Chapter 6: Dave Henry, October 9, Year 0

“Dave, are you going to keep on walking?”

I patted my stomach. “I still have a lot of this stuff to burn off. You thinking about stopping?”

Jessie nodded her head. “I’m going to call my parents and then log on see if there’s anything new on Zombie Watch. Carolyn, let’s go.”

In the last month, I’d lost close to twenty pounds but I still had a ways to go. Eventually, we are going to run out of food. When that happens, we’ll have to go outside and I’ll have to be able to move a whole lot faster than my usual fat boy waddle.

Yesterday Jessie and Carolyn spent two hours with me doing calisthenics and then wind sprints. Today I was working on my endurance. The girls enjoyed high intensity workouts; multi-hour slow walks bored them silly. We’d been walking slowly inside our building for over an hour. I was surprised that they’d hung with me for this long.

I really like Carolyn. I don’t know how to describe what I feel for Jessie. ‘Like’ doesn’t seem strong enough, but ‘love’ just doesn’t sit right. Seriously. Me, Dave Henry—Mister Lone Wolf in love; I still can’t grasp the concept. But despite how much I do like these girls, I had to admit my heart was lighter as I watched them go down the hall. I continued down the stairs.

On the landing, I ran my hand along the barrier we’d built to block off the glass entryway. We’d used solid core wooden doors we’d taken from the upper floor classrooms, and built it in two overlapping thicknesses. Scavenged screws and hinge plates secured those doors to each other, the walls and floors, and we’d braced two doors against the floor and barrier at a forty-five degree angle. We all slept a lot better once the barrier was up and the risk of zombies getting inside was almost nothing. I tried to get a little alone time, but the way Jessie reacted you’d have thought I tried to break up with her. She apparently has way more tolerance for forced companionship and nonstop conversation than I’ve ever had.

I’ve since learned that if I want time away from her, it has to be her idea. I learned that the best way to ensure that was to bore the daylights out of her. Once Carolyn and Jessie went off to do girl stuff, I quickened my pace and got my pulse and respiration up. It was awesome knowing I’d be alone for at least a few hours.

The first couple of weeks after the outbreak had been hectic. It’d taken a couple of days to find power cords for all of our phones, and over a week to build all the barriers. It was kind of refreshing to have the time to be a little bored.

My dad never returned any of my messages. Carolyn wasn’t able to get in touch with her mom either. I tried my best not to think about Dad. The situation wasn’t so hard for Carolyn. She never met her biological father, and she didn’t have much of a relationship with her mom. From bits of conversations here and there, I gathered that her mom’d had a constant stream of creepy scumbag boyfriends who paid way too much attention to Carolyn. She’d been working part-time to pay for her own food and clothes since she was fourteen, and she spent as much time as possible at Jesse’s house. Not surprisingly, she was really tight with Jessie’s parents.

The girls talked to Jessie’s parents for at least an hour every day. There were no TV or radio stations still on the air, but there were parts of the Internet that still worked. The major news sites were all down, but the iTunes Store, Netflix, parts of Amazon.com, and a bunch of blogs were still working. One of the best blogs was Zombie Watch.

The more I learned about what other survivors were going through, the happier I was that it was just me and the girls here. There were times when our building felt claustrophobic with just the three of us. I could imagine how bad it’d be with six hundred and forty-three other people, even if they were all one big happy family. The problem with Timberline was that they weren’t playing well with each other, and hadn’t been since day one. It was probably just as well they didn’t have guns. As it was, it was probably just a matter of time before they went after each other with fists, teeth, knives, and clubs. Unfortunately for Jessie’s family, they were in the smaller, unpopular group, and if things really turned to shit over there they’d be totally screwed.

I knew from the way the girls acted that Jessie’s dad was a good man and a great parent. I learned a lot about him from the conversations Jessie and Carolyn had with him and his wife.

