It Is What It Is.

Morning Routine

by Steven J Holetz

5:17. I lie there for a few minutes staring at the clock wishing I could get back to sleep, but once
I’m awake it’s over. I used to sleep like the dead but…well I guess that’s a phrase that just doesn’t
mean what it used to.

I reach behind me and push the little foot out of my back. Once again my son has climbed into our
bed sometime during the night. I don’t know how he does it, but he sure is stealthy. I swing my legs
to the floor and put on my glasses. Quietly, I stand up and kiss my son on the forehead as he
snuggles up to his mother. I pull the warm covers up, tucking them around my loved ones’ shoulders,
and head to the bathroom for a little relief. I’m into my morning routine.

First, I stick my head into my daughter’s room. I’m rewarded with soft breathing issuing from
somewhere within a faintly illuminated explosion of blonde hair and stuffed animals. Next, I stop
off in the office to turn on the computer. It should be done booting by the time the coffee is ready.
As I hit the button, Domino rubs his big, black and white body against my leg. I scratch the soft fur
behind his ears and he drools on my bare foot. Goofy ass cat.

I walk to the kitchen and turn on the light under the microwave, avoiding the overhead light as it
shines right into the master bedroom. My wife was working pretty late last night, so I want to give
her as much sleep as I can. I fill the coffeemaker with water, and grab the bag of Major Dickason’s
Blend out of the pantry. The beans are shiny in the dim light, the aroma heady and rich. I empty the
filter, grind a lid full of fresh beans in the grinder, and add them to the machine before closing it up.
I start the coffemaker, checking the red light to make sure all is well. Next, the newspaper.

I cross the living room and unlock the three locks on the front door. I open it, grabbing the bat from
behind the door before heading outside. It is a beautiful spring morning, and it smells wonderful. 
The world is crisp and clean, and I am almost overwhelmed with the mingled scents of my wife’s
 flowers on the porch, cut grass, and dew. The world is beautiful, on the cusp between night and
day, silent except for the wind and occasional birdsong.

I walk down the sidewalk and past the car to the street, Just as I bend over to grab the paper, I
hear the footstep behind me, the dry anticipatory groan. I spin, swinging the bat as hard as I can.
The Louisville slugger catches the withered skull dead center, knocking it back a step in a cloud
of dust, leaving its jaw dangling from a tendon on the right hand side. A few loose yellow teeth
drop to the sidewalk, clattering like dice. What stands before me was once a man, someone’s
father, brother, friend.  But no longer. The dead man’s eye sockets glow faintly with a
phosphorescent blue light as it lunges at me again, hissing dryly, with claw-like hands extended
toward my throat. This time I’m ready, and I slam it’s skeletal ribs as hard as I can with the bat.
It staggers and I come over the top with a smash to the head, sending pieces of dried skin
and bone flying. The dead thing teeters on it’s scrawny legs before dropping to its knees.
It takes two more shots with the lumber until I hear the big satisfying crack as the brain pan
collapses and it falls flat, lifeless once again.

I’m wide awake now, and I can actually hear the blood rushing in my ears. I look behind the car,
and check around the end of the house. There are no more of them for the moment. I’m pissed,
scared, nauseated and exhilarated all at once as I try to calm down. What the hell? I thought
the city had this handled? What am I paying them for? Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. I have to
admit though, it’s better than it was.T
hings were pretty crazy right after the storm hit.

The Storm was much like the Hanukkah Eve storm of ’06. Gusts of wind were topping 70
miles an hour, knocking over trees and power lines. Two inches of rain fell in less than 3 hours,
accompanied by thunder and lightning. But this time there was also some sort of bluish aurora
borealis effect in the sky, which would have been nice to enjoy if we hadn’t been huddled in the
bedroom fearing for our lives. At one point I stepped outside to check on things and got the
same vibe I felt when we were hit with tornado weather back in Michigan. There was an electricity
in the air that just felt wrong, a feeling that would make your hair stand on end. I got my ass back
in the house.  Once again, we were lucky that none of our trees fell. The last storm left us much
better prepared.  With the space heater, additional lamps, and stockpile of food and water we
were able to take the 4 days without power in stride. But then the dead came back. 

