Vignettes from the Zombie War

For LR’s class Horror & Apocalypse, students wrote 1st person accounts describing characters’ experiences during the zombie war. The vignettes were written to mirror the style of WWZ by Max Brooks. Below are a few of these vignettes


The vignette below was written by Madigan Willey.

Derby, Vermont, United States

[I sit down in a tattered green chair across from 21-year-old Claire Gladwin, who sits in a rocking chair. We’re in her house in Derby, Vermont. The room is dimly lit by candles, and the fog rolling over Lake Salem only contributes to the eerie feel of the room. She pulls a blanket off the back of her chair and puts it over her legs. As I adjust and get ready to start the interview, she watches me, tucking a strand of faded blonde hair behind her ear and then pulling her sleeves down over her hands. When I settle in, pen to paper, she averts her gaze and silently refuses to start. I look past her, to the bookshelf. On it sits a picture of what looks to be a younger Claire hugging a Newfoundland with black and white fur. I ask about this to ease into the interview.]

That’s Benny. That’s um… that’s the last picture of us together. Right before I was sent off. When I was, Mariam, my mother, gave him to some of her friends. They beat the shit out of him though and he didn’t last very long.

[“Way to start it easy”, I think to myself.]

That’s not what you’re here to talk about, and I’m not a big fan of small talk. Can we just get on with it? Reliving this bullshit is enough as is, there’s no need to drag it out.

[She pulls out a cigarette, lights it, and hesitates as she goes to bring it to her mouth. She shakes herself out of her own head, and puts the cigarette out on the arm of the rocking chair with not even a single drag taken. There’s a cluster of ash rings and blackened circles in the wood around the same area.]

Can you tell me about where you were?

Oh Lord, can I tell you. Brattleboro’s safe zone, or safe building, really, used to be a mental hospital. That’s where I was, but I’m not insane or like… crazy. I’m not. Mariam is, she’s who got me landed in there. I didn’t even do anything. I wasn’t suicidal, not until I got there. But that’s what she told everyone. I was at the hospital for a goddamn cast removal, Luce came to visit me, she was my girlfriend, and soon as my mom finds out I’m dating a girl she goes batshit and tells all these stories to the doctors about how I’m gearing up to off myself. Luce leaves, I get heading home, and with no warning whatsoever, my mom wakes me up the next morning with a bag packed for me, practically shoved me into the car and started driving.

I had no time to text Luce, so my mother was the only person aware of where I was going. Not even I knew at the time. I just cried and cried and cried. I cursed her out and said some pretty horrible things to her. I don’t regret it though. And I wouldn’t take any of it back. 

When we got to Brattleboro, she tried to lead me by my arm. I was so angry with her though… I ripped my arm away from her and stormed in on my own. The sign I saw outside the property that read “Brattleboro Retreat” really sent me over the edge. Probably was acting like I needed to be there. Can’t even remember much of what happened that day. Or most of the days I was there. I know there was a group of kids who seemed like decent people, not crazy like the rest of them. I don’t even know their names, I didn’t care to ask. I heard one of ‘em get called Brick at one point but I doubt that was actually his name. There was another asshole in that group who wasn’t a decent person. No fucking boundaries, none. I was 15 at the time, and I’m sure he was 18, maybe 19. Kept telling me shit about how bad he wanted me and how he knew I wanted him. And in case you can’t recall, I got into that hellhole because my mom found out I’m a lesbian. 

Anyway, where I was. Brattleboro Retreat. Do you know that it used to be called an asylum? They changed the name from the Vermont Asylum for the Insane to… what it is now, probably just to make family members feel better about dumping their kids, siblings, parents, whatever, there.

Everything was painted green or some kind of blue-ish purple. There were these inlets in the wall that looked like beans and when I walked by one for the first time, some kid reached out and grabbed my ankle and bit me. This was before all the zombie shit, but I kicked him in the face still and within, what, 20 minutes? I was already restrained because I defended myself from a rabid six year old. 

They brought me to my room and went through my bag. They took out my drawstring sweatpants, my sneakers, two belts, and a hoodie. Apparently, Mariam didn’t think through the bag she packed for me well enough, because I’m not allowed to have strings or laces or belts… now that I think of it, she probably shoved it all in there on purpose. What I had left in the small bag that she packed, was four t-shirts, one tank top, two pairs of leggings, a pair of jeans that I couldn’t wear because I didn’t have my belts, and the sneakers returned to me without laces. Like, did they really think I was gonna tie a bunch of shoes laces and drawstrings together just to hang myself? If I was going to kill myself, that’s sure as hell not how I’d do it.

Anyway, when I start unpacking my bag, I see something smeared on the wall. It’s snot. Like actual snot. I wanted to get out of that place so bad, how am I supposed to sleep next to a wall with snot smeared all over it? The fuck? As I spent more time there, I only saw it more. There was snot and shit on the walls basically any way you turn your head. Kids, teenagers, even adults, would be playing with whatever bodily fluid or bodily waste they could produce at any given moment. That’s the stuff you definitely won’t see if you try to look up what it’s like there. The ‘friendly and welcoming staff’ pick favorites and neglect all the other patients. Kids scream in the middle of the night and a chorus of laughter, it sounds just like hyenas, follows right behind. Sometimes we’d have this group therapy thing, and every time I would just sit in my chair and observe it all. There was this one little boy, I actually felt bad for him, who would get these severe episodes that often resulted in him ripping out his hair or tearing apart his skin with his nails. The attendants wouldn’t even clean him up properly, he’d have chunks of solidified blood caught in what hair was left on his head, and he has scars and open wounds all over his arms and legs, but the most are on his shoulders. There were older girls who would hiss at people when they walked by, one boy who had a split personality disorder, quite a number of people in drug rehab in various stages of withdrawal symptoms. It was just a sad sight, really.

