hands into fists. She didn’t smoke. She handled stress by pacing, and clenching. Her mind was a swirl of feelings of impending doom. She knew she was too young to be a mother. Things just sort of happened that night; without a condom. Now she was trying to think of how to bring it up to Scott. She wasn’t even really dating him. He was just a friend with benefits. Most high school girls had one. Just someone to screw around with and practice what she’d learned in Health Class. It was bound to happen. It was practice. In her mind, she didn’t want to graduate high school and move onto college without knowing how to please a man. She felt that was an important skill to master. And Scott Orsen was more than willing to assist her. Tiffany finally decided the best approach would be to just flat out tell him. She called his cell number. He didn’t pick up. She left a message. Scott called back 10 minutes later wanting to see her. He had an unrelenting habit of being in the crapper when important calls came through. There was desperation and urgency in his voice. He wanted to meet her now. He would be there to pick her up in 5 minutes.
Scott Orsen was a tall, auburn haired 19 year old senior at Lenape Valley Regional High School. He played football. All five years. Having just heard the information that his friend with benefits was now carrying his seed within her, he took the news predictably well. His mind spun around like it was the lead competitor in the Indy 500 race. And then he threw up the double-cheese burger he had for dinner onto his own shoes. I fucked up. That’s what was going through his mind after he regained his balance and his senses. I fucked up big time. Scott wasn’t ready to be a father any more than Tiffany was ready to be a Fighter Pilot. He wasn’t even seriously dating her. They talked on the phone, drove around, fooled around, but there was no verbal commitment. Maybe there should’ve been. Maybe there could be, he thought. He was following in his father’s footsteps. He decided there were only two choices that could be made. He would either be a man and stay, or he would be a coward and run. Scott Orsen was certainly not a genius. He wasn’t even a decent football player, but he certainly wasn’t a coward, and he wasn’t going to leave this 16 year old girl to fend for herself when he was in part directly responsible. No sir. He made his decision. He got himself cleaned up, went out in the rain, started the ignition to his 1999 Chevy Pickup, and headed over to his girl’s house.
It was raining profusely. Luckily Tiffany only lived two miles away. Scott, in his elevated emotional state was driving faster than he should’ve been. He just wanted to get there and be with her. He wasn’t even sure what he was feeling at the time. It was a mixture of what could be love and fear, and exhilaration all boiled into one. He felt his chest could blow up like a great balloon and he could sail away on it to a place where these things didn’t happen. He was going to be a father. He arrived at Tiffany’s house, and it was absolute Bedlam.
Bill and Eleanor were both raving mad. They couldn’t control themselves and they couldn’t even control their two younger children. Go to your room! They were told. Did they listen? For a while, sure, but once the yelling started, they wanted a closer look. They had to be in the thick of the emotional situation. Scott stopped the truck in front of the house, opened the passenger side door. Tiffany bolted from the house, parents in tow.
“Don’t you dare get in that truck with him! Don’t you dare, for heaven's sake!” her mother shouted. She wasn’t even wearing shoes at this point. That didn’t seem to matter.
“I’m calling the cops! Get back here this instant young lady!” her father yelled. He wasn’t wearing pants. That didn’t seem to make a difference either. The shouting match that took place inside the house before Scott arrived had escalated into a food throwing match and Tiffany’s untouched veal dinner with the baby carrots found flight as she hurled the plate like an expert Olympic discus thrower, its trajectory might have been the wall. For all her beauty and her blue eyes, she had no aim, and so the plate found its mark and hit her father’s pants instead. Bill was in the middle of finding an unsoiled pair of pants when Tiffany decided it was time to leave the premises. Tiffany sprinted to the truck and climbed in. As it turns out, Bill never did call the cops after all. Bill would have problems of his own to contend with shortly.
Scott sped off into the rainy night, leaving trails of exhaust that looked like spectral snakes entwined in mating rituals. He turned to Tiffany and kissed her full on the mouth. He drove with his left hand on the wheel, his right tightly clasped in hers. They didn’t even have to say it. You and me against the world, baby. They were just so excited to be with each other and exhilarated to be going away. They had no plan, they didn’t even know where they were going. They just felt the need to go somewhere, anywhere.
“I’m not going to leave you Tiff. Don’t worry.” Scott said.
He meant it too. And Tiffany who was now beginning to tear up gave his hand a squeeze and kissed his neck. Her fears of the unknown vanished with those words. It may not have been the most ideal circumstances but it was better than she hoped for. She knew her parents would never understand, that was a given in her mind. But she felt she at least had one person in the world, and that person would be the father of her unborn baby.
