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My older sister, Immogen, died wiping her little hands on her little eyes to clear them, her fingers filthy from clawing at the face of a zombie who had been trying to eat her. I was six, she was eight. When my father saw that she was most certainly Infected, he said to me, “Ophelia, close your eyes,” and he hammered her skull in, just like he had the zombie’s.
We buried Immogen along the side of the road, under billowing, yellow grass. We knew that we shouldn’t, but Dad said that he was pretty sure that he had put her to a Final Rest. We should have cut off her pigtailed head, closed her big, brown eyes, and burned her all the way to a crisp, to make sure that she couldn’t climb out of the ground and walk around again. But we didn’t. We wrapped her up in the best wool blanket we had. We dug a hole six feet deep. We put her in and we covered her up with dirt. I left her a daisy that I found, and then we were back in The Car. The Car that Immogen and I grew up in.
We never had a house. I couldn’t remember the apartment that Mom said we had before the zombies came. I could only remember my sister, with me in the backseat, in the arms of a ghoul at a rest stop, and then in the cold, wet ground. The ground was too damp and chill for her warm fingers that passed me used crayons, so I imagined her still next to me, sharpening the ones that I broke. But the colors just built up in a pile on the empty seat, while Mom cried and Dad clenched the steering wheel on our trip ever North. We were driving to the Far North in our rusty, maroon sedan – the Far North, where at least the zombies froze every winter and we could buy a real house, on The Cheap, from The Government.
I asked Immogen’s ghost if anyplace farther North really did freeze, if we would really be safer in a real house, if I would still be alive to see it, if I would be alone forever without her. The empty seat said nothing. My crayons rolled onto the floor and the billboards faded to violent pastels as we chugged past.
We drove and drove as far as we could everyday, past Government Contingency Plans, past Rangers with their uniforms and badges, their mottled pressboard signs with warnings and instructions and abandoned Hospitals shrouded in barbed wire. There were never enough supplies for the Government Contingency Plans. There were holes in fences. No more plywood to cover the windows. Screens had to be repaired every morning, the sound of hammering nails drawing the walking dead even closer. They would eat you if they got a chance. They would steal your bigger sister while she gathered kindling.
There were bricks piled along the ditches, awaiting sturdier construction projects, but there was also constant gardening and cooking to be done. Those who had foolishly bought houses where the zombies never froze had to do their chores under the threat of teeth and claws. There was wood chopping and clothes sewing and water fetching and diaper changing. With all of the living going on, it was hard to have time to prepare for the dead. So people got eaten …