Two weeks before the world ended, Glenn had finally gotten on Facebook.
He'd resisted it forever, because what was he going to post? Glenn delivered 32 pizzas yesterday and made $17.21 in tips. Glenn leveled up in his video game. Glenn jacked some soccer mom's Escalade last weekend and sold it to a chop shop for rent money. And in return, he'd get to read about his Korean friends from high school becoming pharmacists and accountants and nuclear physicists; getting married; having kids; making their families proud. Great. Just what he needed.
At last he'd given in, though—mostly because he was sick of missing out on all the parties that were planned through stupid Facebook—and had spent the last two weeks of civilization as it then existed in front of his computer, reading about other people's successful lives and getting more and more depressed. The joke was on them, though. A degree in nuclear physics wasn't worth crap these days, but knowing how to hot-wire an engine and plan an escape route through a geek-infested city, just like in Resident Evil—those were the skills you needed for today's job market, such as it was.
The RV rattled and bounced over a pothole in the highway, and Glenn pressed his face against the half-open window, hoping to catch a breeze that didn't stink too badly of decay. Sweat ran down the back of his neck and into the damp collar of his shirt. No one had said a word since they'd gotten back on the road; they were all still in shock, he thought. Up front, he could see Rick's filthy, white-knuckled hands clenched tight on the wheel, and Carl half asleep on his mother's shoulder. In the back, to Glenn's left, Andrea stared straight ahead with eyes as blank as silvered glass, not even seeming to notice Dale's arms around her. They were a mess. A fucking mess, every last one of them, including him. What sort of Facebook status would be right for this situation? Glenn has just seen things go from bad to worse? Glenn is traumatized? Glenn is running for his life?
He gave up on the breeze and let his head sink back against the cracked brown leatherette of the seat. Yeah, at first he'd been proud of the way his not-ready-for-the-Ivy-League skill set qualified him to survive in this brave new world. He hadn't liked seeing people die all around him, and he hadn't wanted to think too much about where his parents and his brother and his grandmother might be—his relationship with his family was ten different kinds of dysfunctional, but that didn't mean they deserved to be eaten, or worse, to stagger around slowly rotting and trying to eat the neighbors in the leafy suburb where he'd grown up. But if he'd kept his mind off those things, and tried to think of it all as a giant life-size action movie or video game—one with killer 3-D and force feedback and surround sound built in—then it hadn't been so bad. It had even been kind of exciting. Kind of cool.
Only he couldn't do that anymore, because none of the stuff that had gone down in the last two days was cool at all. Watching sweet, gentle Amy bleed out on the ground while her sister wailed and sobbed and tried to cling to the last frail threads of her life was not cool. Shoveling dirt over the bodies of people he knew while reeking pyres of geeks burned just down the hill was not cool. Leaving Jim by the side of the road to die alone and afraid, with no one but the deer and rabbits and foxes to keep him company, was not cool—God, so not cool. And driving away from the explosion that had killed Jacqui and nearly killed them as well, that was not cool either. That moment, more than anything else, had finally and forever hammered home the truth of it all for him. They weren't in a movie or a game. This shit was for real, and it frightened him so badly he wanted to run and scream and cry. It made him wish he could trade places with Carl, just to be a little kid again for a minute, to trust that his mom and dad would protect him and make everything all right.
He looked out the window again at the scenery trundling past—Rick was driving deliberately, painfully slow to save gas—and thought that the craziest thing was that the non-human world hadn't changed a bit. The sun still shone; the trees were still lush and green; birds still chirped; clouds of insects still buzzed in the thick, humid air. You could almost imagine you were on a regular road trip, maybe heading down to Savannah to hang out and drink beer on the riverfront, or to Hilton Head for a weekend of lounging on the beach, until you realized that the bugs were gathering around certain areas in a horrible, purposeful way. And then you had to look closer, and there'd be a flash of someone's dead jeans-clad leg or bright plaid shirt sleeve half-hidden in the grass by the side of the road, or the matted remains of a girl's long, fair hair stirring in the wake of their caravan, like something on a kid's abandoned doll.
He wondered how long it would be before the last of those bodies melted into the earth, before the geeks ran out of food or just deteriorated too badly to drag themselves around anymore. Some of the others might be dreaming of a cure, but Glenn was a realist. If they could stay alive long enough, if they could adapt fast enough, if they could keep from going batshit insane from all the things they'd seen—then they could wait it out, and the world would wait with them. Maybe it would never be the world of Facebook and IMAX and SUVs and game systems again, but at least they would be safe; at least they'd have some sort of life. That was where all his hopes lay. That was the future as he saw it.
Glenn is surviving, he thought, as the RV turned a corner and began to slow down. In the driver's seat, Rick was thumbing the button on the walkie-talkie, his voice cracking with tension and fatigue, saying that they needed to stop and figure out where to go next. Glenn is learning new things. Glenn is not going to die.
At least, not today.