Haumoana, New Zealand
[A small coastal village situated about twelve kilometres south of Napier, ten from Hastings, in the Hawkes Bay. Like most costal settlements its primary problem is the zombies emerging from the water. I find the woman in her garden, about seven months pregnant, at least five other children under the age of nine scurry about; but never leaving her sight. Her husband gives me a weary look as we sit down to chat…
Don't mind him, he's old school with a K. Doesn't like strange men coming out just to chin wag, but he'll go find something else to do when he's sure you're not a rapist or carrying a vial of Solanum.
She laughs. I place my recorder on the table in front of her and tell her let's get down to business.
I have to tell you I was surprised you'd come this far to talk to me. Especially out here, most people are only interested in New Zealand because of the battle of One Tree Hill. Holy shit, how awesome was that? Frankly, I think it's the man thing, you know, all masculine and testosterone driven, the All Blacks, the best rugby team that has ever existed – yes, I'm biased, leading a rag tag band of survivors with ancient Maori weapons and whatever up against the Auckland zacks! People like to hear that shit. People like to hear how they survived, gives them hope for their own situation, I suppose. I hear Peter Jackson is making it into a movie.
Filming has already started; I've interviewed a few of the actors.
Any word on release? We don't get ET out this way.
Apparently next year, late, around December. Anyway, how about we talk about you, and in particular how you came to develop your Nursing Care Plan for Solanum infection and family loss.
Well, I suppose I have to go back to before it started, as I imagine most of those you interview start from. I hate leadership, I hate being in control, I'm too passive, I don't like to boss people around. I'd often tell my CNM [Clinical Nurse Manager] that yeah, I want to do further education, but in nursing education, not management! She used to tell me I was underselling myself.
I liked to be irresponsible, to get up to shenanigans, to cause people to laugh, to enjoy life, to appreciate their blessings, however few they may seem. It was part of how I practiced as a nurse, to get the patients smiling, laughing, same with family. I was always honoured; humbled would probably be a better word, that as a nurse, I was welcomed into the worst times of a person's life, sometimes at their best. That's why I didn't want to be a charge nurse, or to take control of the shift after hours. I didn't have it in me to be serious and bossy.
Part of that sense of humour of mine, was to be a little stupid. Zombies. I used to joke about my "zombie preparedness plan" and talk about how various sections of the hospital were a death trap! Everyone used to get a good laugh. I have to say right now I wasn't one of those creepy Goths or vampire wannabes. I didn't believe in zombies, it was just a way to lighten the mood. I certainly didn't have some box at home with tape over it saying "Zombie survival kit".
About two months before the shit hit the fan I swore off politics. I was sick and tired of watching the news only to see stupid politicians going back on their promises, peddling immorality, getting into trouble. Then I'd see the opposition attacking, and oftentimes just childishly the party in power. All this left vs. right vs. centre crap, they were all liars. Capitalism is a flawed system, it can never offer proper stability so of course politicians wherever they fell on the spectrum were not going to be able to fix the mess society was in, especially the economy. So I stopped watching TV. I stopped buying the news paper.
So you didn't know about the zombies, about Solanum?
No. Stupid huh? I was doing a lot of night shifts, and there weren't too many people to chat too. I over heard a few conversations from the morning staff as they arrived about the new virus, and I just shrugged it off as another SARS or Bird Flu scare, or some such rubbish. I just didn't give a crap. It was all fear mongering designed to sell drugs and make some scum bag pharmaceutical rep very rich.
Anyway… Israel self-quarantined. I'm not sure how I found that out, maybe I saw a news paper heading in the shop or online maybe, I knew it had something to do with the new virus. I honestly thought it was another move against terrorists and hostile neighbours; maybe they were planning a strike? I dunno. I honestly, and I mean honestly didn't give it more thought than that.
So I came into work one night and there was a box in the boss' office with a note on it saying "staff, please take one".
What was it?
I was annoyed it wasn't chocolate. It was that Phalanx shit. The crap that sold the idea that it was a "rabies vaccination". It's absolutely criminal, immoral, that those scum can make so much money when they knew damn well it wasn't rabies and certainly wasn't a vaccine. Charging people for a false sense of security.
I didn't take any, if that's what you're thinking. I had allergies, I didn't like to just pop anything down my pie hole, and certainly not stuff designed to combat some disease I thought was just a load of BS. I had Bird Flu, I figured, if I can survive that, I can survive whatever crappolla this was.
Anyway… so, right, I'll get to the good stuff:
Like I said, I wasn't paying attention to the media, even when I heard from a colleague that there had been outbreaks up in Auckland, I wasn't worried. Apparently some guy got off a plane from Sydney, dropped dead in customs and reanimated right there on the spot. Woke up and bit the security guard. We're not like Americans; we don't have guns on all our cops and certainly not on air port security. The ramifications of 9/11 were still tapering down.
So yeah, you know the score then, right? Guy dies, turns into zombie, bites some well meaning schmuck, he goes to hospital, he dies on the ward, turns into a zombie then bites the nurse and anyone else who gets in his way? That's basically what happened. Auckland, New York, Paris, London, Beijing, same story all over the world.
Did you know it was zombies then?
Hahah, no! No way! I was still blissfully floating in my ignorance, shrugging off all the nonsense, heightened by media bias and their links to big pharmaceuticals. I was just one smart nursey! They managed to contain that outbreak, it wasn't that big really. I think some army dude who'd heard from some colleague offshore realised they shouldn't fuck about with it… excuse my language. They had a quarantine ward up at a hospital in Pukehoke; it was right over the road from my aunty and uncle's place. They were my God-parents, favourite rallies. I hope it was real quick… for them, you know?
The hospital was just a minor one, had a labour and delivery suite, but was mostly a rest home and elder care hospital; but it was out from the main part of Auckland. Yeah, there were houses near by, but also a lot of land. I think that was their logic, easier to contain? Who knows? Anyway, it took the outbreak in Wellington to convince me something was up, to convince the country something was up.
A woman got off a plane at Auckland from New York. God only knows how she managed to live as long as she did with the bite she had. So she arrives, gets on the Over Lander – the train from Auckland to Wellington, survives the 12 hour chug, gets off at Welly, walks out to the taxi drops dead and bites twenty odd people before some politician rams his umbrella through her eye. Good on him, but he still uses that as his campaign ploy; gets a bit tired.
The news reported it as the "South African Rabies". Yip, we were that backwards, our media was still calling it SAR. So, when I heard rabies, I just thought "madness", as in, it drove people mad, none of this undead bullocks. Two days later, with a few more outbreaks in smaller centres, the government finally got their thumbs out of their collective arseholes and shut the boarders. It was too late by then. The wider world was in disarray. America was a shit storm, the war between Pakistan and India had already taken place. People were more worried about the radiation then the zombies, which were still thought to be people with a fever and a serious mental health issue. I often wonder what it would have been like to be one of those scum bag politicians, sitting in a board room listening to some army dude and some doctor trying to convince them to shut the boarders, that this was serious, that we can't just fob it off as fear mongering.
That's when the new and improved intra muscular injection version of Phalanx appeared on the ward. "For faster administration, for faster protection".
I saw my first zack two days later, or rather, nights.
