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Mechanical Failure, Chap. 5a (zombie apocalypse novel in progress)

September 13, 2013


I slept and read a lot those first few days. Partly it was my body trying to recover from the fall, but it was also a way to escape reality. By the third day, the pain in my back was tolerable, though my ankle was worse. I had never seen human flesh turn that color of purple before, and I hoped that I would never see it again. These days, the smallest of injuries could easily be deadly.

For the next three weeks, I stayed inside the house except to go into the back yard and quietly use the grill or collect water from the pool. I had a couple of close calls. Once I almost dropped the grill lid on the flagstone patio, but I caught it in time. A loud noise like that would have had every zombie for miles around at the door. I did drop a full bucket of water into the pool on another occasion, but it was windy that day, and the sound of the loud splash was muted.

I found several bottles of liquid chlorine in the garage, as well as a large plastic pail full of chlorine tablets, and I put it all to good use. Carrying buckets of water inside while using crutches was not easy, but it had to be done if I wanted to keep the dishes washed and the house clean. Having a few dirty dishes didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it gave me something to do. While I continued to read a lot, I knew that I needed to stay as active as possible, or I’d fall into some bad habits that could hurt me later. The cleaning was part of that routine, and I began to add in some daily exercise as soon as my back allowed it.

At my house, there was a treadmill and a weight machine, and I had used them religiously. Jeanette had nothing like that so I had to improvise. I started with the little bit of yoga I remembered from a class I’d taken years earlier, figuring that I could at least stretch my muscles and give them a bit of a workout. As my back healed, I added some calisthenics and found some creative ways to exercise while not putting weight on my ankle. I even found that I could do squats and lunges using either my crutches or the wall for support. While I was carrying the bucket of water one day, I also realized that I could use items around the house to do weight training. The bucket of water worked well, but the water kept spilling out, usually all over me. After this happened a couple times, I finally got smart and dumped out the water, adding rocks from the yard instead. I had to wrap a towel around the handle so it wouldn’t dig into my hands, but it worked well. There were a few other items that got worked into my weightlifting routine: a heavy iron bar that I found in the garage, a cast iron frying pan, and a bronze statuette that stood on a table in the living room. The only thing I was missing in my workout was aerobics, and doing laps around the yard on my crutches just wasn’t cutting it.

I quickly fell into a routine as the cleaning, exercise and reading filled my days. There were other little things I did, too, like cooking meals and treating drinking water once the five gallon jug was empty. I had to use pool water, but I filtered it with a clean linen tablecloth then boiled it on the grill before adding a couple drops of bleach. I was nervous the first few times I drank it, but I never got sick, so I think that my system worked.

My bathing routine normally just involved a bucket full of treated water, but I allowed myself a real bath every now and then. This was quite an ordeal because not only did I have to treat the water, but I had to heat some of it on the grill before dumping it into the tub, which was upstairs. It took me a good hour to get the tub about halfway full. Needless to say, the water was usually lukewarm by the time I got into it, but I can’t begin to express how good it felt to sink into that half-tub of tepid water and relax for a while.

Even keeping busy with the cleaning and exercise, I had so much time to read during the three weeks I was at Jeanette’s house that I went through most of the books in her collection. While it felt kind of nice to relax, I wasn’t used to being so idle and it began to bother me. Before my injury, my days had been filled by keeping the gardens going and making scavenging trips around town. I missed those activities, and I was anxious to start them again, but every time I almost convinced myself to go outside and do some recon, my ankle reminded me that it was not ready for that yet.

The house was cold since there was no gas for heat, so I wore warm clothes while working or exercising. I stayed wrapped up in a thick comforter while I read. The temperatures only dropped to 30 or 40 degrees at the worst, which was fortunate. I know it got below freezing once or twice because I saw ice on the pool on those days. Still, it was tolerable; more than the heat would be in the summer.

By the time I could walk again and feel comfortable doing it, I’d had a lot of time to think. I couldn’t move back into my house, and I couldn’t stay at Jeanette’s place much longer. I had only remained safe there because the dead hadn’t found me. Once I started making trips away from the house, they’d catch on. Since it was still winter, there was no way I could think about going to Oregon for a few more months, as I’d be traveling through the snow-covered mountains. That meant that I needed a place in town that I could fortify a little better.

For some time now, I had been considering blocking off my whole neighborhood with big trucks, if I could figure out how to drive them. Assuming I could get them into place, I thought they might hold the dead back long enough for me to build a couple of block walls to close off the top and bottom of my street. But now that I couldn’t stay in my own house, I wasn’t sure there was any point of confining myself to that area. I thought that maybe I could find a better setup in a different neighborhood.

I dug through Jeanette’s kitchen junk drawer, and I was lucky enough to find a local phone book with a map in it. I looked it over, trying to find an area of town that would work for my plan. There were a few possibilities, but if I remembered correctly, these areas all had only one-story houses. Since it was time to go shopping anyway, I decided I’d do some exploring while I was out and about, but would need to find a vehicle first. It was likely that my truck was still in running condition, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get it out of the garage without a fight. Even if it wasn’t overrun with the rotting dead, they had managed to crush the door in, and it would have to be removed before I could get the truck out.

I decided to take the bike and do some recon. If nothing else, it would be good exercise. My ankle was still a little sore, and I was nervous about that, but I really had no choice. I’d used up all of the food that was in the house.

I wrapped my ankle, and dressed as I usually did for one of these excursions, putting on thick socks and long, tight-fitting pants and shirt. That made it hard for the zombies to get a grip on me. My hair went into a baseball cap, and I found some gloves and a fairly tight jacket to top it off. It wasn’t ideal, but I was just glad that Jeanette’s clothes fit me. The pants were a little short, but I didn’t think anybody would notice.

I watched the street for a while and it looked clear, but that didn’t mean much. Sometimes the undead wandered around, and sometimes they just stood in one place for hours or even days. They could be anywhere. When I decided that it was as safe as it was going to get, I quietly unlocked the door and eased it open. It sounded so loud to me, but apparently nothing outside heard it. I stepped out and looked around, spotting one of the dead at the far end of the street to my right. It was looking the other way, just standing in a yard. The thing could decide to stay there for a week, so trying to outwait it was pointless. I checked the knife that was attached to the belt loops of my jeans then I quickly made my way down the driveway with my bike, keeping an eye on the dead guy down the street. If he was going to see me, it was better if he couldn’t tell where I was coming from, since I didn’t need him hanging out at the house. Odds were, he’d follow me anyway, but I had no idea what sort of memories their rotting brains could hold and I didn’t want him remembering which house I’d exited. Glancing back, I saw that he was still looking the other way, which was a huge relief.

I hit the intersection and immediately saw a handful of the horrible creatures down the hill. I guess it was better than uphill, since that’s where I was going, but still, I was hoping not to be followed.  The hill was steep, and I quickly grew out of breath. Three weeks of almost no aerobic exercise had not been good for me, and I was paying the price now. Pushing on, I covered another block then risked a glance over my shoulder. I was relieved to see that they had fallen back, but the steep hill was wearing on me, and I began to wonder if this was going to turn out to be a bad idea.

 ~to be continued~

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