But reading between the lines of what Jessie’s dad said to the girls, he was the main instigator of the unrest at Timberline. I understand why he’d wanted to keep the shelter’s door open longer. I also understand why other people hadn’t. At a certain point, the doors had to close and people had to be left outside. Shit, I’d been tempted to lock his daughter and her fake boyfriend out myself. It was a self-righteous dumbass move to call people who disagreed with him murderers and to threaten to report them to the authorities. If I was stuck in Timberline with him, I would desperately want to kick his ass too. I could tell that his wife and son were getting a lot of unnecessary pushback because of the shit he kept stirred up. I really wanted to like him as much as the girls do, but I just couldn’t.

I couldn’t understand why Jessie’s dad kept harping about who he’d report to the authorities when rescue came. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain and Internet access that there weren’t any authorities. In the last month, I’d read thousands of posts from hundreds of survivors. None of them were current National Guard, reserve or active duty military, cops, or government officials. Waiting for help from the government that no longer existed was a loser’s game. If we were going to survive, we were going to have to do everything ourselves. I wish I had the guts to tell Jessie’s dad to put a sock in it and to start making nice with the other people in Timberline, but I didn’t. So I just tried to avoid talking to him. Eventually the girls and I would have to leave our building. I knew the girls would want to hook up with Jessie’s family. You’d think that in the middle of a zombie apocalypse I’d at least get a free pass from having to worry about my girlfriend’s dad.

Zombies and Jessie’s dad weren’t the only things I had to worry about. The blogger on Zombie Watch was convinced that there were actual vampires too. There were no posts from anyone who’d actually seen a vampire, but there were a whole shitload of rumors. Also it was obvious that the numbers of subscribers and posters on the blog were dropping fast—way faster than they should have.

According to the rumors, real vampires only came out at night. They didn’t have to be invited into your house, and they could rip though wooden barriers like a chainsaw. I don’t know if I bought the rumors, but just to be safe, the girls and I were now staying in the kitchen with the doors locked after the sun went down.

I never would have thunk it, but it was relaxing to walk around in a circle, alone with my thoughts. I was surprised when I my phone beeped; I’d set an alarm to go off an hour before sunset. I’d been walking by myself for four hours.

The chemistry lab on the second floor has an OSHA hazmat shower; it’s a showerhead, floor drain, pull cord, and lukewarm water. It’s not especially elegant, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a sponge bath. I showered, hand washed the gym clothes I’d scavenged from another fat kid’s locker and then hung them up to dry. I put on clean clothes and headed to the kitchen.

The girls were already there when I walked in. As I locked the door, Jessie gave me a hug and a peck on the lips. “I hope you’re in the mood for spaghetti.”

“Sure, that sounds good. Need any help?”

Carolyn laughed. “It’s just pasta and sauce from a jar. It’s already done.”

I filled glasses with tap water and set out plates and forks for the three of us. I was starving. As far as I can tell, Jessie and Carolyn don’t have an ounce of spare fat anywhere, but they do that chick thing with the constant dieting anyway. I don’t understand it, but it does help me with my effort to pare my big ass down. They’d made enough food to feed three sparrows, and though I was tempted to boil some more spaghetti, I didn’t. “So what’s new on Zombie Watch?”

Both the girls frowned. Jessie said, “The site’s down. This is the third day in a row that a major blog has gone down.”

The news was a conversation killer. No one said anything as we cleaned the dishes. I pulled out the iPad we’d been using to watch a Netflix movie after dinner. “What are we going to watch tonight?”

The girls said simultaneously, “A romantic comedy.”

I groaned and shook my head. “No, no, no. No way; no how, not again. We’re not going to vote on the movie anymore—you guys always vote for a chick flick. From now on, we’ll play quartz, parchment, shears to decide.”

Jessie looked at me funny. Carolyn’s grin lit up her whole face. She turned to her puzzled friend. “Let me translate for you—he means rock, paper, scissors.”

I grinned back. It was nice to find another Mordecai and Rigby fan. “Okay, guys” I continued, “we’re playing rock, paper, scissors.” Carolyn mouthed ‘quartz, parchment, shears’. “To start, we all flip a coin. The two people with matching heads or tails play first, the best two out of three. The winner takes on the last person. The final winner chooses the movie. What do you say?”

The girls made eye contact with each other and smiled. Jessie said, “Sure.”

