Chapter Two

One week earlier…

Makayla pushed the closet door open with too much force, and it slammed against the wall.


“Hey, babe. Cool it.” Jared mumbled and rolled over in bed.

“Sorry,” Makayla said through a yawn. She hated packing even more than she hated getting up early. “I’m not used to this new place yet. Closet doors, shower heads, the deadbolt sticking. And I can’t fucking find anything in here. You think you could do some unpacking while I’m gone?”

“Yeah. Sure. Maybe.”

Makayla rolled her eyes and unearthed her suitcase from under a pile of dirty clothes she hadn’t had time to wash. As she stood up, she felt a dull ache at the base of her skull.

Great. I really can’t afford a migraine today, of all days.

Why she had waited so long to pack for this work trip, she didn’t know. It wasn’t like her to put something off that would end up causing her more anxiety. She was constantly worried she’d forget something important. Wait, yes she did know. She’d been so wrapped up in the move and wedding planning and looking perfect at work that she’d barely had enough time for sleep, let alone anything else.

At least all of her work clothes were in the same wardrobe moving box, all freshly dry cleaned and still in their plastic bags. She grabbed three suits – two pants and one skit suit – and folded them into her case as neatly as she could. Toiletries, hand sanitizer, extra face masks. Makayla rummaged through her toiletry bag, found two Tylenol, and popped them in her mouth. After slurping down some water from the bathroom sink, she added her laptop and charging chords and some flats for walking around the city. She had never been to Seattle before and she was hoping she’d have some time between meetings to go enjoy some coffee and maybe see the fish market.

I wonder if they’ll still be out throwing fish? Is that still a thing? Shit, I really should’ve looked at out of state regulations before today. I was so focused on being prepared for my presentation that I forgot to check. Ugh. I’ll just have to see when I get there.

Makayla tugged on her favorite pair of yoga pants made to look like work pants with a button down and a navy blazer, hit the button on the coffee machine – the lone appliance unpacked and out on the counter – and flicked on the TV before sticking her head inside the fridge to search for edible breakfast items.

The TV’s volume was barely audible above the grinding of the automatic espresso machine: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programing to bring you this special report-

Makayla’s phone rang, blaring the theme song to the long-since canceled show The OC: We’ve been on the run, driving in the sun, looking out for-

“Hey Mom, I’m kinda in a rush right now. I’ve gotta catch my flight to Seattle today, remember?”

“Honey, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s going to be fine, Mom. People have been flying safely for over six months now.”

“Have you seen the news this morning? How close is your new place to that hospital?”

“The hospital is a few miles away. What news? Look, I have to go soon.” Makayla put her phone on speaker, grabbed her now full cup of coffee, and turned toward the TV.

“There’s some kind of security problem. They don’t know if it’s a shooting or what. What if the shooter is still on the loose?!”

Makayla spoke through a mouthful of gluten-free English muffin. “What? My Uber will be here in ten minutes and the airport is the opposite direction from the hospital. I’ll be ok. Wish me luck on my presentation!”

“Oh, you’ll do great, I know you will. I don’t know why you had to move to the sickest state in the country!”

“That’s old news, Mom. In fact, it’s probably safer here now as a result. You can call me again tonight if you need to, I just can’t talk right now. Love you!”

“I just might. Love you, sweetie. Safe flight! Wear your mask!”

Makayla hung up and switched the TV off. An image of the local hospital building surrounded by hazmat suits and law enforcement with weapons drawn was replaced with darkness.

Makayla wrenched her heels on mid-stride, stomped into the bedroom, and bent over to kiss Jared on the part of his head not covered by bedsheets.

“I’ll be back in a few days. Don’t you have work today? Anyway, I gotta go. Please stock the fridge while I’m gone! Love!”

“Mmmrph.” The reply came muffled from under the covers.

Okay, let’s see…purse, keys, phone, mask, rain jacket…good.

Makayla turned the doorknob and yanked before remembering the deadbolt. Several jiggles and shimmies and fucks later, the lock popped open.

Ugh! Reminder to grease that lock.

She fumbled for her mask as she walked down the hallway at full speed, stopping to pick up her suitcase before the stairs. In front of the building her Uber was already waiting, but she had to jog around a college age kid who knelt doubled over on the sidewalk, puking up the previous night’s regrets.

Argh! Makayla winced as pain shot up her right ankle. Although she had technically been cleared by her doctor to wear heels again after spraining her ankle, she still wasn’t at 100%.

Security through the airport wasn’t so bad, but times had changed since before the pandemic. The new normal included temperature checks, a vaccine passport, mask mandates, and dogs able to sniff out the virus even in the most asymptomatic. Any physiological deviation from standard CDC health metrics, or failure to follow safety protocol landed passengers in a holding cell, no exceptions. Oregon officials were extremely keen to avoid additional outbreaks, or the appearance of them, ever since Portland was deemed ground zero three years prior.

