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In the Shade of Hydrangeas
In the Shade of Hydrangeas
It is Z-day plus twelve.
Normally the scene in the store would be chaotic; it seems as if the entire town has chosen today to make the byword trip to the supermarket to stock up on nonperishables. “Have these people no originality?” I smile, before remembering that I’m here myself. But the scene is not chaotic; it so happens that every single entity in the store is currently committing a federal offense by amassing in a public venue. The virus has not made its way this far north yet, but they will insist on bothering us with quarantine regulations (there have been some reported Zack sightings in our town, the whimsical bullshit generated by media hyperbole and base unintelligence). Everyone is quiet, nervous. The punishment for being here is severe. There is a faint smell of hydrangeas wafting over from the next aisle down, where I assume the real flowers are on display. It turns out, as I discover upon turning the corner, that it is actually the laundry detergent aisle, and it suddenly occurs to me how very unlike hydrangeas the scent really is. I spot the word ‘electronics’ printed in large blue letters and suspended from the ceiling some yards down. This I head for, dodging fellow people, on the assumption that this is where the jumper cables have been deviously hidden.
I pore through the shelves laden with computer games, CD’s, game controllers, and memory cards, but no automobile accessories are to be found. Nor, for that matter, are any Wal-Mart workers with their ersatz smiles and familiar blue aprons with ‘May I help you?’ slapped sarcastically across the back. I know there must be employees here; necropolypse or no, Wal-Mart will still be making a profit. I squeak briskly for the front of the store intending to attain the assistance of a worker. I stop, having reached the end of aisle 10. There along the wall in front of me are gumball machines, lottery ticket dispensers, sliding glass doors, sodas, the customer service desk, and the checkout lanes. But no employees. Anywhere. Goddamnit.
I yell for help, to no response. Then again, to similar avail. Figuring the cameras are inoperative too, I pocket my selections (Extra socks, batteries, and a birthday card for my daughter), and squeak up to the doors. I nearly bump into them expecting them to open. I back up and wave my arms at the electric eye; it stares back blankly. I look through the glass with my palms pressed against it and behold the parking lot outside. It is filled with cars. There isn’t an empty space in the whole thing. A woman in a green dress joins me in wondering about the doors. I attempt to follow the ‘In emergency, push to open’ sign on the door, but fail miserably. I begin to sense something is very amiss. I look up; the ceiling lights are off. The power grid for the building has been cut off.
I barely have time to contemplate this, register what it means, and mouth the word “fuck” before a percussion grenade detonates on the other side of the glass doors and the world does a cartwheel. I think I have blacked out, but realize only seconds have passed, as I sit up coughing, shards of glass tinkling off me into a pool of blood, which I don‘t think is my own. I look around, and it seems like everyone in the store has been literally frozen, the shards of glass shimmering like ice on their motionless, shocked forms. I sense movement behind me and turn once again. A squadron of Marines, armed with battle rifles and all sporting green, eyeless oxygen masks, enter the room. I am still deaf from the blast, and if the one in front was not speaking through a bullhorn, I wouldn’t be able to hear him.
“Attention, civilians! You are in violation of a martial law decree, no persons shall make use of any public facility unless for the express purpose of refuge. You are all hereby placed under quarantine under the authority…”
His invective is interrupted by the screams of the thawed-out shoppers.
Now there is chaos.
The marines start to form a line; instinctually I get up, stumble backwards, and trip over the body of the woman in the green dress, a sheet of glass embedded in her throat. Now I realize where the blood had come from. I get up, turn, and run. I press into the screaming crowd, elbowing my way through, crawling when I have to. And now the shots break out. I dive under a table to avoid getting trampled; there is another grating barrage of submachinegun fire, and people all around me are cut down. I panic, dig my new white sneakers into the floor, and sprint for the aisles. “This is insane” I think. “The fucking world is insane.” The Wal-Mart has become a caldron of scrambling people, terrified screams and pleas, and an unremitting stream of gunfire. Through an aperture in a shelf I can see some shoppers running at the Marines, flailing anything they have on them. They are mowed down. I am pushed aside, and I fall to the ground. Someone steps on my hand in a high-heeled shoe and I feel my bones break. I get up again, straining to control the agony. I squeak out to an open area, looking left and right for a back exit. They have those covered, too. I try to think of another way out, and fail to see the shelf of kitchenware tip over behind me. I am crushed flat in an instant.
