(Images by Jeremy Scheuch)
"Stay inside. Honey, move away from the windows and be quiet. It’s here," I said, running inside the house and locking the door behind me.
"What poppa? What is it?" My four-year old daughter, Susie, with nothing but love in her eyes, looked up at me, pulling at the fabric of my pants.
"I don’t want to scare you. But it’s time to be a big girl now." I swallowed hard. "The Hall of Fame ballot was announced this week."
"Shouldn’t that be a good thing? Isn’t the Hall of Fame for good players?" she asked. The air raid sirens had just gone off in town and the noise was deafening. I got down on a knee.
"Normally it is, sweetie. But not now. You see, there are still months to go before the award is even announced and every writer, blogger, and carbon based life-form with an opinion will be writing, tweeting, talking, and calling into the radio about it. And they’ll be really angry the whole time. They’re…they’re no longer human." My wife walked in the room.
"Honey, what are you doing?" she asked, looking at heavy steel grate I was using to block the door.
"Jill, don’t panic, but the Hall of Fame ballots came out." Fear filled her face. She grabbed Susie’s hand.
"Hurry, come with me," she said, rushing Susie down the hall. "Let’s hide you in the bathtub, away from the windows and internet." The wind howled in the distance.
A day later, I had finished my preparations. The windows were boarded, the doors were locked. With luck, we’d make it through. I fired up my phone, there must be some internet left. I opened my Google Reader and like that scene where Wayne Knight’s face fills the computer screen in Jurassic Park, everything was Hall of Fame related. Why Jeff Bagwell was a cheater, why Fred McGriff didn’t stop enough crime to earn the title Crime Dog, why Mike Piazza’s back acne predicted every major natural disaster. I was already too late, society had crumbled. I powered down. We’d have to go without the web for the winter. No gifs in this house.
Jill, who had been comforting Susie in the bathroom, reading her stories of simpler times when ballplayers were merely racists or tax evaders but not performance enhancing drug users, came up behind me, putting her arm on my shoulder.
"How’s it going?" she asked.
"Fine," I said, feigning courage, but she saw through my facade. She glared at me until I gave in. "I’m not sure we have enough food for the winter. We’re out of all of the essentials, including Hostess’ Baseball-shaped snack cakes and Justin Verlander’s Fastball Flakes. I need to get more."
"You can’t. It’s too dangerous. I heard Fort Dixon fell to the Rafael Palmeirians. We’ll just have to ration our supplies."
(Image by Andrew Kazmierski)
A week passed and we were less like a family and more like a group of refugees hiding at the border. We were hungry, cold, and couldn’t stand playing another game of Cranium. Susie, her clothes already in rags and her face gaunt from the rationing, tugged at her mother’s arm. Jill looked at her, a clump of her formerly wavy and voluminous blonde hair falling out as she did. We certainly weren’t in the best shape of our lives.
"I’m hungry, Momma."
"Michael, can’t we get her something to eat?" Jill looked half dead already. I went to the pantry to check on the food. There wasn’t much, just some muffin mix, Ritz crackers, and canned goods that should last another month or so. I should have said no, but I hated to see my family suffer like this. I opened one of the cans. Mold.
"No, it can’t be." I opened the next one. Mold. The one after that. "Damn it, damn it, damn it." I pounded my fist on the counter and the two of them jumped back. "There must have been a problem at the cannery. Is it called a cannery? Cannery…canary. Weird. I have to scavenge for more."
Jill stumbled as she got to her feet. “You can’t. It’s too dangerous. You’ve heard the scratching at our windows, the baying of the hounds, the screams of ‘Jose Mesa Forever!’ You’ll never make it.”
I grabbed Jill by the shoulders. “If I don’t do this, we die anyways.” I kissed her, on the mouth, like a husband is supposed to. But it didn’t assuage my fear. I pulled on my vintage Expos jacket, and grabbed my axe body spray. Then I grabbed my actual axe. “Help me move this bookcase.”
With the two of us together, we were able to get it out of the way of the door. “If I’m not home by tonight, wait until tomorrow. After that, I’m probably dead.”
Susie ran forward, tears streaming down her face. “I love you, Poppa! Please be careful.”
Hiding my own tears, I gripped her hard. “I love you too, little blueberry. I love you, too.”
The sky was gray, the air cold. The wind whipped through my parka. Traveling was hard as the streets, empty of commuters, were instead packed full of bodies, people too slow to avoid the rush of the baseball writers. I heard a wheezing to my right. Startled, I grabbed my weapon and held it close. I peered through the burned out cars, careful of my step over the scattered debris and flotsam that choked the cul de sac.
I rounded an ‘89 Lincoln Cutlass and saw the body. It was a man, or appeared to be one, in his early 30s, his hair just starting to thin. It was hard to tell through the layer of dirt and grime and dried blood that covered him. Sections of his torso and shoulders were ripped out by what appeared to be human teeth. Summoning all of his energy he spoke.
"Kill me" he said, "I beg you. Kill me."
His lips were dry and I offered him some of my water.