It had been hellish for Makayla to experience the effects of the rapidly unfolding pandemic before it technically was a pandemic. With a whopping fatality rate of 4-5%, city-wide lockdown in Portland was swift and long lasting. Within a few weeks of the initial reported cases and subsequent deaths, streets emptied, businesses shuttered, and Makayla’s classes at Portland State moved exclusively online. Makayla was never able to go back to campus as a student; she completed the last year and a half of her undergraduate business degree in her tiny shared apartment, even attending her graduation ceremony virtually.

Makayla stepped into the end of the TSA line and paused for them to take her temperature. The thermometer gave a chirp and the masked agent waved her through. While maneuvering her clunky suitcase around the bend in the line, she heard a shrill beep behind her.

“No! Try it again, please.” The man in the middle aged couple behind Makayla had been stopped. The TSA agent holding the thermometer was blocking the entrance to the line through security. By the looks of it, the man’s wife had already been screened and passed, as she was behind the agent, already in line.

The TSA agent raised the infrared thermometer and hit the button. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. This time, two agents materialized immediately and grabbed the man’s arms.

“NO! PLEASE! I feel fine, really! I’m vaccinated!” The man began to twist and struggle as the agents muscled him out of line. “HELENA! They can’t do this!”

The woman screamed and pushed past the temperature-taking TSA agent to run after her husband, leaving her luggage behind. Everyone’s eyes tracked the commotion until they disappeared through a heavy door next to the bathrooms.

That hasn’t happened in quite some time. Makayla shuddered and rifled through her purse. She extracted her travel size hand sanitizer and administered some liquid peace of mind, a ritual that had become automatic and obsessive.

Thankfully, the rest of the security line went smoothly, although folks seemed to be more on edge after the forced quarantine incident, and Makayla arrived at her gate and began scanning the rows of seats for her coworker, Jessica. Not hard to spot in her bright purple suit and mass of springy, wild curls, Jessica was several years older than Makayla and had become something of a mentor to her during their time at Nike. Where Makayla was new and unsure of herself, Jessica knew the ropes, didn’t take any shit from anyone, and took pride in helping to lift up other women, especially at work. Makayla was incredibly grateful and over the past year had come to view Jessica as more of a big sister she never had.

“Heeey, lady!” Jessica squealed through her sequined mask. “I saved you a seat. I even got you a coffee cuz the line was super long. You can thank me later.”

“Oh my god, you’re a lifesaver.” Makayla perched on the edge of the chair next to Jessica and pulled down her mask to take a quick sip.

“So, are you ready?! What am I saying, of course you’re ready. You’re gonna knock ’em dead, and you’ll be a shoo-in for a promotion this coming year.”

Makayla’s eyes grew wide. “You really think so?”

“Of course I do. And I’ll put a good word in, too. You have fresh perspective, and those old fogies at the top need to wake up and pay attention if they’re going to keep profit margins up. Trust me.” Jessica took a sip of her own double shot flat white.

Makayla let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Thanks for the confidence, Jess. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d do just fine. You’d just have less free coffee.” Jessica winked.

An announcement sounded: It’s now time to begin boarding for flight 5995 to Seattle. Half the people surrounding Makayla and Jessica gathered their things and went to crowd the general vicinity of the entrance to the gate. An older woman across from them was using a cane and struggling to stand, as she was allowed to board first. Her limbs were shaking so violently that the cane was useless and she fell back down to her seat. Jessica jumped up, ready to help her to the gate, but just as she leaned over and extended a hand, the older woman projectile vomited all down the front of Jessica’s gorgeous new suit.

“Oh shit! Oh, it’s okay, it’s okay!” Jessica hurriedly tried to sweep multicolored vomit off her suit but only managed to smear it around. Makayla, suppressing the urge to gag, immediately began rummaging in her purse for some tissue or napkins, anything to help clean up.

“Ack!” Jessica yelped. Makayla looked up. The older woman had slid from her chair and was now on the floor, seemingly unconscious. “Help! She needs medical help!”

This time, Makayla jumped up. She knelt down beside the woman and began checking for responsiveness, a pulse, breathing. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” Makayla got no response from the woman and she was vaguely aware of some commotion over at the check-in desk. Pulse was faint, breathing shallow. Makayla’s shaking hands were about to tilt the woman’s chin up to help open her airway when she was violently pushed aside by two EMTs in bulky yellow hazmat suits. The EMTs lifted the woman into a wheelchair that was pushed by a young woman in a flight attendant uniform.

The EMTs yelled muffled commands as they worked. “Clear the area please! Give her some room!”