When I wake up, I crawl out from under a mound of Tupperware and knives, holding my fractured skull with my one good hand. When the haze clears away and I gain my balance, I realize that the store is completely empty except for bodies that litter the floor everywhere. The front doors are boarded up. I limp around for a short time, weaving around bodies, searching for a sign of life. I realize the enormity of the massacre that has just happened here and I begin to hyperventilate, still walking. Heavy breathing mixes with the squeaks of my shoes as I stagger down an aisle. My intestines jump slightly as I slowly come to both a halt and a realization: The heavy breathing is not my own. The sound is drifting over from the next aisle, along with the scent of hydrangeas.
“Hello?” I say, barely audibly. The breathing continues, slowly, systematically. I set off quickly for the end of the aisle, turn the corner, and look down the aisle the breathing had come from. It is empty. I run down to the center and the sound issues once more from the aisle I was just in. A chill runs through me. I set off at a quick jog for the front of the store, ignoring the pain and the blood on my chest and left leg. The jog turns swiftly into a frantic sprint when I hear the breathing close behind me. I don’t look back; I just run as fast as I can. I stop abruptly when I reach the back of the store with the realization that I have been running in the wrong direction. I whisper a strong epithet and reverse direction. After twenty feet or so, I stop so suddenly I have to grab the edge of the metal shelf to keep from falling over. At the end of the shelves I see an indiscernible shadow floating on the floor haloed by an ugly white fluorescent light. I turn left, panting, and run into the paint section. I slow down, my eyes flitting left and right at the rows of chrome paint cans. The breathing follows on the other side of the shelf to my right. I turn the corner and turn my head just in time to see a black shape disappear into the aisle where I just was. I don’t stop; I don’t think I can. I reach the back of the store once more, round the corner and find myself in the sporting goods section. A sudden idea hits me. Without thinking too much I send a flying kick into the glass in front of the gun display rack. I scream in agony and fall down into a pile of broken shards, slicing my hands and arms. Ignoring the shrill tintinnabulation of the security alarm I leap up, seizing a shotgun from the rack and proceed to leap over the counter and grab a box of shells. After spilling them on the floor I shove a few into the chamber and cock it, vaulting myself back over the counter. I jog down the aisle, stopping at every shelf and peering cautiously around the corner. I am about halfway to the front of the store when I smell it once more: The unmistakable aroma of hydrangeas. I squeak quietly down to the center of the nearest aisle and listen. My ears are met with the sound of heavy breathing, slow, systematic. I stand there for several minutes until the breathing seems to stop. I press my ear closer to the shelf. There is utter silence, but for the quiet music that drips down from the ceiling speakers…with no warning but a metallic crash, an arm shoots through the paint cans from the other side of the shelf and grabs my neck. I release my gun with one hand to attempt to fend it off, letting out a few struggled yells. I thrash and kick, but the assailant has a row of shelves between myself and him. With a final effort before I black out. I bring the shotgun up with one hand and aim it clumsily into the shelf. Everything goes black, but I still find the strength to pull the trigger. There is a deafening blast, and a shower of smoke and sparks engulfs me. My vision returns, and clutching my swollen throat, I drop the shotgun. Looking with hatred through the smoldering paint-covered hole in the metal shelf, I perceive a few more struggling gasps for breath behind it. I place both hands against the wobbly shelf and push as hard as I can.
My paint-stained jeans and shirt are moving faster than my shoes in the direction of the exit, flecks of blood registering my path. Upon passing the empty check-out stations and unmanned cash registers, my sprint transforms into a leap which shatters the boarded up door and leaves me sprawled on the hard rubber mat outside, squinting against the vivid sunlight gazing down on me.
Post thy commentage below pls kthx.
Here's a screenplay I've been working on. It is based heavily on the vincent Price movie The Last man On Earth. It also integrates into the last story at where I've left off. It's not nearly complete yet...
Scene: Mathesons’ back yard,
Cathy’s birthday party
[seen through video camera]Tony: Hey, Barbara, Barbara!
Barbara: Oh, no, my hair!
Virgil: Hey, where is everybody?
