Is it a Wonderful Life?


 

                The snow had been falling for three days.  The usually bustling streets of Seattle had been sheared to a ghost town of sorts.  Those that were out were the few that owned vehicles with 4 wheel drive or chains.  But even on this bleak Wednesday morning when the freeways would typically be bumper to bumper traffic, only a few cars were braving the roads, sparsely separated between one another on this Christmas day.  

                Symon Large was among the few out today.  His car was older, rougher running than most people that lived around here, but even though he couldn’t afford a BMW or a Mini, the tiny SUV of his had a well working 4 wheel drive system, which on a day like today made him feel a little luckier than most.

                He drove slow, keeping one hand on the gear shift in case his wheels started to break loose.  The tires under him churned through the slush, pushing and pulling him in whatever direction they’d been trudged to lead to.  But even with the slight jerks left or right causing his heart to jump just a little, he kept his foot on the gas and his sights set across the water. 

                The grayed sky continued its relentless white fall, the cumulative effect nearly blocking all but the shaded view of the bridge leading across the stilled water below.  Once on the bridge, Symon noticed something very odd, something he’d never experienced in his life, and never thought possible in a place like this:  he was alone.  His rearview mirror reflected the same empty stretch of falling white and shaded ground that was in front of him.  Without a moment of hesitation, he pulled to the side of the road and got out of his car.

                The air was still, save for the silently falling snow.  The water down below barely moved, only the slight ripple of current reflected what light was available.  Symon leaned over the side of the bridge, railing that had likely rarely taken such an extended perch before.  He gazed out over the clustered city to his right, still and sparse.  He’d never seen her like this, a bared visage of itself.  Even the most doctored of pictures of the city contained so much life.  Lights dotting the rising buildings showing people hard at work.  Red tail lights streaking in a long procession of never ending commuting.  Something was always moving in every memory he had of the place, and it was that memory, that ingrained sense of being amidst, that had him feeling so vacant, so lost at this moment.

                This was not his city.  This lifeless place was unknown to him.  All of it familiar, but separated from any former memory of itself.  Symon didn’t know what to think, and though the cold was eating through his tough jacket, it passed unknowingly through him.  He was lost.  On the bridge but far away on a different bridge in a different city in some other time when calm was an unavoidable entity. He had never felt this way before.

                Another moment went by staring over the water at the still city and then he was off, on foot, heading down the bridge on foot, and right in the center of the road.  He didn’t know why, he just felt he could, and that there was no reason not to.  Had anyone else in this city’s history ever done this?  This simple feat, to walk down a street.  He looked back, still no cars except his own on the side of the road, so he kept going.  He could hear each step of his in the snow, crunching down; footprints where no other littered the freshly falling snow.  He’d never felt so privileged.  It was like he was the king of all of this, everything around, this road, all of this was his.  Or it was for a few moments.  Someone else was walking down the street too, and they were coming towards him.

                At first Symon was annoyed, this was his moment, damn anyone that would tear that from him.  But he settled, someone was eventually going to spoil it, amazingly it was someone doing the same thing he was doing. Eventually the smile crossed over his cooled face again, sharing this didn’t seem like such a bad idea on Christmas. 

                He looked behind again, his car far away now and just a shadow of itself past the white falling between them.  Still no cars ahead or behind, just a slow walking person just like himself, each heading towards the other. 

                “Hey there!”  Symon called out waving a gloved hand and the air.  “Isn’t this amazing!”

                He listened for a moment, his voice falling dead through the air, and without the wind he thought he heard a low response from ahead, but nothing he could make out.  He figured he’d wait a few more steps until trying again.

                As they drew closer to one another he noticed now that the other had a slight limp, like his right side was a little weaker than the other.  Had this person been in a car accident?  He decided to call out again, louder than before.

                “Hey there?!  Are you okay?!  Hello?!” 

                Another low grumble of an answer came, nothing that sounded like an answer.  What was wrong with them?  Stroke?  Accident?  Maybe they were just irritated that he, Symon, was on their road.  Well, screw them then.  He’d let them know what he thought in just a minute.

                He looked back again, his car just a blemish past the white, but still no cars coming.  The man in front of him was wearing a green jacket, filthy.  Its fuzzy hood was pulled up over his head, and his jeans looked tattered and just as dirty as the rest of him.  Symon should have known it was just some homeless person.  Oh well, Symon thought, it’s Christmas and he had a five dollar bill on him anyway that he didn’t really need.

                “Merry Christmas!” Symon called to the beggar.

                “Muuuunnnnngggggg…” came the retort of the hobbling man in front of him.

