Chapter 2: Dave Henry, September 11, Year 0

Ever since my mother died five months ago, I haven’t been able to sleep. I turned my head to look at my clock. It was 5:56 AM. I’d been tossing and turning in my bed for over an hour. After Mom died, my dad started cooking breakfast. Unfortunately, he’s a crappy cook—an incredibly crappy cook. I know he’s trying to make up the mom-sized hole in both our lives but his barely edible cooking makes me miss Mom even more. I listened carefully but I didn’t hear him. Maybe for once, he was sleeping in. I threw on some clothes and went to the bathroom.

I brushed my teeth and stared at a fat, pimply faced seventeen-year-old kid. I’m six feet tall and the last time I’d weighed myself I was two hundred and seventy pounds—I’m a walrus. I hate the kid in the mirror. The stupid, lost look on his face pisses me off. He’s a loser.

When I got to the kitchen, there was a plate of burnt pancakes waiting on the table with a note, “Good morning, Son. I’ll be back from Las Vegas Tuesday evening.” I’d forgotten that my dad was going to a convention early this morning. I think he said that his plane left at five in the morning.

I didn’t want to eat burnt pancakes. My preference was to throw them in the trash but I knew my dad had gotten up even earlier than usual to cook for me. He put a lot of effort into this breakfast, so I opened the fridge to get some syrup. The bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s was empty. There wasn’t any butter or margarine either. There was a partial jar of strawberry jam so I slathered it all on the pancakes. I took one bite and that was it—the jam had gone bad. I spit everything out and scraped the plate into the garbage can.

I started laughing because if I didn’t, I’d start crying. It’s all so pathetic—my dad cooks this crap to try to make me feel better, I try to eat the crap because he made it for me, and both of us feel like shit—talk about dysfunction. Two years ago, I’d been part of a real family. I didn’t know it at the time but I was happy. Then my mom went in for a routine checkup and her doctor found a lump in her breast. The doctors told us that the cancer hadn’t spread and her prognosis was good. We thought she’d be fine until she died from an antibiotic resistant infection. The incompetent, asshole doctors fucking lied to us.

If they’d told us the truth, if we’d had the time to say good-bye to Mom, Dad and I might have handled her death better. We never said good-bye because we thought she’d live. I’m my father’s son. Both of us are complete nerds—in our element when dealing with machines, numbers, and code—useless with everything else. Dad’s a programmer; he started working overtime at work. I got fatter and spent as much time as possible playing console and computer games. The only time we saw each other was over one of Dad’s inedible breakfasts. It was typical for Dad to cook pancakes and forget about the syrup.

It was Saturday. My dad works for a security company, and their business is going like gangbusters because of the zombie outbreaks all over the world. As an employee, my dad got armored doors and window shutters at cost. The doors and shutters have been sitting in our garage for months. Dad and I both knew that it was only a matter of time before we had zombies in the states and that we had to prepare, but neither one of us was ever able to get started. I could spend the entire weekend installing those doors and shutters and surprise Dad when he got home. But first, I had to go to the store and buy groceries.

Back when Mom was healthy, Saturdays were ‘family’ days. She’d cook a big breakfast and then we’d go out all day to ski, snowshoe, hike, rock climb, or bike. Dad and I are night owls and we’re perfectly content to stay indoors all the time. Mom was the complete opposite; she was Mrs. Outdoors. Every Saturday, she had to drag us out of bed and force us out of the house. Dad and I used to pretend we hated those family days. I couldn’t face the idea of staying home by myself on a Saturday, so I decided to go to school and use the computer there.

I’m a senior at Boise High, and since my sophomore year I’ve helped Mr. Johnson at the computer lab. In the past year, my grades have gone to shit but I’ve kept working with Mr. Johnson. The only time I can forget how much life sucks is when I’m trouble-shooting a computer problem. At the beginning of this school year, Mr. Johnson gave me keys to the school and computer lab. A couple weeks ago, a local business donated ten computers to the school, and I’d promised him I’d hook them up to the school’s network.

I was about to start up my car when changed my mind. I got out of my car, opened up the garage door, and pulled out my road bike for the first time in a year. It took a couple of minutes to pump up the tires and lube the chain, and then I rode the ten miles to school.

I got winded and light headed on a couple of small hills. It’s disgusting how out of shape I am. Even though it was a cool morning, by the time I’d huffed and puffed my way to school I’d sweated through my clothes, my legs were trembling and rubbery, and my ass was sore. I was grateful that it was the weekend and that no one was around to watch the fat, sweaty walrus ride up to the school.