Do you know how many patients were at the retreat?

There were probably about 400 total, but the kid’s sector was bad enough. While I was there, there were probably a maximum of about 150 kids admitted at a time, but I was there for four months so some people came and others left. But not me. And nobody visited me, either. Luce didn’t know where I was, but I’m sure Mariam fed her some bullshit just like she did to the nurses at the hospital.

If you weren’t paying attention before, you’ll want to now. In the last two months of my time at Brattleboro, something shifted. Attendants were jumping at every little noise; be it a moan, a growl, a hiss, a crash, a thud, a scream, anything. This was shit we heard every day, every couple of minutes, really. And it’s not like they were new to the job, most of them had been there longer than me. Though, as time went on, more and more of them started leaving. I probably should’ve pieced things together by then, at least that something was wrong. But I didn’t. I just assumed the job became too much for them. I know being stuck in that place was too much for me, only I didn’t have a decision on whether I stayed or left. 

If I had been able to see Luce, if she knew where I was, I’m positive I would’ve been more prepared, but God was I not.

Apparently, the attendants were under strict order to keep the impending apocalypse hush hush from the patients. Probably to avoid us going even more crazy than we already were. But one girl, Ophelia, who was admitted because she kept predicting people’s deaths and it scared the shit out of her family, was talking to herself in the common area one night. I walked by and heard her go, “Fiona, Pete, José, LaMont, Karla… dead, dead, and dead. Not gone for long, nooooo, sir, not gone for long, nooooo, sir.” I didn’t recognize any of the names, but she must’ve listed off at least 30 while I was standing there, and I know she had been going on for a while before too. I was able to just shrug that one off, but the only thing that really got to me, got deep in my mind, was the interaction I had with Ophelia just a few days later. I was trying to get to a quilt that had been laid over the back of a chair, and she was sitting between me and that chair. When I walked past her, she grabbed my arm and held tight. I snapped my head towards her and said through my teeth, “Let. Go.” All she did was stare up at me with tears in her eyes. [Claire’s eyes start to water, her voice breaks for a moment.] I leaned back a bit, because emotion wasn’t a common display of her’s. And she just whimpered to me, “Lucille.” God, I don’t know if I wanted more to slap her, start crying, or bust out of that godforsaken place and find my way back to Luce. I didn’t think about anything else for probably two weeks. Not until I had to.

Why did you have to?

The attack.

Right. What was it like to be so cut off from everything happening and have it sprung on you all at once in the form of an attack?

It was stupid, that’s what it was. If one person had told any of us, we could have been so much more prepared, at least those of us who were mentally capable. But we got nothing, nothing at all. Instead, we had to defend ourselves. Do you have any idea how many patients died? Or how many turned? 103 dead, 291 turned. Which leaves, what? A max of ten who made it out? But I’d say it’s closer to three or four. It was absurd.

Where were the attendants? If they knew, why didn’t they prepare?

What attendants? There were only seven left by the time the attack came. Seven, for almost 400 patients, the rest of them fled north or locked themselves inside or… whatever they thought would save them. I doubt it did, and honestly, I hope they’re gone. What kind of asshole dips out on the people they’re responsible for without warning them of what’s coming?

Can you tell me about your experience on the day of the attack?

Sure. I think I was sitting in the common area when it started. I heard glass breaking and screams from the patient rooms, and I wish I still had that instinct that told me those noises meant something was wrong. But four months in a psych ward does that to you. So I ignored it. I was particularly pissed off that day because it was me and Luce’s anniversary, July 16th, but I obviously didn’t get to see her or give her a gift, and all I could think about is how she probably felt… [She trails off and goes silent for a minute.] 

Anyway, somebody put their hand on my shoulder and before I even processed that it was there, I whipped around and punched them right in the face. [chuckles] I bet you can imagine my surprise when I see a zombie standing in front of me. His head fell right off when I hit him, it was disgusting. I thought I was dreaming, or hallucinating, really. Like, c’mon, zombies? And nobody told anyone? Why the fuck would they do that to us?

But after punching that first one, I realized everything happening around me. I could hear those noises, those… vulgar moans and screeches. Have you ever heard them screech? [I shake my head.] If you’ve ever truthfully described a scream from a horror movie as ‘bloodcurdling,’ you have no idea how terrifying these ones are. There wasn’t any hesitation either, everything happened all at once out of nowhere. They were swarming the halls; how that many of them got in is beyond me. I didn’t even recognize most of them, they probably came from outside. If you ever watched The Walking Dead before all of this happened, Lord knows nobody watches it anymore, it’s right outside our doors, but it’s like that scene from one of the very first episodes, you turn a corner and suddenly more zombies than you can count are swarming everything you can see. Then I turned and there was even more behind me. I almost just jumped into the hoard and let them have at me right there. But I thought back to what Ophelia said to me. I sound so stupid saying that, but that’s what drove me. If Luce was going to be in danger, I wanted to be there. Maybe it wasn’t as hopeless as I thought. Maybe I could just… do something. Maybe I could save her, or at least get back to her. 

How did you even get out? Those places are made to keep people in.

