HERE IT IS.
The final work all in one, complete posters and story. A lot of work went into this whole thing by both Deej and I. We would love some feedback.
Let us know what you think!
The First Wave
They’re sitting in the master bedroom of Tegan’s LA apartment. Well, Sara is sitting, tenuously perched on the edge of Tegan’s unmade bed, her lips pursed into a thin line, dark circles wrapped around her eyes. Tegan is standing before her gripping a machete tightly in her hand. Behind Tegan, propped against the wall and almost forgotten is Tegan’s favorite acoustic guitar, the only spectator to this bizarre scene.
“Tell me again why you bought a machete.”
Tegan sighs. Over the last three days she’s explained herself twelve times, yet Sara still stares at the blade with apprehension and fear. How many times does she have to explain that this weapon is now their only means of protection; that she felt compelled to buy it in preparation for this precise scenario? A week ago maybe she would have admitted to being baselessly paranoid. After all, a person can only sit through so many interviews on the subject of apocalyptic scenarios without experiencing minor amounts of paranoia. Now, though – now that the dead are marching, stumbling, staggering through the streets – she doesn’t feel paranoid. She feels terrified, and, in some ways, also somewhat justified. Her purchase wasn’t in vain. Her preparedness wasn’t for nothing.
Sara would have them commit suicide, she knows that. Sara has made it perfectly clear both in the distant past and repeatedly over the last 72 hours that she has no wish to survive The End of the World. Because of this, Tegan has taken to watching her as closely as possible over the last few days lest her twin tend toward destruction in her absence. Sara looks empty, disheveled, with hollow eyes and messy hair, so unlike her. All of her habitual and annoyingly meticulous daily routines have been abandoned. She simply sits, trembling slightly as she gazes at the glinting, sharpened edge of the blade in Tegan’s hand.
Outside the window, down on the street, the zombies march and groan, hordes of them surrounding the apartment. Tegan understands her sister’s depression, empathizes with her helplessness, but she will not tolerate her inclinations. Sara is all she has left.
There was a mass communications breakdown on Day 1. The last they heard from their mother was that Canada was closing its borders in a panic, but reports of infection had already cropped up in Calgary by then. The last news report they caught before the channels all went dead held no additional comfort. New York, the reporter had informed them, was allegedly overrun. The military was considering desperate action. There were rumors of tanks, of airstrikes, of civilians being shot as they attempted to escape the carnage.
She’d been glad Sara was with her then, and not shut up in her NYC apartment drinking the entire contents of her liquor cabinet and contemplating jumping off the balcony and into the chaos as fire streaked the sky. When the report ended Sara hadn’t said a word. She didn’t mention Stacey or Emy or any of their countless friends living in New York. She’d just stood, carefully, looking slightly faint, and retrieved a bottle of scotch from Tegan’s kitchen. The bottle was empty in an hour. She hadn’t even bothered with a glass.
Lindsey’s face stares out at Tegan from photos scattered about the bedroom, on the walls and on the nightstand. In nearly all of them she is situated beside Tegan; in nearly all of them they’re both smiling. As a photographer Lindsey had always been insistent on doing photoshoots of the two of them, always wanting to capture a new moment, create a new scene, any excuse to get Tegan in front of the camera’s lens.
Lindsey had a shoot downtown three days ago. She’d left at 8AM, before Tegan even woke up. Sara saw her go, wished her well, double checked that she’d be home for dinner with the twins at five, and watched her walk out the door excited about the day.
The first reports of the undead began siphoning in just after 10AM. Lindsey failed to respond to texts.
By noon the city was on lockdown. Lindsey wasn’t answering Tegan’s frantic calls.
Shortly after 3PM Tegan had flung her cell phone across the room in a fit of frustrated worry.
It took until midnight, when the last news station had long fizzled into static and the wails of police sirens had given way to heavy silence, for Tegan to accept reality.
Lindsey was never coming home.
