Emotional Outbreak: Forgiveness

by Brandon

The next story in the Emotional Outbreak marathon is from author Jeanette Raleigh. You can read more about Jeanette’s books by checking out her author’s page on Amazon.

Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the theme of this zombie-related Halloween story marathon, you can read about it here.

The emotion Jeanette chose is forgiveness.



Jeanette Raleigh

The world changed from shadowy twilight to the midnight pit of darkness in a matter of days, perhaps hours. I knew my life had changed when I stood on Main Street and watched old Joe Short gnawing on Kara Williams. He wasn’t alone. The crowd knelt like pigs feeding at a trough.

I loved Kara. I left her to die. And now I can’t forgive myself. Joe was a sweet old man with a kind word and a smile for everyone. When I watched Kara’s blood trickle down the corner of his mouth, my stomach lurched, tears filled my eyes, and I turned from the scene with my heart pounding. I ran.

Jumping into my Mom’s Toyota, trip to the grocery store forgotten, I fled from the gruesome scene. I didn’t stop for a single stop sign and nearly hit a blue car because of it. We lived on the edge of town, just far enough to have a few cows and sheep, and a pair of dogs. We left them to die, too. I nearly ran the car into the porch because I was driving so fast up the gravel driveway.

“Mom,” I screamed. “Mom!”

She hurried out of the house with a dish towel in her soapy hands. “What is it?”

“Zombies. Here. The curse is here.” I clenched my jaw. “We need to get out.”

“Your father’s in the back pasture. Take the pick-up. I’m going to the school for your sister.” Mom was a no-nonsense kind of lady. A kid doesn’t appreciate this kind of thing when failing algebra or skipping English class, but when it came to a zombie outbreak, there was none better.

I swallowed, “Are you sure we shouldn’t all go? What I saw…Mom, at least a dozen people are infected.”

“The news said that these outbreaks spread fast and there’s no containing them. You get your Dad and the survival kit. I’ll be back before you know it.”

That was the last time I saw her human. I let her go. I was just a kid and didn’t know any better. That’s what I tell myself when I remember that moment. I did what she asked. I brought Dad in from the fields and we pulled the 55 gallon bottle of water off the porch, the boxes of bandages and food out of the pantry. Two minutes and we were ready. We knew the game plan. We’d talked about it enough when a little town in Kansas was hit and only twenty people got out alive. The plan was simple. Retreat to the house. If me or Cathy was in town for any reason, the parent closest to the car would drive to get us. Everyone else was to stay put. Which we did. For fifteen minutes.

A lot can happen in a quarter of an hour. And once we were ready to load, we paced and fretted and told ourselves that the women would never let us forget ruining all of the months of careful planning.

Dad wore a John Deere cap and his clothes were dusty. After he’d done all of the pacing he could stand, he said, “We’d best get into town and see what’s keeping your mother.”

She wouldn’t have had time to get there and back, but worry was etched on his face, and I was tired of waiting. We loaded our rifles and drove back to town. Girl’s basketball finished practice at 5:30. It was five o’clock now. I felt sick. “Do you think they’re okay?”

He shrugged, his mouth pressed into a thin line, but he said, “I’m sure they are. No one dead or alive would cross your mother.”

We found the car first. It was parked in the small patch of grass in front of the gym. The driver’s door was open and the car was still running.

“Stay in the truck.”

I put a hand on Dad’s arm and pointed to the gravel parking lot. “It’s too late.”

They moved in a single mass and Mom and Cathy stumbled toward us with the rest of the zombies. They were coming for us, the whole volleyball team and half of their parents.

“We run.” He looked so lost. Who would listen to his ranting about cattle feed anymore? Mom had that special way of listening.

“Dad?” We’d pulled out to the street.

He didn’t hear me.

“Dad, Mom said she wanted you to finish it. Remember?”

It was the night that Washington D.C. lost thirty senators, the night the president admitted to a biological weapon gone wrong. Everyone already knew at that point anyway. Three scientists blew the whistle on the operation when San Diego fell. One served prison time. After a million deaths, the Commander and Chief told the truth.

We peeled out of town at fifty over the speed limit. Later that evening, I stared out the window watching the rolling hills turn into pine. And all I wanted was to go back and be a zombie with Mom and Cathy. I felt dead inside anyway. “Why didn’t we do what Mom wanted?”

“I couldn’t be the one to….I just couldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t ask you.” My dad started crying and wiping his eyes with his sleeve. “I’m a coward. I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t thinking of the act of hurting Mom when I asked Dad that question, not of the actual act, only of her earnestness when she asked that when the time came, he put her out of her misery. “It’s okay, Dad. Maybe she changed her mind.”

“She didn’t change her mind. And I never promised. You know how she is when she gets to talking. I never said a word. I never said I would.” His voice felt like hail on the windows, cold and hard but honest and clean.

“Mom was rambling a lot that night.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“Do you think she will forgive me?”

I thought of Mom baking an apple pie on Saturday morning just because it was Dad’s favorite, and the way she greeted him with a hug even when he’d only been outside to mow the lawn, the way she smiled at him across the dinner table when he was talking wheat prices or getting chickens. She loved him with all her heart. Dad needed hope. We both did, so I said, “Dad, Mom is already gone. I know she forgave you.”

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