Tony and Barbara: Virgil!
Virgil: I can hear children but I can’t see any children!
Cathy: Uncle Virgil! Uncle Virgil! Uncle Virgil! What did you bring me?
Virgil: Open them and see! [to Tony] Take a look at this!
[end video camera]
TONY throws a newspaper down on the coffee table. The headline reads, “Is Haiti‘s Disease Carried On The Wind?”
Tony: It’s highly theoretical, Virgil.
Virgil: Do I have to remind you that theory is a beginning of solution?
Barbara: [seeing newspaper] Oh, God, is it airborne, Virgil?
Virgil: Could be.
Barbara: And if it is…
Tony: It isn’t, Barbara.
Barbara: Is that what you really think or just what you want to think?
Tony: I can’t accept bullshit theories that sell newspapers. I’m a scientist, not an alarmist.
Virgil: You’re whistling past the graveyard.
Tony: Is that a commentary on my work at the lab?
Virgil: We both know how hard you’ve worked.
Tony: Virgil, I’m sorry; I can’t accept the idea of universal disease.
Cathy: Uncle Virgil, you promised to show us card tricks!
Virgil: All right, Cathy; who can resist that face? All right, Card tricks! [exits]
Barbara: Tony, is it possible that this germ could be airborne?
Tony: Anything’s possible, sweetie. The best brains in the world have been running through this thing with a fine-tooth comb. The germ is visible under a microscope, but isn’t like any viscilla anyone’s ever known.
Barbara: In what way?
Tony: It can’t be destroyed by any process we’ve been able to uncover.
Barbara: They’ve got half the labs in America trying. there must be a solution.
Cathy: Hey, Mommy, we need you to cut the cake!
Barbara: Hah. Right now our problem is to cut that cake. Coming, coming!
Scene: A Medical Lab, two weeks later
Tony fiddles with a microscope and Petri dish, enter a DOCTOR.
Tony: The viscilli are multiplying.
Doctor: That kicks the bone marrow theory in the head.
Tony: This specimen shows a higher white count than when I put it on the slide. Those cells are still living, Dr.
Mercer, off one another.
Doctor: There has to be an answer. You’ve heard that all communications are ended outside the continental limits?
Tony: Yes, I’ve heard.
Doctor: That leaves it in our laps. So, we keep trying. Where’s Lothaire?
Tony: Well he should be here by now.
Doctor: You two stay on this virus theory until I decide it’s exhausted.
VIRGIL enters, looking like hell
Virgil: Yes, sir?
Doctor: Jesus Virgil, you look like hell.
Virgil: I’ll be fine. Just tell me what I can do.
Doctor: Morgan will fill you in.
Virgil: All right, sir. [DOCTOR leaves] (to Tony) And what did the great man of science have to say today? More of the usual?
Tony: [looking through microscope] He’s trying, Virge, just like the rest of us.
Virgil: Heh - and nothing works. The streets are swarming with them. Truckloads of bodies that they’re throwing into that god awful pit. And the dedicated Dr. Mercer goes on with his plodding, unimaginative approach.
Tony: You have a better idea?
VIRGIL says nothing
CUT TO: shot of Virgil in fetal position on bed, wearing underclothes, clearly very distressed
Virgil: [sits down, sniffs] Oh, Jesus.
CUT TO: VIRGIL walking down crowded laboratory hall, quite distressed
VIRGIL enters a restroom
Voice Over: He was fearless. He would always be the first to jump off a roof, light his shoes on fire,
VIRGIL walks toward sinksVoice Over: bust a move on the dance floor…
VIRGIL bends over sink
Scene: Inside lab, nighttime, deserted except for
VIRGIL who sits wrapped in a towel facing TONY
Tony: Virgil, it’s just a germ.
VIRGIL sits looking like absolute shit
VIRGIL looks up
Tony: Virgil, it’s as simple as this: An unknown germ is being blown around the Caribbean. It’s highly contagious and it has reached plague proportions, but it is NOT GETTING THIS FAR NORTH.
Virgil: [looks down] And you don’t believe some of the dead have come back?
Tony: [gets up without looking at Virgil] Let’s get to work.
Virgil: And why are they burning the bodies? Why aren’t they burying them?
