Scottsdale is as big and unwieldy as Phoenix in most ways. It tapers off to the north in wealthy, deserty subdivisions, but it is much more dense in the south and west, where it borders Phoenix. To say that we drove through it really isn’t specific enough. We started in Old Town, which is where the kitschy Indian art trade really flourishes. We saw some interesting New-Agey undead (there’s probably a joke there, but I’m not thinking of it), and then we immediately started planning a trip to Sedona. (Do the undead behave any differently that close to a vortex?) Mostly, there were a lot of party-goers outside of all of the bars in the area, of which there are many. Then we drove North. We went through the wealthier areas that are surprisingly well known outside of the state. We drove by the malls and residential areas. Truly, it wasn’t that exciting. The bars had some interesting crowds outside of them, but not much else.
I used to have a lot of anxiety before the apocalypse. I’d be lying if it wasn’t the main reason I was hiding in video games when the world ended. On one hand, I’m thankful that my crippling anxiety and fear actually kept me from harm for the first time in my life. On the other hand, I feel cheated out of the last few days of real life on Earth. I didn’t have to see civilization fall, but I don’t know if that makes the experience less tragic. Maybe it’s worse.
You wouldn’t know it, but I grew up in a super Catholic family. I even went to the school with the uniform and everything. I guess you can sort of see the Catholic guilt sort of sticking to me like static cling. It makes me wonder what my family thought of the apocalypse. I don’t think it was an act of God, but I knew a lot of people who would have. I bet there was a lot of “I told you so” going on. Other than an affinity for skirts and knee socks, I cut the Catholic faith out of my life by the time I was a teenager. I was forced to attend mass all through the catholic high school though, and I kept the habit of sort of bargaining with God. There were times that I got so anxious and worried, I couldn’t really do anything for a while. I used to think I would give up everything, my whole life, all my friends, family, school, work, if I could just feel better. I’d go live in a monastery or something, anything. I was actually thinking about that during my video game marathon before the entire world just sort of imploded. I know thoughts don’t work that way, but I felt really guilty for thinking like that. All of the anxiety’s gone now, and I’m happy about it, but I really did have to lose absolutely everything for that to happen.
I was in my basement apartment on the computer for the first few days of the outbreak. The Internet was the last zombie free zone, but I didn’t know that at the time. I spent those days living off some top ramen I had left over from my last semester in college and was really invested in a video game marathon. To be honest, I wasn’t really stuck, as much as just kind of in hiding from the world. In fact, I didn’t even know there was an apocalypse until my friends arrived. From what I heard, there was a fairly impressive hoard in my area, and my at-the-time best friend, David, and two girls I knew in college thought I needed rescuing. They cleared the area, and I hosted them in my basement for a day or two with all the ramen they could eat as an apology. I was in need of supplies, and we made a mobile base camp in David’s car for a while. He had one of those weird vans that you can stick a mattress in the back of. He was really into the gay clubbing scene. Having your apartment parked outside was a plus. We raided a local super and stocked a bag full of essential non-perishables, but we set off what was probably the last alarm in Phoenix and had the entire zombified staff on us. A hoard of cashiers rushed me while I was at the beer freezer which happened to be at the back of the supermarket by the largest double doors. Rotten luck. They ran for the car, but I couldn’t get out fast enough. My friends made it to the car and were being swarmed and had no choice but to go. By the time I got out, they were already gone. I don’t blame them for leaving, but we were drifting apart before then, and I was honestly relieved to be alone again. I made a pretty loud racket taking out the zombies; I hadn’t learned to avoid attracting hordes yet. As dumb luck would have it, Rok was within earshot of me, and he helped me out with some well placed Molotov cocktails. I met Rok in college, but we hadn’t spoken since junior year. I was really very happy to see him, of course. He had a really fantastic arsenal and gave me enough room for an easy escape. We had attracted a pretty big crowd, but we got out fast. We pooled our resources and raided some empty houses until we got up a good base camp. It’s been much easier since we’ve been working together. Everything is pretty touch and go computer-wise, but I think being able to get something out on the Internet will be worthwhile.
