Last week, we met our unnamed heroine, and her former coworker and fellow apocalypse survivor, dudebro Danny.
Danny keeps walking to the campsite, watching her walk away with dinner. He stuffs his pumpkin-colored hand deep into his pocket in shame. Goddamn, he could really go for a latte right now. He shuddered, knowing it might be too late, but he couldn’t admit what had happened. How was he supposed to tell her he hadn’t really been out hunting, that he had been following her because… well, because he loved her?
No, it’s not just an apocalyptic “we have to recreate the world” kind of love, not in his mind, at least. This was real. He’d fallen in love with her back when they worked at the coffee shop. He loved that she had convinced their manager that black Uggs were acceptable workplace shoes. He’d come in on his off days, listening to Dave Matthews and Deadmau5 on his phone while skimming through The Chive, just to watch her make him whatever weird blended drink was popular that month. He had a popular Reddit forum, r/baristasdrinkshit, where he taste tested unusual drinks and rated them and asked others to weigh in. Danny was always getting in fights with commenters, threatening to beat the shit out of anyone who disagreed with him, often throwing his snapback across the room in fury when something particularly enraged him.
She had never taken notice of his reddit fame, nor the weird drinks she blended for him, like when he asked for their limited-edition unicorn drink and added a brownie, protein powder, and several pumps of random syrups, just to see what would happen. “Hey, if you want to vomit, that’s on you, Danny,” she said as the blender whirred. It was pretty disgusting, she was right about that.
He’d slammed the drink, making a list of notes on his phone. “Vomit frappe, lolz. Protein: good addition. Maybe more? Somehow not sweet enough. Gonna make my after-gym bathroom session interesting.” He went to the gym every single day back then, posting selfies holding up his tank top in front of the mirrored free weights area. #swole #gainz #everydayislegdaybro
Funnily enough, most of his gym-built muscles had shrunk significantly since this whole apocalypse thing had started. Not her muscles, though; she was ripped now, and tougher than he had ever seen.
She’d also been right about what was happening. “These people are, like, zombies for this shit,” she had remarked in the early pumpkin spice pandemic days. She was brilliant, and beautiful, and obviously single, now, since there was almost no guys left on the planet. Maybe she’d know what to do about his hand; maybe he didn’t have to turn into one of them…
She was near the fire, helping prep the rabbits for dinner with fellow survivor and friend, Mallory. They both had cups of cider sitting near them. They hadn’t known each other before all of this, but Mallory was a nurse, and great to have on your side in the apocalypse. She’d also grown up in a bit of a Doomsday Preppers household, and had already had a stockpile of canned goods, water, flashlights, batteries, tents, and of course medical supplies, so she was incredibly important to have on your side in the apocalypse. Mallory had basically outfitted their little haven on the hill above the woods; lord knows Danny didn’t have a tent.
“Hey, great job catching these, Danny!” Mallory smiled at him. He suspected she had a crush on him, but he wasn’t interested in Mallory. He only had eyes for the girl sitting next to her. It was pretty obvious, really; most of the other survivors seemed to sense the love triangle between the three of them. Ugh, what a cliche. He reaches up and pulls his flat brimmed hat (one of the things he made sure to save when he fled his home) down, as if he was tipping his hat, but you know, in a much more bro-y fashion.
He walked across the grass to his tent, nodding at fellow survivors, hoping to have some alone time to figure out what to do. He crawls one-armed into the tent and zips it shut behind him. Gingerly taking out his bad left hand, he turns on his flashlight and decides to properly examine the damage.
The urge to vomit is the first thing he feels and has to immediately suppress. Thankfully, two years of r/baristasdrinkshit have trained his gag reflex, and he swallows the urge. His hand is fully orange now, and it’s starting to spread up his arm. What was once blood is coming out of the wound, but it’s clearly no longer blood. Instead, it’s a thick orange syrup with spices flecked throughout, oozing through the cuts and bite marks. Fuck, fuck, fuck. That latte is sounding SO GOOD now, especially if it’s made with a little bit of human flesh. Not a ton, maybe just a finger or something, you know? Protein, bro.
Danny nearly screams as this thought goes through his brain. “I have to tell her. She’ll know what to do. She’ll have to help me; she doesn’t want a zombie in camp, and she definitely wouldn’t let me live in the woods with… them.”
Slowly, resolutely, he unzips his tent, and walks solemnly over to where the ladies are sitting.
