Disclaimer: I do not own any piece of The Walking Dead franchise. If I did, I would be eating sandwiches with Norman Reedus, not writing fan fiction. The character of Emma Louise Prescott is one hundred percent mine, as she was created by me after watching too many episodes of The Walking Dead.
One night in the middle of April I received a phone call from my father. It was nearing two in the morning but I was still awake and working on my thesis, fighting sleep and inhaling coffee and Starburst like they were air and I was short of breath.
"Emma," he said in a serious tone. "Emma, it's time."
Quickly I told him I would be there soon and hung up the phone. I gathered my most important belongings―my laptop, a photo of myself and Matt at the carnival last Fall, my autographed copy of The Glass Castle―and grabbed the packed duffle bag I always kept waiting in my closet. As an RA I got the privilege of having my own dorm room but the closet was still too small and normal size things rarely fit in it, let alone a bulging bright pink duffle bag filled to its brim with clothes and food. I swiped my keys from the table next to my bed and took one last look around. I knew it would be the last time I ever looked at the room and the last time I would ever be at the University I'd called my home for the last four years. I wanted to savor the moment, but with another call from my dad coming through I also knew I had to leave and fast.
The world as I knew it was about to end.
"Daddy?" I called into my dimly lit childhood home. "Mama? Where are you guys?"
"Emma!" my mom said happily, rushing to me to wrap me in her arms tightly the way she did whenever I'd leave for school. "Daddy is still at the lab but he'll be home soon. He needs us to get the generators and their silencers ready to go. You remember how to do that, right?"
I nodded. "I can't believe it's really happening," I told her while we speed walked to the basement. "All those years I thought Daddy was crazy. He's not crazy, Mama. The highways are already beginning to pack and it hasn't even been four hours, yet."
"Don't tell me those things!" Mama whispered harshly. "Your father still needs to be able to make it home. You know he's coming from Benning."
"I'm sorry, Mama." I averted my eyes and looked to the ground. "You know sometimes my mouth moves faster than my mind."
We moved mounds of boxes and rearranged furniture in order to reveal three solar-powered generators, each equipped with their own silencer. Daddy bought the silencers a few years ago after someone at the lab told him it would be a better investment than soundproofing the house. Mama handed me a bright orange extension cord and I plugged it into the socket that tied to the solar panels up on the roof. With the dark green cord attached to the orange one, I connected the silencers to the generators.
"We'll turn them on when the power goes out. It's useless to do it now," Mama concluded. She stood with pursed lips and looked around the basement. "Do you think we have enough?" she asked me, no doubt regretting not buying more when she had the chance. Mama was like that―always thinking about things from the past. I learned to love her for it.
"There's more than enough, Mama," my eyes scanned the large underground room nearly filled to its brim with food. "You and Daddy have been waiting for this. Preparing. We're going to be fine."
"Oh, Emma," she hugged me again. "Sometimes I don't know what I did so right that God chose to give me you. All those babies up in Heaven and I got the best one."
"Mama, stop it. You know I hate that."
I have never been able to be comfortable when receiving compliments. When I was seven and a girl in my class told me she liked my shoes, I kicked her. When I was sixteen and that same girl, Beth, took every chance she could to mention how "cute" my haircut was, I went home one day and chopped it all off. But I can't do anything about Mama's compliments. Mama's compliments cut down to my core, the innermost of who I am. I'm not about to change who I am over a silly compliment.
"Go on upstairs, now," I told her with a kiss on the cheek. "I'm going to make sure everything is organized the way Daddy likes it. Lord knows he'll have a fit if it isn't."
She did as I asked and mentioned something about making tomato soup for dinner. I was too enthralled with the massive stock pile in front of me to listen to her. Mama and Daddy had been building it for years ever since he first learned of the biological weapon set to take out the terrorists in the Middle East. Daddy got a hunch that something would go wrong and when Daddy got hunches, he was usually right. Since then, on every trip to the store they would pick up a little more than they needed for the week and eventually started making trips for the stock pile alone. It had everything: canned goods, dry goods, meat dated and frozen that could last up to two years. And water. Gallons and gallons of water along with at least thirty cases of bottled twenty four packs. If that wasn't enough, the house was also on its own well system that Daddy had installed on his own. Our water came from the stream that ran about a mile from our back porch and was one hundred percent purified thanks to Daddy's knowledge of chemicals.
Our backyard housed a garage, cow house, and chicken coop. All three had been soundproofed last winter by Daddy. I swear you could stand right next to the cow house and not hear a single "moo" until the door was opened. The cow house held six cows: three for milking, three for meat if things went bad. The chicken coop was for eggs and every day meat. Daddy said the things reproduce enough that it doesn't matter how many we eat. The garage held its own survival necessities: two cars with full gas tanks (revved twice a month to make sure they were still in tip-top shape), twenty gas containers filled to their breaking points, and "go bags" for each of us. The "go bags" included knife sets, a change of clothes, a first aid kit, and walkie talkies so we could stay connected incase of separation. It's better to have an emergency plan, Daddy once told me, than to lose your family with silly mistakes. There was also a vegetable garden near the porch.
