How IronicHow long has it been? Weeks? Months? Years? I no longer know. The days have blended together into one, punctuated only by barely noticed sunrises and sunsets. Once I had dreams of marrying and starting a family but those are now all ashes. The struggle to survive, to simply exist, is all that concerns me now. Until recently, I haven't seen another human since the first dark days when this nightmare began. I remember it as if it happened just yesterday.I was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud scream. Startled, I simply laid there, staring at the dark shadows, which seemed to writhe with horrifying life. At first I thought it was only a dream. I have never been so wrong in my life. Another blood curdling shriek shattered the tense silence. I scrambled from my warm bed to the window. The sight, which greeted my eyes, I had only seen in horror movies. Surely this could not be real. Perhaps it was only children playing a horrible prank. But the sickening crunch of bones told me how wrong that supposition was.There, on the street, highlighted by the yellowish glow of a halogen light, was a woman being torn to shreds by zombies. Zombies of all things! The five lurching, decaying creatures were ripping at her flesh, devouring her as I watched. I was paralyzed with fear. This kind of terror cannot be described. It can only be experienced.Finally, I forced myself to turn away. Surely I was next. Panicked and determined to live, I dressed quickly in a t-shirt, sweat pants and running shoes before I snuck downstairs. I peered out of every window I passed. The zombies were still feasting on their hideous meal. When I got to the door, I grabbed the keys kept on the hook beside the light switch. This was my only chance. Could I make it? They didn't seem capable of moving very fast. The doubts filled my mind and battered my self-confidence.I took several deep, fortifying breaths before cracking the door open only a few inches. The hinges squealed with protest. The noise blared against my ears. Had they heard it? My heart pounded in my chest as if seeking to escape the flesh and bone prison. My hands shook. My stomach knotted. I gritted my teeth and peered around the wooden frame. I couldn't see them. They could be anywhere! Visually, I judged the distance from the door to my truck: only fifteen feet. For the first time in years, I prayed to a God I could only hope existed.I knew I couldn't stay in the house but how could I force myself to step out the door and risk running to my truck? The dangers of remaining outweighed the hesitancy I was enduring. Swiftly, I swung the door open wider and dashed out into the night. I tried to remain silent but the pounding of my shoes on the brick walkway seemed to echo in my ears. With every step I was certain those wretched creatures would fall upon me and tear into me like they did that poor woman. The very thought of it made me shudder with revulsion and terror.Ten more feet. I was almost there! Just a little further. My breath came in rasping pants. My knees shook with nervousness. Constantly, I jerked my head from side to side to watch for the zombies. Finally! I made it! Tears of triumph coursed down my cheeks. I blinked away the salty moisture as with trembling fingers I searched for the right key. 'Come on! Come on!' I kept silently screaming. Then tragedy struck! The keys slipped from my sweat-slicked hand. Swiftly, I dropped to my knees to feel around in the dark for the pieces of cold metal. After several horrifying moments, my fingers encountered the traitorous key ring. I leapt to my feet and attempted once more to unlock the door. Success! Sobbing with relief, I jumped into the cab and slumped against the steering wheel as I tried to catch my breath.A faint noise made me jerk my head up. Oh God! They were coming right for me! And there were more of them! I counted at least twelve in this group. The rotting creatures shuffled across the lawn, bony arms extended towards me, gaping mouths emitting grunting sounds. The most hideous of them had only one eye, the other an empty, black socket. At closer inspection, I realized it did have both eyes. Except one gleaming orb was bouncing and swaying against the creature's maggot eaten cheek, a thin, wet rope of flesh keeping it from falling to the ground.Trembling with fear, I stabbed the key at the ignition switch. After several failed attempts, I met with success. The engine roared to life. I glanced into the rear view mirror and immediately froze. Another of the zombies was directly behind the truck. Twisting around to look out the back window, my mouth gaped open when I recognized the creature. The nightmare suddenly became worse than it already was.Staring in disbelief, I rubbed my eyes and looked again. My heart lodged in my throat. Shock registered on my face. My own father was one of these wretched zombies! He lurched towards me, his head wobbling loosely on his neck. My parents had died only a few months before in a car accident. As an only child, their only daughter, I had been very close to both of them and the wreck, which took their lives, had left me devastated.Near hysteria, I attempted to find another way out of this situation but the only solution that came to mind was running over my father. I couldn't drive forward. The front yard was full of trees with very little space between the trunks. But how could I run him down? He was once a living, breathing, caring person.With no other choice, I put the gearshift into reverse. I squeezed my eyes closed but even the tightly held lids could not contain the hot