Minutes later, we were both seated on opposite ends of the couch with a news anchor telling us the sorry state of the world. Well...the sorry state of the states. According to her, only a few cases of the undead had been reported in other countries. Nobody else had an apocalypse looming over them.
I remembered the first time I saw the word ‘zombie’ being used in such a serious context. Maybe four or five days ago, I’d turned on the television to find some interview with a doctor from the CDC playing on a majority of the channels. He was speaking on a sudden outbreak of what appeared to be the flu. The very first of the infected were starting to turn, so obviously the reporter interviewing him asked the question.
“What is your response to the claims that these are actual ‘zombies’?”
‘Doctor Lang’ chuckled like he’d heard it many times before. “Frankly, it’s silly. These people are sick. The high fevers that accompany this illness may be having an effect on the patients’ mental states, causing a sort of...delirium. But saying they’re some sort of fictional monster is ridiculous.”
Just six hours later, when hundreds more patients began eating their doctors and nurses--including Doctor Lang--every news station and media platform was using the term ‘zombie’. I watched plenty more programs talking about the subject, but none of them mentioned either a cause or a cure.
Even today, when I could feel an abrupt shift in the condition of our society, there were still no answers.
I took a tater tot from the paper plate in my lap and chewed on it quietly, glancing over to Max to see his reaction to the news. Shockingly, he wasn’t very thrilled. He hadn’t even sat back yet. “It’s crazy how fast this all happened,” he murmured, setting down a tot that had been on its way to his mouth. “It’s been what, less than a week since the first reports? I thought that if something like this ever happened, the government or somebody would stop it, like...immediately.”
“You have a lot of faith in our government.”
A little relaxed by my unworried response, Max finally settled into his spot on the couch and sighed. “Seems so. I’m just hoping some other country sends aid soon. If not to help us, then at least to stop it from spreading to them.”
I nodded, sniffling, and we turned our attention back to the screen. “So, uh...you hear that Samuel L. Jackson was eaten by a zombie?”
Max blinked back at me, caught off guard by the information. “Shit, really? Wow...that sucks. I’m sorry.”
“What?” I snorted. Max was already blushing and trying not to laugh, but my chuckle led to him breaking too. “Did you just apologize like he’d been a close friend?”
Wheezing, the other boy dropped a few tater tots and attempted to pick them up through the tears in his eyes. “I don’t know! I wasn’t ready for that sort of information, and it’s habit!”
I doubled over, setting my plate down so the tots didn’t suffer the same fate as Max’s. “Oh my god, dude. That’s fucking hilarious. My heart is full now, thank you.”
“I’m glad I could be of service.” He popped his last two tots in his mouth and nodded to me. “I’m gonna go get more. You want any, Charlie?”
“No thanks, I don’t have much of an appetite.” I’d eaten maybe half of my dinner and was already feeling sick. The flu was no joke.
“Ah, did what I say fill up your heart and your stomach?” He teased, standing up from the couch to go to the kitchen.
I rolled my eyes goodnaturedly. “Ooh, charming and funny.”
His confidence instantly disappeared and was replaced with pink cheeks and half-formed words. I couldn’t help but snicker as he hurried away into the kitchen. Damn, he was easily flustered.