I'm working on a satire that pokes a bit of loving fun at the world of competitive Irish dance. This is the first chapter. Hope you enjoy. WARNING: DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE.
Trish McBride was a goner. This was obvious
to Molly Delaney even as her own mother gunned their mini-van past the McBrides’ disabled vehicle at eighty-five.
Molly’s mother had not obeyed the speed limit in two years. It would have been suicide to do so.
Mrs. McBride, Trish’s
mother, stood on the roof of her car, screaming as if the world were about to end—a fate that, for Mrs. McBride, seemed less than sixty seconds away. And although her daughter was locked inside and safe for the moment, it was only a matter of time. In
the few seconds that it took for the McBrides to diminish and disappear into the backdrop of the early morning as the Delaneys’ van sped on, it was clear that neither mother nor daughter stood a chance. And Molly knew from experience that stopping to
help was just stupid.
“Was that the McBrides?” asked Molly’s mother, who tried to keep her eyes fixed on the road in case she had to swerve around an overturned car or rotting corpse. “Never run over one, not matter how
badly decomposed it seems,” Molly had overheard her father, who worked security, caution his wife. “A rib could puncture the gas tank or a tire, and then where would you be?”
Apparently right where the McBrides were, thought Molly.
Although she had had only a few seconds to take in the scene, the McBride SUV had appeared to be up on a jack with its left front tire removed.
Molly knew that her own mother kept about twenty of those yellow cans in their own car, the ones where you
just attach a little hose to the tire and it seals the puncture while blowing pressurized air back in. “You can’t take a chance these days,” her mother had said when loading them into a box in the cargo area, “because if you’re
outside of the car for more than a minute or two, they’ll probably get you.”
Of course, Molly knew that some flats could not be repaired with the canned air. If it were a bigger hole, you would need to change the tire, although in emergencies
of that sort, she had been amazed at how far some had driven on a flat in order to stay alive. But they were still fifty miles from Cincinnati, and Molly knew it would have been pretty tough to for the McBrides to cover that distance on the metal rim of the
wheel. And perhaps Mrs. McBride had been worried that Trish would miss her first dance at the Two States Feis, the Irish dance competition to which they were flying at speeds now approaching ninety-five.
Normally Molly would have tried to forget the
Trish McBride incident as quickly as possible. That’s what her mother advised. “If you don’t put it out of your mind, the fear will make you weak. It can paralyze you.” Still, it was hard not to think of the McBrides. Although they
lived in a different compound, Trish danced in the sixteen-year-old age category, same as Molly. They had competed against each other more than a dozen times, though Trish always finished ahead of Molly.
“Maybe somebody will stop and help them,”
said Katie, the girl buckled into the seat next to Molly. Katie was a year younger than Molly and six inches shorter. The two girls had known each other since kindergarten but had been inseparable since they had moved into the compound two years ago. Katies
parents had disappeared in the first awful weeks of the outbreak, and so Katie often rode to feiseanna—the Gaelic word for a dance competition—with the Delaneys.
“Sure,” said Molly. “Maybe a hunting party will drive past.
They’d have lots of guns.” But Molly knew this was unlikely. It would all be over very quickly. It looked like Mrs. McBride had gotten the vehicle up on the jack and had removed the flat tire when they attacked. If she had gotten the spare on and
maybe just two of the lug nuts, that would have been enough to let her race away, but either she worked too slowly or the zombies showed up too quickly. Maybe it was just bad luck.
So Mrs. McBride had climbed up on top, though it certainly offered her
only a brief reprieve. They had already surrounded the vehicle. Looked like about twenty. And while Molly knew zombies were not as nimble as uninfected people, climbing onto a SUV was not usually a problem for them.
Molly had seen Trish’s face
for just a moment, and then they had been too far away. “She looked scared,” she said, surprising herself, for she had not intended to say it out loud.
“Everybody gets that look once in awhile when you think you’re cornered and
you’re going to become a raw zombie hors d’oeuvre,” said Katie. “When we see Trish later, we’ll have to tell her how freaky she looked.”
Molly nodded, smiling, but in this case, Molly couldn’t see any way out
of it for her Trish. This should have been clear to Katie, too, though Molly wondered whether this mental disconnect was her younger friend’s way of dealing with the horror: Pretend everything’s going to be all right, like in a movie when the actors
all get up and wash off the fake blood after the big battle scene.
The blood in this scene would not be fake.
The zombies would gorge themselves on Mrs. McBride while Trish watched. She knew that sometimes this would get people to rush out of
locked cars or rooms to try and help—as if there were anything they could do. More likely, Trish would just close her eyes and scream and cry and go a little insane, hoping the zombies would go away once they’d finished.
But they wouldn’t.
Molly knew that when zombies have a sure thing, they hang around until they get a chance to sink their teeth into it. Zombies were not very good problem solvers. Her father had explained this. “Their brains are mostly gone, eroded by the crazy virus
that started it all.” However, Molly had seen them swarming over disabled vehicles on the highway before. They might break the mini-van’s windows just by pounding on them for as long as it took. Or maybe they would tip the van over and that would
pop out the windshield. Mrs. McBride’s femur would probably make a pretty good club to break the glass, but then, as her father had observed, they were not so good with problem solving. They were simply relentless. And that was usually sufficient.
