Talie looked out the car window from her empty McDonald's bag as they were driving over the St. Croix river on the bridge that connected Wisconsin and Minnesota. She was cold, she was hungry, she was tired, and she really needed to pee. The river was frozen solid and everything was covered in a slightly sparkly white blanket. It was night, but one could still tell it was cloudy and dark. After crossing the bridge, Talie looked out her window and saw the infamous "Minnesota Welcomes You" sign.
"That's it." said Talie. "My life is over."
"Natalie, you little bastard." said her father. He was not insulting her. Their love as father and daughter was built on mutual shit-giving and swearing. Her mother hated it, when she was still around.
"Our life is just beginning. We've left the hell that is Florida and can start anew." said her Dad.
"Yes. We've gone from Hell to Hell frozen over. Such improvement, you deadbeat idiot." retorted Talie.
"You just wait and see, my little pain in the ass. It'll be great." replied her Dad. Talie's Dad had gotten a job as a janitor and mechanic at Paul Bunyan Land near Brainerd, MN. Talie had never been, but she looked up pictures and videos of the giant robotic Paul Bunyan that said children's names as they entered the park and had been massively creeped out by it. He was certainly qualified for the job; he was a Cast Member at Walt Disney World, doing janitorial work and then mechanic jobs as needed. It was there that he met Talie's Mom. She was a face character, mainly playing Pocahontas, but would occasionally play Jasmine as needed. Talie's Dad said he was leaving Florida because he had always wanted to live the small town life in the North, but Talie thought he was just trying to get away from all reminders of Mom, which she didn't blame him for.
"Hey mother fucker, can we stay at a hotel for the night?" asked Talie
"We've only got three hours to go until we hit our cabin in Brainerd. We can just drive through the night." he said.
"It's midnight, Dad." Talie replied, after checking the clock on the car.
"No, it's 11:00pm, you dolt. I forgot to change the clock when we moved timezones." he said.
"If you forgot, then who's the actual dolt?" retorted Talie. "Look, Dad, it's late. Can we please just stay at a hotel? It's cold and I really have to take a piss. May I have one last night to spend in civilization before we move into a cabin in the wilderness?"
Talie's Dad sighed. "Okay, fine." he said. He took the nearest exit towards the Kelly Inn, a branch of the Best Western hotels, in downtown St. Paul. They got their keys, walked past the swimming pool, and opened the door. Talie's Dad set his alarm on his phone, plugged it in, plopped on the bed, and immediately began snoring.
"How the fuck does he do that?" thought Talie. She looked around the room and saw that there was only one bed and a couch. She went over the couch and pulled off the cushions. Feeling relief, she pulled out the folded up couch bed and set up the couch cushions as firm pillows for her head to lay on. Talie rummaged through her suitcase and pulled out her toothbrush, toothpaste, and a clean pair of underwear. Talie made her way to the restroom, used the bathroom, and began to brush her teeth. Tomorrow, she would be in a cabin in Brainerd, MN. The next day, she would be starting at her new school.
Brainerd, she thought. What a bizarre name. It would literally be the worst place for a zombie apocalypse to break out. She imagined how the conversation would go between two government scientists.
"It appears the virus has moved quicker than we anticipated, Doctor." said Scientist 1. "It won't be long before it spreads throughout the entire midwest."
"My god, Doctor. We must stop the problem at its source." said Scientist 2. "Where is Patient Zero?"
"A small town in Minnesota called Brainerd." replied Scientist 1.
"Wait, are you joking?" asked Scientist 2.
"No. Patient Zero is in Brainerd, MN." said Scientist 1.
"Are you seriously telling me the beginning of the worst pandemic in American history, where corpses come back to eat the minds of healthy, patriotic citizens, is starting in a town with the word 'Brain' in the name?" said Scientist 2. "That is too ridiculous. Seriously, where is Patient Zero, actually?"
"I'm not joking, Doctor." said Scientist 1. "He's killed a family of seven. This is no laughing matter."
"Call the president, Doctor. It's time to initiate Plan Z." said Scientist 2. "Although, seriously, Brainerd? Really?"
Talie finished brushing her teeth. She changed her underwear, but kept her pajamas on. After she placed everything back in her luggage, she plugged in her phone, and went to sleep. She dreamed of sunshine, beaches, and her Mom. It was a nice dream. She pulled in the covers in closer and cuddled the couch pillow as if it were a favorite stuffed animal and dozed off.
The BLARGH-BLARGH-BLARGH-BLARGH-BLARGH of her Dad's phone alarm jolted her awake. She looked at her own phone's time. It was 10:00am. This is too early for any person to have to get up, she thought, as she double checked to make sure her charger was packed and her phone was in her sweatshirt pocket. She and her Dad left the hotel room. As he was checking out, she stopped by the gift shop to grab some snacks for the road: a bag of Gardetto's Snack-Ins and a bottle of Coke Zero. After their various businesses were done, they made their way out to the car, packed up everything, and drove off. Talie put on her music and tried to tune-out the rest of the drive, but to no avail. Her feelings of anxiety and dread took hold and were refusing the release.
By the time they reached the cabin, it was about 5:00pm, due to a rest stop taken part way through the trip. Talie walked into the cabin. It was very small. The kitchen and living room were connected, and there was a small hallway that lead to two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Indoor plumbing, thank god, Talie thought. She brought in her luggage to her bedroom on the left and began to unpack. Until she had come to MN, she didn't understand the importance of the winter jacket her Dad gave her for Christmas, but after being outside, even for those brief moments of going from car to building and back again, she understood now. Talie hung up her winter coat, plugged in her phone and her laptop, put all her clothes away, put any various toys and keepsakes on top of her drawer, put her posters in a corner to be hung up later, and put all the toiletries in her bathroom. She had her own bathroom, now. That was kinda cool, she thought.
After getting her room into some form of organization, she walked out into the living room as her Dad began to unpack everything and organize the house. He had a few days until he had to be at work, but he knew Talie was starting school tomorrow, so he didn't bother asking for her help getting things set up. Talie looked out the window and saw a beautiful view of the lake through a clearing in the trees. If she wanted to, she could go down the hill on to the dock and hang out on the lakeside. Maybe when it's warmer out and everything isn't frozen over, she thought.
Talie's Dad ordered pizza for the evening and reminded Talie to set her alarm for school tomorrow. Talie went to go set her alarm and saw a text on her phone. It was a heart shaped emoticon from a close friend back in Florida. Talie sent back another heart, set her alarm, and, after grabbing few slices of pizza, went back to her room. She ate the pizza while lying on the bed and wondered what tomorrow would bring. Luckily, it was a three-day weekend coming up and she got a pass for missing Monday because she was moving, so it'll be a four day adjustment, three day reflection, before she'd be going to school full time. Talie set out her clothes for the day, with long underwear and everything, and settled in to bed. Who knows what tomorrow would bring, but for the first night since the move had started, it hadn't been as hard to fall asleep.
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Read Chapter 5
Read Chapter 6
Read Chapter 7