When November began and I sat down and started writing A Thousand Miles From Home for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I was really quite excited. As the days flew by my excitement grew with each word I wrote.
Then came the last week of November and I found that I just didn't care anymore. I didn't know if my motivation deficit was due to a complete lack of interest in the story itself, or if I was just tired. I'd never written so much so fast. I was exhausted. I began to give some serious thought to just packing it all in and quitting NaNoWriMo.
But at the same time, I was only 10,000 words away from the winner's circle and I had a week left. I was so close and I started to feel that I just couldn't give up if I had already come so far. So I dug back in.
I started thinking of a scene that I knew would be coming up in the book, a scene that I was really excited about writing. But as the book was progressing I knew that it would be another couple of weeks until I got to that point in the story. So, I just skipped ahead and wrote the scene.
And I had a ball.
It was while I was writing the scene that I felt that a complete change in tone for the book was needed. I was trying to write a traditional zombie apocalypse survival story. I was trying to keep the mood, for the most part, serious and dramatic, but with a little humor sprinkled in. But I just wasn't feeling it. Then I wrote the scene that changed it for me. A scene that started serious, but changed to fun partway through. And that's why I decided that I might want to go back and really change up the tone of this book. Make it funny. Make it fun. I'm trying to channel my inner Douglas Adams here. I may not pull it off, especially in this first part that you will read below, but I had fun writing it.
So here it is for your reading pleasure.
I'll post it in three or four parts as it is somewhat long.
Don had been walking for so long that he felt that his legs were about to give out, they felt like jelly and he didn’t want to walk anymore. He had been separated from Ollie and Karen for almost three days now. Three days that he tried to catch up to the two of them. Don on foot with a loaded down back pack, two guns, and an aluminum baseball bat. Ollie and Karen in a brand new Ford F-150. His chances were a bit slim that he’d ever see the two again, but Don was one who liked to keep his hopes high, so he kept himself moving.
Don felt lucky that he had been wearing the backpack that he and his group pilfered from that sporting goods store in Winston-Salem, when he was forced to separate from his friends. Otherwise he may not have made it this far. In it were various supplies such as bottled water, canned vegetables, a couple of cans of Spaghetti-Os, a box of energy bars, a few boxes of .45 shells for the Colt Python he now had in a shoulder holster under his left arm, and a few boxes of 12 gauge shells for the shot gun which was currently sticking out of the top of the back pack, the butt just over his right shoulder and within easy reach if he needed it. At some point during that first day of separation, Don had come across a hack saw, it’s blade shiny and sharp, and managed to saw most of the barrel off of the shot gun so that it sat just right on his back and made him feel like the Road Warrior or something.
He could remember once sitting in his parent’s station wagon as a child, waiting alone in the parking lot of a K-Mart while his mom was inside picking up a few things. Back then it wasn’t any big deal to leave a child unattended in a car. It was easier then dragging them through the store so that the parent could find a new pair of shoes, and most parents did it on a regular basis. It was 1984, Don was just twelve, and he’d recently seen the movie Red Dawn. The movie was about a group of teenagers who take to the mountains when Communist soldiers invade America. They turn quickly to guerilla warriors and take the fight to the enemy. There was always a small part of Don that wished that the very same would happen to him. He recalls thinking of just that scenario as he sat there in his mom’s station wagon on that day in 1984. He pictured Russian soldiers parachuting into the parking lot and shooting people as they ran. There was a small part of Little Donny that wanted it to happen, because it would mean he’d be justified in driving the car and crashing it into the store to rescue his mother. It would mean that he’d have every right to pick up a gun and fire it in the general direction of the bad guys trying to hurt his mom. It would mean his chance at being a hero and a warrior, all the things he played at being with his friends everyday when they picked up their toy guns.
If you replace the Russian soldiers with zombies, then you could assume that Don has finally gotten his wish. Though, if he was to be honest with himself, Don spent more of his time scared out his pants than thinking of much else. Yet there was still that small part of him, that part that will still Little Donny, that was having just an absolute ball. In some aspects he was that kid again. Playing hide and seek from the undead. Pretending he was a member of G.I. Joe and the zombies were Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Acting the part of the hero who was the only hope that this crazy world had if it wanted to survive this current apocalypse. But mainly just being able to carry guns, shoot at things, and sleep outdoors. That’s what a small part of Don considered living.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Not far into that first day of separation Don came to realize that there were two very important items that he didn’t have. A can opener to get at those vegetables and Spaghetti-Os he had rolling around in his pack, and a nice, soft roll of two-ply toilet paper. What he wouldn’t give for a roll of toilet paper right now. The local foliage did nothing but leave his poor cheeks raw. Unfortunately he’d been away from any semblance of civilization for these last three days so leaves were his only choice.
What was also unfortunate was that Don wasn’t positive when he’d run across a town or even a house because wasn’t sure just where he was anymore. According to his compass he was still heading west. Don, like most people, had always heard the old adage that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So he thought he might have a better chance of catching up to his friends if he avoided the twists and turns of America’s highways and instead go out into the wild and try to walk a straight line to Kansas. It wasn’t long before Don realized the mistake he’d made. There were reasons America’s highways twisted and turned and Don had to assume that one of them were to avoid the very wilderness he was currently fighting his way through. He toyed briefly with the idea of just giving up. Packing it all in and going native. Become a hairy man of the wild with twigs and brambles hanging from his long and unkempt beard. But when he saw a town appear before him as he fought his way through a clump of woods, his hope once more sprang anew that maybe he’d find a place to sleep through the night with a roof over his head and a bed under his back.
As Don came closer to the city, buildings began to appear around him. Industrial structures with smokestacks that no longer blew clouds into the sky. Don smiled to himself as he passed one of these building with the long round chimneys stretching up to touch the blue. When he was a kid, Don had always assumed that buildings such as these made the clouds. He would see the thick white smoke issuing forth from the orange smokestacks and came to the conclusion all by himself. It was years later he learned the truth, but in his heart he still thought of these places as something akin to magic.
Soon he was walking along a paved road through the business district of this unnamed town. The streets were quiet. It felt eerie and uncomfortable. After spending days in the wild with nothing but nature to keep him company, Don felt he needed a little of the noise one only finds in an overcrowded city. He wasn’t finding that here. So he kept on moving. Looking into windows, trying to find a one-stop shop where he could get both toilet paper and a can opener.
Then he turned a corner and found the answer that he really didn’t want. Suddenly, standing there before him, was the largest concentration of the undead he had yet to see. There were hundreds of them in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Don wasn’t sure what brought them all together here in this one place. It was as if everyone in town had gathered on main street for a zombie pride parade. Whatever it was, he really didn’t care. Only one thought sprinted through Don’s mind at that very moment. That he must run from this place a quickly as he could and go to some other place, a place where there wasn’t a zombie rally in progress.
And So Don ran. And as Don ran, he could see each time he threw a quick, panicky, desperate look behind him, that the coalition of local zombie citizens were following along behind in that shambling manner that Don has yet to find endearing.
To be continued . . .