Connecting the donated computers to our local network didn’t take long. The real reason I was in the computer lab today was the T1 line. At home, we have broadband internet access through cable; evenings and weekends—the peak times for internet use—our connection speeds bog down big-time. My school’s T1 line clocks in at 1.544 megabits per second; it kicks ass 24/7.

I’d just logged on to my Steam account to play Team Fortress 2 when another gamer text messaged, “OH SHIT! Guys! The emergency radio broadcast just went off.” After that the entire text box on my screen was filled with messages about the zombie outbreak going on all across the US.

For a while, I just stared at the screen. When I could finally get my fingers moving again, I went to the CNN website; they were streaming live video of zombies swarming New York City. The local news channel’s site said there were zombies in Boise too. I tried to call my dad, but I kept getting ‘the network is busy, try again later’ message. I looked out the window, and saw lurching figures that could only be zombies.

I prefer video games over people. I’m good at games. A good gamer knows how to assess risk and problem solve. It was pointless going home; the armored doors and shutters are still sitting in the garage, and there’s no food, bottled water, or other survival supplies. The emergency shelter is four miles away at Timberline High School, but there’s no way I’m going to ride my bike through streets filled with zombies.

Boise High School campus is L-shaped, takes up four-and-a-half city blocks, and is in a neighborhood zoned for residential and church buildings—within two blocks is the Idaho State Capital, a YMCA, and a Carnegie Library. At the top of the L are the tennis courts and a football field, then the main building, and then the Frank Church Building of Technology, which is where I was. Southwest of the Frank Church Building is the bottom of the L—a separate gymnasium that takes up a half-block.

I needed a zombie-proof place with enough food and water for days—maybe even weeks. The Frank Church Building of Technology’s entire front entrance is mostly glass, and there’s no food or water. This was NOT the place to hide out.

I’ve lived in Boise all my life, but I’ve never been inside any of the churches. I’d been in the YMCA, Carnegie Library, and Capital Building a couple times but I didn’t know these buildings well enough to risk traveling through zombie infested streets to get to them.

The main high school building had some of the same weaknesses as the one I was in now——six glass entryways and dozens of first floor windows, but the rest of the building is pretty solid with brick or cinderblock walls and solid core wood and metal interior doors. Most importantly, there’d be plenty of food and water in the kitchen.

I made my decision. I was going to hole up in main building. Zombies could get through the glass doors and ground floor windows—BUT—they probably wouldn’t want to enter the building unless they saw me. If I kept quiet and out-of-sight, I might have enough time to bring food and water up to one of the upper floor rooms and lock myself in.

If there were zombies between me and the main building, I was fucked. There was no time to lose worrying about it; nothing to do but GO. I ran as fast as I could to the main exit. When I hit the lobby, I was huffing and wheezing for breath. My heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest, but the paved area between the Frank Church Building and the main building was clear. I blew through the door, across the empty expanse and made it to the main building. I unlocked the door, staggered through, it and locked it again.

I was bent over double, gasping for air when the dry heaves hit me and drove me to my hands and knees. God, it was awful; at first, I was afraid I was going to die, and then I was afraid I wasn’t. When my stomach finally stopped spasming, I had a sobering thought: what would I have done if my key to the Frank Church Building hadn’t unlocked the main building’s exterior door? A chill washed over me and the dry heaves came back with a vengeance. I know I’m smart, and I like to think I have a fair amount of common sense, but if I keep jumping into risky shit like this without a plan B, I may have to reevaluate my IQ. If I keep acting like an idiot, then I’m an idiot—a soon-to-be dead idiot.

Most of the teachers keep their classroom doors unlocked. I needed at least one key to a second or third floor classroom and I needed a key to unlock the kitchen. The custodian’s office should have keys to all the rooms in the main building, so that’s where I headed.

I was by the stairs when screaming zombie football players and cheerleaders ran right for me. They were too fast; I couldn’t outrun them. I knew they were going to tear me apart and eat me alive until they stampeded up the stairs past me. Then I remembered that real zombies are slow.

I had another scary thought—the average adult has the IQ of a clever woodchuck—the typical high school student is just slightly more intelligent. It was a good bet that none of the stupid sons-of-rodents who’d run past me had secured their door. If zombies got into the building, I’d be screwed—no not screwed, zombie food.

The main Boise High School building is three parallel rectangles connected by a perpendicular hallway running through the center of the rectangles. I lumbered down the hallway to the metal fire door facing the football field. Oh sweet Jesus, thank you! The door was ajar, but zombies hadn’t made it inside yet. I threw myself into the door just as a zombie pushed against it from the outside.

Again, I couldn’t breathe. If the dry heaves came back a third time, maybe I would let the zombies get me. My hands shook as I fumbled for my keys, and for the first and only time in my life, I was glad to be overweight. I threw every ounce of my big ass against the door and got it closed, just as I got my keys out of my pocket.

