I was sitting on the curb holding hands with Maryann. She didn't look great but you know I'm sure I didn't either. She had some lines around her eyes and bags underneath and they were pretty bloodshot.
BillnTed were in the house up the sidewalk behind us doing one of the zombies in there. They had a houseful to pick from. Mommy and Daddy Zombie in the big kingsized, old Gramma Zombie in a little room down the hall, Billy Brother Zombie on the living room couch, Cindy Sister Zombie in her room with Backstreet Boys posters on the wall and stuffed animals across the hall from Mom and Pop. I think BillnTed were doing Cindy but I don't like to watch that stuff. Live and let live though, you know. For a while yet. While I've still got some meth, I mean.
"I guess she doesn't care," Maryann said again in a dull voice. We all have pretty dull voices. Fifth day and all. I've got some meth left and I don't feel too wired yet but, you know. Five days, even on speed, is five days.
"Nah, she's asleep," I said. I think we had both said it like four times already but, you know.
"Do you think she was 18? I don't think she was. I think she was like 14 or 15. That's child molesting," Maryann went on. "I mean, I'm just saying. The mom wasn't bad looking. They could have, you know, done that stuff to her."
What BillnTed do with the zombies isn't anything I'd want to call 'child molesting'. I'd call it necrophilia if anyone asked me, although technically the zombies aren't dead. Although we've been seeing more and more the last day or so that are. I mean, five days asleep without water will do that. And the ones that are still alive aren't looking good. Shrunken and kind of caved in. Not that BillnTed care.
I guess it isn't fair to call it necrophilia totally. I mean, the zombies breathe and stuff and sometimes they'll even stir around and mumble something if you move them, which BillnTed do, although you'll pardon me if I don't want to exactly dwell on that in any detail. I just try to look at it as you know, like those dolls you can buy at the adult book stores. But my point is that it isn't necrophilia. It isn't exactly like getting sex on some dead body. I would guess in some ways it's a lot better and easier but like I say I don't like to think on all the details.
Maryann is a little more weirded out by all this than we are. When we found her she was making soup in the kitchen of her parents house so she could spoon feed them broth between their lips. She hadn't given up on them yet. That was the third day. Maryann is nicer than we are anyway. I mean, she isn't a speed freak or anything. She had been up all night studying for some final exam she's never going to take now. She walked out Monday morning just like the three of us did, early, like 7 AM, and noticed how quiet it was. Tampa is never that quiet at 7 AM on Monday. In fact there's a lot of traffic or there should be. Planes flying over. Helicopters. Background noise from a hundred thousand people or so getting up and getting ready to trudge off to their lousy little jobs. And there wasn't any of that. It was so quiet it was spooky.
No cars in the streets. No traffic sounds. No one at the gas station two blocks over. No big noisy garbage trucks emptying the dumpster next to my apartment building. No one out at all that we could see, besides us.
Me and BillnTed were bingeing on some good meth which was why we were still up. When you're bingeing things take on a weird sort of shimmer and you get a good distance on everything. So it was a while before it really occurred to us what was going on and then, when it did, we had it all wrong at first. Bill's mom is like this major pentecostal godhead and Bill started going 'oh shit oh shit oh shit it's the Rapture they took everyone but us oh shit oh shit we're in Hell dudes oh shit' and like that. Really depressing stuff and you know, I'd heard his mom go on and on about this stuff enough that I was thinking 'okay, maybe he's right'. But your brain runs at about a million MPH on meth and I immediately thought 'man there aint' THAT many godheads, there should be a ton of people left'.
So then we started breaking into places and that was when we found the zombies.
I mean, look, not like Night of the Living Dead zombies or anything, and BillnTed call them sleepers, which is, you know, more accurate I suppose. We tried to wake them up, for a while, you know, at first. Because we were really freaked out. Slapped them, yanked them out of bed, held their noses closed, yelled and screamed at them, dragged them into their showers and turned the water on. Nothing. Sometimes they'd stir around a little and mumble but that was it. Freaks.
