Social Director of the Afterlife, Chapter 1

Dear Diary,

Hi! I found this diary today during a supply run. I’m not sure why I picked it up. I haven’t written in a diary since I was 15 and I needed to moan about how no one appreciated how special I was and how my sister was a bitch and my parents hated me, so on, so forth. But I thought, why not?

A little bit about me: my name is Cinnamon. And yes, that’s my real name. I work as a kind of social director for our group. I’m a part-time therapist, voice of hope, karaoke singer, and so much more. It’s not like this job came with a description so I do a lot of different things. I consider myself the social director of the afterlife.

I’m going to be honest. Things around here have been tense. I love my job, I really do. But sometimes I feel like I’m always underwater. I can never catch up and I can never give everyone what they need. I think David needs psych meds. I think Megan needs serious counseling. I think Trev is just deranged.

But what am I supposed to do? I do the best I can and that’s all I should be worried about. They know I’m not a trained counselor or a professional anything. I’m just trying to fill in for a bunch of professionals with education and licenses. Thankfully, my social programs are going wonderfully.

Our Card Games Thursdays have been great for everyone. I think I might even make our talent shows monthly. Laurel is getting really good on the guitar for having such limited resources. Jenna’s voice is always beautiful. I wish I could get Tommy more involved. He IS supposed to be our leader.

Anyway, today’s supply run didn’t go as smoothly as planned. We lost Larry. It was just four of us. Me, David, Larry and Paulson. Larry was standing guard while we rummaged through an old K-Mart that we had been salvaging in bits and pieces. We thought we were fine.

We hadn’t seen any of the assholes for miles, getting there. We were looking around for everything we needed. There were some antibiotics that we needed from the pharmacy, we got some clothes, some canned food. I found this journal on a collapsed shelf.

Everything was going great, then we heard gunshots. We all grabbed our shit and ran to the front, but it was too late. A herd of zombies had come through and Larry had bites all over him by the time we got there. He was screaming for help, but there was nothing we could do.

We left out of the back. The small herd was so busy with Larry that they didn’t bother us. We ran into two more assholes out back, but we were able to get to the cars and get away before anyone else found us. I rode back with David. On the way there, he mentioned how great is that Larry didn’t have family. We didn’t have to give anyone bad news when we got back.

I agreed with him, because, fuck, is that horrible. But really, our group is getting so small that losing anyone is terrible. It’s not like we’re acquaintances with anyone in our group. We all live and work together side by side. I’m going to miss Larry. I was never super close to him. But he was nice and he always laughed at my jokes. Even if they weren’t that funny.

We’re down to 15 now. I can’t even remember how many people we started out with, but it was a lot more than that. We used to take people in regularly, now it seems like there are seriously long gaps in between strays wondering onto our property.

And when we do see someone else, they want us dead. Sometimes I feel like we’re in prison and we need to get the word out that no one can make us their bitch. But our group isn’t a bunch of thugs. We’re just normal people who worked together to keep things going after the change.

Regardless, tonight is the dance. I’m going with Eric. Laurel is going to play guitar and Jenna is going to sing. I hope everyone enjoys themselves.

Dear Diary,

Well, the dance was a disaster. David apparently found a bottle of wine when we were at K-Mart. He got trashed in his room, then came to the cafeteria and started ranting about how everyone was dead and we were all walking corpses or some bullshit like that. Paulson and Eric tried to reason with him to no avail. Finally, Kesia hit him over the head with her gun and knocked him out cold.

Darius and Eric dragged him back to his room. After that, no one really felt like dancing. Caressa and Megan tried to put on a brave face, but there was nothing they could do. The night was well over.

After Eric got back, we went on a stroll around the hospital. He said he needed to check the gates anyway, so we went. There were some assholes caught in the fences, but nothing major. We re-killed them and moved them away. Eric told me that he had been having thoughts of suicide.

Then I realized that he didn’t want to take me out to the dance, he just wanted to talk to me about how he felt. Which was a little annoying. I thought that he might even, just slightly, a little bit, think of me as more than just a zombie-killing machine. But I guess not.

I talked to him for a bit, but I have no idea how helpful it was. He said that he’s really lost hope lately. He feels like we’re just hamsters in a wheel and no help is ever coming. I told him the truth: it’s either have hope and keep pushing forward or just give up. We’ve had people just give up before. I mean, no one is going to say that this is exactly easy.

But I told him how much everyone in the community enjoys his company and how vital he is to our survival. I tried to make him think that if he killed himself, he would hurt us too. I’m not sure if that’s true though. Everyone seems to be expendable. Just when we think we can’t live without someone, that person dies and we make it through. I know that if I turned, someone would gun me down without a second though and life would continue.

I have to get to open mic now, but I’ll write more tomorrow.

Dear Diary,

Today already officially sucks. I was totally fine this morning and then Rosanna was like, “I’m so sorry.” I asked her what for and she said that it was the four year anniversary of my husband’s death today. It might sound weird, but I didn’t even remember and I wish that she hadn’t brought it up.

I know she was trying to be supportive, but come on. Everyone knows I’m not over him. Princeton was my soul mate. We were perfect together. I loved him so much. And now he’s gone. Not only gone, but ripped apart by zombies and left to rot in the sun.

There’s no comforting deaths in the zombie apocalypse. Everyone dies before their time, everyone dies tragically, no one gets the death that they deserve. There’s no such thing as someone just slipping away in the night and going out peacefully.

