Night/Morning

Night/Morning

A Story by Lambo
"

Failing to survive the zombie apocalypse.

"

I.

 

Because there is no better alternative, you continue to walk. You’ve been on the move for quite some time now, and your feet ache and stab as though your shoes are full of rose thorns and thumbtacks. Your white fingers are clotted dark with blood from inside of your sleeves. It’s dark out and the clouds hide the stars and the tall glass streetlights are still dead. Numb, chilled breaths drift in and out of your crusty nostrils and open mouth. You’re moving down a suburban street in the silent twilight. The asphalt seems dry and somehow brittle beneath your steps. If things were the way they used to be, the holidays would be in full swing. If there were electricity, you would see trees shining out through the windows of some of the houses. They’d be strewn with beautiful glass bulbs, and strands of cheap tinsel, and tiny colorful lights, and handmade ornaments that once contained the stories, emotions, and memories of real families. You remember how the trees would cover everything outside with an ethereal glow, and you can almost see it now, even in the bleak darkness. Faint watery shreds of rainbow colors mingle together and dapple the grey frosty yards and the empty asphalt that stretches ahead and behind. Your muscles hurt and your right knee has been giving out every ten minutes or so, but you just stand up and keep walking every time. With each step, you see your pale hands flickering through tiny hints of green and yellow and orange as they swing forward and backward on their own. Your vision is speckled with bright tiny sparks and yellowish floaters that aren’t really there. There’s something wrong with your eyelashes. You think there might be ice crystals stuck in them.

 

Last year around this date, you were probably sipping a delicious, commercialized coffee drink from a pretty Styrofoam cup, wearing a winter jacket against the cold. Each day was a blessing, although you didn’t know that at the time. Maybe you even had a valid excuse not to notice the importance of every moment, because there was no way that you could have foreseen what would happen later. High school was going well--at least as well as high school can go. Good grades, solid social circle. The classes were mostly interesting. An engineering degree from a four-year college seemed like a good goal for the next years of your life. The new disease began its insidious drift out of the woodwork around that time. It didn’t seem like it would turn into a major problem. Its symptoms were said to be devastating, but the outbreaks were so far away. It had to be just another H1N1, another mad cow disease; a mild, typical illness blasted far out of proportion by a bored media system, with the news eagerly followed by the morbid masses of the human race. It would be terrible if the illness were contracted by someone you knew personally, but there was an unspoken understanding that such a scenario wouldn’t actually take place. Not in North America.

 

The reason this epidemic was different from others in the past was that it did eventually become local. The hospitals filled, across the country. Governmental scientists worked around the clock to find a cure, but apparently they never did. The afflicted packed all of the hospitals and stadiums and schools, where they were kept in full restraint, tube-fed textureless mush and hydrated intravenously as the world waited for an antidote. The police force in every city, every state, began to slowly dwindle away in the final weeks as the futility of their employment became undeniable. The vast makeshift medical stations were abandoned. They were too full, and the supplies were running out, and there would be no cure. In the absence of authority and organization, the numbers of the diseased grew unchecked, exploding into exponential growth. The sickness went like wildfire through every continent until government was gone, communication was gone, and structured society itself was gone. None of these things will ever grow back. This illness is like a terminal cancer or an immunodeficiency disease or Alzheimer’s. It can’t be purged from the body once contracted. It took nearly everybody, leaving only raving monsters in their place. The full destruction of the human race was virtually complete in five weeks.

 

And here you are--just you for some reason--traveling in a random direction through the silent cemetery that is the new earth. Alone. You snap out of your trance to realize that, if you don’t find warmth, shelter, and water, then you will shortly join the rest of your species in hell or wherever else they’ve all ended up. You begin to check the front doors of the residences you pass, one by one, but who would leave their house open to a failing world, walked only by strange humanoid creatures that consume each other’s flesh for sustenance? So you kick and claw your way through a perfect picture window until you are standing crookedly in the middle of someone’s living room. Fresh blood is spattering onto the beige carpet. Just another problem to fix. It would have been excellent if the heat were still on. And the running water, and the electricity. But those are all gone, just like everything else. In the house, there are blankets, hydrogen peroxide, athletic tape, and a pantry full of food. Perhaps a stash of earthquake water stored in the garage for you. The mattresses are out of the question. Could you fall asleep in a bed knowing that the owner recently died after weeks of rampage, insanity, cannibalism, and ultimately starvation?