We tossed one nice looking woman in her shower to try and wake her up and the water soaked down the nightshirt she was wearing and that was when Ted got the idea. I tried to talk him out of it at first but, you know. He wanted to and, plus, who knew, maybe it would wake her up. Like Sleeping Beauty. I read somewhere, I think it was in SANDMAN, or maybe some Alan Moore comic, that in the original fairy tale it wasn't a kiss that woke Sleeping Beauty up, so you know, what the hell. I didn't want to watch though so I left. Bill stayed to watch and I guess he decided he might as well join in. I don't know. It's their thing and no one is going to stop them, so why should I? Who cares anyway?
By the second day I think we had all figured out what was going on but we didn't want to talk about it. Everybody that went to sleep on Sunday night just didn't wake up again. And apparently nothing would wake them up either. Nothing we could figure out to do anyway. Still, by then it had only been two days. We had broken into a bunch of places by then. Bill nTed did the stuff they did and we went around and found stuff we wanted and took it out and put it in Bill's car. We loaded that car up pretty good with DVD players and computers and jewelry and stuff. We were taking money too until the third day.
That was the day we met Maryanne but that was later. I had the idea that why should we take money from people's houses when we could just go to a bank. So we walked across the street to SunTrust and kicked in one of the big glass windows. But it was no good. The banks had been closed for the weekend and no one had come in to open the vault. I guess we could have gone out to MacDill and gotten like a rocket launcher or some fucking thing and blown open the vault but shit. That was way too much like work.
The electricity started going out in places on the third day and that was how we met Maryann. We heard her crying from her house. We had heard some noise a little bit in the past couple of days... single cars and stuff, and a couple of times some guys yelling their heads off, just really loud, stupid stuff, a few blocks away, blowing horns and shit... but we didn't feel like checking it out. Who cared? I think BillnTed figured someone might stop them from messing with the zombies and I just didn't give a shit, you know? But I could tell this sound was some girl crying. So I went up to her house and crowbarred in the door, which I had gotten a lot of practice at lately. It was dark in there because the electricity in that block had just gone out, which we had noticed because the background sound of the wires had stopped, and when its really quiet and suddenly gets quieter, believe me, you hear it. So I went in and she was in there in the gloomy shadows crying in the kitchen. I could barely see her it was so dim, but I had a flashlight. She said the can opener wouldn't work without electricity and how could she feed her mom and dad if she couldn't get the cans open? So I suggested she come with us and we'd drive to a mall and she could find a regular can opener. She'd been up for three days by then on Pepsi and caffeine pills and cold showers taking care of her folks. I think she knew what was up just like we knew, like I think everyone else still awake knew. She was afraid to go to sleep, but caffeine and cold showers aren't a good way to stay up. She was groggy. I mean, she was punchy. So she came with us and I gave her some crystal. I didn't have a lot left but you know. A little goes a long way plus I liked her, kind of. And BillnTed were really getting into the zombies so they didn't care.
BillnTed came out of the house behind us and I could hear them arguing.
Bill said "Dude you are gross and disgusting. I mean, that is gay. Gay faggot stuff, dude."
Ted said "Like anyone cares, dude, they're asleep."
Bill said "Yeah but DUDE there was the girl AND her mom I mean what the hell dude."
They sat down on the curb, Bill next to me, Ted next to Maryann. "Ted is like a total queer, Jim. I mean, he is," Bill told me listlessly.
Ted said from the other side of Maryann "Just shut up, Beavis."
I just shook my head. "Dudes, I don't even want to know. Just shut up both of you."
And they did, which was amazing, because BillnTed never listen to anyone. But they did, and Maryann and I sat there and didn't talk either, just held hands. And Tampa was quiet all around us. We were back up on Westshore, then, by the Taco Bell. We could have gone anywhere in Tampa but we just stuck around Westshore. You know. It was our neighborhood.
"It's so quiet, dude," Ted said after a couple of minutes. "Do you think that we're, like, the last ones?" He meant, the last ones awake, but we knew. He didn't need to say that.
Five days is a long time to stay awake, even with crystal, and if you didn't have crystal, forget about it. Dex might keep you up this long but you'd be out of your mind by now. Still Tampa is like Drug City and I figured there had to be some other crystalheads still up out there somewhere. Just not close to us. Probably some bitchin parties going on up by the universities, though.
"Nah," I said. "There's other people still awake. They're just, like, not around here."
Maryann stood up slowly. She wasn't used to the crystal like us. "You said you'd show me your place," she said. "Come on."
So we walked up the street to my apartment complex and went inside. Bill looked around and then said "Dude you think that blond that lives on the floor over you is home?"
