Today is my dear, sweet Amanda's birthday. I would love to pick her up and fly her to London, where we would celebrate in a wild and hedonistic fashion...alas, I'm poor.
...so instead...I'm inflicting a VERY VERY poorly written snippet of a story on her and calling it a 'gift'.
I am the most horrible thing!
I think I miss baths the most. Bubble baths, specifically. Something about the frothy, fruit scented bubbles sliding along my skin felt decadent. To sink down in a tub full of the hot, scented water had once been a favored way for me to relax and wash away the cares of the day. How many times had I stumbled in after a particularly bad day at the office and made a beeline straight for the comfort of my bath, never imagining a moment when that perfectly hot water wouldn't come pouring out in abundance for me. When I emerged from the cooling water feeling soft, feminine, clean, not once did I seriously think there would come a moment in my lifetime when even this simple pleasure would become a distant dream.
That was before...
...before the world became a nightmare...a continual stream of days spent struggling to survive in the face of insurmountable odds. Baths were a luxury we couldn't afford now. Water too precious to waste on vanity. Occasionally we were gifted with a few moments to dip in the tepid water of a lake that we happened to stumble across. You could never be sure that it was completely safe under it's dark surface though.
It had only been seven or so months since the worst of it had begun, but it felt like years to each and every one of us. Our group was much smaller now that it had started out. Each of us was scarred with loss, and yet determined to fight for each and every day that we were gifted with.
We still weren't sure how the nightmare had began. In the beginning we were told that it was a mutated version of the H1N1 flu virus that was killing untold numbers of people everyday. Rich, poor, men, women, children or adult. The virus took every type of person from every social class. Even before then you couldn't trust the media to tell you the truth. Rumors began to circulate, whispered with a tone of joking but only because the idea was so unbelievable. My brother had come in from college early one afternoon a few weeks after the first cases had been reported. The college had cancelled classes amid an outbreak of the flu that had left more than half of the students out or trying to come to class in feverish and delirious states.
He flung his backpack on the couch and looked at me with horror, "Ruby, I heard something today that I just...I can't believe it might be true. I mean, normally I would hear something like this and laugh it off, call the person crazy, but...after what I've seen out there today. I just don't know."
Ben was white as a sheet, and grasping for words. Never in my life had I know my sarcastic and witty baby brother to ever be at a loss for words. The fear haunting his hazel eyes was new as well. "What is it?"
"This virus. It's not the flu, or it's not what they told us it was at least. There are stories going around that this was something the government had been working on, something that they had been planning to use, but that it got out of control, it mutated, and someone brought it out of whatever lab or whatever they had created it in."
I stared at him, waiting for him to say he was joking. Waiting for him to laugh and call me a noob like he so often did.
"That's not even the worst of it." He ran his hand through his dark hair nervously, and pinned me with a gaze so serious that I almost didn't recognize him for a moment. "More have died than are being reported...and...and..they're not staying dead. I can't believe that I'm actually saying that out loud. That kind of thing only happens in horror movies. It can't be happening for real, can it?"
I hadn't answered him....didn't know how to answer him. Logic told us that something as far-fetched as the dead returning to life was as unlikely as to happen as me becoming a theoretical physicist. Logic was fucking wrong.
It wasn't long after that afternoon with Ben that things began to spiral out of hand. The military began pouring into the most populated cities, taking over and trying to sustain some since of order. It didn't last long, however, so many people began to succumb to the virus and it quickly became impossible to hide the truth.The dead were determined to rise, and there were not enough of us left to stop them.
Chaos. Death. Horror. Loss. There aren't words to describe the things I had seen since my world fell apart. No words for watching some of my family die a painful, virus induced death, only to rise moments later and try to rip the flesh from my body. No words for witnessing other people I loved being ripped apart by hordes of undead. No words for the constant fear and vigilance needed to keep myself alive since then. No words for the things I've had to do to protect this group.
