@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Your Apocalypse Tour Guide, Palminteri
Running. Through a field. But you can’t remember where you are. Where you came from. What you’re running away from. You know nothing about the now, except for a message on your arm. A bloody message, scratched into your left forearm that says, “DON’T STOP. KEEP RUNNING.” It stings.
You wished you remembered how you got it. You wish you remembered anything at all.
When you finally find a highway, it is littered with abandoned cars, evidence of theft and arson all over. Carnage and murder.
Is this it? Is this the apocalypse?
You rummage through what’s left behind. Clearly, others have done the same. There isn’t much left. You try to find some clothes to replace your torn outfit and better footwear.
Then, a noise.
For some reason, you get a gut feeling to hide. You run to the brushes. Find shelter.
Three trucks pass, loaded with guys with guns and armor. If this were a movie, they would be the obvious bad guys. It doesn’t feel like a bad judgement call.
Days go by and you don’t see anyone else. You’re not sure you want to. You wander. You’re starving at this point. Living off of scraps.
You climb a tree and figure you’ll soon die there. You don’t care at this point. You only wish you remembered who you are. Or were. There are memories, flashes of faces and moments but none of it makes any sense to you at all.
You think that if you’re no one, then your life doesn’t matter. You can die. If no one lived, then no one died.
And that’s when you see her. You’re not sure it’s a ‘her’ at first, since her hair is tied up in a hat, but given her slight figure, you assume.
She has a rifle on her back and a survival knife on her belt. You assume she has more weapons. She wears a back pack and dark colored fatigues. Moving swiftly on the side of the road, always crouching and taking cover, without making a sound, you’re half surprised you noticed her at all. She must be at this for a while, you think.
The thought that she might not be alone hits you and you’re unsure if you’re scared she’s with company or relieved she’s not alone. You wonder if those other guys were looking for her… or if she was looking for them.
She might kill you. You think.
But you don’t want to be alone either. So, you decide to follow her.
You thought you were so clever and careful trailing her, but after a few hours, you hear her voice, indeed a her say, I know you’re following me.
There’s no point hiding. You reveal yourself. She sees you’re not armed. In fact, you’re not carrying anything at all. Without speaking she approaches you. Grabs your left arm and examines it.
Who did this to you.
You tell her you don’t remember. You don’t remember anything.
For some reason, she doesn’t seem that shocked by this. She pulls out something from her backpack. It’s a small first aid kit.
It’s gonna sting, she says, as she wipes the wound with an alcohol pad. Then, she takes out a sanity pad, unwraps it, and places it on your arm. You don’t even realize you’re making a face until she goes—
What? It’s the fucking apocalypse and a fucking period pad is still taboo? It’s fucking sterile.
On her backpack straps, she has tied lose pieces of fabric. She unties one and wraps the pad over your arm.
You ask her why she’s doing this.
She tells you she hasn’t had her period in months. She’s not sure if it’s from lack of nutrition and stress or if all women are becoming sterile.
You ask if that’s what happened.
Everything happened, she says. At the same time. Everything went to shit.
She shares crackers with you and some dried fruit. You think you’ve never had anything that tasted better. She fills you in. She says it started with the disease. The disease spread too quickly, killing at least half of the population. Some of the disease turned people into zombies. She says, they’re not real zombies, in the sense that they’re not dead. They still have heartbeats. But they will attack you. They are dangerous.
That’s when the aliens showed up, but a lot of people didn’t believe that part since by then there was no real television or ways people can prove it. But the scariest and most dangerous of all are the left over humans. People quickly turn into monsters.
You wonder why she trusts you, until you realize, she doesn’t. She’s just certain she can kill you if she has to. You ask her if she has a name.
Palminteri, she says.
You ask her if she has a first name.
She says, it doesn’t matter.
Why then, do you use your last name.
In case there’s anyone looking for me. And it’s all I have left. All I have left is my name. It’s a good name.
Palminteri says she won’t share much more of her food with me. And that you can stick with her as long as you don’t slow her down.
Out here, she says, we follow pirates code, if you fall behind, you’re left behind.
You say there’s some poetic justice in that. She tells you it’s a quote from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
You ask her if she’s alone.
Do I fucking look like I’m with anyone else?
Palminteri says staying just off the side of the road is best. Too risky to be seen on roads. You tell her about the trucks. You ask her if they’re murderers.
It’s the fucking apocalypse. Everyone is a fucking murderer. Welcome to Hell.
You want to ask her if she murdered people, but you think you already know the answer.