These days you’re ripped apart by monsters and you can consider yourself lucky if you don’t become a monster yourself. I wasn’t even there when Princeton died. Andre told me that it was quick. But I have no idea if that’s true. They might have told me that to spare my feelings. I know I’ve done that before.

At least open mic last night went well. Megan and Laurel performed and even Felton got up and sang a Gaelic lullaby that his mom used to sing to him. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed. I tried to talk to Eric to follow up with him, but I didn’t get a chance. He seemed okay though. He was laughing and clapping and having a good time.

I’m about to go do some laundry and then do my rounds. Everything seems quiet. We haven’t had any problems with the warehouse group a few miles away for several weeks now. Of course, if we haven’t heard from them then it could mean that they’re all dead.

I remember when we were relieved that the camping bandits had finally left us alone. A few weeks later we find the entire camp at our gates, all zombies, all trying to eat us. We were glad that they weren’t a threat anymore, but right then they were an undead threat. But once we dispatched them, we were relieved again.

About to go check on David. He’s been in his room all day with the door locked. I just want to make sure he’s okay. I’m taking my gun though. We all know what happened when Karen slit her wrists, only to reanimate and try to kill the rest of us.

I really miss Princeton. I miss him every day, but some days it’s even harder. I miss talking to him the most. I just wish that he was here to make me laugh or talk to me about his thoughts on life. In this world, we don’t really get to mourn or grieve, but nothing will ever take Princeton’s place in my heart. Nothing.

Dear Diary,

Today was actually okay. We have a new member to our group. His name is Bailey and he’s really nice. We found him wandering in the woods in back of the hospital. I was on a run with Fatima to see if the cherry trees were bearing fruit yet and we saw him behind the fences.

We got our guns ready, just in case. But he called out to us and asked if he could join our group. He said that he had been part of a mini-society at a military encampment. But the infection got in and he was the only survivor.

He was so desperate to see other people that he just started crying when he was talking. He really wanted to be with someone. I’ve never been out on my own out there, but I can’t imagine being alone on the road with everything on the planet; human and non-human, wanting you dead.

We asked Bailey the standard questions about his past and what he’s done since the turn, but he checked out. If he’s a bad guy, he’s the best actor I’ve ever seen. Fatima and I brought him in and we introduced him to the group. Everyone was very welcoming.

I announced that we’d have a dinner in his honor that night. He was so happy to meet everyone. He told us that he was an excellent shot and he knew how to hunt and had some basic medical training. Which is great. Considering that we’re in a hospital and none of us are trained in anything. I think he’ll be a great addition to the group.

We had a council meeting late tonight. We are running low on bullets again. Tommy suggested that we learn how to make our own. Every gun store in the area has been raided more than once. Many of them have nothing left at all. Common ammo, specialty ammo, it’s all gone.

I liked Tommy’s suggestion, but none of us know how to make bullets. It just seems so 18th century. We all decided to tell the group that we need to converse what bullets we do have and continue our rule of guns only when we’re in desperate need. There was also a discussion about if/when we should train Laurel to use weapons.

She’s only 14, but you don’t get a childhood in this world anymore. Paulson was for it, but Jenna was against. I think she doesn’t want to ruin Laurel’s innocence or something. But the girl has seen her parents devoured apart by zombies. How much innocence do you have left after that?

I told Jenna that training her is a necessity. With the warehouse group being such a threat and the fact that it seems the assholes are traveling in large herds now, we need all of the help we can get. Besides, anyone who can’t defend themselves is going to be eaten. It’s just that simple.

In the end, we decided that we would start training Laurel. I wish we had the bullets to do target practice with her. Teaching her is going to be great, but a gun can make all of the difference in the world when you’re fighting a herd.

Darius suggested that I do a board game night. He said that he saw some games when he went to a strip mall, nearby. I told him to get as many games as he could and I’d arrange it. I hope he finds something fun. Board games would be great.

In other news, our library system is working really well. I showed Bailey our humble collection and he was amazed. He said they hardly had any books at his last place and the ones they did have, no one would ever loan out. So he picked out a book on woodcrafts to read. He said he was really good with his hands and always got excellent grades at wood shop.

Dear Diary,

David got drunk again. Where the hell is he getting the booze? Tommy ordered a search of his room after this. He’s just getting dangerous now. We were eating dinner when he came in and told us all that he hates us and wishes we were dead. Then he said that my name is ridiculous. Uh, really? I had no idea. I thought being named after a cooking spice was perfectly normal.

Felton was really angry. He demanded that we kick David out of the group. But when we had a council meeting, no one was up to it. We don’t want to shove someone out into the wild and wish them the best. They would be torn to piece in a matter of days. It’s a death sentence to go out there.

At the council meeting, we decided that Trev will room with David and make sure that he doesn’t get anymore booze. I talked to David after that. He had sobered up and he felt terrible. He kept getting emotional and apologizing.

I told him that we all know how stressful it is out there, but we have to keep it together for everyone. I said that drinking was only making his problems worse, not better. He needed to think about the bigger picture and let us help him through this. David didn’t seem very convinced.

Bailey talked to me afterward. The confrontation made him really nervous. He said that he just got here, he doesn’t want to see this group fall apart. I assured him that we’ve been through worse. I said that David was just having a hard time after his brother died a few weeks ago and we needed to be extra supportive for him. But Bailey didn’t look very convinced either.

I have to get going to charades now, but I will write more tomorrow. We’re going on a supply run to the shopping center and there’s some debate about who should be on the team. Tommy doesn’t want David going and Paulson doesn’t want to go again so soon. We might end up drawing straws. Oh joy.

To read more in this series, click here.