“I love you.” She said to him. She meant it. Or at least she thought she meant it.
“Everything’s going to be alright.” Scott replied, as he leaned over to kiss her forehead.
That’s when it happened. In this moment of emotional high, in the brief two seconds Scott’s eyes were off the road, he neglected to see the dark shape ambling to the middle of the road, obstructed by the now gathering fog and heavy rain. He couldn’t swerve in time and barreled into it going 50mph. His reaction and (and subsequently hers), was to jerk their heads in the same direction which resulted in her forehead crashing into his bottom lip with considerable force. The resulting impact split Scott’s bottom lip. Scott yelped in pain and uttered an obscenity. The truck was stopped on the side of this one lane street, less than 3 miles from Tiffany’s house. The Stanhope Cemetery was visible from where they stood, even in the rain and fog. They got out of the truck, Scott a little worse for the wear with this lip leading a crimson trail from the door, and stood in utter shock as they saw what the crumpled form on the ground was. They had hit a person.
Fuddling with the door handles, they both exited the vehicle. The prone form on the saturated road was not moving. Not yet, anyway. Terror began to well up in Tiffany’s mind. First pregnancy and now vehicular homicide. What to do? What can I do?
“Oh my God…” Tiffany began.
“Are you ok? Can you talk?” she asked, fear in her voice. In her rush to leave the house, she forgot her cell phone behind. Scott, now holding his lip with blood streaming through his cupped hands, went over to investigate the prone person. It appeared to be a bag lady.
“Uhm…Ma’am? Are you ok?” he asked with apprehension.
“Ma’am? Can you hear me? Are you ok?” He asked again.
He knelt beside her. She looked like she just crawled out of an open sewer. She was wearing what used to be a blue dress with a lace collar, now caked with brown crud and God knows what else. The impact of the truck had knocked her right out of her shoes, which lay several feet from her, now collecting water. They were caked with mud as well. The first thought Scott had in his mind, as morbidly unnerving as it was, was this woman crawled out from the local Stanhope Cemetery. Either that, or she was playing in the mud. Either idea seemed completely preposterous. What would an elderly woman being doing in the mud? And are you shittin’ me? She crawled out of a grave? They’d put you in the loony bin Scott. They sure would. But his eyes contradicted the rationality of his mind. Maybe she was homeless. Every town in the U.S. has homeless people. He knew that to be very probable. His mind was racing with an explanation or solution of what to do, and this woman who might be very badly injured was not answering. They needed to call for help. Out of all the places for this to happen, it had to be a back-road near a cemetery where not many traveled. He mentally kicked himself. Why the hell were you going this way anyway? Why didn’t you pay attention? Holy God please, don’t let her be dead…
Scott reached into his breast pocket of his flannel shirt and felt nothing.
"Goddamn it, it's on the bureau."
"What is?" Tiffany asked.
"My goddamn phone!"
“Tiff, I need to stay with her. I need you to find help. Anyone, anything, bang on doors. We need a phone!” Scott urged. Tiffany, understandably was extremely discomposed over this. She agreed to find help. The first house available was up the street. The dark crept around this area like a cloak of ill omens. It was closing in on 9:30pm, and the rain wasn’t letting up. No sir.
She ran up New Street in the dark. It was dark because some kids the day before decided it’d be amusing to break out the lights in the 8 street lamps that light up the entire length of New Street. The town hadn’t gotten around to replacing them yet. Who knew? Probably never. She ran up the street, the first house was completely dark. No car in the driveway. She raced up to the front door, banged on it. Her efforts were futile, no one was home. Somewhere a dog was barking. She raced over to #3. The outside light was on, but no car in the driveway. Perhaps they went out for some ice cream. No one was home there either. Finally she saw lights on at a house on Fuller Street, the next block over. There appeared to be a party going on. She ran sloshing through the dark toward the lights and the noise; the white loafers she was wearing now dirtied to a grayish brown, when she heard a scream. It was Scott, there was no mistake in it. Why did he scream? What could’ve caused it? And now she was at a crossroads. Was she to run all the way back knowing that she was this close to help? She decided to run at full speed towards whatever help might be offered at the party house.