Besides, murder can be justifiable. Rape can’t be. Rape is never justifiable. Even I was surprised how quickly men become rapist in chaos.
You push an ugly thought out of your head.
That night, she finds a car to sleep in. She tells you to find your own. They’ll continue in the morning. You sleep in another nearby vehicle. It’s the best sleep you’ve gotten since you can remember… not that that says much.
You wake up to find her on top of you, she presses her hand over your mouth, with a finger over hers, warning you to be silent. Quietly, you follow her out of the car and you run into the trees. There are people. You can hear them.
Palminteri takes off most of her gear and places them at the foot of the tree. She tells you she has to see something through and to guard her stuff. She runs off with nothing but the rifle. Hours pass. It feels like forever. You are literally sick to your stomach. You want to run, but where would you go? She’s not going to abandon you. Or better yet, she’s not going to abandon all her stuff. In the distance, you hear a couple of shots fired. Birds run from trees, but that’s it. No screams. Nothing else.
You hope it was her that did the firing.
An urge to go through her stuff becomes irresistible. You have no intentions of stealing anything. More out of curiosity. The side punches have first aid supplies and dried foods. You pull out a photograph of two little kids. A boy and a girl. Cute. They look like her. Her kids? Maybe. Definitely related. Then, you pull out a letter. Unfold it.
“Dear Lori,” it reads. So that’s her first name.
“I don’t know how this is going to end but you have to know…”
You stop reading when you feel the cold tip of a gun at the back of your neck.
Drop it, a stern voice says. You obey.
She picks up the picture and letter and carefully puts them back in the bag.
You ever touch my stuff again I will not hesitate to fucking kill you.
You’re sorry, you say.
Here, she drops a pair of boots next to you, I brought you a gift.
The boots have blood on them. But they fit well enough.
You have a lot of questions, but you figure they can wait till tomorrow.
When you wake up, Palminteri has surprised you with an egg breakfast. She seems upbeat today, if not happy.
You enjoy a meal together when something catches your eye in the distance. A human. Staggering.
Off your glance, Palminteri quickly jumps up grabbing her knife.
Oh, it’s just one of these mother fuckers.
Just like that she takes off on her feet. You watch as she stabs a zombie in the head.
Thought most of those fuckers have died by this point.
You’re in shock. You thought she was kidding about the zombies. Are there really aliens too?
Oh yeah. Probably where you came from. They wiped your head clean. Seen it happen before. I would be skeptical too if I didn’t have an encounter.
An encounter? What does that even mean?
I wasn’t always alone, you know. I used to travel with a group of six. My brother included. We were good at surviving. Almost like we were made for an uglier time. We mostly stayed along the coasts. We didn’t kill unless we had to, but we weren’t afraid to either. Until one night we were ambushed. Out numbered. We fought. But we knew we were fucked. They killed the others before me and my brother. I don’t think they would have killed me. Not at first anyway. Not after raping me. But that’s when they came. The aliens.
What did they look like.
I don’t know. They’re invisible maybe. But suddenly we were all stunned by a bright light. None of us could move. Frozen by this light in our battle field. It was so bright, I had to close my eyes. If you tried to move, the pain was excruciating. All of us were screaming. But if you were still, it didn’t hurt. Not too sure how long we were suspended, but the light disappeared, along with my brother, a few others. Some fell down and they appeared dead. The rest of us just fled. Took off in different directions. They took him. They took my brother. But not only spared but rescued me.
You think I have any fucking idea? Why the fuck are you here?
What do they want? The aliens?
Who can say for sure. I think they’re just waiting for us to be extinct. The time of the humans has come to an end. I think it’s like, you ever see a house go into foreclosure and a family is getting kicked out, but the bank or whatever keeps showing up to survey where they’re going to live next? I think that’s what they’re doing. I think they’re here waiting for us to vanish and making sure we don’t fuck up the environment too much, maybe.
This was insane. Actually insane.
I think they can turn invisible. Because, sometimes… sometimes… all the animals will flee, including the insects. And I think that means they are here, watching.
You’re not scared of them?
If they wanted to kill us, they can do so at anytime.
An eerie idea of her being an alien crosses your mind, even though you’re not sure there’s any truth to this story at all.
Later that day, you come across a couple of deceased people. They smell rancid. Palminteri makes you help her take a backpack off the dead guy. You hesitate.
It’s for you you fucking jackass.