I showed up at 2200 as I usually do, nice and early. I sat in the office and had a chat with the afternoon girls. None of them survived. If I had known it was the last conversation I would have with them, I would have found something more enlightened to talk about then the declining quality of take out burgers.
The nurse handing over mentioned six cases down stairs [In Accident & Emergency], said we were likely to get a couple of the minor ones. We grumbled, we didn't like getting overflow, we needed to keep our beds open for our speciality, and there always patients needing our speciality.
So our first SAR cases: turns out there was some teen visiting her grandfather, she drops dead, he tries to help her. She's got the rabies, sits up, bites him, he falls over and NOF's himself – that's he broke his neck of femur, and then just as she's about to rip him a new one, an off duty cop visiting his nana intervenes. She bites him, they struggle, he smashes her head against a table and breaks it right open, sending bits of blood and brain into the mouth of a screaming nurse.
We were getting both poppa and coppa. That really went down as well as a sack of shit, because we'd have to put them in two of our side rooms, and we always needed those.
She stops momentarily and seems to examining my face, trying to ascertain my interest.
I'll stop boring you with the delights of hospital bed management.
So, I waved good bye to the PM shift and at about midnight the coppa showed up. He was brought up in a wheelchair. He'd broken his arm in the ka-fuffle. The bite was on his shoulder, nasty one too. The woman had taken a real good chunk out of him, and he looked like shit. He was talking, told me what happened, I got him in a bed, did his obs, got him some water and a cup of coffee, checked the dressings were all intact, and then left him too it.
The old man; NOFs can be pretty hard on the elderly, this chap had been in pretty good health, bit of heart disease, he was on warfarin, walked with a two wheel two caster, a kind of frame, and he had all his marbles. He was in the home because his wife had died a few years back and he just wasn't coping. His bite was on his cheek. Wasn't like the cop's, his was just a bloody imprint. I gave it a good clean, got him in a bed, obs, the usual. Chased the doc for some better analgesia then bloody codeine. Never got it, our after hours co-ordinator said he [the doctor] was rushed off his feet, and since the poppa was denying pain I figured it could wait till later.
The shift was quite uneventful, if you have ideas of them both carking it and then getting up and tearing apart all the patients, it didn't happen, there was no huge herd pouring out of elevators or up stairs or from the other two wards on the floor. I spent most of the shift on my arse, reading trashy magazines that were over three years old.
Stuff didn't happen till morning.
I did another set of obs on the old fella around four, with the exception of a slight rise in his temperature, but still normal, there was nothing I was concerned about. He talked about his granddaughter and how he hoped she'd be okay – he didn't know she was dead, and I wasn't about to tell him. He was a nice sort. I'd check on him every hour, just poke my head in to make sure he was asleep, the coppa I checked him again a few times, did a few more frequent obs, like two hourly – just to make sure he wasn't bleeding out under that bandage. He was fine too.
So the morning shift started spilling in, the first arrived at six, he was always around that time; handover wasn't until 0645. Then two more nurses, my friend amongst them. We had a good chat as I was doing some antibiotics for someone.
It was 0630 when the call came in. And I can tell you, none of us were impressed when it rang, bloody A&E sending us a handover at this time? Used to piss us off. I picked up, intending to tell them to sod off and wait till after seven when the morning staff would be ready.
Instead, well, instead I heard the duty manager, she was in A&E, she screamed at me, and I mean screamed at me: Lock your ward! Lock your doors! Secure the patients with the bites, I don't care about the restraint policy, you just do it! Don't let anyone on or off the ward!
I was about to say something, I can't remember what it was now, but it was probably something like "What the fuck?"
That's when I heard this God-awful groan in the background. I'm a farm girl, I grew up around animals, I've been present when animals have been butchered. I'm a nurse; I've heard all kinds of sounds come out of the human body. But that groan? Shit the bed, I'd heard nothing like it in all my life, it was horrid, I try to make the same sound but I just can't!
Then the DM whispered, Oh God, they're here…. Please, Jesus!
And then screams, so loud the other staff could hear them. Then this sound like, well, I guess everyone who reads this will know the sound… the sound of them eating.
Line went dead.
The boss nurse for the night shift was right behind me, he'd heard her screams through the receiver. I turned and repeated what she said, lock the doors, don't let anyone in.
Then he was there. The coppa. In the door way – his room was right opposite the office.
We all just looked at him, I asked him what he needed, was he okay… he looked like hell! Actually, no, I'd imagine hell would have a bit more colour, this guy… he was dead. I've seen my fair share of corpses, so I know when I'm looking at one.
He lifted those arms, and groaned. It was the same groan I'd heard through the phone. He just started shuffling in and reached for me. I took a step back and he lunged, but that guy who always comes early, he just thrust the file trolley at him. Hit him pretty hard, I heard a few snaps as he went down, the trolley tipped on him, notes going everywhere and he thrashed about on the floor trying to get up.
"Rabies my arse".
One of the other nurses whispered behind me.
I gasped and stepped out into the corridor. His name wasn't really Mr. Smith, I'm just trying to protect his privacy. Guess all his family is dead now though, but who knows? Don't want you getting sued heh.
Speaking of privacy, I hope you understand I can't reveal where this hospital was, what city, I mean. Or the people involved. Some families are cool, you know, they want the stories to be told. But others, well, others aren't too keen on what they think would be libellous statements.
Anyway, I got into his [Mr. Smith's] room, which was next to the coppa – who was still thrashing about in the office. He was sitting bolt up right in his bed, groaning like the guy in the background of the phone, groaning like the coppa. He saw me and started trying to pull himself towards me, but his NOF was a pretty decent one and he couldn't get enough stability, he couldn't get his legs over the cot sides, couldn't get untangled from the sheets or the pillows we'd placed all over the show.
He was dead, too. Dead as dead could be. I shut the door and got out, as I was walking back to the office I heard a bang, looked down towards our sister ortho ward and saw one of their aides shutting the doors, and securing them with something on the inside. I saw her face. Even at that distance I could tell, she was scared, like shit scared. Maybe she'd gotten the same phone call. Or maybe she had her own coppa to deal with.
My friend was there, then. At my side. She said:
"They're zombies! Zombies! You're the expert what the hell do we do?"
And that was it, which was the phrase that pushed my stupid arse from silly moron joking about the undead to being the expert!
I just looked at her, and it was funny, I thought I was going to crumple into a mess of sobs and blasphemies, but instead, I said "We need to secure the ward, check on the patients, move them down to the day room, away from the main entrance".
She ran off, holy crap, she actually did what I said. Even the senior nurses, the ones who would smile and shake their heads at my shenanigans, they listened. Suddenly, I was the one with the ideas and the plan and holy shit, shit, you know, shit! I was responsible!
It was around now that bells started ringing, patients were aware something was up.
How many patients were on the ward?
At that stage? We were full. Well, with coppa and poppa dead… I suppose you could say we had two beds free. Total ward population, 30.
Anyway, the patients were ringing bells… they could hear the moans through the air con vents. It was really bad in the room closest the main entrance. I was in that room trying to calm them down. It was a six bedded room, I hate six bedded rooms, they all bounce off each other. They were all women, youngest was 41, oldest was 78. Ankles and wrists. One of them, the most annoying of the lot, a 48 year old, started going on about "zombies" and what someone had texted her, and what she'd read online, and so on and so fourth. Basically riling up the other women. I told them to stop being stupid, it was all nonsense peddled by drug companies to make money out of idiots who buy their shit.