She wants to believe her girlfriend is safe, that she is hiding away somewhere just as her and Sara are hiding, but she knows better. Alive or dead or – god forbid - undead, wondering about Lindsey’s fate will only serve to heighten her anxieties, to fuel her nightmares, and to tear out her heart. She can’t let herself focus on that. She has to focus the person she knows is safe. She has to focus on Sara. She has to protect her sister.
Sara is afraid of the machete, and Tegan understands that. The first time she held the sword, when it first arrived via mail order, before she stashed it under the bed for safekeeping, it had frightened her, too. It had felt so much heavier, so much more dangerous, than she’d expected. She’d been afraid it would jump from her hands and cut her. It was sharp and deadly and at the time it had seemed evil, villainous, its sharp edge a twisted smile in her hands. Now, though, as she adjusts her grip on the cool synthetic handle and tests the balance of the blade, it feels dangerous in a different way. It feels like hope.
The clock on the nightstand reads 3:15. They still need to take inventory of the kitchen and reinforce the front door barricade before nightfall. Maybe the work will shock Sara back into normalcy. It probably won’t, but Tegan needs to believe it’s possible for Sara to be herself again. She’s all Tegan has left and she’s not allowed to die because Tegan isn’t ready to die yet. She can’t die because Tegan can’t abide the thought of being alone. She can’t abide the thought of being without her twin.
She’s not sure it’s even possible for her to live without Sara.
She passes the machete from one hand to the other, trying to get a feel for it, glancing over its wicked edge and wondering if it will ever be tainted with blood as red as the bed sheets on which Sara is sitting. She’s not sure if she can do it – kill something that was once human – but the thought of Sara, her twin, her best friend, being devoured by the monsters outside makes her reconsider. She will do what she has to do, she tells herself. She will keep Sara safe.
This time she answers the question simply, hoping Sara will accept it.
“I bought it for you.”
Sara doesn’t object. She just sits, still, hands on her knees, sizing Tegan up in relation to the blade, no doubt wondering if she really has it in her to defend them; if she really has the guts. No doubt wondering how long they really have to live.
Tegan doesn’t blame her. She’s scared, too. She’s never been so afraid in her whole life.
They left the apartment for the first time today. They didn’t really have a choice; they were out of food. They’d been out of food for two days, but it took the gnawing, empty feeling of hunger, deep hunger scraping at their insides, to drive them from the relative safety of their fortress at long last.
The trip to the store had been surprisingly easy. Zombies, they quickly learned, aren’t very smart. As long as they were quiet and kept out of their line of sight they were safe. The massive hordes had, for the most part, moved on in search fresh meat. The danger now was in the stragglers still wandering the streets alone or in small packs, desperately craving the taste of flesh.
They were able to get to and raid the store quickly, but the trek back home was immensely slower. Tegan took the lead, brandishing her only means of defense in unsteady hands, eyes alert for any sign of movement. Sara lagged behind her, laden with bags and packs full of groceries, mostly canned goods and bottled water, hefting nearly her own weight in rations and bringing their pace to a crawl.
They’d thought about trying to track down some heavier weaponry, but realized they didn’t know where to look, and even if they did manage to miraculously find guns, neither of them knew how to operate one. Tegan’s only guidance in the workings of firearms had come from years of watching action movies, meaning she was vaguely aware of the notion that they required bullets and that these bullets seemed to come in a plethora different sizes. Beyond that, she was essentially clueless. Sara, on the other hand, was of the belief that guns had the ability and will to fire at random and would strike pregnant women and schoolchildren and probably puppies with uncanny accuracy if one wasn’t careful. In light of these facts it was decided that Tegan’s machete would have to suffice for their protection while Sara took on the role of pack mule. It seemed safer that way.
When they made it halfway home without incident Tegan let her machete drop to her side, relaxing slightly. She ran a hand through her now-shaggy, greasy hair and adjusted her facemask. Both she and Sara had tied old bandanas around their faces, obscuring their noses and their mouths, before leaving the apartment. They were unsure of how the infection was spread and, though they were both aware of the fact that Tegan’s apartment was hardly air tight, it still felt good to do something in the guise of protection while outside their safe-zone. Ritual-like, it was soothing to feel that they had a means of warding off the invisible bad things that made people into monsters.
