Kage Baker had blessedly little experience with writer’s block, as I have said. She had even less tolerance for what little block she did suffer.
She could power through just about any pain, even the beginnings of a migraine. She wrote hung-over, with the flu, nauseated, and propped up on pillows with surgical staples in her abdomen. But that was just a matter of discipline, of ignoring something she didn’t want to deal with anyway – who would not happily trade pain for the soaring power of the written word?
That was why she so utterly loathed writer’s block. Fighting it was like punching a jello salad, or the air. Writer’s block didn’t care how disciplined you were, or how full of ideas; you couldn’t take a pill or a tisane to cure it. Kage said it didn’t even care about the writer anyway, not as a writer. The writer was just a drying river in the desert sun, helpless and uninvolved with the huge hot rock blocking the water.
Sometimes you can feel the words craving to be written down – but you can’t do it. They are leaping up and down and howling behind your forehead, anxious to be born. If you really, really try, you can pull the words out one by one. It’s slow and agonizing. It is like pulling teeth. And that is not an idle description, Dear Readers.
If you have ever had the misfortune to have a tooth pulled, then you know the pressure and the pain and the horrible, ghastly intimacy of some hauling a piece of your skeleton out of your living flesh by main force. Now imagine that the anesthetic didn’t work. And that you so desperately want to get it out of you that you are willing to sit still and do it. Over, and over, and over.
That’s what writing was for me today. But it worked. I have no complaints, because I have 2 pages of the Zombie Story to offer you, Dear Readers. And here it is.
At least, I don’t think anyone tried to make contact. Certainly, no one knocked on my door, but I was trying very hard to make my house look empty. I did get rid of the trash, but I never put it out on the street. I waited until it was dark, and then I crept out and tossed it into the back yards of houses I knew were deserted. Murphy and I didn’t accumulate that much trash, anyway.
I raided the guys next door a second time; this time, I resisted the urge to peek through their blinds. I’d been watching the house across the street where I’d seen the zombies picnicking, and I hadn’t seen them come back. In fact, I’d seen coyotes trotting in and and out of the yard and the house. The news, as well as my own observations through the arrow-slit of my drapes, made it clear that live animals avoided zombies just as hard as they could – the zombies would eat them faster than I would have believed, if not for some unfortunate CNN footage …
So, I was thinking that we did not seem to be on a major zombie game trail. I was sure that some had come – and might still come – wandering up the steep streets from the Hollywood flat land, but it wasn’t happening very often. I guess even undead pedestrians were daunted by our streets. The only level place in the neighborhood was the intersection in front of my house.
The zombies who had been residents had either moved on, or eaten one another. Certainly it was not time to wander blithely down to the Boulevard in search of a pizza, but I was thinking it might be safe to try and meet other survivors in my own neighborhood. If there really were any.
The news reports from all over, where there was anything left, by this time agreed that whether or not the zombies were alive was still not quite decided. But they definitely did not retain any aspects of their living personalities for very long – that first morning, the Cat Lady had tried to offer me a present, but by afternoon she was trying to eat the UPS man; but he, who was still clinging to some old habits, had won the fight and carried the Cat Lady off for supper … but the two I had seen in the garden across the way were past house -warming gifts, and were just chowing down on whoever they had found sheltering in place.
No one was sure how long it took to deteriorate. But all the witnesses agreed that zombies could no longer read. Most of them were exhibiting trouble with doorknobs, and not a one had been seen unlocking a lock.
So one early afternoon I loaded a bag with some specially looted goodies from another neighbor’s house. I had baby formula, cereal and fruit and juice, Pampers (worth their weight in gold, I figured) and a note with my name, address and email. There was still no phone service, but I figured if my computer worked, the young mother across the street might still had service,too. And she might appreciate a way to contact me long distance.
As a last precaution, I tore the cardboard back off a pad, wrote I AM NOT A ZOMBIE on it in large letters, and pinned it to my shirt front. Then I took my trusty machete and the Welcome Wagon bag, and went resolutely to the front door.
“Guard the house, Murphy,” I told the cat. He promptly crawled under the couch. I unlocked the front door and made my way as quickly as I could down into my front stairs.
I crouched there and took cautious stock of the street: hot. Dusty. Empty. Especially, empty. As I watched, a raven floated down into the street, and began to search noisily through a burst garbage bag. It looked to me like the best guarantee I would get of the streets being free of semi-living organisms.
So I scurried out and across the street (the raven ignored me, which I guessed meant I wasn’t scary), and pushed through the gate surrounding the tiny front garden. It was full of white roses and over-shaded by short palm trees, giving it a sort of Garden of Allah feel. Walking as slowly as I dared, I climbed the short stairs up to the front door, put down the bag and stood for a terrifying 10 seconds under the eye of the Ring camera above the door.
And then I scarpered as fast as I could go back to my house own house. I fled inside, locked the door, and flung myself down on the floor with Murphy. He crawled back out from under the couch and pressed himself into my arms. We lay there and shivered together for awhile. After about 15 minutes, when I had calmed down enough, I went to the window, and peered through my arrow-slit in the drapes.
The bag was gone. And unless the raven managed to steal a bag larger than itself, that bag had to have been taken inside the house.
Nothing else showed on the street. I waited a while longer, then went to check on my email. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting a reply. I sure would have hesitated, if it hadn’t been my own idea. But there was a new email. It said, I’M NOT A ZOMBIE EITHER.