“I guess you won’t have to worry about Trish finishing ahead of you today,” said Molly’s mother brightly, cranking the steering wheel to the left suddenly to avoid a motorcycle that stood, inexplicably, right there on the center
line of the freeway, its kickstand down, as if the rider had spontaneously decided to park it and had walked off to become a zombie snack. “But she was always kind of a snob, don’t you think? That gives you a real opportunity, Molly. You could
win this feis!”
“I’ll try my best, mom.”
Molly could see that her mother’s certainty about Trish’s demise had made Katie uneasy, but there was nothing she could do about it. Katie would have eventually put
two-and-two together when Trish failed to show up at the feis. She sighed. Her mother always thought she could win the feis, but so far it had not happened. She had finished third a couple of times, but most of her performances placed her somewhere in the
middle of the pack.
But with Trish McBride out of the picture, maybe her mother was right this time. In fact, one could never tell who would actually make it to a feis. There could be other dancers out there facing the same fate as Trish McBride. Not
that Molly wanted to win a feis because zombies had devoured the competition. It was just the way things were since the virus.
Nobody knew where the virus had come from, or even whether it was actually a virus at all. According to what Molly’s
father had told her, some thought it originated with terrorists. “Though if that was the case,” he added, “it sort of backfired, because it spread all over the world and got them, too.”
She had also heard the rumor that the virus
was a military experiment in biological warfare that had gone horribly wrong. Still others blamed it on genetic engineering on corporate farms, though Molly had no idea what connection that might have to humans becoming zombies. There were even stories that
the virus was something that hitched a ride on a meteorite, like in science fiction movies. Whether virus or genetic nightmare or something completely defying explanation, the only way a person could catch it was to be bitten by one of the infected ones.
Unfortunately, the infected ones were only too happy to oblige.
“Thirty miles to Cincinnati,” called out Mrs. Delaney, pointing as they passed a green mileage sign.
“Maybe they’ll have nachos and cheese at the feis
today,” said Katie, who now seemed to have completely forgotten Trish McBride. “Oh, I hope they do! It’s been so long since I’ve had them.”
Before the virus, Molly and Katie had attended at least twenty dance competitions
a year. Back then, there had been hundreds of feiseanna across North America, some with over 2000 dance competitors. Each feis would have six to ten raised plywood stages about as wide as a school classroom, plus there would be vendors selling dance merchandise,
Irish jewelry, Irish sweaters, t-shirts and more. Molly’s mother had estimated that since the virus, maybe fifteen dance events remained—which Molly felt was amazing when she considered what had happened to the world in the past two years.
There were sometimes still vendors at feiseanna, but they rarely had anything new and the merchandise was often picked over. But what both girls missed most was the food. Before the virus, there had always been well-stocked concessions at dance competitions.
They had served things like hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit smoothies, soft pretzels, subs and pizza slices. Their favorite, however, had been the nacho boat—a plastic tray filled with tortilla chips slathered in creamy, yellow cheese sauce—and they
would share one of these delicacies during the break between dances at every feis.
Now, unfortunately, there were food shortages, and so the choices were often limited to what was in season or what had been salvaged from any nearby grocery stores. The
last time either girl had seen tortilla chips was a year ago, and there had been no creamy cheese sauce. The main food item at the most recent feis had been baked beans.
Molly twisted in her seat to look at the green and white garment bag containing
her competition dress on the van’s rearmost seat. When she put on her dance dress, in some ways, it felt like before the virus, when she would get up early and her mother would drive her to a feis where she’d dance her two dances and nervously
wait for the judges to post results. The other bag—the shotgun-shaped one lying on the passenger seat next to Molly’s—was a reminder of the grim truth . Before the virus, no one would have ever brought a gun to a feis. Now Molly knew
that anyone would be crazy not to bring one.
Her mother also had a pistol in her purse. And mace. Just like regular folks, zombies hated mace.
Katie spotted the CINCINNATTI 15 sign. “It’s such a long ride! I wish just once we could
stay in a hotel!”
That had changed, too. They had used to stay in hotels sometimes, particularly if a feis was more than a four-hour drive from their home. Now, hotels were like zombie wasp nests. People had to be careful where they slept. Some
houses were safe, but most people had moved into fortified compounds where they could work together to protect themselves. Molly’s family lived with about 500 others in Lawrence, Indiana on the CountyFairgrounds. It was a natural choice because it had
a big chain link fence around it with barbed wire at the top. People rarely ventured outside except in armed-to-the-teeth groups to search for food or medicine. Or for Irish dance competitions.
“Zombies don’t like barbed wire,” Molly’s
father had explained. It was one of their weaknesses. That combined with their coordination issues and their fried brains gave uninfected people a fighting chance. Molly knew Zombies also did not do as well in snow and ice, so winter was a little safer.
The poor southern states where they did not get snow had been decimated by the zombie invasion.
“Watch for our exit,” said Mrs. Delaney.
As usual, Katie spotted it first.
COVINGTON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE
That was another difference, Molly noted. These days, dance competitions could not be held in hotels or convention centers or college field houses as they had been in the past. A feis had to be held in a place that could be defended.
Today, they would dance in a prison.
It was what life had become. The zombies had become their jailers while the pathetic humans shuttled themselves from one prison to the next. Except for Trish McBride.
She was free.