I handed a quarter to each of them. “Flip!”

I made a fist pump. Jessie and Carolyn both had heads. I had tails. The girls faced each other with their hands out. They said, “Rock, paper, scissors.” Jessie threw scissors; Carolyn threw paper. The blonde shook her fist with mock anger and put out her hand again.

“Rock, paper, scissors!” Carolyn went with paper again. Jessie had scissors. Carolyn moaned with the agony of defeat, and my evil redhead performed a ‘thrill of victory dance’.

Jessie pointed her fingers at me. “You are my next victim.” She cackled, “Come to me, my pretty.”

“Ha!” I thrust my hand out toward her. There was no way she was going to use scissors again and she was way too aggressive to ever choose paper. “Rock, paper, scissors!” I threw paper; Jessie, the unbelievably evil wench threw scissors. “Arrgh!”

Carolyn started laughing. “Uh Dave, I think Jesse is revealing a pattern.”

I stared into my girlfriend’s cold predatory eyes. She wanted to make me think she was going for scissors again. Well, I was too smart to fall for it. “Rock, paper, scissors!” I thrust my paper out. No! No way; it wasn’t possible! Jessie had scissors.

Jessie threw her hands in the air and sang, “I am the champion. I am a champion my friends.”

Carolyn laughed even harder. After a while, I had to join her. I put my hand on Jessie’s shoulder, “Okay, okay. So what are we watching? Please. For the love of God, please don’t make it one of the High School Musicals.”

Jessie turned her face up to me, “Die Hard.”

I blinked. Did she just say the name of one of my all time favorite action movies? As I watched her slowly smile, it sunk in she had. I grabbed her in a bear hug and lifted her off the ground, “Jessie, I swear to God, I love you.” It took a second for what I’d said to truly sink in. OH SHIT! What in HELL did I just say?

Jessie’s smile shone like a bright light. “I love you too.” Then she kissed me. Her lips were amazingly soft and warm. When her tongue touched mine, my knees actually got weak”

“Um guys, you’re not alone.”

I had no interest in party poopers’ opinions. I set Jessie on the ground before I got too weak to hold her. I put one hand on the small of her back on the other on the back of her head and kissed her again this time with more emotion.

“Guys! Get a room before I hit you with the hose!”

Jessie started pulling herself away; I didn’t want to stop. She put her hands on my chest and then her forehead. “Whew! I think we need to watch more action movies.”

I leaned my lips next to her ear. “Who cares about a movie?”

She giggled, “I do and I know you love this movie.”

I sighed, “I do love this movie.”

My dad and I must have watched the original Die Hard movie twenty times. It was still great. Jessie had seen it once before; Carolyn had never seen it. They got tense and laughed at all the right times. Afterwards, we all went to bed.

It may have been wishful thinking but I thought that Jessie gave me a come-hither look as we got ready for bed. The bummer was there was nothing I could do about it even if she really wanted me to go to her. There isn’t enough floor space in the kitchen for two people to sleep side-by-side, especially if one them is my size. We’d abandoned the twin mattresses as too ungainly and way too uncomfortable. Instead, we’d found thick foam pads in the theater prop room and laid them out in a row, head-to-foot. Sleeping by my lonesome, trying to lay on top of Jessie, or smooching her feet were pretty much my only options.

I considered the downsides of going back to sleep in the cafeteria on the mattresses. No, that was just the little head trying to think for the big head. Something was taking out bloggers and posters—people who should have been safe from zombies. At night, we needed to stay behind metal doors.

It’s funny how sometimes first impressions can be totally wrong. When I’d first learned that Jessie and Carolyn were going to stay in the school, I was seriously bummed out. Turns out it was the best thing that could have happened to me. As weird as it was for me to hang out with two girls, it was old hat for Jessie and Carolyn to hang out constantly with one guy.

Matt, Jessie, and Carolyn had met on the first day of seventh grade, and they became best friends almost immediately.