"It won’t make a difference. They’ll be back soon. Just kill me."
"Who! Who killed you? Was it—"
He cut me off. “I said I thought Edgar Martinez was a Hall of Famer. .300/.400/.500, how do you argue with that?” he said through shallow breaths. “They liked Jack Morris and so…” With that, he went into a coughing fit, spewing blood everywhere. “Just…just end it for me.”
I nodded solemnly. I knew my duty. I raised my axe and brought it down like Bo Jackson after a strikeout and a thick pool of almost black blood spilled out. “Rest in peace, friend.”
I walked in the grocery store. It was quiet, perhaps the first time a Pavilions had ever been so peaceful. I ran to the canned foods aisle, stuffing my bag with Campbell’s Chunky Soups, the commercials convincing me that though they were a soup, they ate like a meal. Grabbing some condensed milk and dried pasta, I hastened towards the exit. And that’s when I heard it.
The disgusting, slurping sound of baseball writers feasting on a fresh carcass. If I hurried… no, I had to be careful, quiet. Like a ninja or Dodger Stadium before the third inning. I tiptoed through the store, trying not to draw the attention of the dozen or so writers currently enjoying a snack. Their wheezing, moaning exclamations of “TIM RAINES IS COMPARABLE TO RICKEY HENDERSON” and “YOU’RE TELLING ME CURT SCHILLING’S PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE DOESN’T MATTER?”, interrupted only by the sounds of their chewing resonated throughout the half-empty store. It smelled like hot dogs at the ballpark and I’m saddened to admit I momentarily felt hunger.
As I stepped out of the market, the sensors came to life. “Thank you for shopping. Have a nice day.” I started to run, but as my speed is a mere 30 on the 20-80 scouting scale, it didn’t matter. The undead from inside the store were now alert and gaining on me, the ones scattered across the parking lot coming to join in. I pulled out my axe. I will not die today, I told myself.
Out now in the open of the parking lot, I grabbed the first one that came towards me.
"Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, they’re all cheat—" I slammed my axe into the monster’s cerebral cortex, making contact on the first try like a regular Marco Scutaro. I quickly pulled the axe out, pieces of crushed bone hitting the ground, as another tried to grab me from behind. I spun and lopped off his head, not interested in hearing why Craig Biggio’s 3,000 hits should equate to his automatic inclusion. The herd was starting to surround me. With a mighty Trout-ian jump, I leapt atop an overturned minivan to survey the view.
"I DON’T CARE HOW MANY SAVES LEE SMITH HAD!" I yelled. Spinning in a 360, my axe took out a good half dozen of the writers, splitting their bodies in half. "Talk about a platoon advantage," I said, laughing. Another group came for me and, like Todd Frazier’s multi-tap home run, took out three with a single swing, their blood pooling on the ground as if it was the swimming area at Chase Field. I lifted up one of the decapitated creatures and jump-threw him into the crowd, buying myself mere moments as the monsters descended on one of their own.
Using the distraction, I vaulted off the minivan and ran down the nearby alley to my left, knowing it would intersect with my street a good 6 blocks away.
I finally made it home, dispatching a few more creatures along the way, though I now considered Reggie Sanders’ case for inclusion more seriously. I slapped my forehead. Get serious, Mike. I opened the door and dropped my bag. I was covered in blood and needed some rest, but I had never been so happy.
"Jill! Susie! I’m back." I paused. Something wasn’t right. I looked over to my left at the big bay windows, the ones we used to look at the eucalyptus trees during the summer. The wood was broken and laying in pieces, the glass shattered. A trail of blood lead to the bedroom in the back.
I picked up the axe again, panic consuming me. “Jill? Susie! Guys, c’mon!” I walked down the darkened hallway, the lights flickering, when Jill stepped out. “Oh, Jill. Thank god, you’re okay. The window—” That’s when I noticed it. That wasn’t poor lipstick application, it was dried blood staining her mouth. “Jill? Oh god, Jill. Baby, talk to me.”
"Baseball isn’t about statistics, Michael. Baseball is about heart. And Bernie Williams lead the Yankees in heart."
No, this couldn’t be happening. I must have screamed, but I don’t remember. “Jill, stop it. Think about what you’re saying.” Still she advanced, pushing me backwards. “Where’s Susie? Susie?” Tears streamed, but I had to stay on my feet. If there was even a chance that Susie was still alive, I had to keep fighting. The closet door creaked open behind me and I spun around. “Susie, hey baby girl. It’s going to be okay.”
She stepped out, holding her Bernie The Brewer plush, it’s arms ripped off. She cocked her head and looked at me with lifeless eyes. She smiled, a thick strand of blood between her lips.
"Stop being so silly, Daddy," she said, shambling towards me. "If Alan Trammell was so good at baseball, why didn’t he win an MVP award?" My shoulders dropped and I let the axe tumble to the ground as the two of them enveloped me in their arms, their teeth tearing into my soft flesh. An artery burst, but I made no sound.
The Hall of Fame didn’t bother me any more after that.
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