Disclaimer: when we started this line over three years ago, we had no idea we’d soon enough be in a real pandemic. This series is meant as a fun, silly, lighthearted take on the traditional zombie apocalypse narrative. Enjoy! (And make sure you’ve read the first three chapters before continuing.)
Scent Notes: Blood oranges soaked in rich spices with a tinge of metallic blood.
The rest of the camp was already up and awake when she started waking up. She rolled over and threw her arm around Mallory’s waist, who lay sleeping at her side. It was so hard to believe that so much time had passed since the pandemic had started. It was two years since Danny had sacrificed himself to save her and the rest of the camp; two years since they’d narrowly escaped and had to wander, for weeks, before establishing this camp after running into another group of survivors. Two years of mostly peace, as they’d had to trek up a mountain to establish this place. The zombies didn’t have the mobility, apparently, to scale up into higher elevations. While this was an advantage for the living and gave them a more secure camp, it left them more isolated, and gave them more inclimate weather to deal with.
But, there was still plenty of wild game in the mountains; berries and mushrooms aplenty; and they’d started little gardens that were relatively successful. Plus, the nearest city was only a few miles away, and every few weeks to months a group of skilled survivalists would go for supplies. They hadn’t lost too many people lately, and occasionally new survivors would show up, exhausted and frightened. They were always welcomed, as long as they passed a physical examination to prove they hadn’t been bitten or scratched on the way to safety.
The pandemic hasn’t slowed down. The spread of the pumpkin spice hasn’t stopped. Of course, they have no way of fully knowing this themselves; all their information is now secondhand through new survivors as they arrive. The zombies have adapted; they feed at old coffee shops and wherever they may find the still-living. They’ve formed a kind of language through grunts and some shared zombie knowledge. They are apparently aware of the mountaintop camp, but any that have attempted the long climb upwards have failed, or been shot by camp members from afar, as it’s pretty easy to look down and see anyone coming up the path.
Mallory stirs, snapping slightly, her neck pulling on the chain.
“Shhhh. Good morning, sweetheart. It’s just me. It’s morning,” she says to Mallory. Mallory yawns; the smell of pumpkin spice fills the tent momentarily. “G’morning,” Mallory answers groggily. She kisses Mallory on the cheek, and gets up to start the day. It hasn’t been easy living and loving the partially undead. When they were fleeing for their lives two years ago, Mallory had been scratched by Danny’s undead hand, right on her neck. Luckily, they’d found a hospital in town. Turns out that penicillin is excellent for slowing the spread of the virus, as long as it’s administered daily. They’d cleaned the wound, but it had never fully healed. Lately, the smell of pumpkin spice had started emanating from her mouth in the mornings, and from the wound most of the time, and she’d found Mallory once wandering in the middle of the night, seemingly stalking a camper. They’d agreed that chaining her to the bed at night was the safest option, just in case. If this was spreading, they wanted more time together, but they also wanted to keep their fellow survivors from danger. This was their compromise: she accompanied Mallory everywhere, and at night, Mallory was safely chained to the bed. Their fellow survivors just thought they were kinky.
Today, they’d be leading an expedition down to town for medical supplies. There’d be penicillin, of course, but she was also planning on taking any/all medications she could think of that might help slow the spread even further. Maybe they could try to stitch up the area, too? Mallory had always refused because she hated needles, but given the circumstances (and the fact that the wound was looking rotted), maybe she’d finally allow it?
She unchained Mallory, and handed her a bandana to tie around her neck, hiding the rotting, pumpkin-colored flesh.
“Seriously? That doesn’t hurt at all?”
Mallory shook her head. “No, I can’t even feel it. It’s like the whole area is numb. It’s been that way since it happened.”
She sighed. “So let us clean it up and sew it up and see if that helps. Please? I’m getting concerned; the penicillin doesn’t seem to be as effective as it was.”
Mallory nodded, tying the bandana tightly. “Right, but that’s why we’re going to look for more medicine today. Who knows, maybe they invented ZomBeGone pills by now?”
She rolled her eyes in response. “Wow, you zombitch, okay. Well, if those don’t exist, I’m getting surgical supplies and getting you very drunk and cleaning up that wound tonight. Deal with it.”
Mallory laughed and walked over to her. “Zombitch, good one, I like it,” she said, giving her a light kiss.
They finished getting ready and headed out of the tent for breakfast.
Kevin, one of the other “lead” survivors heading out on the mission that day, greeted them. “Look at this: blood oranges!”
Both she and Mallory gasped. “How the hell did you find blood oranges?!” she asked, as Mallory ran to grab one.
Kevin just shook his head. “Legit, no idea. There’s a tree like a half mile away that just had them today, fully ready to be eaten. I know, we’re in the mountains; I know, this is not the correct climate, time of year, or soil they grow in. But we’re in a zombie pandemic narrative, and weird shit just seems to happen, so enjoy the fruit!”
