Kage Baker loathed Mondays. Of course she did.
Most people do, at least some of the time. A lot of it, once we began to expand our vices beyond the candy store and the cookie jar, is suffering the after-effects of weekends spent in careless debauchery. Monday is when all the birds come home to roost, and promptly shit down your neck.
Kage adored weekends and days off and long, summer vacations – all those sacred times when she could completely forget what day it even was, and scull her way down the sunlight stream of narrative eternally. Mondays were a definite spanner in the works, and she detested them. She had the usual run-ins with alcohol poisoning that everyone does in their 20’s and 30’s; but Kage’s determination was such that she could drive her self on even through the green heaves to write.
Kimberly and I have pretty much passed our days of whine and roses, and Michael is a teetotaler (I sometimes wonder how he is related to me, I really do.) However, we are now deep in the new routines of home hospice care, and so Mondays have developed fresh ghastly miens and habits to terrify us. The worst of these are the home hospice care visitors.
The point of hospice care is that the terminal patient can go home and be comfy in familiar surroundings. This is especially important for Ray, who has a deep and abiding hatred of hospitals. And we want some help, we really do – mostly so a real nurse or doctor can make sure we aren’t missing something vital. What we do NOT want is for each and every Monday to be a day we have to clean up the house to an absurd degree – Kimberly is the sort of person who would consider it perfectly logical to vacuum before the maid comes in – and have guests.
So far, our tally is two different nurses (one for intake, one for regular checkups), and a very annoying social worker. Why we need a social worker, we cannot tell; although the excessively religious specimen we got has informed us that HE is the most important member of the team … he is wrong, the little plague marmot, he is wrong!
The most important member of this “team” is its Captain. And that is Ray. All others’ needs must come second to his. Anyone who pushes us on this is going to find that the KB sisters are descended from the Furies.
Well. Enough of that. Despite it’s being Monday, and me being critically short on sleep, and forced to be altogether too tidy and polite today – I also managed to write. Here, Dear Readers, are the next 4 pages of the Zombie Story. As you may recall, our heroine is cowering in her kitchen while a clumsy neighbor is falling down in the street.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he yelled up at the sky, waving his arms.
I was sure that meant he wasn’t a zombie. Almost sure. But I just couldn’t bring myself to stand up, or call to him. The cat lady had talked, too. The UPS guy had been driving around and leaving packages! And what if he was just not yet – turned, or whatever it took before you starting biting people?
On the other hand, what if he was all right and I let him walk off and get eaten?
It was more than I could process, I was too terrified to make a decision. I knelt there frozen while he got up, still cursing, and loped off down the street. Then I sat and cried for a half hour, as silently as I could, while the cat stropped himself against my legs and purred. Even the purring sounded unhappy.
Finally we went back in the living room, Murphy and I, and sat down to watch more of whatever news we could find.
Thank God for cable, man. Up in the Hollywood Hills, you just hadn’t gotten television much at all before the cables went in anyway; now I could get news from the whole damn world – except from LA. There’s an irony for you – I was watching CNN and BBC in my darkened living room, there in the heart of the film industry; but nothing local was even being relayed out. It gave the East Coast a great scary topic for a while, on top of all the others: what was happening to Los Angeles?
Bad things. Bad, bad noises, worse than any real riot I had ever heard, and I’ve lived here all my life. The sounds of the city never stopped, though they were … weird. A lot more sirens, and lot more gunshots, and, in the early hours of the evening, a lot of distant screaming. At first there were a lot of helicopters, too, but those stopped pretty early on. I never found out why, if the ground crews were eaten or it was just considered pointless or what; but not hearing choppers overhead was scarier than the ruckus they usually made.
The news from anywhere but where I was continued patchy and weird. It was obvious that something was going on in several large American cities, and as the evening wore on, reports began surfacing from small towns all over the Midwest and the South. At CNN, they still clung pretty hard to the terrorism idea for some hours; but the idea of a plague of some sort was slowly growing. They were clearly bringing anyone who was expert in anything and was still hanging around the studios – and it also seem pretty clear that no one was willing to leave those sanctuaries in Atlanta and New York.
So it was one their own resident meteorologists who was shoved out in front of the green screen around 1 AM, to point out that the afflicted areas had all been victims of really wet weather that year. No one knew whether or not it meant anything, but it was a fact, you know? A more normal fact than all that footage of stock brokers eating tourists in Chattanooga. Being CNN, they spent the next few hours assembling more and more fun weather facts and interviewing one another about them. A lot of the fun facts lent weight to the disease idea.
Weird weather stories were always popular in the news; and in the 2000’s, most of the US had begun to drown in the rains. Climate change, ocean and atmospheric currents altering, government weather machines, the wrath of God – a popular theory until fundy ministers’ houses started getting blown away, too – all sorts of suggestions had been made, but “why?” was not the question. The question was “What’s going to happen next, with the Midwest and the Gulf coast under water half the year?”
