You and Me versus Zombies 010

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     Sam has different levels of “losing it”.
     As I leave the supermarket he is gearing up for a spectacular tantrum. His face is red, his lungs are swelling, and his dummy hangs on his bottom lip ready to escape.
     In a practised move, I lower my bags, hang the rifle in the crook of my arm, and strip the wrapping from a lollypop. With one hand I whip the dummy away, and plug the lollypop in its place.
     “Mfft,” says Sam happily.
     “Make it last,” I say, rolling the supermarket door shut.

You and Me versus Zombies 009

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     The shopping bags are threaded over my left arm, the torch held in my left hand with the rifle under my right arm. I move the torch beam over the checkout area, past the freezers, and over the start of the shopping aisle. Two rats run past my foot and I relax. Live rats are a good sign.
     I walk quickly to the baby area. From the shelf I pull down two large cans of formula, saying a silent prayer of thanks to the god responsible for this miracle substance. Two packs of disposable nappies, some arse-wipes, and a spare dummy.
     Back to the front of the supermarket, I walk past a lolly stand and grab two lollypops and stuff them in my pocket.
     At the exit I hesitate at the door of the liquor department. The display of clean-skin wines are still there. I look at them for a long time.
     Sam cries outside.
     I turn away, yet my hand grabs a bottle as I exit the store.

You and Me versus Zombies 008

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     We pass under the Town Hall clock town, its hands forever frozen at the moment the suburb had its final blackout.
     Past the post office and the darkened Library. Only once did I press my face up to the windows and stare inside. I long to be able to clean out the building and access the accumulated knowledge inside, but that day I saw the spun tendrils and gossamer hanging from the ceiling and walls, and deep in the darkness unknown bodies moved. I give the Library wide birth now.
     I am certain that supermarket is as clear as it can be, but I still feel my pulse beginning to increase as I get near the locked roller door. This is the only viable access to the building, the others I long since boarded and blocked up. Nevertheless, the roof is thin, and maybe something found access in the days since the last shopping trip.
     I undo the padlock and heave up the roller door, staring into the gloom until my eyes start to itch. Then from the pram I pull out my torch, several shopping bags, and my rifle.
     At the doorway I turn and wink at Sam.
     “Don’t go anywhere,” I say.
     “Lollipop!”
     “We’ll see.”

You and Me versus Zombies 007

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     I feel myself relax with relief seeing no evidence of the brawl I thought I heard during the night. The covering and clean-up of the aftermath from the night was a morning job I never relish, not least of which is the added difficulty of doing it with Sam nearby.
     Take the time it takes to normally to a job. Multiply it by five.
     As I push the pram, I find myself yet again musing on What Happened.
     A virus. Reanimating people and stripping them of their humanity. New creatures stalking the streets at night, spreading their curse though their bite.
     Ridiculous.
     I find I am rubbing unconsciously my wrist where a crescent bite-wound received during Zero Hour is still healing. The worry since that night has diminished, replaced by other more pressing concerns.
     Ridiculous, I tell myself again. Totally ridiculous.

You and Me versus Zombies 006

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     I had not realised how late the morning was until I stepped outside. The street beyond the Fence was bright in the late morning sun. The tall, over-growing grass from the nature strip in the middle of the road is bright green and glistens from the rain just before dawn. The still-damp street is washed of some of the accumulated dirt, though clumps of matted and decomposing leaves are still piled in random heaps. I survey as much as I can see from behind the Fence, a large roll of blankets under one arm in case I need to cover any fallen bodies.
     Satisfied, I unlocked the gate and step onto the footpath.
     Behind me, Sam rocks impatiently in his pram.
     “Dada push!” he commands. “Dada push!”

Confirmed: the Earth is warming

The Berkeley Earth Project is an independent group (set up after the so-called “Climategate” affair) who have just released their conclusions on Global Warming: yes, the Earth is getting hotter.

There are three things I find interesting about these results.

The first is the “many paths, one destination” in science. In terms of checking someone’s results, the first step is to see if you get to the same conclusion. The next step is to see if you get the same conclusion using a combination of different data sets and different analysis methods. Result: it appears the Earth is still warming.

The second is their approach to publishing the data. It is yet to be presented in a peer-reviewed journal, but first you (yes, you sitting at the keyboard) can download their datasets and check the results for yourself.

This “Democratisation of Science” — the completely transparent publication of data and results — is a possible future of science publication and discussion.

The third is the fact that some of the groups funding this project are lobbying against climate action. Nevertheless, the world still warms.

More information from BBC Science and Environment: Global warming ‘confirmed’ by independent study.

