The zombie apocalypse started on a Tuesday morning between fourth period and lunch, which surprised everybody. We had seen all the old movies and believed when the undead armies awakened it would happen late on a weekend evening during some kick ass party.
It happened fast when it happened. A bunch of kids called out sick that morning and more left through first and second periods. By third period more seats were empty than full.
Nobody was feeling right, and everybody was jumpy as hell. The air felt wrong and the whole school stank a little worse than usual.
Fourth period was a joke. Mr. Warner tried to lecture but he kept getting distracted by all the empty chairs. People’s phones had been going off all morning with the heavy traffic of text messages and the teachers had finally given up trying to tell people to put away their phones. Mr. Warner halfway tried to talk about covalent bonds and the mysterious forces of atomic attraction, which usually got him all hot and excited, but today he couldn’t stop checking his own phone every time it made even the slightest noise. Nobody knew why they were checking their phones every few minutes, sending and receiving messages. The text messages were just everybody randomly checking in with their friends, their family to make sure they were okay for no specific reason.
feel like sht. just pked mi guts out in locker. omg.
Everybody was randomly opening, closing and refreshing their web browsers in between texts, summoning explanatory breaking news headlines that would not come.
I guess that we knew without knowing. Some of us. Or suspected.
But nobody was for real sure until Ainslie Marsden staggered into the cafeteria during lunch, all sweaty and slack faced, stabbed Couch Jones in the neck with a butter knife and proceeded to open his skull with her bare hands, pulling his face open from the eye sockets and nostrils and then hungrily devouring his brains.
Ainslie Marsden was one of the hot girls and seeing her pull Coach’s brains out with both hands through his face was a bit too much.
A few kids puked. I pissed myself.
“I thought Ainslie was bulemic,” Jimmy Napolitano said in a shocked whisper, which was an asshole thing to say but Jimmy could be an asshole that way.
“No. She’s vegan,” I explained. I can be an asshole, too.
We stood there, a cafeteria of us, watching Ainslie go to work on her hideous meal.
We all started making our way to the exits.
But then other slack face kids we knew came staggering in the double doors with that low, plaintive guttural growl that meant we were probably going to need to fight to keep our brains inside our heads.
They circled us. It was Sloppy Joe day in the cafeteria so we threw our plates of Sloppy Joe at them for distraction and lifted our cafeteria trays as makeshift shields to press our way through the advancing wall of newly necrotic flesh.
We knew it was for real when we heard a scream behind us and turned to see little Charlie Helton working his teeth into our English teacher, Mrs. Walsh. Mrs. Walsh was one of those well-intentioned teachers who enjoyed ruining something perfectly cool like The Walking Dead by explaining how the recent popular fascination with zombie apocalypse represented a deep, nihilistic dread corroding our culture. She said stuff like, “Nihilism is what’s left when a culture has lost all its beliefs but doesn’t yet have new beliefs sufficient to replace them.”
Heavy stuff. Except when a zombie’s munching on your teacher’s face, nihilism is what’s left during the time while your teacher’s face is getting chewed but you’ve still got your own.
Trays up. Circle around. The zombie apocalypse had begun.