A return to my zombies, and where it all started. I can’t say where this will eventually end up in the grander story, but it is the true beginning.
By Jason Warden
For years there have been movies, books, hell, entire lifetimes devoted to the study of the walking dead. For us, it was always about the love.
Derik and I joined the Association after we raised our first zombie. I know how that sounds, and I know you think all of this is our fault, but you’re wrong. We were trying to do the right thing.
The international association divvied up funds based on membership, If we could raise one, and keep him raised we might even be able to add him to the membership roll and get a bigger share. Derik and I were optimistic, and rightfully so. The living have little interest in the dead past putting flowers over the markers a few times a year, but PETD (People for the Ethical Treatment of the Dead) and its members believe every person, living AND dead have the right to be accepted for who they are.
Ours only made it a few minutes. We only used a little of the resin. Derik had bought it from a guy who claimed to know how to raise the dead. He was always a sucker, if a kid came by selling magazines or candy bars, I always knew, because we’d have enough to eat both for a month. This was different though, and I think we both knew it. Not only was this the resin we had both heard about, but the guy who sold it to him even used the proper name for it.
“He called it CabuCabu Mary.”
I looked at him astonished, Derik was never a good liar, and I could see on his face, he wasn’t lying. It only took us two days to get our first corpse.
What at first seemed to be a working solution to the problem of death, resulted in nothing more than a chance for last rites. We were able to ask him a few questions, but really just ended up with more of them.
He told us of the darkness of space and the bright white utopia he tried and tried to reach but always felt out of reach.
“Do you think that’s heaven,” Derik asked.
“I don’t know. If it is, then where was I?”
Of course, we didn’t have an answer for him, but the sadness in his eyes convinced us that the dead have feelings.
“How did you die?” I asked.
“In a hospital, I don’t remember how,” he said, and then died, again.
After his eyes glazed over we laid him to rest in the forest outside of town. It was heartbreaking to not be able to provide him with the burial service he deserved, but it was the best we could do.
After our two-person ceremony, and an exchange of prayers and token gifts, we made a promise to him that his life, and death, would not be in vain.
Driven and excited at our discovery, we got another body from the morgue. We had to pay of course, and the guy we had bought the first one from gave us a look like “What the hell are you up to,” but once he saw the cash, he decided it wasn’t that important. They were bodies interns were just going to cut up anyway, and he apparently needed the extra bit of cash.
Tattoos, some obviously done at home, or in prison, encompassed more of the body than not. His face was that of an old man, the lines deep, more like crevices than wrinkles, and his teeth seemed enormous sticking out of his rotten gums that were little more than a pink base footing for the blackened old things. His body though, seemed to be that of a younger man. My first impression was only drugs do that kind of damage. He was probably on meth. We asked if he had a fresher one.
“Lady, this is the freshest I got, just came in, take it or leave it.”
We took it.
Our second try, didn’t go any better than the first. We were able to wake him but he was combative and generally unresponsive to our questions. Whatever had taken his life had also taken his ability to think coherently. After several minutes of gnashing his terrible teeth like one of Max’s followers in ‘Where the Wild things Are’, he lay still just like the first had. I was disappointed, but apparently not as much as Derik. He raged, punching the man several times and screaming at him to wake up. I tried to hold him back, and he knocked me away with a stray arm as he flailed. Immediately my own anger swelled.
“You stupid bastard, look what you’re doing. Is this what you want?”
He stood there, blood on his fists and splattered on his face, all at once he realized, I think for the first time that he had knocked me down.
“I’m sorry,” he said
“I’m leaving, when I get back, I want both of you gone. This isn’t working, and I need to think. I’ll see you at the crematorium in the morning.”
I walked out, leaving his protests behind.
The next day he didn’t show up. We were supposed to meet to protest the opening of the new crematorium, but when I got there it was just me, standing on the corner, holding both the signs I had made for us.
I waited for him, but he never showed. It was almost a month before I saw him again, by then my anger had melted and been replaced entirely by worry.
When he came in I didn’t hear him. I was trying to figure out how I was going to get to a cryogenics laboratory celebration dinner, and simultaneously protest the rezoning of a cemetery when he said, “Mary.”
I pushed back, spilling out of my chair as one of the rollers caught a hole in the concrete. When I looked up he was there, looking down at me. He didn’t look bad, only grey, and his hair had taken on a dried out tumbled look, but the smell of death came off him in waves. He knelt, moving with sudden starts and stops like he only controlled part of himself and the rest was reacting to something else, short wave maybe.
“I can smell your insides,” he said.
He spoke without malice, lust or hate. Just matter of fact, like you’d ask anyone if they knew how to get to the circus, he was just passing along information He touched my face and I tried to push myself down into the concrete, tried to scrabble away, but my feet wouldn’t move.
“Mary, it’s me, I’m not going to hurt you. C’mon I have something to show you.”
His black eyes, they were deeper than they ever were in life. I took his hand, praying all the stories and legends were wrong, praying he wouldn’t take my hand in his mouth and bite. He didn’t, but I could hear him sniffing, smelling me, instead he led me to the door, but under the sharp light of the hall I stopped short.
“Derik, you can’t go out there, look at you,”
His face was a mask of blood, and gristle. I had a pretty good idea what had happened, but I asked anyway.
He turned away from me. If I hadn’t known he was already dead, I’d have thought he would be soon. I ran back to the desk, grabbed a handful of Clorox wipes and cleaned him up the best I could. He seemed impatient, ready to get on with whatever it was he had to show me.
“What happened?” I asked again. “I’m not going with you until you tell me.”
“I got the resin, Mary, the real stuff, not that crap I bought before,” he said. “I have proof; proof that the dead do live and have feelings. Do you understand what that means for us?”
It meant everything. It meant the Nobel Prize, it meant respectability, but most importantly, it meant the dead would be treated as they should be, as human.
“But how did you…”
“Die?” was what I was going to ask but before I could, he pulled me to the side door of the building. Just outside, a green Hummer idled, its hazard lights were flashing and the wipers were on though it wasn’t raining, and I could hear music. Derik flew down the steps, almost fell, and opened the driver’s door. He turned off the ignition, killing the sound of Andy Williams. That’s when he freaked out. I had one hand on the door of the building, ready to jump back inside and throw the bolt when he looked at me.
“They’re gone,” he screamed.
“What? Who? Derik, what’s gone?”
He didn’t answer for a minute, just kept looking back and forth, up and down the alley. “The Priests, I told them what I wanted and they gave it to me. They’ll ruin everything.”
A woman screamed far off to our right. Derik sprang in that direction when another came from our left. He stopped, looked at me, and then back up the street.
“I have to try and stop them. Take this. It’s all that matters.”
He pulled out a small bag and tossed it to me.
“They said I could have it if I brought them back with me. They’re going to ruin everything. This was our shot.”
I thought about what he said, about what those screams meant as he rushed off toward them. Later, I watched on TV as cameras showed images of carnage, of people being killed then rising to kill others. I never saw Derik in any of the mayhem. I wonder if he will come. I wonder what will happen if the others come first. Will they find me alive? Dead? Do I have the guts to swallow the resin? Will it kill me? Will it bring me back?
I just don’t know.