Read Rotten Online

Authors: Victoria S. Hardy

Rotten

Day One

Thursday

December 11, 2014

 

 

 

“You’re all idiots!” Professor Kingswood kicked an empty box into the corner.  He straightened his LL Bean denim shirt, and tugged at the waistband of his Abercrombie and Fitch jeans.  “No one here knows what the hell they are talking about and no one here can even speak in a simply constructed sentence!  You’re all idiots.” 

 

We laughed.  I mean, really laughed.  I elbowed Rotten in the ribs and I swear I snorted as I giggled.  So freaking unladylike to snort, but I couldn’t help it.  We saved his ass - his designer-clothed ass.  Of course we knew what we were saying; he just couldn’t hear us.

 

“Dude, have you not heard the recent news?”  Rotten wiped the tears from his eyes and grew serious.  “Remember that guy who cut himself open and threw his guts at the cops?  How often does that happen?  And our little town made the national news; even that stupid morning show with all those chicks talked about it.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the other guy who took out six cops by bouncing over rooftops in Pinecrest Estates.  He bounced, man!  They tasered that bastard six times and guess what?”  Rotten took a breath and four steps in Professor Sully Kingswood’s direction.  “He bounced away, man!  He fucking bounced!!

 

Rotten stepped closer, the space between them reduced to a good eighteen inches.   “You ain’t been payin’ attention.  I freakin’ know you teach English and all that shit, but you ain’t been reading and some guy from 1846 ain’t gonna tell you what’s happening out your own damned window.  He just ain’t, man, and you gotta get that shit in your head real quick.” 

 

Rotten stepped away.  I was impressed, not because I don’t know what a gentle guy Rotten is (despite the name), we were freaked!  Scared shitless would be a good phrase.  Wanting to curl into the fetal position and cry for our mommas would be a more accurate description. 

 

Professor Kingswood taught at the college and simple happenstance found him in our presence when it started going down.  We were out celebrating with Princess, whose painting had just sold for five hundred bucks, and buying a few cocktails for her friends was why she called us.  I was asleep when she called, despite it being noon on a weekday, and promised and swore I would be there, it seems my sleeping was beginning to interfere with my friends.  I was taking the day off from school, due to depression.  I’m usually depressed; it’s just my nature, but I work hard to maintain relationships despite my depressive ways.  So I agreed to meet Princess, Rotten, Moonshine, and Highland in the back parking lot of Club 13 later that night.

Now, with these odd names, and before I introduce my own, I feel the need to explain.  Rotten was born Reginald Owen Tannenbaum, and his initials spelled ROT, so Rotten he became somewhere between fifth and sixth grade. 

 

Moonshine earned his nickname when we met him as the new kid in the school in seventh grade.  His name is Michael Smith. Just Michael Smith, no middle initial, or junior or senior or the third, fourth or fifth, even though it seemed that every male born into his family forever was named Michael Smith and he had four cousins and an uncle with the same name.  He moved from Tennessee and the first time we all hung out he brought a jar of moonshine.  Ever since that day in Highland’s basement, Michael Smith was Moonshine. 

 

And then there’s Highland.  His name is his Internet identity and Highland had been on the Internet since he was two years old.  His last name is Williams, his first name is Wayne, and he won’t admit to having a middle.  Why his parents named him Wayne Williams, the same as the serial killer suspected to have killed twenty-nine, I’ll never know. He’s an odd bird, useful with his computer prowess, but too quiet for my liking.   

 

And Princess and I got the worst of it.  Her name is actually Princess, I’ve seen her birth certificate, Princess Ann Adair.  And my name is Dove - Dove Lee Mori.  I wish I had a nickname, but folks like Michael, Reginald and Wayne get nicknames, while girls like Princess and Dove have to suffer.  I met Princess in the third grade, we were nerdy, chubby, and read too much to be cool.  By eighth grade we were thinner and Goth, and by high school we were too thin and cynical.

 

In those years, despite the changes, heartbreaks, and disappointments of adolescence, the five of us bonded.  We’re all a bit artistic.  Princess paints, I fancy myself a writer, Rotten can play any instrument you put in his hands, and Moonshine can whittle, carve or build anything you would ever need built.  Highland is our resource guy – he can find anything on the web.  If you need something, Highland can find it, find it quick, somehow pay for it and have it delivered to your door within a day or two.  I don’t know how he does it and I don’t ask questions, something in his demeanor repels questions. 

 

“You need to chill your ass out.”  Princess stood up from where she’d been crouched and crying in the corner.  “I just saw two of my fuckin’ friends get killed so you just shut the hell up.”  She stomped on four-inch platform shoes across the dusty warehouse floor and settled against the wall beyond the glow of the streetlights streaming in the windows. 

 

“Did you see how fast those fuckers move?  We’re doomed.”  Moonshine paced and rubbed his face.

 

“We’re not doomed,” Highland spoke quietly from his position by the window.  “We just need a plan to get out of the city.”

 

“How are we gonna get past those things?” Moonshine demanded.  “We don’t have any weapons.”

 

“We’re going to sit here, watch them, and figure it out.”

 

“This ain’t one of your video games, Highland, this is real.”

 

Highland looked down at the bloodstains on his shirt.  “I know it’s real, dude.  I was there, too, you know.”

 

“What are you thinking, Highland?”  Rotten said.

 

“We just need to lay low and watch for a while, find their weaknesses and figure out our strengths.”

