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Story Prompt: Write a story about a teenage girl with braces during the zombie apocalypse trying to find an orthodontist.
Shaylah awakes the same way each morning; a slight pain in her jaw followed by instant fear and scanning the area. It had been three years since the virus that wiped out half the eastern seaboard started. The morning sun crept through the barricaded windows as Shaylah stood up, stretching her back, and grabbing for her rifle. The shack that she had called home for the last week was just outside of Chicago, one of the remaining safe havens remaining this side of Utah. The government managed to eradicate the virus from the area, or so they say, and now the city is walled off. Entry was only granted after passing an infection screening, unless you have enough money.
Absentmindedly, Shaylah rubbed her jaw, trying to stretch her muscles from seizing. The only thing worse than having to deal with zombies trying to chew your various limbs is being unable to chew food yourself. Three weeks before the virus hit Shaylah got the worst fourteenth birthday present ever: Braces. In the beginning, back when Shaylah still had a support system that was living and breathing instead of dead and decaying, the braces weren’t even though of as an issue… until they didn’t get adjusted and Shaylah kept growing. Now half the populace was devouring the last great minds we have left.
Over the last three years Shaylah and her family had been trying to make their way to a secured city just like Chicago; safe, resource filled, and normal. Now that she was here, or at least close, it felt surreal. When the journey started, a week after subject zero took a chunk out of the nation’s leading neurologist, Shaylah was far from alone. There was a whole caravan of people, the people that raised her, travelling together, and protecting each other. Unfortunately, they weren’t so good at the latter.
It started out slow, people picked off one by one on scouting missions or supply runs. Then it escalated. Shaylah’s uncle got scratched and didn’t show symptoms until it was too late. Too late for everyone but five people who managed to make it out. Shaylah’s parents sent her away when the breakout in their camp started with her aunt Maisie, who had just returned home from the military a week before the breakout. They thought it would be safest for Shaylah to be in a smaller group while they stayed and fought the ones they loved from eating each other.
Maisie and Shaylah did okay for a while. They survived. Having to leave her parents behind, not knowing if they made it out or are currently shuffling across the highway looking for their next breathing meal. That was two years ago and the thoughts of her parents devoured Shaylah’s dreams. Maisie left on a supply run three months back and never returned. It’s just been Shaylah and her aching jaw since then. The quest for an orthodontist that is still breathing to remove her braces has been ongoing for six months. Shaylah tried herself with some pliers but only earned herself a bent wire prodding her gums constantly and a cut lip. This isn’t something she can do by herself, not safely. While the idea of just downing a bottle of Jack Daniels and pulling the teeth themselves has crossed Shayla’s mind more than once on a bad night, it isn’t a realistic option.
With her backpack secured, a little bit of hot broth consumed, and her rifle checked and loaded, Shaylah stepped out into the morning sun with the Chicago skyline ahead. If her estimations were correct, Shaylah would arrive outside the city quarantine area just before sundown. The last remaining money she had, about $200, was secured to the sole of her foot just in case she ran into any sticky situations. Nothing gets people on your side more than money; it was true before the zombie apocalypse and it’s just as true now.
Her trek through the suburbs was uneventful to say the least. Not that she was complaining but normally Shaylah had to avoid at least a few stray chompers wandering the highway. While the long way around might have been safer, she needed to make sure she gets to the city quarantine zone before sun fall. As the sun moved across the sky Shaylah felt more invigorated than she had in weeks, she was so close she could taste it; quite literally. With the braces having almost fused her jaw together, it had been a long time since Shaylah truly enjoyed a meal. Her plan once she reached the city was simple: Find out if someone in the city was qualified to remove braces, and beg them to help. Once her braces were off Shaylah’s plan ceased. Maybe she would find a job in the city, maybe she would keep heading west to try and find her parents. They had always planned to head to California, where Shaylah’s mother is from.
The signs for the quarantine area were showing up more often the closer Shaylah got to the border of the city. The suburbs were cut off completely; too difficult to defend and regulate the virus. The sound of people started to get louder as the tent city outside the barricades came into view. There were a lot of people; more than Shaylah expected. Various yells and screams could be heard as Shaylah rushed up, trying to get to the crowd of about fifty people, more living than she had seen in three years.
“What’s going on?” Shaylah asked, almost to herself as she gasped at the swat team barring the entrance to the examination area. A petit older woman on the outskirts of the crowd with Shaylah looked up at her, tears streaming down her face softly spoke.
“They’re saying the city is at capacity… no one else is allowed in.”
———- To Be Continued———-