Mankind's Ignorance

January 26, 2018

  The town of Somerset, Minnesota stood before the biggest problem it had ever faced in 1989; the town was dark, though it was midday. Doors were shut and locked, curtains pulled over their windows, houses were dark and quiet. Swing sets could be heard creaking for miles around, the highways were the emptiest they had ever been. The only sound heard where the occasional groans and moans from the undead wandering the streets of Somerset. Most of the families made it inside before the giant, sweeping gas erupted from underground. Tiny kids sat inside their homes, playing with their toys half-heartedly, too young to understand the multitude of the scene outside, but old enough to know that something serious and deadly was happening. The Mayor and his counsel sat inside the city hall, endlessly trying to call the neighboring town. The phones just simply rang and rang with no end. The neighboring towns heard the phones ring, and sat in almost amazement at them, afraid to pick them up. Minutes after the deadly gas had swept the town, others around it knew that Somerset was now “armed and dangerous”.


  In a quiet little blue house at the end of the road, sat inside a bright, young teenager. He played soccer at his high school and was even captain. He never considered himself ‘popular’, in fact, he hated that description, it made him sound stuck up, but he did have a lot of friends and everyone knew his name- Andrew Anderson. His girlfriend Mallory had just left him and took his letterman jacket with her. He was angry at her, but he was sad too. Andrew and his girlfriend were not would you would consider the typical high school couple; he was the captain of the soccer team, and she captained the math team. He wasn’t sure why she left him, she just left a note in his locker that simply mentioned she did not feel the same anymore but hoped they could remain friends.


  His parents nor his sister were not home. Hopefully, they were still alive somewhere and that he would find them sometime soon. He decided to try the city hall, and picked up the landline in his kitchen and dialed the number he knew by heart, his mother’s desk phone. Inside city hall the Mayor and his staff heard the phone ringing and followed the sound, running faster than they knew they could. The Mayor picked it up without haste, his voice raspy from the lack of water.


  “Hello? Is someone there, oh dear lord please someone!” The teenager sat for a moment listening to the desperation laced within his voice, his heavy breathing. He took another moment and listened for his mother’s bright and bubbly voice.


  “Has anyone seen my parents? Or my sister?” The Mayor scoffed, he thought the person on the other end must be joking, they had a much bigger problem than a missing Mother and Father. Then he realized, this was his senior aid’s telephone, and that she was missing. In all the chaos, he hadn’t noticed that she was missing, and he needed her terribly, she kept his whole life together. Then he remembered she had a son, daughter and a husband. The mayor rambled on uselessly about Andrew’s family and Andrew just hung up the phone.


  Andrew decided that he needed to take this problem into his own hands. He walked into his living room, hearing the deafening creaks under his feet. Hooking the curtains with his finger, he peered out his window and saw the street empty. No one was on the street, no zombies or anything. There no lights on in any of the houses, all windows were covered with curtains of many colors, doors were shut and were no doubt locked with a minimum of 3 locks. Andrew left his post at the window and began running through a checklist of items he would need for his journey. Clothes, canned food, rope, a flashlight, and his obvious necessities, putting them into a small bag. He felt his parents were out there somewhere, and even though the mayor was the mayor of the town and Andrew felt the mayor needed to do something, maybe even rash, instead of a bright, young teenager who was now a gloomy teenager. He wasn’t sure what he needed to do, what he needed to do once he got to his destination, or how long it would take him. Somerset was set between two tall mountains, that even of the best climbers had trouble scaling.


  Andrew began to talk to himself, to hype himself up, to get himself ready to walk outside into the dangerous, cold, zombie-filled Somerset, and begin his journey. He still wasn’t sure how he would get to the next town over. He could try the only highway out of Somerset, it leads to the next town eventually but thought that it might be filled with the dead, roaming the street freely. He could try following the highway from the woods, but that would be seriously noisy and would attract attention fast. He could, of course, try to steal a car, and drive there.  It would be super fast but again it would attract unwanted attention that Andrew just didn’t need. He ran his hand through his bright red hair, and then over his intensely freckled face. He once again looked outside through his window, and it was still just as empty as before.


  Andrew touched the first lock on his door and turned it so slowly, it wouldn’t make any noise and continued to unlock until he got to the very last one. His hand lingered on the cool, silver metal. Andrew really considered re-locking the doors and going into his room until his parents came home, but the last time he was left at home, things didn’t go well. He decided against it and opened the door. The air smelt crisp, like a summer morning, but it was fall, and drizzly. He forced himself to put a foot out of the door and felt a small warmth leave his body. One foot in front of the other, he walked past his neighbors’ houses, just as quiet and sad looking as his own. Curtains were pulled, and Andrew swore he heard a few locks being pushed as he peered into the windows. As he walked down his street, making a left towards the highway. He passed his now ex-girlfriends house, she wasn’t home at the look of it, no matter the situation, you could always hear the strum of a guitar coming from her window. She had his letterman jacket, and Andrew knew that his hoodie wouldn’t be enough if it got cold.


