Saturday, November 16, 2013

#AD

#AC

Dear diary, Mike passed me one of his artwork today. We were sitting on the roof of our new place , which happened to be one of Singapore's most popular mall, overlooking the park that was in front of us. We were chatting about what we wanted to do if the world returned to normal tomorrow. He would fly to Switzerland and use up all his savings there, after which he would go up to the highest ski resort in the country, choose the most advanced skiing route and ski off the highest cliff.

"Might as well end your life with a bang. Or a splat, in my case."

Mike told me how his dream has always been to visit Switzerland and its beautiful mountain ranges. Life however, has been constantly popping up obstacles in his way; his mother's untimely death when he was 25, his marriage when he was 28, his son's arrival in when he was 30, him getting laid off his sales job when he was 36, the economic recession when he was 40, his wife's diagnosis of cancer when he was 45 and not forgetting his son's hefty tuition fees when during the university years. There was always something that stopped him from going, be it family responsibilities, work or just not enough time. It was always 'maybe next year' and before he knew it, he was already a balding old man with patches of grey hair surviving in a zombie apocalypse.

"With nothing left for me back here anyway now, more the reason for me to fly."

I looked at Mike as a tear glistened in his eyes. I am sure he was not the only one who has unfulfilled dreams around here. After all, it was life's nature itself that demands us to be practical. I remember of how the day my older brother graduated from university, filled with hopes and dreams, only to have them crushed by the sheer weight of responsibilities and commitments that he had to fulfill in taking care of me and my sister. My parents were retirees by then, so instead of backpacking around the world as he had always wanted, my brother took up a job in the banking industry; meeting with clients and getting scolded by his boss day in and day out in order to ensure that both of us could continue studying. I could see that he was not happy, but he never complained. It was a practical choice. 

I turned my attention to the few dozen of zeds below us in the field. Some of them just standing there, perhaps soaking in the last few hours of sun, while some were aimlessly shambling about. How many of them had unfulfilled dreams too before they have it snatched away from them? How many of them would have done things differently, if given a chance to go back, knowing that eventually they would be where they are today?

As I was lost in my thoughts, Mike slid something over to me.

"Here, for you."

His was hiding something underneath his wrinkled fingers. It was a A4 sized paper neatly folded in half. I wondered what was on it as I took it from him. Mike just looked at me with a grin as I flipped the paper open. I was pleasantly surprised and amused at the same time seeing what Mike has drawn for me.



"Something to remember me by when all this end. That's you when you're busy thinking about stuff to put into your book. This old man may already been too late to pursue his dreams, but you young man still have time. Never forget what makes you happy."

I did not know what to say when I realized that Mike paid attention to my casual remark about how I enjoyed writing some time ago. Even then it was because he was wondering why I was hiding in the room with a book and pen all the time. And while in the living room, I always stared blindly at the wall with a pen in my hand and my book in front of me.

I studied the picture and admired its seemingly cuter style that Mike has used, compared to his usual darker and more serious artwork that littered the houses that we stayed in. It reminded me of the days I used to read Japanese mangas online. I absolutely loved it. The red eyes, clearly not mine, made me look so much cooler too.

In the end, I just smiled and said thanks to him for taking the time to draw something about me. I teased him about the style that he used for the drawing, like since when an old man like him could draw something like this, and he remarked how his wife used to be a fan of Japanese anime, an interest that she picked up from her line of work as a youth counselor, and how he would draw for her during her anniversary. That was where he picked up the style of drawing, he explained.

"If it's too kiddish I can take it back you know."

I told him that I was just kidding and I appreciated it. If a book was ever coming out from me, I assured him that his drawing would be the first choice for my book cover. He just laughed. We continued to observe the zeds below amidst the setting sun, when we heard Daniel's voice from the staircase door.

"How long do you father and son couple plan to stay there actually?"

"That depends on how long you two lovebirds take to finish your business actually." Mike shot back.

"Oh don't worry, Daniel gets his business done fast." We all laughed when Julie made that reply. Ever since her speech almost a week ago, she was beginning to open up to us. It was a welcomed change, of course, from her quiet self when we first met. I don't blame her actually, after all, she was subjected to quite a lot during the early days of the outbreak. Seeing this strong but cheeky side of her, I could not help but feel something stir deep within me. I don't know whether if it's because of the lack of girls around us or whether it was something else. I try not to think about it. Having feelings, at least to me, is something that is just not feasible in a post-apocalyptic world. Which is why I spent most of my days with Mike, where I can at least distract myself from all these feelings.

"And it's our big day today." She added. She was right. As I looked upon the horizon, I realized that today would be the day I finally put all my practices from the previous days to test.

The past few days themselves had been far from mundane. Other than the occasional raid of supplies, we have been occupying ourselves with "experiments" to test the behaviour of the zeds, as per Julie suggestions. Of course, the things that we do must be conducted in the utmost caution as we could not risk the zeds running to us during the experiment and even if there is a slight chance that the zeds would discover us, we would not do it. Most of the "experiments" we conduct were based on observations anyway, but I realize that even that could yield a lot of information itself when you're actively looking for something. We made a few interesting observations but some new questions popped up along the way, which natural I guess when you're delving deeper into something.

