This is me. August 31st. I got my granddaughter, Nancy, and my grandson, Lil' Charlie. They come to stay with me for a weekend. I don't see 'em as much as I used to since Jana (that's my daughter, Jana is) moved to Little Rock from our home town, Conway, a year and a half ago.
Nancy's eight. So, she's still a doll. Like a little china doll you could set up on a shelf somewhere. At least, she is to me. She's probably hell on her mom and dad. But who really cares? I don't. I'm granpa. If she's hell I probably made her that way by givin' her what she wants. She's my angel. I'm granpa. It's what I get to do.
Charlie? Five. Typical for up here in Arkansas. He loves to come out to granpa's (that's me in case you hadn't figured that out) and spend some time in the Ozarks, the fields or near the rivers. If it involves dirt, frogs, fish or wild animals to torture (and torture here is just takin' that animal home with him to "take care of") Charlie loves it.
Well, so, they're stayin' with granpa. And granpa wants to show 'em what granpa grew up on.
So, this is me. Driving to Walter's Citgo. I go inside. There's people. People fillin' up, people passin' through, people leavin' town. Hell, I even see Ole Thomas sittin' up here like he used to readin' (lookin' at the pictures in) the newspaper. So, I head to the candy isle and pick up a Charleston Chew. What? Even I can't eat a Charleston Chew in one sittin'. You ever eat a Charleston Chew? It gets all wrapped up in your teeth and you're pickin' at it with your tongue before you get to the next bite fifteen minutes later. They can split it. And I need to pick up some Red Man for myself. It causes cancer. There's a lot worse things than cancer, so go fuck yourself.
I notice this young kid. Somewhere 'round 25, maybe. Comes dartin' outta the bathroom like he done seen a ghost. He falls out the door almost hittin' the ground before his other foot lands right at the curb and he stumbles into his car. Definitely a city boy. He gets into his fancy German car and takes off towards the interstate. I'm thinkin' good riddance, y'know?
Thinkin' back. That kid must've unleashed somethin' in that bathroom. That's why Conway ain't here no more. And you don't even believe me.
So, this is me. Waitin' in line. As I'm checkin' out, this large man in boxer shorts and a wife-beater comes stumblin' out of the bathroom. He's got this huge sore on his head and he's bleedin' and squirtin' shit everywhere. I never seen nothin' like it. He falls over, and through his eyes I can see blood comin' out. Through his nose, through everything, even running down his legs. He's convulsin'. I looked up Walter and say, "Here's 5 bucks. Gimme my Red Man, I'm gettin' outta here."
I step outside, get in my pick-up and take my granchildren out to the park to fly a kite. It's quiet this day. There's a few kids here, but it empties out early, so we make do. It's beautiful and sunny and the kids playin' a bit with Little Johnny. Now, I realize all you folks got Little Johnny jokes. But he couldn't help it. His Dad's name was Johnny and his name's Little Johnny. So the kids play with Little Johnny until his mother comes to get him. She's in tears 'cause his father's just been put in the hospital. So I offer to give her a ride. On the way to the hospital, this car was sittin’ on the side of the road, and I see, people, bleedin’ through their eyes. Just like that man in that convenience store a couple of hours earlier, like that man over at Walter's Citgo.
And while I don't think about it at the time....
This is me, handin' Charlie a handkerchief as he starts coughin’. I tell him its just the pollen in the air.
We arrive at the hospital. There's ambulances with their lights still on. The ambulance driver laying nearby, his blood everywhere. I don't know what to do. My daughter gave me her kids because she trusts me, and now I got dead people bleedin' out their eyeballs everywhere. So I tell Little Johnny and his mother to get out, that we ain't stayin'. I leave to go back to my house, check the news. But there's a roadblock on the way back to my house.
Charlie hands me back my handkerchief. There's blood all over it. I look over at Charlie, and his face is gone. His eyes are sinkin' into his head, and he's changin' to a horrible yellow color.
There is military men in gas masks ripping open both doors of my pickup truck. They snatch me out along with my granchildren, telling us to get on the ground.
These are children! These are goddamn children! Little bitty children, I’m talkin' 8 and 5 fuckin' years old. Charlie's sick! Clearly sick! Done changed colors! They're tellin’ us that we're all goin' into quarantine, everyone in Conway is goin' into quarantine. I tell 'em I ain't leavin’ my granchildren with all these young, panickin' motherfuckers that don't know nothin' 'bout nothin'. And one says, "We already planned on that. He's already gone and that means you're gone, too."
So, this is me sittin' in the back of a bus on the way back to the same goddamn park we just left to sit in some fuckin' pup tent that's supposed to keep everybody safe from everything. Hermetically sealed, my ass. We didn't get no damn FEMA trailers that's for sure.
The perfect gentleman escortin' us to our final destination begins to cough. The other men in their gas mask move quickly towards him. And as he yells that he's fine his friends decide it's far too late and shoot him straight through his chest. He hits the ground and starts coughin' up blood. You might say that's normal for someone shot in the chest. But he takes off his mask and you can see it comin’ outta his eyes. Then you notice it comin’ out his nose.
And, this is me. Sittin' in a cell with my two granchildren. And I'm holdin' Charlie. I know I'm gonna die. I know somethin’ done happened. I done seen enough in the past four hours to know somethin’ happened. I don't know if it's in our water. I don't know if it's in the air. I don't who the hell did it. I don't know where it came from. I just know it's happened.