It was a hot day and the heat was wet and humid; Tegan’s Doc Marten’s made her feet feel heavy and leaden. Sweat trickled into her eyes, stinging and smarting. Her throat was dry as sand.
She was about to turn around and ask Sara to dig her out a bottle of water when it happened. Amidst the wreckage of the wasteland there was a scuffling and, from the alley to their right, a figure emerged.
Tegan didn’t have time to think, only to react. In one motion, as if she’d been training for the moment her whole life, Tegan raised the blade and pivoted, using the movement of her entire body to throw her full weight behind the swing, not unlike a baseball player at bat. The blade sang as it swung through the air, glinting in the California sun like lightning. Tegan had always thought movies added in those kinds of effects for the sake of dramatics, but the moment of truth proved her wrong.
It was over in a heartbeat, before the adrenaline had even found time to begin pumping through her veins. The zombie lay at her feet, its head lay several feet away. She’d decapitated it.
There was blood on her blade. There was blood on her clothes, spattered on her arms, across her face, and streaked through her hair. She turned to Sara, in awe of herself, to say ‘Oh my God, Sar, I did it!’ but the words never left her lips because when she found Sara’s eyes they didn’t meet her own, but rather were fixated on the body at her feet.
An odd look of confusion and shock alighted on Sara’s face as she examined the corpse mixed with, perhaps, something a little like grief or pity. Tegan looked from Sara back down to the body, really seeing it for the first time; seeing what Sara was seeing for the first time.
Yes, it was a pile of reeking, rotting flesh. Yes, it was clearly an undead monstrosity returned from the grave the wreak hell upon the living. But this particular demonic monstrosity was unlike the others the twins had thus far seen in one supremely important way.
The zombie was wearing an official ‘Tegan and Sara’ t-shirt.
“A-a fan?” Tegan stuttered, “I-I killed a fan?” Her heart dropped out of her chest, her gut twisting into knots at the thought.
“No, Tegan, it-it was already dead. You didn’t kill anyone.” Sara shuffled forward, adjusting her bags to rest a hand on Tegan’s shoulder.
Tegan shrugged her hand away, swallowed a dry heave, and kept walking home.
Night has long since fallen. Tegan, many hours ago now, washed the blood from her hands, from her hair, from her face. She changed her clothes. It didn’t help. She can still feel it. She can feel the sticky, thick blood, and she can’t get rid of it. She feels something else, too, inside of her, and she’s not sure what it is, exactly, but it isn’t a good feeling. She feels wrong and unclean and like she’s suddenly become someone she doesn’t recognize.
The machete sits across the bedroom from her, next to her guitar. Tegan stares at them both and feels that they are staring back. Sitting silently on the edge of her bed, she contemplates how her life has gone from relying on one to depending on the other. She hasn’t played music in so long.
There’s a knock on the bedroom door, slow and hesitant. Tegan doesn’t respond. She doesn’t have the energy. Her mind is far away; too far to summon back.
Sara lets herself in anyway. She clears her throat insistently and Tegan glances at her, intending to tell her to go away as soon as she can find her voice, but she abandons the thought when she sees her. Sara looks different.
For the first time since this hell on earth began Sara looks like Sara. Her hair is combed and it looks like she went through the effort of trying to cut it, as some places aren’t quite even. Her face is washed and she’s wearing her good clothes – a button-up and dress pants – and there’s a small spark of life in her eyes. She sits down next to Tegan and for a moment it could be any day, not an apocalypse day, but a normal, real day from before.
“It wasn’t your fault, Tee.”
Tegan shakes her head, dropping her eyes to her hands; this isn’t a conversation she wants to have now, or ever. She wants to forget. She wants to wash her hands again. She needs the feel of the blood to go away.
“Tell me,” Sara takes her chin firmly between a thumb and forefinger, tilting her head until their eyes meet, “Tell me again why you bought that machete.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Tegan mumbles, the words sticking to her tongue and teeth as she tries to form them.
“Yes, you do. Tell me again. Now. Why did you buy the machete?”
