2. Revenant Day
Living on a rural "bullshit hippy compound" was probably why she was still alive. It certainly had kept her parents alive for years longer than they would have managed on their own.
Ed and Alice were sweet but mostly wanted to love the earth, grow marijuana, smoke marijuana and raise a daughter who would be kind and gentle like them. Instead they got a changeling girl child with a mouth like a sailor, an ever curious mind, and a certain way with cats. The commune barn cats were always leaving their kittens with Nix while they went to hunt or just lay uninterrupted in a sunbeam. Ed and Alice were just happy that Nix had one thing she could love and treat gently. They concentrated on that and growing their plants, even as the world flew apart in chaos.
Perched in one of the community rooms, a small crowd watched an ancient console television that showed what was happening in the cities, how the dead were multiplying, how they attacked and made more dead. Nix turned the situation over in her mind and headed to her attic room for a good think. Upon arriving, she found that a whole litter of kittens had been left in her bed. Nix always found that she thought better with a pile of kittens, especially the extra fluffy ones.
Phoenix (mythical bird, not city) Alexandria (for the Library) MaryJane (for the weed) Verity (for truth) Kobesky (because she was Polish AF) was a kid saddled with a lot of names, a lot of cats, and suddenly a lot more chores. Unlike the other kids, she took to the new work with a seriousness beyond her years before anyone on the commune had seen one of the dead. She found holes in the fence and mended them, located weak spots and flagged them for additional fence posts, and found places where the earth had sunken or washed out and listed them for adding fill dirt, concrete and rocks.
Seizing an over-sized map in the mess hall for her purposes, Nix used push pins to note all the cities where the dead had become a pandemic rather than a problem. At first it was the largest cities, then then slightly smaller cities and it just kept spreading.
Each morning, while thoughtfully chewing her toast, she would set new pins and use yarn to connect them. The thing she noticed were the interstates. The yarn bloomed out from city to city along major roads. No major roads came near their compound, but Nix decided it might be a good time to make sure that zero roads to the compound were visible to outsiders. Infected people could still drive cars. The dead seemed to follow roads as they shuffled about.
The news stopped suggesting that people should shelter in place or reporting where safe locations were. In truth, when too many people got together, one of them would hide their infection, not believing in their fate. About two weeks later, they would stand up as a corpse and start sharing their fate with all of the other people who were nice and safe in that location.
Nix asked her dad to gather up some of the older men from the commune and bring them to the mess hall with the map. Most adults would not listen to a teenager unless they had a trusted grown-up backing them and visual aids. Nix imagined if the world had not gone upside down, she might have had a future in marketing. She wedged the kitten in her hoodie pocket down a little deeper and massaged his face until he slept. A kitten climbing from her pocket would probably put a dent in her credibility.
Her dad had been Incredibly smart and mostly collected other men with families. Men who had something to love and something to lose because they would be far more likely to start immediate work and keep at it. Maybe Ed could have been some sort of community organizer if he didn't live in a nowhere compound and maybe smoked a little less dope.
As the men stood with crossed arms and looks of disinterest, Nix explained her map and her plan. One by one they started to listen. Their compound was not on any maps. Their "road" was one sign, 30 feet of concrete off of a state highway and then two ruts for miles. With a few days of work, some fill dirt, some dragged over fallen trees and the misdemeanor removal of a county road sign, they could be entirely forgotten. With the work of the whole community they could erase their road, make it impassible and add extra earthworks around the fenced commune. The group was already mostly off the grid. It was time to finish the job.
The adults set an immediate start date for the work and the next day "Bliss Drive" ceased to exist. Two days later, no one would ever have guessed a road had been there even if they had driven on it. They would think they had missed the turn somewhere else.
Nix started to teach all of the cats that their world now needed to end at the fence. It took a few years to get that across, but finally, she managed it. As she did her chores there was ever a tumble of kittens who pounced, wrestled, gnawed her shoelaces and ran after the teen as if she were their mother. The barn cats taught them to hunt, but Nix taught them how not to be hunted. Older cats helped to reinforce the lessons.
The commune was free of rodents, both inside buildings and out in the fields. Even in bullshit hippy land, the time of free rides was over.
3. Nix's Murder House and Cattery