All my life, I’ve been a skittish sort of girl. I’m scared of just about anything you could name. The shortlist includes rats, spiders, and bees.
Mama used to say, “Quit being a ninny, Tallulah. They can kill you but they can’t eat you.”
Of course, that was before the dead began to rise from funeral homes, dining on the mourners.
I peeked through the boarded up window, wondering how I’d get to the Piggly Wiggly. I had to bake a wedding cake for my cousin Rayette, who’d
gotten engaged right before the trouble started. I didn’t want to be the one to tell Rayette that we were living in dangerous times. Nobody was
stopping her from turning on her TV and listening to the reports of worldwide violence. People were breaking into homes and biting whole families.
Housewives were getting mauled in beauty shops. And the aforementioned dead were roaming the streets.Everybody thought Rayette would postpone the
ceremony, but you can’t stop a Bridezilla no more than you can stop a zombie from craving brains. Actually, that’s not true. From what I’ve
seen, zombies aren’t picky eaters.
I shouldn’t have baked that wedding cake for three reasons. First, I wasn’t Rayette’s favorite cousin. Second, I wasn’t charging her a dime.
Third, I was the only cake lady in Ozone with enough counter space to bake an entire country club. And Rayette wanted a cake that resembled an 18-hole
golf course. I wouldn’t have that much space if I hadn’t moved into First Baptist Church, where my daddy had preached before the proverbial s---
hit the fan. I boarded up the stained glass windows, gathered supplies, and cooked in the giant kitchen.
Now, I had to bake a cake to bake; but I was out of butter. So I walked toward the Piggly Wiggly, the only grocery still open for business, seeing as
most people in town had either fled or gotten sick. A lot of cities had lost power, but the lights still blazed in Ozone.
Way down at the end of the street, I saw a teenaged zombie wearing Birkenstocks. I gave her a wide berth and turned the corner. She never even saw me.
The thing about zombies is, they’re slow. If you run into one or two, or even three, it is best to remember the three Es: Elude, Evade, and Execute,
in that order. I learned the hard way that if you shoot them, the sound carries, and the next thing you know, you’re surrounded by Deadheads.
A bell tinkled over my head when I stepped into the grocery. I tried to reach up to shush the clapper, but it was too high. I darted into the store.
It was empty except for the sheriff’s wife, Miss Martha. She was a big-chested woman, and she toted an M-16 like it weighed no more than a
I loaded my cart with flour and sugar. Weeks ago, when the craziness began, the mayor had called a town meeting. He’d asked for volunteers to deal
with the growing zombie population. Since I’d grown up with Men Who Hunt, I was drafted. The mayor assigned me to the high school football stadium.
My job was to sit in the press box every afternoon with binoculars and my .22. The owner of Piggly Wiggly, Mr. Thurmond, was the president of the
Upper Cumberland Rifle Club, and he’d fixed me up with a silencer so the noise wouldn’t get me in trouble.
I’d been meaning to thank him. I looked around the grocery but didn’t see him. I pushed my cart to the dairy case. It was bare except for cottage
cheese and unsalted butter. I grabbed the butter and started toward the checkout. Halfway there, I ran into Miss Willadeen from the Clip ‘N Curl.
One side of her head was in curlers, the other side was matted with tissue—not the kind you buy in a box. She staggered toward me, arms
outstretched. Her teeth clicked together, like she couldn’t wait to bite. I lifted my gun and drew a bead. She stopped moaning and cocked her head.
She looked at me, I swear to god. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Zombie or not, I’d known Miss Willadeen forever. She’d fixed my hair at
every milestone in my life—my first haircut, first perm, first prom. Now she was coming straight at me. I could run, of course, which would mean
abandoning my groceries and disappointing Rayette, or I could kill Miss Willadeen. Actually, kill wasn’t the right word. She was already dead. I’d
shot more than a few zombies, but I hadn’t known them personally. While I tried to work up my gumption, Miss Willadeen’s head exploded onto the
display of Brawny paper towels.
The sheriff’s wife stepped up. “I never did like how she colored my hair,” Martha said.
Minutes later, I darted into First Baptist. I set down the groceries, locked the heavy wooden door, then lugged the sacks to the kitchen. I spent the
rest of the day baking Rayette’s cake. It was the cutest thing, complete with sand traps, fairways, water hazards, and little sugar people with
little sugar balls--not on the people, of course. Then I went up to my hiding place in the bell tower and listened to the news.
The TV was still working, and the World Health Organization was on Fox, urging people to stay calm. The spokesperson referred to the outbreak as a
meningococcal pandemic and denied that the new H1N1 vaccine had set this off. One of the reporters asked why the craziness had begun ten days after
the mass inoculations. I switched the channel. A biologist on CNN said a bad batch of the vaccine had gotten distributed, and anybody who’d gotten a
shot had become ill. They symptoms were varied, but the results were the same: death, followed by a postmortem transformation. The biologist told
Anderson Cooper that the vaccine had caused the victims’ stem cells to go into overdrive. At the same time, it caused massive brain degeneration.
That made perfect sense to me.
I turned to HBO and caught the tail end of Bill Moyer. His guests told stories of gridlock, thieves, and military road blocks. Cities were being
forcefully evacuated and the highways were clogged with refugees. None of this had touched Ozone, not yet, but something was coming. Something worse
edit on 8-10-2014 by drwill because: (no reason given)
edit on 8-10-2014 by drwill because: (no reason given)