Sunday, May 29, 2016

It’s One Goodbye After Another in the Post-Apocalypse

This scene from Chapter 2 of Grace Among the Dead is all the more poignant for me at this point in A.D. 2016, as I also find myself saying goodbye to a house of long years, and the memories of better times:
It was Sunday afternoon when I pulled up at my house on the north side of Colorado Springs. The streets were clear, but it was as hot as it was bright, which meant the dead haunted the doorways, or wherever they could find shade. I saw one getting to her feet from behind a hedge as I passed, another staggering out from behind a tree. I might as well have been the ice cream truck playing a merry tune, bringing all the half-rotted kiddies from their yards.
I parked in the driveway outside of the garage. I killed the engine and pulled out my house keys. “It’s me,” I said, as loudly as I dared as I opened the front door.
I pulled the screen door shut behind me and locked it before closing the front door. “It’s me,” I said again. I could feel the emptiness of the house. Not even a cat. I went into the kitchen. 
There was an odor coming from the door leading into the garage. I drew a deep breath and held it before throwing open the door. I should have known; this was the only place they could take the trash out. A good thing they weren’t here too long. 
The pantry stood empty. Even the plastic trash bags were gone. On the stove was a thin, battered, red spiral notebook with “DAD” written in bold Sharpie marker across the front. The pages in front were torn out so that only Sybil’s three-page note and some blank paper in back were left.
The date at the top of the first page was Thursday, May 15. That was my second day of more-or-less consciousness in Natalia, Kansas, still shaking off the painkillers given me after my plane crash the previous Saturday. While I was getting myself together, it was already too late for Sybil and Jack.
I left the kitchen to make my last tour through the rooms where we’d spent the last seven years of our lives. The last…it was all I could do to keep from being overcome by the very sound of this word in my head. 
I took a book from my son’s room (he had a good picture book on firearms we’d given him for Christmas), then some other books from my downstairs office. I found one of our overnight bags on the floor in the hall, as if someone had dropped it in their haste to get out. I put the books inside, along with some clothes from my bedroom. I spared a moment to look at the unmade bed, and the yellowy outline a heavily sweating body left on the fitted sheet. 
Standing in the light of the picture window looking over the backyard, I read as much as I could of Sybil’s note. Later, I would have it all but memorized.

The note goes on to detail Sybil and Jack’s ordeal holding down the house before they took the opportunity to leave their undead-infested neighborhood for rural Pueblo County. In reviewing this chapter for rewriting/remastering for the eventual omnibus edition of my series, I was struck by how heartbreakingly dark the story got, especially in regards to what happened with Claire Grace, and what the children were forced to do with their pets.

For all the choppy-chop, shoot-’em-up hijinks, the zombie apocalypse is a dark and sad place. Ultimately, THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER is about redemption through action. But there must be loss. So much loss.