Tony: Because it’s the best known way to control the contagion, to keep the germ from spreading.
Virgil: [gets up] That’s what we’ve always believed, at any rate.
Tony: [irate] You’d prefer us to believe in Zombies?
Virgil: If they exist, yes. There are stories being told, Tony!
Tony: By people who are out of their minds with fear.
Virgil: But there are too many to be just coincidental. Stories about people who have died and…and have come back.
Tony: They’re stories, Virgil, they’re fucking stories!
Virgil: And why are the infected people always so tired in the daytime? Why are they only seen at night?
Tony: Come here. Look.
Virgil: I know as well as--
Tony: Look! [VIRGIL looks through microscope] Now is this viscilli or isn’t it?
Virgil: It doesn’t alter--
Tony: And this viscilli is found in the blood of every infected person, or isn’t it?
Virgil: To show me germs is not to refute these stories, Bob. The point is, if there are these monsters, they exist in spite of these germs.
Scene: TONY’s living room
TONY sits alone slumped on his couch, half dressed and looking like hell. Light from the TV is cast on him and we can hear the news reporter coming from behind us.
Reporter: And until further notice, this station will continue its around the clock coverage of this national disaster. And now, we switch you to the capital where his Excellency the governor is speaking from the Executive Mansion.
Governor: Further, I have, in conjunction with the Federal government, declared this state to be a disaster area. The public health is dependent on bodies of the deceased being burned. You must notify the health department immediately if you have a plague victim in your home. Under no circumstances should you be out in public. Martial law has been declared to enforce your cooperation in this. In view of the dire emergency that exists, I intend to--
VIRGIL switches off the television
Scene: VIRGIL’s apartment
VIRGIL is walking around the kitchen eating dry cereal out of the box. The phone rings and he answers it. We can hear TONY’s voice through receiver
Virgil: [very concerned] Hey, Tony, man, what’s the matter?
Scene: CATHY’s bedroom
Tony and Barbara sit by CATHY’s bed, facing each other in front of a large window. All that can be seen of them is their silhouettes. The camera angle does not change.
Tony: I said no. Barb, there’s nothing they can do.
Barbara: But we can’t just let her lie there.
Tony: Barbara, if you call the doctor, he’ll report it. Do you really want that?
Cathy: Mommy, help me! Mommy, please help me!
Tony: Now I’m going to the lab to try to stop all this, Barb, but no one is to come into this house. Now remember that.
Scene: A very crowded Super Wal-Mart
VIRGIL weaves in between panicked people picking food off the shelves. Suddenly a large squad of armed HAZMAT units enters through front of store. One carries a megaphone.
HAZMAT is drowned out by screams of shoppers. A violent struggle ensues between the civilians and military units in the Wal-Mart. Shots break out, VIRGL runs the other way. There is more screaming and commotion. He trips over something and falls heavily. A large shelf of paint cans is tipped over and lands on top of him. “Everything goes black“.
Scene: Outside Mathesons’ house, TONY pulls into driveway just as a military van pulls out. Worried, he gets out of his car, walks into the house, and sees Barbara leaning against a chair, with her back to him.
Without saying anything, TONY sprints back outside
Scene: nighttime, raining heavily
on the edge of a large landfill, chaos reigns. Military vans are parked all around pit. HAZMAT units are unloading bodies from the trucks, throwing them into the landfill where there is a large fire burning. Police and national guardsmen attempt to hold a huge crowd of shouting civilians at bay.
TONY breaks through police lines and runs up to a HAZMAT unitTony: Did this truck just come in from 21st street? I said, did this truck just come in from 21st street!?
Hazmat: Mr., I don’t know! Tony: Looks around and sees HAZMAT units unloading a small body from a truck, about to pitch it into the landfill. Runs over and is stopped by a CAPTAIN Captain: Hey, you don’t belong in here; get out! I said, get out!
Tony: I want my daughter!
Captain: Mr., a lot of daughters are in there. Including my own.
Scene: Inside Wal-Mart, VIRGIL wakes up and crawls from underneath a pile of paint cans, holding his head. He realizes that the store is completely empty, save for a few bodies that litter the floor here and there. The front doors are boarded up. He wanders around for a short time looking for a sign of life.
All above biznatch is totally © 2008 TonyPro
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