Another sightseeing day. Zoic and I both have a love for downtown that is both difficult to describe and not entirely justified. It’s the nucleus in the center of a bloated and distended cell membrane. I’d like to say that there was culture there because I know I participated in my fair share of it, but it wasn’t always easy to find. Phoenix never cared much for the arts. People who moved here really loved the kitschy Indian shit (no, it’s not authentic) and the people who were already here were more concerned with what LA was doing, or New York. Mostly LA. I swear, we were a retirement community for former Los Angelinos. The arts we had were cool, but never really got the attention they deserved, nor the chance to grow and develop. So, I’m not entirely surprised by the amount of paint and artistic destruction that we saw. It seems that a small group went out in a blaze of glory and tagged as many buildings as possible. I guess it means that there were living people after the initial infection, but it’s difficult to say how long they lasted or if they’re still around. It’s quiet, though. Except for the low moans of the infection.
The artwork wasn’t anything special. It was probably more along the lines of an apocalypse fantasy, much like the things that Zoic and I have been doing. Nothing was incredibly detailed. It seemed like they might have just run through the streets with spray paint blasting. There was a phoenix painted on one building, though, to be honest, I can’t remember if that was there before.
The infection was a little denser here, but not much. There was a parking garage between Jefferson and Washington that had more than its share of undead crowded around. There must have been something in there, but we weren’t about to go look. On the off chance that there were people who needed help, Zoic tossed a flaming bottle into the crowd and I sped away. If the fire spreads just right, it might clear out the mob. It’s been so long since the start that there’s likely no one down there anymore. What we’re seeing in the form of a mob is nothing more than a faint echo of past struggles.
We saw what we wanted to. Zoic scanned through the radio stations on the car. Nothing but static, again. Worth a check every once in a while.
In the few weeks that followed the infection, the world was on fire. You wouldn’t notice it now. Most people turned before they had time for any of the anarchy. But that certainly helped with the anarchy. I missed a lot of it. I was floating on the outskirts of town when it all began. I was asking myself the hard questions and trying to determine the direction of my life. You know. Soul Searching. Better known as Time Wasting. Anyway, the infection seemed to answer my questions. I’d like to say that I was lucky, and that my survival is a total fluke, but part of me thinks that I was made for this. Maybe that’s just the way the brain works. The people who had actually planned for an apocalypse found themselves surviving without purpose, and they didn’t last too long that way. If you get depressed, you make mistakes, and you die. I don’t know any of those stories for sure, but I’ve seen the aftermath. Barricaded rooms with nothing but remains, and sometimes the people who didn’t die because of the infection. There’s a certain dignity to those, but they’re not much fun to find. Me, I’ve lived most of my life without purpose. Call me a student of Camus. I certainly tried. Even the good jobs didn’t satisfy. So this suits me, as horrible as that might sound. I hope that if you’re out there, you understand.
When I finally came back into town, most of the real horror had blown over. Most of what I found was remnants. A crashed car here and there. Some traffic that wasn’t moving. Spray paint. Bullet holes. Bodies. Some of them still moving. I don’t remember everything that happened at first. I spent a lot of time alone. I drove for a really long time. I wound up driving through the whole city, I think. I did okay, on my own. Managed to move quickly, and avoid them. I met up with another group for a little while. They were surprised to see me. I had never met any of them before. I did my best to help them, and I think I did a pretty good job, but ultimately, I wasn’t one of them, and when someone needed to stay behind as a diversion, I was elected. Did the best I could at that as well. I was in an alley, and they left me what they could to fend for myself. But the music was loud, and they were certainly coming. I found a strange sense of calm come over me. I wouldn’t call it bravery. Partly, I think I was just happy to be alone again.