Sara’s eyes bore into her, calm, calculating. She wants to look away but Sara’s grip on her chin holds her in place. Her lip trembles. “For you! To protect you! To protect us, but I didn’t-” The words freeze in her throat and, abruptly, she starts to cry. Hot, burning tears she didn’t know she was holding back burst free, tumbling down her cheeks. Sara’s arms wrap around her and she finds herself crying harder into Sara’s embrace.
“I didn’t either, Tee. I didn’t think you would. I didn’t think you could. But the time came, and you did and we’re alive because of it. You saved us both.”
For the first time since it all began a little part of Tegan wishes she’d listened to Sara on Day 1 and they’d both just ended their lives together then. She knows the thing she killed today wasn’t a person anymore, but it once was, and it had once loved them and their music, loved the people they were before the dead rose. And laying there at her feet it hadn’t looked so monstrous. It had looked small and crumpled and quite human.
She tells herself she didn’t do anything wrong, that she had no choice. She tells herself that she was right to do it, that she was just protecting herself and her sister. It doesn’t help. Tegan still feels like a murderer.
“I-I didn’t,” she forces out, “I didn’t kill it to protect us. I didn’t do it for anything. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just… I saw it coming and-and I just – it just happened.”
Sara squeezes her closer, gently, reassuringly, the way their mother used to hug them. She smells like soap instead of sweat and Tegan buries her face in her sister’s neck, wanting so badly to return to the days where the smell of soap wasn’t such a pleasant surprise. “It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you did it. I wouldn’t have been able to. I panicked. I froze. If it were me in the lead we’d both be dead now. You protected me. I’m proud of you.”
Sara pulls away from her and Tegan can see in her eyes that she is proud. She means it.
“I’m starting to think you had the right idea in the beginning, Sara.” Tegan admits in a hoarse whisper, wiping tears from her cheeks as more threaten to escape, “I don’t know why I wanted to live through this.”
Sadness laced with deep compassion washes over her twin’s features, “Don’t say that. I just- I knew that living wasn’t going to be all heroics and action-movie-style slow-motion karate moves and I wasn’t sure you knew that. I thought it would be better to die early with some dignity instead of wasting away slowly while we struggled to survive, starving to death in some cave somewhere. But I was wrong. We’re here now. We’re not trying to survive, we’re surviving. And we’re in this together.”
Despite everything Tegan feels relief in Sara’s renewed will to live. She still doesn’t feel like a hero, but she feels responsible for Sara’s return to her old self, and that’s enough, for the moment. She wants to be her old self, as well. She wants it to be the old days, the days before the zombies came. She wants to pretend, for a while, and joke with her sister, because it’s been too long since they were able to smile.
Forcing a grin, she elbows Sara, nudging her gently in the ribs, “Good thing I didn’t buy a panda, huh? Can you imagine having to feed it?”
Rolling her eyes, the concern lifts from Sara and she laughs, a little too high and a little too hard, but she’s trying. “Feed it? Why not eat it? A panda burger sounds pretty good to me right now.”
Tegan fakes a gasp, “Sara! Pandas are an endangered species!”
“So are we.”
It’s a joke, but it also isn’t a joke. It’s the truth, and it’s uncomfortable. Physically shifting her shoulders in an effort to shrug off the tension, Tegan snaps back, “Bet that safari land is sounding pretty good right now.”
Sara scoffs and the banter continues, the way it used to, “I feel like we’re in a wildlife documentary or some shit,” she adopts her best narrator voice, theatrically caught somewhere between a sports announcer and Steve Irwin, “Today we’re releasing the Tegan and the Sara into the wild! Will they adapt to their natural habitat or will they fall face first into that giant pile of giraffe shi-”
“-You know I googled that,” Tegan interrupts, “and you’re wrong. Giraffe poop is actually pretty small.”
They both laugh this time. It’s the first real laugh they’ve shared since the zombies came. There’s something freeing about it.
