Year of the Dead-Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Mark Jones, September 13th to September 14th, Year 0
Sugar House neighborhoods have gas street lights. I was hoping that the lights would go on so that it would be harder to look into my house when it got dark. Nope; the street lights didn’t go on but they weren’t necessary. Without the light pollution from artificial lighting, the stars and moon seemed bright enough to read by. With the lights off in my house, no human eye would be able see anything through my windows. The difference between the light from the nighttime sky and my unlit house made my windows look like mirrors from the outside. Hopefully, zombie eyes worked the same way as human eyes. I took all the dark sheets I had and duct-taped them over all my main floor windows. I double-sheeted the windows that faced the street; I didn’t have enough sheets to double-sheet the rest. I tried to time this activity when the Harrisons were walking away from the house. Then I took dry wall anchors and screws and screwed the sheets to the walls so they couldn’t accidently fall off. After this was done, I went back down into my bedroom. I made sure that I didn’t turn on the light until my door was closed.
Around midnight I took out my bow and shot a few arrows in my lair to warm up. I was rusty and out of shooting shape; it takes strength to pull a 100-pound bow. I hadn’t shot my bow for almost six months. I didn’t want to practice too much and overwork my muscles. I climbed to the attic room, which has a dormer window facing the street. I counted on the fact that almost no creature that weighs more than 60 lbs routinely looks up. Small animals that get hunted by hawks and eagles constantly look up; larger animals that aren’t hunted from the air almost never look up.
I waited for the Harrisons to walk away from my house and then slowly opened the windows. Using my peripheral vision, I watched the Harrisons walk back and forth on my street in a steady almost-metronomic rhythm. I’d watched them for nearly 45 minutes when I knew it was time to take my shot. The Harrisons were walking away from me, and Mr. Harrison was slightly behind his wife. I slowly drew my bowstring back. At the moment of my release I knew I was on target and as quickly as possible drew back another arrow and released it at Mrs. Harrison’s head; this shot was off. I drew and released again. Time seemed to slow. I could see my first arrow strike the back of Mr. Harrison’s head and protrude approximately six inches out of his left cheek. As he was starting to slump forward I could see my second arrow graze Mrs. Harrison’s right cheek. She turned her head to the right, her mouth starting to open to scream, when my third arrow struck her right temple and projected through her head and came out a few inches from her left temple. I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. It looked like she was wearing one of those arrow-through-the-head costumes.
I watched the Harrisons’ bodies for about half an hour. No additional zombies came by. It was probably safe to explore my backyard and my next-door neighbor’s. If zombies came by, they would hopefully notice the Harrisons and start feeding with enough noise to warn me. I powered up my upstairs laptop then immediately muted my computer so it wouldn’t make any noise. I logged on to my outside cameras, looking at my back yard. It looked clear. I went outside. My back yard was secured.
My house is close to the center of my lot. My garage is in one corner of my backyard, as far as possible from my front curb, a typical layout for my neighborhood. My house is on a street that ends in a cul-de-sac; my backyard butts into my neighbors’ backyards. All our backyards are separated by fences.
I’m 5’9” and weigh 165 pounds. I don’t have the height to look over a 6-foot-tall fence. I got out an 8-foot stepladder and placed it in the center of my yard and prepared to climb up it while holding my bow with an arrow out, ready to shoot. I could feel my heart beating as I thought about what I was going to do. As soon as I got my head above my fence, I knew that I would be able to see into the yards surrounding mine. The converse side of this was that whatever was in those yards would be able to see me. If a zombie saw me and screamed before I could kill it, I would be swarmed.
I hadn’t yet created an escape route that would lead the swarm away from my home. I probably could get into my lair in time and lock out the zombies, but the swarm would be able to get into the main floor of my house. Any zombie could break through a window. My bedroom door is a typical hollow interior wood panel door that a zombie would have no problem breaking down. The only reinforced steel doors in my house were the ones from my bedroom to my lair and from my garage to my lair. I only had a few weeks worth of food in the lair. How long would zombies wait for me if they actually got into my main floor or bedroom? Up till now, I had been handling the craziness of today fairly well. Who expects to wake up surrounded by zombies? Do zombies retain memories? Would the zombies remember seeing me?
This was a gamble I had to take—if not now, then later. I needed to secure these yards to be safe. I could feel my pulse throbbing faster and faster. I realized that I was starting to develop performance anxiety, so instead of climbing on the ladder, I sat down cross-legged and started to breathe deeply. I made every inhalation and exhalation last for three to four heart beats. I tried to recapture the feeling I had when I took my first shot at the Harrisons. After a few minutes of breathing slowly I could no longer feel the pounding of my heart. I knew that as soon as I got to a height where I could see over multiple fences, I had to take in everything at once. If I saw a zombie, I had to shoot on instinct. Thinking would slow me down. I put my bow in my left hand and held on to an arrow and the bowstring with my right. Using only my feet, and balancing carefully, I began climbing the step ladder. I was still taking slow deep breaths.
I climbed the ladder until my head was ten feet off the ground I could see into all the yards adjoining mine except the one that was blocked from view by my garage. The two yards abutting the back of my yard and the two on either side of my yard were clear. My sense of relief was like a blow. I almost felt lightheaded.
I don’t know why I looked up, but as I did, I made eye contact with something flying in the air towards me. It must have jumped a good 50 or 60 feet from the roof of the house whose backyard was directly behind mine. As I met its eyes, I knew that it was intelligent and that it had been watching me for as long as I’d been outside. It was just few feet away from me, its body positioned like it was diving, its arms reaching for me, when I stepped backward off the ladder while dropping my bow and arrow. I moved without conscious thought. I landed first on my toes and then rocked backwards on my heels. I let my knees collapse and buttocks hit my heels as I grabbed the stepladder and lifted it, so the top of the ladder hit the vampire from below, pushing it over and behind me.
I let go of the ladder and rolled on my back to a complete summersault on my feet in a full squat position, my back towards the vampire, which was within arm’s reach. I was still moving almost balanced on my feet when I grabbed the ladder again. I swung the ladder against the vampire’s belly, striking with all the momentum and weight of my body. The vamp didn’t move or recoil from this blow. I felt like I had smashed the ladder into a boulder. The vampire grabbed the ladder with just one hand and pulled it from my two-handed grasp, throwing it with such force that it flew into a neighboring yard. Up till now, all my actions had been purely instinctual and, so far, ineffective. Apparently, I had not hurt it at all. I needed to think.
I turned by head away from the vampire, as if I was going to run away. The vamp was stronger and faster than me. It had been hunting me, carefully observing me, and waiting for the right time to strike. It was the predator; I was the prey. It had expected me to flee, because that is what prey did. I convinced it I was running way, and then turned back and reached for its throat with my right hand. It wasn’t expecting that and when I moved closer to it, I gained a split second, which was all I needed to tear out its throat and then break its neck. Moments later, I was sitting on the ground, my face, neck, and chest covered with the vamp’s blood, and I was having my first full-blown panic attack. I have done a lot of dangerous things in my life, but I have never been this close to dying before.
As I was on the ground shaking, a thought crossed my mind: “This wasn’t boring.”