We live a good 5 miles from any cemeteries, so it took a while for the walkers to make it to our
neighborhood. A 24 hour curfew was instituted that first week, and everyone was told to stay
locked indoors until the military and police could get things under control. For some reason,
the effect was limited to western Washington, so national media crews were everywhere for
the first couple weeks. In typical asinine fashion, the media decided to call them “walkers”,
avoiding the Z-word so as not to alarm people. Call them what you will, it was terrifying
when the first wave hit the community. Fifty-two people were killed by walkers in that first week
alone. An 800 number was set up so that you could report any attacks, but the authorities were
spread so thin it could take days for someone to show up.
One night we were startled awake
by frantic scratching on the back window. One of the walkers, an old woman, had gotten into
the backyard and was trying to break into the house.
That was the first one I dispatched myself,
and I didn’t know what I was doing so taking care of it was messy and brutal. I know they aren’t
alive, but still it wasn’t easy to get my head around beating someone to death with a baseball

The experts can’t explain exactly why the dead are walking, but as I understand it the electrical
storm somehow “jump-started” (for lack of a better term) the brains of these poor  bastards,
causing them to rise. Fortunately though, modern Hollywood has it all wrong. The walkers I've
seen aren’t fast or smart at all. The dry ones move pretty slowly, as you would assume given
how desiccated they’ve become. And a lot of them fall apart after being rained on for a couple
of weeks. But that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. They are smart enough to sneak
up on you, they are mean, and the only way to stop them is to destroy the brain. One of our
neighbors was attacked by a fresh one a few weeks ago and said it was a whole lot harder
 to kill. Or re-kill, I should say.

We live right up against the green belt, where the last of the walkers are hiding in the trees,
so we still get them occasionally when they come out to feed, like today.
It helps that local
teenagers have been driving around at night and hunting them down,
although they’ve
been warned against it. The city has been working hard to get the walkers off the streets
as well. Of course, we get a bill for cleanup now, $100 a month per household. I understand
that someone has to pay for the manpower, but that blows. With work hours still limited by
the curfew, the last thing we need is another bill. You know they won’t stop charging us
when it’s over.

Things are almost back to normal now, except that you have to be on constant alert for the
stray walker. And the missus doesn’t enjoy Zombie movies nearly as much as she used to.

I check the street again, and all is clear. Understandably, the kids totally freak out when they
see a walker, so it’s time to clean up. The day has started out emotionally enough, we don’t
need a meltdown as well. Due to concerns over air quality, you can actually be ticketed for
burning them now, so I take the plastic bag off the newspaper, loop it around the thing’s ankle,
and drag it to the yard waste bin. I’ve learned from experience not to drag them by their
clothes, they’ll just fall apart. The dry ones are pretty light, so it’s not difficult. It does reek though,
I’m surprised that I didn’t smell it before it attacked. I open the lid to the yard bin and tip it over,
spilling some grass clippings in the process. I try not to touch the walker as I shove it in with my
bat. The experts say that there is nothing contagious about them, but damned if I’m going to
take any chances with the filthy thing. I close the lid to the bin and roll it to the curb for pickup.
The protests in downtown Seattle by the Society for Protection and Ethical Walker Treatment
(SPEWT) will probably result in a countywide ban on self-disposal before long, so I’m lucky
I can still do even this myself. I take another deep breath, pick up the paper and head inside.
I leave the bat by the side of the house so I can hose it off later.

I pour myself a cup of coffee (a little milk, more sugar) and take it into the living room, moving
the TV remote before sitting on the couch. The cat is around my ankle again as I open the paper.
I glance at the local news: Weather, overcast early but sunny this afternoon, high of 65. Walker
activity level down to 4%. Guess it’s just my lucky day. Maybe I should buy a lotto ticket.
My heart is beating normally, and I finally feel relaxed again as I flip to the sports section
and take a deep sip of coffee. That’s some good stuff.

  Copyright  2007 Steven J Holetz

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