  He made a rash decision. Slowly walking up her sidewalk, and up her stairs, he tried the door. Her parents never kept it locked, and this still held true. Andrew peered into the very dark house and heard no noises. Andrew felt his heart racing inside his chest and felt his face redden. He most definitely should not be doing this, but for some reason, his feet would not stop, and he followed them into her room, and there sat his letterman jacket like a beacon of light. Andrew wanted to leave now that he had his jacket, but his brain did not listen to him, and Andrew could not remove his feet from his spot. He ran his hands over the soft fabric and over his name on the back. Looking over the what seemed like hundreds of patches commemorating his successes on his high school soccer team. Andrew wasn’t paying attention to anything but his patches, but a small sound occurred on the other side of the house. Even though he heard no melodies coming from her window, Mallory was indeed home, and her parents and siblings were missing just the same as Andrew’s. When she heard the footsteps enter her house, her own heart began to race and her mind was running at a thousand miles a minute, but when they stopped in her room, she grew curious. Andrew was found still looking at his patches.


“I planned on giving your jacket back to you next week, but after this, I wasn’t sure I was going to ever see you again.” Mallory’s soft voice rang across the room, and Andrew must’ve jumped 10 feet in the air at the sound of it. His face reddened even more now that he was caught, and he stumbled over his words. He just couldn’t seem to find the right ones.


Andrew straightened his chin and set his jaw, “My parents are gone, my sister isn’t home either so I’m leaving to go to next town.” With this, Mallory’s eyes widened and she gasped.


  “Andrew you can’t do that-” He didn’t let her finish the sentence when his brain finally allowed his feet to move, and he ran out of her house and onto the street. He ran fast, fast like when he had a ball at his feet heading towards the goal to score, but heard screams behind him as he ran. The screams were deafening and were sure to attract attention to Andrew and he finally just stopped his feet. He didn’t turn to the screams, he didn’t move his eyes from the ground below his shoes. The screamer finally caught up to him, and they were familiar- it was Mallory.


  “Mallory go home. Lock your doors and stay inside, it’s too dangerous for you to be out here.” Andrew’s arms crossed over his chest as he stood in defiance. Mallory shook her head while she tried to catch her breath. While she tried, Andrew scanned the area with his eyes and still found no zombies.


  “I can’t let you leave and wander along out here with them.” She put emphasis on them, referring to the undead that were probably watching the two and were no longer worried about dinner. Andrew put his arm around Mallory and guided her to an empty park nearby and into the public restroom. The two stood and talked, well rather argued with each other for a number of minutes, what seemed like hours to Andrew and got nowhere. Andrew knew that Mallory wasn’t going to give up, it just wasn’t in her to give up.


  “It is going to be dangerous, and most likely you will see things might haunt you in your dreams.” Mallory shook her head and grinned the grin that Andrew fell in love with in the first place. He reluctantly handed her his jacket to wear and they peered out of the restroom to find nothing. It was getting a little strange to Andrew that the zombies were nowhere to be seen. The next few hours for the pair seemed a blur. Andrew nor Mallory hadn’t really seen a dead person before and in their mind, they knew that they were supposed to be 6ft underground, but instead they were roaming the woods and streets of Somerset. It was well after dark before Andrew and Mallory stopped to take a break for the first time in ages. The moon was shining up above, and the creatures of the night sung their songs just as any other night before. Neither of them spoke to each other, they were too tired to speak. They sat like this for a while, in pure comfortable silence, listening to the owl hooting above their heads.


  Andrew was the first to open his mouth. “Do you know where the gas came from?” If there were more people around, Andrew’s question could’ve been directed at anyone, but it was just him and Mallory.


  “During WWII and again before the beginning of the Cold War, our town was subjected to radiation testing. They pumped it into our homes, schools, and buildings to see what would happen to the people inside. Shortly after, it killed all of them. They made their bomb and repopulated Somerset. Someone buried the radiation, either the gas itself or uranium, and finally, after 44 years it got to be deadly and exploded. Killing everyone in seconds probably and then they became the undead.” Mallory played with the end of the cuff on Andrew’s jacket. Andrew sat in silence just as before, but now he was stunned. The fact that his family or Mallory’s family for that sake could be anywhere really hit him now, Andrew didn’t want to think about what might have happened to them, in fact, Andrew just wanted to go to sleep, he was ridiculously tired.