If anything, the experiments themselves was fun. There was once Daniel managed to get a portable generator to run (it's a good thing to have engineers on your team during an apocalypse) and hooked it up to a speakers and music players that we got from the mall nearby. We managed to get it to the middle of the road during the night and when the next morning came, we turned on the music player and gradually increased its volume until it was blasting hard metal at full. Then we repeated it at night.

We found that zeds themselves were attracted to loud noises but more so in the morning than in the night. The same goes for every single behaviour too, confirming our initial beliefs that zeds are day creatures. We also confirmed that zeds have a similar sensory profile to humans, meaning that they depended on their sight, smell and hearing to hunt and to move around.

However, perhaps the two most interesting discoveries that we made was how the zeds were attracted to carbon dioxide and avoid dark places. The carbon dioxide observation came as an accident, like most inventions I believe, during the time when Daniel fired up the generator. At first we found it strange how zeds would crowd around the generator after Daniel hit the switch, and we thought how perhaps the sound of the generator was attracting them. It was only when we saw how the zeds approached a burning pit that we built without even seeing it first that we hypothesize that perhaps the zeds are attracted to places with high carbon dioxide emission, with them being chlorophyll infused and all. That led us to wonder if perhaps the zeds generate oxygen as waste, but one could not really test without advanced equipment.

The next thing that we found was contrary to what is usually portrayed, zeds actually avoid dark places. We made this hypothesis when we consistently found empty buildings after empty buildings during our raid trips. To confirm our suspicion, we decided to put our theory to the test. Because if it turned out to be true, humans actually can have a safe place to go in order to avoid the zeds. The plan was for me to shout to a group of zeds from the front entrance of a mall to get their attention. If I do succeed, I then was supposed to try and bait them to see how far they would follow me into the dark mall. It was one of the riskiest operations that we ever took, but it was also exciting.

To ensure that the dangers of the operation was minimized, I was made to run a few times along the same route until I was familiar with the route that I was going to take. There would be traps set up to slow the zeds down if they do give chase. To avoid me from stumbling in the traps themselves, Daniel has tied little LED lights next to the traps to remind me of where they are, but in any case, they made sure the traps were not fatal. Some of it were something like the classic tripping trap where they tied a nylon string on two different poles or one where you have to duck or end up crashing into the shutter that is hanging overhead.

I had to go through the route again and again in the dark and abandoned mall until I could bring up the route inside my head even with my eyes closed. By the second night I was already so familiar with the path that I even kept dreaming about it. It was tiring, but I felt that it needs to be done. And it has been a long time since I last felt so alive and purposeful. By the third day and a few hundred rounds later, I could easily navigate the dark labyrinths and avoid the numerous traps around back to the safe zone that the three of them were at without even stopping. It was yesterday that I told them that I was ready.

The three of them would be stationed at the fifth floor at the shopping mall and I have to make my way to them as I come from the first floor. Our plan, in case the zeds gave chase all the way, was for the traps to slow them down and for me to hide in the shop, which we found were protected by reinforced shutters with a back door intended for staff, until it was safe enough to go out. The shop was connected to an emergency exit in case we got trapped and we ensured that we stocked up on food and water supplies in the shop in case anything went wrong. But if our hypothesis happened to be true, we don't even have to worry about the zeds chasing me all the way. We were merely planning according to the worst case scenario.

Mike wanted to be the runner at first, but seeing how he was panting even after one flight of stairs, I sternly told him not to. Daniel on the other hand, has never ran before in his entire life, except during his national service training and I could see how Julie's face changed when we discussed about the possibility of him being the runner so naturally the most logical choice was me. I don't have any complains though, cause a part of me was really excited about the prospect of this operation.

And today was the big day itself.

After making sure that all the necessary preparations were all in place, I gave the signal to them and walked out to the front entrance of the mall. There were a dozen or so zeds in front of me, not enough to constitute a horde but definitely more than my comfortable level. Naturally, I was scared and nervous. If this goes wrong, this could be the last time I am going to see this world before becoming god knows what.

Standing there, I gripped tightly at Mike's drawing. I closed my eyes and mouthed a silent prayer. So much has happened since the outbreak. And finally we're doing something.

I screamed at the top of my lungs.

#3

*****

P/s: As this is a work in progress and as I am trying to finish the story before November ends and not forgetting that I have work from 9-6 everyday, there might be grammar errors here and there and if you spot one, I would sincerely apologize for it. I am looking to publish this story, so if you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know by dropping a comment after each post. Proofreading your own work is confusing after all. I won't forget your kindness!

P/p/s: The artwork used in this blog post is drawn by a good friend of mine, Nic! It would be the official artwork for this novel that I hopefully will publish. You can view her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nikkarooart


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