Chapter 4

The correspondent continued talking but sounded as though he could’ve cried. “It looks as though some of the people involved in this string of accidents have started attacking other people. This is very hard to describe and even harder to watch. It’s just awful. We’d gotten unsubstantiated calls of violent groups attacking people for no reason out in the streets but hadn’t seen anything like this until now. Violence among all this wreckage, um, and help doesn’t appear to be anywhere. This is just absolute chaos.”

The bottom of the screen had started scrolling through all the counties for IMMEDIATE CURFEW. Renee had finally chosen to say something after biting into her bottom lip for the longest time. Not that she could’ve been blamed for clamming up after what she had just seen. “That’s it? Where are the ambulances? Where the cops? The SWAT teams or whoever? They’re just NOT going to show up?!”

Evan continued staring at the TV, which had gone back to the news room. “Don’t know.”

Renee became slightly annoyed. “Would you quit saying that? You keep saying that!”

Evan couldn’t help but laugh a little. “I’ve only said it twice! Quit asking questions I don’t know the answer to!”

“Is this going to be one of those things where there’s just like, giant riots in the streets and the worst comes out in everybody, even people like us?”

“Probably.”

“Shut up!”

Evan couldn’t help but laugh again. “You asked!”

Then came the pause. The pause when everybody knows what’s going to happen and Evan would have to go out of his way to ruin it further. He knew she just wanted a serious answer. That’s what made it so tough to not make that last joke. He would start off serious and end by saying something completely idiotic. It would hilarious. But he didn’t do it. He could be serious for a little bit. “Okay, what do you mean?”

She was ready with her answer. “I mean like those people who only follow the rules because they would get in trouble otherwise. Like serial killers or those demented ex-Marines or something.”

“What have you been watching?”

“Evan, this stuff is around more than you think.”

“Bull crap. I call bull crap.”

“I’m not done.”

“Alright then, keep it going.”

“I’m just talking about those people who have a twisted view of the world. The ones who have no problems with hurting, murdering, stealing-“

“-raping.”

“Yeah, raping too. The only thing that keeps them from doing it is the law. If that’s gone then-“

“Alright, alright, alright. You’re thinking about this whole thing way too much. There’s a bunch of crazy people out there, yes, but that doesn’t mean the whole world’s gone to Hell.

Renee shook her head. She couldn’t help but treat Evan like a kid when they argued. That is, if he wasn’t the one who was mad. “You’re not thinking about it enough,” she said.

Evan shook his head to the side as if getting something off of the top. “Which is how I like to keep it.”

There was another pause. Like the last one Evan knew he needed to get serious again. “Look, who knows? We’ll figure this out and move on.” He took on a cartoonish, redneck accent and moved his jaw to the side. “This is AMERIcuh!” Then he straightened himself out, verbally. He was in a comfortable spot on the couch, there was no way he was moving. Renee never minded his dumb jokes in between serious statements. It’s the constant joking is what got to her. But that’s why he would do it. But now came the serious talk.

“And that’s how it’s always been, right? We have a problem, we figure it out, and no matter how bad things get, we always move on. So whatever this whole…” Evan waved his hand around the TV. “…thing is…somebody will figure out what to do, and clean it up. Maybe not perfectly, but it will get done.”

Renee looked a little more satisfied than before but that still wasn’t enough as she shrugged a bit more. Evan liked talking and didn’t mind furthering his idea anyway. “Remember when you were younger and you went away to visit your grandma? There was that massive tornado, what was the name of it?

“They don’t name tornadoes, you know that.”

Evan kept a straight face while saying the dumbest thing he could think of. “The news lies. Tornadoes have names. That tornado’s name was Bill.”

Renee laughed a little. “Shut up.” But of course, Evan continued.

“Well, you remember how it felt then? When you were at your grandma’s for over a week with no power, no heat, and no water that wasn’t bottled and even that was running out. It felt like it was going to last forever, didn’t it?” Renee nodded. She knew where he was going with this but she still wanted him to finish. “You never thought it would end. But how long ago was that? Seven years ago last month I think. Yeah. Seven years ago. And you’ve been living your life as though it never happened. The point is, this is no different. We can’t say how you would’ve turned out if you hadn’t gone through it but as bad as it was, it’s all over now. If anything, you appreciate electricity and running water more than most of us and I appreciate you even more.”

Renee didn’t say anything. But she didn’t really need to. Point well taken, it felt. She moved closer to Evan. He could’ve ended it there but he was on roll and wanted to go for the sake of talking. “That’s how this is going to be. Horrible things happen that are completely out of our control but we deal with and come out on the other side even stronger than before. And maybe just that much crazier. And this whole “eating people” thing… that’s probably just being blown up by the newscasters.

Renee became slightly disconcerted by Evan’s last statement.

“I could’ve done without you mentioning that.”