I honestly don’t know. I mean, I do… I just don’t know how I came up with it. The swarm was pouring in from everywhere. My one advantage was that I was just me, and they reached the others before most of them could so much as look at me. I know it sounds cruel, but in a situation like that one, you take what you can get. So while they fed on the other patients, I tried to get out. They were coming from the patient rooms, of course, so that was my first choice. But the flow of zombies was ever increasing. I knew there was a window, probably multiple, that had been broken open. So I looked for other places. The windows in the common area were big enough to get through, but when I stood on the sill and tried to break it open, it wouldn’t budge. I guess that’s the point of it. One of those motherfuckers slammed themselves against the window I was hitting, and it scared the shit out of me. I fell back onto the floor and my head hit hard against the arm of one of the chairs. I was going to pass out, I should’ve. I don’t know why or how I didn’t, but it was probably driven by adrenaline or something like it.

What really screwed me over is that my head started bleeding. And it drew the attention of every zombie within 50 feet of me. I knew, too, so I booked it for the hallway towards the cafeteria. A janitor’s cart had been abandoned, and I shoved it at the zombies coming after me. It took them out like bowling pins, but then it just kept going. Most of the ones it had run over had started getting back up, even one of them had lost a hand from the wheel rolling over her wrist, but she just kept coming.

So I ran. I ran right away from them and locked myself in the cafeteria. I tried to just breathe but the zombies weren’t far behind and they just… pounded on the door. I pushed as many tables and chairs and carts in front of it as I could. When I pulled on one table, someone yelled, “STOP.” The little boy who would rip out his hair was under the table, curled up with one of the younger girls. I pulled them out from under and shoved the table against the door, then turned to look at them.

They told me, “we were hiding, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to.” They stayed clung to one another, but I needed help moving more chairs so I ripped them away from each other, and I saw it.

The little boy with the torn apart arms and missing hair had bite marks on his shoulder. I grabbed him by his arms and screamed at him, “What happened, what happened, what happened?” And he just cried more and more. The other one screamed at me and told me not to hurt him. I shouldn’t be admitting it, but I slapped her right across the face. I couldn’t take it all, it was too much and I… snapped. I didn’t know it then, but the zombies are supposed to go into some coma-like state, I guess, before they turn. I don’t know why, but that just didn’t happen this time. I turned back to the little boy, and he had started making small jerky movements. He was turning and me and the little girl both knew it. He screeched just like the rest of them, and similar to the chorus of laughter that used to follow the screams in the night, the hoard outside the cafeteria screeched right back. It was so loud… God, I just pressed my hands hard against my ears and waited for it to end. But by the time it did, the little boy was six bites into the stomach of the little girl who was standing at my side. It’s a miracle he didn’t come for me… I was bigger, after all.

But once again, I just ran. I didn’t try to help, it would’ve been useless. So I ran, I ran into the kitchen and I looked for a knife but I just couldn’t find one. They were probably locked up to keep the patients safe, but God, I was a patient and I sure as hell wasn’t safe right now.

And it hit me then, it… it really hit me. I just collapsed on the ground and sobbed. Why? That was all I could think. I blamed Mariam, I blamed her for it all and I still do. I hit the back of my head off the counter a few times, and just curled up on the floor.

I only laid there for about three minutes, and I swear to you I’m not making this up. It was like a movie, it felt so unreal. A beam of sun started shining through onto the floor right in front of my face. My head shot right up and I saw the window, broken open and cleared out, probably so that someone could escape earlier. It was a small window, barely big enough for a person to fit through, but I knew I could shimmy through. 

And… that’s what I did. I squeezed my way out, there’s not much to it. It brought me out to the road along the back of the retreat. I could hear them through the walls, though. I could see them through the windows and I saw them swarming out into the fenced in yard and I saw them charging for the fence, for me. They reached through the bars and I jumped back. I saw two people running together from the front door, and I only knew they weren’t turned because they kept turning to look behind them. From there, I just ran. I ran as far as I could, but not into any sort of civilization. Even then, I knew that would be a bad idea.

Where did you go?

I ran along the water, I saw the woods, and I ran in. I followed the trails until I got to the Retreat Tower… I stayed there for a day or two, went into town when I felt like it was safe enough, hopped into a car that had been abandoned, and just drove. I drove back to Lyndonville, to Luce’s house. And it was… empty. She was just gone, her and her family. I don’t… I think we’re done; can we be done? We’re done.


The vignette below was written by Taylor Cookson.

Coventry Vermont, U.S.

[The bell on the door chimes as I enter Martha’s Diner. I see a girl sitting alone at one of the booths. She has messy brown hair, heavy bags under her tired eyes, and she’s shaking her leg up and down as though she has everything to be anxious about. Seeing as most of the booths were empty, and everyone else in the diner seemed to be deep in conversation with a friend or a partner, I only assumed this was 23 year old Louise Pocker. I slide into the red booth across from her. She does not lift her head to look at me, but gazes at me through unkempt bangs. A waitress comes over and offers to refill her cup with fresh coffee. She accepts, and immediately takes a sip of the pure black coffee. The waitress offers to take my order. I decline. I’m here on business.] 

I’ve never really watched the news. Half the days I just leave it on while I shower or make my breakfast. It’s always some boring crap about how it’s expected to rain or snow, or something about some library opening across town. I guess I could have benefited from paying more attention that particular week. Most of the news had been the same. But every so often you would hear something about what they called “the sickness” spreading down south. I guess it never really concerned me, considering I live up north, and the sickness basically stayed in the southern region. Eventually, it got to a point where I wouldn’t even listen to the news anymore and would instead play music from a random playlist I found on spotify. Green Day, Three Days Grace, All-American Rejects, stuff like that.