The older woman’s head rolled around on her neck as the EMTs attempted to sit her up in the chair. She was moaning now, and some kind of froth was still dribbling from her maskless mouth. One EMT had to hold the woman’s head in place as they began to wheel her from the gate and down the hall.

“OUCH! HEY!” The EMT’s gloved hand shot up in the air, gushing blood. “SHE FUCKING BIT ME!”

At that moment, the older woman fell forward from the wheelchair and face planted on the cold tile with a sick thwap, where her body began violently convulsing.

Makayla, Jessica, and the rest of the people in the waiting area stood transfixed, unable to look away from the unfolding trauma, although many were unconsciously backing away towards the entrance to the gate. For a split second, Makaya’s eyes instinctively shot over to the right to look out the window. The plane was still there, attached to the jetway.

Now law enforcement and more medical personnel in full PPE were pouring into the hallway. The older woman’s body was still shaking uncontrollably and the EMTs were struggling to get her onto a stretcher that had just arrived. Makayla’s left arm floated up and grabbed the hem of Jessica’s now ruined suit jacket. She tugged twice. Jessica’s eyes caught hers and she motioned her head towards the gate. Jessica’s head gave the tiniest of nods and her hand reached back to find Makayla’s and give it a squeeze.

With one hand on each of their suitcases and the remaining two clutching each other, they began nudging through the stunned crowd. People began to notice the movement and made to follow. Just as the ladies reached the flight attendant still scanning tickets, they heard a sound like a cornered animal.

Makayla turned around to see the older woman still on the ground, but now moving with purpose. The woman growled and groped and pawed at the medical workers around her, reminding Makayla of the childhood cat she’d once had to give a bath. The woman’s jaws were snapping and finally found purchase on the bicep of a male EMT. Yellow plastic, muscle, and sinew were ripped away from bone, followed by a flood of bright red blood that quickly pooled on the floor.

Screams erupted that broke the waiting passengers from their collective stupor. Makayla and Jessica were pushed from behind and had to stagger on their heels to keep from falling over their suitcases. The flight attendant abandoned her desk and ran down the jetway. The ladies took the cue and broke into a run. Their heels and suitcase wheels thundered down the jetway, closely followed by scared businessmen and screaming moms dragging crying children.

Jessica threw herself through the door of the plane and down the aisle, not letting go of Makayla’s hand. They crammed into the first two seats they found, shoving their suitcases under the seats in front of them.

From their seats, they could hear the flight attendant yelling at the front of the plane. “Seal the cockpit door and get ready to taxi! We need to get away from the gate!”

Screams echoed from inside the jetway.

Jessica moved to undo her seatbelt. “Shit. They’d better close that door and get us out of here.”

“What are you doing?!” Makayla hissed. “Sit down!”

“I’m making sure the job gets done. As always.”

Jessica slipped off her heels and bent forward, coming up with one in her right hand. “Just in case the flight marshal hasn’t shown up yet.” She winked, and fought past a stream of moving bodies to get back to the door.

Just as Jessica’s body became obscured by everyone else’s, a low growl ripped through the jetway and rumbled up into Makayla’s chest.

“JESSICA!” Makayla screamed, still buckled to her seat.

The plane’s engine suddenly rumbled to life and Makayla could hear screaming and scuffling over the captain’s announcement.

“This is your Captain speaking. Due to an emergency of unknown nature, we will depart immediately. Please take your seats and prepare for takeoff.”

Makayla could then hear the whirring mechanism of the closing door, and she craned her neck to see if Jessica was still on board. She saw the hair first, before the stained purple suit came limping back. Jessica had cuts and scratches on her face, and now her suit was also torn in places. Her mask must have gotten clawed off.

“What happened?! Are you okay?” Makaya’s eyes swept over Jessica, looking for injuries.

Jessica lowered her voice and ducked her head before answering. “That EMT, the one whose hand had gotten bit, he came running down the tunnel and fucking attacked some guy. Like, full-on body slam. And then we had to shove people back so they could close the door. The fuck is going on? I thought I’d seen it all. And those were my lucky work shoes, too.”

Jessica leaned her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes. Makayla took out her phone and was about to put it in airplane mode, but decided to try and make a quick call just as the plane lifted off the ground.


NaNoWriMo – where I boldly attempt to write a novel in 30 days with zero experience and minimal planning

2798 words

It’s a great way to stay in shape

I’m not a gym person.

But I just joined a gym for the first time in my life. I was offered a free year pass by a friend, and I figured I’d check it out.

See, I have this thing where I don’t like exercise. Especially exercising in front of other people. Basically, if I’m not doing yoga then I’m one clumsy lady, aaaaaand I’d rather not have an audience if I’m going to fall off the treadmill or drop a weight on my big toe.