How did you feel about saying that, when you'd had two on the ward already, and were bordering up the entrances?
Like a lying piece of shit. I'd always been trained, don't lie to patients; occasionally bend the truth, or try to find ways to sugar coat it. But I didn't like that exemption. I'd sometimes pander to the demented, to calm them down, but I saw a nurse's primary role as a patient's advocate, and lying to them wasn't advocating. Yet, here I was bullshitting to them in an attempt to keep them calm – to make it easier for me, for the other staff.
They'd be dead within the hour. The whole of that room. Every last one. It was fucking awful. Excuse my language.
My friend then came in, she was white as a sheet, and I mean really white. I thought she was going to vomit, had that look about her. I asked her what was wrong, she couldn't speak, just grabbed me and took me out of the room, pulling the curtain shut. See, we didn't have doors on our multi-bedded rooms, just a curtain you could pull across to block out the corridor's lights. It's what killed everyone in those rooms.
Mind you, help never came, there were no soldiers in haz mat suits coming to rescue up, no brave civilians trying to break in and save their old nanas, it was just us and the zacks, and when they got on the ward, a flimsy piece of material wasn't going to stop the dirty buggers.
The main entrance doors, two big solid fire doors, she'd done a good job securing them with extension cords and pushing up chairs and such against it as a makeshift barricade. She'd even hung some sheets over the glass panels so the ghouls couldn't get a look in. She parted the sheet just enough and I could see them, maybe fifteen, maybe twenty?
And there was no mistaking what they were. You can't get up and walk around, skin all green and clammy and mottled, with your guts hanging out and some poor bastard's hand in your mouth and be classed as "alive".
We rushed back to the office.
The male nurses had taken care of the coppa, mashed his head in. I'm not sure how any of us came to that conclusion. Or if it was just one of those flukes you hear about. They went and took care of the poppa after that too. I was about to tell them about the zacks in the corridor when the emergency phone rung. The senior male nurse answered. It was only ever a recording on that phone. Told us to barricade the ward. The hospital was in "voluntary quarantine" and to wait for help. To prepare patients' notes and to get the dangerous drugs out of the safe.
What did you all think?
I thought it was bullshit. No help was coming. The other male nurses, "James" [names changed for privacy] – he was the senior who always showed up bang on 0600, and then there was "Garry", he was permanent nights; they were the only others who thought it was crap. The others all believed this was the rabies slash zombie plague, but they really believed people were going to save us, seeing as we were a hospital and a vital public resource.
At this stage, I wasn't in charge, thank God. James took over. He started barking orders, "you two get the dangerous drugs", "you, start stocking patient's meds then get the notes, but only the admission and problems forms, don't worry about the other shit, but include the obs and drug charts", "you, go get all the long life food and bag it up then, gather all the bandages and dressing supplies", "you, check the other exits and windows, make sure they're secure", "the rest of us, we're going to move the patients down to the day room and rooms near the end of the ward".
And that was it, everyone had their jobs and we were off.
What was yours?
Me, I was to start signing out the dangerous drugs with my friend. We'd just got the safe open when the power went out, a few moments of complete darkness – a lot of screams, and then the gennies kicked in. It was such a stupid thing to do, I wanted to just rip out the last page of each drug count and shove it in a pillow case with the stuff. But my friend wanted us to do it properly, write up every drug and double sign that we'd removed it all from the safe. The other nurse who was gathering patient general meds agreed. Hell! Even in the middle of a zombie apocalypse people were still thinking about bloody paper trails!
Granted, it didn't take us very long, about ten minutes, maybe fifteen tops as we conversed with the other nurse about what to take from the shelf; the standard anti-hypertensives, pain killers, blood thinners, definitely made room for the anti-psychotics and sedatives.
I'm sorry, this is kinda boring isn't it? And I have the unfortunate habit of rabbiting on about stuff, off on tangents I go…
No, that's quite alright. It provides my readers with information about another branch of the medical service during the Great Panic.
And you can edit out all the fluff?
And I can edit out all the fluff.
So, yes, boring stuff. Paper work. Bureaucracy.
My friend went back into the office, James was on the phone, I don't know who he was talking to. It was just him, me and my friend in the office. He hangs up and looks at us. My friend, she was holding the pillow case full of narcotics. The really good shit, morphine, the oxys, IV as well as oral, and a lot of benzos.
He told my friend to help with the moving of patients, that no one had actually gotten into the day room yet. A lot of faffing about.
James then stood there and stared at me. For a very long time, or at least it felt like it, I asked him "what?" when it started getting a bit too creepy. It didn't help that we could hear the groans really well in the office from the vents.
"There's no help coming".
"I'm not stupid, James".
"If anything, they'll probably blow us up".
I tried to sound nonchalant about it, intelligent even. He didn't say anything for a while, just kept looking at me.
"I'm going down the backstairs; I need to get home, back to my wife".
"Was that her on the phone?"
I asked. It came out sounding like an accusation, like what the hell gives you the right to waste time talking to family when the rest of us are trying to get patients, half asleep, out of their rooms on those bloody beds and into the day room?
I really didn't want it to sound like that, I liked James, I had so much respect for him. He had a lot of knowledge, experience, and wasn't burdened with the politically correct arrogance that was coming out in our new grads.
"There's been multiple outbreaks around the city, my wife won't handle being home alone, I need to go. Gerry can take charge, or you".
I wasn't going to hold him back. I was single, I had a cat – who I was worried about, I'm ashamed to admit. I felt that perhaps he was only looking for someone to tell him it was okay to go. So I did. I phrased it with a smile "Well, this isn't a prison, James". I still sounded like an arse, though.
So off he went, and then I went down to the day room to see why patients were still in the rooms near the doors, that's when I realised Gerry was gone. One of the other nurses said he ran down the stairs, said he got a text from his son, well, one of them, he had four kids. Who the hell were any of us to deny a father sprinting off to his family?
That was the problem, right there, while I was in the drug room, and then later with James, Gerry and about several other nurses, with families, had all bolted down the stairs.
Leaving you with how many?
Well, on nights we'd have five nurses, that night we were short, and only had four. We had one aide, and he'd been sent to another ward. Morning staffing is for eight, but we were only on five, that's really bad. But the DM had allocated us three aides and an enrolled nurse from another ward – none of them had shown, although one of our ward aides had arrived; she had her roster wrong and wasn't supposed to be working. So we had initially started with ten on the ward, five were doing those silly jobs, and during that situation, four had gone, then James, so it was only five of us left.
Four nurses and one ward aide for 30 odd patients.
I remember standing there in the door way of the day room watching them try to move chairs and tables around to make room for beds thinking "we are so screwed". That's when it happened. When we got officially screwed.
They broke the barricade, spilled into that room with those women. I'll never forget those screams and knowing we could do nothing about it. That was what was worse. They [the nurses] were all looking at me now, with that "what do we do?" look oozing out of their eyes.
Shit the bed.
I actually said that too.
There weren't that many, well, it didn't seem to be, maybe three or four. The main group they'd come from were still arsing about trying to get into our sister ward. I flipped the table over and broke off the metal leg. It makes me sound tough, doesn't it? Hehe, it was actually a flimsy piece of crap of a table. That leg would always fall out; we'd just get it pushed back in. So I grabbed it, told the others to stay put, and ran towards the other end of the ward, towards that room, towards the zacks.