The party was in celebration of John Berg’s return from his tour of duty in Iraq. John Berg, 22 years old, spent four grueling years in 130 degree heat, carrying 75lbs of gear in the desert. The US Army was desperate for recruits. They had to fill their quota for the month, or some people with authority would raise a shit storm. John was 272lbs when he signed up. For his height, he was exactly 57lbs over weight. His eyes weren’t that great either, and he enjoyed the occasional marijuana joint. None of that mattered. They busted his ass in basic training, turned him into a soldier of the US Army, shipped him over to Iraq. He lost 20lbs the first month just from the heat alone. A year later, you’d have never known this man was once a porker.
Now, back in the states, this lean 202lb Army soldier at the end of his tour of duty was sitting in an AvantGlide Montreal chair, leaned all the way back and his feet propped up, slightly apart; A bottle of Mollydooker Carnival of Love in one hand, and between his legs with his pants unbuckled to the knee, a handful of golden locks that belonged to this little cute blonde who affectionately answers to the name “Jen Jen”. She was really going to town. And he deserved it too, with his service to his country. He deserved one of these in every color imaginable, (not unlike Sandy’s dolls). And that is the situation John Berg was enjoying himself in, when Tiffany reached #8 Fuller Street frantically banging on the door.
Let’s take a step out for a moment. Tiffany is safe for the time being. Scott is doing the best he can, his screams not withstanding. There are some important panoramic details which need to be delved into. The beginning of a tragedy of this magnitude needs to be reported in sections. It is inconvenient for those involved, yet there is more than one point of impact; More information from a variant of sources. We need to fill the holes, travel the waterways, find out what others are unable to. We can't help them of course, and perhaps that's the salient point. We can only watch. Every house on every street in this small, Northern New Jersey town is a piece of a larger picture that will reveal itself. We're going to become immaterial for a moment. Walls? What walls? Let us grow wings and glide between the air molecules, in the spaces between the spaces. We're going to travel a bit, it may be a bumpy ride:
The enormous, industrial Mac Truck with the haz-mat signs indicated on the sides and the back barreled through the torrential rain on I-80 E, on the DWG Toll Bridge. EZ-pass was a wonderful thing; Especially when hauling two leaking plutonium cores that burst only 2 hours previously. There were deaths from the initial explosion and from immense radiation leakage. Reactor-C1 of the plant was currently locked down and being flooded with bay water to cool the remaining 7 cores. The spent cores and other hazardous waste required immediate departure and disposal to an offsite location, to be contained several miles beneath sea level. The truck's occupants were given severe instructions not to stop under any circumstances. Mother Nature, however, had Her own opinions in the subject. Lightning struck one of the lights on the left awning of the bridge, and surged the generator. The bridge became pitch black, and in a panic, the driver swerved, nearly slamming into an oncoming school bus making it's way back in a night trek from a class trip to Washington DC. The driver pulled immediately to the right and physics now played a role and the truck's steering column disengaged from its base in a cartoonish parody of horror and absolute terror. The truck crashed right through the barrier, tipped front first and submerged underside up into the rushing ferocity of the Delaware River. The Mac's two occupants died upon impact as their heads snapped forward, and they bled out from every cranial orifice into their own safety masks. The water flowed into the containment units held in the back of the truck and radioactive waste began to seep from the back of the truck and down river.
Within hours, many water based organisms in the Delaware were dead. They didn't stay dead, however. The truck's two occupants began to twitch in something that was now a mockery of life. No one can say how it happened. A Miracle of Nature infused with radioactivity, perhaps something inherent in the abundant river microbes triggered a kind of molecular volatility, sustaining life postmortem. An unquantifiable cellular mutation; there are myriad possibilities. The fact remains that the fish were stone dead one moment and darting around in a frenzy the next. If broken necks could not reverse life, surely drowning would. Yet these two plant haz-mat workers opened their eyes, exited the large truck, and were swept down river. And the Delaware River rushed on, carrying with it a kind of nuclear contagion within it's current. Underground aquifers received some of this contagion, and it flowed into reservoirs. It wound up in sewage treatment plants, and was pumped into commercial buildings and residential homes. It came out of faucet taps and showers. It was poured into cups and dog's water dishes. Fish bowls. It found it's way into toilet tanks and became flushed back out into the system. It came out of the automatic sprinklers that were placed around the grounds of the Stanhope Cemetery. It progressed no immediate changes or symptoms in living organisms however. But once their life's light flickered out...
