Go Out With a Bang
I keep looking at my cellphone. I need to stop it. Focus. Doc White says I’ve got about an hour, maybe a little more, based on my weight and age.
The bite doesn’t feel that bad, but I guess that doesn’t matter. Getting numb is one of the symptoms. Hey, since I won’t be me much longer, I might as well be honest — it was my own damn fault. We got surprised, had to leave the truck when it ran out of gas, got back here just ahead of the zombies. I forgot to bar the outer door, and they just walked right in. We pushed ’em out of the alcove, but one fell and bit my leg. Hurt like hell for about ten seconds. I pulped the sumbitch’s head, too late for me. I’ll be out there with ’em soon enough.
I’ve made my last confession to the priest, the machete’s razor-sharp, and I’ve got Billy-Bob, my trusty two-pound hammer. One more thing to do. I walk over to Heather; she looks her normal pissy self as she finishes my suicide vest.
“Hey.” I move her sweater and purse off the other barstool, to an empty part of the workbench, and pull it up close.
“What?” She has a cellphone already wired into the vest, wisely turned off. Its number is already programmed into my phone. The bomb part is done, she’s just pouring shrapnel into pouches to make the bomb do that much more damage.
“I have a confession to make: in spite of your attitude, I’m still attracted to you. I fantasized a lot about taking you into a corner and banging your brains out.”
She finally looks at me. I could snap a portrait and put it in the dictionary next to “distaste.” “Uh-huh. You think maybe I’ll grant you a last request or something?”
“No time for that. I just hope it makes you more eager to push that call button when the time comes.” I lay my cellphone on the workbench near her hand.
Heather shakes her head. Her look changes… it might have been a tender look, if she knew how to give one. “I don’t hate you, Ras. Don’t even dislike you. I just haven’t thought that way since… since all this zombie shit. If I’d known you before…”
“You’d have slagged me off as a dirty old man.” I grin. “That’s okay. I wouldn’t have come onto you anyway. I’m all talk. Well, mostly.” I pick up my cellphone one last time. “Forty minutes. Time flies. Is that thing ready?”
“Yeah.” Heather helps me slip the vest on, hands me a largish flannel shirt to put on over it, quickly kisses my cheek when nobody’s looking. I barely feel it, but cherish the gesture. “Good luck out there,” she whispers.
“My luck ran out an hour ago. But thanks. I’ll take as many of ’em down as I can. Call me when it’s over, okay?”
“Asshole.” But she’s smiling. Heather has a pretty smile, I just wish I’d seen it more. I turn away and say goodbye to the others — Doc White, Friar Buck, Linda the chain-smoker, JR the male stripper, Walt, Jenny, the others — and get handshakes or hugs as the spirit moves them (and another kiss, from JR). Buck follows me to the inner door and gives me last rites, then I put on my old motorcycle helmet and gloves. Heather and I go through the door, hear it latch behind us. We say nothing — it’s all been said. She turns on the vest phone, and I pace the alcove a couple times, working up my nerve. A stumble tells me it’s time: I’m almost completely numb now. At least I won’t feel much out there.
Hammer and machete thongs looped around each wrist — check. Helmet in place — check. I look through the peephole — the zombies are waiting. Check. I look at Heather and nod, lifting the bar as quiet as possible. Heather’s right behind me; she closes and bars the door as I slip through.
They see me, shamble my way. I rush to meet them, machete in my left hand, hammer in my right. I dodge, almost fall, hack at backs of knees to hamstring them as I try to stay outside their flank, then break away and catch my breath, fogging my face shield a little. They follow. I use Billy-Bob to smash in the head of the first, hamstring the second, dodge around their flank again, bashing heads as I go, then break away again.
Getting slower. Time for the grand finale. I hoped to get ’em all, but that’s not gonna happen. But with any luck, I’ll do enough so the others can finish the job.
I raise my weapons, scream, charge stumbling into their midst, hacking and pounding. I see more than feel their hands reach, grab, pull. The machete falls away, then the hammer. I see them bite, hoping Heath—