Weren't you scared?
Strangely, no. It was like some weird sense of duty kicked in, maybe my training, my religion, what my parents taught me about service to others? I dunno. I just knew I had to get the doors shut and those things dead… well… deader.
They didn't even pay me much attention. They were too busy eating those women. The same women I told that the "zombies" were all a load of nonsense. One of them caught my eye. Held my gaze while one of them reached its hand in her belly, up into her chest and ripped out her lungs. Still inflated.
There were a few zacks near the entrance, they came towards me when they saw, but I got the door shut. I rammed a pole off the one of the manual BP machines. You can pull the pole out of the wheeled base and out of the bottom of the machine itself. I then just used a heap of tape to keep it sliding out, because it wasn't very stable.
I then yelled down the ward for the others to get into the drug room because the door was stronger, had a better lock. They didn't muck about, they just ran.
What about the patients?
Dear God, I know. I closed the doors of the single rooms. That's all I could do. We had three other multi-bedded room. Three times six. That's eighteen. Eighteen people were going to die because of me. But what else could I do? I saw one of those women getting up now, she'd been bitten, partially eaten, she'd died, and now she'd turned. Broken ankle or not, she was doing pretty well mobilising. I grabbed the linen trolley and pushed it over in the corridor to try and stop their advance, I ran into the next room and basically told those patients, "here's the deal, if you can walk, get your arse into one of the side rooms, with the doors".
Then I turned around and one of the other nurses were there. She had a kidney dish full of syringes.
I told her I couldn't have anything to do with that, being Catholic and all, but I told her I'd stand guard and try and fight them off. Then my friend was next to me, she had crutch, the aide had one of the walking sticks. They helped me keep zack at bay while that nurse went in there and well… she offered those poor bastards a way out. The ones who couldn't consent, were too scared, too demented, she did it for them.
I wouldn't want that on my conscience. To be completely useless and be unable to stop the zacks tearing people to shreds, that's one thing, but to do what she did? But I honestly can't judge her. She answered whatever her conscience told her was right, she did what she thought was merciful. And to be bloody honest, if I was lying in bed with two broken femurs listening to the sounds of approaching zombies, I don't know if I'd turn her away.
Of course, I don't know what she gave them. Could have been morphine, could have been a sedative. They could have been fast asleep when those ghouls started chowing down. If that was the case, she's not guilty of anything immoral, or illegal, right? I had disagreements with her on certain social issues, but I respected her. Liked her as a friend and colleague. I tell myself she was giving them sedatives; it's the only way I can really feel peace about her eternal situation.
Anyways….. The patients who could walk, the wrists, the ribs, the young guys on crutches, some took their chances going down the stairs, others got some food and water and stayed in the single rooms. I figured they'd all be dead within a few days. The nurse with the sedatives, she gave them some, told them how to use them, how to administer it. She was then going to leave, down the back stairs, try and find her kid in all of this, but at this point the stair well was looking pretty populated. They'd made it out of the ward below us and were milling about. Sure, they can't climb stairs, but you can't exactly climb down into about twenty of the shits.
I don't know if the patients who took their chances down there got out. I like to think they did.
I like to think a lot of things.
We got out the back into the drug room. Locked the doors with our little food supply and waited. We could hear the ghouls banging on the doors of the single rooms where some of the patients were holed up in. Eventually the banging stopped and was replaced by screams, and then the screams stopped and were replaced by groans. A lot of people don't like the groans, there's even a good body of evidence that suggests they act on certain receptors in the brain triggering that primal fear we all sit on, too much can make certain people insane apparently. But I never found it affecting me. I didn't like it, but eventually it became background noise, like static in a bad radio reception.
It was around midday when there was a massive explosion, the gennie must have gone, was what the aide said. The power went out after that. There was natural light coming in through the windows, but you notice how dark it can get when you don't have that constant nuisance of florescent light shining down on you. Anyway, it was a hell of an explosion, the whole building shuddered, I seriously wondered if it was going to collapse, which of course, made me wonder about the fire. I could smell the smoke, we could see the damn stuff billowing around the building and shutting the windows didn't help as it just came in through the air con vents. After a few moments and the others had settled down, we heard them, the ghouls; they were in the back passage shambling along outside the drug room. The door wasn't that great, it was a sliding door, the lock was sturdy enough, but there was a gap between the door and the door frame. Maybe a half a centimetre? I dunno, but it was enough that you could see out into the corridor if you had your head against it. One of them must have saw us, or smelt us and started scrapping its mangy fingers against the door. Then there was another, and another, and next thing it was probably the whole damn ward trying to get in.
I sure as hell didn't come up with the idea, but someone suggested we take the meds. I know it wasn't "syringe nurse". Thing was, we didn't have any of the heavy duty stuff left. What we did have, it was all orals. Someone suggested downing huge doses of the blood thinners and anti-hypertensives. It'd be a nasty, messy way to go. And frankly, I didn't think they'd work in time. I figured the zacks would get in before they'd pop their clogs. Someone handed me something, I can't remember what. I remember saying "I can't, I'm Catholic".
I wonder if I was an atheist, or a wishy washy Protestant, or a lazy cafeteria Catholic who didn't know their faith that I'd do it? That'd I say "Oh hey, God understands, kill yourself" But it didn't sit right with me, made me a little morally outraged. I think I snapped then. Internally, of course. On the outside I was all leadership and heroics. Maybe it was all that Red Bull and coffee, chocolate and whatever else I'd downed on night shift. Maybe it was the fact I really wanted sleep that I'd been up for over 24 hours. I dunno. I stood and I got between them and the door and I slapped the pottle out of my friend's hand.
"What the fuck! You gonna let those smelly apes decide how you check out? Fuck that shit! I'm leaving. Can't be too hard to climb out that bloody window, either stay here and dope yourselves up in an attempt to avoid being eaten, or come with me".
I said. I was pretty proud of myself, looking back on it, I mean, at the time I was like "who the fuck is this bitch?"
Again, apologies for my language. It's this terrible habit I've got, Catholic or not! Of course, there are worse vices to have. It's not so bad now, but I'm trying to keep the story authentic.
I've heard worse, I can assure you. Please, go on.
Okay, so they all looked up at me, tired, frightened, and then one said something about it being worse outside. I made some comment about would you rather meet your end with a little dignity, at least trying to escape, or sitting in here like pussies? I'd had enough at that point, climbed up on the bench and opened the window, pushing it as far out as possible, then I climbed out. I didn't expect any of them to follow me, despite my rousing little speech. Well, I actually thought syringe nurse would, she was still trying to find a way to get out and find her daughter.
I was out on the ledge, like an idiot, wondering what I was going to do when I reach the end of the building when I was aware the others were behind me. Syringe nurse was following up the rear.
What were their ages?
My friend, she was 25; the ward aide was early 50s, the other two nurses were mid 40s.
