World War Zed

12. A Letter to Mary

A Letter to Mary

Market Street, San FranciscoCalifornia.

As I arrived to meet my latest interviewee – a Californian lady who declined to give permission for her real name to be shown, so we shall call her Mary – a young woman in uniform with Sergeant’s stripes on her arm descended the steps as I walked up to the front door.

She had obviously been crying, but nodded at me in greeting, moving away before I could say anything.

I was met by Mary on the steps to the house. She said nothing, but sat on the concrete, tears tracking soundlessly down her cheeks. She had been given a letter by the departing soldier. Mary has kindly let me print it here, as a loving tribute to her long-dead son.


Hi Mom,

There’s no easy way to start this, or even know if you’ll ever receive this letter. I can but trust in fate and my friends, and hope that one day this reaches you, as unfortunately, I will not.

Perhaps I should explain more first. Once I left San Francisco, I hitched around for a bit, washed up for a few bucks here and there, and lived on my wits. Once the Zeds started appearing, I ran along with everyone else but got caught up in the army. I’ve served with them for the last few years, first at the Colorado base and then on the front line as we cleared houses one by one, reclaiming town after town as we marched westwards towards California, and home. I even made Corporal.

We dispatched thousands of them, battling our way through hordes of grey-skinned horror, marching proudly, line after line of us, our weapons of crass destruction held in our hands (sorry Mom, little army joke there). We used hammers, lumps of metal, anything really that could stave in their heads. Everyone had their own way of doing things. It seemed to work.

I guess you’ve worked out by now that I ain’t coming home. I almost made it to you, almost made it back into California. But, just outside the border, we got caught napping, and although I’m still alive and writing this, I won’t be me for much longer.

One bit me.

We’d dozed off in the shade of a grove of almonds. We’d all been fighting that morning and I guess we were just all worn out. It was my fault. I was on guard. I fell asleep and the thing was on top of me before I realised it. At least it was just one of them. The rest of the patrol is fine.

I have little time now to finish. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve tried to write this, how many letters I’ve screwed up, how many times I’ve stared at a blank sheet of paper. You wouldn’t believe how much I wanted to say to your face what I’m now having to write instead, how badly I want to see you and how much I wanted to say, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done what I did.

I’m sorry I ran away Mom, but I did at least do something useful before I died, and have eventually come to realise, albeit too late, that I love you and know that you love me.

I hope you can forgive me for what I put you through: the not knowing, the uncertainty and the stress, and the years of loneliness. I wish I could roll back the years and the stupidity, destroy the incredible selfishness of my sixteen-year-old self and stay in a place where I was loved. And that perhaps is something that I have come to realise: I was loved, deeply and unconditionally by you.

Tomorrow will be my last day. I have entrusted this to my good friend Alice, who I know will either deliver this herself or pass it onto someone she trusts if she falls by the way. If it is Alice, please give her a meal and a kiss from me. She has been a solid friend over the last few years and has pulled me through some tough times.

I’ve volunteered for one last mission. With the last ounce of my humanity intact, I will parachute into the middle of one of the hordes that are still rampaging through the Midwest. I’ll be covered in anything explosive that the army can get its hands on. If you remember hearing a boom, it might’ve been me.

I love you, mom. I’m sorry. I hope you’re proud of what I managed to achieve despite myself and my younger idiocy, but above all, I hope you forgive me for what I put you through.

Your ever loving son,


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