As promised, here’s an excerpt from the zombie book I was hoping to work on. I say was because it’s going to have to be put to the side for right now, even though I love it and can’t wait to work on it one day!
Also, I’m going to be out of town for the next 5 days in Florida along with some friends from Let The Words Flow! So excited! The house doesn’t have any internet, though, so if there are any emergencies, like the zombie apocalypse, count me unresponsive. ;-)
Click on ‘Read the Rest of this Entry’ to read Chapter 1 from the zombie book, tentatively titled THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS!!!
I lift my head from my knees when the generators finally fail.
Panicked squeals rise from the students around me, overlapped by angry shushing from those with short tempers.
“Everybody calm down!” Mr. Hopkins says, his baritone voice rolling through the dark hallway. “Shut those damn things off!” he growls to the students who have pulled previously-forbidden lighters from their pockets.
I smirk as the tiny flames go out, returning us to darkness. We’re all glad they have their lighters on school property now, even if the nicotine-withdrawal has made the punk kids vicious in their sarcasm. I lean my head back against the metal lockers and try to ignore the un-ignorable: the softball girls won’t shut their high-pitched voices up, my stomach is working itself into a knot from lack of food, my hair and skin need washing, and I haven’t left this hallway in two days.
Because there’s a mob of infected outside trying to get into the high school.
Oh, and my parents are probably dead, and maybe my little brother, too, but I can’t know for sure because Mr. Hopkins won’t let me out to find him. My arms are bruised from where the baseball players held me back at Mr. Hopkins’ command after I fought them to escape the first night. Now I just sit, and wait.
I close my eyes and focus on memories of the good times, taking my mind back to O’ahu even if the rest of me can’t go. I remember parties on the beach, my mother’s family filling the shore. Torch flames flicker near picnic tables in the red sunset, where my dad plucks a guitar next to Uncle Kaleo, who strums his ukelele.
Or I am with my friends, the group ranging from three to ten as we meet up and take off all across the island. Getting flavored ice from the little shack without air conditioning. Surfing out of the one cove the tourists don’t seem to have found yet. Climbing up the base of the Ko’olau mountains, just to be in a place where we can talk and joke without anyone’s parents yelling at us to get a job. Trying to sit next to Kaulani, the boy with an infectious laugh and skin as dark as a coconut from being outside on the beach. He has long hair and wears the same pair of cutoff shorts every day but I think I’m in love with him. He takes my hand sometimes, when we’re sitting in a group, and just rubs his fingers across my palm, never missing a beat in the conversation. Like it’s normal for him to be touching me this way. Like he’s going to lean over and kiss me at any moment.
Alia said we could never be together because his nickname is the same as mine — Lani — though to me that just means we’d be perfect. Kaulani and Milani. Maybe we could carve it into a palm tree.
I snap back to reality when the current changes in the air, the buzz of conversation coming to the forefront of my attention no matter how hard I try to push it to the background. The jocks are getting agitated. The power is finally out, and no one knows for how long. Our cell phones are dead, and so are the teacher’s walkie talkies.
“It’s time to leave, Coach,” one of the boys is saying to Mr. Hopkins. “No one’s coming for us.”
“Shut up,” Mr. Hopkins says, and though I can barely see him in the dark I know his brown moustache is bunched up to one side. It’s his standard expression, the sour look he wears all during history class when we’re copying notes off the board.
It’s his fault I’m here. I don’t blame him for giving me detention so that I happened to be trapped in the lockdown when it happened, but I do hate him for holding us here. Like hostages. What if Kimo’s middle school isn’t as safe as Norton High? He had to stay late with his teacher until I could complete detention and pick him up. What if his teacher didn’t get them to safety in time?
What if I’d lost my brother, too?
I try not to think about him because each time I do my stomach convulses like I’m about to start sobbing. I focus instead on what the jocks are arguing about.
“We can’t stay in here forever,” someone is saying, his voice getting louder. “I’m sick of this place! Let’s at least move to a different part of the building, like the cafeteria!”
“Yeah!” several other baseball players say in unison. The hunger is wearing on them almost visibly. All those vulgar muscles crying out to be fed.
“Robert, we have to do something,” Mrs. Karens says quietly to Mr. Hopkins, face wrinkled and pale without the heavy makeup she washed off in the bathrooms last night. She’s seated on a chair in an alcove of a classroom door, the girls from the softball team spread on the floor in front of her. She pulled detention duty and as a result was trapped here with us. But not even another teacher could sway Mr. Hopkins’ decision.
“We’re staying here,” he says, and the jocks make noises of disgust. “We don’t know what’s out there.”