If you knew that this illness was serious, why wouldn’t you have continued listening to the news?

It never really concerned me. All I ever heard about it was that it was happening down south, and I never heard anybody say anything about it moving up north, so I didn’t really care all that much. Figured it wasn’t a big deal. Anyway, I went into work around 7:30, my usual time. I work with kids. Educational summer camp, I guess is what you would call it. It takes place at the school. You know, the Irasburg Elementary. Turns out nobody there watched the news either. Either that or nobody gave a shit. Or the news didn’t know the most vital information just yet. We get kids from multiple towns in the area. Most of them from Irasburg, but some from Barton or Orleans. This year, we had one first grader, Rylie, who was spending the summer in Lowell with his grandparents. He was originally from Florida, but his parents thought it might be good for him to spend some time up north. On the very first day, his grandmother warned us that he had been showing some signs of a forming sickness since he had arrived at her house. You know, coughing, stomach aches, headaches, but nothing that would make him miss camp.

Were there any other kids who hadn’t been in the area before? Had anyone else been sick?

He was the only one from out of the area. There was one staff member sick that week, but he tested for any illness, and it was just the flu. Obviously, because Rylie was the only one from out of the area, some kids were over eager to become his friend, and some were content sticking to their normal group of people. I remember a group of around six kids crowding around him asking what it was like living in Florida. Of course he provided every exaggerated detail. He made friends pretty quickly. We always start the day by providing breakfast. The kids come in and sit down to eat at paint stained, foldable tables in the library. There’s always one group of siblings that arrive before everybody else, because their mom is one of the counselors. I walked into the library to be greeted with a hug from the youngest of the three. A kindergartener, always filled with so much energy and joy. I’ve been his favorite counselor since he first joined the camp last summer. Kids filter in in groups of two or three, hugging their parents goodbye in the lobby, and making their way to the library to greet their friends. 

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, at least to you, at this point?

No, nothing really. All the kids were sitting around the tables, talking more than they were eating. Rylie arrived around 7:50 that morning, coughing, just like his grandmother had told us he would be. He hugged and kissed her goodbye, I showed him to the library, and offered him breakfast. He said he wasn’t in the mood for the stale cheerios everyone else had been given, as he had a bit of a stomach ache. I didn’t think too much about it. I told him to just try to rest a bit. It was probably just anxiety. The day goes on as usual, after breakfast the kids break up into their lesson groups. Some of the younger kids went into their math group, some went to the English group, and all of the older kids – there weren’t many – went to their group where they learned whatever topic the teacher chose to teach that day. I was assigned group 1 of the younger kids. The group consisted of mainly first and second graders, with two or three kindergarteners thrown in. We went to the first grade classroom, sat in a circle on the colorful, United States map rug, and listened to the teacher list off the agenda for the lesson. Everything was going smoothly. The teacher was playing a math game with the kindergarteners, while I had been assigned the duty of helping multiple groups of the first and second graders play a more challenging math game.

The room went practically dead silent. Everyone, including the teacher and I, paused to listen to the commotion we heard from the second grade room next door. They were learning English, so we weren’t too surprised when we heard the kids yelling, as the teacher for that class always has the kids yell out words, or what sound this given letter makes. This wasn’t the sound of kids yelling letters. Someone was screaming bloody murder. Most of the time, we would ignore things like this. Maybe the kid was just upset about something and decided that right then and there was where they were going to throw a fit about it. Most of the time, it got resolved. The teacher would calm them down, tell them to take a break, whatever it was that stopped the crying. We ignored it, or tried to. The kids were all distracted and wouldn’t focus on the lesson. We tried getting them back on track, but as everyone was nearly fully focused back in, another screech came from next door. 

You hadn’t suspected anything at all? Even at this point?

No, actually. Kids crying is pretty normal, especially when there’s a good fifty of them total. I was told to see what was going on. I peeked my head into the second grade classroom, and the teacher looked at me with an expression somewhat between shock and something that said “I’m so over this”. The kids all spoke at once. They were trying to tell me that Rylie had bitten two of the other kids. This wasn’t exactly common, but it wasn’t unheard of. So now, we had a kid that nobody really knew, biting other kids, two kids crying from pain, a few others crying from the fear of also being bitten. I asked if there was anything I could do to assist with the four crying kids, but the teacher said she had it all under control, and we should just ignore it and continue class in the other room. We tried. The kids wouldn’t focus though, and kids kept crying in the other room. 

Nobody did anything to calm the kids?

We tried. Kids kept crying in the other room, the kids in the first grade room wouldn’t focus, it was a mess. I went back to the second grade room when I heard another few screams. The teacher looked on the verge of tears herself. More biting. Obviously it wasn’t normal for the kids to go around biting each other. 

You had to have suspected something by now.

At that point, I was getting a bit suspicious. Rylie seemed a bit green, as if he were going to throw up from sea sickness, you know, like in the cartoons. I asked if he was alright, if he needed to go to the restroom or the nurse, but all I got in response was a tired, worn out moan. I asked who had been bitten and the unaffected kids pointed to a group of four kids in the corner. Now it started to click. A kid came up from down south, where the sickness had been, and was now biting other kids. I made the teacher aware of this, and she looked at me a bit confused, as if she didn’t believe me, but then told me to warn the other classes.