  Caught up in his thoughts, he failed to pay attention the strange noise in the woods, but Mallory heard it and her entire body tensed up, her heart raced in her chest, her eyes darted across the dark woods. Her eyes played games with her head and her heart, feigning shadows moving across the trees, seemingly jumping from one tree to another. She glanced over at Andrew and he was still mulling over Mallory’s explanation of the gas, when the sound occurred again, this time it was closer. This time it was louder, and this time Andrew’s head snapped up at it. His own eyes darted across the dark landscape. The owl that was previously hooting overhead stopped and was silent. Mallory and Andrew shared the same fear induced look. The air that they breathed was increasingly thick and humid, a sudden change from just minutes ago. To add to the problem, the moon had disappeared behind a cloud and made it, even more, darker than it already was. The two were unsure of what to do, they were just prey sitting in wait for their predator. Their mouths were seemingly shut with glue, their bodies were rooted to the spots they were sitting in. It was possible that it was just an animal that was supposed to be in the woods coming to examine the foreign bodies in their home, but it was also a full possibility that it could be a zombie. Mallory and Andrew couldn’t take that risk.


  Andrew finally got control over his body and his fingers fumbled with the straps of the pack that rested on his back. Hands shaking, he pulled the flashlight out of the bag and pressed the button hard. It flickered a few times before it came to life and Andrew pointed it to the location of where he thought he heard the sound come from. More sounds occurred, but nothing was in the spot, and Andrew became extremely scared. He had no idea where the sound was coming from. One minute it seemed to be coming from in front of them, another minute from his right. Mallory inched closer and closer to Andrew, unsure of her own ears. A sound came from behind him and he spun around with the flashlight to confront it, another from the right and he spun in that direction. He couldn’t catch the sound with his light, and then he knew that he and Mallory were in grave danger. The final sound came from in front of him and he spun to the sound and the mellow yellow light landed on a pair of jeans. Torn jeans with many holes in them, Andrew had a pair of these that his mother yelled at him when he wore them. Panning up the jeans he came to a red and green flannel shirt, then even further up was a face. A dull, grey face covered in dark bruises. Bruises colored purple and blue in color. Another feature that shook Andrew and Mallory to the core was blood, that looked fresh. The body emitted a sound that Andrew knew was not human and his instincts kicked in. He grabbed Mallory’s right hand and turned on his heels to run, but when his flashlight came into focus in front of them, there stood another body covered in blood. Andrew felt like he was 7 again, lost and confused all by himself.


  The sounds closed in on him and Mallory, the both of them unsure of what to do. Spinning in his place, he looked for an opening in the closing circle, and when he saw it, he ran and he ran fast with Mallory at his side. She tried her best to keep up with him. When they ran through the circle, he felt hands on his jacket, pulling and ripping at the fabric, Mallory felt the same on Andrew’s jacket. The two ran for what seemed like hours, they ran and ran until they could no longer hear the sounds, and their legs would no longer carry them any further. In seemingly perfect coincidence they came across a tree that had a ladder rested on it, and when Andrew looked up, it led to a small hunting perch. Mallory wasted no time in climbing up the ladder, and Andrew followed. The two did not speak, did not look at each other, afraid of what looks that may be on each other’s faces. They simply put their head down and slept.


  It was well after the sunrise did Andrew open his eyes, coming into focus on the wooden wall in front of him. His body shivered, and he was confused for a minute as to where he was. Then he remembered what happened to him and Mallory last night. Mallory, he remembered she was there also. Andrew pulled himself out of the slouched state he slept in and focused his eyes on Mallory. She looked peaceful and beautiful as the sun fell on her face just right. Peaceful, but even though it was only the second day, she also looked stressed and immensely tired. He shook her awake silently and the two did not speak any words to each other as they climbed down from the perch and continued on their way.


  It took 3 more days to reach the next town from Somerset, and every day Andrew and Mallory saw things they would remember for the rest of their life. Every day it seemed they got caught within a circle of bodies with purple and blue bruises on their bodies, and rips and tears in clothes, and blood on them. The day after the incident at night Andrew and Mallory saw a body sitting over another body slouched with their back resting against a tree. Andrew instinctively grabbed Mallory’s arm at the sight but was unsure of what was going on but as they grew closer, they heard the sounds that haunted them in their dreams. Andrew and Mallory made as much as little noise as possible, avoiding the slouched figure and inching around in a circle. Three days after the incident at night, Mallory grew too tired to walk any further. The sun overhead made them sweat like they had never had before, and the cold at night made them shiver and they could not stop shivering no matter how they tried. Andrew persisted that they keep moving, the town couldn’t be too far from their location. Andrew saw signs from the woods on the highway that indicated the town was near. Mallory kept stopping and putting her hand on anything near to rest, and Andrew knew how tired she was but couldn’t help himself from feeling irritated at her. He ended up carrying her, sweeping his arms under his knees and carried her until they reached the next town.


  The town was bustling with people, moving to and from store to store. Seemingly hundreds of bags were carried by the people. You could hear horns, and whistles, and shouts from friends saying hello. All of these sounds but, when Andrew walked out of the woods onto main street carrying Mallory, these sounds stopped as the people took notice of the two teenagers. People took notice of the rips and tears in their clothing, and the blood that was on their clothes. The two looked exhausted from their trip. No one stepped forward to confront them, but no one stepped back from the scene in front of them either. They all just stopped and stared at the two. Andrew looked around at the people that looked at him.


  “Has anyone seen our parents?”

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