I looked at the parking lot and her big SUV was there. "Sure, her car's here," I told him.
"Cool!" he said. "Come on, Beavis. Maybe her boyfriend stayed over and you can get some."
"Fuck you, Butthead," Ted said as they went up the stairs to the third floor.
"You stay awake longer than me and you can be my first," Bill said, with a crazy laugh, which was the last thing I heard them say because I had opened my apartment door and let Maryann in and closed it.
My apartment was a mess but you know. Maryann looked around at the pizza boxes and Taco Bell wrappers and stuff, then went over to the bookshelves and looked at some of the books. Ran her fingers along the shelf full of polybagged comics. Then she looked at me. "Where's your bedroom?"
So, you know, we did it and if you've never been up for five straight days on meth and then balled the nicest girl you ever met while the whole planet died all around you, then you have no idea what THAT's like and I'm not going to try to tell you. Except it was great and I wished I had met her when I wasn't, you know, quite so prodigiously fucked up. Except that she was pretty and a sweet girl and would never have gone out with a fucked up waste product like me, much less gotten in bed with me. Before, I mean. You know.
Afterwards we just lay there, which was dangerous cuz even with the meth, you don't want to lay down and you really don't want to close your eyes on the fifth day. But it was nice, holding her. I liked it.
"What do you think happened?" she asked me, her voice all nice and quiet and a little slurred because her left cheek was resting on my chest. "You think like, I don't know, aliens hit Earth with a sleep ray or some disease got loose like in THE STAND?"
I had my own idea what had happened but I hadn't said anything because it sounded so stupid. But she had asked, so what the hell. You know.
"Bill's mom is like this big church lady type," I said. "When we were kids she always said grace before dinner which I thought was stupid but you know I was always eating over there cuz she didn't hit anyone like at my house. And I remember sometimes, when she was thanking God for everything, you know, the food and all that stuff, she would say something like 'and we thank you for the good angel you sent to open our eyes this morning'."
My voice had gotten funny and chokey sounding and I hate that so I stopped then, because I knew how stupid I must sound.
We were quiet for a little while. She was rubbing my upper arm with just the heel of her hand, softly, in a circle, over and over again. It should have been annoying but it was nice.
"So God just gave up on us," she said finally. "Just gave up and stopped sending out his angels to wake everyone up."
I thought about what BillnTed were most likely doing with the sleeping body of my upstairs neighbor. I didn't know her name but she was a pretty blond with a good body. She drove an SUV and had a boyfriend as good looking and in shape as she was. I used to like to sit out on my patio and watch her walk in to the building after getting home from work at night, because she always wore short skirts or slit skirts and nice blouses. I guess she didn't like that much because after a week or so she started going into the building the long way, through the lobby, but hey. You know.
I thought about what BillnTed were probably doing with her pretty, sleeping body right then, and how quickly and easily they'd picked up a taste for it, and how I hadn't done much of anything to try and stop them. And how Maryann had tried to feed her parents for three days, but after leaving with us and seeing what was going on in Tampa, had never mentioned them again or tried to go back. And, you know, she was a nice person, too.
And I shrugged. "Kinda hard to blame him."
She mumbled something and gave a little snort, which I realized a few seconds later was a snore, when she made the same sound again.
Well, you know I shook her and slapped her and screamed at her and you know it didn't do any good. Then I... well.
A couple of more minutes went by before I got hold of myself again.
I got up and grabbed a towel out of the dirty laundry basket and wiped my face off and blew my nose. I really wanted to just lay there with her and go to sleep. Instead I went out and pulled the big red hard cover volume of LORD OF THE RINGS off the shelf and opened it and took the .45 out of the hollow in the middle of it, and slipped the clip into it after checking to make sure it was full.
The the thing of it was, was...
Maryann was a pretty girl anyway, and especially, compared to the way the zombies looked by now. And I could lock the door, but they'd just break in. We'd gotten good at that. They'd find me. They'd find her. And then... well.
I pulled the slide on the .45 back the way Uncle Jack had taught me when he sold me the gun. Click chunk CLICK. Round in the chamber and seven more in the clip.
I had some meth left but I figured BillnTed would be back down before I needed to take any more. And then... well...
I felt a little tired but it was cool. Pretty soon now I'd be able to get some sleep.