What did the staff do about it?

Well I went back to the first grade room, pulled the teacher aside and told her there was something seriously wrong with Rylie. She told me to go inform the teacher for the other group, and any other staff that may be in the building. She was going to get the kids to a safer place. I don’t know where she was thinking she was going to take the kids. The only “safe” place in that building would be upstairs. There’s two stairwells, no windows, and it’s a small, one room space. Maybe the library. There’s two doors to the outside, one door leading into the rest of the building. Anyway, I walked across the building to the cluster of classrooms that were used for the kids who were like fifth grade and up. I found the group in the science room. I asked to borrow the teacher for a moment, and told her what was going on. She said she would get her students to the library, then inform the other staff in the building. I went back to the first grade room, to see if I could help with getting the younger kids to safety. Another scream from next door. I told the teacher that all the older kids were meeting in the library, so that’s where we went. As we passed the second grade room, through the small window in the door, I watched blood trickle from the teacher’s arm as one of the kids sunk their teeth into her flesh.

At this point, I was panicking a bit. I had tried to keep calm, but with at least eight kids, and an adult infected, how safe really were we? Sure, kids might be weaker, but my thought process? They’re fast, they’re stealthy, how much of a chance do we have against a group of them? My group made our way to the library, where we met the group of older kids, and the rest of the staff. We needed a plan, of course. I remember thinking about every movie I’ve ever seen, where the main group locks themselves in a room, lays a map or blueprints out on a table, and everyone gathers round to devise a plan. We obviously couldn’t do that. It’s a group of hyper kids who don’t listen to begin with. We weren’t sure how much time we had to spare, so the adults worked together to try and calm the kids. We told them it was a serious matter and they really had to listen to us or something very serious could happen. We sat them in a circle on the carpet, and had the main camp instructor tell them what was happening. The rest of us sat in the back of the room with a list of all the kids and their parents’ phone numbers. We called as many parents as we could, telling them their kids would be brought home when it was absolutely safe, and warned the parents not to come to the school. 

Did the parents listen to you?

Well most did. A few parents came and demanded we give them their kids. Of course we had to do that, so we crossed off the kids name, marking that they were safely with their parents, and no longer our responsibility. We called the parents of the infected kids, too. That was my job simply due to the fact that nobody else was in the mood to deal with the angered parents. I called them, told them what had happened, and most of the time, they just broke down sobbing, telling me to do what we needed to do to keep the other kids safe. 

What exactly did you need to do?

The main instructor told the other counselors and I to get the remaining kids to our cars and take them home. There weren’t enough kids for all of us to need to do that, however, so I stayed behind to help with the infected ones. Just as we had started letting the kids outside to bring them to their homes, a large bang came from just outside the library door. It sounded like the heavy, double doors to the gym being slammed against the wall. I didn’t think zombies had that strength. They were outside the door. They knew we were in the library, and they wanted in. There was clawing at the door, almost like a cat when they wanted to get into a room. The door handle jiggled, and in that moment, it clicked in my brain that this specific door doesn’t lock. The door was opening and the kids weren’t all out of the building. Zombies aren’t smart, right? At least in the movies. Movies are never accurate, but what other knowledge of these situations do we have? I pulled the plastic, folding tables over to the door and stacked the flimsy, plastic chairs on top of them. I wasn’t confident in the barricade, but it was good enough for now. The kids were still filing out when the barricade broke. Most of the staff had already filled their cars and left. The rest of the staff, other than me and my boss, were outside filling their cars with the kids. 

I had no idea what to do. At this point I was completely panicking. How would parents react if their kids got infected? Would I get fired? Who knew. I wasn’t too concerned with all of that at this point. There was no order to the way the kids were leaving, or the way the cars were filled, it was a complete shit show. I was going to grab a book and start swinging, but how good of an idea is that when it’s an elementary school and all the books are paperback. There wasn’t much else around other than chairs and tables, but I had piled all of those in front of the door. There were no big enough, heavy enough things around me that I could use to defend myself and the kids. The only thing I could think to do was run. We got most of the kids out. By the time we got everyone out, the last bunch, a group of maybe seven, had been infected. I heard a scream come from one of the cars that was pulling out of the parking lot. I looked over, and for some not very smart reason, the back window had been rolled down. Sticking out of the window was a child’s arm, and from that arm clung a zombie, biting the kids arm like it could have lost its life if it let go. I knew how that was going to end, and I wasn’t going to bother doing anything about it. 

Where were you when this was happening? 

I had left the building through the library, but I had gone to the back entrance, near where the kitchen is. I knew the virus was going to continue spreading and I wanted to be prepared. I opened the door as quietly as humanly possible. If i got caught, chances were, I wasn’t making it out of there. I could hear the moans of the zombies as they searched for anything that may still be alive. They were far enough away that they wouldn’t be able to hear my soft footsteps on the hallway carpet, but they were close enough where they could probably hear me if I made any noise whatsoever. I snuck into the kitchen, where I found coolers and shelves stocked with canned foods and frozen meats and all the other shitty, processed food the kids were fed. I knew what I was doing was risky, but I also knew I had to try. I thought maybe I could cause some kind of distraction, something that would take the attention off of me if I were to slip up and do something that would put the zombies’ attention on me. The only things that came to mind were to throw something, like in the movies – but that never worked. In the movies, the monster the person was trying to distract always turned in the direction the thing was thrown from. – and fire. 