 

“I sure as hell didn’t see any weaknesses when it disemboweled Heather,” Moonshine said, and joined Highland at the windows. 

 

I had to make myself look down at the street to see the chaos, hearing the screams was bad enough, but actually watching required near super human effort.  People ran in every direction and the only way you could tell the normals from the infected was the lack of blood on their clothes and the speed in which they moved.  Before I turned away I saw a woman in heels taken down by a man in hospital scrubs. 

 

“First rule,” Highland said, looking over his shoulder at Princess and focusing on her feet, “good shoes.  You can’t run in those shoes, Princess.” 

 

“Well, forgive me,” Princess snapped.  “I didn’t get the message that the zombie apocalypse was going to start tonight.”

 

“We should have known,” Rotten said.  “We should have known.  All the weird stories on the news, the new mosquito borne disease, that newscaster who suddenly lost it on TV, was speaking in gibberish, and attacked the cameraman.  For anyone who’s watched a zombie movie, all the clues were there.” 

 

“You people are insane,” Professor Kingswood said.  “There are no zombies.”

 

“Oh, really?  What would you call them?” Rotten asked.

 

“Sick.  It’s just some sort of mental illness or neurological disorder.  Zombies don’t exist.”

 

“Tell that to Heather, asshole.”  Princess walked to the bank of windows and peered down at the street.  “Tell that to the woman down there being eaten by her doctor.” 

 

“Damn,” Moonshine muttered when the man in blue scrubs pulled away from the bloodied woman and wandered off down the street.  The woman sat up on the sidewalk, jumped to her feet with the agility of a gymnast, and followed behind him, leaving a trail of blood on the concrete.  “That ain’t no mental illness, Professor, that’s a fucking zombie if I’ve ever seen one.”

 

“Seen a lot of zombies, have you?”  Professor Kingswood sat down on a wooden crate and rubbed his face. 

 

“As of an hour ago, yes,” Moonshine said.

 

“Ignore him,” Highland said.  “He’s in shock.  I guess we all are, but at least we’ve discussed the scenario before, half expecting it since we were kids.”

 

“Yeah, remember when we used to make our zombie invasion plans?” Rotten smiled, but his mouth was tight.

 

“Yeah,” I said, “but that was years ago and our plan usually revolved around us being in the old neighborhood when it went down, not stuck in the city.”  I was beginning to think Moonshine was right and we were doomed. 

 

Rotten turned from the window and looked around the room.  “There has to be something here that we can use to protect ourselves.”

 

“We should just call the police and wait for them to help,” Professor Kingswood said.

 

“If the police were going to help don’t you think we’d see some of them down there?” Princess said.

 

“I think we can take it as a given that we’re on our own.” Highland held up his phone.  “No signal.”

 

Rotten kicked a pile of trash, sending up a cloud of dust, and we heard the distinctive sound of metal against concrete.  He reached down and picked up a four-foot pipe.  “This is what I’m talking about.  Come on guys, see what you can find.”

 

We left our positions by the window, everyone except Highland who still focused on the scene below, and started searching the abandoned warehouse.  Moonshine picked up a two by four with nails sticking out of it and smiled.  I found an old industrial mop, not much of a weapon, but it did have a large metal clasp at the end that could possibly hold off an attacker for a moment or two.  Princess picked up a dented trash can lid and laughed.

 

“We are so doomed, you guys,” she said.

 

We looked at each and laughed. 

 

“When did we stop planning for the apocalypse?” I wondered.

 

“About six or seven years ago,” Rotten said.

 

“Yeah, around tenth grade or so,” Moonshine agreed.

 

“Who drove tonight,” Highland asked, his eyes on the street below.

 

“I didn’t, I caught a ride,” Rotten said.

 

“Yeah, me too.  I was going to crash at the gallery.” Moonshine said.

 

“My car’s in the shop,” Princess said.  “And Dove took the bus.”

 

I nodded.  “I figured I’d get a taxi home.”

 

“So no one has a car?” Highland asked.

 

We looked around at each and shrugged.  “Nope,” I said.  “How ‘bout you, Professor?  Did you drive tonight?”

 

“Yes.”  He nodded.  “But I’m not going out there until the police come.”

 

“The police ain’t coming, man,” Rotten barked.

 

“Where’d you park,” I asked.

 

“The corner of 7th and Broad.”

 

“Five blocks away,” Highland muttered and the screams coming from below grew in intensity for a moment.   

 

“Might as well be a mile.” Moonshine placed his weapon over his shoulder as he would carry a baseball bat and walked back to the windows. 

 

Rotten pulled out his cell phone and checked for service.  “Still no signal,” he sighed and slid it back in his pocket.  “Don’t know who I’d call anyway.”

 

“They hit the kill switch,” Highland said.

 

“Why would they do that,” Princess asked.

 

“Probably want to keep the outbreak secret as long as possible, they need to keep people calm, especially after that video of the newscaster attacking the camera man went viral, imagine how many folks are trying to upload videos of this mess.”  Highland glanced down at the stain on his shirt again.  “Rule number two, wear dark colors.”  

 

Professor Kingswood laughed.  “You guys are ridiculous!  It’s a virus like the flu, but it causes brain swelling and irrational behavior.  Those people are not zombies and you can’t run out there and beat them with clubs and sticks.  They’re sick. The police will come and deal with them soon.”

 

Rotten sighed and looked at me.  “I’m not even gonna try to talk to him anymore, he just doesn’t get it.” 

 

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