tears that coursed down my cheeks. The tires squealed when I stomped on the gas. There was a terrible crunch. The truck rolled over the fallen body. I had just driven over my own father. Feeling numb, I stared out of the windshield as I raced through the night.At first I did not know where I should go, where I would be safe. The surrounding area was full of small towns. In any of them could be more of the zombies. My only thought was to escape. Then an idea occurred to me. I headed towards the coast. Perhaps I could steal a boat and find some small island where these creatures would not be able to get to me.The hours ticked by, unnoticed by me. I was concentrating on driving and not falling asleep. The interior of the cab was sweltering hot. Silently, I cursed myself for not having the air conditioning repaired when it broke the previous summer. Beads of sweat rolled down my face and collected on the front of my shirt, blending in with the dampness already there. I was too frightened to even crack the window, worried that bony fingers would suddenly appear and claw at me. At least there was one ray of sunshine in this otherwise dismal journey. The gas tank was full. I had made it a habit to fill up every Friday after work.To be perfectly honest, I did not even think of the co-workers I left behind. After the death of my parents, I had become reclusive and the few friends I did have had drifted away. They were probably tired of seeing me wallow in self-pity.The darkness of night began to retreat as the first rays of dawn appeared on the horizon. I was glad to see the sunrise. Part of me still believed all of this just might be one of the numerous and odd dreams that filled my mind while I slept. Of course, I knew I was awake. Even my strange nightmares couldn't top this.In all of the hours I had traveled I didn't once pass another moving vehicle. Was this phenomenon wider spread than I had imagined? I did my best to avoid the towns and cities, instead skirting the outer edges of civilization on various back roads. After a quick peek at the gas gauge, I realized I would have to find some place to fill up soon. At the last minute, I swerved to take the entrance ramp to a freeway.After several miles passed, I noticed a gas station. A bit uneasy, I took the off ramp and slowed down as I neared the Exxon, finally coming to a complete stop half a block away. Intently, I studied the area, watching for any of the zombies. Eventually, I felt it was safe so I pulled up to the pumps.With trepidation, I exited the truck. I hurried to unscrew the gas cap with one hand while fumbling at the nozzle with the other. My shoulders ached with tension. Furiously, I punched the appropriate buttons on the electronic keypad but nothing happened.With a tightly clenched fist, I beat ineffectively at the unresponsive machine. The technology I once took for granted was now my enemy. Tears of frustration stung my eyes. When the brief pique of anger was over, I did my best to use my mind to discover a solution to my problem.Nibbling on my bottom lip in concentration, I glanced around the station. The flickering lights in the glass-fronted building caught my attention. I stared unseeingly for several long moments before the solution occurred to me. Of course! In order for the pump to work it had to be turned on! Why didn't I realize it sooner? I could only blame the constant tension and fear I had been under. Normally, I was able to think clearly but anyone would be rattled due to the current situation.After a thorough visual inspection of the gas station, I cautiously made my way to the glass door. My heart pounded with every step. I was certain a zombie would appear out of nowhere at any moment. Perspiration slickened my hands. I rubbed my palms on my pants before reaching for the door. I pushed but nothing happened. A short bark of laughter startled me until I realized the sound came from my own throat. Just my luck it was locked.At that moment I considered just curling up in the fetal position on the dirty tarmac. I felt so beaten and defeated. Why shouldn't I give up? It seemed impossible to survive during such circumstances. With a strangled sob, I pressed my forehead against the cool glass of the door. That's when I noticed it. There was a rather obvious sign just above the metal bar that read Pull. Another short burst of nearly hysterical laughter ripped up my throat.Just as I was pulling the door open a shuffling, grunting noise made every muscle in my body tense. For a moment I didn't move. The desire to return to childhood swept over me. Illogically, I thought to myself If I can't see it, it can't see me'. Silently, I cursed my cowardice and forced myself to turn around. Oh, if only the logic of childhood was plausible. On the other side of my truck, near the pumps, were four zombies.They lurched towards me, strips of flesh hanging from their outstretched arms. Nearly toothless maws hung open, swollen, blackened tongues hanging over maggot eaten bottom lips.Bile at the sight of these horrid things rose in my throat, along with nearly overwhelming fear. They were so close. My escape route was cut off. There was no way I could reach my truck. Even if I could I wouldn't have gotten far, perhaps only a few miles, before it ran out of gas.That left me with only one alternative. The gas station. Swiftly, I jerked the door open and darted inside. I gazed around wildly for a lock but couldn't seem to find one. Damn twenty-four hour stores. I grabbed the closest thing to me, a wire chip rack. Working swiftly, I barred the door but only then did it occur to me.The