I stuck the key into the door. On the other side, a girl screamed, “OH MY GOD! PLEASE LET US IN!”

Then a guy shouted, “HURRY UP! OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!”

Okay, not zombies, but the sheer terror in their voices told me that zombies were close. For a second, I was tempted to lock the door and walk away but I couldn’t be that cold. I pulled the door open. The school’s quarterback, Matt Witter, stood on one leg. A redheaded cheerleader was holding him up. She was a character straight out of Japanese anime—super cute rather than beautiful. Behind them was a mob scene straight out of ‘Shaun of the Dead.’ The walking dead were pasty grey, dull-eyed, expressionless and didn’t bend their knees enough when they moved. If I’d seen them first, I never would have thought the jocks and cheerleaders who’d run past me were zombies. People fled from one group of monsters only to run right into a different group; the zombies were everywhere. Most of the zombies were occupied with fresh kills, but five or six headed our way.

The manga chick helped Matt hop in through the door. They were both white-faced and wide-eyed. Matt swallowed twice before he could ask, “Where did everyone go?”

I locked the door and bent over to catch my breath enough to answer. “They ran up the stairs. I’ll show you in a minute.” Zombies pounded on the fire door, but it looked like it would hold. Just in case it didn’t, I wanted to get someplace secure and faraway. I’d had enough gasping and retching, so I walked as fast as I comfortably could. Gimpy and the cheerleader easily kept up with me. It was humiliating.

The zombies began howling and screaming in a wordless, high-pitched keening that I could feel in my bones. Now I REALLY wanted to be somewhere else.

We were half way down the hall when the cheerleader asked, “What’s your name?”

“Dave.”

“Thanks Dave. Thank-you so much for opening the door. I’m Jessie O’Neil and this is Matt Witter.”

I was eight when a school psychologist decided that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve done some research into this since then and I’ve decided that she was talking out of her ass. I’m not autistic, I just don’t like people. The psychologist tried her sincere best to persuade me that it was wrong to ‘hate’ my classmates. I explained that I disdained—I’d learned this word a couple of days before the evaluation and thought it was pretty cool—most of the kids my age; I didn’t hate them. She just didn’t get it. That’s when I decided that the brain and unrefrigerated meat have a lot in common: the older it gets, the more it decays. Forget about Alzheimer’s, I’m worried about how much age-related brain damage I’ll have when I’m twenty-five.

My dad and a couple of my teachers like Mr. Johnson aren’t too bad. But my mom? She was the most joyous person I’ve ever known. She’d make you feel good just by being with you. Everybody always used to say, “Oh, your mother’s such a happy person!” but happy isn’t the right word; it’s too passive. Mom found everything interesting, exciting, and fun. Mom saw the good in everything and everybody; she even thought that my dad was handsome and that I was charming and witty. I loved her but there’s no way I can ever be like her. I see the world as it really is, and it isn’t interesting, exciting, or fun. Most of the time life sucks, occasionally it’s tolerable.

I can read body language and social cues just fine, it’s just that almost everyone else I’ve ever met isn’t worth knowing.

Boise High School has tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades and there are maybe five hundred kids in each class. I keep my mouth shut and head down whenever possible and have gone through three years of high school like a ghost. I don’t want to anyone to know me; I don’t want to know anyone else.

I knew who Matt was because everybody in school knows who the starting quarterback is, but I had no idea who the redheaded, green eyed, freckled cheerleader was until she’d introduced herself. I’d been tempted to lock the door on Jessie and Matt; it would have been easy enough to do. They owed me their lives. Matt not thanking me was expected standard shitty human behavior, especially from a stuck-up jock. I was surprised that Jessie thanked me. I wondered what she wanted.

When we got to the stairs, I pointed up. “They went that way. They shouldn’t be hard to find. When you see them, tell them to stay away from the windows and keep out of sight. We’re lucky that you guys came through a metal door. If any of the zombies come up to a glass door or any of the ground floor windows, we’re fucked.”

I started walking down the stairs when Jessie said, “Where are you going?”

“I’ve got keys to the outside doors and the computer lab. I’m going down to the janitor’s office to look for more keys.”

She looked interested and almost as if she wanted to go with me when Matt said, “Let’s go Jessie.” I turned around and went down the stairs.

The Janitor’s office door was locked—of course, it’d be locked. I stood there, doorknob in hand without clue one about what to do next. At least this time I had a plan B: stand here like a dumbass. Then my above average intelligence came back from its pee break, and I pulled out my debit card and tried to maneuver it between the doorjamb and the latch. It was too stiff and started to break. I tried my laminated school ID—it was flexible enough to get to the latch but wasn’t stiff enough to pop it. My driver’s license had just the right amount of flex and stiffness to get the door open.

