This story is by Didi Portia and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
To Madison, My little Bubby Bear.
I remember your little face, your bright eyes and your long hair…just like your mother’s. If I close my eyes…I can picture you laughing. And that alone makes this all worth while. Thinking about you takes me away from this nightmare.
In a world overrun by dark forces…you are the light. I’m sorry for leaving you, baby girl. I know I said, “two weeks” but sometimes things don’t go as planned. The “virus” hit the day I buried my old man out there in Buffalo. I’ve been making my way back to you ever since. It hasn’t been easy. Everything turned real bad, real fast. No cars, no gas… Nothing but the drones, the army and the damned Guidos.
Hard to believe that four years has gone by. Where does the time go? Now that you’re eight you’ll be able to read this and understand it. Honey, travel only by daylight, when the sun is hottest. The Guidos’ are less active and their senses are not as heightened. But they’re still dangerous. But at night…they’re harder to kill. Much harder. It used to be “just shoot them in the head.” But after awhile…something happened: they evolved. I mean…faster, larger, tougher.
Do you remember the park with the little‘ rocket ship’ on the edge of the city? The rocks by the little pond, where we put our secret Time Capsule—the one with the letters we wrote to Mommy up in Heaven? That’s where this letter will be, among the pictures, the Jesus candle and her favourite necklace, the one you made with the bottle-caps. You’ll find a loaded handgun and some bullets. Be very careful. Respect it’s power.
Madison…Mommy loved all your cute gifts…your arts and crafts. They made this whole world beautiful to her. God, I miss her. I miss you too. I wish I could hold you both one last time. I wish I could be there to watch you become the woman you were meant to be. I worry about you. Every hour of every day. You just stay inside and lock the doors. Your grandparents are tough as nails. Just like your mother. They won’t go down easily.
Me…I wish I was tough. I suppose I don’t have to worry about being tough any more, though. Not with a miniature ‘nuke’ in my pack. It’s getting heavier with every step. I’m tired, hungry and very thirsty. I’m a big dirty mess. Can’t seem to wash off the grime. And this beard…I hate it. Making my way across this savage landscape has taken its toll. The cannibal gangs..the army…the Guidos… Baby, sometimes I just want to give up. It’s too much. It’s been too much for a long time. Especially for a skinny Kindergarten teacher like me.
Sorry for being so negative, honey. Let me try and say something nice.
It’s Tuesday afternoon. Sunny. I have to be careful. The Guidos are all over the place: wandering in the streets, in parks, scraping their way along the sides of coffee shops and boutiques—wandering in search of living people to take down. There are no birds in the sky. No animals anywhere. I don’t know where they all went or what happened to them. It’s nice today—one of the warmest, brightest and most beautiful spring days on record. You may not remember but it was around the same time in April four years ago when we buried our little Time Capsule.
Everything is almost exactly the same as that day: the puddles…the trees…and even the sky is bluer than ever. What did we say—that Spring was our favourite season? Little flowers are sprouting up through the cracks in the sidewalk, and vines are growing right up the sides of buildings! I’m in the coffee shop by the little park. I wanted to stop and write this to you, so you would know ‘why’ I couldn’t make it back to you. Believe me, baby…I tried. Tried my hardest.
Yesterday, me and a small group of survivors were attacked out of nowhere. It’s as though the Guidos were hunting us. We scattered! I haven’t seen Ortega or Raine—or any of the others—since. I suppose I won’t see any of them again. Things just happen like that. I kept heading west, toward Oakland. Just before nightfall I ran into a mixed group of soldiers and survivors, holed up in a small Police Station on the outskirts of the city. Their base between Lafayette and Walnut Creek was overrun a few days ago. The Police Station seemed the next likely choice for them, I guess. They were on their way to firebomb the downtown core when their helicopter crash-landed. Most of them died. The few who survived were in bad shape. Few weapons, no food and very little water. No one is coming for them.
This morning we were attacked again—with the same sudden intensity. The Guidos are learning to hunt more efficiently. I wouldn’t have made it out, were it not for a select group of brave men and women. Special Forces. Led by Captain, Lucas Vincent. When the Guidos came crashing through the windows…when they poured through the front door…when the gunfire exploded all around…I panicked! I didn’t know what else to do, but just get the hell out of there! I jumped out of a second storey window, hit the ground and just ran. Like a coward.
Lucas and his soldiers saved me from a horde of Guidos that were bearing down on me. With a storm of bullets whizzing by, I heard the Guidos dropping one by one right behind me. I didn’t look back. I just kept running. I wanted to come home to you, to be with you. I left Lucas and the rest of them there to die while I made my way back to you. You were all that I could think of. I wanted to keep going…but… Some part of me knew what I had to do. So…I went back to them.
When I got back there…Lucas…the survivors…they were all dead. The Guidos had moved on. They were no longer hunting for survival. They were hunting for sport. I knew then that it was up to me to finish Lucas’ mission: to deliver the package to City Hall. Honey…I have to do this. And even though I’m so close to you now…it’s as though I’ve never been farther away. I could make it to Richmond in three hours. But…the closer I get to you, the more danger I put you in. I’m so sorry, baby. Looks like I won’t be coming home.
Just know that I love you. Madison, I have loved you since the moment you came crying into this world. Please, understand that this is the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make: come home to you, and let them zombie bastards continue their killing spree, or…sacrifice my own life to bring them down. I’m no hero, just a man doing what he knows is right.
Honey…please…remember that there is still some good in the world—men like Lucas Vincent and his group of Special Forces. Women like Donna Mateo and Nicola Coletta. They’re the real heroes. It was their people that set the fireworks and the sirens up downtown. They never did make it back. Honey, a lot of good people died for this. I can’t let their deaths be in vain. The noise…the lights…they’ll attract most of the Guidos. Should be one hell of a show. I have to get going, baby girl.
Madison…you be strong. Brave. Fight the good fight, always. Goodbye, Bubby Bear. I love you. With all my heart. Forever and ever and ever.
– Daddy Bear
10 years later…
A grimy figure, sporting stained leather gloves, makeshift armour and black spiked boots, leaned down and began hastily moving the rocks, revealing the package beneath. The tall grass and wild flowers reminded her of happy children retaking the earth, dancing and frolicking beneath the midday sun. The leaves fluttering in the breeze seemed to sing sweet songs of harmony and grace, as if to remind the survivors how Spring was the season of renewal and rejuvenation. Time to lock and load. Time to sharpen the machete and tighten the old boot laces. Time to remember the heroes.
The sunlight on the package was like a beacon of hope in these dark times. The young woman—lean and sculpted with all the instincts of a skilled killer—reached in and opened the letter. Her lips trembled. Thick tears bore little trails down her dirty cheeks, crashing down upon her chest like bullets. With her shotgun loaded she took one last glance around, noticing the rusty ‘rocket ship’ pointing toward the heavens as if nothing could stop its final mission to the stars. She cried full out, the words rising up from her heart and soul, spilling out into the afternoon sun, “To…Madison…My little Bubby Bear…”