“…Because why would anyone watch the news if there were anything remotely positive being said? It’s like Ben Franklin said, ‘We must all-

“Evan.”

“-hang together…What?”

“Be. Quiet.”

“You got it.”

Evan flips to the Office again. Nice. A marathon. His eyes closed for a moment in complete relaxation. His wife at his side, on the couch, watching the greatest show on earth. Until he remembered something. He jerked up off the couch. “Ah, crap!”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I forgot. Essays to grade.”

“Just do it tomorrow, you’ve got all day.”

“I can’t read all of them tomorrow, there’s way too many. And with these kids’ handwriting, it’ll take all night.”

“It’s 11th grade English, are most of those kids going to want to write more than a paragraph?

“They didn’t want to write a sentence but it’s supposed to be at least two pages. Six classes, at least twenty five students in each- you do the math, it hurts my head.”

Renee still didn’t see it as too big a deal and Evan knew it. He’d had to regularly remind himself that she was a nurse and had to deal with life and death on a pretty regular basis so kids not wanting to write wasn’t a big deal on the grand scale of things. Not that she ever gets used to the ‘death’ portion. There was an occasion where she had to help in saving a kids life that had been shot at the school Evan taught at. The kid made it, but he’d be paralyzed from the waist down. Evan had even taught the kid before and became an after school tutor for a while since the kid was so embarrassed about being in class with a wheelchair and all. That was particularly rough on the married couple. It wasn’t as though Renee didn’t think education was a big deal, but patience was key, as far as she was concerned. It seemed natural that kids wouldn’t want to write. Evan knew she didn’t particularly care for it when she was in school and she assumed it had only gone even further downhill. She was more of a math chick. But Evan was still ranting. Because digressing is for quitters.

“You know, I overhear most of my kids I actually hear them say things like (his voice went low)’I HATE reading!’ and ‘Reading is so STUPID, why do we have to do it??”

Renee sighed. “And…?”

Evan was shocked at her response. He paused while they both stared. Evan let out a noise that sounded like the beginning of the word “what” but it was really just a noise.

“Why do we have to do it?!” What kind of question is that?? You don’t have to do it unless you want to be a functioning member of society! You know what they sounded like to me at that point? A freaking caveman.”

“Yes, that sounded a little slow, but you don’t like math.”

“That’s different.”

Renee scoffed. “How?”

“Uh…let’s see. Today I read the paper just so I could have some vague idea of what was going on around me. On the way to the mall, I had to read that big red sign that said “STOP” and I had to know what it meant so I wouldn’t kill anybody, you know, no big deal. And then, I read that fat chick’s pants that said “cutie pie” on the butt just s I could my belief that ugly people are becoming more vain. You know what I didn’t use?”

“What?”

“Perimeter formulas function notations, and vector. I don’t even remember what that is.”

Renee laughed a little. “Yeah, I see your point, but they probably just mean reading books.

“That just sounds like laziness to me. Speaking of laziness, let’s sit on our fat butts and watch TV. Funny TV. Not depressing, real life violent TV.”

The clock went from 4:39 p.m. to 11:11 p.m. in what seemed like no time and forever at the same time. Renee and Evan slept six and half hours. That’s what no sleep the night before and then driving to a crowded mall will do to a person. Evan was having a nice dream until his flying lessons with Steve Carell turned into the girl with the “cutie pie” pants throwing him down a cliff. He woke up to the emergency broadcast screen on TV. He’d never seen it before in real-life, if that’s what you can call it. He slowly stood up, Renee still asleep. He started to call his parents after realizing they hadn’t talked yesterday and he promised he would call them back. By the time he realized he hadn’t called them, it was way too late. He was still keeping his promise, just not to the tee that they’d probably have hoped.

Great. The phones have no signal. His service was usually pretty good but every once in a while, he found a dead spot. So he walked a few feet away from where he was, looking out the window and dialed again. There were a bunch of people hanging around the end of the street. Those freaking drug dealer kids. They weren’t actually kids, but early twenties. They acted like kids. They must’ve all been high too because they were walking around like they’d just woken up. Idiots. The phone still wasn’t working. Evan walked to the backdoor looking out the window. Josh’s lights were all still on. In some way it was a relief. Human life. Kind of.

Evan went back to the living room where Renee was stretching on the couch. She always looked good. She looked at the TV screen.

“What’s going on? What is this?”

“Uhh… It’s a new TV show: ‘See How Long You Can Watch This without Wanting to Stab Your Eyes Out.’ Have fun.”

Evan put on his jacket. He always laid it right next to the coat hanger which was never used. Gift from Renee’s grandpa. Renee cocked her head. “Where are you going?”

“Phones aren’t working, news is off the air, Josh’s lights are on. I’m going to see what the dillio is.” Renee stood up. He already had her body language figured out. Time to put me in the corner.

“NO, you’re not going outside, Evan. There’s a curfew!

“I can’t go in my own backyard??”