It’s funny how a zombie apocalypse changes you. A few hours ago, an ugly windowless cluttered janitor’s office wouldn’t have even made it onto my list of wonderful things. Now everything about it made me happy. A blue uniform shirt and pants still inside a clear plastic dry cleaner’s bag hung from a hook on the wall. There was a box of baby wipes and a bottle of mouthwash on the desk.

I should have focused on looking for the keys, but the baby wipes and mouthwash kept drawing my attention. I could smell the funk coming off me, and my clothes were wet, sticky and uncomfortable. Yeah, there were more important things requiring my immediate attention than attending to my toilette, but the end of the world as we know it wasn’t going to miss me for the few minutes it’d take to unstank myself. I locked the door behind me, kicked off my shoes and stripped off my sweat soaked clothes. It took the entire box of baby wipes to get the nasty and sticky off me. I took a swish of mouthwash, gargled it, and spit it into the wastebasket. I may be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse but dammit, I’m Minty Fresh.

The janitor wasn’t quite as tall as I am, and he outweighed me by a bunch, but his clothes fit great. His tool belt hung over the back of his chair. It had a ring of keys, a flashlight, a retractable twenty-five foot tape measure, and a Leatherman multi-tool. He’d labeled all the keys with an electric engraving tool, so I knew what key went where. I put the belt on. A toolbox on the floor held a cordless drill, drill bits, a hammer, different kinds of screwdrivers, two small adjustable crescent wrenches, a roll of duct tape, and a couple of small boxes of screws and nails. The battery charger for the drill was on the desk, and had a spare battery charging. I put both batteries in the toolbox.

A pegboard on the wall by the desk held a bolt cutter, crowbar, three-pound plumbing hammer, eighteen-inch long crescent wrench, and a bunch of other tools. The crowbar offered the most reach as an anti-zombie weapon, but the crescent wrench balanced well in my hand. There were still a couple of open loops on the tool belt, so I took both the crowbar and the wrench. I took my wallet and house keys just because, stuffed my damp, stinky clothes into a garbage bag, tied it closed, and slipped my shoes back on.

Jessie had been reaching for the door just as I opened it; I almost walked into her. We were both understandably twitchy. I jumped and grabbed for my wrench; she screamed.

We both spoke at the same time. “What are you doing here?” “You changed?”

She wasn’t alone. Three football players, looking uncertain and out of place, stood behind her in the unlit hallway. They were all bigger and much fitter than I am. They’d taken off their helmets and shoulder pads, but they were still wearing cleats. Good luck getting traction on these floors with those, guys.

There was another girl who was an Honest-to-God Cheerleader Barbie—blonde hair, long legs, narrow waist, and oversized boobs. The only thing that marred her looks-like-she-was-photoshopped perfection was the fear twisting her features.

I waited for Jessie to answer me. For a barely perceptible instant, she looked frustrated, then she shrugged, gave me a quick socially polite smile, and pointed to her friends. “Dave, this is Carolyn, Tim, Dan, and Aaron.” She then cocked her head toward me. “Everyone, this is Dave…”

“Henry. Dave Henry.”

When I took her hint and gave her my last name, the redhead granted me a real smile as if I’d done something special. With rare exceptions, human beings are herd animals. Jessie was an alpha female with master level manipulative skills. If it hadn’t been so obvious that she wanted to use me, I might have been tempted to try and please her.

Jessie and her friends had nothing I wanted or needed; I was better off on my own. My zombie-killing wrench was still in my right hand, so I reached down with my left and grabbed the toolbox. I decided to show off my own social skills and lit up my best fake grin. “Nice to meet all of you, but if you could all excuse me, I’ve got stuff I need to do.”

Hot chicks aren’t used to getting the polite brush-off from ugly guys. She stood silent as I walked past her. The football players got out of the way—my body language and the fact I was holding a hunk of steel like a weapon may have had something to do with that. I thought I was in the clear, and was just about to walk into the cafeteria when Barbie spoke. In a trembling, melodious voice, she asked, “What kind of stuff do you need to do?” She was just so perfect, I bet all her farts were silent and lemon scented.

I loved my mom but she had one major flaw—she had been a massive nag. When she was alive, it seemed like all she did was bug me about exercising and being nicer to people. I’ve always been overweight, but I’d been in not-bad condition right up until she’d died. Today’s festivities had finally convinced me that she’d been right about the exercise thing. She might very well have been right about being nicer to people, too. It’s one thing to blow people off when the worst thing that could happen is hurt feelings. It’s another thing to be rude and maybe have people die.