I’m also cheap, and I don’t feel like I should have to pay to exercise. Hello, come on in to my bodily torture chamber and pay this cover charge so you can publicly injure yourself and then either shower in a foreign stall with wonky water pressure, or walk out all sweaty and gross and hurting. Bring your friends!

To make matters funny, this particular gym has a Cross Fit focus, and so it seems to be extra Gym-y. Like, the young ripped bros at the front desk are way too enthusiastic and speak like John Paul Jones from the Bachelor franchise, brah. One of them in particular seems to enjoy getting a rise out of me, and so the most recent time I was there, he felt the need to come up to me while I was on the elliptical to give me a high-five. My eye-roll was so exaggerated that my Apple watch also counted it as part of my workout.

**Ping!* It looks like you’re doing an eye-roll workout. Let’s close those rings!

The gym is a foreign environment with an entirely new language and I’m just a fish out of water. Observe the day I came in for my complementary session with a trainer:

Bro: Hey! So, uh, what’re your fitness goals?

Me: Ummm…I’d just like to feel human again.

Broseph: Alright, alright, alright! Sounds tubular! What’s your current fitness regimen like right now?

Me: Well, I do yoga once a week and I attempt to run from zombies. But running is a loose term.

Brodan: Zombies, ha! Right on, right on. So you dig the cardio, yeah? You ever tried weights?

Me: Not unless you count my kids. And dig is a strong term.

Broweena: Hahaaha, that’s hella lit, or whatever the kids are saying these days. Let’s get some goals down and we’ll get started! Exclamation point!

At some point he noticed my Shamrock Run shirt from last year.

Brodude: Whoa, you did The Sham?!

Me: (I look down at my front). Uh…yeah. Just the 5k.

Bronathan: It’s not just the 5k! That’s a real accomplishment! Right on!

Me: Thanks. I mean, we stopped for beer and donuts in the middle…

Brotina, not hearing me: Is there any way you’d want to form a team with us? We’re always looking for cool stuff for motivation!

Me: Well, I actually sign up with my MOMS Club…

Brodrew: Whoa, right on! You should bring your mom friends here!

At this point it’s the end of the session and I’m ready to leave. I mean, I was ready to leave a long time ago, but now it’s the end of the session.

Me: Yeah, no, thanks. Look, I’ve gotta go. Thank you…

Broana: Right, right, no prob. Hey, look, you’re doing awesome! Have an awesome day!

You too, man. You have the awesomest of days.

You too.

 

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Quick anxiety update: it’s flare-up time. (Relapse time? Outbreak time? Really unsure what terms to use here, and I’m the mental health expert. Better get on that.)

I’m on my second week of dealing with early morning anxiety…..again. It goes like this: something will wake me up early in the morning. Take your pick – husband, cat, bladder. Neighbors. Traffic. Kids, but very rarely. Go figure. And then something sparks this burning fire in my chest that I can’t extinguish in order to get back to sleep. So I toss and turn in anguish and waste 1-2 hours when I desperately need sleep, but can’t get it. Lastly, my kids wake up, and then it’s all over. The anxiety slowly fades and is replaced by exhaustion as the day goes on. Makes me fantasize about going full Walden.

I’m hopeful to report that I think I’m getting better at squashing this more quickly. The past few mornings I’ve actually been able to get back to sleep and wake up for the day not feeling like such a zombie. It’s this magical combination of self-talk, physical relaxation techniques, and distracting myself by thinking about something – anything – not about me, my body, sleep, or the present moment.

(Update: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I actually slept all the way through the morning and woke up naturally and feeling rested. So there’s hope!)

Now I’m going to outline things that help me – specifically, things whose helpfulness I tend to forget – to fight this anxiety monster that creeps into my bed (or tries to) each morning. This is not meant to be preachy or self-helpy, but it’s rather to help…me. Because, just like depression, anxiety lies. It lies to me and it makes me forget what normal and healthy feels like. It makes me forget what coping skills actually work and it lies to me about there being joy in the world, and that it’s within my reach.

  1. Sleep

The biggest one by far. If I don’t get enough sleep I have very little motivation to face the day. The sleep that anxiety steals from me in the mornings sets up my entire day to be complete rubbish and it’s really hard to get back on track. That makes naps vital on some days (when I can get them), and I’ve been working very hard to get to bed at a time that ensures I’ve allowed for at least 8 hours of sleep. Even though I don’t always get it, I have to carve out room for it. Have to.

2. Exercise

I’m not a person who really enjoys exercising, per se, but this week I’ve been feeling the urge to move my body. I tend to get that feeling when I’m super angry, or when I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin-anxious. I’ve realized that when I exercise, I don’t have room for the jitters. I actually get real-time relief. That’s why I made sure I got out there and ran from zombies, even in this smokey heat wave we’re having. It felt so. good.