So long and short of it, we got out, all of us. And it was hell. We were on the fifth floor of a five story building. There was a drop straight down into a rather large throng of the zacks. They had spilled out from A I guess that's where the worse of it came from. We shared the floor with the plastics ward, a lot of bitten went there. That's why they struck so suddenly. The oncology ward, the medical wards, even acute surgical did better than us. In fact, there were survivors from oncology. Four of the nurses were able to clean out the whole floor, and the one directly above and below. They scavenged supplies, water, food, medicine. They also "sedated" patients who requested it. They basically lived out the war in that place. Amazing, huh?
I guess there are lots of stories like that. I haven't met any of them personally, but I've read some of their writings.
But back to my shenanigans. We scurried around the edge of the building, it was a bit difficult at times, passing rooms where there zed heads, they'd see us and try and break the windows to get us. One managed to, but he couldn't keep his balance on the ledge, fell down and splattered on the pavement. Must have shattered his skull because he didn't get up after that. Anyway, on the other side of the building I realised we'd probably made a stupid decision… until I realised we were outside the linen room, and that the door was shut. My friend gave me a boast up, and I got inside. Took us about half an hour to make some rope. We got ourselves so we were over the internal bike and motorcycles locker and climbed down.
It was pretty safe, it was between the buildings, and the passage in was protected by a large gate. We got ourselves some bikes and headed off into the park neighbouring the hospital. They [the zombies] were spilling towards the city and crawling around the roadways leading into the facility, they weren't' yet heading into the park. Guess there weren't so many people in the park at that time.
I'd say its what saved us. Cycling across that soft grass.
Good thing about New Zealand, nice and small, even the population. It's probably easier to avoid the zacks if you're only in a city of a few hundred thousand. To be honest, I never did find out the population of that city. Of course, the zacks from the neighbouring rural areas would walk towards food, towards the cities, so they probably increased.
We reached the other side of the park, it was a residential area. It had been the middle of the day; people would have been at work when the plague hit its peak. There were a few zeds wandering around, but we easily avoided them. My friend said we should head out of town; her fiancé had a bach [a small cottage, usually near beaches] that we should head there. It'd be isolated. The hospital aide pointed out that we weren't far from her home, probably ten minute walk. Wouldn't take long on the bikes. Anyway, that was when syringe nurse said her good byes and went off to find her daughter.
Did she find her, are you aware?
She survived the war. Syringe nurse, that is. I heard from someone else, but I'm not sure about her daughter. Moved across to Aussie, living in the Outback somewhere. Couldn't tell you much more.
Anyway, we got to the house, it was empty, all locked up. At this point the worst of it all was happening in the city, the residential areas for the most part were pretty empty. It'd get worse as those in town made it back home, as people tried to flee their work places, schools, wherever they were. They simply led all the zeds into the residential. So we stocked up the car, food, water, whatever, and there was quite a lot. The aide made it into her neighbour's homes and took stuff; I had issues with that. What if they came home, thinking they'd have safety, food, water, and found it'd been looted?
She replied that we'd seen what happened, what was going to be happening, what we were dealing with. Now it was survival of the fittest – plus, her neighbour was an arse; and if I was that morally conflicted I didn't have to eat any.
Right, so we piled in the car and started driving. The aide was behind the wheel; my friend was in the front passenger seat, me and the other nurse in the back. The streets were pretty empty, but not in the normal, middle of the day in residential insert city name here kinda way. Now I wish I could say it was exciting, that we drove around a corner and found ourselves in the midst of thousands of zacks, that we fought our way out and it was heroic and amazing and movie worthy. That's not what happened. We got right out of the city, and we only saw maybe two, three of those things, just hanging around outside various buildings.
Took us about three hours to reach the bach. During that time we listened to the radio. I don't know whose idea it was, who turned it on. It was pretty grim stuff. By this point Auckland was completely overrun, the infection had spread down the country like wild fire stopping only at areas of impassable geography. But New Zealand, like I said, small, wasn't hard for a bitten individual to get in a car with family, drive six hours to another town, thinking it'd be safe there, go to bed that night and turn. Kill the whole family. The whole family of zacks gets outside, kills the neighbours, spreads the infection to a few thousand more people. That's how it was in pretty much every other city and population base around the globe, I'd imagine. So New Zealand was the same as all those other places. Except maybe North Korea, Israel. Guess paranoia paid off. Huzzah.
They didn't say much of any use, really. No shelters, no refugee centres, just stay in your home, board your windows if possible, quarantine any one bitten. Didn't even mention head shots were the best chance. Of course, we already knew that, from experience. It was actually pretty depressing. I didn't like listening to it. Didn't want to. The others did. Maybe it just avoided us having to talk about the shit.
What about your country's military? Police? Did the media say much about them?
Not anything that gave you an iota of hope. Our military was a joke, don't get me wrong, the soldiers were awesome, strong willed, courageous, brave. But our government were a bunch of pussies, had been defunding our forces for years. Mind you, look at America, Russia, China, all the money they poured into their armies and it didn't do them any good.
They mentioned them somewhat, said that they were holding this or that town, helping quarantine centres, evacuating whatever city or village or whatever. Perhaps just enough to avoid mass panic, but it wasn't called the Great Panic for nothing. Probably didn't work. We got out early, it spread out from the hospitals, the private homes, we were well away from it by then. It shags with your mind a bit. It wasn't no walk in the park getting out, we saw our fair share of carnage and patients dying, people who depended on you. Yet, we escaped before it got really bad. So I think, how lucky were we? Was that fair? We just left those patients to die and then got out. Leaving behind friends and family. Why did we deserve to live when so many others died? Were reanimated? Best not to think about it, but you just can't help yourself.
The bach was a nice place. Two stories, but one of those small two stories, like just one room up stairs, the lounge. Got the sun really nicely. Big ceiling to floor windows. Ground floor just has two bed rooms, the kitchen and dining combined a single shower, and an outhouse. Classy, right. I remember saying we needed to board the windows on the ground floor. So we ripped off all the internal doors and hammered them on the outside. I figured they'd [the zombies] be better at pushing things in then pulling them off.
The fencing around it was quite sturdy, one of those kinda artistic walls of misshapen stones, about a metre high, and then a metre's worth of heavy wood embedded in the masonry. It was kinda strange, actually, blocked a lot of the view of the woods. There was no fencing between the bach and the beach. We decided we needed to do something about it, but what? It was about two hundred metres long.
So we unloaded the car. Getting all the chow and water upstairs. I thought we should destroy the stair case. They didn't seem to be very good climbers. The others weren't keen on any further work, it was late, probably about five, it was getting dark. The aide agreed with me, though, she said we needed to get stuff, building supplies for a fence, to fortify the place, before other people got the same idea or until it was all overrun.
What was driving you to fortify? Did you think it wasn't going to improve?
I knew it wasn't going to improve. We were out of the major centre, but how long before they came crashing through the woods. And later, they started crawling up out of the ocean, I couldn't believe. I got up one morning and stood in that window and watched one of them just walk right up out of the drink! It was covered in seaweed and when we killed it found it was wearing a Chinese army uniform. Had that thing walked from China to New Zealand under the waves? Holy shit! That just made the game a whole lot more dangerous, and irritating, really, really irritating.
So the aide and I headed out a building supplies farming depot kinda store we'd passed an hour back. The whole place was deserted, except for a large puddle of blood and a few chunks, and what I'm pretty sure was a half a liver outside the front door.