I reluctantly turned and studied Barbie and her friends. If it were raining, they’d probably stare up with their mouths open for too long and drown. I sighed and answered, “This building isn’t zombie proof; there are too many glass doors and windows. But if we’re careful and quiet and keep out of sight, we probably have time to get food and water from the kitchen and hole up in a…” I was about to say ‘classroom’, but it dawned on me there were more jocks and cheerleaders upstairs. Jessie and friends would definitely want to include them. An hour or two in a classroom with a dozen or more cheerleaders and jocks might be tolerable; it would be slow torture to be with them in such a small space for a day or more. “We need to bring food and water to the auditorium until the authorities get control of the zombies.”

Barbie and the football players’ expressions didn’t change. They had no idea what I was talking about. Jessie nodded her head thoughtfully and then put her hand on Barbie’s arm. “Carolyn, you and Dan need to go upstairs and tell everyone else to come down here. Tell Matt he needs to come too.” She pointed to the other two football players, “Aaron, Tim, I want you to grab every single big garbage can you can find and bring them to bathrooms by the auditorium. Try to stay away from the windows and DON’T let the zombies see you.”

Her friends were too busy rolling their eyes at each other to move. Jessie got red in the face and bat-shit craziness blazed from her eyes. “Why are you still standing there? Do it NOW! Get it DONE!” Until then I didn’t know it was possible to whisper a scream. Jessie was a full head shorter than Barbie and her friends. They made eye contact over her head and shared a big grin.

When they finally went to do what she asked, it was obvious they were humoring her. The funny thing about Jessie’s little hissy fit was that it seemed to have raised her friends’ morale. Too bad it hadn’t raised their intellect as well. None of them bothered to ask for the crowbar or crescent wrench before they took off.

Jessie motioned me to stay in place until she caught up. Her crazy eyes may not have bothered her friends but they worried me enough to make me wait for her. Experience has taught me that there’s no upside to getting into a fight with a popular kid. As she walked toward me, the insanity dissipated from her eyes. When she got within touching distance, she was back to looking like a cute manga chick.

By the time I was in fifth grade, I figured out that human beings travel in herds and that every herd has a pecking order. Fat ugly kids are always on the shit end of the totem pole. Popular good-looking guys get love and affection. Unpopular nerds get used. The only time an attractive girl notices my existence is when she wants something. Like I said, I’m smart. When I discovered I had no way of winning the human herd game, I stopped playing. I’m much happier being alone than taking shit or being used.

The smile Jessie gave me told me she was still trying to get me to like her. Every girl who’s asked me to fix her computer or help her with her math homework has done the same thing. It’s funny how they all use the same technique. First, they start talking to you like you’re suddenly an upper-level herd member—which you’re obviously not. Next, they innocently touch your arm or shoulder as they tell you about their problems, and then they go for the kill and ask for a favor. After the favor’s done, you go back to bottom of the totem pole.

As an experiment a couple years ago, I began moving out of the way anytime a girl tried to ‘innocently’ touch me. It’s strange but true; unless she’s a complete raving bitch, a girl won’t ever ask you for a favor if she’s never given you a couple friendly touches. I think girls are only allowed to get help from fellow herd members, and if they can’t touch you in a non-sexual way, you’re not part of their herd.

The cafeteria has double doors with small windows. I took a quick peek through one of them. No zombies—good. When Jessie reached out to touch my arm, I avoided her hand and stepped through the left hand door and kept it open for her like a gentleman. Her confused look as I moved out of reach was funny, but I kept my amusement from showing. I didn’t dislike her; I just didn’t want her to think I was part of her pecking order. I’m a lone wolf, baby—you can’t touch me.

I followed her into the cafeteria and looked out the windows along the wall. It was easier to hear what was going on outside from the cafeteria than it was in the hallway. There was shrieking and screaming, lots of shooting, and sporadic explosions. It was bad, serious craziness out there. Two people ran past our windows not twenty feet away with a tail of twenty or thirty screaming zombies slowly chasing after them. I grabbed Jessie by the shoulder and threw her back into the hall. I stepped behind the cafeteria door and used its small window to keep an eye on the action.

All the school windows are treated with mirror film that reflects sunlight and helps keep the air-conditioning costs down. The cafeteria lights were off and it was clear sunny day outside. I didn’t think the zombies could see us but there was no point to taking chances. Luckily, they were focused on the runners; none of them looked in our direction. Jessie tugged at me insistently and whispered, “Let me see.” I stepped out of her way.