This is me cryin'.
Nancy just looked up at me and said, "granpa? I don't feel so good."
So, this is me. Taking a deep breath. And sayin’, "Sweetheart, it's gonna be okay." And I was lyin'. She knew I was lyin', 'cause she could see the tears comin’ down my face. I can't hold it back. I can't play it out. I can't pretend. They show in the movies that somethin’ like this happens and everyone pretends to be strong. That ain't reality. This is reality. Really, really real. It's right now. It's what is happenin’.
And almost like a hammer. Charlie's havin’ an episode. A seizure. A fit. I never seen nothin' like it. I mean, my wife, God rest her soul, she had fits and would shake and her body would twist and turn. But Charlie's fit. Well there was blood flyin' out everywhere. If you could call it blood. It was red, but it was black and it was green and it went everywhere. It was all over me. It was all over Nancy.
So, this is me. 57 goddamn years old. Covered in puke and blood and bile from my grandchild. Do you know what that's like? You don't know what that's like. You may know what it's like to lose a child or lose a parent or lose a grandchild, but you don't know what this is like. Fuck you if you want to pretend like you do. And there ain't no help. And those mother fuckers with their guns and gas mask are runnin' away.
It's this point I realize I have to leave our pup tent. I have to leave our quiet space they've placed us in to die. They ain't gonna help us. They're just watchin' us. They're waitin’ for us to die. And Nancy's sick. I gotta get her some place where they will treat her right. Even if I gotta go so far as down south to Shreveport. I just know I gotta get Nancy outta here. And all these big, strong soldiers are leavin' us as fast as they can. Leavin' us to bleed out and die.
It's a pup tent. That's all it is.
We clawed and ripped our way out, expecting to see men and masks and guns, and what were seeing is men killing each other, vomiting into their masks. I saw complete madness, a little apocalypse right here in Conway.
This is me totin' Nancy right out the gate, 'cause we weren't their concern, they were more concerned with each other.
I didn't mention earlier 'bout me and ole Julienne. I mean, c'mon. My wife's dead, I'm less than 60, we had a little thing goin'. Ain't much time to talk about but, she didn't live too far from the park. I figured that might be a safe place to learn what's goin' on. There's fire's burnin’ and a smell in the air. I gotta admit I recognize the smell. It's the smell of flesh. It could be a cow. It could be a pig. And it's been a few hours, so don't judge me, but it makes me hungry. Even knowing what the smell really is, even after I see people burnin'. I'm smelling human flesh, and it's makin’ me hungry.
Well, what you're lookin’ at right now is this is not me makin' it to her house. I got people with boils on their head. Blood comin’ out of every orifice and holes we ain't got that were made by whatever the hell infected this town. Comin’ at me. Chasin' me. And I know that you wanna compare it to that zombie shit that you see in movies but it ain't nothin’ like that, cuz these are people that you know, and people that you don't know but they're good people. People you recognize. You know? Good people. And they're not comin’ after you to eat you. They just want some help. And that's what you hear all around. You hear, "Help ME! Help me!" I gotta tell you, I ain't gonna help nobody but me. And Little Nancy. Who's doin’ okay right now, at least as far as I know.
This is me runnin' and I can feel her holdin' on to me. Holdin' tight, so I know she can't be that sick. Right? No way she can be that sick. But with everybody that's runnin’ at me I can't help but run far away from Julienne's, and god help her.. god help her.. these truly are the last days. It's the end everywhere, That's what I'm thinkin'. This is just a start.
But you don't even know abut this! I keep havin' to remind myself of that while I tell you about it.
So I run. And as I'm runnin’ down the road... This is Conway. Alright? I know this fuckin' town, but I don’t know what street I'm on. Then this crazy, 14 year old boy, comes flyin' through in his daddy's brand new Corvette. It slides... I'm lookin’ at it about 500 yards away, barrelin' at me. This guy had to be goin' at least a hundred miles an hour when something happened and he slammed on his breaks and spins about eighteen times. I might be exaggeratin'. He comes flyin' out the side of the car, just before it hits us. Just like that, a split second all this is happenin', mind you. He falls out and says. "Mister?" and I can see blood comin’ out his eyes he says
"Mister? Can you come help my momma please? Can you come help my momma?"
What do you say to that? What do you say? This kid has blood comin’ out of his eyes and you know what's already happened to his momma. You listening to me? You already know what's happened. You know what's gonna happen! You've gotten this far. You know what's comin’. Don't fuckin' pretend like you don't know.
So, this is me. Feelin' something wet goin’ down my shoulder. I can feel it right now. Running down my shoulder. Runnin' down my back. Runnin' into my pants and down my legs. And that tight grip just became loose. I don't even need to describe that to you. You want a Stephen King fifteen page description, but I ain't got it! You don't fuckin’ deserve it. And I ain't relivin' it for art just so you can get more enjoyment outta it. And...
I drop her. I drop her on the ground. I push that boy outta the way and grab his car. Then drive all the way to Shreveport.
This is me. Tellin' you my story.
This is you. Believing I'm some sort of sadistic madman. To you there is no Conway. You don't remember it and never will.
This is me. And you don't even know my name.