The following was written for the Saskatoon Writing Club challenge: “story from the perspective of a child”. I had the hardest time coming up with this story, but it ended up being one of the best ones I think I’ve done so far, and easily one of the longest haha. Enjoy!

Sammy’s parents basically knew the whole thing was coming. They tried to prepare as best they could and they taught Sammy a lot of useful things. He was 10 years old but a good student. He had to be because he knew the stakes were pretty big.

“It’s only life and death, Samuel” Mom would say, whenever his attention wandered to comic books or Dad’s Rubix’s Cube with its faded squares of color. By now he’d solved the thing and it bored him, but there had been a time.

He imagined himself being eaten by zombies and it didn’t bother him. He thought it was like the movies and didn’t really make a personal connection until Dad got bit. When that happened, Mom wouldn’t speak for days and finally she about broke down when Dad finally walked off the roof of the building. Sammy didn’t watch and neither did Mom but they didn’t have to. They heard some screams and then nothing. Sammy still heard it at night sometimes, he’d wake up at that moment of awful, final silence and be slick with sweat.

After that, he took it all a lot more seriously. Mom stopped moving around very much, except to go to the washroom in the pail. She forgot to toss the mess off the balcony sometimes so Sammy did it and never mentioned it. Soon she stopped even feeding herself and he was getting scared. He tried to talk to her and read her his books but she didn’t respond. She lost too much weight and finally didn’t move at all. It was more painful to watch her than it was to see Dad drained of all his coloring, sucking down every precious moment before he was too far gone to do the thing they all swore
to each other they would do. Sammy found himself wishing she would just leave like Dad.When he thought of stuff like this he’d start crying and hide from her. Even though she barely knew who Sammy was anymore, he didn’t want her to see him cry. He had to be the Man of the House now.

The night Mom died, she wasn’t as fogged up and she talked to Sammy for a while. Mostly she was sappy and told him how much she loved him. How sorry she was. He put up a fight against all the affection and regret. Tried to act cheerful but inside he was not nearly as cool. He knew Mom was about to go, even before she started telling him what to do with her when it was over. She coughed a lot and there was blood on
her hand when she took it away from her mouth. Sammy tried to help with a rag but she waved him off.

“It’s important you remember about the barricades, Samuel.” she said.

Sammy couldn’t say anything, he was scared his voice would give him away and he knew she needed him to seem okay. She started to cry and mutter about leaving him alone. Still unable to speak, Sammy simply patted her arm and held her hand until her grip loosened. He checked for her pulse just like she’d shown him a long time ago when he had been only 9. He knew there would be nothing there but Dad always said to
make sure.

She could come back very soon and this would be a lot worse than what was already happening. Sammy made himself wait to get upset. Mom already smelled bad so he lifted her under her hollowed arms and dragged her to the balcony. He had to stop to catch his breath and could almost hear Dad giving him hell for not exercising more often since everything. Well, this was exercise after all. Sammy used a chair to
bring her up over the rail. He balanced carefully to pull her so her weight would do the rest of the work for him. Sammy tried not to look down but it was hard because it was a clear day and he knew he’d be able to see Dad down there. Or if he didn’t, that would somehow be worse than whatever was left of him. Sammy hoped that Dad had landed on his head.

He closed his eyes instead of looking and this scared him. He could feel the height and not seeing the rail made it hard to remember where it was exactly. He teetered on the chair for a second and his tummy whumped hard before he caught himself and crouched a bit. Steadier, he gingerly inched Mom up just that little more and then it was done.

Back inside, he let himself get upset. He curled up in a ball where Mom had been and where Dad had slept beside her before. Sammy lost track of himself for a while and after a night and day he hadn’t eaten and couldn’t really remember if he’d cried or how much or what horrible things he might have yelled at The Lord and the zombies and everything else.

Sammy was very hungry. In the process of looking after Mom, he hadn’t kept track of the rations and he also hadn’t checked the barricades in too long. He wondered what to do first and felt really panicked until he thought about what Dad would do. Sammy knew energy was important especially if there was trouble so he picked a tomato and ate it. The little garden was made of “hydroponics” gear Dad had recovered from somewhere else in the building. Both Mom and Dad had been really happy about it even though they laughed that one of the neighbors had a “grow op”. The tomato was good. Even before, he liked the juice and the seeds but hated the skin. Now he ate it
all.

He put on his hockey pads and got out his in-door stick from the closet. Dad had cut down the plastic blade so that it could be used as a kind of spear to keep Them back. Sammy worried he wasn’t strong enough to break through a skull and hoped he wouldn’t have to try. He left the Lair and made sure the door was secure behind him. Dad had rigged a crossbar and chain with a heavy lock. Zombies couldn’t figure out even simple stuff but Dad didn’t take any chances with the Lair and neither would Sammy.