Fire? As in.. you were going to burn down the school.

I didn’t know what else to do. The only thing I could think was Survive. Survive. Survive.

So that’s what I did. Whatever it took to survive. I found a lighter in one of the drawers at the far end of the kitchen. I had to make this fast, because I knew I wouldn’t have much time after going through with this. The zombies were all inside. That I knew. I went back outside through the door I had come in. I followed the sidewalk around the back of the building, through the large, bright, multicolored playground, all the way to the opposite end of the building. I opened a door that led into the hallway by the higher grade classrooms. I walked into the science room. There was taxidermy everywhere, desks, sinks, chemicals. Now I don’t know a thing about science. I do know, however, that a lot of chemicals are flammable. I opened cabinets, drawers, I searched everywhere, looking for any chemicals I could find as fast as I could. I gathered them into a pile on a desk, and lit it up. It burned slowly at first, but I knew with the amount of chemicals that were there, that slow burning wouldn’t last long. I ran back outside, back around the building, and back into the kitchen. I raced to get every can of food that I could into my arms. I jumped a bit when the first fire alarm sounded. The zombies did too, apparently. They yelled in a way that didn’t sound like yelling, but more like annoyed grunting. I wasn’t going to stay to find out what they did next. For the second time, I went back out the door by the kitchen and ran to my car. Of course, me being paranoid me, my car is locked. 

The cans clattered as they hit the ground. I didn’t care where they rolled. I dug through my pockets for my keys. The lighter, gum, everything but my keys. I checked my jacket. My outside pockets, empty. Finally I found them in the inner pocket of my jacket. I unlock the car and bend down to pick up the cans. I grabbed as many as I could see, which is nowhere near as many I walked out with. Honestly, I don’t even care anymore. I just wanted to get out. This whole time, the fire alarms in the school were going off. I was starting to get a headache. I wanted nothing more to get out of there. I got in my car, and watched as the upper level of the building collapsed. I started the car, drove through the parking lot, and stopped at the road, waiting for a clearing in the traffic. I peered in my rearview mirror, and just as I did that, some chemical, – or something else in the building, I don’t know, I’m not an expert – exploded. The building went up in smoke and flames. Bricks, school supplies, almost anything that was in the building shot through the sky. Along with limbs. Arms, legs, head, guts, everywhere. I didn’t dare get out of the car. I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t think I was going to have too if i didn’t look back. I began driving off, sobbing silently to myself, the road barely visible through the tears welling in my eyes. As I started driving, a head, a head, slipped slowly down my windshield. It left a thick, black goop in a large streak down the window. Through that and the tears, I could barely see. I had to try, though. 

Where’d you go?

First, home. I packed a bag, and I drove to Maine. My family’s there. Though I didn’t really care if I was with my family or not. I didn’t care where I went. I just knew I couldn’t stay there. Somehow, the virus never got to us. We ended up being safe, as though some godly power had decided that I’d had enough. I told myself I would never go back, yet here I am, talking to you. Telling you every detail. You know, I passed where the school used to be. They never cleaned it up. All the rubble is still there, grown over with weeds. I guess they decided the kids that made it out might be a bit traumatized if they built another school in that same spot. Anyway, that’s all the information I’ve got for you. Can I go now?

Sure. But is there anything you regret doing that day?

Should have watched the news.


The vignette below was written by Lillian Fauteux.

 Boston, Massachusetts 

[Celia Madden has been a nurse for her whole life, more specifically an ER nurse. Even when the apocalypse got bad, she still stayed in Boston and helped some of the people in need. She was cautious of course, but she never left Boston. Celia has long blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Even though she is very young, she has a look in her eyes that she has seen war and unspeakable events. Before I sat down with Celia, she was charting her patients information, slouched in her chair like she was already tired, even though her shift had just begun.]

It was a warm, summer morning. I was on Fruit Street to get to Mass Gen and I remember that I glanced down at my watch and saw the time, I was going to be early and that meant I could sit in the break room for a bit. I had so many things on my mind, how was I going to pay off my student loans, how much money am I going to spend on groceries this week, and am I going to be able to eat lunch today? I hadn’t had much of an appetite those days. I didn’t even notice the atmosphere when I walked into the hospital. It was quiet and you could only hear the humming of the machines. I walked through the egg shell colored hallways and glanced at the stock photos on the walls.

Were there the same number of people working that day? Janitors, nurses, doctors?

No, as an afterthought there were way less people. I didn’t realize it until my coworkers brought it to my attention. They wanted to know if I saw anyone in the lobby or what it was like walking to work today. My brain was in such a fog that nothing seemed out of place. 

Did you watch the news at all?

Um, no. After I graduated from nursing school, I stayed away from daytime news. It honestly just made me sad, in a way. 

What about social media?

I didn’t particularly use social media that much, the ones I do use, I only have my friends and family on. I filter what I see pretty substantially so I don’t get the heavy and upsetting news. This seems ignorant of me. I know. I just want to keep my happiness and sanity. 

Could you go into more detail about what your coworkers were saying?

Yeah. Every day when I get to work, I clock in and immediately go and put my lunchbox and water bottle in the fridge so it’s cold. The first thing that brought me back to reality was that the fridge wasn’t working. I asked one of my nurse coworkers what the deal was with the fridge. She seemed on edge which made me a little nervous. She said that the power had just gone out and the hospital’s generator hadn’t turned everything back on yet. 

