Act I: Brat

"My father was the first to leave. It was on my seventh birthday. We went to some uber fancy Italian Restaurant. I'd wanted to have a pizza party at Pizza Hut. I'd thrown a fit for most of the day, and by the time we reached the restaurant, the tear tracks on my face were just barely dry. In the morning he was gone. Mother said it was because of my temper tantrums and that if I would only behave he might come back. I behaved for five years. He never came back, and I never learned why he really left."

I had an empty gun and a broken knife. My opponents were unarmed; some literally were missing an arm or two, but the rest were just without conventional weapons. Of course, the American Zombie has mastered the art of killing without weapons. Zombies, in case you didn't know, use cold, blood-stained hands to hold your screaming, thrashing body still while they use their broken teeth to tear through the soft tissue of your body.

There were more of them than me. And more of them then I had time to count. I didn't rush because panic makes me do stupid things. I was, as fast as humanly possible, unscrewing the screws holding a grate in place. Where the grate led – or even if it was big enough for one slightly clean, red-haired college drop-out – well, I didn't have time to worry about that either.

I was standing on a gurney with old, crusty brown bloodstains marring the yellowing sheets. The final screw popped loose. I stuck my fingers into the grate and yanked it out. I flung it back without looking. It made a dull thunk as it crashed into a moving corpse and then fell to the ground. The vent looked narrow and dark.

I hoisted myself into the darkness, fingers scrambling for any purchase possible. I felt the briefest touch of dead fingers on my bare calf. Then I was out of reach for the moment. The moans of the zombies behind me reverberated into the too small space. I wiggled my way in further, breath coming in short and panicked sobs.

When had I started crying?

The vent was dusty, and I started sneezing. My eyes burned, but even if I were inclined to rub them with my dirty hands, there really wasn't that kind of room. Whoever built these vents hadn't shopped with the Hollywood Duct Service. I could probably still back out of them without having to call for help. But that would be like backing onto a menu as a main course, so I went forward.

It's one of those lessons that life teaches you. It was my least favorite lesson, and yet it kept coming up. The lesson? When life screws you, keep going you might live to get screwed another day.