And as it so happens, the nice old lady in the blue laced dress was she, herself, stone dead on a table being prepared for her own wake. Her name was Margaret Shaw. She was 79 years young, and had a brain aneurism while in the 20-Items-or-Less express checkout lane at the local Byram Shop-Rite. She was about to place the plastic divider on the counter when all of a sudden her right hand just let go of the blue hand basket spilling odds and ends which rolled into Aisle 3. Her last words were "Ice cream cones!", and then her ears began to bleed. She was confirmed dead by the County Coroner 20 minutes later. She was identified, processed, bagged and tagged, claimed, and deposited into the hands of one Hank Morgan, of Morgan's Funeral Home on Main Street. Margaret's daughter had picked out a nice blue dress with a lacy collar for her wake, which was to be a small and personal affair. This was to be a "Business as usual" day
Preparing the dead was Hank's business. Drinking was also his business, and he was 3 sheets to the wind like clockwork by 7pm each and every day. And today, if you listened carefully enough you might be able to hear the clanking report of his old, brown Bostonian shoes as he paces on the marble floors of his establishment. He couldn't be certain of his sanity any longer. He had gone for a period of no longer than 10 minutes to gather his makeup kit, came back and found Mrs. Shaw sitting upright on the table. He knew that wasn't possible. She was dead. He left the room unnerved by this impossibility, washed his face in his bathroom sink...Came back into the his work lab, and she was there laying prone again. Did he imagine it? He couldn't be certain. He decided to drink heavier, and this detail was forgotten by morning. This happened 2 days ago, when the power first went out. And still through all of this, no one seemed to notice that birds afflicted by radiation all across the tri-state area just kind of fell out of the sky here and there, and took flight again. And no one seemed to care that 2 fishermen went missing.
On #17 Mobile Street, stands a group home for mentally disabled adults. They called it “The Healing House”, where rehabilitation and introduction to productive society was a part of the therapy these individuals received. Contained within were 5 men coping with varying degrees of down’s syndrome, autism, and one confined to a wheel chair with motor neuron disease; also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. There were 8 at one point. 3 of them were moved to another housing unit to better suit their needs.
Overseeing these individuals for the 3rd shift, is Sylvia Chow, medical nurse in training. Sylvia won’t be alive much longer unfortunately but she deserves an introduction and some attention none-the-less. It should be known that she was kind, thoughtful, tirelessly patient, yet firm when she needed to be. She enjoyed eating rocky road ice cream while watching reruns of Lost. She dreamed of traveling to Italy and (subsequently, becoming an Asian stereotype) snapping hundreds of photos with her Nikkon camera of all the beauty of the past that still stands for all mankind to see. She was bisexual. She smoked those huge Virginia Slims 120s. She named the plants in her home. She loved helping those who could not help themselves. These residents required such a woman, and their lives were bettered by her presence in their home. She took careful note of their various personality quirks, and needs.
Sammy Boines had autism and required a strict scheduled daily itinerary. Conrad Dewey suffered from cerebral damage due to massive head trauma as an infant. He was literally dropped on his fucking head. His mother at the time could not juggle a crack pipe and her baby son on the same knee. And since crack cocaine cost her a good portion of her monthly social security check, she decided her pipe deserved the bulk of her attention at the time. Conrad has been in and out of various institutions like The Healing House all of his life and had his own special daily regimen of activities. One of these included chronic masturbation. And he would hoot and holler at the point of ejaculation, drumming his feet on the bed. Nurse Chow walked in on him once and the resulting cataclysmic reaction of interrupting the act was never provoked again. When the thumping began, it was best to let him finish. Naptime soon followed.
Neil Wilson had suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis since the age of 20. Certain symptoms began revealing themselves during the most mundane activities. While driving, his hand would jerk abruptly to the left almost resulting in head on collisions with oncoming traffic. His legs would suddenly decide to stop moving forward during his daily walks. His condition continued to deteriorate until finally, and not unexpectedly, he was diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s Disease and ultimately uncurable. And then one day his body decided to quit functioning altogether. Miraculously, the only parts of his body not affected by this disease were his eyes, his right hand, and oddly enough, his penis. He could write. And that was at least some form of communication in which all parties involved could understand. He required oxygen therapy and a sustagen tube administered by a special apparatus connected to his motorized wheelchair. He of course needed special assistance with bathing and excretion of waste. There were times during his bathing sessions that the nurse would scrub him in a certain way and there’d be Neil’s hard on, large as life and twice as impressive. And he would grunt something that could’ve been a laugh of embarrassment. At those times he longed for a pen and paper to write down possibly something naughty yet witty to the nurse. He was after all, still a man, and his mind worked perfectly. His penis worked perfectly well too, and for years he would fantasize about the sensual hot wet warmth of Nurse Chow’s mouth on it. He had no outlet for these feelings and urges, and that was very sad for him. And of course the Nurse could pick up on these things, but she was of course a nurse, not a whore. So Neil’s penis would be unattended to in that particular fashion, while his other needs were perfectly met. Until the lights went out.