It smells terrible. You hear a crack when you try to move the arm. You throw up. Palminteri is annoyed by you. While you get your composure, she goes through the backpack inventory, reorganizes it and hands it to you. Not too far off, you find a truck that has crashed into a tree. In the bed of the trunk, you find a plastic bag full of mini liquor bottles. This pleases Palminteri.
That night, you drink. Or mostly, she does. You don’t mind, as she gets more talkative. It’s a nice change in pace.
After my brother was gone and our troop, I figured I didn’t much stand a chance at survival. Fuck, I didn’t want to survive. I found a motorcycle and took off. I crashed it. I don’t remember it was on purpose or not, but I was sure I was going to bleed out and it was kind of a relief you know. That’s when he showed. He took me to his cabin, where I was in and out of it for who the fuck knows how long. When I was lucid enough, I tried to escape. I couldn’t open the windows, and I couldn’t stand for long without getting dizzy anyway.
She rolled up her sleeve to reveal a long scar on her left forearm.
I pulled a curtain ring off the window and did this. I wasn’t going to live some sort of ‘Misery’ reenactment and be a sex slave or whatever, but I made too much noise trying to escape, so he found me in time to bandage me back up. When I woke up again, I was strapped to the bed. IV in my other arm. When he came in next, he said he didn’t want to hurt me. That he would undo the restraints in a few days. That I should rest and eat and if I wanted to leave when I was well enough to leave, there were only locks on the doors to keep others out. I didn’t believe him of course. But as the days continued, he did nothing but feed me, which I resisted at first, but he was patient. At night he would come in and ask me if I wanted him to read to me. I never answered. He did anyway, which, at first I hated, and then I hated myself for liking it. His voice was smooth, the kind of voice that would be good for radio.
She drank more.
As I got healthier, he said I could go or I could stay. But before I go, he said, I should look at the check point lists he had, see if I knew anyone. When the disease became an epidemic and the world started going mad, there were these save haven check points you could go to, and they transmitted who was there. At the time, if you had a generator, there were still ways to make contact electronically. I already knew which checkpoint list I wanted. I couldn’t believe it. On the list were the names of my sister, my nephew, my niece. They could still be alive. They made it to a check point.
The picture, you think.
I asked him if I could stay longer. If I was now going to embark on a journey, I did actually need to be stronger. He said I could stay as long as I needed. Together, we trained. Taught each other our skills. We read and cooked together. Until eventually we shared the same bed. We were in love.
Then there was a long pause. Like she forgot you were there.
I almost felt guilty. Guilty that, I was so happy in the apocalypse. That we had our own world and I didn’t much care that the rest of the world had gone to shit. I never thought I’d feel happiness again. Let alone be happier than I think I ever was before the apocalypse.
You ask what happened, which seemed like a silly question.
He was looking for someone too. His wife. We parted ways. And I’ve been on my own since. Until you.
Then, she took off her outer layer, to just a tank top. You didn’t think she was so young looking until this point, when her body seemed so much smaller than her bravery. Her arms, covered in scars. She curled into the fetal position and wrapped her shirt around her face. Through the night you hear her muffled sobs.
This is the first morning you’re up before her. She is still in the exact position. After a while, you ask her if she’s okay and she says she doesn’t feel like moving.
It’s this way for two days. She doesn’t move. You worry.
The sound of cars snaps her out of it. She dresses and loads the rifle.
We gotta move. Now, fucker!
She runs and you follow. She’s a lot quicker even though you haven’t seen her eat for two days. You hide behind a an overturned vehicle.
Look, I’m going to create a distraction and run north east. Stay put till morning.
She gives me a hand gun I didn’t even know she had.
I’m coming back for you, I promise.
She’s about to take off, when you reach for her. Wait, you say.
She sees you’re scared and she places her hand on your shoulder.
It’s okay. I already know how I die, and this is not it.
She goes to run when the sound of an automatic gun goes through her body. She falls to the ground, lifeless. You’re horrified. Stunned. You hear them closing in. The people. The monsters. Her blood seeping into the ground. They are going to take her and eat her, you think. They are cannibals and they are going to eat her and kill me and eat me. But when they approach, the ground around her starts to glow and she disappears. Vanishes, just like that.
When her killers arrive, they look around and can’t find her. They are standing right next to you, but they don’t see you either. You hold your breath. You have no idea what’s happening. Until you notice that all the bugs are flying away. As are the birds. The animals are all fleeing. Eventually, the killers move on. Her body re-appears.
You bury her. Pick up her backpack. You look at the picture of her family. The love letter from the man who saved her. There’s a map of where the checkpoint is. And since you don’t know who you are, you figure you might as well head there.