Out in the hall, he put his helmet on and strapped it. He hadn’t been out here in a while and it was scary but not too dark. Mostly he didn’t like how unfamiliar it felt. The dust catching the light helped and even though he knew what it was, he pretended it was The Lord trying to make up for Mom and Dad. Thinking about this he suddenly hoped Mom had landed near Dad. Then he started to picture them splattered on the concrete 18 floors down and quit thinking about them altogether.

At the stairwell, Sammy peeked over the bannister at the furniture and other junk they’d pushed down together. He was about to turn back when he noticed something different. It looked like something had shifted, like a sort oflandslide maybe. Sammy thought about it and knew he didn’t want to go down there but again he could just about heard Dad. If Dad was here, standing beside him with his old gun and dented bat he’d keep Sammy behind him but they’d go together all the same.

“You have to know the routines so you’re not afraid of them,” Sammy quoted.

Sammy didn’t want to disappoint anybody, least of all himself, so he went. He had to be careful because the shift was in a spot he had to climb around a bit to reach. He moved slowly, hands and knees over a dresser and twisted shopping cart. When he was passing from the cart to a mattress a rubbish-filled plastic bag slipped and he slumped quickly between the rusty metal of the cart and a metal filing cabinet. He felt an incredible pain on his thigh and then a warm wet burst all over his leg. For about a second he was sure he had peed his pants but he couldn’t smell pee so he knew he was bleeding. Suddenly he was terrified and desperately wanted to get out of this. He struggled against the junk and tried to wiggle out but his pads kept getting caught.

Finally, Sammy wrestled out of his pads and left them wedged there, almost inside the shopping cart. In another life it could have been somebody just buying their kid some hockey equipment. Sammy didn’t really want to think about any of that right now so he got himself the rest of the way out and left the pads behind. Dad’s voice echoed in his head that this was probably a bad idea but Sammy was scared and upset about his leg and didn’t care. It hurt very badly and twinged every time he stepped down.

Thankfully, he didn’t have far to go and could lean on the bannister. He’d left his stick behind too. Back in the Lair, he carefully took off his jeans and took a look. He wasn’t sure what had cut him but it wasn’t too deep. Sammy knew it would need stitches and was pretty concerned about that, his stomach didn’t seem to like the sight of all this blood everywhere so he hobbled to the kitchen where the first aid kit was. The first thing to do was wash it out with some water and antibacterial soap. This hurt quite a bit but Sammy winced through it and didn’t cry. He was proud of himself for that but the next part was the hard part.

Some gauze and pushing down on the leg slowed the blood down so Sammy lit a candle and held a needle over the flame. He wanted to close his eyes when he put the needle into his skin but forced himself to look at it. Sammy could remember when Dad had cut himself fixing his hockey stick. Dad had tried to sew it up himself but was doing a pretty sloppy job when Mom came over and warned him to take care how he did or there would be a bad scar. Dad didn’t really care about a scar but Mom tried hard to keep
the Lair as normal as possible with everything that was going on in the world. Sammy didn’t really care about a scar right now either, but he listened to Mom this time because he wanted to.

When it was done, Sammy thought it was a pretty neat job. Not as neat as Mom had made Dad’s but it was close enough. It hurt like crazy and was starting to throb. Sammy took some Tylenol and waited for it to kick in. He went to his bedroom and laid in bed. Mom and Dad had taken to sleeping in the living room so that they could react quickly if the zombies ever broke through the barricades. In the back of his mind, Sammy knew he should be doing this now too. He promised himself and them and everyone else that he would next time. Right now he needed his bed, he wasn’t feeling so good.

It was almost the next day already when Sammy realized he had a fever. He woke up freezing and sweating and his first thought was how disappointing it was to get sick when he didn’t have school. After months of living in the lair which used to be the apartment from which he did normal kid things like school, his second thought was how weird it was that he hadn’t gotten used to the way things were by now. Then he thought about his thoughts and giggled a little. Then he groaned because everything ached.

Sammy knew a fever was what Dad called “serious business”. It could kill him if he didn’t do something about it. He hesitated, though. He thought about whether or not it would be better to just let it take him to wherever his parents were. He pictured the pavement outside of the apartment complex and it was all he could do to make it to the toilet to puke. He looked down into the bowl at his mess and thought about having to clean it up later. This thought pushed him over the edge somehow, he could almost feel
himself giving up. Sammy could remember times where he’d feel this way at a game, if they’d let too many get by them and there was no hope of winning.