No one knew it at the time, (or the reasons behind it) at least no one in the immediate location of the house; but 2 blocks away, a Roto-Rooter truck veered off the road and crashed right into a telephone pole knocking out the power in several grids. The screams began when the power went out at roughly 9:30pm.
Conrad Dewey was singing “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” cheerfully while scrubbing his own corpulent body with ivory soap moments before the lights turned out forever. He had gotten to his favorite part of the song, exuberantly and enthusiastically proclaiming “She’ll be wearing pink pa’jamas! She’ll be wearing pink pa’jamas!” when it suddenly became pitch black and the water went from a comfortable luke warm to freezing cold. And then he screamed. This started a chain reaction involving a tumbling fall, a shattering sound, and more screams.
Martin Tork, adorned in his favorite Spiderman pajamas this evening, had never fully grasped the concept of stairs etiquette. He liked to play games, and sometimes he would pretend he was a traffic cop and block whoever was coming up or down the stairs, even writing out fake tickets on a little yellow stationary sticky pad for “Obstruction!” or “Sammy's stupid!” or “Henry farted!” and then proceed to hand them out and guffaw loudly. He was in the midst of one of these little games when Sylvia Chow was within a foot of passing Martin going down the stairs, and then the lights went out. Panic seized Martin, and he fell forward. So did Sylvia, who happened to be carrying poor Neil’s bedpan in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. It was going to be a night of colored construction paper crafts and she was simply doing her routine tasks, and needed to descend the stairs. If she had waited another minute, or if she had decided to not straighten up Neil’s bedding, what happened next might’ve been avoided. But it did not turn out that way. Martin fell forward, his large ham sized hands struck her knees, and she tumbled over his broad back. Her head struck the electric chair lift attached to the stairs rail, and the scissors struck home into her own neck. The bedpan was sent up into the air and landed beside her face, its contents of urine flowing over her beautiful raven black hair. In her imminent few moments of life, she reached for the chair lift in a futile effort to hoist herself up. Nearly a quart of blood was now being pumped out from her severed carotid artery, spraying everywhere it could. Words gargled in her mouth, something like "Help me", which came out more like "Kelp bleach", and then her vision darkened, eventually going out entirely; and the woman known as Nurse Chow knew no more.
Henry Stewart, 33 years of age (mentally however, about 12) having showered and said his prayers, was enjoying a little evening television before bed. He recited his prayers every night with such child-like sincerity: "Dear God, forgive me for bad things, and protect me from monsters and bees! Amen!". Such a simple prayer, but it more or less covered all of the important bases. Now he was sitting in his favorite chair, a Lazy-Boy, watching his favorite TV Show, and wearing his favorite helmet.
He had become something of a helmet aficionado and advocate. His first run in with helmets began with a field trip to the local Stanhope Fire Station #3. That was his best memory. The big red truck, the men in their protective suits, the hustle and bustle, and of course the helmets. Big yellow helmets. The visitors were given a tour of the facility, shown the break room, the protective gear lockers, shown various methods of containing fires, and shown fire safety. And then the tour ended with a ride around town on Big Red. Henry, with the big yellow fireman’s hat plugged on his head, pulled the fire whistle gleefully, with a huge childlike smile on his round face and the truck made its journey around the town. Past the big stone Methodist Church that looked like something out of a history book, and past the dirty man-made Musconetcong Lake that smelled like a mix between Canadian geese shit and poor planning. You could see a small island, like a bathtub plug, stagnant with several old weeping willows. A boat here and there, tethered and left forgotten. The road took the fire truck and its passengers from around the outside of the lake through some back roads that always gave Henry the jitters. There was a gated area surrounded by trees further up that road that contained a cemetery. To the average person, a town cemetery was nothing to be frightened of. It was the last place folks went after retiring to Florida, and that’s all there was to it.