When she whispered, “They’re gone.” I stepped back into the cafeteria, moved to the windows and started pulling down the blinds. A few seconds later Jessie started helping me. After all the blinds were down, I unlocked the door into the kitchen. It was a lot smaller than I expected—maybe thirty by forty feet but it was so cluttered, it seemed tiny. You’d think a place that fed fifteen hundred kids five days a week would be larger. There were no windows; every wall was composed of shelves, cabinets, and appliances. Multiple workstations with grills, food warmers, and sinks filled the center of the room. There was a walk-in freezer and a metal door with a crash bar on the far wall that probably led outside. This actually wasn’t a bad place to hole up. It was a bummer that the room wasn’t a bit larger. It was claustrophobic being in here with just Jessie.

I set down my toolbox and started loading huge institutional-sized cans of soup and tuna fish onto a rolling cart. Jessie did the same without saying a word. Nice, it looked like she’d given up pretending we were friends.

When the cart was full, she pushed it out of the kitchen. I loaded jars of spaghetti sauce and boxes of pasta onto another cart. Once it was full, I pushed it out into the cafeteria.

Jessie and Matt were arguing over her cart. He’d found a push broom and was using it upside down as a crutch. Football players and cheerleaders surrounded them. Barbie and the three football players I’d just met were there, as were four more football players and five cheerleaders I didn’t know. Three of the guys had axes—the kind stored next to fire extinguishers. The fourth guy had a broom. Three of the cheerleaders had mops. I wondered if there were more axes in the building. I wanted one.

Matt waved me over; I pushed the cart close. “Dave, Jessie tells me you’re the man with a plan. What is it?”

I studied him to see if he was serious. Usually when an uber-popular kid asks for a nerd’s opinion in front of all his friends, it’s a trap—the beginning of a setup to mock the nerd. He looked like he really wanted my opinion. What the fuck—if he turned out to be a dick, I’d just go off on my own and let them die. “Like I said to…” Shit. What was Barbie’s real name? It started with a C. Candi, Cathy, Caitlin, who knew? “…her” and I pointed, “it may take days or weeks for the police and the military to get the zombies under control. We need a zombie-proof room, food, and water.” I pointed at the carts. “We got food. Just in case the water pressure goes out, we should fill every garbage can we have with water. None of the first floor rooms with windows are secure. Even the second floor windows might be a little too low. It’s going to have to be a third or fourth floor classroom or classrooms, the auditorium, or the roof.”

He frowned. “So what happens if the food and water run out before we get help?”

I shrugged, “We die.”

Matt turned to his friends. “Jessie and Dave want to stay here. I say there are better places to ride this out. My parents have a cabin about an hour’s drive away from here. There’s plenty of room for any of you who want to come. I say we make a run for it. Our only problem is our keys. Mine are in my locker back at the gym. Anyone here have their keys?”

Nobody did.

Jessie said, “Matt, it’s too dangerous to go outside even if you can get to your keys. Like I said before, all the roads and highways are going to be jam-packed; it’s going to be one big parking lot out there.”

Matt shook his head. His voice got louder. “While you were down here, I’ve been checking out what’s going on from the upstairs windows. The zombies that ate Coach Williams and the others are gone. There are a ton in the residential streets and closer to the capital but hardly any on campus. We should be able to get to our lockers without a problem. I’ve got an SUV. So does, Tim, Brad, and Carolyn. We won’t take the streets. We’ll go off road—over sidewalks, through yards, whatever.”

Carolyn—Barbie’s name was Carolyn.

Jessie tensed up, made the ‘what-the-HELL-are-you-thinking?’ gesture with both hands, and raised the volume of her voice to match Matt’s, “Even if you CAN get your keys, you don’t think anyone else is going to have the same idea? Those places will be jam-packed too. You—we need to stay here!”

“That’s why we have to go NOW! The more time we waste yapping, the worse things are going to get. We need to go! Now who’s coming with me?”

One of the axe guys broke in. “I’m going home. Once I get my keys, I can take two people in my truck; it has four wheel drive.” Then they ALL started talking.

Boise High School has high quality, well-insulated double pane windows and there was non-stop noisy chaos going on outside. I didn’t think the frigging debate Jessie’s friends were having would attract zombies but if zombies got in through the cafeteria windows, I was fucked. I might be able to give Matt a race—maybe. Everyone else would leave me in the dust. Zombies would be feeding on my fat ass while the rest of them made their escape.

The axe guy’s body language showed that he’d found a buddy to go with, and they obviously wanted to take off but their bovine herd instincts held them back—they were waiting for their friends. I left my cart, walked over to them, and put my hand on the closest one’s back. I said loudly enough so everyone could hear, “Guys, you need to take off before the roads are all blocked.”

As I’ve said before, I have social skills. Most of the time I don’t need to use them but now, I really did. I didn’t push the guy; I gently guided him to the door. After I started him moving in a direction he already wanted to go, he shot me a grateful look and he and his buddy sprinted out of the cafeteria.

