Bulletproof Heartbeats

Today, I shot a man.
Today, I smashed a window and robbed everything I could carry.
Today, I amputated a rather cute boy's leg. With no medication.
Today I armed my bipolar, fifteen year old sister with a rusty knife, and sent her away.
I am seventeen years old today.
Still, things change quickly when the zombie apocalypse comes.

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2. Utah


I watch the flames tear at the darkness, as the sky above sloshes, soupy crimson, burnt and blackened at the edges, and fades away into rotting yellow, curling and dank. The sunset surrenders quickly tonight, with an acrid stench spiralling up with the heavy smoke, pungent scent invasive.
We have smelled much worse.
We have smelled death.
The same death-smell lingers in the thick, choking air tonight. It reminds us of what is happening, a reality check.
Wherever we are now, someone or something burned a shit ton of something. The air reeks and crushes us. Ash falls delicately, desolate beauty, scorching snowflakes. Portions of the wrecked road is charred, and the blood is everywhere.
Blood is always everywhere these days.
We sit on crumbled brick and gored branch, around the fire that consumes our trash. Bella and Holly huddle under a bloodstained, threadbare blanket together, Aisling glares at the fire. Sable ash is smudged around one eye, and it reminds me of the old days, when she caked herself in dark, dark panda makeup before anything else. Huh. It seems forever ago. Lala toys with a grimy, cracked unicorn figurine at my feet.
Utah's leg is bandaged now. Properly at least. We had bandage, swapped a role for a few unspoiled, dinted tins of beans. 
Utah, that's what we are calling him. He laughed when I demanded his name, snorted, asking if I'd ever seen Zombieland (we were living it now, I wanted to point out. I didn't) and that names made emotional ties, attatchments. Aisling agreed. It's so rare that she agrees on anything. I had to go with it. He's from Utah. So, it figured. He can hardly call all of us the same thing, so it's the baby, twin one, twin two, jigsaw and arcade fire. Mine for a londg forgotten time of favourite bands. Aisling for... Saw. 
Anyway, he won't be with us long. 
It's the zombie apocalypse - you don't pick up travellers, you don't make friends, allies. He could rob us, rape us, kill us, abandon us. We could do the same. It's a whole new world.
I scrape the last of the beans from a tin, and toss it into the flames. Silence echoes.
"So." Aisling retorts, bitter and cheerful. Sour candy. "Planning on stabbing us for the van while we hopelessly attempt sleep?"
I sigh, looking over to Utah. He looks a mess. Dark stubble coats his jaw, where shaving is a long gone luxury, ash and dried blood, sticky, clot and harden strands of his near-point-of-dreadlocks-tangled dark hair. Pain inhabits his blue eyes, sunk shadowed into his sallow, grimy skin. And he said he found a freshwater stream a few days back. Then I hate to think what I look like. All I know on that front is that my fingernails are filth and crusty blood, and my dirty blonde hair , uncut, straggles unevenly aroynd my thighs. "Sorry she tried to blow your leg off, earlier." My sister's bullet clipped his knee back in the factory.
"Sorry I scared you."
Aisling's death glare stabs at him. "I wasn't fucking scared. I was happy, because I thought I could reduce some zombie ass to the agonizing blood and bones that -"
"Stop it. You don't need to scare the twins. And anyway, those creatures -"
"Creatures?" Aisling gives a bitterly derisive snort. "Call them what they are, oh fearless fucking leader, unless you're so scared of admitting reality - zombies. They're zombies, this is a fucking -"
I open my mouth but Holly takes the words instead. "How can you be so okay with this?"
"Because, little innocent, I was ready. I'd lock myself in my bedroom, fill the house with drowning death metal, and I'd sit there and I'd watch Saw, and all the rest - I tried to tell you this was coming and you told me I was crazy. Well here I am, desensitized. Surviving."
"Not the time," I stand up, warning. "I think it's time you kids went to bed." 
At some sounds of protest by the twins, I herd them, arms full of sleepy Lala, into the van, onto the filthy, bloodied matress. When they settle and Aisling sets about sharpening weapons, I go back out to apologise to Utah.
Sighing, I fall down beside him.
"Sorry. You didn't need to hear that.". I control my breathing and concentrate on the totaled tarmac, not the pounding in my head. "She's - crazy. Before… We think it was the mildest of schizophrenia. She kept telling everyone how it was coming, the end, the zombies, the virus. She talked about this thing called... The collide. But she never really talked, and so rarely about it... She kind of likes guns more than people."
Utah seems to consider this for a moment and sighs, looking up at me. "That, Acarde," He says thoughfully, words stepping, measured from his chapped, peeling lips. "Does not sound like a crazy person. Look around."
"Right, right. Right." I do not want to look around , thr wasteland that was once America."It's all pretty crazy, if you ask me. Like some nightmar we're all having."
 "Yeah."
"Yeah,"
We sit in silence and mutual understanding.
"You love your family. Care for them," he observes quietly, running a grimy finger through his tangle of long hair. "Even now." I murmur an indecipherable agreement.
"I had a family once, too." He goes on, with a shrug. "Little brother. Big sister. She made me swear, swear on my life to protect the little boy when she left. Went to whereve she went, still is, hopefully. I swore. He was my life, when the zombies started." He pauses, shrugging again and tearing a sliver of nail with his teeth. "He's dead now."
And I put my am around him, and we watch the light wither and die, the flames burn themselves out, side by side.
In retrospect, it is times like these that families matter most.
I should be with them.

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