 

You find a flashlight under the sink in the pitch-black kitchen. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but in here it is the same temperature as outside. Behind a door you find a closet, and behind another door you find a pantry. You pick out a can of peaches in sweet syrup. A can of beets, a can of ambiguous mixed vegetables. There is a manual can-opener in a drawer, and you use it to prepare your food. Slippery, bland matter moves from inside your mouth to inside your stomach. The food is cold, and you begin to shiver harder as it cools your core temperature from within. You upend the cans and drink the fluids, the juices and syrups. Then you find your way to a small bathroom. You set the flashlight upright on the counter, with the cap unscrewed and set aside so that the bare bulb illuminates everything like a candle. You dump most of the contents of a brown plastic bottle over your exposed arms and shoulders, and you can’t even feel the pain. The fizz seems angry and almost deafening in the night’s silence, and it makes you stand completely still for a long moment. There is a battery-powered analog clock ticking nearby, hidden somewhere in the black shadows, and that seems loud, too. When you feel less spooked, you slather on antibiotic ointment and wrap the whole mess in layers of white bandaging. Your hands are blotchy and stiff under the harsh light of the bulb. You dry-swallow a bunch of pain pills, and a bunch of sleeping pills, and then you build a nest of jackets and blankets and comforters on the floor outside the bathroom. Once you’ve burrowed into the pile and built up some trapped heat, sleep comes quickly, and this sleep is as noiseless and empty as death must be.

 

 

II.

 

Music should be a little bit ugly. It’s not quite real without a hint of cacophony suspended somewhere deep within. The music has a direct effect on one’s mood, attitude, and instant outlook on life, because the unconscious mind has a connection to what the ear detects from moment to moment. Those who listen to straight bubble-gum pop every hour of every day must become rather static and dull, with personalities that maintain an abject stillness under the influence of the sheer, mindlessly cheerful sonic pulp that defines their lives. You realize that, very soon, music will be no more. Of course anything battery-operated will function for some time, at least in theory. Disposable batteries should remain usable for a few years. But will anyone be around to operate a CD player in a year? Art is dead at the moment when it can no longer be observed and understood. You haven’t seen a single living person for weeks. Fish can’t comprehend music. Unshaved monkeys can’t comprehend music. Perhaps by the time you have left this world, then the Beatles’ music will effectively have never existed. Jazz will never be played again. Country, grunge, and classical will be gone. Punk rock and drill ‘n’ bass, power noise and electro. Extreme metal will only be thirty years old when it dies. On the cold sofa--which doesn’t seem to retain any warmth from your body--sitting within the chilly air that seems so out of place in the echoing sentimentality of the human house, you wait, and you think about these things. For the first time, you know that you never really understood anyone in your whole life. No one ever understood you either, because only computers could truly share a mind. In the history of mankind, no two humans ever thought exactly the same thing simultaneously, and there are infinite concepts that could not have been conveyed verbally or even artistically. It crosses your mind that no purpose remains in analyzing such profound concepts, since it’s unlikely you will share any of your ideas with another person.

 

There is a man in the living room with you. His clothes are disheveled and his hair looks tangled and dry, like the fur of a stuffed animal. Your eyes close for a long time, and when they open, there are more people in the room. They are still and you are still. Their eyes are grey and empty as they look at you through them, and their mouths and clothing are encrusted with red-brown dried blood. The bitingly frigid air of the early morning drifts gently over your face. The noises of freeways and televisions have ceased. There is no conversation, no birds, no movement in the heating ducts of the house. All seems fresh and clean, as though the mass exodus of human souls from the earth has truly been some grand purging process of nature. You shut your eyes again. You hear irregular footsteps on carpet, and the faint rushing of the wind outside as it flows through the evergreens’ needles. The sofa is soft and cold. Your mind is empty except for your favorite song.

© 2010 Lambo


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I suppose I'll start with the mechanical critique, as usual. Imagery was excellent, no surprise there. The second person narrative felt appropriate for the story, personalizing it a bit. The tone of surreality and isolation was easily distinguishable. I love the philosophy in your works, and it's a bit more pronounced in this one. The character realizes that humanity has died, and as far as he can tell, he's the last man on Earth. Without anyone else to share them with, art and music and other abstractions are merely intangible concepts.

The characterization of the unnamed protagonist was loose, and didn't conflict with the second person view. I do agree with his interpretation of music, however ;)

Taking everything into consideration, this is my favourite work of yours, so far. I'm not sure if I've read them all yet, so I may change my mind. The ending was perfect for it. Do all of your stories post-apocalyptica share the same backstory, by the way? I'm curious.

Posted 14 Years Ago



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Added on May 29, 2010
Last Updated on May 29, 2010

Author

Lambo
Lambo

Ashland, OR



About
The name is Lambo. I am creepy. I enjoy strange music, darkness, good salads, clutter, and seclusion. more..

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