I thought Daddy was nuts when he first told me he was going to do all this to our home. I was seventeen, almost eighteen, and getting ready to graduate high school. I didn't have a plan for college because Daddy wasn't going to let me go. He said he "couldn't risk" me going. Being twenty five and still working on a Master's degree is embarrassing but it took me a whole year to convince him that I'd be okay in Alabama. The University had been my dream school since I first learned about it as a sophomore. I wanted to be an actress and it had an incredible theatre program. When I went to Daddy with the idea, he gave me a flat out "no" and refused to talk about it again until a few months later when I got Mama on my side. The answer was still "no." The normal argument for kids who want to go to school at a big university is that the family can't afford it. My family could afford it―Daddy's job paid him well more than we needed to survive―but I still couldn't go because of Daddy's hunch. What finally got him to agree was a performance I gave at the county fair. He saw my talent and said "yes" but made me sit through a three hour long briefing over the procedure for when something finally happened with his hunch.
That's how I knew to come home when he called me. Daddy never called me when I was away at school. He said it was "too hard" to hear my voice and know I was so far away.
"Emma! Come up here!" Mama yelled from upstairs. I rose to my feet from my knees and left a tower of soup cans on the floor. "Hurry!"
"What is it?" I asked, rubbing my hands on my jeans.
"Look," she pointed at the TV with her hand covering her mouth.
"The interstates are completely shut down. I repeat: the interstates are completely shut down. Don't try to leave your homes, folks, because you won't get anywhere. There's still no news as to why the roadblocks have been put in place but we'll let you know as soon as it happens. This is Tracy Adkins with KWLX News."
My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. "But what about Daddy?" I asked with tears brimming my eyes. "He'll get home, right?"
"He's gotta make it home," Mama nodded and, for the third time that day, pulled me into a hug. "He's gotta."
But Daddy didn't come home that night. Or the next. Or the one after that. He didn't come home on the night that Mama and I turned on the news and saw Tracy Adkins get torn to shreds by another human being, either. He didn't come home when the power went out and we had to run the generators. He didn't come home when the nights started to get sticky. He especially didn't come home when me and Mama started praying two times a day instead of one.
One day it got too hard for Mama to bear. We didn't know what was going on outside of our property line, all we knew was that the screams were getting closer and closer and louder and louder. There were more of them―we could hear them coming from past the stream. Not knowing where Daddy was kept her up at night, crying. It seemed that's all she ever did. Cry. I constantly thought about Tracy Adkins and the thing that tore the flesh from her body, wondering if that's what was causing the screams. I found out the answer on the day I found my Mama hanging from the rafters in the cow house.
I remember her skin being a different tint than her normal milky white. Her blond hair had become a dull gray and her once bright green eyes were the color of an old chocolate bar left out in the snow. At first I thought I was still sleeping―I'd just woken up and had gone to the cow house to get milk for breakfast. It crossed my mind as I was putting my shoes on that Mama should have been up already, scrambling eggs or mincing vegetables, but I didn't think twice about it. When I let her loose, I thought she was still my Mama. But then she attacked me. She chased me back up to the porch and when I tripped over a step, she grabbed my leg and tried to bite me. This is how I saw Tracy die.
The inner battle between killing your Mama and letting her kill you is not something I would wish on anyone. Eventually my thought process turned from this is my Mama to I refuse to die like this and when it did, I went into high gear.
I kicked until she let go of my leg and stood up faster than I ever had before. I swung open the back door and ran inside, grabbing the only knife I could find on such short notice (Daddy didn't like it when knives were left out in the open). Mama left the one I used near the sink last night instead of washing it like she should have. Out of pure luck, I whacked her the first time I spun around and got her in the neck. It was already unsteady due to the rope she'd tied around it and my swing got her so hard that her entire head looked like a hangnail ready to fall off. Resisting the urge to vomit I stuck the knife directly through her forehead causing her to drop to the ground, officially dead.
Mama wasn't my Mama anymore.
The next day I buried her in the backyard next to her petunias. She spent hours and hours making them perfect, I figured that's where she would want to be. It's too bad that Mama did what she did―the screams stopped soon after she was gone.
That was two months and three days ago. Today is the Fourth of July and for the first time in my life I won't be at the county fair. I won't be watching fireworks with Matt. I don't even know where Matt is. I'm all alone in this big old house with a basement full of food and the rest of my land stocked with survival supplies. I haven't seen any living thing other than the animals in months. Even the squirrels that I used to hate so much are starting to disappear.
I'm by myself and waiting for my Daddy to find me. Hopefully death doesn't get here first.