3. Music

I’ve written about this before, but the act of singing, like really singing, is so stress relieving and this is one that I forget about all the time. So if you see me running (from zombies) and I suddenly stop to belt out a well-timed lyric and bust a move, then you know what’s going on.

4. Laughter

This usually means social contact, but sometimes a really, really good show or standup routine will fit the bill here. I recently watched Iliza Schlesinger: Elder Millennial on Netflix, and man it was exactly what I needed. I might just watch it again. Also, The Bloggess is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I realized that I was no longer getting her updates for some reason. That has been remedied.

5. Taking time to get out of my head and space out

Having kids all day everyday, this often takes the form of me being on my phone. This usually comes with a lot of guilt, but I’m trying to tell it to fuck off. As long as the kids are safe and cared for, I am taking lots and lots of tiny micro breaks throughout the day just so I can slip the phone back into my pocket and be present for 20 more minutes when I previously thought I couldn’t. I kinda felt like I needed permission to do this, and only realized that after my therapist had given it to me unsolicited.

6. Having something to look forward to

It has been a godsend to join my local chapter of MOMS Club and automatically have events lined up for me on my calendar each month. It sounds so mundane, but it keeps me going. I’m constantly looking forward to the next thing, and being able to feel excited anticipation is a powerful enemy of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

There you have it. These are the main coping skills that I often forget are available to me.

Side note: while writing this over the course of two days, I have been interrupted a total of eleventy billion times. Another antidote to anxiety is being able to get into a flow state, and in order to do that you need to cultivate calm and stillness. Yeeeeeah. This is one reason why it’s SO HARD for me to put myself to bed at a reasonable time, because stillness only happens WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNCONSCIOUS. My point: I reeeeeally miss flow states. Please tell them to come back and visit.

 

Tough Right Now

Life is really tough right now.

I knew it would be, but this doesn’t make it any easier.

People ask how I am doing, and what am I supposed to say?  I tell them the truth – that it’s hard and that I am doing the best that I can – but if I truly stop and express to them just how hard and just how much I struggle, then I fear I’ll just fall apart.

I need more human contact.  My son needs more human contact.  It’s good for us.  But getting there, getting OUT, is SO. FREAKING. HARD.

Today we got up and tried to get to playgroup.  I got up around 7:45.  The playgroup started at 10:30.  By 11:45 I was still feeding my youngest a bottle.  I texted to cancel.  We ended up taking a walk, by ourselves, in the freezing cold because it was the easiest and quickest way to get outside.  Yes, it was better than nothing, but man, it sucked.

And that’s the thing – I don’t expect perfection, but I feel like I am trying my hardest and that I’m still failing.  At some point in the day, I’m always failing SOMEbody.  Sometimes it’s me (because I can’t make social contact with friends), or the baby (because she’s screaming hungry and has to wait), or my toddler (because he’s screaming that he wants to go outside but has to wait), or my husband (because he listens to me complain and cry and fall apart).

I usually start the day off trying my best to cope, like today.  But the time ticks by and more and more gets in the way of reaching our meager goals (getting to playgroup), when it finally comes crashing down because my toddler kicks me in the jaw and I burst into tears, or my baby won’t nurse even though I know she’s hungry and I burst into tears.  These days, it’s rare to get through the day without feeling like the walls are crashing down on me.

I have glimpses of hope and reminders that life gets better.  I try and hold onto those.  But living in the moment requires breaking down, because the here and now is often unbearable.  That’s why I am always on my damn phone – if I can just check out for a minute, maybe I can regroup and reenter my life.  Or just pass the time; maybe when I lift my head, things will be different.  Better.

So I’m coping.  At least I am getting more sleep these days, but I am still choosing sleep over most other things.  I choose sleep over chores, over human interaction, over getting out of the house.  Because if I am not moderately rested, nothing else matters.  That may sound dramatic, but it’s true.  Here’s the catch, though: if I’m not a zombie physically (sleep deprived), then I’m a zombie emotionally (isolated).  It’s like I can’t win.

Not to mention that this winter, everyone and their mom is sick.  Everyone in my family was sick a month ago, including my newborn, and that was pure hell.  Less sleep and meeting with other people all mean a higher chance of getting sick again…so perhaps hunkering down is what we just need to do right now, even though I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter at the moment.  I suppose all these circumstances just mean I super prioritize what get togethers we try and attend.

Lest I begin rambling, I will simply repeat my point in closing.

Life is really tough right now.

My Seventh Mission

It was my seventh mission.