“UM- NO. That’s that point of a curfew. You stay inside.

“I’m going over there real quick to see if his phones are working. It won’t be a big deal.”

“No, I don’t want-

“Renee- it’s fine. You can watch me from the window if you want. It won’t take five minutes. And I know how you loOOove to watch me go.”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes. And she couldn’t forget the irritated sigh. She had to throw that in anytime Evan got that little “man” streak in him and she couldn’t really do anything about it. She knew women who kept their guys in check by threatening to leave anytime they wanted their way, but that was just wrong. Let him be a jerk. She’d had her moments too. Evan walked over and tried to kiss her on the lips in a loving, but also an “I win” victory kiss. She put her hand up over mouth and push him away when he tried to make the connection. Denied! He laughed anyway because he still got his way, to a point. He’d get one later.

Evan walked into the bed room and into his closet. He looked over his shoulder discreetly. Underneath a few of his TV show/ video game shirts he’d had since he was a teenager, he pulled out his sleek, black Jericho 941. A gun, for the laymen. He put it under his geeky t shirts because Renee didn’t even want to touch them. If she knew he’d bought this thing, she’d probably take it from him and shoot him with it. He slid it under his olive drab jacket and walked to the backdoor. Before he walked out, he realized Renee was still in the same spot, arms crossed.

“What’s wrong?” In a second, he’d be sorry he asked. Evan had a gun but she was the one unloading.

“I told you I didn’t want you going out there and you’re still  going and I keep thinking about all those people on the news attacking eating people and even if you have to go out there, I don’t want you going to Josh’s house of all people…”

“Hey, hey, hey- calm down, alright?? We’ll all figure out what’s going on. Besides, all that stuff is happening toward the city anyway so we should be okay for now. I’ll be right back, no big deal. Besides- I’m a tough guy. Somebody tries to touch me I’ll go all “Game of Death” on them.

Evan held up a tightly wrapped fist and breathed heavily through his mouth he tightened up like an ‘O,’ Bruce Lee style ”Now gimme a hug.”

Evan walked out the backdoor. He could see his breath. The temperature must’ve dropped thirty degrees in the past few hours. He could see his breath. There wasn’t much to see on either side of his house thanks to the trees but the moon was as bright as a streetlight. It lit up his backyard with a wide path to Josh’s backyard, which was nice but that still didn’t mean it was enough light. Especially for a loner going through his backyard in the middle of a terrorist attack. A sun would’ve been nice right now. He started walking and looked back to Renee. And what he saw actually creeped him out a little more. He couldn’t see her face and in the dark, it looked like something out of a ghost story. He knew she was looking at him and just in case she could see him, he held up his fist and made his Bruce Lee face again. In some ways though, it was almost to comfort him. We laugh to keep from crying, they say. Evan wished he had a dog. Like Mad Max or something. Didn’t Mad Max have a dog? Yeah, I think it was a Cattle Dog. Or a Sheep Dog. If I HAD a dog with me, I’d use him as a weapon. Random, distracting thought were great when walking through the dark. But then he caught himself distracting himself and forced himself to think horrible violent things that could be going on in other parts of the world.

After climbing over the nearly pointless four foot high fence, he treaded past the several feet it took to get to Josh’s pool. There was a dark spot where Josh’s girlfriend was. Looked like it was in the shape of a footprint but Evan wasn’t going to check. This is the house where STD’s hang out. Drugs down the street, STD’s here. He walked around the house and to the front door. Eleven o’clock wasn’t that late, was it? Now, he started wondering. Too late to go home now. He’d  already argued to get here. If he went back now he’d be a dog with his tail between his legs. He needed to come back with the Frisbee. Then he stopped comparing himself to a dog at all because he’d rather be a wolf, bringing back the night’s kill. Yeah, I like that a lot better. He started to knock but the door was already cracked open. He slowly and barely popped his head in.

“…Hello? …Josh? Your door’s open, I’m coming in, alright? Nobody be naked!” He slipped in and slowly shut the door, not touching the handle. If he had touched the handle, he would’ve noticed the trace of bloody fingerprints on the it. Once the door was shut and all seemed quiet, a noise was heard coming from the kitchen. Kind of like a pig at the trough.

“Hellooooo….?”

Josh was home, alright. But only in the loosest sense. He was lying on the kitchen floor in his underwear. His stomach was torn open and various chunks of him had been bitten and ripped out. His throat wasn’t in his neck anymore but scattered throughout the kitchen. Karen or Gwen or whatever her name was kneeling over him on her knees. She was using her hands to dig into his stomach and eat whatever parts she was pulling out. She was so greedy in her movements that she hadn’t even noticed Evan standing there. Until he took a step back and the floor creaked. Her head shot up and stared like an animal before it pounces. Evan didn’t have time to go to his “special place” because as far as he could figure, what was on the news had finally hit home. If we laugh to keep from crying, Evan was cracking up.

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