I have this terrible habit of always starting new stories when I am supposed to be working on something else. I figure, though, that I should at least write the scene or chapter down before the inspiration passes in case I someday run out of ideas and have to go back and work on all of my unfinished novels. (Though lack of ideas is never a problem. Time and making myself sit down and actually write are the problems, generally. It's hard to keep up momentum when the outside world has so much stuff to distract me.) I'm not good at just writing notes and then fleshing out scenes - I tend to come up with bits of dialogue, or a character, or something that requires I type out 2000 words. Getting some writing done is wonderful, but not when you are supposed to be writing something else.
This is a little bit from zombie novel that I've written a few thousand words of, and may or may not continue (I have only a vague idea of plot). There are no actual zombies in this section. I love zombie novels, and I want to write a zombie novel. Also, the more you look at the word zombie the stranger it seems. The narrator of this part is named Toby, and Toby is not really a very good zombie hunter, and it's quite unfortunate he's on his own with a baby during the apocalypse. There's another protagonist, named Sunny, who may or may not be zombified. It's like a zombie love story. It's like an awkward teenage romance with the end of the world as the setting. And a baby thrown in. It's really fantastic in my head. I hope you like this and you will tell me what you think.
What does one wear to the end of the world? You wore a yellow jumpsuit. A very versatile garment, the all-in-one. Put it on and bam! Ready to rock. I’m not sure why it hasn’t caught on with the older crowd. Such a shame everyone grows out of it. I wore a purple three-piece suit. Not at the start – at the start I was wearing artfully frayed jeans and a deliberately faded t-shirt and an unbuttoned flannie, standard party wear, but once I realised life as we know it was definitely for sure ending, and that I would probably soon be dead, I figure I needed to die in style. You and me, kid, we’re going out with a bang. But we’ll get to that.
There are a lot of things that need to be explained to you, Ronnie, some of which I don’t even know. A lot of which you won’t be able to understand until you’re older. I’d like to hope that this will all be over in a bit, and we’ll get your family back together, and we’ll go back to being neighbours with not a whole lot of interest in one another.
As it is, I’m kind of your guardian and protector. I know, I’d be let down, too.
I never really expected to become a father this young. I also hoped that perhaps if I were to become a father, I would actually, you know, get laid beforehand. I bet this is how the Virgin Mary felt. I’m the Virgin Toby.
Don’t tell anyone at school, though, because I’ve got a whole lot of elaborate lies going on involving cavorting with various girls who live interstate. I have fake Facebook profiles and everything. It’s very involved, fabricating an exciting love life when you have nothing going on.
Though really I am never be going back to school, so who cares? I doubt zombies mind whether or not girls are interested in me. Zombies want me, I bet. And for my brains, too. Apparently the average age at which people lose their virginity is sixteen and I’m already seventeen, so I think the ship has sailed for me. Especially considering the girl I’m interested in is now a bonafide flesh-eater.
You’ll have to forgive me, Ronnie. I’m terrible with children. This is deeply inappropriate. I won’t let you read this letter till you’re at least sixteen. I’ll tell you how this whole shebang started, first up, and how you and I came to be the Dynamic Duo, fighting zombies, taking names. Though really mostly you cry and I cower.
A baby and a scared teenage boy. We’re probably not going to save the world.
This is the story of how we met: I mean, properly.
I heard, across the hall, you crying. I didn’t know it was you, yet, didn’t know your name. I’d seen you a few times before, nodded politely to your parents when we’d run into each other in the hall when I was on my way to school. I didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, and, to be entirely honest which I figure I might as well be now, it’s not as if I were actually interested in small children. Sorry. So I was standing in my own doorway listening, thinking about zombie babies and the possibility of it being a trap and the idea of a baby being eaten alive and the idea of me being eaten alive and where your parents were. Your twenty-something mum with her hair always in a tight bun, and your older dad with a perpetually crinkled shirt. They mustn’t have had an iron.
Ironing. Christ, who wasted good life hours ironing? Not your parents. My mother, sometimes. Before a date with that boring used-to-be-a-babe accountant.
Your front door was ajar and I ran across the hall and my heart felt as if it were in my throat. Inside, your apartment is a flipped version of mine, except yours is decorated with great consistency. Your parents did a nice job. White carpet and tiles and black countertops and chairs and a lounge suite – that lounge suite looked expensive, it probably took a whole herd of cows to make – and a glass table. Tasteful modern prints in black and white adorned the walls at regular intervals. In my apartment, there is a hodge-podge of different styles and colours, and seven different chairs, and trinkets adorning every surface. In your apartment, with its pristine carpet, I was tempted to kick off my shoes and leave them respectfully at the door, but I did not. Sorry. I figured no one would mind. From there in the entrance hall, I could see the edge of the kitchen up ahead, on my right, and a smear of blood on the edge of a cupboard.
I did not go into the kitchen.
I’m just trying to write this down as it happened. You might never read this, Ronnie.
Instead, I turned left, towards the bedrooms and the screaming. ‘Veronica’ was spelt out in wooden pink letters on your bedroom door. In my apartment, this was my room. The door was open. You were loud. You were in a carrier, the kind you put in the car, which is on the floor. Like you were about to leave.
I have no idea how old you are, but knew you were somewhere between a newborn and a toddler. You don’t seem to be able to speak words. I pick you up, and I have no idea how to hold a baby but I am doing my best.
‘It’s okay, Ronnie,’ I said, patting you on the back and swaying you back and forth and speaking in as calm and soothing a voice as I could muster considering the circumstances. ‘Everything will be all right.’