Well, scratch that…it was my sixth mission gone wrong, which kinda morphed into a seventh unexpected mission.  The goal of this mission was simple: get back to Abel Township before they close the gates.  Oh yeah, and don’t get eaten by zombies.  But that goes without saying these days.

Let me back up.  (First of all, Spoiler Alert for Zombies, Run!)

zombies

I’m the new Runner 5 for Abel Township, and I’m pretty lucky to be alive.  I was flown in from another camp because Abel was losing runners to the hoards of zoms moving through the area and they needed more.  Fresh meat, so to speak.  …too soon?

So I get the lovely task of running outside the lovely, thick, safe gates of Abel Township about once a week to do…whatever it is the people in charge need done, really.  Usually it’s some sort of supply run, or warning our neighboring camps that a hoard is headed their way.  Once, I ran out to bring an abandoned child back to Abel before the zoms got to her.  Most likely, her parent was bitten or killed while fighting off one or more zombies and then had to abandon the child before he/she turned.  Gruesome to think about, but it’s reality now.  And people are counting on me.

So, back to yesterday.  It was my seventh mission: get home!  I’m still not sure what went wrong on Mission 6.  Maybe I should confront Janine about that.  Buuut, if Janine actually did send me straight into an ambush, I’d better take it up with Sam.  Sam (or Mr. Yao if we’re following protocol) is usually my lookout while I’m out on missions.  He’s my eyes out there – warning me when the zoms are close, and if I’m still headed in the right direction.  And, well, yesterday…Sam was mysteriously out.  Janine took over.  She had me running over to New Canton, said they were letting us have some badly needed electrical equipment.

Now this was odd, because the people of New Canton have a history of…not sharing, shall we say.  They don’t play nice.  But Janine assured me she knew some good eggs on the inside.  So off I ran with her in my ear.

Well…let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan.  Once I approached my destination, I found myself surrounded by angry humans with guns…and zoms weren’t too far off either.  I didn’t think – I just RAN.

And then…everything went dark.  Meaning, the sun went down, but I also could no longer hear Abel (Janine or otherwise) in my ear.  Just static. Shit.  This wasn’t looking good, and I was getting tired.

There’s nothing more motivating me to run than the undead, I always say!  They never get tired.  I had to circle way around to steer clear of New Canton and then find my way back to Abel before they closed the gates for the night.  Buuuut, considering that it was already dark out, I figured I was screwed.

And then, I could hear him.  Faintly.  It was SAM!  He was still in his office, calling out to me!  I hissed as loud as I dared into my mic that I’m still alive, Mr. Yao!  And I can hear you!  GET ME HOME!  No response.  But bless him, he kept talking anyway.  The best part was that he told me, or my zombie self as far as he was concerned, that he’d convinced the higher ups to keep the gate open for another hour or so just in case I made it back!!  I had a chance, I just had to KEEP RUNNING!

There was only one time I came close to buying the undead farm as I blindly found my way back to Abel that night.  It’s hard for me to run entire missions without stopping to walk, and that’s okay since zombie hoards tend to move at a slow shuffle.  As long as I complete the mission and get back alive, right?  At this particular moment, I was close to Abel, I could smell it, and I was already running…when I smelled something else.  You guessed it.  To outrun them, I typically have to speed up by 10%.  But I was already running.  And I was damn tired.  I gave it all I had.  The air was cold and it started to make my heaving lungs burn, but I kept on.  The voice in my ear told me the zoms were 50 meters away…and then only 20.  By that time, I could hear their moans, and I swear I could feel their ragged breath on the back of my neck.  I didn’t turn around to look, I just ran.

Finally, to keep from getting caught, I was forced to drop what few supplies I had collected along the way.  It distracted them juuust enough, and then, when I had nothing left in me:  Runner 5!!  OH MY GOD, RUNNER 5!  YOU’RE ALIVE!  I CAN SEE YOU!  OPEN THE GATE!!  OPEN IT NOW!

Never had I heard such sweet yelling into my ear.  Thanks, Sam, for keeping me company.  And for letting me back in.  I’ll live to run another day.

Mission 7: Completed.


NaBloPoMo Day 19

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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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Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Lady

Hey, this is Brian.

Yup, the husband-of-a-pregnant-blogger-Melissa Brian.

I’m here to school all the partners of pregnant ladies so that they get through the experience relatively unscathed.

Can you believe Melissa actually let me on here to write my very own post?

Yeah, neither can I…because this is Melissa, and I am writing this from Brian’s point of view with his general oversight and mild approval.  Learn from these tales, my friends.

 Brunch-tastic

I decided to wait to eat breakfast on this lovely Sunday morning, opting for brunch instead.  Of course, Melissa wolfed down two bowls of cereal and about ten lemon poppyseed muffins before I even got out of bed, so I figured she’d be good for a while.