She didn’t need to ask further questions, she just went and grabbed an orange. She looked over and saw Mallory already shoving wedges into her mouth, the juice running down her face and all over her hands. It was oddly sensual, yet disturbing, as it really did look like she was eating something bloody and fresh. She shook her head, and the image was gone. She focused on eating her own sumptuous blood orange, as Kevin and Mallory strategized about how to get to and from the hospital safely, and all the supplies they needed to grab: bandages, rubbing alcohol, penicillin, surgical supplies … the more they talked, the more they realized they needed. They’d have to bring extra bags to carry everything. Kevin started formulating a plan with two others to split off and go through the grocery store near the hospital for any last remaining scraps of shelf-stable food. Probably not much left by this point, but it was worth a shot. Hey, blood oranges had shown up out of nowhere, right?
A few minutes later, they all headed on the rough climb down the mountain. She and Mallory led the way; Kevin and two others followed behind. Everyone had guns, ammo, and knives, but not unlimited supplies. C’mon, it’s a zombie apocalypse; nothing lasts forever. The one benefit of Mallory slowing turning into a zombie was that other zombies seemed to ignore them. Their little group, if they moved surreptitiously enough, could go down, through the woods, and into the town without much attention. Which was good, because once they started shooting, it was all downhill from there. The other benefit was that these zombies were particularly lazy. If they left early enough, chances are most of them wouldn’t even be awake yet. Kevin only had to silently stab two zombies their entire way through the forest. The getting to town was turning out to be a little *too* easy. “Well, I guess all the action’s going to happen all at once, huh?” Kevin asked with a nod, as he and the two others turned to check the main stores, and she and Mallory headed straight for the hospital. She quickly decapitated one lowly zombie standing at the front entrance, and even he didn’t seem surprised or upset by the turn of events, understanding his role was merely symbolic, to show that zombies would, indeed, be inside the hospital.
They walked in calmly. The stench was immense; the rotting pumpkin spice corpses of zombies they killed on their last sojourn into the hospital lay there in puddles of spicy orange blood. They both started coughing and tied bandanas around their faces to help mitigate some of the stench. Wow, they’d really done some damage last time. Mallory nearly slipped in a blood puddle. They knew which way to go by now. They’d exhausted the supplies on the first two floors, and headed to the stairs to go up to the third floor, Mallory casually shooting a zombie in the head that came rushing down the stairs at them. They’d only been to the third floor one other time, but the layout was very similar to the floors below. She shuddered anyway. “You know I hate hospitals,” she said calmly, walking ahead of Mallory. “I know, but, we have to do this. We need supplies. And yes, you need to try and fix me, I know,” Mallory said with a quiet sigh. She stopped and turned back, pulled down her bandana, and gave Mallory a quick kiss. “I will do anything for you. It’s okay. Let’s just hurry up and do this before they figure out we’re here.” Mallory nodded, and they headed up the final flight.
She opened the door, and glanced both ways down the hall. In the clear. They turned right, Mallory guarding the back, and walked quickly down the hallway. At the end of the hall, they backed against a wall, and she turned her head around the corner. Clear again. She was getting meds from a door a few steps away; Mallory had to go almost to the end of the next hallway. Mallory sensed her fear. “It’s okay; we’re going to be fine. Go. We’ll meet back here in fifteen. You know the signal.” She could see that Mallory’s wound was starting to seep into the bandana around her neck. She nodded, and Mallory went ahead, gun out, as she made sure she was in the clear. Then she headed just two doors down on the left to the medicine storage. As she tried to turn the handle, the door was locked. “Shit,” she muttered, and began to break the handle with the butt of her gun. It took a few sharp whacks, but eventually the handle fell off. She knew the noise wouldn’t bode well. She turned on the light inside and started rummaging through shelves. Penicillin, yes, lots; she opened her bag and just started shoving bottles and loose pills and whatever else she could fit, filling up one bag as quickly as she could, and opening another bag, and shoving more bottles in. By the time she’d opened the fourth bag, she could hear them. Their clambering up the stairs was loud. She knew they’d be tripping over themselves, slower zombies getting trampled by the quicker ones as they rushed their awkward bodies up the stairs. She didn’t even know what all she had, but she knew it was more than enough for the time being. She slung the bags across her body, and turned around to see that they’d already gotten in. Without the door being properly shut, the fastest ones had gotten here quicker than she’d expected. “Fuck!” she screamed, shooting the three of them and scrambling over their bodies, out the door and down to Mallory’s door, which was ajar. She was at the far end of the room, and somehow hadn’t noticed the two zombies who’d broken in. She yelled, “Mal, get down now!” and instinctively, Mallory dropped to the ground as she shot the other two in the back of the head. Mallory stood up, bags slung across her body. “I found surgical supplies just now; I didn’t want to leave without them,” she said apologetically, as her bandana had completely soaked through and was clinging to her neck. The whole room smelled like rotting pumpkin. “It’s fine; we have to go, now!” she yelled, and grabbed Mallory’s hand. They looked out the door to the wave of zombies coming down the hall. “This way!” she said, and headed down the hall to the stairs up to the roof. “How the hell are we going to get out of this?!” Mallory yelled as they started to climb the stairs ever upward. This hospital had at least 8 floors, and they were going to have to hustle. Every few steps, a zombie seemed to leap from a door and down the stairs at them, forcing them to execute a delicate dance of execution between the two of them. Their supplies were weighing them down, but they kept going up, and up, and up, throwing zombies over the railing, decapitating them, or shooting them, but they were both running low on ammo now.
