The sky darkened overhead as storm clouds rolled like waves and crashed against the blue sky, drowning out the sun. The smell of ozone hung damply in the air, and the wind carried intel to me while it teased the fabric of my dress. The dead were near. I could smell them. Decaying flesh has a unique odor, one that clings like Velcro and hooks painfully to the gag reflex in the back of the throat. I placed a hand over my nose and tried to breathe through my mouth. Ick, I could taste them on the breeze. I trembled on my perch high above the earth and scoured the land for signs that the fetid things had found us. My son, Preston, only five years old, swung his knife knowingly. He could sense them too. His eyes peered over the red metal railing of the children’s play structure we were stationed on.
“Ova der (over there), Mom” he whispered.
I followed his pointed finger and saw a woman, no older than me, stumble into the fence that lined the park. Pieces of flesh hung off her cheek where she’d recently been bitten. Blood still oozed from her wound, the injury was no more than a few hours old. The virus worked fast. Her teeth chattered loudly, gnashing incisors sought the living. I knew that she smelled us too. Her head moved side to side as she caught our scent on the wind. Neither Preston or I bothered to kneel down. She couldn’t see very well. Her eyes had begun to cloud over, and in response her other senses had heightened preternaturally. It wouldn’t last long. Eventually she’d slow down as her body began to rot, but for now rigor mortis hadn’t fully set in and so she’d be fast, alarmingly fast. We’d have to maintain the high ground.
She scaled the fence easily enough and we watched her sprint into the field. She paused briefly when grass gave way to the cement of the basketball court. She turned in slow circles before stopping abruptly. She raised her face and despite her clouded vision I would swear she’d seen us. The previously beautiful woman squatted low and hopped forward with fists pounding the pavement. Her legs like an afterthought swung between her arms mimicking our distant relative the Gorilla. Perhaps, I thought, the next step in evolution looks a lot like de-evolution. With a sudden burst of speed she flew towards us.
“Get behind me” Preston demanded. I obeyed. He was good with the knife.
Bloodied sneakers bit into the slide, one step, two three four, and she was on the platform below us. Her throat trembled in anticipation of our soft, pliant flesh. Preston screamed for me.
“She’s a pawpal (purple) so she’s supa stwong (super strong)! I need help. Use yowa (your) special attack” he cried out.
I pushed him aside and screamed in her direction. The force of my voice drove her backwards and she covered her ears in agony. Preston didn’t hesitate, he swung his knife and pinned her hand to her skull, driving the blade into her brain. Her clouded eyes rolled backwards as he jerked it out again. Her body fell limply back down the slide, her windbreaker made a “shushing” sound as she slid unimpeded towards the sand. Her body crumpled up awkwardly at the bottom, and she looked like she was doing some sort of bizarre yoga pose.
“Preston” I whimpered.
He glanced back and noticed that I held my side.
“You caught me with your knife” I said. His eyes widened.
“It’s okay” he said quickly, “I’m a level two heala (healer)”. He held up his hands to my wound and hummed. I felt the muscle knit itself together and the skin begin to close.
“All betta (better)?” he wondered.
“Completely” I said.
We climbed down the plastic rock wall together and he ran for his bike.
“Hey Mom” he said.
“Yes?” I responded.
“Do you want to go home and eat popcown?”
“Sure” I laughed.
We left the park and our imaginary play behind, but we’d be back soon and the zombies wouldn’t stand a chance.