Carolyn didn’t date. Tons of guys wanted her, but she always said no in the nicest possible way. Jessie and Carolyn never explained why. Since Carolyn was out of the picture as far as dating went, Matt and Jessie started dating in the eighth grade. A year later, Matt admitted to himself he was gay. Since they’d started off as best friends, Jessie and Matt remained close even after he came out to her and Carolyn. They helped him keep his orientation secret.

The girls knew how to keep secrets. If I hadn’t figured out he was gay on my own, they never would have told me. As it was, Jessie and Carolyn often talked about how much they missed Matt. He looked like someone from Muscle & Fitness and I looked like me. I’m glad I know he’s gay because otherwise I’d be crazy jealous.

Matt is the only boyfriend that Jessie’s ever had, so she most definitely is a virgin. For now, she wants to wait. Now that I’ve inadvertently admitted it, I guess I really am in love with her. It sounds completely idiotic to say that about someone I’ve known less than a month, but it’s true. Mentally I’m fine with waiting, but there were parts of me that disagreed. It was probably a good thing that I had to sleep by myself.

I woke up because I had to go to the bathroom. I grabbed my phone to light my way to the door but it wouldn’t come on. God damn it, the battery was dead. I was sure the battery was fully charged before I’d gone to bed. I didn’t want to wake the girls so I fumbled my way to the door. I unlocked it, went into the cafeteria, closed the kitchen door behind me and flicked on the lights. The room remained dark. I had a bad feeling.

I opened the kitchen door and flicked on the light switch in the kitchen; no lights here either. This was not good. “Jessie, Carolyn, WAKE UP!”

Neither one of them wanted to wake up so I got louder, “WAKE UP!”

Carolyn mumbled, “What time is it? What’s wrong?”

I said, “Guys, do me a favor. Check your phones.”

Both of them felt around for their phones. Jessie said, “Huh. My battery’s dead. I thought I charged it before I went to sleep.”

Carolyn chimed in, “Yeah, mine too. Dave, what’s going on?”

Dammit! I could feel my heart beat even faster. “All our phones are dead and I can’t turn on the kitchen or cafeteria lights. Something is seriously fucked up”

Jessie said, “The generator must be out.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, it looks like it but that shouldn’t affect our phones. Anyone know where the flashlight is?”

This time, Carolyn sounded wide awake. “I’ll get it Dave, give me a sec.” I heard her moving stuff on the counter. Her voice was bleak when she said, “It won’t turn on.”

“Shit!” I found my belt, got my lighter and lit it. I could see Jessie’s face and she looked scared. “Dave, what are we going to do? That lighter isn’t going to last for long.” I knew that. Think Dave think!

I groped my way over to the nearest gas burner and tried it. It didn’t light but I heard the gas hiss. I brought the lighter close to the burner and a blue flame appeared. It was dim but it was still better than the lighter. Thank God! My heart jumped off a cliff as the flame sputtered and died. “SHIT! The natural gas lines are down too.”

Okay, now what do we do? I had an idea. “Carolyn, can you grab me a glass cup and a spoon? And Jessie, I need a jug of vegetable oil.”

The girls were cautiously moving to get the stuff when I had to let the lighter go out. “Sorry guys. It was burning my thumb. I’ll light it again once it cools down a bit.”

From the darkness Carolyn called, “Dave, I’ve got them.”

Jessie called from the other end of the kitchen. “I’m going to need light.”

Carolyn bumped into me and said, “Here’s the cup and spoon.”

The lighter was still hot, but I had to get this done quickly. I flicked the lighter back on and pointed to the counter next to me. “Set them down here.”

Jessie walked up with a bottle of vegetable oil and set it on the counter. I asked, “Carolyn can you hold the lighter for me? If it gets too hot, just let it go out for a little while.”

As I handed the lighter to Carolyn she cried out, “Ouch, that’s hot!” and she let it go out. “I’m okay.” I heard her fumble with it, then a flame appeared. “Geez, finally!” she said.

I found a dishrag and used the blade of my multi-tool to cut off a thin strip. I tied the strip around the spoon’s stem next to the bowl and the put the spoon bowl-end down into the cup, and poured enough vegetable oil into the cup to almost cover the bowl of the spoon.

