It had been three months since I found Stephanie on the roof of that Pathmark. Three months and we were surviving pretty damn well. It took us three trips to bring all of her belongings off of that roof and into my hide out. It’s funny even in the face of an apocalypse women were still concerned about their wardrobe. She had so many bags of clothing we almost didn’t have any space for it all. Don’t ask me how she managed to move all that crap up onto that roof. This girl was amazing, and in the three months we were together I was learning more and more every day how amazing she really was.
With the food I managed to scavenge from the supermarket on my weekly visits we were coming along pretty well. I never took Stephanie with me on my trips. She asked me more than a few times to come along, but I calmly explained to her “HELL NO!” I felt comfortable navigating my way alone, and I didn’t see the necessity in risking her life as well as mine. Besides, in the past three months she had grown on me quite a bit. That smile of hers which I woke up to every morning. The way she always put her hand up to her lips so gently when she laughed. The way her hair always had this shine to it even, though we were trapped all day in this muggy lifeless attic. We were safe up here, and I was damn sure going to be positive she stayed safe. She was the first woman in my life in a long time, and I was starting to fall for her, and fall hard.
My trips never took me more than one hour. She knew if I was gone more than an hour that something was wrong. But every week just like clockwork I was out and back again with time to spare. She never had reason to worry. Besides, the radios she carried with her, among the mess of clothes, allowed us to keep in contact while I was out. I’m glad she was smart enough never to contact me without me contacting her first. Last thing I needed was to be trudging through zombie infested streets and have a radio on my belt blurting out “Honey don’t forget the beans like you did last time!” and then I’m running for dear life. Bless her heart Stephanie really was a gift for me. I was climbing the roof the same way I had been doing for the past three months when my radio went off. No words came through; it was just the familiar static that comes when you press a walkie-talkie button once. Only the static continued, and didn’t fade away. Stephanie was holding the button down. I kept waiting for her to say something but she never did. I could hear this slushing sound as if someone was wading through deep mud. I tried to respond back to her, but of course her finger was still on the button so I couldn’t speak to her. I had to go back and see what the hell this was; this wasn’t normal behavior. I wasn’t happy about making it all the way to the rooftop and being forced to turn around, but something told me I should turn back. I could still hear the slushing noise and now there was a little something more to it. I couldn’t tell what the noise was, but I was already heading back to the attic to find out. I didn’t get a chance to walk very far before I was forced to stop. About 100 yards through the back parking lot that leads to the supermarket I spotted a group of 6 zombies all gathered around kneeling down. They were clearly feasting on something and I moved slowly forward to try to sneak my way around. As I moved closer to the group, the noises I heard through my radio became increasingly similar to what I could hear coming from the group. I lowered the volume on my radio so they wouldn’t hear me. And then my eyes saw it. Poking out through the kneeling legs of one of these creatures was Stephanie’s little hand clutching the radio. She followed me out. I can’t fucking believe she followed me out! I could see her body was ripped apart and there was blood staining her favorite yellow dress. It was the dress she was wearing when I found her. I always told her it made her look like she was wrapped in sunshine.
The noises I heard coming through my radio were the sounds of these things eating Stephanie. They ripped her apart and she was only a couple hundred feet behind me this entire time. How could I not have known she was following me? I lost every ounce of sense I had in me. In an instant, I was bounding towards this group of fiends that had taken from me the one ray of hope I had found in this wasteland of darkness. With my knife out I grabbed the first zombie by the back of his shirt, and drove my blade straight through the top of his skull. They were all so wrapped up in their fresh meat none of them saw or heard me coming. I kicked one zombie straight across the face as it looked up at me and I watched his head come clean off his body. The infection made them weaker, and their bodies were already heavily decayed. The last four stood up and came after me, but today I didn’t have the good sense to run. As one of them was getting up I punched it straight across the face. I watched its jaw dislodge as the body dropped to the floor in a lifeless heap of rotten flesh. It’s all pretty much a blur after that, but the next thing I remember I was kneeling by Stephanie’s body clutching her hand which still held the radio. I had clearly dispatched the last three zombies, but God knows I can’t tell you how. As I knelt there staring at her body which had been ripped open, she let out a cough. She was still alive! She was almost completely ripped to pieces and she was coughing up blood. I lifted her head and rested it on my knee. She kept trying to speak. “Sshhh, don’t speak. Just relax now.” She kept trying to say something. She used every last ounce of life she had to say what she had to say. Behind all the coughing and spitting up blood, I was able to make out one word…just one single word, “Pregnant.” I can’t believe it. My entire world fell apart, and came crashing down on me. I couldn’t say anything, but instead just took my knife and ended her pain before she could come back as one of these things. What was the world going to give me to end my pain now?
I said earlier that this world had lessons to teach us, and all of them were difficult. Now I learned that attachment, in this life, was only going to lead to pain. It was my fault she was dead. I talked her into coming down from that roof. She might have died on her own, but I wouldn’t have known, and I wouldn’t be kneeling over some mangled corpse right now. She wouldn’t have died in my arms, pregnant with our child. People always say you can’t dwell on the past, but it’s the past that constantly haunts us. If we ignore it, we never learn from it. Too bad this was one lesson I never wanted to learn.