Dying could be like that, he thought. Just sort of stop playing. Not like this was a fun game anyway, right? But then it occured to Sammy that it was a game Mom and Dad were watching, fun or not. He wanted to drift away from this thought because he was tired of it as soon as it came, but he couldn’t do that so his focus began to return a bit. He dragged himself in a crawl back to the first aid kit and scooped out a bottle of water and some pills called “Keflex”. He knew these were antibiotics because Mom had shown them to him when she’d taught him about First Aid Stuff. The bottle was full and there were more taken from other apartments. He figured one bottle would be enough and left the rest.

Sammy took the pills with water and collapsed into a dark sleep. If he had any dreams he didn’t remember them and when he woke up, he felt more like himself again. The first thing he did was check his cut and that looked okay so he tried walking around. He felt pretty weak but his leg was fine and the stitches held. He needed some food.

He went out to the balcony to check the battery connected to the garden. The whole thing was solar powered, which Sammy knew a bit about from science class. They
had some panels out on the balcony and a battery unit they could use at night or on cloudy days. The only things they ran off of it were the mini-fridge, hydroponics stuff, and some lights. So far the whole setup hadn’t been a problem but Dad had sometimes worried about something going wrong.

Sammy also worried about it because now he was alone and if something broke, he’d have to fix it himself. The alternatives of slow starvation without a steady supply of vegetables or venturing outside were too horrible. Much worse than dying of fever. But worrying about it was something that would have to wait because he had a more immediate problem. His stuff was still on the stairwell and he needed it.

Taking a couple more of the tomatoes from the garden, he ate greedily and then tried to work up his nerve. Sammy had an idea that he had a good process for this thanks to his coach. He knew how to focus on an objective and reduce the distractions to a murmur so he could get it done. He was still just a kid and sometimes he couldn’t quite get there. This time, he didn’t have much trouble and was pretty calm when he went out into the hall and down the stairs.

Sammy’s cool almost shattered when he heard the telltale moaning. He’d heard it outside a lot in the first weeks. It was pretty much a daily, constant thing and they’d all gotten used to it but things had changed a bit and you didn’t see so many zombies outside anymore. You almost never heard them, which Dad always said was a good thing because then if you did, you knew to watch out. The moaning was coming from past the barricade, he thought. Well, that wasn’t such a big deal. If zombies found
people by smelling them, like Mom always thought, then they’d be a lot closer to the Lair if any had gotten through. He would have walked right into one, or heard them outside his door.

So Sammy was still calm when he picked up his stick and started to poke around to see where his pads
had gotten to underneath all the rubbish he’d disturbed the other day. He moved aside some garbage bags full of clothes, piled around like sandbags. He managed to get a clear shot at the shopping cart and pulled the pads out. He was tossed them up the
stairs a ways but fell short of the next landing. As he turned around to fix the barricade up, something grabbed hold of his ankle and he fell.

He was on his belly and all Coach Ernie’s Ice Warrior Focus melted and left him in a flood. He tried to roll over onto his back and get his stick up but the zombie was already yanking itself up his legs. Sammy twisted left to right in one motion and managed to roll himself over. He was just in time as the zombie was chest-level and trying for a bite. Sammy put the stick between himself and it and pushed himself with his feet, trying to get loose. The zombie got a shoe, but Sammy was able to back himself up the stairs a ways. He could now see that it had broken legs and couldn’t stand. This freaked him out but he had room to do something about it now.

With a couple of pretty savage chops, straight downward, Sammy tried to discourage it from coming any closer but he missed the head and might as well have been spitting on it or calling it names. Trying to slow his panicked breathing, he aimed square for the head and tried again, this time putting his back into it. There was a gross sound, kind of like a grapefruit getting dropped, and the zombie pretty much gave up. Sammy didn’t know if it was dead, but it wasn’t really moving forward anymore and that
was good enough for him. He sat down on the stairs and tried to catch his breath, but he also couldn’t help but smiling because now he knew he was strong enough to thump a zombie’s head in if he had to.

When he went to grab his pads and go back to the Lair, he was shakey and almost dizzy like he had been sometimes after games. He didn’t know fighting a zombie would feel like this and had almost forgotten the physical sensation that came with a hard-fought win. He also hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it but didn’t dwell on that for more than a second. He was now thinking about the rest of the building and all the places Mom and Dad hadn’t checked because they’d been too worried about
barricading their floor and up. Maybe there was a book on solar panels in the place they’d found all the seeds and hydroponics equipment.

Sammy wasn’t sure, but he intended to find out. He didn’t know what Mom and Dad had meant for him to do if they died, but he was sure that they wouldn’t think it was much fun to sit around in the Lair and sulk and struggle to get nowhere. For the game to get fun, he’d have to find ways to make things better for himself. Sammy would start with the building and maybe, just maybe, there would come a time where it was safe or he was ready. And then he’d leave it for good.

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