It’s been eight years today since our eldest came into our lives, or longer of course since as parents the awareness of baby starts before then. Eight years then since this one took seventy hours to be born. Eight years since I had one, just one, moment when I thought that I couldn’t do it, that it was all too much – a brief moment of panic which is always allowed so long as it is only that. But eight years, that might have been always, since memories of not being a parent are with me only in black and white.
At least that’s what I tell people.
You know what it’s like really. There’s always one. You don’t mind the grown up shuffling dead even if the full-pelt runners come as a shock. It’s all very well for people to say in the calm light of the monitor that even an old lady with a spade can do away with the dead, but you know different, right? Eight years ago on that night of horror when picking my way through alleyways to get to where Q was holed up and five rounds only remaining in the Browning. It was probably that which led to this because you have to pick and choose your targets, you can’t just blaze away and find out you’ve shot the cat. And there’s always one, that dead thing with the teddy whose button eyes are both sewn shut. Tangled hair, weeping. The little-girl zombies are the worst. So eight years since my torch fell on her and I didn’t pull the trigger and still she’s here. Right now eating cake; admittedly made out of a puppy.
She’s sat here now, quiet. Hair over half her face that hides the half not there. There are too many teeth, all tiny, all identical and her smile can half hinge her head. Don’t let your dog snap at her as she’ll snap back. She never wins a race at sports day, but she can outrace a whippet when chasing a hare. And she whispers. You have to listen and you have to learn as when she gets touched by the wild half the whispers are words, albeit backwards. It’s not all bad. She can crawl up walls and even the ceiling, if jerkily. She mysteriously likes vegetables. If she doesn’t talk to friends at school then she talks to friends that if unseen are almost certainly there. And she’s loving, as long as she’s not hungry.
She’s eight and in her head she plays complex games. Twice that now and she’ll be sixteen.
Cope save me.