Chapter One

Think, dumbass, think. Where are they?

She tore through the stacked boxes, unable to read the neatly printed labels written in purple Sharpie through tears sloshing across her field of vision.

Makayla Burke frantically wiped the back of her hand across her face.

What’s this one? Shit, dishes.

A blue ceramic salad plate fell and shattered in her haste to shove the heavy box aside and she had to fight back a fresh wave of emotion. Those were an early wedding present. More like a housewarming, really.

She hadn’t had any time to unpack, save for her work clothes and some makeup. Like she’d be needing those now.

Shoes…..shoes…..YES!

The box labeled “Workout Gear” had been underneath piles of Jared’s stuff – video game cartridges, tools, home brewing supplies. Makayla made a mental note to check the fridge before she left. Maybe there were a few bottles still in there.

At the bottom of the box she finally found her coral pink Nike running shoes and a wad of bunched up athletic socks. She kicked off the muddy men’s sneakers she’d been wearing, quickly shedding her drenched, ripped pantsuit, and tugged on her musty running outfit before looking for her rain gear. Since moving to the Portland, Oregon area five years ago, she’d learned the hard way that you didn’t get very far without waterproof clothing in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a good thing Jared got me into backpacking, ugh.

Makayla found the camping and outdoor gear shoved in a corner and located her backpacking pack, already halfway full of supplies she usually needed on weekend trips in the wilderness.

A scream ripped through the building, and Makayla froze, listening. She could still hear some sirens in the distance and now there was some shouting out on the street, but nothing too close. Just to be sure, she got up and tip-toed to the front door to make sure the deadbolt was still in place. She peeked through the peephole and could see nothing new. Only the apartment door across the hall, a fresh red stain smeared around the doorknob.

With renewed urgency, Makayla set to work looking for things that she might need once she left. Clothes, a hat, an extra pair of running shoes strapped to the outside of the pack (she knew one day all those shoes from Nike would actually come in handy). She placed a few stray water bottles down inside along the sides.

Goddamnit. I can’t count on you to go grocery shopping, ever!

Upon opening the fridge, Makayla was greeted by a half-eaten pizza and one last bottle of Jared’s home brew, complete with the little homemade labels she’d designed for him: a little white bunny under the words Hoppy Ending IPA.

Fucking Portlanders and their fucking obsession with pinesol-tasting beer. I guess it’ll have to do, one for the road.

She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or continue crying, so she did neither and gingerly wrapped the bottle in a sweatshirt and stuffed it into her pack. The pizza she shoved into her mouth before she did a final sweep of the apartment.

Makayla walked over to the big flatscreen TV, one of the few things Jared had unpacked, along with his now vintage Xbox, grabbed the remote and hit the power button. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to see, or rather, what she was afraid she’d see, but she still wanted whatever information was available about the state of the world. At the very least, she wanted to see if the TV would turn on at all.

Static. Not a good sign.

She flicked it off and shook her head in an effort to block out the questions bubbling up about what it meant. There were way too many unknowns right now and no way to be prepared for them all.

Heading into the bedroom, Makayla shielded her eyes from the shredded, bloodstained sheets, which were pristine and full of hope the last time she saw them. They were meant for a life she’d never have. She made a beeline for the dresser. While it didn’t have clothes in it yet, and now never would, it supported her jewelry box – a gift from her parents once upon a time. Not one for wearing much jewelry, Makayla selected a gold locket that her parents had given her on her tenth birthday. She zipped it into the front pocket of her rain pants. As she turned to leave the room she caught sight of a lone item on Jared’s bedside table – the swiss army knife he usually wore everywhere.

A lot of good it did him today.

She grabbed it and gingerly brought it to her lips for a brief moment before stuffing it down the side of her sock.

After going pee one last time and making a concerted effort not to throw up the pizza she had just gorged (she was going to need the calories), she heaved her now full and heavy pack onto her back and clicked the straps closed, yanked them tight across her body like one of those anxiety-reducing straightjackets. She closed her eyes and said a silent goodbye to the apartment. It was a goodbye to a place that was barely hers, a goodbye to a life that she wasn’t meant to have, a goodbye to a person who didn’t deserve her.

Makayla took a deep breath in through her nose, and turned the doorknob open as she breathed out through her mouth. After glancing down the hall in both directions and seeing no movement, she turned around and pulled the door shut as quietly as possible. Brandishing the streak knife she had pulled from the kitchen drawer, she power walked down the hall, down the stairs, and out the heavy metal side door to the complex.

There had been a break in the clouds and rain. Makayla took a step out into the blinding sun.


NaNoWriMo Day 1

997 words

Wishing for Zombies

I often find myself wishing that a zombie apocalypse will happen for reals…kinda.

I am really drawn to disaster/apocalyptic/survival stories.  I like to guess what I would do in each situation, how I might act, how I might feel.

As I try to unpack what my fascination is about, I think I am intensely curious about how going through a crisis affects people (me), and how people (me) tend to fight, flight, or freeze, and how people (me) either grow or are torn apart or something in between.