Another one of my coworkers, who is a doctor, was grilling me on the questions. Did I wash my hands when I came in? Yes of course I did. Did anyone walk in behind me? No, nobody was near me. Have I gotten any weird calls or texts recently? No, I don’t text anyone but my fiance, sister and parents. She ended the conversation with an ominous, “be careful”. 

I knew that I needed to be careful, there were “African Rabies” going around and people were getting really sick. I mean, my fiance wrote me a note on the whiteboard on our fridge, “Be careful out there, I love you.” and always something along those lines…every day. I’m not trying to be ungrateful about what he was writing because I appreciate the effort but back then, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

So your fiance was pretty worried then?

Worried is an understatement. He’s a great guy and he always has our best interests at heart, but deep down he is a worrier. I try to give him some peace of mind when I tell him that I’m safest at work, we have security guards on every floor and we are always the first ones to know of any important event. He works from home most days, he tries not to go out, but he will here and there. 

I mean, his worrying is understandable. Did this ever hinder your day to day life?

No, not really. I would say I’m a pretty adaptable person and I kind of go with the flow. You know, as best as I can, especially in these times. You’re right though, his worrying was understandable now that I look back at it, but sometimes in the moment it got a little frustrating.

Speaking of your day to day life, do you think being a nurse prepared you a little more for the apocalypse?

In some ways, I would definitely say yes. Being heavily trained for five years definitely prepared me for the unexpected, you know in the ER but when we actually were exposed to the ‘zombies’ or whatever people called them at that time. It was completely different. Another thing that I was not ready for whatsoever, was the pushback from the patients and sometimes some of the hospital employees.

What do you mean by pushback? Do you mean denial?

Denial is a good word for it, I would say. I think that people were just in shock that something like this was actually happening and not just something you read about in books or watched on Hulu or Netflix. You know as a nurse, I see people go through the stages of grief every single day. There are 5 stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I think most people were stuck in the first two stages, denial and anger. Nobody wanted to come to terms with the fact that people were dying at an exponential rate and then somehow coming back as ‘zombies’ I guess. 

Can you elaborate on the pushback from the hospital?

I think I can. Basically during the height of the apocalypse, people were still coming into the hospital for injuries and illnesses and stuff like that. Granted, there wasn’t much we could do for them because we didn’t have an endless supply of resources so we had to ration and we were pretty much all on our own. We stayed open because we wanted to, not because we had to. The patients who came in who were showing symptoms of being infected with the virus, we put them in their own wing of the hospital which we called Z wing and it had a guard sitting by the front doors. Then eventually, you know, those people in Z wing turned into something that wasn’t human and we had to dispose of them properly. I guess. 

There were a bunch of times when the nurses had to kill the zombies because we didn’t have time or enough space to put them in the Z wing. That is something I’ll never forget and it will stick with me for the rest of my life. I took a pair of forceps from the sterilization kit next to me and as the zombie sat up, snarling at me, I closed my eyes and stabbed where I knew I would kill it. 

[Celia sighed looking past me at the wall, with a blank expression]

Were you told to hide the bodies after they were dead? What did you do with them?

Yeah we were told specifically to discreetly rid ourselves and the hospital of the bodies. There was a chute of some sort that was directly attached to Z wing and depending on who was free at that time, would open the chute, grab the body and send it down. At the bottom was an industrial sized dumpster where they would all sit and wait until a truck came and took it away. 

What happened to them after they were taken away?

You know it’s funny, I never had the urge to know what happened to them because I quite frankly didn’t care and didn’t want any more to do with them than I had to. But you know how the rumor mill runs and everybody knows in the hospital. Anyways, once the truck took them away, it went to a field in just about the middle of nowhere and was dumped into a pit. Once the pit got full, they burnt the bodies. 

Wow, they really burnt the bodies? Did anyone find out about this? Like besides the hospital employees?

Yeah, I was shocked at first too. I mean, burning people is awful and bad for the environment. At the same time though, they were zombies and they had to be disposed of somehow. I don’t know who came up with the idea to burn them but maybe it was the best option at the time. I don’t think anyone found out about them burning the bodies, because that would have caused a lot of issues we didn’t need. 

My husband works for the company who took care of the bodies, so that was also a source of information for me at least. He’s a techie for them. Most of my coworkers who had spouses, either lost them or they split because they couldn’t handle the stress. I feel really lucky that we stayed together through it all. Like I said, he was a worrier, and I honestly think that is what kept us together and alive. 

I’m glad you had a happy ending to this, we don’t see that much anymore these days.

I am glad too, thank you for-

[Just then we were interrupted by the alarm system that I was told went off because a patient got up off the bed where a ‘pressure alarm’ was set.]


The vignette below was written by Kalmin Purcell.

New York City, New York

[The chilling New York City breeze hits my face while I sit on a wooden bench outside the broken, torn down School of Visual Arts with the famous french painter, Lyam Anouilh. Since the outbreak, his post apocalyptic realism paintings have been growing in popularity, his most famous being Changes, which is now showcased in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which is a 5.7 mile drive from where we sit currently. Although he is 36 years old, his face looks as if it were painted with delicate care with the smoothest paint on the market. His gray knit turtleneck and brown corduroy pants are stained with traces of all colours imaginable of acrylic paints, blue trapped under his nails that need to be slightly filed, and his black hair is gelled back with a white streak in it that resembles a skunk. The lower half of his left arm was replaced with a robotic one.]