“Well, I’m glad you cleared that up. Now let’s eat. There are some not-quite-rotten bananas waiting for us in the kitchen that I liberated from the shop. They might be the last bananas we ever eat, so come on. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get some food soon the human race will be one person closer to extinction.”
Sara stands to leave, but Tegan grabs her arm before she can walk away. “Don’t joke about that. It’s not funny.”
“Extinction isn’t a joke?” They both smirk, a light lifting of the corners of their mouths. Sara smirks because she thinks she’s being clever. Tegan smirks because she secretly agrees.
Standing, Tegan releases Sara’s arm and retrieves her machete from its spot against the wall, just in case. She barely glances at her guitar this time. It hurts to look at it too long.
“It’s seriously not, though.” She states firmly as she follows Sara down the hall.
“Yeah?” She can tell Sara is raising her eyebrow just by the lilt in her voice, “Well neither is the apocalypse.”
They giggle at the bizarre turn of the familiar inside joke and begin to sort through their looted groceries. It almost feels normal. It almost feels like they’re going to be okay.
They’re in the kitchen. Its early evening and Sara is sitting at the table looking bored as she watches Tegan scoop beans out of a can and into two bowls for dinner, her machete lying on the countertop next to where she works.
They’ve made two additional trips to various stores since that first grocery adventure and they’ll need to make another soon. Tegan doesn’t mind, though. She’s eager for the chance to slice a few more zombie bastards. She doesn’t feel bad killing them anymore. Not after The Incident. Not after she almost lost Sara.
It happened on Day 39. Tegan was in the bathroom trimming her hair and washing up. She’d laid the machete on the toilet lid next to her and was in the process of carefully trimming the hair around her ears, tongue sticking out in concentration as she squinted into the mirror.
Sara swears she screamed her name, but Tegan didn’t hear it if she did. She didn’t know anything was wrong at all until she heard the bedroom door slam with the intensity of a gunshot. The noise made her jump and, in doing so, she cut off a rather large chunk of hair above her right ear. Swearing under her breath, Tegan dropped the scissors, grabbed her machete, and bolted out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, blade at the ready.
Sara wasn’t there. Something felt off, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. It had been so long since she’d paid any mind to her guitar that she didn’t even register its absence until, upon exiting the bedroom, she heard a peculiar sound echoing down the hall.
The primary sound that reached her ears was a primordial yell. It wasn’t like the yells of the excited concertgoers that she was so accustomed to. It was deeper, more guttural, and far less human. She’d watched Animal Planet specials a few times over the years, and the yell reminded her of the feral cats she’d seen on them and the sound they made when someone tried to catch them and put them into crates. It was an almost otherworldly screeching, and it was endless.
Underneath that sound was the crunch of splintering wood mixed with the resounding gong of metal strings over a hollow chamber straining out one last note.
Tegan ran down the hallway at a full sprint.
She found Sara in the living room. She was standing by a broken window holding what was left of Tegan’s favorite guitar which she had smashed, apparently repeatedly, over the head of a very stunned, but not dead, zombie who lay on the floor groaning.
Sara’s terrified eyes met hers and the screaming stopped, replaced with two words as her shaking arms slowly lowered the snapped guitar neck, “Fire escape.”
Of course. Tegan had never even thought about that possibility. Their fortress had all along contained a weak spot and she hadn’t noticed. She gave Sara a curt nod, raised her blade, and brought it down, hard, on the monster’s neck. Then she raised it and brought down again. And again. And again. She kept hacking and slashing and silently dismembering until she felt Sara’s arms pulling her away. There was more screaming, then, but it was coming from her own throat; a battle cry.
They disposed of the body parts and barricaded the window that night. Sara hasn’t left her side since. Tegan hasn’t let her. It’s too dangerous. She’s reminded of just how dangerous every time she walks through the living room. There’s still a blood stain on the carpet.
If the stain wasn’t reminder enough, every day for the last few weeks they’ve been forced to listen to the screams of people with the daring or desperation to travel alone being devoured on the streets below. Maybe the dwindling presence of the undead has started to inspire bravery. Maybe people are just running out of food. It’s hard to say. Regardless, they know where the zombies congregate because they’ve seen where they spring from when the helpless attempt to dash across the road. This knowledge will help the twins survive longer, they know that, but it’s a small comfort. They know where not to go from watching people die.