I couldn’t see Jessie’s face in the dark, but I could hear the smile in her voice. “You’re making a lamp.”

“Got it in one, ma’am.” and I swirled the spoon in the oil to saturate the wick, then held it up out of the cup. “Carolyn, can you light the short end of the wick?”

She lit the wick and let the lighter go out.

I put the spoon back into the cup. The lamp’s flame was three times larger than the lighter’s. The warm golden light it threw was wonderful; the flickering shadows on the walls weren’t.

“Excuse me, Carolyn.” I squeezed past her and brought back another glass and spoon.

Jessie asked, “Why are you making another lamp?”

I was hoping she wouldn’t ask. Well, maybe she’d buy this: “Um, I want to go out into the hall to see for sure if power is out throughout the building.”

“Dave,” Jessie put her hand on my arm “please, don’t go out there until the sun’s up. We agreed before it was dangerous to leave the kitchen and cafeteria at night, and that was when we had power. It’s definitely not safe now.”

So much for that. “Okay,” I paused so I could pick my words out carefully, “but I still need to make another lamp.”

“Why?”

“I…I need to use the bucket in the cafeteria and I don’t want to leave you guys in the dark.”

With a fine and inevitable predictability, they both started giggling. I made the second lamp and got out as quickly as I could. They were still giggling when I left.

I just knew that they’d keep laughing at me when I got back. Luckily, I do my best thinking on the crapper.

Like I expected they started laughing again. I shrugged and gave Jessie and Carolyn a good-natured grin. I walked over, put my lamp on the counter and sat down on my bedding with my back against the counter. I motioned for them to sit next to me.

Jessie sat next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “You know we’re laughing at you.”

I put my arm around her waist. “Yeah, I know.”

Jessie asked, “You’re okay with that?”

I just smiled.

Jessie sounded honestly curious, “Why? Most of the guys would be annoyed.”

I faced her and said, “It’s who I am Jess. I spread sunshine and happiness everywhere I go.”

At first, she just looked surprised; then she took my pillow and then smacked me with it. Carolyn started hitting me too.

I put my hands up. “Okay, okay. I’m sorry.”

Jessie asked, “Sorry for what?”

I replied, “I don’t know. I just want the beating to stop,” I guess I should have said something else because Carolyn then beaned me in the head.

If they hadn’t knocked one of the lamps over with their pillows the girls probably would have beat on me for much longer.

We cleaned up the mess and then all sat down with our backs against the counter. Carolyn asked, “Dave, what are we going to do now?”

I said, “Sooner or later, our food is going to run out and we’re going to have to leave this building; without power that’s going to happen sooner—all the refrigerated stuff won’t last two days without power. As soon as it’s light, we need to start gathering supplies and figure out a good place to hole up long term. Do you guys know where Matt’s cabin is? You think he and his family might let us stay with them?”

Jessie replied, “Yeah, Carolyn and I’ve been there a bunch of time before. I’m sure Matt’s family will let us stay with them, but…what about my family?”

I hoped Jessie would be reasonable and listen to my suggestions. “It’d be better if they come here rather than us go to Timberline. Even if they come here with a few friends, we should have enough supplies for all of them. There’s no way we have enough supplies for everyone in Timberline. Things are tense over there anyway. We don’t need to make it worse by letting people know we have supplies but we’re not going to share. With our phones and probably our computers and Internet all down, we have no easy way of getting in touch with your parents. We’ll gather supplies for them, your brother, some extra just in case they bring friends, and hope that they’ll make their way here fairly soon. If not, we’ll swing by Timberline before we leave.”

I thanked God for giving me a reasonable girlfriend when she lay her head on my shoulder and didn’t argue.

I said, “Guys, why don’t you go to sleep? I’ll stay awake and keep watch for a while.

Carolyn lay down and it looked like she fell asleep immediately. Jessie fell asleep with her head on my shoulder. It was fun looking down at her sleeping face until she started to drool. It was kind of disgusting. I had nothing else to use so I used my sleeve to wipe the spit off her chin.

Chapter 7: Dave Henry, October 10, Year 0