In the moments afterwards, when it was all over, there was a stark stillness. The silence was deafening, almost a physical thing in its completeness. Then… somewhere…in the distance…a dog barked. The sound carries across a vast emptiness, through broken panes of glass and an open door. There’s a blink of an eye, a draw of a breath and time begins anew. Reset to the horror that lay sprawled on the laminated faux wood panels of the kitchen floor.

She looks to the boy, who returns her gaze with terror filled eyes brimming with tears. He’s big for his age, wise beyond his years but still…just a child. His white knuckles clutching the aluminum hilt of the Louisville Slugger that was swung in her defense mere moments ago with a ferocity that defied his age. Her heart goes out to him, but there is no time for sorrow or sympathy. She must quell the tears before they begin to fall…least she join him in a sea of broken bitter emotions. What was that thing HE used to do…?

Reflexive remembrance as she points a finger toward the boy, garnering his attention. Then raising it to an upwards position, with a simultaneous cock of her head and quirk of her brow. Now flatten the hand and lower it slowly and in doing so the boy finds his breath and takes one. She joins him in this much needed action, as her mind registers that maintaining this calm implies answering the currently pressing query of- “What next?” More importantly what would HE have done next?

Already broken guidelines had manufactured this current dilemma – Conserve finite resources. Never drive when you can walk. Don’t unless you have to. Always look back! Never assume safety. Unarmed is dangerous. Be sure to bar the gates. And, keep all doors closed unless you are in the doorway! Now their only redemption rests in following protocol.

HE had procedures in place for virtually every potential contingency. Ergo most of his statements began with the phrase – “In the event…” Now within this event she had to remember, recall and regulate the rules he’d carefully laid out…or perhaps written down?

Sparks of inspiration ignite as she crosses the room to his home office and the piles of papers within. All categorized and alphabetized for easy access…“in the event”. Thus a potential eternity passes in seconds as she quickly finds the one she seeks and sets recovery into motion. The boy’s eyes alight with relief as she reenters the room with The Rules.

Rule #1: “Make sure it’s over, there are no more, and that everything’s secure.” She sets the boy to this task before noting…

Rule #2: “Don’t go it alone unless you have to” and quickly catches up to the child.

Hatches battened down, all quiet on the western front.

Rule #3: “Remove, don’t drag, and use a bag.” Thus their burden is plastic-wrapped, loaded onto hand trucks and rolled out.

Rule #4: “Dig and dispose.” This task is exhausting yet nowhere near as unappealing as —

Rule #6: “Burn and bury.” An acrid stench fills the air and burial, amidst gagging, is a bit premature to quell the odor.

Rule #7: “Clear and clean.” Backtracking, all traces removed. Once inside, Clorox will come heavily into play.

Rule #8: “Repair and reestablish”. The damage to the backdoor is minimal. Shards of broken glass are removed and a replacement board will have to suffice.

Rule #9: “Wash, rinse, repeat.” Baths are swift with no shortage of suds and scrubbing to scour away potential contaminants. Clothes are laundered as best they can be and weaponry is warily washed.

This leaves only — Rule#10: “Smoke a cigarette, your work here is done.” She gives a small gasp and her heart aches…this must have been written…just before he… Her thoughts are drowned by the sound of a vehicle entering their makeshift compound. Breathing a sigh of relief she completes her thought… quit smoking.

Stepping from the suburban armored SUV, he greets the boy motioning for him to start unloading supplies. He then crosses the distance between them in three long strides and takes her into his arms. Pulling her close he gently whispers the words she knows are coming, “How did a zombie get into the kitchen?”

I welcome almost all questions, comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected].

Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused! See ya.