Can the patients and staff of a Psychiatric Hospital for killers survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Here's chapter one, for critique. Feel free to comment on the good, bad, ugly?
Chapter One: Girls just wanna have fun
On the eve of the zombie apocalypse, Charlotte Robinson woke with a hangover and a nervous disposition. The hangover was courtesy of two bottles of chardonnay, enjoyed alone. The nerves were because today was the first day of her new job. Her first “proper” job. One that actually used her accounting degree in a financial role, not her tray-balancing skills in a cafe. Being hungover and nervous on your first day is bad enough. But as she sat on the edge of the bed and dug numb knuckles into red eyes, Charlotte remembered that last night she’d also broken up with her boyfriend, Daniel. The two-timing bastard. So last night the one bottle of celebratory wine had been joined by a second to drown her sorrows.
In the shower, she practised one of her calming visualisation exercises. She imagined Daniel to be a coating of thick grime covering her body from head to toe. He was even in her hair. Dirty grey muck that matted the blonde strands together. It took repeated applications of shampoo to break up the clumps of filth. From her scalp to her feet, with the temperature as hot as she could bear, she washed Daniel from every inch of her skin and watched him swirl down the drain.
The tiny extractor fan lost its battle against the clouds of steam billowing from the shower cubicle. The vapour enveloped Charlotte in a warm, wet hug. She wrote to herself in the condensation on the glass door. Another tradition since her teens. Affirmations. In cursive script, small enough to fit what she wanted to say, each line bleeding water into the one below…
I don’t need Daniel.
I don’t want Daniel.
I don’t love Daniel.
She smiled, remembering the old Meatloaf song, except for her the lyrics became “None out of three ain’t bad”.
Under those three lines, she wrote…
I’m going to be great at my new job.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Closing her eyes and lifting her face directly into the full force of the shower, she repeated those five affirmations and sighed with relief.
Leaving the bathroom cleansed in body and soul, she continued her positive reflections while dressing and making coffee. She had a new full-time job that used her skills just a couple of years since finishing Uni. That wasn’t bad. She’d only had to suffer those two years of waitressing. She was free of that prick, Daniel. A lucky escape. And she rented her own apartment. Albeit small, and a little too far from the city, it was hers. Her life was on track.
But within a matter of hours, Charlotte’s life would derail in spectacular fashion.
Traffic was unusually heavy. Especially given that it was noon, and everyone should either be at work or in school. Charlotte had allowed herself an hour to drive the thirty minutes to the other side of town. Partly because of her nerves and keenness to arrive early. And partly because she hated using the motorway bypass. The turbulence from passing trucks meant she had to fight the steering wheel to keep her little Carolla on course.
The Institute, as locals called it, sat an acceptable distance from the residential outskirts of the city. Acceptable being around ten miles. The reason for that distance lay in its full name “The Johann Reil Institute for Research and Treatment of Behavioural Disorders.” Most locals would have preferred those ten miles to be a hundred.
When preparing for her on-line interview last month, Charlotte had diligently researched the place. Dr Johann Reill, long since dead, had been the first academic to coin the phrase “psychiatry”. Although the word in Greek meant “medical treatment of the soul.” So she wasn’t sure why this Reill person got the credit. Perhaps he was the first English speaker to use it professionally. As diligent as she was, she skipped reading the entire history of psychiatry. This facility no longer offered treatment, not since the scandals around electro-therapy. Nowadays, its purpose seemed limited to the accommodation of the afflicted.
Importantly, the Institute received annual government funding of eleven million dollars. A budget that she, as Finance Officer, would be responsible for. It sure beat helping Fred at the cafe balance his till receipts.
An ambulance siren drowned out the wailing of Oasis on the car’s radio. It weaved through the stalled traffic, heading in the opposite direction to Charlotte. Another ambulance soon followed, and then a police car.
Must be a fairly big accident back in town, she thought.