To Henry however, it was the source of every nightmare a simple mind could conjure; a place of horrors that late night scary movies were written about; where the dead were planted and waited. Waited for what, Henry wasn’t too sure about. But he believed they wouldn’t wait forever. They’d grow tired of waiting and dig themselves out. They'd find themselves hungry. They'd go after the slower folks first; folks like Henry. In the movies, there were always screams. And blood. There were no heroes. Spiderman and Superman didn't come out to help anyone in those movies. Henry’s idea of a cemetery, in those terms, it was the place that made those screams possible. And during future Fire Truck trips, Henry was sure thankful the truck never made it up that road. The gate was rusty, and the trees reminded him of the ones in The Wizard of Oz; grown there to keep people out. It was normal. Every town contained one of these. Every town had to. But he’d still breathe sighs of relief that he never had to see it – And thankful that he had his helmet.
That same fireman’s hat was on his head right now, as he sat watching his favorite TV Show, “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe”. In this episode, good ‘ole Mike was arm deep inside a cow’s vagina helping to deliver a baby calf. And then the lights cut out, the TV flashed once and the image became a small dot of light, which burned to nothingness and complete dark. The first thing Henry did was place both hands on his helmet. Good. It was still there. That was first on Henry’s Safety Checklist. Make sure the helmet is there. Next, bang on the TV set. It didn’t come on. It couldn’t, there was no power. And Henry’s slow mind realized this once his eyes became more accustomed to the dark. And then the screams from the kitchen and upstairs, a glass broke, and something tumbled down the stairs. Helmet on his head, Special Fire Inspector Henry headed to the kitchen first.
Sammy Boines stood in his white pajamas and slippers, repeating “Oh no, oh no, oh no…broken, broken…”, staring at the shattered glass of water. Sammy always wore white. He associated white with cleanliness and cleanliness was of utmost importance to Sammy. Cleanliness and particulars. His bed needed to face southwest so that when he woke each morning, the sun would shine first on the right side of his face. And his clothes had to be laid out just so; socks folded always on the bottom of the pile. Then the khaki pants. Always khaki, always white, like the socks and the boxers, and the folded shirt that laid on top of the pile. This is how his morning would begin. And for breakfast, it was always Captain Krunch cereal. Oh sure, they tried to give him Apple Crisps, but Sammy wasn't having any of that. No Sir! See, the Captain had a friendly smile as if to say “Hey Buddy, it’s gonna be alright! Here’s my special cereal to fill you up right and give you the energy you need for your day!”. Sammy liked Captain Krunch. For lunch, it was always bologna and cheese with the crusts cut off the bread. Sammy didn’t care for crust.
Each resident in this home had special scheduled TV Time. Sammy enjoyed “The Price is Right” and would throw a shit fit if he wasn’t seated in front of the TV (in Henry’s favorite chair) at precisely 11:01am. He had a special talent for guessing correctly the exact dollar amounts of various items displayed on the show. He used to like to read the grocery store circulars that came with the paper. He memorized the prices and changes. They followed a pattern. The price trends were almost exactly the same for Ikea and Wal-mart circulars. And it didn’t phase him either. His other daily TV Show Ritual was at 8:02pm on the button, when Jeopardy came on. It was like Sammy was privy to some kind of special Almanac that contained trivia questions, answers, numbers, dates, names, etc. He might be dead to the world as ordinary people would understand it, but not those things. Those things were kept alive in his mind and sorted carefully into special mental files that could be accessed with very little effort. What Sammy did struggle with however, were changes to his routine. He drank a glass of cold water every night before bed. He did not intend for the lights to go out, or for the glass to break, or for the screams, or to piss himself. These were not part of his daily routine. And now his mind, so full of facts and trivia and numbers was busy wrapping itself around these current events which were out of his normal rituals.
“Oh no, oh no, broken, broken.” Sammy repeated in an almost monotone.
“Why you broke the glass, Sammy? Where is Nurse Chow?” Henry asked.
“It’s dark, dark, she’s upstairs, Neil’s tank needs air, Neil’s tank needs air.” Sammy replied.
Henry quickly grabbed the paper towel roll and placed several sheets on the glass and water. He didn’t want to get cut, and didn’t know exactly how to best clean the mess up. He took Sammy’s hand to lead him out of the kitchen and that is when he screamed. There was a mess on the floor and Sammy would not leave until it was attended to.
“Broken! Broken!” Sammy exclaimed.
Henry left him there. He had to find Nurse Chow, she had the answers. She could fix everything.