For a split second, the others stared in stunned silence. When I waved them through the door I was holding open, I started a stampede. ‘Git along little dogies, git the hell out of here!’ Yeah—I was right. Even with his busted ankle, Matt could outrun me. I trotted after them to make sure they locked the door behind them.

The oldest part of our campus is the center main building. It has four stories; the two additions that bracket it have three. The first floor is partially underground, so the school has a bunch of split-level entryways. The outside steps lead to double glass doors that open onto a landing with stairs that go down to the first level or up to the second.

I caught up to the group about fifteen feet from the stairs leading up to the exit—far enough from the doors to be difficult to see from outside. Jessie and Matt were still arguing.

“Jessie, please. Staying here makes no sense at all! Come with me or at least go with one of the others.”

A tear slid down her cheek, and she shook her head. One of the guys she’d sent off to get garbage cans—I couldn’t remember his name either—shook Matt’s shoulder. “We got to go, Dude. We got to go now!”

Matt took one last look at Jessie and then hopped up the stairs. “Let’s go people!” He pushed the door open and everyone except Jessie and Barbie left. I went up after them to make sure the doors wouldn’t open from the outside. The outside doorknob didn’t move; it was locked. I pulled the door shut and watched Matt and his friends run. They made it into the gymnasium without running into any zombies, but I knew they were coming.

The girls were curious too. They were by my side watching. “Jessie, um…Carolyn, let’s get away from the door and watch from someplace more secure.” We went to a third floor room with a window that overlooked the gym, pulled down the shades most of the way, and observed through the crack. At about the two-minute mark, the first zombies came into view. Initially, there were just three, but in the next minute there were five, and more were coming—a lot more. The zombies awkwardly and unsuccessfully tried to open the door that Matt and his posse had used.

The gym entrance has a big window next to the glass door. As the zombies beat on the window, the glass started to crack and spider web. It should have only taken a few minutes for Matt and his friends to grab their keys, but they didn’t show. I checked my phone for the time—five minutes, then ten went by. Now there were at least thirty zombies trying to get into the gym. Even through the insulated double pane window, I could hear the zombies make a high pitched wail. In a couple of places, the glass was starting to give.

Then there were gunshots—pop, pop, pop. There was a pause and then three more pops—they were close, at most a block or two away. I couldn’t tell what direction they were coming from but the zombies apparently could because they all headed west as a group. When the zombies were about two hundred yards away, Matt and his friends rushed out of the gymnasium. All the ones who didn’t have axes now had baseball bats and most of the guys had changed out of their cleats. They all made it to their cars and drove off.

Matt and his friends had been smart and lucky. I don’t know if I would’ve had the balls to gamble that something would distract the zombies before they got in, but it worked out for him and his friends. I hoped they had as much luck getting home.

When I looked up, Jessie was wiping away tears. From the expression on her face, I figured it was mostly from happiness that her friends had made it. There was probably a part of her that regretted that she wasn’t with them—I hoped so; it was only fair because there was a huge part of me that regretted she and Barbie weren’t with them.

Barbie went over and hugged her, and then they turned to face me. Jessie spoke, “Dave, I think the best place for us to stay is in the kitchen. It should be zombie proof. It’s already got food and it should be easy to stock with water.”

Well, at least she isn’t stupid. I nodded my head. We went back into the kitchen. On the way, we grabbed five large trashcans. They’d already been emptied and double-bagged with clean plastic garbage bags. When I got to the kitchen, I duct taped the tops of the plastic bags in place and started filling them with water. It was going to take a while before they got full, so I headed back out to get more trashcans.

I’d gotten used to Barbie’s silence—who expects a doll to talk? She startled me when she asked, “Dave where are you going?”

“I’m going out to grab some more trash cans.”

She nervously brushed back her long hair. “Don’t you think it’s better for us stay together?”

I shrugged and was about to leave—no, I didn’t think we needed to stay together—when Jessie chimed in, “I think Carolyn is right. In every horror movie I’ve ever seen, people start dying as soon as the group splits up. We should stay together. We’ll go with you.”

The issue wasn’t worth arguing about. I left the kitchen with the two of them in tow. As we headed for the Janitor’s office, I locked every classroom door along the way. Neither cheerleader said a word. Well that was good. At least they understood why I was locking all the doors on the first floor that led to rooms that had windows.

After I’d locked the fifth door, I looked up and Jessie was staring at me with a huge shit-eating grin. I looked behind me and didn’t see anything funny. What was up with this shit?

