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!”

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.”

You and Me versus Zombies 001

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

     I wake with Sam’s finger in my eye.
     “Aye,” he says. He’s drooling around the dummy, deftly held in his mouth even while talking.
     He takes out his finger and I blink to clear my vision, and he stuffs it up my nostril.
     “Noz,” he says.
     I gently pull his hand away and give him a cuddle while I wake up. Last night was a rough, and I had woken several time to howls in the street. Probably another pack fight, which means I’ll be street-cleaning again. Another never-ending task to add to today’s routine.
     I feel Sam writhe in my arms, and I silently cursed his current sleeping patterns. In actual fact, I curse myself. I know the routine, but I still faffed about last night being busy and achieving nothing, knowing full well he was going to spring awake at sparrow’s fart. I think I finally fell into a deep sleep in the early hours, only to now be interrupted by the naming-game.
     I flex my jaw. There’s a dull ache near my ear, which probably means I’m grinding my teeth again. This is concerning. The nearest dentist probably can’t remember how to open doors, let alone do any reconstructive work. I work my mouth, and a small hand gets stuffed inside.
     “Teeff,” says Sam.

You and Me versus Zombies

Over the past several years I have mentioned to people (usually with a wine glass in my hand and slightly slurring) that I had an idea for a story called “A Reluctant Father’s Guide to Child-Raising in a Post-Apocalyptic World.”

The idea sprang from a couple of sources. Mainly that (when Gabe was on the way) I couldn’t stand the So-You’re-Going-To-Be-A-Father books that I was presented with. Presumptuous, belittling paperbacks, usually filled with cartoons of incompetent males trying to change nappies.

(I only ever found one that spoke on my wavelength: Dad Rules by Andrew Clover. Very insightful and utterly brilliant.)

“If I was ever to write one of those books,” I would say, “It would have a backdrop of the zombie-apocalypse.”

Several have said they would like to see such a story. So here it comes.

I have taken a page (ahem) out of Max Barry’s book, and will be presenting it one page a day, give or take a paragraph.