They came, but they weren’t as fast as they used to be. Something had changed. I started with the shovel. Gotta have a shovel, right? It broke. My arms were in more pain than they had ever been. Then I used a few other blunt objects from around. They were thinning, but I was exhausted, so I used my last resort. I had a glass bottle, filled with gasoline, and I lit them all on fire. I hit the center of a group of three, and the fire spread. They ran into each other, and soon enough, they were all ablaze. It seems that it actually stops them for a while. They start to get concerned about the fire, and they stop attacking. I think it goes back to Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. Just before food comes “not being burned-the-fuck-alive.” His words. There was the potential that they would attack me still, but I walked through them all on fire and didn’t run into a single one. I made it through the crowd of them, which just spread the fire from one to another. There was a car parked across the street, and the group that had just abandoned me taught me how to hot wire.
Sometimes, what you expect to be the fight of your life just never comes. I can’t really explain that either, I guess. I think it’s funny sometimes how I was left behind to save them, but I survived, and I have no idea if they did. I can hope.
Zoic and I both went to college in Tempe, but neither of us had been there in a while. We decided that our boredom earned itself some risk, and we went for a drive. For those of you who have never been to the Valley of the Sun, Tempe is the city just South East of Phoenix, but they blend right into each other, so you wouldn’t know you drove into Tempe unless you were paying attention to the tiny signs on the side of the street. Same with Scottsdale, and Glendale, and maybe even Chandler. You always know when you’re in Mesa, though.
We took the 202 from 32nd Street to Rural. On the right side of the road was one of the most disturbing sights I have taken in thus far in the apocalypse. I would say no less than 2000 undead had gathered by Tempe Town Lake. We slowed the car to watch. They were all mostly standing. A few fed off of their fallen comrades. The rest just faced the water. Except for the ones in the water. There were a lot of them, too. Still, I thought to myself that that might have been the cleanest that lake ever was. There’s a huge celebration on the lake every New Year’s, and I guess a lot of people didn’t make it home. We drove around a bit more. We never intended to get out of the car. We were just sightseeing. And the sights were there. There were Bros all over the place, going through their post-life with about as much purpose as they had before. I’m not sure what the term is for a female bro (the ones coming to mind aren’t words that I use) but there were lots of them, too. Struck down in the middle of their New Year’s celebrations.
The Mill was still there. The undead were thick on Mill Ave., but I know better than to drive down that road anyway. The campus seemed calm. The sandwich places were empty. The Thai restaurants were empty. The other restaurant was empty, too.
Not much else to talk about really. On our way out, we did something probably stupid. We drove a distance down the 202 where we could still see the lake. We stopped the car. Zoic got out with her rifle, and she popped the inflatable pieces of the dam. The water started to drain incredibly quickly, and the hungry masses started to move away. In fact, they scattered. It was still strangely satisfying. Anyway, there was water in the river for the first time in a while.
I want to go to a shopping mall really badly. Before, shopping malls were basically inaccessible to me. I went to them, but they were never my place. I didn’t buy the food, I couldn’t afford most of the clothes. I can only imagine that it would be a significant catharsis to have free reign of the place. There’s just something about it that seems right. I never thought of myself as materialistic. I’d like to think it would be a satire on materialism, but somehow, I don’t think it would be. I like new stuff as much as anybody. And while nothing that exists is technically new anymore, it would all be new to me. Zoic and I have done a fair bit of “shopping,” but only in places we deemed safe. Salvaging thrift store clothing feels as dirty as it sounds, but there weren’t any bodies to clean up.
That is the downside of the mall. The last time I drove by it, which was quite a while ago, maybe one of the first days even, all of the doors were boarded up. I knocked. There was no answer. That could be because they didn’t hear, or maybe things had gone bad. Something tells me we would have heard from them by now if they were still in there alive. And with as many people as were in there when things went bad, I can only imagine that the place is crawling. I’d like to go, maybe try to clean it out, but it would be extremely dangerous, and fire is less useful when you’re inside.
Maybe some day we’ll have a real reason to go. Right now, it’s an unnecessary risk.