A catastrophic disaster would strip away all the complexities of the modern world.  We wouldn’t have to deal with interest rates or insurance or deadlines or waiting in line or midterms or the Kardashians.  It would simplify life down to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter, clothing, safety.

In a way, wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to worry about today was getting enough food in your belly and making sure you weren’t bitten by a zombie?  It would be stressful, yes, but a different kind of stress.  It would be stress centered around what is really important, like being with the people you truly love (because who would want to waste precious post-apocalyptic time with someone who makes you want to eat your own face off?) and surviving together (like, really surviving).

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Original source – moviepilot.com

I fantasize about how a scenario like that would make my current relationships that much closer.  It would just be me, Brian, and Dylan.  And maybe the cat, if she’s fast enough and less whiny.  B and I would be together, working intensely to protect our son, and that’s all that would matter.  We wouldn’t be separated by full time jobs without paid family leave.  We wouldn’t have to worry about saving for Dylan’s college education.  We wouldn’t spend a Saturday arguing over how to furnish the house.  It would just be us in the present moment fighting to stay alive for each other.

That’s the other thing – the present moment.  There wouldn’t be smart phones and Facebook and millions of TV channels to distract us from what is really important.  We wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone who isn’t directly in front of us.  (Of course, modern conveniences are wonderful and I like them as much as the next person, but for right now I’m focused on the upsides of not having them around.)  This would further intensify and hopefully deepen my relationships with those around me.

Having to rely on my partner and anyone lucky enough to find themselves in our zombie-killing troop would build trust – the kind that is fierce and all-encompassing where you know that person would lay down his life for you.  Having that kind of security feels so…comforting.  So safe and warm and gooey.  Plus, surviving day-to-day like that would quickly root out people you can’t trust or don’t like, and therefore shouldn’t be around (characters in The Walking Dead – take notice!!).  Plain and simple.

Would there be things that just plain suck about this scenario?  Of course.  I’d miss sunscreen and chapstick and modern medicine and higher education and hot showers and I’m sure the rampant shambling zoms would piss me off right quick.  But that’s beside my point for right now.

What I am realizing, as I fear I have already begun to ramble, is that I crave closeness in human relationships, and besides needing the basics, an apocalypse would wipe out everything else and bring those relationships front and center.

When I put it that way, doesn’t it sound nice?

…maybe just a little bit?


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Walking Dead takes over my braaaaaains!

So last night was the season 3 premiere of The Walking Dead.

It was long awaited.  Highly anticipated.

It did not disappoint…..for the most point.

In therapy, I often remind my clients that we need to pay attention when people show us who they are, and then accept them for being who they are and not any more or less (and not trying to fix them, change them, or expect them to be any different).

I have had to work very hard reminding myself, each and every episode, that these characters have shown themselves to be immature, impulsive, stupid, and incredibly lucky to still be alive in their world of increasing numbers of brain-hungry walkers.

That being said, if the characters did everything I shouted at them to do, then the series wouldn’t be very exciting because they’d be happy, healthy, and safe.  So I continue to yell and they continue to defy me.

Unfortunately, the agony/excitement doesn’t stop there, as these pesky walkers pranced on into my nightmares last night not once, but twice.

My first nightmare had me jolt awake at about 2:30am.  I don’t remember too much about the dream, but I do know that I was in a group, my partner was included, and we were at a point where we were cornered, desperate, and fighting for our lives…and it was getting pretty gory, too.  I am thankful that I woke up at that point, because I usually don’t.

Of course, I had to pee, but there was no way in hell I was gonna get up and face almost certain death and dismemberment with only the cat to protect me.  I turned towards Brian and considered waking him up.  He was out like a small child purposefully given too much benedryl by his parents, and I just couldn’t do it.  So I rolled over and punished my too-small pee sack by ignoring it.

Brian gets up considerably earlier than I do, and his alarm woke me up this morning.  By that time, my bladder was backed up to halfway through my left kidney, and so I followed Brian to the bathroom so he could protect me while I peed.

Wouldn’t you know, I had yet another zombie dream in the sleep I got between Brian’s alarm and my own.  In this one, my mom and I had to go to the dentist in the middle of the zombie apocalypse (what can I say, dental hygiene is very important) so we went together for moral support and protection.  When it was time to leave the dentist’s office, we noticed a lot of people cowering in the waiting room, and we looked through the blinds to see that we were pretty surrounded by the undead.  Being the faithful Girl Scout that I am (our motto is “be prepared”), I reached into my purse and grabbed a giant hammer and handed it to my mom, and then I took a small axe for myself.  I asked my mom if she was ready and then we started chopping and bashing our way to the car.

What a stressful way to wake up…but if that’s what I get for watching this show, then it’s all worth it.

Apocalypse 2012: I’ll bring the marshmallows

I happen to love disaster and post-apocalyptic themed media. I dunno, something about them make me feel alive at the thought of having to defend my life; my body prepares to fight for its life as I watch. Of course, I always know better than those dumbass characters on the screen. (how the hell do they end up surviving, anyway?) At least Zombieland got it right with all his rules at the beginning. To this day I always check the backseat of my car when I get in. That, and cardio.