When I was painting Changes I was alone in my apartment with my live model I had hired to practice anatomy for an upcoming portfolio project for class. At the time I had lived in Penny Lane and went to the School of Visual Arts, so the commute to class was less than a four minute walk back and forth which was extremely convenient since you just had to cross E 24th Street and walk along the side of 3rd Ave to arrive. My apartment was bare. There were enough essentials to get by, a white bed, a stove top, a dresser, a sink, and a fridge filled with yogurt, fruit, and leftover pepperoni pizza from Mike’s Pizza just down the road. It wasn’t because I was too poor to afford to furnish my living space, I just worked better in an empty room. This empty room was perfect for my live model. I was able to completely focus my attention on her without getting distracted by anything around her other than how beautifully I had built the canvas I was working on out of scrapped light stained wood and the handsaw next to the refrigerator. 

You made your own supplies?

For the most part. Oftentimes putting a little extra work into your canvas can score you extra points when implementing it into your portfolio. It’s also hard to find 48” x 30” sized canvas’ in stores, not to mention about 40 dollars more than making one from hand. There was no use in spending extra money when I had already spent around 180 dollars on my Mont Marte Tilting Studio Wooden Floor Easel, and easily upwards to 400 dollars on all of the Golden Artist Heavy Body Acrylic Paints, which are some of the most pigmented paints on the market. As I was focusing on the model, my eyes moved back and forth between her elegant three-quarter turn that had taken 15 minutes to perfect exactly how I wanted it. Everything was going smoothly, I believed it might’ve been too good to be true. Music played from my red beats speaker, Novo Amor I remember, just so the model could be calm and tranced in the songs instead of feeling awkward in the silence which I would have preferred. But as my thin paintbrush continued to sculpt the curvature of her arms onto the canvas, I looked up again and noticed her wobbling, only to look down at my canvas again and notice the proportions were off due to her moving. I guess I was too focused on the shading of her skin to realize before it was too late. I let out a groan under my breath and tossed my paintbrush into the cup of muddy water. 

Did you notice the model was acting weird?

Not when she first entered my apartment. And it wasn’t out of the ordinary even when she started twitching on the wide wooden pedestal. I had believed her muscles were twitching because of the stillness of the pose. At the time, the southern tail of New York hadn’t seen any cases of the infection. There were some up north, but news outlets weren’t going public with it, my guess as to not cause a panic. You’d mostly see posts on Facebook about it. I never believed when people said they were literal walking dead. There were a lot of bullshit theories on Facebook. It was hard to believe anything was true there. It simply had to be a severe case of rabies being spread like most rational people were saying. But when she started moving more, my hostility grew. It quickly became annoying. I remember telling her to stay still, and a groan came from her lips. It didn’t even sound like her voice. It wasn’t until then that I became somewhat concerned, but the annoyance was still in my heart. I walked over to the sink and filled a glass of water from the paint stained tap, and walked back over to the woman. “Drink some water and take a break,” I said to her, but my tone was clearly annoyed. I didn’t get a human response…her arm swung and knocked the glass out of my hand and it shattered to the floor, the water spreading across the hardwood. By the time I looked back at her, she was bent inhumanly. Her eyes were glassy and drool dripping from her mouth. She was on her hands and feet like a dog, but her torso was twisted uncomfortably, her chest to the ceiling with her hair messily over her face. I leaped back at the horror. It was only then that I understood that for once, Facebook might have been right about the dead arising. There was not an ounce of life inside of her anymore. She lunged at me when I moved back, her nails digging into my abdomen and pulling me down with her. I could feel her teeth tear away a chunk of skin from my arm. I screamed and kicked her off. 

How did you survive if you were bitten? 

I didn’t know a lot about the infection, but I knew for a fact that a bite like this would turn me into this lifeless, killer shell of a human. I stumbled over to the appliances, grabbing the handsaw next to the fridge. The blade was still covered in sawdust from making the frame of the canvas, but it was the only weapon I had accessible. When I turned, she was already lunging at me again and salivating like a rabid animal, thirsty for my flesh. I swung my uninjured arm and the handsaw struck her skull, sinking deep inside. I remember black ooze dripping out onto the floor, the body falling down into the puddle, genuinely lifeless this time. I used my foot and placed it on her dead shoulder blade, using the momentum to get the saw out of her brain and wiping the black blood on the rigged blade off on my white bed sheets. I slid the black belt out from the loops in my jeans and tightened it around my arm. Frankly, I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is thinking how lucky I was to have to sever my left arm instead of my right. If I had to cut my right arm off in an attempt to stop the spread of the infection, the chances of me painting like I had before the incident would be practically impossible. Before I knew it, my left arm was severed and the handsaw was covered in blood, and I was taking torn up bed sheets and tightly bandaging my arm to try to stop the bleeding. I stood as best as I could, but I was dizzy from the blood I was losing. I managed to make it into the hallway of the apartment complex and banged on the door of my neighbor. I will never forget the look of terror on her face when she eventually opened it. From there, I was placed into the Tisch Hospital and locked up for god knows how long. They didn’t want to risk me turning from the bite. But from that window I was able to paint some of my most famous scenes, overlooking the catastrophic images of families getting torn apart, along with civilization. 

Sometimes I wonder why I survived while other people didn’t…but then I remember my legacy. My purpose is to make art resembling the rise and fall of humanity. To carry out this history through images for generations to come. To make the war not something to fear, but something to learn from and find peace from. My purpose is to put beauty in what was destroyed for billions of people world wide. That thing is the living dead.