Year of the Dead-Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Art Bingham, September 11th to September 12th, Year 0
Our fence was completely packed with zombies, all screaming with a high-pitched incredibly annoying fingers-on-a-chalkboard sound. I asked two of the militia to stay outside the ward building and keep an eye on the fence. The rest of us went into the ward house. Although I hadn’t been aware of it, some zombies had made it into our enclosure. Anyone that had woken up sick this morning had somehow turned into a zombie. Only a few sick people had been quick enough to get into our enclosure. Almost everyone who was in our enclosure was armed. These poor individuals who had turned into zombies were quickly shot down. Luckily, none of these zombies had been able to bite anyone. Thank our Heavenly Father we didn’t need to deal with the aftermath of a zombie-bitten friend or family member.
We had planned to shelter 200 families within our enclosure. Only 104 families made it in before we had to close our gates; we had 405 people in our enclosure. Eighteen families were not members of our ward. They had shown up hoping that they would be allowed in. So many of our ward members that we had known for years and with whom we had rehearsed emergency evacuations in practice, had not made it.
As evening fell, Bishop Johnson asked for volunteers to stand guard during the night. Close to 50 men volunteered. I spoke to Hiram Rockwell, the leader of our militia, and asked him to arrange for the men to switch off every two hours during the night.
The rest of us slept on cots spread throughout ward house. I was completely exhausted and slept without dreams. I awoke to the sound of women and men speaking loudly. Two of the men, Bishop Johnson’s sons, had been standing guard at night and were missing. They were 21 and 23; he had no other children. The eldest had just been engaged and the youngest had recently returned from his mission. I arranged for a search throughout our enclosure. They were gone.
I have known Orville Johnson for over 30 years. He was a tenured professor of philosophy at the University of Utah. To my knowledge, Orville was the only practicing member of the LDS Church who taught in this department. Fifty years ago it was common for men who believed in God to study and teach philosophy; currently it is extremely rare. All the other professors of philosophy in Orville’s department were atheists or agnostics.
I had asked Orville shortly after meeting him why he chose to teach at the University, where he was out of place, when he could have chosen to teach at Brigham Young University. He told me then that he wanted students of philosophy to understand that the belief in a higher being was not exclusive to the intellectual study of morality. In Orville’s eyes, the search for truth was a search for beauty and the recognition of a higher order that could only be reasonably explained by an intelligent force. Orville did not believe in a wrathful God. He embraced a God that was merciful and loving. Up until now, Orville was a man who had seen his entire life as blessed. Orville’s calling to choose who were in our enclosure, our ark, and his decision to close the gates yesterday had shaken his faith. The disappearance of his sons without warning or explanation broke him.
After the search throughout the entire enclosure was over and it was clear that his sons were no longer with us, Orville Johnson stopped talking. He withdrew within himself and refused to acknowledge anyone. His wife, a gentle and wise woman whom ward members had looked to as a mother, was forced to focus her attentions on her husband.
Brother Rockwell, the volunteer head of our militia, was a man who has always taken great pride in being LDS. He saw the Church as righteous and saw all nonmembers as being those who chose to ignore the truth. He didn’t have any non-LDS friends and often had been heard in years past exclaiming in a very loud voice that “You can’t vote Democrat and be a good Mormon.” He wasn’t hesitant to voice his opinion that we had traitors in our midst. These traitors had to be one of the Gentiles that should not have been in our ward. He ordered our militia to take charge of all the Gentiles. Many of the nonmembers had their own guns. Brother Rockwell ordered all of them to surrender their weapons. One day after we had fled into our enclosure, we were in danger of a civil war. As I ran to intervene by placing my body in-between the guns of our militia and the nonmembers, I heard Dr. Helen Hansen’s voice.
Dr. Hansen was one of the first non-church members to have been accepted into our emergency plans by Bishop Johnson. She was a professor in the Engineering department at the University of Utah. Her specialty was in electronic communications. She knew how to operate a Ham radio and had the knowledge if necessary to build and operate a radio station. She also taught classes on cell phone and wireless internet technology. When Bishop Johnson informed me that he had accepted her application for a place in our enclosure, I understood that her skills and knowledge made her an asset to us but expressed to him that her personal traits—she was a very attractive single woman who clearly was not religious—might not fit with our ward. I had heard my 17-year-old son Peter describe her to his friends as the hottest professor he had ever seen. I was worried that her views on social issues such as marriage, family, abortion, and the roles of men and woman would be a source of friction. I told Orville that I didn’t want to make judgments solely on the basis of first impressions, but that on the surface she looked the worst, most abrasive kind of feminist. Orville assured me that he had worked with her in the past, when he was on a faculty advisory committee with her, and that although I had probably correctly perceived her social beliefs, she was a very level-headed woman who wouldn’t create unnecessary social tensions. When I heard what she had to say, I was sure Orville had been wrong.
“Hiram, you asshole, if you want to shoot a Gentile, you might as well start with me.” She was unarmed. Although her words were aggressive, the tone of her voice wasn’t. She looked like she was arguing with a younger not-so-smart brother. She actually had a smile on her face as she called Hiram an asshole.
The look on Hiram Rockwell’s face changed from anger to befuddlement. He is a large self-righteous man who is not prone to self-mockery. I don’t think he had ever previously been called an asshole in public by a woman with a smile on her face. Helen didn’t let the fact that Hiram’s rifle point was on her chest prevent her from moving ever closer, invading his personal space. He started walking backward as she walked toward him.
Cheryl, my daughter, started laughing first. I guess the sight of a 6’4”-tall man with a gun stumbling backwards away from a beautiful 5’6”-tall unarmed woman with a smile on her face struck her as funny. Cheryl has an infectious laugh. Soon the entire crowd started laughing. Within a period of seconds, Hiram had gone from a position of leadership to being an object of fun. I could see his face getting red. By then I was next to Hiram and Helen and I was able to step between them. I took Hiram’s gun from his hands.
“Brothers, sisters, I know we are all stressed. We have every right to be. We have gone through so much. This is not the time to turn on ourselves. Yes, we have Mormons and non-Mormons in our enclosure. Our ward is now an ark that is protecting us from the zombies outside and is not filled with strangers. We are all neighbors. We all know each other. How can anyone of us point to another and see a fellow man who could betray his family to zombies. We all have family in this building. No one is going to be willing to let a zombie kill a wife, husband, or child. Please, we have too many trials in front of us to start making more.”
I looked at Hiram. He looked sheepish. I gave his rifle back to him and turned to face the others.
“Brothers, sisters, I’m as worried as any of you about the disappearance of Bishop Johnson’s sons. Tonight all of us are going to sleep in sight of each other. It doesn’t look like the zombies can break through our fence. Everyone tonight will stay in the gymnasium together. It’s going to be a tight fit but we’ll make do and we will sleep in shifts. We will keep the lights on. We will all watch out for each other. Talk to Brother Rockwell about where you will be sleeping and when.”