The Hunger Games of the Dead

Moving quickly across the field I spot a house about a hundred meters ahead. In a full sprint I aim for the door. Just steps from the door I pick up a flash of movement to my right. I stop, turn, take a knee, and let a wooden arrow fly. It smacks him right in the chest and he’s out.

I enter the house, quickly taking in the scenery and decor. It’s nice, but furnished to be displayed, not lived in. In this first room, which I suppose would be the living room is another tribute. He’s an archer like me, and he turns to face me in a panic. My toy bow is already drawn, his is on the floor. He must have felt safe in here.

“Alliance” I say wasting no time and with a foolish confidence gained from actually taking one of them out moments before.
“Yes” he replies, as if he really had a choice.

He is tall and lean, and looks remarkably similar to a college professor I once had. He’s probably in his early forties. I get the impression that he is a better archer than I, but there is no way for me to know this.

We start preparing our defense, barricading doors and windows with whatever furniture we can move. Out there, roaming around, are the others. I know instinctively that some have formed groups, and we will be relatively safe in this house for awhile. Maybe even a few days.

After what must have been hours, but what felt like moments, our preparations were complete. Now we could relax, maybe talk a little.

But that wasn’t going to happen. Outside, in the near distance came a swarm of brightly clothed – tributes? No. These were just people, but something was different.

In this state of innate intelligence, it clicked.

“That tricky bastard. He’s using zombies.”

One of the other tributes figured out a way to marshal these people against us as zombies. They crashed into our young home in a weak wave, tearing at the doors and windows. My partner and I – what is his name? – prepared ourselves near what would be the first breach point. As they began to slip through, we both let the arrows fly in what became a montage of death. In the aftermath, the things were repelled, we were exhausted, and our defenses were destroyed. I felt exhilarated with victory, and knew we had to begin rebuilding our defenses immediately if we wanted to survive. I reached down to pick up some arrows and caught another wave of them in the distance heading this way. My heart sank at the thought of having to do it again, exhausted and with nothing between us and them. My partner readied himself like a champion, but I couldn’t.

“I can’t” I said weakly.

He was on a knee inside the house, facing the coming horde through a gaping hole, his head turned towards me and a face that communicated his horror in my betrayal.

I took off out of the house and started running as fast I could, but slowly because of fatigue. The things were already around me. They looked like children. About ten of them were swarming me. I weaved in and out of them, desperately delaying the inevitable. I had already given up.

“Please, you don’t have to do this” I pleaded. They looked at me quizzically, knowing there is nothing they can do to stop themselves, and nothing I can say to make them stop. The thought of their tiny mouths chomping terrified me. And for what? What is this anyway?

They looked at each other, confirming one last time that this is what needed to happen, and then they devoured me.



That awkward moment when your recruiter reads about you in Stars and Stripes

Last month I attended a workshop called “Veteran-Civilian Dialogue.” It’s a program run by the non-profit Intersections. The purpose is to bring veterans and civilians together to talk about war and military service.

A reporter was there and jotted down something I said to the group which made it to the October 3 issue of Stars and Stripes:

Don Gomez, 29, served two tours in Iraq as an enlisted soldier, came home to go to college and is heading back to the military. He’ll start at Army officer candidate school this month. He said he was there because he sought a place where people could remove politics from their discussion of war, however briefly.

“You can yell at each other later,” he said. “We’re all human, and it’s important to connect as humans.”

My recruiter said he read my name in the paper today when I showed up to begin processing for OCS. Weird.