“Hey, so, uh…” Danny starts, and stops, and stalls, and stares blankly. Mallory looks up at him, clearly breaking whatever intense vibe was happening between the two of them. Oh, god, were they talking about me? Were they fighting over me? Dammit; he’d missed a fight between two women over him. It was what he always wanted, and now he can’t even appreciate it because of this damn latte/flesh craving.
“What’s up, Danny?” She stares at him point-blank; he’s terrified, and rightfully so.
“I… I wasn’t completely honest with you earlier. You didn’t almost kill me.”
“No shit, Sherlock, YOU scared ME and I was just--”
“I was attacked by them. In the woods.”
Her mouth hangs open. Mallory’s eyes go wide; her face is completely devoid of pigment.
“Are you okay? Did you kill them? Did they follow you?”
“I managed to kill them, but no, I’m not okay,” says Danny, and he holds up his left hand.
Both women scream, and the rest of the survivors run over. Mallory realizes that they’re down to just thirteen; what an unlucky number. How had she not realized that during the daily roll call? Thirteen. And now this.
Danny starts to cry, and pulls up the hem of his O.A.R. shirt to stop the tears from falling.
“Danny, okay, calm down, let me look at it, alright?” Mallory says as she runs to her tent to get gloves and a mask. She reappears moments later, properly outfitted, carrying both a lantern and a flashlight. She sets the lantern down on the table, turns on the flashlight, and makes Danny sit in front of her.
Mallory examines his hand, noting how deep the wounds and bites are, and how deeply orange his skin and blood are. Would you even call it blood at this point? Mallory shudders, then looks Danny in the eyes. “I have an idea, but you’re not gonna like it.”
“No, tell me, whatever it is, I want to know what we can do. I don’t want to be a zombie.”
“We’re gonna have to cut off your hand.”
Danny flinches, then goes strangely quiet. His eyes are glassy. Around him, everyone else erupts.
“That won’t work!”
“That COULD work!”
“What if he tries to eat us all?”
“I don’t want a zombie here! Get rid of him! Besides, he’s an asshole anyway.”
“Yeah, get rid of him; I’m tired of his shitty guitar playing.”
“He couldn’t play guitar with only one hand, though.”
“But he could still sing, and oh god, the singing…”
Everyone around him is yelling, and Danny is strangely calm. Yes, of course. Cut off his hand. Shit, chicks dig scars. He could get a hook! Who hasn’t always wanted a hook for a hand? Yeah, it’d suck to lose a hand, but if it means staying alive, if it means more time with her…
Danny stands up suddenly, and everyone else shuts up.
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
Mallory nods, and produces a bottle of bourbon from under the table. “Great. Drink all of this; you’re gonna need it.”
“Where the hell did that bourbon come from?” Danny asks.
Mallory smiles, and looks at the woman he loves with a mischievous grin. “Your friend here is an amazing barista and makes a perfect apple cider and bourbon cocktail we’ve been calling Spiked Cider. She can make you one! Or, like, fifteen; you’re really gonna need a lot of alcohol before I cut off a limb.”
Danny proceeds to get violently drunk on the surprisingly delicious cider, while everyone around him freaks the fuck out. Rabbits and dinner have long been forgotten; everyone is feasting on this horrific news.
Mallory has been off gathering supplies and attempting to disinfect and make as sterile of an environment as possible. A normal infection is nearly as bad as a zombie bite in the apocalypse, after all.
Two hours later, the job is done. Danny’s left hand and a little further up his arm are gone and bleeding, but it’s normal blood, and not pumpkin spice, so Mallory takes this as a good sign. Danny has long since passed out from bourbon and bleeding, and Mallory is doing what she can to clean him up. Almost everyone else has fled, either to vomit from the sight or to go gossip about what they just witnessed. Most people just disappear; they don’t come back having survived an attack and then lose a limb! She is with Mallory, though, helping however Mallory needs her to. The hand is lying on the ground in the dark, oozing pumpkin spice and beginning to rot. We’ll have to dispose of that properly in the morning, Mallory remarks to herself. But for now her focus is on Danny.
When he’s cleaned up and bandaged, she and Mallory work together to hoist Danny up and carry him to his tent so he can sleep and not deal with the horrifying pain he’ll be experiencing in a few short hours.
Nobody thinks to collect the hand now.
Nobody wonders if it’s safe to have a zombie hand in their campground.
Nobody is worried; (mostly) everyone is happy Danny will be okay.
And across the camp, on the ground, his left hand starts to move.
Scent Notes: Hot apple cider with a generous splash of Kentucky Bourbon, honeyed cloves, dalmation sage, and a touch of cinnamon