Picture this: a beautiful white plantation house with three floors, an enormous library, and the biggest kitchen you’ve ever seen; surrounded by huge fields of corn and sugarcane. I grew up here. We were originally from New Orleans, but when the monsters came, we had to high-tail it out of the city and quick. I was only four when the monsters came, so I didn’t remember much of our life before, but I heard it was pretty nice. We’d made a good home for ourselves here, my dad, two sisters, and a few other people. Not many kids my age, though.
Our plantation home earned quite the reputation these past few years as a safe haven for survivors. There was usually a steady stream of people coming and going, looking for food and shelter for a few days, but they usually left again, searching for their long-lost family members. I don’t know why they even bothered. It had been twelve years since the monsters came. No one was ever going to find their families alive anymore. No one.
I lost my mom to the monsters when I was six. We were clearing out this very plantation, getting rid of the monsters, when one of them actually managed to sneak up behind my mom. They dragged her away and turned her into one of them before anyone even knew what happened. I thought my dad would completely lose it like my sister did, but he was strong. He kept clearing the plantation, making it safe for the rest of us. There were about twenty or so people with us at that time. Mostly grownups. Not many kids survived the monsters in those first couple of years. Made too much noise, you see. Moved too slow. And worst of all: they couldn’t understand that their parents were no longer their parents.
My dad kept my sisters and me alive by teaching us how to defend ourselves right from the start. He taught us to keep moving, never stop moving, and hit harder than you’ve ever hit before. Back then, I had bashed in the brains of at least a dozen monsters before I lost my first tooth.
Things were a little different now. The monsters went quiet about a month ago, no one really knew why. We still had the high walls around our plantation, guarded day and night by a dozen fighters, but they hadn’t seen any monsters in quite a while. People were starting to get their hopes up around here; that maybe after twelve years of constant fear, the monsters were finally getting under control; that maybe they were finally dying off, but I knew better. It would never end.
You see, there were almost a billion people living in North America before the monsters came. The so-called “experts” said that over eighty percent of the population turned in those first few months. Sure, that left over one hundred million people alive, but I heard that after only two years, seventy percent of the survivors were either dead or turned too. So now, twelve years later, there were probably only a few thousand survivors left.
There were still good people and bad people, just like before. The difference was that there were no more rules for people to follow, no punishment for doing bad things. It was every man for himself. There was rioting and looting, just as you would expect when the world went to hell. So much food was wasted in those first few days.
I read about these people called “survivalists” that had stockpiled canned foods and bottled water in case there was a nuclear bomb or something. I wonder if any of them survived the monsters. Probably not. I wonder if they had toilet paper. What I wouldn’t give for some toilet paper.
The President of the United States survived the monsters, did you know that? He was the one who coined the term “monsters.” As in, What kind of monster would eat his own mother, grandmother, daughter, son, etc., etc., etc.
The story was that the president was visiting his father up near Jackson, Mississippi when the monsters came. His father was living in one of those tiny towns where they still had horse and buggy races every Sunday after church. They’re farmers up there now. I met the president once. He’s shorter than I thought he would be. We got some of our meat from him occasionally. The rumor was that he kept the monsters at bay by feeding them the gross parts of the animals that even the hungriest people wouldn’t eat: the eyes, brains, intestines, that sort of thing. It made sense. The most powerful man in the world feeding monsters cow brains. That’s life now.
There was a rumor going around the plantation that the president was planning something, but I didn’t know what. He was just a farmer now, but I guess old habits die hard. Most things died hard nowadays.
I remember when I was really young, probably about five or so, we were holed up in an abandoned house on the edge of some town with two older ladies and some guy with a nasty beard. It had things stuck in it that smelled like fish. After about two weeks the food ran out. The monsters had the house surrounded and we couldn’t even risk opening a window. The man started to go crazy. He wouldn’t sleep. He just paced through the house all day and night talking about breaking down the door and taking his chances with the monsters. He was stupid. Just two days without food and he lost it. He pulled the barricade from the door and rushed into the mob of monsters waiting outside. I could still hear his screams.
He probably saved all our lives that day. The monsters swarmed around the man with the nasty beard, giving us an opening to escape through the back of the house. We ran as hard as we could for as long as we could. One of the old ladies died of exhaustion within a few hours. She just stopped running, grabbed her chest, and fell facedown in the grass. My mom ran back to check on her, but she was already gone. Mom had to bash her head in so she wouldn’t turn. It sounded like someone dropped a watermelon from a two-story building. Looked very, very different though.
We had to climb a tree that night because there were no houses to hide in. We were lucky the monsters didn’t get us. We had to get high enough that they wouldn’t smell us and hold really, really still. None of us got any sleep that night. My little sister nodded off a few times and we had to catch her before she fell. That was scary. When morning finally came the monsters had gone somewhere else. Lucky. There’s no other word for it.
The other old lady was still here at the plantation with us. She was deaf and senile, but part of the family. She told us stories of the good ol’ days, back when there was ee-lectricity and toilets that actually flushed. But I don’t know; those good ol’ days brought the monsters here in the first place, so I didn’t care for her stories very much.
My little sister loved her stories. She was only two when the monsters came and she remembered nothing of our old life. She was lucky. Nothing to miss. Nothing to hold onto. She doesn’t even remember Mom. I’ve tried to remember, but it’s fading. I would ask my older sister, but she never had time for us anymore. She turned eighteen and was old enough to go out scouting and hunting; that was her life now. I wished it could be mine too. Just two more years and I would be old enough to leave the plantation.
My father taught me to shoot with a slingshot as soon as the monsters came. He showed me a way to sharpen the rocks so that they hit the brain just like an arrow would. Two years ago, he taught me how to shoot with a bow and I’d been practicing constantly, but I was better with a slingshot.
I was allowed to stand guard at the walls, though. That was my favorite job. I’d killed quite a few monsters that way. They ventured too close to our boundaries and I would bring them down. I still wasn’t allowed to go out and get my arrows out of their heads. I didn’t see how that was fair. I killed them. I should have been able to go get my arrows back, but my father didn’t see it that way. He was just being overprotective. I knew how to handle myself.