I shook myself. I can't think about my family. It breaks me, and I have to stay vigilant, stay strong for the group. If we were lucky, we would have a time to grieve later.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, dumbass?" I heard a familiar female voice ask in annoyance. "You're suppose to be helping secure the house for the night. Do you think think the nails are just going to jump up and hammer themselves in? Get the hell to work!"
Smiling reluctantly, I looked up and watched Amanda walk away from the errant worker and saunter towards me. I studied her features as she neared, trying to ascertain what she had seen while patrolling the grounds of this new homestead. A saucy grin danced on her full lips, and like most of the women in camp she had her long dark brown hair tied behind her head. It was either that or shave it all off these days. Greasy hair was a pain in the ass. She pulled her rifle off from it's position slung over her shoulder and plopped down beside me on the porch steps. Amanda and I lead this group together. We tried to do what was best for them, to do what we could to increase all of our chances of survival as long as we could. We'd stumbled on this farmhouse completely by accident and had spent the vast majority of the day checking it for the undead and to determine if it would serve as a good camp for a while. We did the best we could with the help we had. Her two young children were more help than some of the adults we were saddled with, but we muddled along somehow.
"You find anything?" I asked.
"Not much. It's a pretty big farm, so we might find more when we have more daylight to explore with. The house has some supplies. Not a lot, but it's better than nothing, I guess."
"What were you thinking about so hard when I walked up?" she asked, knowing my moods too well.
I snorted, "Bubble baths."
"Bubble baths?" she asked with a laugh.
"I was trying to decide what I missed most since the world went to hell."
"And you decided it was a bubble bath?" she looked like she was going to check me for a fever at any moment.
"I think I just want to be clean!"
"Well, maybe we can secure this place for a while. There's bound to be a well of some kind on a farm like this."
"Maybe." I mumbled. It was never certain how long a location would be habitual. There was no such thing as safe during this madness...only safer.
We sat in companionable silence, taking a few moments to relax after a day spent hiking through the thick woods of the Appalachian foothills and scouting the farm for undead. These moments were few and we had earned them. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had Amanda with me. Part of me likes to think that I still would have thrown myself together and carried on. The rest of me knows that I would probably have sat in my kitchen floor, covered in my family's blood, and crying until I was overrun by the roving hordes of undead if she hadn't found me and slapped some sense into me. With her by my side, I was able to keep the grief constantly nipping at my heels at bay, and soldier on. She helped me to keep fighting.
"Look at that ass. That ass is a thing of pure beauty." Amanda declared happily beside me. I laughed when I followed her gaze to the ass in question. She and Aidan Darcy had been inseparable since the moment that they clamped eyes on each other. Damn the zombies, right there in the middle of stocking up on supplies in the Bass Pro Shop, she had leaned over and said, "Dibs!". Soon after, if they disappeared together, you did not go looking for them, not unless you wanted a boot or some other heavy object thrown at your head.
I shook my head and smiled. Leave it to Amanda to have a hot, torrid love affair in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. While others would be trembling and paralyzed with fear, she would would casually stroll off for a quickie given half the chance. The very definition of badass, my sweet Amanda is.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched someone round the side of the house and make their way towards Aidan. As soon as the person came into focus my hormones stood at attention and began to pant. Shirtless, with a an ax thrown casually over one shoulder, Benedict strode across the yard on his wonderfully long legs. At 6 foot tall, he towered over me and I wanted nothing more than to climb him.
"I take it back." I said, not taking my eyes off of him.
"Take what back?"
"The bubble bath thing. I take it back. The thing I miss most is sex. Definitely sex."
"Well THAT we can do something about!" she shoved me playfully. "We are in a perilous situation here, hon! We never know if we're going to survive one day to another. I suggest you get your ass up right now and go sit on those goddamn perfect cheekbones of his!"
We erupted in giggles. Giggles! Not once in all this months had I really laughed, let alone giggled. We attempted to right ourselves from the tumbling, giggling mess we had tumbled into, and caught the two men staring at us...and the giggles began all over again. Something in me changed then, something that told me that maybe we have a semblance of a life in the midst of all this chaos. Some piece of happiness in all this hell.