“So let’s open up one of these classrooms and check!”
“Procedure says the perimeter is not to be broken,” Mr. Hopkins says through what sounds like gritted teeth.
“We’re starving. You can’t keep us trapped in here.”
The other delinquents from detention around me stay quiet, listening to the discussion. Everyone knows we don’t get a voice. Privately, I’m rooting for the jocks. Their loyalty to ‘Coach Hopkins’ is wearing off fast. Mr. Hopkins is an aging, balding history teacher whose bulk is more fat than muscle these days, and if they decide to break out of here not much is going to stop them. Right now they’re my best chance at freedom.
“Hey. Hey, Hawaii.”
I don’t turn my head, hoping that if I ignore the whisper it will stop. I don’t want to talk about what I know he wants to talk about, plus I’m trying to listen to the jocks. Count on a goth kid to be slow on the uptake.
“Hey Hawaii, you’ve seen this sickness before, right?”
A slow, quiet rage builds up in my chest. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to ask me about what happened.
“Not really,” I say shortly, but he doesn’t give up. I don’t remember his name; it’s probably some stupid haole name like Josh, or James, or Matt.
“Come on, I know you know something. You were one of the last people out, right? You must have seen it. Tell us what’s going on out there.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I snapped. “I’ve never been in a lockdown before.”
“Bitch,” someone mutters, but I keep my anger suppressed despite my shirt suddenly feeling hot and itchy against my skin.
I swallow through the lump in my throat. My fingers dig into the dry, industrial carpet. I don’t have any useful information for this situation, and what I do have is too personal to share: the panic sweeping across my community, the paranoia about anyone who coughed or sniffled, the small skirmishes the police quickly covered up, and mom pulling Kimo and I out of school after kids were hospitalized with the infection. How could I talk about the look on my father’s face as he told us his Captain at the Pearl Harbor military base had shared some private news: the airports were going to be shut down until the situation was under control?
How could I talk about my parents putting their children on the last plane out of O’ahu on a one-way ticket? Or not knowing what had happened to them since then?
The news wasn’t reporting it. They were far too busy discussing with glee the chaos in other parts of the world, outright denying anything was wrong within America’s borders. But email to all my friends got returned. No one updated their online accounts. All their numbers were disconnected. An entire island of people had vanished, and no one even gave a damn.
I shift, back aching from leaning against the lockers. My skin is itchy and gross and I can’t take another second of it. I push against the carpet and rise to a stand.
“Davis,” Mr. Hopkins barks. “What are you doing?”
“Stretching,” I say, letting attitude creep into my voice. Is Milani so hard of a name to remember or does he think I’m one of his minions he can order around by their last name? “I’ve been sitting for hours. Is that okay with you?” Is he going to make us stay on the floor, now?
He doesn’t answer. I step carefully through the delinquents I’m somehow a part of, passing Mrs. Karens and the softball girls on my right, until I get to an empty part of the hallway. It’s a long hall, and we prisoners only cover half of it. The far half. Away from the door at the end.
The head of the hall, where Mr. Hopkins holds court, leads directly into the school. But the far end opens into the outside. I take a few steps towards it, passing dark doorway alcoves on either side, goosebumps prickling on my arms. I stretch them up, reaching for the ceiling, then pull one elbow towards my head, staring at the shadowy mountain before me.
Stacked against the far double doors are piles of desks and chairs, so tall and thick they cover the windows to the outside. A faint noise comes from behind the stack. It’s the sound of someone pulling on the handle, pounding on the glass.
No one goes near the stack.
“Hey. Lani, right?”
I release my arm from its stretch and turn. It’s one of the boys from detention hall. He’s wearing black, baggy pants with chains hanging from the pocket, and his lip is pierced through on the left side. Not the one who called me a bitch, but his friend. His hair is cut into a slant across one eye, and I can’t tell in the light if its naturally dark or dyed. I have not the faintest clue about his name, but he stands with his hands in his pockets, just watching, and he called me Lani.
“Yeah,” I say.
“So what do you think?”
“About what?” I raise my right arm and stretch it as well.
He nods towards the stack. “We’re going to leave soon.”
“Mr. Hopkins doesn’t seem to think so.”
“He’s wrong. No one’s coming to save us.”
I drop my arm. “I think you’re right.” The words are quiet, but swift. Automatic. My stomach clenches into a hard stone. Maybe I was letting myself hope more than I’d thought. “I have to get out of here,” I tell him. Not sure why. Maybe two days of confinement has made me go a little stir crazy.
“Yeah. I want to go home, too.”