Zombies hadn’t been mentioned. But there were acres-wide spiderwebs in Texas, blamed on the spiders escaping flooding. There were new and exciting molds and fungus outbreaks all over the Heartland, and the usual half-informed history students eating ergot in search of free LSD. Florida, of course, was just a mess. It was a strange, humid summer even in Los Angeles, and weird stories are the backbone of human interest segments. The stories had gotten stranger and funnier all summer – but now, tonight, suddenly, they were coming in from all over the Gulf and Midwest, and they weren’t nearly as funny. People were getting hurt. And dead.
And the Los Angeles stations were down. Even the most extremely local station, Channel 5 down on Sunset, was showing an Indian head penny test pattern they must have had to pull out of the archives.
Nobody said anything about zombie plague, at first, although there were a few thin, pallid jokes in the beginning. The terrorist idea lasted well past midnight. By the time CNN was interviewing their own weathermen, though, a few of the wilder-eyed staff were beginning to say, “Yeah, but what if?”
About the closest they got to saying anything out loud was the growing theory of a plague making people crazy. By that time, I had fetched pillows and blankets into the living room, and made a nest for Murphy and me between the shelter of the couch and the coffee table – it wasn’t as soft as the couch itself, but we felt safer down there on the floor.
It was dark, the blankets and the cat were warm, the city was silent and the voices on the television were almost whispers. And I fell asleep.
I think I woke up because it was so silent. Los Angeles is not a quiet city; the sound of traffic penetrates everywhere, like the sound of the ocean in a more normal city. What woke me, I’m sure, was the quiet – so deep and thick I was dreaming the house had been tented, like for termites, and I was terrified the poison gas would start pumping in. All that happened was I sat up fast enough to hit my head on the table, and launch a startled Murphy into the air.
The CD player claimed it was 5:37 AM, and there was a hint of grey light down the hall from the kitchen. The television was still on. Wolf Blitzer had lost his tie and looked unshaven even through a full beard: things were not going well at CNN.
CNN was now running banners headed “Zombie Apocalypse?”. It was almost business as usual. It just showed names of cities and numbers. Estimates of people – killed? Eaten? Out of communication? I couldn’t tell. But it looked like CNN had given up on trying to identify why the attacks were happening, and was just telling people where they were. I watched it round until I saw LA; oh, goodie, someone had noticed something was wrong out here. Our listed number of whatever was 13,000 … who the hell, I wondered, had compiled the figures. And how had they gotten them to CNN? The phones still didn’t work.
Murphy glared at me and went pointedly back to sleep. When I got up and tottered off to the bathroom, though, he was right there behind me, not even pretending a normal feline indifference. That was one traumatized kitty.
I was another one. I went as silently as I could from window to window, checking all the sides of the house – no movement anywhere, no bodies in the streets, no slumped shadows in the parked cars. No helicopters, or traffic; just the muffling fog pressing down on the tops of the hills, and the reflected light going greyer as the sky lightened above it.
I collected my phone, more tuna and water and retreated to the blankets by the couch. Murphy, at least, was interested in the chow; I just sat there, pointlessly trying emergency numbers on my phone again.
“We need a routine, Murphy,” I told him. “Something so we can keep it together, make plans. We can ride this out. Whatever it is.”
Murphy looked up briefly, expressing quite clearly that continued tuna, water and blankets – and no more crazy cat ladies – were all the routine he wanted. As far as that went, I was in complete agreement. But I was the one with thumbs, so it was up to me to plan for the eventual future.
Calling 911 got me a recording now, advising me that all circuits were busy and repeated the order for civilians in certain areas to shelter in place. The areas listed were basically the entire Basin, and most of the Foothill communities; in fact, the recording specifically warned folks away from the Downtown area due to the possibility of “uncontrolled mobs”. In case of utter life-threatening emergency, I was advised to seek shelter at a police station or medical facility. And they invited me to leave my phone number; which I did, just to leave a clue that I was not a zombie.
I wondered what happened to the folks who went running up to police stations in the throes of an emergency? That sounded like a life-threatening situation in itself to me.
No answer at the nearest hospital or police station, though, not by phone. Personal calls couldn’t go through. Out of state calls got me the “All circuits are busy” recording. Rarely, a call would produce an endless ringing – but as no one ever answered, I was confident the system was down. There had always been rumours that, in the event of a city-wide disaster, City Hall could shut down all the personal phones; lock down the towers for emergency communication only. If they were doing that, they were not yet bothering to talk to the public.
Okay. Next thing to try, see if anything local was broadcasting yet.
And a couple stations were! That was heartening, even if one of them (Channel 11, the Fox affiliate. Which seemed apt, somehow.) was running a marathon of – yes, zombie movies. It was the closest the local news got to being current and topical; everything else was either still static and flags in slow motion, or feeds from the East Coast.