A Quieter Life
By Luke Aldridge Feb 2019
It’s been a funny sort of year. I guess it all started with those news reports, low key, a couple here and there, all about incidents somewhere up north so we didn’t take much notice. Some sort of infection, origin unknown, may have come from some form of animal, blah blah blah. With everything else that was going on in the world, Trump, Brexit, it didn’t seem like it was worth the time or energy even registering the bloody story. And then we got a call from our sons school with a letter to parents emailed out almost immediately after they had hung up. Our boy had been bitten by one of his class mates who appeared to be carrying some sort of infection. Kids fight, scrap, fall over, you get the odd one who’s clearly not been taught not to bite other people. You think nothing of it, kids will be kids. But it had to be that fucking Romero kid, what’s her name, Georgina I think. The parents always let her and her older brothers run riot, never seemed to have them under control and then this happens. They said that it must have been contracted when they went up to see her parents in Durham over the weekend before the incident at school. They couldn’t find any puncture wounds on any of them and had no idea how the virus was transferred but it was the first case reported south of Manchester.
I saw the kid when I dropped my boy off in the morning. She looked pasty, coughing all over the place, fuck me if that were one of mine I’d have kept her off school rather than subject the whole nursery group to whatever it was that she had. And it turned out that what she had was a bit more serious than a chesty cough or a snotty nose. She spent most of break time on her own in the wendy house outside and had to be fetched by Mrs Riley. We later found out that the ambulance had been called for her, throat torn out when Georgina turned shortly before Mrs Riley popped her head round the door. Needless to say that she didn’t make it. The kid then managed to bite four other kids before three members of staff pinned her down and locked her in the friendship shed. Of the 25 children in that day why did my boy have to get bitten? Less than one in five chance. My poor little man.
The letter sounded so familiar that I had to figure out why, it was bugging the shit out of me. So I went through the most recent letters sent out by the school. Frankly I didn’t sleep much those first two weeks that followed and what else was I going to do? It turns out that had literally resent a fucking head lice letter but had replaced the words ‘head lice’ with ‘zombification’. Well nearly all, they didn’t even have the decency to proof read it, there was a random ‘head lice’ left half was through the second paragraph. Same kids too. Outbreak in nursery and year 4. Those fucking Romero kids. First we have to treat our boy for lice and then he’s turned into the walking dead.
So we got our boy home, medical specialists were drafted in from up north to treat the four kids that had been bitten and to make sure that the Romeros were isolated. Still to this day they haven’t been seen, taken away by Government types, no one has heard from them since. Can’t say I’m bothered, I hear that nursery is a lot quieter now. Well, without Georgina and the four infected kids. They treated the fever, prescribed bed rest and strongly advised that we fit either a lock or a solid stair gate on his bedroom door. It took him three days to turn, a full day longer than the other kids. He always was a fighter. I would try to get a couple of hours on the floor outside his room, not wanting to be too far away if he needed me or miss him making the transformation. Part of the prep for this was to issue us with a revolver and cover some basic training, target practise, that sort of thing. My wife couldn’t stand to look at the thing let alone fire it so I took it upon myself to make sure that I could handle it, practising daily and always having it close to hand.
He turned in the middle of the night. 2:03am. I will never forget that time in the same way that you never forget when they were born. The moaning woke me and I watched in floods of tears as he stumbled out of bed and up to the stair gate. His reached for me, glazed eyes and outstretched arms, his grey skin made even more lifeless by the semi darkness, light creeping up from the downstairs hall that I must have left on. My first instinct was to pick him up and hold him close, what any decent parent would do if their kid reached out for them, for comfort, for assurance but I managed to stop myself before one infected member of the family became two. I sat with him for hours, holding his hand and talking to him, the sound of my voice seeming to sooth him although I still don’t know if touching him helped or just made him want to bite me even more. Mum woke up with her alarm at 6:30 but I have no idea why she was still setting it as we had both been given paid leave from work, Government orders. Habit I guess. We spent the rest of that day just sitting with him, the metal bars between us, keeping us safe from the gnashing monster that had been our dear sweet baby boy a day earlier.
We had made the decision to remove all of his teeth by the end of that first day but a full week had passed before I had plucked up the nerve to actually commit to the act. We both wore thick leather gardening gloves just in case, she held him down while I pulled each of his twenty milk teeth out with a pair of pliers. They came out easier than I thought they would do, partial decay I guess but his reaction was harder to deal with than I would ever have imagined. He may have turned but he still reacted to every single one being pulled out and I swear he wouldn’t look at me for a couple of days after that. We kept them as any parent would keep baby teeth, it’s just a shame that it had to be the Pliers Fairy rather than the Tooth Fairy. Having said that it did mean that we had a full set in one go rather than waiting for years, collecting one by one. I suggested that we do something with them, jewellery maybe or some sort of display piece. She wasn’t keen. Once the bleeding had stopped and he’d had a day to heal we fed him a juicy raw steak to suck on, then we tentatively let him out into the hallway. He still tried to chew us but with a total lack of teeth it had turned into a sort of soggy, blood soaked kiss. The outstretched arms were easily encouraged into a cuddle, arms being placed over our shoulders and round our necks rather than directed at our throats or eyes. This little find was a huge turning point for us. We felt like we had got our son back or a piece of him anyway. He was being affectionate or at least without teeth that’s what it had become.