That stone in my stomach hurts like a bitch. I don’t have a home anymore. All I want is Kimo. “What’s your name? Sorry.”
“Right. So, Adam… got any brilliant escape plans?”
“One of the classrooms is unlocked.”
My breath catches. I hadn’t expected he’d have an answer. “Which one? How do you know?”
“I tried them all last night. Hopkins was asleep. I guess they missed one during the lockdown.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” If whatever was outside got in the classroom, there would be nothing between us and them except a door handle.
He shrugged. “Seems more dangerous to be locked in here with them and no way out.”
“So what are you going to do about it? The door.”
“What people usually do with doors. Open it.”
“That’s a bad idea,” I say instantly. “There are windows… They could see you.”
“I don’t want to die in here,” he says quietly. “And I think that might be a real possibility soon.”
I bite my lip, Kimo’s face flashing before me, unruly hair forever in his eyes, blunt fingers always toying with some trinket or bit of trash. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Thought maybe you wanted to join us.”
With his head, he gestures back towards the group. The other detention-goers. I put one hand on my hip. I get it now. He thinks I’m one of them. I almost laugh. ‘Them versus Us.’ Punks versus Jocks. Doesn’t he know this isn’t an us versus them situation? It’s me versus them. Me, the dark-skinned islander against these white, southwestern clones.
My smirk morphs to a grimace. I’m turning this into natives versus tourists again. But here the tourists are the locals, and I’m the odd one out.
“No thanks,” I say. “I’m all right on my own.”
He shrugs again. “Suit yourself. It’s your funeral.”
Dark words, but I hear a smile in his voice. Cute. Real freaking cute. I brush past him as I walk back to the others, away from the faint sound of flesh on metal at the end of the hall. Soon the deep voices of the baseball team arguing with Mr. Hopkins covers up those disturbing noises. I’m seated again before I realize I forgot to ask Adam which door it is that opens.
My hands are shaking now, maybe with hunger, maybe with stress. I lay them in my lap and lean back against the lockers, wishing I’d asked which door. Adam rejoins his friends but he’s many people away from me. I’ll wait until everyone slept again tonight and then try all the handles. Maybe at night whatever –whoever– is outside won’t see me sneak into a classroom. Maybe I could get out one of the windows and then I’d be free.
I try, as I have tried for the past two days, to mentally figure out where exactly we are on campus. I’ve only been here for a month, and Norton High School is still a confusing maze to me. I get lost at least once a day. Got lost. There were no misleading corridors to navigate now. Not in this hallway.
Norton is a large school, largest for a hundred miles, the administrator told me, pink lip gloss on her front teeth as she smiled at me during the tour my first day. She bragged all about their award-winning sports teams and new, Olympic-sized swimming pool. With their rate of college-acceptances apparently I was in for an excellent education. Much better than-
She’d stopped mid-sentence, high heels clicking over the white tile floors. My sneakers shuffle after her, the sounds of our feet the only noise for a second before she recovers. I know what she’d been about to say. I knew Hawaii had one of the poorest school systems in the nation, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to take offense. I wondered if she thought I was stupid, infinitely less intelligent than the bright-eyed, blond boys and girls filling the classrooms, each class size capped at at a luxurious twenty-nine.
By the time we’d trekked through all three levels and visited each detached building and even walked by the football stadium, I was nauseous not only with fear at the size of the place, but with disgust. I didn’t belong here.
Which hall are we in now? I wonder for the umpteenth time. Detention had been in the cafeteria, so they had room to fit us all, but after the announcement on the loudspeaker we’d been herded someplace else, quickly joined by some of the sports teams pulled off the fields. I was too frustrated and angry at being locked up to pay attention to where we were going. There are other halls like this, barricaded somewhere inside Norton. There have to be. More teachers, more kids in sports. Maybe after-school clubs.
But that doesn’t matter. Why am I even thinking about other students? Lack of food is making me woozy, but I have to focus. Getting out is my mission. Away from these people, away from this place. Wait until dark.
That’s right. I close my eyes again, trying to nap and escape all this. Wait.
At the head of the hallway, one jock shoves another and I put my hands over my ears, reluctantly opening my eyes to watch them. One of the softball girls has leaped to her feet and is yelling for them to stop. The other jocks get in on the fight, pushing back one of the boys.
“Give us the key, Hopkins!”
My heart thuds with excitement. Have they finally snapped?
“Stand down, Aarons,” Mr. Hopkins says, voice low but loud, cutting through air frayed with nerves.
“The key,” the boy insists, and his friends advance.
I don’t really see what happens; there’s too many boys in the crowd. But I hear it well enough. We all do.