Barbie looked just as confused as I felt. Finally, Jessie burst out giggling. When she got control of herself, she said, “Of course you realize, those locks are set up to lock people out of those rooms, not lock them in. If a zombie does get into one of those classrooms, it can open those doors from the inside whether they’re locked or not. All you’ve done is locked us out.”

I knew that. That’s why I’d checked to see if I could twist the outside doorknob after Matt and the others had left. I felt blood rush to my face. But it wasn’t one of those moments where the line, ‘I knew that’ had any chance of working.

Barbie tucked her arm under mine. “It’s okay Dave, I thought the same thing. Anyone could have made that mistake.” Yeah—anyone stupid. Jesus! What was wrong with me? I’d been using these doors for close to three years.

When we got to the Janitor’s office, I handed Jessie the crescent wrench and Barbie the crowbar, without making eye contact. “If a zombie gets in, I’d like you guys to be able to do something besides scream and run.” I took the hammer off of the pegboard and stuck it in the tool belt.

We filled every large trash can we could find with water. We found an extra set of keys for the school in the principal’s office—Jessie took them.

We used masking tape and rolls of art paper to cover all the glass entryways. One of us kept watch for zombies while the other two worked. Whenever a zombie came into view, we waited out-of-sight until it left. Zombies could still break through the entryways, but if they couldn’t see us, they wouldn’t have any reason to.

We boarded up every cafeteria window from the inside with tabletops. I used the Janitor’s cordless 18 volt reciprocating drill and masonry screws to fasten the tabletops right into the cinderblock walls. The drill was loud, so I waited until something louder was going on outside before I used it. It must have worked, because we didn’t attract any zombies. There was no point in trying to board up the glass entryways when we couldn’t secure the first floor classrooms.

Barbie suggested ‘penny locking’ the doors—forcing pennies or other coins between the door and jamb to wedge the door closed. Jessie pointed out that we didn’t have any change, and wedging the doors closed would be the same as locking them, just tougher and more time consuming to open. We’d have to think of something else, and fairly soon.

Lunch was hot dogs and chips; dinner was chicken tenders and fries. I’d missed breakfast and I was starving, but I didn’t overeat. I don’t like being fat—who does? But dieting—not eating until you’re satisfied—is what chicks, and metrosexuals do. The thought of being ripped apart and eaten alive by zombies because I can’t waddle away fast enough finally convinced me that I had to lose weight.

Boise High School has a professional grade auditorium with a real second floor balcony. Everybody in school knows that Bing Crosby once sang in this very auditorium. The story might mean more to me if I knew who he was. In the prop room, we found two twin beds with real mattresses, bed sheets, and covers. We left the bed frames and box springs behind but brought everything else into the cafeteria. When we turned in, I locked the cafeteria’s double doors. If zombies tried to breach the doors or the boarded up windows, we’d retreat into the kitchen. We all agreed it’d be best to keep the cafeteria doors locked throughout the night. If anybody had to go to the bathroom, there was a covered five-gallon bucket in the kitchen.

Every hour on the hour, we tried calling our parents. We never got through. We’d been busy during the day, and both girls had worked hard. Unexpectedly, they hadn’t whined or complained once. They’d both pulled their weight.

Over the course of the day, it became clear that Jessie is very smart—maybe even as smart as I am. That surprised me. Carolyn isn’t that smart, but she’s not stupid, either. Neither had acted like a bitchy, high-maintenance, prima-donna princess. I was beginning to think that they weren’t all that bad after all.

I wasn’t about to suggest it, but when Carolyn wanted to leave the light on during the night, I quickly agreed. Maybe it was lights, maybe it was the zombies, but I couldn’t get to sleep, and I was awake when the lights went out. My phone said it was 3:22 AM. When I turned my phone off, it was completely, utterly black. It was freaky; I’d never had my eyes open and seen nothing but total darkness before. I heard the girls whispering in their bed. Their voices were too low to make out their words, but it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone in the dark.

I woke up with a jerk when someone touched my shoulder. “What? Huh?”

“It’s me, Jessie.”

“Yeah, what? What time is it?” I checked my phone it was 5:11 AM. I’d been out for almost two hours.

“Carolyn and I can’t sleep. Is it okay if we sleep with you?”

“Um…Sure, I guess.”

I was lying on my back on a twin mattress, and I’m not a small guy. Jessie wedged her back against my right side. Carolyn did the same on my left. I couldn’t stop thinking about their butts pressed against my arms and the scent of their hair—Jessie’s hair was citrusy and Carolyn’s smelled like apples. With the exception of my mother, I’ve never been this close to a woman before. This morning, I would never have believed I’d end the day in bed with a pair of cheerleaders. Who knew what would happen tomorrow, but so far, this was turning out to be a pretty awesome zombie outbreak.
Chapter 3: Dave Henry, September 12, Year 0