Within the first few days of the crisis the evacuations began, at first people were moved to school gymnasiums and sports arenas but after a few disastrous incursions by the hungry dead martial law was declared and the army started moving the refugees to fortified locations.
A long line of people waited at the entrance to the Watervliet Arsenal; the arsenal was a partially decommissioned munitions factory that the US Army Materiel Command still kept under its thumb. Entire buildings had been cleared to make room for cots and for the distribution of food and medical supplies. Any of the overflow of refugees were consigned to the moth eaten tents that clustered in the parking lot.
Only one entrance was open, the others were triple barricaded. There were snipers on every wall prepared to repel any approaching zombie hordes with necessary force.
Mark Bradford and his parents were waiting with everyone else. Their arms were weighed down with suitcases and knapsacks, they shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. They had been there for hours.
As if I haven’t spent enough time standing around, Mark thought. He had been waiting to see the new Star Wars film when the ghoulish creatures had attacked. He had barely escaped that first incident with his life and that was only thanks to the timely arrival of his friend Alec.
But that had been days ago, Alec had headed off to make his own preparations, leaving Mark to deal with the love and exasperation of his parents. He was twenty years old but his Mom and Dad treated him like a child, they thought his obsession with the Star Wars films was a sign of immaturity. They just didn’t understand.
All around them people were glued to their cell phones, taking calls and checking news websites. Conversations filtered up and down the line, eavesdropping and misunderstandings were rampant.
“What did he say?” Mark’s mother asked.
His Dad replied, “Something about Libya invading the Netherlands.”
“What?” Mark didn’t think that sounded right, “Why would they do that?”
“They think the zombies are some kind of enemy chemical attack,” his father explained, “their armies marched right across the border.”
“Dad, I don’t think those two countries share a border.”
“Well then,” Mr. Bradford put his hands on his hips, “why don’t you tell me what countries border Libya?”
“Uh...” Mark felt himself blush, “France?”
“These are the end times,” a little old lady said. To Mark she looked like one of those women from Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons, a frumpy dress, blue hair and horn rimmed glasses.
“Do you really think so?” Mrs. Bradford shivered, “I knew we should have gone to church more often.”
Mr. Bradford waved dissuasively “Don’t get yourself worked up Terry, this is just some kind of virus thing. Terrorists or illegal aliens probably brought it over the boarder.”
The sky was cloudy and a different helicopter seemed to pass overhead every few minutes; some were military, others were from police and the local news. The line for the Arsenal was getting longer and longer, there was already talk about having to turn people away.
What would they do if they couldn’t get in? All the other places were closed and the roads out of Albany were barely moving at all.
“This is God’s judgement,” the old woman continued, “the world is too sinful and the legions of Hell are upon us.”
Mark tried not to roll his eyes but he couldn’t stand people like her. Why was it whenever something went wrong there was someone just waiting to call it divine punishment? Talk about hokey religions. He’d rather have a blaster at his side any day.
Half a sermon later and it was his family’s turn to be admitted. The soldiers at the front gate explained they were going to have to inspect their bags for contraband and guns. At first Mr. Bradford balked at this but then they explained he could keep his liver pills. They also explained they would need photo id for record-keeping.
“Here honey,” Mrs. Bradford said, “take your grandma.”
Mark carefully took the urn. He had never understood why his Mom insisted on keeping his Nana’s ashes.
The soldiers kept their drivers licenses and then carefully opened their bags. “What the Hell is this?” one of them said.
“Mark!” Mr. Bradford rounded on his only child, “What in the name of God have you done?”
Tears welled up in Mrs. Bradford’s eyes as she realized that all their bags save for one had been packed with Star Wars memorabilia.
His father was shouting now, “What the Hell is wrong with you?”
“But... but...” Mark backed up, holding his Nana’s ashes protectively in front of him, “You told me to save the family heirlooms...”