Finally, after what felt like ages, they made it to the top of the stairs and onto the roof. They slammed the door behind them and collapsed, gasping for breath. “What the FUCK are we going to DO?” Mallory sputtered, ripping the bandanas off her neck and face. Mallory’s neck wound was open, oozing violently, and she was pale and sweating profusely. This did not look good, on any level. She turned and saw two emergency helicopters sitting on helipads. “We fly, baby; we fly out of here!” she said triumphantly. At just that moment, of course, the thumping on the door began in earnest. “And we do it NOW!” she said, pulling Mallory up and towards the helicopters as the door burst open and zombies burst through the door and onto the roof. Some immediately lost their balance, ran sideways, and fell off the roof, some were trampled by the zombies coming up behind them, but a few ran straight to them. They booked it to the helicopters, threw down their bags, and opened fire. They killed all of the initial wave, but they knew they didn’t have much time, and now they were out of ammo. She started loading their bags into the back, when she heard Mallory scream, followed by gunshots. She scrambled out and saw Mallory with a dead zombie clutching her leg, Kevin and the others killing zombies like they’d been doing it for years. She whistled to Kevin, who nodded back at her and sent the others over to start loading up the other helicopter. She didn’t know how they’d lugged all that up with them, then she saw they’d used carts and wedged the door to the hospital shut with them, the zombies banging on it to get back onto the roof, the last ones being thrown off the roof currently by Kevin. They were all covered in disgusting orange, goopy blood. She went over to where Mallory sat, shaking and terrified. It looked like she was losing a significant amount of blood, the wound just seemed to be getting even bigger as time went on, like the presence of the zombies was overtaking it, forcing her to become one of them. Mallory snapped at her like she might bite, and she drew back, afraid.
Quickly, Kevin came up from behind and held Mallory’s arms behind her back. “Get the penicillin and some water and bandages, now!” She went back into the helicopter and pulled out gauze, rubbing alcohol, and a roll of medical tape. She pulled one of her bags full of pills out, digging deep through the bottles for penicillin. Instead, she found a bottle of ZomBeGone. “No fucking WAY!” she screamed, running over to Mallory. “Honey, it’s going to be okay,” she said to Mallory, who was still resisting against Kevin but was clearly losing her strength. One of the others came over with a bottle of water as she opened the pills and shoved one into Mallory’s mouth, pouring water after it. “Swallow it, okay? It’ll be okay. Swallow it. You’ll feel better. This will help.” Mallory passed out. For a moment, she worried Mallory was dead, but she saw her shallow breathing. Kevin held on to her arms still as she cleaned out the wound, stuffed it with gauze, and wrapped the tape around to secure it. That was all she had time for; they needed to get out, and fast. The carts had started to get loose from the door.
She picked up Mallory and laid her down across the back of the helicopter, then shut the door. “Kevin, how the fuck do we fly these things?” she yelled. “Oh, it’s really easy. They’re all automated now; it’s like a giant Prius. You just press the ‘Start’ button and it’ll go. Press it again and it’ll auto-land. I don’t know why people don’t know how to fly them in an apocalypse story; they’ll just go!” She laughed as Kevin and the others packed into the other helicopter. She shut the door of the helicopter just as the zombies broke through. She looked at the “complicated” dashboard. Kevin was right; it was a damn button. She pushed it, and felt the blades start to whirr. Mallory lay passed out in the backseat as the zombies got to the helicopter and began to climb onto it. Several heads rained down and coated the windshield with goop; she pushed a button that looked like wiper blades and sure enough, it cleaned itself off. The helicopter started to lift, and zombies began to fall off. They were going to be okay. They’d survived. They’d found a possible cure, and enough supplies to last them months. She exhaled as the helicopter flew off towards the mountains, towards safety. She didn’t realize Mallory had woken up and was watching her, quietly. Waiting.
Scent Notes: Blood oranges soaked in rich spices with a tinge of metallic blood.