I walk into the room with my beautifully prepared brunch and I see that she’s on her computer.  I sit down next to her.  She looks up expectantly.  “What’s that?”

I paused, realizing my mistake too late.  Could I still get away?  Maybe I could pretend that I didn’t hear her.

I faced my fate head-on: “Uh…it’s a sandwich.  Made with this delicious bagel, pesto, lettuce…and from diseased deli meat and unpasteurized cheese.”

At Melissa’s rageful silence, I got up and backed away slowly, and once I was a safe distance away, I threw another muffin at her for good measure.

 The Hangry Plan

Pregnant ladies have gold medals in being hangry, so Melissa and I have learned to try and plan for the worst when we go out shopping or to run some errands.  We bring water and snacks, and we also conjure up contingency plans, especially since she’ll be less able to run and defend herself in the event of a zombie apocalypse breaking out mid-outing.

For this particular outing, I wanted to go clothes shopping, and I gave Melissa the option of staying home, but she insisted on getting out of the apartment.

Melissa: “If I get hangry, just drop me at Cinnabon.”

Me: “You mean when you get hangry.”

Pregnant glare.

Me: “And we may have to think of somewhere else, because they went out of business.”

Wide-eyed, panicked Melissa: “What?!”

Me, making sure I was more than an arm’s length away: “Ha, just kidding.  You totally believed me!”

Melissa: “You are dead to me.”

 

The Sperm Whale

We’re at the doctor’s office, and Melissa has some fetal heart monitors strapped to her belly to check some things out.  Everything was awesome, and when they took the monitors off, they had made two round impressions on her very pregnant belly.

As Melissa was getting dressed, I giggled.

Melissa: “What?”

Me: “Nothing, it’s just that you reminded me of a sperm whale.”

Melissa, her tone of voice flat-lining: “…a whatnow?”

Me, as I point to her belly: “You know, the sperm whale surfaces and the squid has been attacking it, and you can see where the squid’s suction cups were stuck to the whale.”

Melissa: “And that makes me a sperm whale?”

Me: “…a small, cute one!”

Melissa: “You know what else sperm whales can do?”

And without waiting for an answer, she sat on me.

 

The Jungle Cat

It’s 6 in the morning, and Melissa got up with me because she couldn’t sleep, so she was naturally hungry again.  But also because she loves me madly and couldn’t bear to miss seeing me off to work.  As you recall from previous blog posts, it’s my responsibility to feed the meowing, howling cat at this time of day.

After spending a few minutes in the bathroom doing disgusting boy things, I entered the kitchen and threw some kibble in the cat’s bowl.  The howling stopped, replaced by sounds of frantic gulping as she turned all of her attention to her food bowl.  I looked up and realized that my cat and pregnant wife mirrored each other – each were hunched over their food in intense focus, like jungle cats tearing their fresh prey apart.  Melissa even had on adorable cheetah print skivvies.

Foolishly, I reached over and patted Melissa’s bum.  “You’re like a cheetah!” I told her. And then I growled for good measure.

Melissa looked up from her peanut butter and jelly topped onion bagel.  “Huh?!” she said with her mouth full.

I pointed at her underwear and growled again.

She looked down and then quickly looked back up.  “Yeah, I can’t see what underwear I am wearing from this angle.  Thanks.”

“Well…it looks fabulous!”

And then I threw another muffin and ran away.

 

Running from Zombies

I hate running.

I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.

In high school, when we had to start running on the regular for gym class, I wondered what I had done wrong to deserve such punishment.  Surely they couldn’t make us do this?!  And then I looked around, and I found that some of my friends actually liked it. They were competitive.   They were fast.  They were nuts.

I will never understand those people.

Fast forward to now, where for the past 2-3 years, I have actually started working out with some regularity, not counting getting into yoga after my cancer surgery in 2003.  I started doing yoga a few weeks after surgery when it was a struggle to get up from a sitting position, and now I’d say I am at least at an intermediate level.  I’m pretty proud about some of the kickass poses I can do.

So, 2-3 years ago I added in some elliptical stuff.  Basically, I re-watch episodes of 30 Rock while I fake run on a very loud machine in my tiny apartment complex exercise room.  Now that my calves are pretty buff, I wanted to switch things up a little bit and try some…running.

Now, I’ve actually tried to run in the past, but it basically turns into what I like to call a walkjog.  I just don’t have the physical stamina for any sustained motion that propels me forward with any speed.  Also, being the true artist that I am, what’s my motivation for this torture?  It’s almost like I’d need something chasing me.

And with that, enter Brian, my husband-to-be, who is always motivating me to better myself and always has my well-being in mind (and only chases me in the romantic sense):

B: What are you going to do when the zombies get here?