door opens outward! The creatures could get in anyway! And they were getting closer and closer! Whimpering softly, I turned in swift circles as I looked for an alternate exit. When I didn't find one, I started pushing display racks in front of the door. Even if the zombies could open it they would have a hard time clambering over the barricade I created.Overcome with fear and the certainty I was about to die, I crouched down low near the front windows. I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself, even if it was too late to be unobtrusive. They had already seen me and were headed for the convenience store. Their shuffling gait made their arrival seem to take an eternity.I peeked over the magazine stand to see out of the smudged window. The first of the quartet of rotting creatures reached the door. I had to laugh when I saw it made the same mistake I did. It pushed on the door instead of pulling. It pleased me to note I had corrected my error in a shorter period of time than it did.It leaned its body against the door but the glass and metal entrance did not give way. Its trio of friends added their weight but the result was the same. Relief flooded me to know I would be safe for a while longer. I slumped down on the floor, my gaze firmly riveted on the door.I don't know how much time passed but it could not have been more than a few minutes at most. Then a noise caught my attention. Just as I was about to rise up to see what it was, the windows exploded. Bullets whizzed over my head. With a soft cry, I flattened myself on the floor and placed shaking hands on my mouth to prevent a scream of terror. Someone was shooting at the gas station!With my eyes squeezed closed I did not see what happened. The shooting lasted only a couple of minutes. I didn't dare move. My heart was in my throat and I couldn't seem to breathe. My pulse roared in my ears, preventing me from hearing the door open.The sound of a gruff voice, accompanied by the scraping of metal on the linoleum floor, made me lift my head. There stood an angel. At least he appeared as such to me. He held his hand out to me and told me to hurry as more of the creatures were coming. Scrambling to my feet, I fairly sprinted the short distance to him. He took my arm and helped me over the barricade I had created. Another man stood watch.Something squished under my heal as I stepped free of the display racks. Looking down, I nearly wretched when I saw it was an eye. The four zombies were lay in scattered pieces on the tarmac. The automatic machine guns the two men totted had sliced into the creatures.As we ran across the asphalt to a waiting jeep, the man informed me his name was Jeff and his partner was Miguel. I was so relieved to be in the company of normal humans again my knees were weak and nearly didn't support me.Miguel stayed several paces behind us, swinging around from time to time to watch for the zombies. Five of the creatures rounded the station and lurched towards us. Just as Jeff and I reached the jeep, Miguel opened fire. The sound of the gun hurt my eardrums. I swung around to watch, struggling against Jeff as he tried to push me into the vehicle.A scream built in my throat when I saw another zombie shuffle up behind Miguel. I tried to warn him but I couldn't seem to speak. The disgusting thing wrapped its hands around his neck. He tried to fight and in doing so lost his grip on the gun. It clattered to the ground. Another zombie joined the first. Between the two of them, they tore out Miguel's throat. His life was over in a matter of seconds.Feeling sickened, I got into the jeep. Jeff hurried around to the driver's side and in no time we were roaring down the road. I slumped back in my seat and closed my eyes. I must have fallen asleep for the next thing I knew I was awakened by a harsh shake of my shoulder.Bleary-eyed, I gazed around. As Jeff helped me out of the jeep he explained he had taken me to a private outpatient clinic where he worked. The clinic was deserted now. It was surrounded by an electric fence and had its own generator. I was so grateful to be in a safe place I didn't question anything.I've been here for several months now, safe and secure. Occasionally, Jeff would leave to get gas for the generator and search for more normal humans. He never let me go with him. At first I thought it was just a guy thing, his way of taking care of me and protecting me. To be honest, I didn't mind. I didn't want to face the horror of those zombies again. I thought the nightmare was over.Once again, I was horribly wrong. Two days ago I awakened to find myself strapped to a surgical table with just a sheet concealing my nudity. I struggled against the restraints to no avail. When Jeff entered the room I demanded to know what was going on only to be coolly informed the meat was all gone and I was the next course. He planned to eat me!Now I know why he went out searching for people. It was so he could fill the freezer with food. He wasn't saving any one; he was slaughtering them so he could have meat. And I was next.He granted me a last request and allowed me to record my story on a tape recorder. How ironic it is to have survived zombies only to end up the victim of a cannibal. I don't know if anyone will ever hear this but if you do let this serve as a warning. The nightmare is never over.He's coming now. I know this is my last night. The freezer is empty. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think of the roasts and steaks we've consumed. He's in the room and preparing a syringe. I believe I should use my last minutes of life to pray.