Zombies aren’t the only dangers in this apocalypse. Injuries that were once simple to fix have become healing nightmares. Take broken bones, for instance. I came across an older woman living in a boarded up suburban house a few months back. She’d managed to stash enough food and water to get by for several months before she broke her leg fleeing from a second gen zombie. If Harvey hadn’t insisted on scavenging from the second floor of her house, we’d never have known she was there.
Like so many other suburban houses, this one was boarded up. And, like so many others, the front door had been left locked but later must have been kicked in because it was hanging from one hinge and the lock was busted. I went in searching for old sheets, twine, rubbing alcohol, and the like. I rifled through the drawers and cabinets on the main floor but found very little of use. It looked like someone had beat me to it. I was just about ready to give up when I heard Harvey at the top of the stairs whimpering. He scratched at the door insistently, whimpered, then began throwing himself at it.
“Harvey,” I whispered. We hadn’t seen many Zs in this neighborhood, but I never liked to make much noise near the city. “Get down here. This place is a bust.”
He refused to come down. He just kept throwing himself against the door at the top of the stairs. I urged him twice more before I climbed up to grab the scruff of his neck.
That was when I heard her. Barely a whisper, her voice was so strained and weary. “Go away,” she said. “Just go away.”
“Hello,” I said. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
She fell silent. I tried the knob. It was locked or jammed.
“I’m just going to collect my dog and we’ll be on our way,” I said. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. I was just looking for first aid supplies. I didn’t know this house was spoken for.”
I took Harvey by the scruff of the neck and turned to go back down the stairs hoping she’d just let us go. Some of the people I’ve run into are downright crazy in situations like these. They may as well be zombies.
“No, wait,” she said. Her voice was louder this time, but still strained. “Are you alone?”
I hesitated. Images of hilly-billy hell flooded my mind and the steely sick taste of adrenaline filled my mouth.
“It’s just me and my dog. We don’t want any trouble. We’ll just go now, “ I said. I wrestled Harvey maybe half way down the stairs. Clearly, he didn’t want to go just yet.
“Please,” she said. “I need help. I’m hurt. You’re sure it’s just you?”
“What kind of hurt? I might be able to help. I’m an herbalist, but if you’ve been bitten, I can’t help you.”
“No, it’s not that accursed virus,” she spat. “I think I broke my leg.”
It turned out Abilene was a retired school teacher who’d moved west just a few months before the virus struck. She’d planned to spend retirement gardening and relaxing. Zombies had stymied her retirement plans, but she was a fighter through and through. Her leg was a simple fracture, the kind that didn’t even need resetting, thank goodness. It was swollen and tender. She’d kept it up as best she could, but every little movement sent waves of nausea and pain through her. I helped her immobilize it with strips of bed sheet and a couple of garden stakes I found in her back shed. Before I headed back to camp, I picked yarrow and lavender from the neighbor’s yard and showed her how to make a compress to help reduce the swelling and ease the heat in her leg. Then, Harvey and I set off for home promising to stop by the next day to check on her.
When we returned, the swelling had eased some and she said so long as she didn’t move the pain was reducing. I brought her a decoction of willow bark and meadowsweet tops I’d made the night before to help ease the pain and a bag of Three Bone Tea to help her bones heal quickly.
Willow bark and meadowsweet are, in my humble opinion, far superior to ye old aspirin for pain relief. In some cases, they even beat the other over-the-counter pain relievers I used to rely so heavily upon before Virus Z wiped out most of the pharm. They contain the same chemical structures as aspirin, but Mother Nature had the good sense to add components that make them easy on the stomach and unlikely to cause excess bleeding. I guess science never got around to thinking about how to reduce side effects like Mother Nature did.
Three Bone Tea, more properly called Three Bone Healing Herbs Tea, is made of equal parts Comfrey, Nettle, and Boneset leaves. It’s a classic blend for helping bones of all ages heal, but offers special help to those of us who’re past the bone-building years. I showed Abilene how to make it into a cold infusion so she wouldn’t have to leave the safety of her hide-out while her leg was still healing. By the time Harvey and I left that day, the pain and swelling were down and she was beginning to recover her vigor.
“You’ve given me hope, child,” she said. “I thought I was a gonner for sure until you showed up.”
When we returned six weeks later, Abilene was up and hobbling about with a cane. She’d managed to get down to tend her garden and even had a harvest to share. Without help, she wouldn’t have healed so quickly. I’m not entirely sure she would have made it at all. She was so weak when we found her and she’d lost hope. Broken bones will mend, but without help and a bit of hope…I’m just glad Harvey found Abilene when he did. And, I’m glad I had the right herbs to help her turn her nightmare into the road to recovery.
May You Be Well,
Zombie Hunter C.
Publisher’s Disclaimer: This column is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.