Time: 11:57 am
Location: Acequia Madre Elementary School
Ever since the call came in, Principal Bill Beecham has had the school on lockdown, all the kids hiding in corners and closets of locked classrooms outside the line of sight. That is, except for Dylann Mattes, third grader.
Dylann had hid in the bathroom, then nabbed a pair of adult scissors from the office. Now he’s watching the thing only he could recognize—the monster ripped from the pages of his own comic book—through the porthole in one of the playground forts.
Last year, Dylann participated in True Believers’ 24 Hour Comic Book Day. His contribution: a short opus titled “Zombie Chicken.” Watching the 3-foot-tall undead rooster, Dylann knows that, as its creator, he’s the only one who can stop it.
Through the domed window, Dylann waits for the rooster to turns its back and then he springs at the monkey bars. When he lands at the other end, the rooster rears its head. The cock charges and Dylann loops a figure eight through the play sets and scampers up a turquoise slide. The rooster tries to follow but, each time it hits the incline, its talons lose their grip.
Dylann launches the scissors. They spin end over end over end—and just barely miss the bird’s comb. “Dang it,” Dylann scolds himself. “That worked in the comic book.
He slides down the stairs’ handrail and leaps onto the playground’s picnic table. Holding his scissors in two hands like garden shears, he brings the blades together just as the rooster is within arm’s reach. The severed rooster’s head falls to the floor. Dylann hops down and starts to skip toward class.
Just then, the headless chicken spring back to life. By the time Dylann hears the patter of its talons, the bird has dug a claw into his ankle. Dylann shakes it off.
The back door to the school swings open and Ms. McCarthy yells at him to get inside pronto.
Knowing he doesn’t have long until he too is a zombie, Dylann shakes his head and flees into the city.
Time: 12:42 pm
Location: St. Francis and Cordova
If all is going right, phones should be ringing in every home and office in downtown Santa Fe. Before Purley left the command center, she’d drawn a polygon around the affected area and ordered the Emergency Communications Center to start the dialogic reverse 911 calls. Citizens will answer their phones and hear her voice ordering instructions to stay inside, lock the doors and keep out of sight.
Although the state assumed control when the mayor signed the emergency declaration, Purley has the most precious resource in the state: her three-inch binder. As the mayor left for his mission, she furiously called everyone—the Santa Fe schools’ emergency manager, the National Weather Service to get ticker-tape running across the city’s TV screens and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services, just in case the lines go down. She gets no answer from St. Vincent. The city shelter’s Red Cross is on its way with water, food and other emergency supplies. The major roads have been cleared of traffic. Meanwhile, Manning has activated Level 1 response and is liaising with the CDC, FEMA, DHS, EPA, even the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Reports started coming in that a handful of zombies circumvented the blockades at St. Francis and Old Pecos Trail and were diffusing throughout the communities along Galisteo and Don Gaspar. Pragmatically, Manning cancelled Coss’ order barring shoot-on-sight; any zombie outside St. Francis is a lethal target. The sheriff amassed 80 deputies and another 50 volunteers, distributed his zombie intel to a dozen four-man teams that, under Santa Fe Police Department Chief Eric Johnson’s command, are now combing the neighborhoods. Every few minutes, the report of a rifle echoes through the city. Sometimes there’s a bloodcurdling scream.
Purley is stationed in the decked-out recreational vehicle that serves as the city’s mobile command unit. In between calls, she monitors Coss’ cycling through the window. Whenever the zombies stray from the course, firefighters unleash their hoses.
“Sheriff,” she says into her cell phone. “How is Cerrillos looking?”
“Hold on,” Solano says. That’s the last she hears from him.