Word Count: 1536
I was walking. Just walking. My bones shook within me as the trailer park I grew up in passed me by, my parents fighting in the background somewhere. Their shouting was echoing in my head. I’m not sure what they were fighting about, probably about something stupid or meaningless. Zombies shuffled around me, unseeing, ignoring me. Maybe I was one of them.
I felt like any second, the zombies would notice me. I was panicking. There was nowhere to hide. Every corner I turned between the trailers revealed more walking corpses. My shallow, anxious breathing and my racing heart beat felt like beacons, a massive neon sign floating over my head, pointing me out as a fresh meal.
My parent’s shouting followed me around, a persistent hound on my tail. It faded in and out like I was walking back and forth towards and away from it.
“I told you to take the boy to school,” my grandma’s voice joined the clamor, louder than mom and dad.
“The boy doesn’t need school,” dad was screaming at her, “he needs fucking discipline. I give him all he needs to make it.”
“Yea, ‘cause setting fire to the neighbor’s car is really disciplined!” mom yelled back at him. I remembered that day. I glanced around me, hoping the zombies would keep ignoring me as I crept up to the nearest trailer and looked inside.
There I was, seven years old, stood in the middle of the trailer, the sofa upturned and shoved across the room from where dad had flipped out earlier and managed to take it out on the furniture instead of me or mom. It’d put a dent in the wall that was never fixed.
Young Me was sulking, glaring at the floor, knowing exactly where this was going.
“This is why he needs to stay in school,” grandma was raising her voice above them. She was probably my only good influence as a kid, but she was definitely the one both me and my dad had inherited our tripwire tempers from. “He wouldn’t be such a little shit if you raised him like a normal kid. He’s going out and seeing kids with proper fucking families that get along and send their kids to school and now he’s acting up because he wants to be like them.”
“I don’t wanna be like them,” I spat on the floor, “they’s all cunts.”
“Normal kids don’t know that word yet,” grandma raged on, landing a heavy slap on my dad’s face.
“My kid is normal,” dad took it in his stride. He was too old to feel that slap. I watched Young Me flinch at the snap of skin on skin. “Them schools are full of niggers and gays and god knows what else now anyway. It’s a fucking disgrace.”
“Grow up,” grandma snapped. “It’s legal now. It has been for fucking years. You don’t have to like it, but you have to give him a shot at a decent future.”
“No!” dad pushed her away, slamming her back into the kitchen counter. Mom pulled him off as I ducked out of the way before I could trip anyone up and get a smack for it.
“I hate school!” I shouted over them. “You can’t make me go.” Before anyone could argue with me, I slipped between them and out of the door. Young Me ran straight past the me now and down the road, heading straight for Rayn’s place. He ignored the zombies, better than I could. My heart was in my mouth as I chased the boy out of the trailer park and into the Reno suburbs. It was the shitty end of town, but it was still a few steps up from a trailer.
Young Me didn’t bother to knock on the door. He climbed on top of Rayn’s dad’s car and jumped onto the porch roof, making his way to Rayn’s window. Whenever I didn’t want anyone to know where I was, I’d sneak in like that and hide out in Rayn’s room for a while.
I wanted to pull him down. I didn’t want him to see what he was about to. I shouted at him to stop, temporarily forgetting about the zombies. A few of them looked my way, started heading for me.
“Fuck,” the air in my lungs escaped me and I had no choice but to follow Young Me onto the porch roof as a guttural growl and the snap of teeth chased me off the road.
I got up there just in time for Young Me to reach Rayn’s window and look in. Rayn six year old face was red from crying and a few hard slaps. His lips kept mouthing the words ‘sorry daddy’ as his dad threw him down on the bed. I wrenched open the window and lunged at the man. My fists slid through him like he was a ghost. Nothing I could do now would stop him from ripping off his son’s pants, or from unzipping his own.
I looked up at Young Me. He didn’t understand. He knew it wasn’t right, but at the age of seven, he had no fucking clue what was happening. He followed me in through the window, yelling at the man to leave Rayn alone.
Stood there watching this, I was thinking of all the things I could’ve done. All the things I should’ve done to protect my friend better. All the things Phil definitely should’ve done. Rayn’s dad might’ve been a cop, but there must’ve been a way to make them believe us.
A club, blaring music melted in around me. Young Me and Rayn and his dad all faded away. Zombies surrounded me, shuffling to the music. Ten years after this, Teenage Me and Rayn stood on the edges, watching through coked up eyes. We were broke. We’d snorted our last lines half an hour ago, and Rayn was coming up with a plan.
He was a weird one; he was into all that cross dressing shit. I told him he was weird, but he didn’t seem to care too much. He was still out with me, wearing a little dress, showing off as much flesh as he could get away with, without revealing what was really under it. Despite the fact I just put up with it, it seemed to make me that extra bit protective of him. Pervy old men seemed to take extra interest in him when he wore a skirt and a bit of makeup.
I didn’t remember this night. Looking at myself, I could see why. I was chewing off the insides of my mouth, unable to keep still. I looked like a fucking mess.
“What about him?” Rayn pointed out a guy that looked like he might be dealing that night.
“You’re not a fucking faggot, and you’re not a whore. Don’t even think about it.”
“But I might get us another line or two,” Rayn protested. I wanted another line. I really wanted another line. So when Rayn danced off away from me in spite of my arguing, I didn’t stop him.
The zombies closed in on him before he reached the guy. His glittery dress got torn apart as they clawed at his flesh.
“NO!” I screamed, running forward, hands feeling for a weapon. I didn’t have one. It didn’t matter, I’d get him out of there anyway. I had to.
Rayn ground against one of the zombies, totally unaware of what was going on, his hands pulling a tall body towards him. His fingers snaked around between the corpse’s legs, tilting his head as it lowered its head to his neck.
“No, no, no,” I couldn’t breathe. I shoved zombies aside, ignoring their angered growls as they stumbled back into each other.
Rotten hands pulled me down, kicking and screaming. Teeth and nails scraped at me, tearing away chunks of skin and muscle.
My whole life, I’d been surrounded by violence. Usually, it wouldn’t have bothered me one tiny bit that someone had just broken in, firing off guns. I’d have been out there and fired straight back whether they were shooting at me or not. In my stupidly unstable frame of mind, I’d become an anxious, paranoid wreck and thrown myself into that bathroom like it was the only thing that’d protect me from the world ending.
So, I didn’t make it to the toilet. Instead, I managed to trip and crash into one of the stalls, banging my head hard enough to knock myself out cold. To be fair, I think just about anything could’ve knocked me out.
When I woke up, the gunfire had stopped, and I wasn’t on the toilet floor anymore. Rayn was sat next to me, stroking my hair, but other than that, I was pretty much on my own. I could hear low voices from the other side of the room.
Looking over, I saw the familiar ginger shock of hair that marked Joe out from the strangers that now filled the room.
A black guy with a similar accent to Joe’s eventually noticed that I’d woken up.
“Look who’s awake,” he said. Joe turned around.