The cat wouldn’t go near him, I figured that rather than try to re-home him or simply lock him out we may as well put him to good use. Cut up into pieces he lasted nearly two weeks as food for the boy, some kept in the freezer after we chucked most of his favourites, fish fingers and those little frozen pizzas that he wouldn’t look at any more. He didn’t seem fussed about what meat it was, it just needed to be raw, the bloodier the better.
The first family gathering was an interesting one. Some of the rellys didn’t see it as we did, were extremely vocal about how we should have him put down, give him over for research or lock him up until they found a cure. We don’t speak to them anymore, on the plus side our Christmas card list is shorter and we have saved on pressies this year. The in laws were pretty cool about the whole thing, only asking us to put him on a chain after his younger cousin got upset by him and wanted to go home. After a couple of visits she got used to it and they now play like they used to before he turned. She always was fairly bossy, dressing him up like a princess, deciding what games they were going to play etc so I guess not too much has changed in that respect.
Thanks to Government funding neither of us had to go back to work, we are now full time carers, something that was becoming more popular in the first six months of the outbreak and then was stamped out when the exterminations started. Rounding the infected up and keeping them in camps, often destroying huge numbers of them when their resources were stretched. Various protest groups were up in arms about human rights violations, it didn’t take long for the powers that be to have them officially declared as ‘non-human’ due to a lack of pulse and being devoid of independent decision making. I often joked with the wife that that definition covers most of the people that I used to work with, especially Steve in accounts so we should have a whip round and have him shipped off to one of those camps. I have to say that I don’t agree with the findings at all, there may be a massive amount of inbuilt habit and instinct in what they do but I have often given him the choice of two different cuts of meat and he’s chosen one without too many issues. But then I guess I’m going to say that aren’t I? Well that’s what that reporter said after she did that piece on us in the local rag. Nice as pie she was when she was round, had a photographer bloke with her, took a load of pictures, listened to our story, asked lots of lovely questions. And then what she printed made us sound like the fucking Adams Family accompanied by the one photo where he was trying to take a bite out of her arm. Bastards. Not too many of our local friends wanted much to do with us after that. Thank goodness for our weekly ‘Caring for the Infected’ support group and our fortnightly meet ups with the other three families that were affected. Admittedly it has to be during the middle of the night at our local park which they have to open up especially and we have to have two armed military personnel with us in case any of the kids escape but it’s worth the effort just to see them interacting with each other. Two of the families took our advice and removed the teeth too, Ash and his wife couldn’t face it and invested in a muzzle instead. I even offered to do it for them but they said that they just couldn’t put their little soldier through that, no matter what the risk was to them.
They had a joint transformation celebration party last week, bless them. We invited the whole of their old nursery class, got a card from one parent but no RSVPs sadly. It was a big old hall, hired a kids entertainer, DJ, the whole lot. No idea how Shaun got his muzzle off but it’s probably best that none of the nursery lot came along. I had to fill in a lot of paperwork and Ash had to do that infection awareness course that we all dread, sounds like a speed awareness course and turns out that it’s just as much fun as it sounds. I never thought that I would ever have to shoot a full grown man in clown make up but I had no choice after he turned and went after Ash. Christ, why didn’t he do the sensible thing and get rid of those teeth? Soppy bastard.
So, a year on and we are all coping so much better. The boy has got into a routine, feeds regularly and as a result he’s lost all signs of aggression, he just likes to be around people. We’re even getting back into a few of the things that he used to love back in the day, we put on Bing for him which he loves, I kick a football around in the garden with him and while he’ll never be the next David Beckham he still loves it and it’s lovely daddy bonding time. I guess we were the lucky ones, getting infected so early on, before the camps. You have to hope that somewhere down the line they’ll make something if a U-Turn on those laws and people will see that they haven’t lost their loved ones, it’s just a different way of life that takes a bit of getting used to. Truth be told there are moments when I’m glad he got bitten. We can leave him on his own in the house from time to time, as long as he’s got something to munch on, telly’s on and he’s chained up he’s no bother. I even think about infecting the wife while she’s asleep. It would certainly be a quieter life for me……