                “It’s pretty crazy huh?  Never seen this city so quiet and still before?”  Symon said to the unresponsive man just 8 feet from him.  “Um, do you need some money?  You can get yourself a hot chocolate or something.”

                Symon pulled the bill from his pocket and extended his arm to the man in front of him, and just as the man’s face came into view under that shadowy hood, he lurched toward Symon’s extended hand grabbing at it with his filthy hands and actually biting into Symon’s jacket causing him to lose his balance and fall to the ground, the beggar on top.

                “Hey!  What the hell, man?”  Symon said as he pushed at the man’s head with his free arm and trying to pull his other away from the man.  “That’s all I have on me!  Let go of me!”

                “Muuuuuuuunnnnngggggg!” was the only response that came form the other.

                Finally Symon broke free and pushed the guy away by putting his boot to the other’s face and pushing hard.  Symon took a moment and looked at his arm.  The jacket was nearly ripped clean through where the man had been biting, but he was still holding the five dollar bill. 

                “The hell is wrong with you?  Take the money, by some food, don’t try and bite me.  Crazy bastard!”

                Symon stood and threw the bill down at the struggling man, but as the man’s hood came off from the struggle to get back on his feet, Symon finally saw the face of the man that tried to bite him.  It wasn’t human.  The skin of his face was gray, dying, peeling and in some areas gone altogether exposing his gums and teeth through a hole in his cheek.  His eyes were vacant; the pigmentation had disappeared completely from them.  They were dead eyes, but they were staring right at Symon. 

                “What the fuck is wrong with you?”  Symon asked only half expecting a response.

                “Muuuuunnnnngnggggg…” again was the only response that came.

                “No way.”  Symon said aloud as the other scrambled to get to his feet reminding Symon of the Disney movie Bambie when the young deer first tried to stand on his own.  “No fucking way!”

                The man, or whatever he was, finally got to his feet and started hobbling toward Symon who was now backing away.

                “This can’t be real!” 

                Symon turned around and started running as fast as he could in the snow back towards his car.  The city was still silent all around, no lights coming toward him from any direction.  He was still alone, save for the slow moving, thing, behind him now.

                His car was finally in full view again, but that’s when he finally saw something in the distance again.  Life stirring again, or was it.  It was one person at first, walking down that street towards him, then he saw behind him another, then 5 more, then even more as they slowly started emerging from the white haze in the distance.  He looked back again to where the one had attacked him.  It was still staggering towards him, but behind it there were more.  The entire bridge behind him was completely covered in people, all heading towards him. 

                “Fuck!” he shouted aloud as he continued to his car and jumped in slamming and locking the door as he jammed the key in the ignition and twisted.

                The engine turned, but the car wasn’t starting.  But this wasn’t anything new, it was an old car and sometimes it just needed a little gas in the engine.  He pushed his foot down, but in his hurry, he pushed all the way down, flooding the engine.  He kept turning the engine over, the smell of too much gas filling his nostrils as the churn started to get slower and slower until finally…it started. 

                It ran really rough, but it was running.  He slammed the gear shifter into drive and took off straight ahead passing the man from earlier that even now lurched towards the moving car in an attempt to grab at Symon.  Symon heard the thump as the man’s face broke into his side mirror and ripped it off in the process.  But he didn’t care, what was a mirror in context to his life.  Ahead of him the group of people kept growing as the white haze was slowly peeled back.  Past every row of flowing people was another row, all of them shuffling together like a slow moving group of cows heading in the only direction they can seemingly go.

                He slammed on the brakes seeing the faces of all the people heading towards him, all lifeless.  He turned his wheels and slammed on the gas and took off in the other direction.  He saw the lone thing from before, its arms still gripping at the air above, so Symon turned the wheel and drove over it.  It wasn’t human he told himself.  He quickly found his way to the other end of the bridge which was the same as the other side, row upon unending row of lifeless faces.  He’d never make it through all of them.  His car only had a 4 cylinder.

                He turned again just as some of them started to claw at his doors.  He made it to the center of the bridge, both ends cut off from him by lifeless walking people who apparently wanted to try to eat him.  He stopped, got out again and looked over the side of the bridge amidst the sound of moaning and stomping feel.  He looked at that quiet city, a reflection of what he’d once known, but no longer recognizable.  He was alone but not alone.  All the people he’d come so used to being around all the time now crazed dead zombies.  Or is it undead?

                He watched the silent city, no stirring throughout. 

                “Some Christmas…”  He thought as the moaning grew closer and he heard the sounds as they began to stumble around his car just before he felt the cold daggers of icy water surround him, replacing everything he’d hoped he’d just imagined.  But as he tried to open his eyes and still found himself in the freezing water, he knew he hadn’t. 

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