The zombies died slowly and for many months the surviving people had to maintain their guard. There were rumors of safe havens; places where the zombies had completely vanished. Somehow, despite the scarcity of people, these rumors were known by all the survivors. Some heard the safe haven was in Canada, some heard Mexico. We heard it was safe in Glen Echo. It was there that we traveled; cautiously.
When we arrived we discovered that Glen Echo was like a dream. It was a time capsule, untouched by the violence and horror of the outside world. The buildings were not covered in blood; there were neither people nor zombie corpses littering the roads. Everything was pristine. For the first time since the outbreak began we felt safe.
We dove in the pool to clean ourselves. We swam away months of filth and fear. We washed the smell of smoke and despair from our clothes, and from our hair. We reemerged from the water cleansed, reinvigorated, and starving.
We ran across the park to the Candy Corner and binged on sugary treats that were so chemical that their expiration dates were still years away. The sweet candy and the sour candy reminded us of when we were young; no, we were still young--it reminded us of when we were innocent. Before the death and destruction of all we knew. We stuffed ourselves with goodies and felt better.
Spurred by our sugar high we explored the park. We found reminders of what the park had been; it was as if Glen Echo did not want to forget that it had once been filled with happy people. My companions and I looked at the pictures and pretended no time had passed since they were painted; that no virus had infected and killed most of the population. It was easy to pretend because the paint on the buildings was just as bright as in the pictures. One could imagine that any moment a couple would appear, dressed smartly in 1950’s garb.
In the largest building there was a carousal that appeared as pristine and new as the rest of the park. Excited, we broke into the carousal house and tried to make the ride work; but the key to turn it on was missing. The spell broke and we could no longer pretend the zombies had not come.
When we finished exploring we set up our tents inside the empty rink where the bumper cars used to run. The ceiling and the plastic walls provided us with more shelter than we had had in the previous months of travel. As the days went by the rink filled up with treasures from our more thorough explorations of the park. We removed signs from the rides and leaned them against the wooden supports. We took rugs from the buildings and laid them across the wooden floors. When we found roller blades the three of us took turns circling the rink and inventing tricks.
During our first weeks at the park we maintained our guard; we did hourly patrols and slept in shifts. But it seemed as if the rumors were true—no zombie was found in Glen Echo and slowly we relaxed. Instead of walking with our eyes wary and our backs tense we ran without a care, without even glancing around us. My friends and I spent our days playing on the playground, naming and renaming the animals on the carousal, and feasting on rock candy and lollipops. The park became our home.
Two months after we had arrived at Glen Echo they came. We had long since given up carrying our weapons. They came at us when while we played in the park. The games we played were elementary but they made us happy, they reminded us of a more innocent time; we had just started to believe that time had returned to us.
They attacked and we ran. We ran as fast as we could but we had forgotten what it truly meant to run. My companions not run fast enough, or they did not run in the right direction, or they did not remember to zig and zag. Whatever my friends did not do killed them. They killed my companions, my friends, my family. They killed them and ran me off so they could have our park, our rink house, or carousal, and our Candy Corner. They were not zombies who hunted us on instinct, they were fellow survivors who saw what we had, wanted it, and killed to take it.
After the zombies came there were no televisions, laptops, or cell phones. After the zombies came there was no social order. I had forgotten that while living in the enchanted park with my family; I will not forget it again.
[photo credits: Me and Katie]
[story credit: me]