You and Me versus Zombies 005

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     In the new life, take the time it normally takes to do a task, and multiply it by five. Maybe ten.
     I shovel cereal and fruit puree into Sam’s little mouth, and leave him on the couch sucking down one last bottle of formula. It gives me enough time to drain my coffee and eat a near-expired breakfast bar.
     I change his nappy. It’s only wet today, so the morning poo hasn’t come yet. I decide to risk it and put on a fresh nappy, then coax his wriggling limbs into a singlet, pants, shirt, jumper, socks, shoes, and a tiny jacket with Bob the Builder on it.
     I check the pram. I make sure the tool kit is secure, I have enough cotton shopping bags, and some freshly loaded magazines for the rifle.
     I comfort the boy. Ten minutes on the couch cuddling Sam after he bangs his head on the coffee table chasing his train. I pretend my hand is possessed by a tickling monster, and we spend another fifteen minutes chasing each other around the house with tickles.
     His pants are wet. Forgot to check his peenie was point the right way when I put on his nappy. I change the nappy and his pants.
     I put on yesterdays clothes and I hear him grunting in the corridor. The morning poo has arrived.
     I clean him up. I change his nappy.
     We are in front of the door. He is in his chariot. My hand is on the latch.
     “Ready?”

You and Me versus Zombies 004

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     In the front room is our pram. Sam’s chariot. My pride.
     The selection of the pram was on of the few things I had control over in the months of Sam’s approach. I had spent several hours one morning in the pram section of a baby warehouse. Prams sat in rows like a car showroom, and I carefully test drove every model around the warehouse; feeling the shifting weight as it cornered; checking the break’s release lever; collapsing the frame for storage and transport.
     I eventually decided on a model from Sweden, that had six different configurations like a transforming toy.
     Since Zero Hour, it has had only two modifications. The harness that holds Sam snugly can now be released from the main frame of the pram, and Sam can be thrown papoose-like onto my back for quick get-aways. This involved several nights of careful snipping and stitching, and the cannibalising of two backpacks and one child’s car seat.
     The second modification is the rifle bag slung under the handle.

You and Me versus Zombies 003

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     I leave the kettle rumbling on the camp burner and unbolt the back sliding door. The entire back used to be windows, but I long since boarded it up with the front doors of several houses in the my street.
     I’ve never been sure what to call the back of my house. ‘Backyard’ always conjures images of lawn and swimming pool, which it certainly does not have. ‘Courtyard’ is just wrong, too. Patio? I just don’t know.
     I step onto the night-cooled wooden boards and look up to the morning blue sky. It feels slightly claustrophobic here, what with my extensions the fence. High fences makes good neighbours of the things outside.
     Secured to one side is a metal ladder. I quickly scale it to the top and look over the rooftops of my suburb. The back alley behind the house is thankfully clear this morning. Extending is all directions are tiled rooftops, covering their various secrets, and possibly occupants. I just don’t know.
     In the distance is the city skyline. Skyscrapers once the home of commerce, now forever dark at night. Two plumes of smoke curl past the buildings from unseen fires that have been burning for the last two months. I would go and investigate, but I learned early that the CBD was not a place to visit. No exceptions.
     I hear happy cackle from below me. I look down and see Sam standing on the second rung of the ladder, jigging in his triumph. For a moment I feel torn about his achievement. Should I tell him off for doing something so obviously dangerous for him? Maybe I should let him have his moment of victory? I just don’t know.

You and Me versus Zombies 002

(Or, A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World. Explanation.)

     I wander into the kitchen cum dinning cum living room that makes up the entire back quarter of the townhouse. Somewhere my foot hits a plastic train, and I hear the oversized wheels rattle as it runs under the couch. Sam twists in my arms and he’s already running to the toy as I put him on the floorboards.
     From the pantry I pull a 500mL plastic bottle of spring water and crack open its cap. I pop the lid of the kettle and upend the bottle into the opening, and leave it to drain noisily.
     I twist the gas knob and set the burners going with a long match. The box rattles emptily. One more thing on the shopping list.
     While the kettle hisses, I stand in front of the pantry and do a stock-take. Breakfast cereal packets line the top like happy, fun-coloured bricks. Next shelf have stacked dozens of packets of raw fettuccine like piles of cut logs. Sitting next to them is a battalion of pasta sauce jars. Instant coffee and baby formula are on the bottom shelf, along with bottled water.
     I shake one of the formula cans, and hear the complementary measuring spoon rattle in what’s left of the powder. How could I let that get so low?
     “Sam,” I say to the nappied bottom and stubby legs sticking out from under the couch. “We’re going shopping.”