She went inside, got all the nails she could find. Hammers, tools, those sorts of things. Even some barbed wire. I found a trailer, hooked it up to car and started piling on planks of wood and bricks and cement. I wasn't sure how much I'd need. The aide came out, put all the crap in the backseat and then started helping me with the wood. It was strange, we worked quickly, like they were close by, but there were none anywhere. Not out there. Not yet. When the trailer was full, must have been around eight. Fuck, I was really feeling it now. I just wanted to sleep. The aide drove back. I was asleep within five minutes.
Back at the bach, she hauled my arse into the house and the other two had just finished dismantling the stairs, had fixed up a nice little rope ladder they'd made out of sheets, I didn't wake up till later the next afternoon.
When I did, they'd already dug the trench for the cement to support the fence. I was impressed. I really thought they were too girly, too urban. But the aide, her husband had been some kind of construction worker. That's when they started talking about families. Mine were way up north; there was no way I was going to be able to reach them. Most were in Auckland. I knew they'd be dead, or hiding in some house waiting to die. I could only pray for them at that stage.
The aide wanted to head back into town, try and find her husband. Maybe he'd be back at the house. My friend figured her fiancé would come out here, but she wanted to go in for her parents, her sister, the other woman, she wanted to go in for her kids.
They talked about it, the logistics, but never did, never went I mean. I'm not sure what to make of it. I didn't want to make judgements on their conclusions, their reasons. Did they figure it'd be selfish to take the car? That they could find their family and bring them back here to safety, but what if they lured all those monsters here as well? We'd probably run out of food a lot quicker; perhaps even draw other survivors who were less than friendly? What could they do? Or maybe they felt that their family was dead and there was no point risking their own lives to prove that? OR maybe they felt that since I had my family likely dead up north, that they had no right to seek out their own?
Maybe they were just scared.
So we passed our time building the fence. It was a pretty damn good fence, if you ask me. Stable. The ghouls never dropped it.
[She sighs. Takes a sip of water.]
Anyway, so once we had the fence up, and I can tell you, it wasn't easy. We had a few moments of "oh shit, it's fallen over", a few trial and error sort of construction methods. Probably took us maybe, oooh, I dunno, a month. We also worked on making a few little gardens. It wasn't the right season for planting but we prepared the ground as best we could. Further fortified our defences. The aide and I, she was the only one willing to go outside with me. We'd raid neighbouring farms, chickens, lambs, even found ourselves a goat. We started to see infected, the zeds, I mean. At first just a few random ones, hanging around farms and petrol stations. Occasionally we'd pass one hobbling along the road. It'd lift its arms and stagger after the car but eventually we'd outrun it and it'd go back to its usual speed. Or I suppose veer off the road towards a rabbit.
We had no guns. All the farm houses we raided, we couldn't find any. Don't get me wrong, New Zealand wasn't some anti-gun sanctuary, where the most liberal American would shit their pants with excitement at such an enlightened society. It was kinda hard to get a gun, well, for the average citizen living in town or the city. A few farmers had them and the gangs, criminal elements. Those were the people who did the best in that shit storm. Farmers and gang members. So we mostly relied on melee weapons, which of course, as you could imagine, would cause problems. Me and my friend made some bows and arrows, it was cathartic, but in action they were useless, we couldn't get the bows to push the arrow with enough force to penetrate the skull.
We'd listen to the radio most days, well, the others would. The official stations were on air for about a month, after that it tended just to be random civilians with the equipment sharing ideas and trying to avoid giving away their positions. We mostly used the car radio, but we found a giant stash of batteries in an overturned caravan on the road.
I spent my days checking the fence, shoring up sections I thought might not be too stable. Packing dirt around the foundations. Digging and preparing the earth for gardens. My friend and I built a little secure pen for the animals in case the zeds ever got through into the property. They never did. We even put some garden pots up on the roof to try and save something in case the worst happen.
That's when I started thinking about the nursing plan. How I'd feel better in a zombie apocalypse. You know, "Protecting your mental wellbeing during the Zombie disaster". That was the initial title. I didn't tell the others what I was working on, my friend, and the other nurse, they were starting to block it all out. We hadn't seen any zeds near the bach yet; the aide and I were no longer going out. We had seen a huge mob of them in a paddock near the farming supplies store. I guess they were going after the sheep. We were worried we'd lead them back to the bach. So we returned, never left after that, not until the end.
The aide started getting paranoid. She'd climb right up onto the roof and with a pair of binoculars we'd lifted from one of the farm houses, that's what she'd do all day; "scanning the horizon for hostiles" was how she phrased it. Said it was justified. That it was her job. All day, as soon as it was light, she was up on that roof, right until the sun went down. Honestly, I thought they'd be more feisty at night, but I had no proof of that.
Anyway, the other nurse got sick. It was strange. At first she just felt a bit tired, chalked it up to poor diet – to be honest, our diet was probably better than what it had been in peace time. Fresh veg, a lot of eggs and fish. We'd go down to the beach and cast out, that was relaxing. None of that processed bullshit. In fact, I think the only time we used the canned shit was when we were waiting for harvest during those first few months.
She went to bed one night, and in the morning, we couldn't rouse her. It was pretty obvious. Meningitis. Don't know how she caught it. Actually, don't know much about it, or I didn't. I was an ortho nurse, didn't see it that often. Only knew the basics, and that wasn't enough to save her. She died within the next 24 hours. We all took it hard in our own ways, but the aide, she was still on that roof, you wouldn't even know she'd noticed. My friend spent more time in the garden, I… well, I was now writing that bullshit care plan.
It evolved from being about protecting your mental wellbeing to "medical care and issues within the zombie apocalypse".
Less than 24 hours after that, after we had put her in the ground, they started showing up at the end of that road. I was sitting on the porch writing a section about cultural differences, honestly, talk about being lost to the politically correct nonsense! My friend was watering the lambs, collecting the eggs, when the aide, she threw a little rock at me. She'd said she'd throw rocks at us to warn us. Got me right in the head. I was like "what the fuck bitch?" With an amused inflection.
I looked up and she pointed, made a kinda zombie impersonation and so my friend locked the lambs up in their pen and we got in and upstairs, well, up the rope ladder. Through the binoculars we could see them, they were quite a way off, but they'd easily reach us within the next twenty minutes. So we decided to go inside. We pulled the curtains on that side of the house, and we watched, and watched and watched. Man, they were some slow mo-fo's!
I didn't know if they had any intelligence, any understanding, any ability to plot, to scheme, but it was like they knew we were there. So they reached us, and started clawing at the fence. My friend whispered "should have brought the animals inside, they can hear them". The animals were freaking, the lambs, chickens, the goat, they were right up against the bach, but they were damn quiet, they didn't sqwark or baa or anything, just pushed themselves up against it.
At first there were only like, I dunno, thirty, we used bricks climbed up a ladder and just threw the bricks down at their heads. Problem was, we knew we didn't have enough bricks. The aide came up with a neat idea. Sharpen plank of wood and just slam it down into the tops of their heads, it seemed to work, but it was tiring. Almost slipped a few times. Took us about three hours to kill them all. Of course, the next day there were more of them. And they kept coming. Day after day after day. I guess once they were finished in the cities they wandered out and went after the livestock, the possums, the rabbits, Lord knows there were plenty. That's when we clued into the next problem, when we killed them, they'd fall, and the ones behind it would clamber over its corpse, getting a bit more height. We stopped killing them then, not without figuring a way to stop their bodies building into some kind of squishy undead ramp.