Me: Well, if they are slow zombies, I’ll sprint past them and jam the close ones through the eye socket.

B: First, you can’t handle bodily fluids.  How will you manage to ‘jam the close ones’ accurately enough and with enough force?  Second, what if they are 28 Days Later zombies?

Me: First, you’re right.  Bloody noses make me gag, and forget about mucous.  I will use my samurai swords and just decapitate ’em like Michonne, because she’s badass and had the right idea from the start.  Second, fuuuuuuck.

B: Exactly.  Let’s start running.

——

But I can’t just run, and I certainly can’t just run with Brian.  We’ve tried this before, where he’s motivating me by saying all these sweet things as we’re running side by side, but all it does it make me giggle, and I have a bad habit of giggling when I run…and then I can’t stop giggling, which means I have to stop running.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I am a 5 year old.  And if I ever have children, I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep them alive (especially since kids bleed out so fast), but that’s another blog post altogether.

The answer was clear:  the app called Zombies, Run!

It sounded perfect.  You’re a runner, a gopher in this post-apocalyptic world where people with British accents tell you when to run to evade a zombie mob.  If you’re lucky enough to survive the mission, you pick up stuff along the way and bring it back to base.

This was it.  This was my motivation.  Plus, I could never disobey someone with a British accent.

Last Thursday, Brian and I gave this app a try.  We keyed up the first mission and started power walking down the street.  It was still a bit light out, but the sun would go down soon.  British man and lady were describing our surroundings and I was told I found and picked up some water.  And then – I could hear them.  The Brits could see the mob closing in on me and told me to run…I looked at Brian and he nodded to me as I felt an adrenaline surge and picked up the pace.  They were 50 meters away, their breathing heavy, low moaning.  Then 20 meters away.  Fuck, this was scary!  I swear I could feel their ragged breath on the back of my neck.  And then –

Zombie mob evaded.  Good job Runner 5!

Sweetness!  This was actually kinda fun!

B: Jesus, Lady!  I’ve never seen you take off like that!

Me: Well, they were going to GET ME!

And so on the mission went…we had to pass the old hospital, hoping to find supplies and rejoin Runner 7.  In real life, we had turned between two ag fields and were running between two rows of olive trees…it was much darker now.

Suddenly, the Brits could see Runner 7!  She was running to catch up with us…only she was different.  Oh shit, she’s a zombie and there’s more behind her, RUN!

So we do it again.  Remember when I said I lack stamina?  I was already pretty wiped at this point, but I gave it my all.  Seriously, I ran even after I didn’t think I could run anymore.  And this time, I was seriously freaked out because Brian had run ahead, I couldn’t see him anymore, and I could hear and feel these monsters getting closer and closer…

And I became Zombie Runner 7’s nighttime snack.  I was so pissed I nearly collapsed in the dirt.

—–

Fast forward to the day after, and I could barely walk.  Seriously, my legs would painfully cramp up if I transferred any weight to my toes.  Had this really been the zombie apocalypse, I would have died on Day 2.  Or Brian would have carried me, because that’s what husbands-to-be do in dystopias.

So I won’t give up; I plan to run more missions, because damn, it’s motivating!

Why don’t I ever see them stop to stretch on The Walking Dead?!

…and I feel fine

This is it, you guys.

And I am sooo ready.

My car is packed (and not just because I am heading to my folks’ for the holidays….that is, if they ever end up taking place).  I filled up my gas tank this morning.  And I totally have my Katniss boots on.

I sincerely hope minimal amounts of blood find its way to my boots, or there will be hell to pay.  Pun intended.

I sincerely hope minimal amounts of blood find its way to my boots, or there will be hell to pay. Pun intended.

I am prepared to do whatever it takes to survive this thing.  Even if I have to dump half-decomposed zombie guts on myself and do the undead shuffle.  Even if I have to sock Lucifer himself in the mouth.  Smite that, motherfucker.

It’s like my whole life has been preparing me for this day.

Maybe I should put on my wedding dress (which means I FOUND ONE!  Squee!) so that I’m guaranteed it’ll at least get a few hours worth of wear.

Good luck out there, everyone.  Only our wits and stockpiles of Twinkies will save us now.

Warm Bodies

I wanted to share two very unrelated things I stumbled across on the interwebs today.

Thing Number One

Dancing.  Singing.  Amazingly sexy accents.  Death.  Love.  More death.  And zombies!!

Could life get any better?

…maybe with some mint chocolate chip, actually.  That would make it better.

Thing Number Two

The Oatmeal always comes through for me, and this time he wrote a comic that beautifully captures what a lot of us bloggers go through and are aiming to do.

Enjoy and be inspired!