Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tell Me A Story Momma....but, in hindsight, preferably NOT about zombies...

--by Janin Wise

*Please be advised, these have not been edited. They are just as they were typed for the NaNoWriMo project.*

Once upon a time, not that long ago, heck, going on this very minute! in a small brick house, in the middle of southern Alabama, a northern raised woman, with her young children, moved in. And every night, as the clock struck 8, a chorus of “Tell me a story, Momma!” rang down the hall. She could no more resist that sweet request than Odysseus could resist those sirens, so she drifted down that night darkened hall and asked her children, “Would you like me to read to you, or would you like me to make a story up for you this evening?” And every evening, they requested a new made up story.

Well, this particular evening, being the day right after Halloween, spooks and goblins fresh on their minds, the story began, “Once upon a time, not terribly far in the future, was a world gone mad! It’d finally happened! The Zombie Apocalypse was nigh!

Until such a fantastic and terrible thing happens, you never think that it might… well, maybe you think that it might, but you don’t REALLY think it’ll ever happen. So it’s not like you plan for it.

Unless of course, you’d been reading up on your Zombie Survival manuals. And fortunately for our heroes, they had the complete library! Max Brooks, “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead”, Sean Page’s “Official Zombie Handbook”, and Meghann Marco’s, “Field Guide to the Apocolypse” just to name a few. These books had been well read, re-read, dog-earred, bookmarked and highlighted. Any bibliophile could tell you their pages had seen more than their fair share of turnings—heck, some of them were taped in place while other errant pages peaked between the sheets of their well filed brothers raising their hands saying, “Pick me! Pick me! -I’m- the page that’ll save your life!”

And who are our heroes, you ask? You’re hardly going to believe me when I tell you, but our heroes are no older than 8 and 5. Oh, I know. In an emergency situation, everyone turns to the adults for guidance. But lets face it, in such a fantastical situation, it’s the imaginations and creativity of the young that are going to be able to handle it.

Now fortunately, these two little boys and their family lived in kind of secluded part of the world, no closer than 30 minutes to any real civilization. And that right there is probably what gave them time to prepare. See, bad things like to spread in big places. The more people you got packed closer together, the easier it is to spread. That’s as true of the plague way back in Europe as it is for the zombies today!

So news reports were covering the spread weeks in advance. The adults all laughed it off—after all, Orson Wells had his laugh with the media of his day—radio; so they figured some very clever (and soon to be very rich!) executive had decided to update the scheme to television and the internet. But the two little boys knew better. Call it children’s intuition.

When they got on the bus the next school morning, all the other children were quiet. See, children see and hear and KNOW a lot more than they’re given credit for. Well, once they got the opportunity, during lunch, at recess, they all began to talk. And they realized they ALL had the same bad feeling that something was coming. So they came up with a plan. First, the kids started sneaking canned goods and bottled waters from home and stockpiling them in the school. It helped that the fifth graders knew it used to be bunker and how to get into the underground access. Then, they mapped out the nearest Department of Transportation site, all the hardware stores, the pawn shops, any place a creative weapon could be found.

And finally, the day they dreaded, that the adults had laughed off, was upon them. It started like any other boring school day: Get up way too early. Get dressed with eyes half open. Mumble what you want for breakfast. Try not to drool too much of it on your clothes before you have to brush your teeth and rush out to the bus so that you don’t miss it. But as they pulled into school, you could see them shuffling up the hill. One slow step at a time. Bits missing. Parts falling. Limbs dragging. And we won’t even go into the smell!”

(At this point, Momma realized that both of her children were clutching the sheets, their faces pale, their eyes wide. And she thought about the fact that if she kept on this track, it was likely she was going to be sharing her bed with two terrified little boys…that like to crowd and flip and roll in their sleep…She remembered an old storyteller friend saying, “When you start to lose the story or the audience, when you have NO WHERE ELSE TO GO—wrap it up quickly with, “And they all DIED!”

She considered it briefly, all of this passing through her mind in less than the time it takes to make a single blink, and knew that if she ended it now with “And they all DIED!” after making the heroes little boys her own boys’ ages…she was going to end up sharing her bed with two terrified little boys…that like to crowd and flip and roll in their sleep…except now they would likely have nightmares and wake up screaming…. Crap.

What to do?! What to do?!?

A-ha! Got it!)

“And the children stood there watching in horror as the creatures came shuffling, shuffling. Slowly, slowly, oh so painfully slowly up the hill. Getting closer. And closer.

And still the adults paid no heed.

And still the zombies got closer. First they shuffled one step. Bits of flesh dripping. Then they shuffled two steps, the stench of their rotting corpses proceeding them. Wafting up the hill towards the children. Overwhelming the smells of waffles and strawberries being made in the cafeteria for breakfast. (And if you want to talk about –nasty- there’s simply nothing that smells worse than waffles, strawberries and death.)

The children began to quake in fear. The dead continued to get closer, closer. Dragging, limping, slowly, slowly, always closer. And no where to run! No where to hide! All their plans forgotten in the terror or the reality! They were about to be consumed as they stood there in fright!!!!.....

When the two little boys woke up.

They’d fallen asleep in their makeshift tent of covers again, flashlights on, reading from their zombie manuals. None of it was real! It’d all been just a terrible bad dream! Whew!

(At this point, the excitement and fear in the eyes of her own two little boys calms down, they smile, they giggle, they relax. And then my world wise eight year old says to me, “I have to admit, Mom, for a minute there, I was really worried you were going to end this one with one of your, “And they all DIED.” endings.)

Hugs and kisses, fears allayed, lights turned out and both boys lay down for another night of restful sleep.

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