So the zacks just kept coming and coming and coming, day after day after day. They got more numerous. At first, it was smaller groups, like thirty, forty, then it was a hundred, then thousands. Soon you couldn't see the trunks of the trees, only the zombies in front of them. That's when I started to see what the moaning could do. It started making the aide a little, well, unsettled. She'd wander up and down along the fence. Scrapping a stick along the wood. Banging it occasionally, riling them all up. Then she'd start moaning, like them, scratching against the fence, and then she'd walk back inside and sit down, then go back outside again. Do this over and over again.
The terms the professionals back in the real world were using was "Quisling", or "Z-shock". Of course, we didn't know anything about that back then; we just observed her behaviour wasn't right, that it was boarding on psychotic, dangerous. We had some haloperidol and a few anti-depressives. We gave her that stuff, just to try and get her to sleep. That's what I hadn't known, not until one night I woke up, needed to go to the bathroom – I had the Vs and Ds for a few days, [vomiting and diarrhoea]. I got outside and I saw her, sitting by the fence with her hands resting on the brick, she was groaning, just like them. She turned and looked at me, and the moonlight caught her eyes at a funny angle, holy shit, for a split second I thought she was one of them. I did my business and when I came back outside she was still where she was.
Turned out she hadn't really been sleeping, so yeah, we started sedating her, but our drug stocks weren't going to hold. So my friend and I, we started talking about solutions, nothing fatal, of course. But nursing solutions. God honest, what we do with mentally unwell patients, or the ones who tell you they only "drink socially" and down two bottles of Voddie a day and then have the worst damn detox in hospital.
I told her about the nursing plan, showed her, she was impressed, gave me a few pointers. We decided to try and get the aide back into action, get her to do something useful.
I had this idea, I'm not sure where it came from, but I said we should build another fence behind one of the fences, then break down the wood around the corners. Not so they could get in, but so we could burn the zombies. We'd kill a few against the fence, set them on fire, and then they'd burn out and not provide a ramp. We'd be able to cull the ranks a bit. We'd have to use the bricks and cement and hope we'd have enough. We had more then enough. It was quite strange. I never remembered bringing that many.
So I got the aide to start mixing the cement, a pretty boring, dirty and repetitive job, but it kept her mind off the zeds. We endeavoured to keep her away from them as much as possible. We made her put ear plugs in. Just bunched up gauze from a first aide kit. We gave her the vitamin H every evening, made sure she was sleeping; we'd take turns watching her sleep. We forced her to engage in conversation, we played games, monopoly, snakes and ladders, we found games that forced use of intellect helped more, scrabble and trivial pursuit worked the best. She started to come out of it. My friend helped me with the plan more and more then, we started to take note of what worked, what worked quicker, and then we started thinking about was this wide spread? Were their other people suffering mental effects like the aide? Would what worked for her work for them also? We weren't sure, but we documented everything. I hope it doesn't sound cruel, but it gave us hope, using her as an experiment. We kept talking about what nursing journal would publish us, if we'd get interviews on the TV shows, if 100 years from now nursing and medical students would study our methods and theories. Gave us hope for the future. Tangible hope.
Of course, after the war, we found out that for most, there was no turning back. They could only be rehabilitated before they got really bad, actually attacking and eating people bad.
But you continued your work once you knew of this?
Yeah, the remains of the UN got me involved with some other researchers and we started studying the stages and applying where various interventions would be best utilised.
And your friend? Was she involved?
No. She wanted to concentrate on things she considered more useful, like the rebuild of medical services. She's started up a primary care centre outside of Auckland. Her fiancé survived, but no one else in either family did. She married him, has a couple of kids.
Anyway, we tried the whole burning zombies behind the brick fence, and it worked, really well, but it took ages. Didn't make any dent in them, only stunk up the joint, probably attracted more of them. So we stopped that. The aide was better by now, though, so I suppose something good came of it.
From there, it was just a matter of survival. Rationing food carefully, digging more gardens, taking real caution with when we decided to butcher the animals. We never had chicken, they were too valuable, but the problem with the lambs, was they grew into sheep which were quite large, if we killed one there'd be too much meat and we didn't want to waste the meat. So, we figured, how about we try and build a smoker? I had no idea if it'd work, none of us did. We knocked down the walls of the shit house, and used the last of the bricks to make a mini smoker. We used a few planks of wood and hammered them into the ground to support a frame for curtains to hang around the crapper, for modesty's sake as much as keeping us busy.
We used the remains of the stairs, damp as they were, for the smoking fuel, and it seemed to work. The meat survived long enough for us to eat it.
Okay, so, I'll start wrapping up our zombie survival situation:
The fence held, we had stopped burning them, it was just a waste of time, but there were thousands, and I mean thousands, pushing in. To this day I'm not sure how those walls stood, maybe it was God? Maybe they just stood around and didn't think to pack in against the walls. Who knows?
However, when it came into the next Winter, we had this storm, a real monster of a thing, I thought the ocean was going to send massive waves up and destroy us. It seemed to unsettle the ghouls… but I know that's not true, because they're not bothered by anything. Perhaps all that salt air, the rain, maybe it stopped them smelling us? Perhaps they got scent of something else? But we went to sleep one night, hail, rain, wind, freezing cold, woke up the next, same weather, and found only a handful of ghouls around the area. That's when we started seeing them coming up out of the sea.
We took care of them easily enough, did some fishing, smoked the catch, had some more food. No one was keen on leaving any further, and we knew they couldn't be far off. So that's how we'd survived, we'd let the weather chase them off. Get out, fish, hunt for more supplies, but not too far away. We found a few cars not far off our side road, siphoned off the petrol took what we could then got back. In the Winter months they didn't seem so active, they were sluggish, we'd see them, but not in vast numbers, summer was when we'd see the swarms. Maybe two years after that's when they encircled us again. They'd stay there until we were rescued.
Its odd to say rescued, because the fellas doing the rescuing didn't actually know we were there.
I'm not sure how long it had been, could have been five years, could have been ten? I just don't know. But I woke one morning to the sound of gun fire, pop, pop, pop pop, in the distance. It was controlled, definitely a gun. The other two didn't know what it was. I told them: someone's shooting at zack.
This went on all morning; there were too many zeds around the bach for us to get any view of the shenanigans. Figured it was some last stand in a farm house, but it just kept going. It stopped only when it was night. Next morning, sure as it was light, it started again, pop, pop, pop, pop, over and over, all day. Stopped just as the sun fell below the horizon. Yip, you guessed it, next morning, pop, pop, pop. We figured who ever was making their last stand had quite a bit of ammo on them. Unless it was something else? Not a gun fight. We didn't know.
After three days of this, the zombies at the fence line, they started wandering off, towards the popping, soon there were only a few just lingering about, the ones with broken legs, lying about in the scrub, not doing too much, just moaning.
Then the popping continued for another two full days, sometimes it sounded like it was getting further away, other days like it was getting closer. I think it stayed in the same place and that it was the wind that simply changed.
Did you talk about it? Beyond what you had already? For the shots to continue for almost a week, it must have been something that you were curious about?