I watch these programs with my partner, and we discuss how we’d do it differently, how we’d do it right. We have a meeting place in case all hell breaks loose and our cell network is jammed (cuz of course it would be). I already have his permission to wake him up in the middle of the night so he can watch my back when I need to go pee…but only after the Zompocalypse breaks, he reminded me angrily/groggily.

The past few years, Brian has encouraged me to go backpacking with him, and I have slowly started accumulating all the necessary gear: pack, boots, socks, freeze-dried food, super-light sleeping bag. A few days ago while catching up on season 1 of Walking Dead (I joined that party a little late), I got it.

“So, all those backpacking trips…all the gear I now have…you’ve been testing me, TRAINING me…for the coming apocalypse! It all makes sense now!

He just smiled and nodded. Well done, young grasshopper.

My first backpacking trip in 2009. I look fierce!

So, all this leads me to a critical piece of planning that, so far, I have neglected: what are my skillz? What would my post-apocalyptic job description be, realistically, for my survival group to want to keep me around? I need to be able to bring some serious ass-kicking skills to the table. I need to start developing my portfolio!

Skill #1 – I am highly trained in crisis intervention

I know how to keep people calm and rational in a crisis! What a deal you’d get with me!

“Whoa…whoa. Calm down, everyone. I know we’re faced with almost certain death, but let’s remember to breathe…and let’s stay focused, okay? We are bigger than this fear, stronger than this fear, and we have each other. Let’s hold hands and meditate before taking a vote on what to do next.” And that’s me just getting started.

What about the crazies who carry guns and are loud and can’t be reasoned with, you say? Simple, I say. To intervene on this particular crisis, I would quickly assess who be cray-cray and who be rational human beings with a will to survive as a group. Then, we find the largest, strongest normie, give that person a bat, and have the normie take out the crazie(s) and we’ll be on our merry way. If that won’t work, we can go the classic passive-aggressive route and leave in the dead of night when all the crazies are passed out after drinking all the booze we ‘accidentally’ combined with windex. Done and done.

Skill #2 – I can keep people sane for the long haul

You don’t want people in your group growing weary and suicidal after months and months of chronic chaos and trauma! Remember the pilot of Falling Skies where the lady was having the kids draw out their feelings? I can do that, and with a master’s degree to boot! We want the human race to prevail, right? In order for that to happen, we need healthy, happy kids to turn into healthy, happy, baby-producing adults. Art therapy to the rescue!

Skill #3 – I am very good at being quiet

I’ve noticed that people supposedly trying to survive on the teevee/movie screen make a lot of noise and don’t always pay the price for it. (“The price” being living flesh ripped from bodies or your group gets robbed by another more ruthless band of outlaws.) Worse example evar: we’re bored in this zompocalypse. I know, let’s go to an amusement park and turn everything on! Not dangerous enough? Let’s strap ourselves into the rides and let our slowly-moving, hungry enemies surround us from below…

You don’t want that to happen to you, do you? Sure, one last roller coaster ride might be nice, but is it worth getting your intestines ripped out of your abdomen and worn as a candy necklace to save for later? And I know what you’re thinking – you may be quiet yourself, but your group is only as safe and quiet as your loudest white trash idiot. Might I suggest you choose me as a safe, quiet addition to your survival group. As evidenced by this post, I am very comfortable with silence (and common sense, for that matter) and I am rather good at at. Especially when silence sits between me and the undead.

Skill #4 – I know how to pack for the apocalypse

Remember in Space Balls when Lone Starr told Princess Vespa to bring only what she needed to survive? I am actually capable of following those directions, unlike spoiled fake princesses with naturally unruly hair. I am actually prepared for survival on a regular basis and I ain’t even a mom yet. At any given moment my bag contains: paper, a pen, dental floss, gum, mints, a book, kleenex, phone, wallet, keys, water, granola bar and those are just the basics. Hell, I have my backpacking pack already partially packed just in case. And you know I wouldn’t be unpacking my shit all around camp with that false sense of security. No sir. Packed and ready, sleeping-with-my-shoes-on kind of ready. And my hair is naturally gorgeous, thankyouverymuch.

Skill #5 – I can pop a squat like a champ

I was in Girl Scouts for 11 years growing up. Being a Girl Scout taught me many things, for example: to be courteous, to be prepared, and to be of service to others. The most important skill I learned from being a Girl Scout wasn’t about tying knots or how to sell the most cookies – it was how to pee in the woods in record time without soaking my socks. Ladies and gentlemen, my thighs are mighty, my squats are steady, and my stream is swift and precise. You don’t want any female member of your group being a liability every time she needs to take a leak. Choose me for your group and you won’t even notice that I have an unusually small bladder. Choose me and choose safety.

In closing, I may not be a good cook, a great warrior, super strong or super fast, but I sure gots the skills needed to survive the zompocalypse and have fun while doing it.

So. Do you have what it takes to survive? What is your zompocalypse skill set?