At first they would run to the windows to watch, to hope, to root for their fellow humans like a sick sport, but they don’t carry that hope anymore. It’s too painful a reminder of their own frailty. Watching has taught them a cruel lesson: by the time someone screams it’s almost always too late.
Tegan places the bowls of cold canned goods on the table and sits across from Sara, reflexively double-checking that her machete is within easy reach. It is. It always is these days.
Midway through their silent meal they hear the screams start again.
“One step closer to extinction, poor fucker.” Sara doesn’t smile when she says it. There are hard lines around her eyes.
Tegan nods in agreement. She doesn’t think about the screams. She doesn’t let herself. She doesn’t contemplate the poor soul being eaten outside. As long as her and Sara are safe nobody else matters. That’s her motto. That’s her mantra.
She takes another bite of beans and sings a song in her head to block out the noise.
‘My windows look into your living room’
She sings it loud in her head so the screams don’t sound familiar.
‘Where I spend the afternoon on top of you’
If she doesn’t listen then it doesn’t have to be real.
‘I wonder what it is that I did to make you move’
If she doesn’t listen she won’t be tempted to look.
‘In across away from me’
And since she doesn’t look she doesn’t see, doesn’t have to know-
‘I hope I never figure out who broke your heart’
-and can remain blissfully unaware that down below, in the street across from her kitchen window-
‘And if I do, if I do’
-her girlfriend is being rent and torn, ripped limb from limb, clawed and bitten, and eaten alive as she tries to return, finally, to their home.
‘I’d spend all night losing sleep’
And maybe it’s better this way.
‘I’d spend the night and I’d lose my mind’
Because if she listened, if she saw, if she let herself know and acknowledge what was happening, what could she really do to stop it? How could she help?
‘I’d spend the night and I’d lose my mind’
The screaming stops.
It’s over as quickly as it began. It always is. By the time they hear the screaming it’s already too late, that’s just how the screaming works. Where there once was a person, now, if they looked, they would see only a smear of blood on the pavement.
They finish eating dinner in silence and they go to bed. These days they sleep in the same room, in the same bed, because Tegan can’t sleep anymore if she doesn’t know exactly where Sara is. They lie back to back, close enough to feel the heat of each others’ bodies so they know they’re still safe. Every night they go to bed hoping to wake up to a normal world where their friends and family and lovers are safe. Every night they hope the nightmare will end in the morning. It never does.
Tegan’s machete rests next to the bed, propped against the nightstand, a forearm’s length away.
As she drifts off to sleep Tegan mentally runs through the speech Sara gave her nearly a month ago, after The Incident, when she was crying, panicking over her and her sister’s mortality. It’s become her nightly ritual. It’s the only way she can sleep. It doesn’t ward off the night terrors, but it gives her the strength to try to rest. It calms her enough to let the darkness take her, even if she knows she will wake before dawn thrashing and screaming at the specters in the night.
Sara’s voice echoes into her subconscious.
“We’re survivors, Tee. It’s what we do, and we’re going to keep doing it. We will survive this. These things can’t last forever. They’re dead. They’re decaying. Eventually there won’t be enough left of them for them to be a threat. They’ll just be arms and legs and heads twitching on the ground, but we’ll live. We have each other. These things won’t beat us. When they’re gone, when they’re back in the fucking ground where they belong, we’ll still be here, because we’re fucking survivors, alright Tegan? We’re smarter, we’re faster, and we’re alive, and nothing is going to change that. We’ve got each other. As long as we stick together we’ll be fine. Just like always. We always stick together and things always turn out alright.”
She repeats the recollection until her dreams take her, pulling the scarlet covers tight around herself to ward off the visions brewing behind her eyes. Sara keeps breathing next to her, lost to her own thoughts, her own memories and torments. This is life after The End.
Tegan sleeps. Sara sleeps. Another night passes. Another day dawns. They survive.