Oh, sure, we talked about it, it was something else to talk about; the smoke house, the shit house, the sheep, chooks, veges, so on and so fourth so yeah, it was something to talk about. Something new. Better than fantasising about food we were never going to taste again, for me it mince and cheese pies and fresh cream doughnuts with a spot of jam. Good times. My arteries probably thanked me, or rather, the zeds. Stupid bastards. I used to joke that my belly was my "nuclear survival kit" and "I'll be sitting pretty while all you skinny bitches are digging up root vegetables". My friend, the aide, the other nurse, all of us a bit chubby. Perhaps that's why we survived. Of course, the really chubby people, I don't suppose many of them lasted, those things might be slow, but they keep coming.
Anyway, one afternoon the popping started to slow down and then at the end of the road we saw them. Soldiers. About ten of them.
They came up the road; occasionally one would break rank and pop a round off into one of the stragglers or a zed lying off in the bush I'm guessing. They approached, and they could see us, we were standing on the roof like a pack of idiots. It was my friend who waved and then hurried down the rope ladder. She was like a mad woman possessed, didn't check for any stray zacks, didn't care, she uncoiled the ropes around the gate and threw it open and rushed out to them, well, at a quicker pace then a walk, I think she didn't want to spook them.
When the aide and me got out and up to them, she was hugging one of them. She turned and smiled at us, she said something like "it's over" or "we're free", I can't' remember which, I was just sort of out of it. Like, is this really real? Sort of out of it.
Anyway, they were Aussie troops, that's how I met my husband. Before the war his brother was special ops for the Aussie forces, his other brother was a sniper and his twin was air force, mechanic. My husband was civilian, a survivalist by nature, grew up in the sticks with his family, really rough and tumble, old school, knew how to survive. As soon as the shit hit the fan he joined up.
So, what brought Aussie troops into NZ? After the Great Panic, after the infection spread across the mainland, their forces started consolidating, setting up safe points, defending them. Trying to clean out towns and rural areas to get some kind of food supply. After a few years, when things were slowing down, they started talking about dropping troops in New Zealand, smaller population; maybe they could take the less populated areas and start using our natural resources to benefit the purge in Aussie. Apart from the ghouls coming up out of the ocean, Tasmania was free of them. They'd cleaned the whole island state. The govt. had been moved there. There were a few surviving New Zealand politicians over there, helping out, they helped come up with the plans, even encouraged it.
I still have mixed feelings about the new flag. It's hard though, on the national identity. One side of me wants to say "fuck off, this is New Zealand, this is ours!" but then the other side is like "Thanks for saving us, having your flag fly over our native soil is the least we can do". Guess, end of the day, humans are what matters. Not silly notions of nationhood and whatever else we find to create divison.
Then we found out it had been six years. Couldn't believe it, six damn years! That's longer than I spent at secondary school and that felt like a bloody age! Anyway, there were a few more years of carnage until people started getting on top of things. I guess you know the rest of the story's timeline.
How did you spend your time? During your rescue and the official end of hostilities.
The aide was taken to a mental health institution for further follow up care. I wouldn't see her until several years after the end. My friend go herself involved with a team of Aussie and American troops and headed back in, she was trying to find her fiancé. She did. Holed up in some old abortion clinic. Heh, ironic ay? A place dedicated to destroying human life actually kept it alive for almost ten years!
I stayed in one of the Aussie bases, outside of Perth. It was hot, kinda humid, reminded me of home. I helped perfect the plan there. So many quislings. I couldn't believe it. But it's also where I started realising there were more then just a few crazy people pretending to be zombies that needed help. Children without parents. People who'd watched loved ones torn to shreds. I started refining the care plan, to include those instances. I met a few other nurses there; we started bouncing ideas off each other. See, it wasn't just me, it wasn't just my friend, it was a whole host of people putting their own in. Their names are listed in the manual for the care plan.
Then there was the word out of Russia. That pig head hypocrite priest, who started killing the bitten. I don't care what he says, there's no way in the fiery bowels of Hell God said "Hey, instead of letting them kill themselves, you, you Father, you and your kin murder them". Changing one sin for another? That's not right. I talked to my husband, then just a good friend at the time. He was Catholic, really Catholic, we bonded over that. He was older than me. Wiser. Had a strong moral compass, I liked talking with him. He was the one who came up with the idea.
I really hate that term. Of course, if it makes people feel better allocating some cutesy term, have at it.
Would you explain it? Its development?
Well, I read a lot of that priest's homilies, his book. I talked to people who'd been in that situation. I remembered syringe nurse and the patients, and how on that day others had talked about over dosing.
That was the choice? Suicide or die and turn into one of those things, or have one of your companions try to kill you post reanimation? It's a hideous choice. There had to be some way to remove some requirement to sin, some justification for murder. Make it easier for everyone.
So that's when we made the "spike". I had a few other ideas, all messy, all not guaranteed to work properly. My husband developed it. Built the prototype.
What happens, is the person who's bitten. They're in a hospital bed, or wherever, they get a chance to say good bye to family, friends, people who care about them. They lie on the bed, or sit up in it; the "spike" is behind their head, under a pillow. The patient is connected to a rather discrete heart monitor. The moment that heart monitor registers cessation of heart beat, the spike activates. It sends the "spike" up through the pillow and into the back of the head of the patient, right through the brain. But here's the important part… it stops before it penetrates the skull on the other side. No mess. A swishing sound, that's it. A tiny trickle of blood from the ears, but only occasionally. The spike has a little a hollow so the blood doesn't pool all over the pillow.
That way the face isn't destroyed. The family can grieve, I mean, really grieve, over a corpse they can burry, cremate, mourn. Safely. There's no dread in their heart that mum is going to get up from the bed and chase dad around. There's no fear that teenaged Sally is going to have her face blown off. There's no moral debate for medical professionals or religious. The person is dead when the spike goes through their head, the person hasn't reanimated. No reanimation, no further heartache or stress.
A nursing lecturer once told me, "it's a nurse who holds your hand when you come into this life, and a nurse that holds your hand when you leave it". Not a "nurse that kills you".
You've spared a lot of people a lot of anguish, a lot of individuals are suggesting you for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Oh yes, I've heard all that! Fancy that, some dirty kiwi from New Zealand getting the NPP? No thanks! I don't want people to think I'm some amazing saint, I'm not. I just worried about my soul, it's kinda selfish really. I love nursing. I wanted to continue my work after all this. Yet, now with the zombies, the bitten, it raises so many moral questions. I'd done enough sinning through out all this; I didn't want to be murdering people. I came up with the "spike" to spare myself having to deal with that.
So, where too from here?
Well, I keep to myself out here now. I get the research from others brought in on the trade convoys. They give me a chance to check through the literature, see what's getting attention, what people are coming up with for dealing with the cultural and religious aspects of the care plan, people's opinions and experiences with the care plan, and the spike.
With that said, I'll be heading across to Aussie in a few months, after baby's born, with the family, to visit the husband's parents and to catch up with a nursing think tank. The nursing and medical schools are trying to thrash out a united curriculum between Aussie and New Zealand; they want me to talk about teaching the care plan. Frankly, I think that's a little silly, as it's basically a tick box system, you add up the scores then relate the scores to the findings in the manual.
Other than that, it's just about survival, keeping my kids alive, making sure husband is supported. You know, the usual post zombie war shit.