I Don’t Believe in Zombies

Lightning streaked in the night sky, illuminating the soaked mud of the cemetery grounds in a flash, then booming thunder followed. One lone man stood in the center of the field, surrounding by rows of tombstones and ornate mausoleums. One lone and frightened man, cold, soaked to the skin, and afraid.

The boom of thunder was followed by that of his shotgun. One of the approaching bodies fell.

Antonio shivered violently. This was insanity. He didn’t believe in ghosts. He didn’t believe in monsters. And zombies were definitely just something from the movies. But here he stood, the center in a circle of them, approaching reanimated corpses moaning with arms outstretched, shuffling toward him to feed.

Boom. Antonio pulled the trigger and the gun bucked in his arms and rammed his shoulder hard. The zombie’s head exploded into a pile of blood and bone as lighting flashed again. Thunder rumbled over the cemetery.

Chuck-chuck. Boom. Another fell, never to rise. An empty cartridge flew. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Another fell, its torso a gaping hole. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Blood. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Rotting intestines splattering everywhere, then the shuffling undead falling atop them. Antonio shivered.

There was only one left, off in the distance and obscured in the darkness. He could hear her groaning, calling out for his flesh. With shaking red hands Antonio lowered the gun and fished shells from his pocket and pushed them into the bottom of the 12-gauge.

He raised the weapon, finger on the trigger, ready to fire. He hesitated as he stared into approaching monster’s rotting face.

The face of his wife.

New Neighbours

“My, that’s quite the costume you have there, young man! But where are your parents?”

The boy standing on our doorstep beneath the porch light was maybe 8, and for whatever reason had forgone the usual costumes chosen by boys of his age – cops or robbers, knights or wizards, ghosts or skeletons – and was simply covered in fake blood from head to toe.

He held out his treat bag. “They’re next door!” he said. “And I’m a big boy! I can go trick-or-treating by myself this year because I know to look both ways before I cross the street!”

Judy dropped some sweets into the boy’s bag and tousled his hair.

“Happy Hallowe’en, little guy!” she said. “You run along now!”

“Okay!” the boy said cheerily. He took off down the porch steps and across the street into the night.

Later, when the tide of trick-or-treaters had subsided, Judy and I sat on the couch in the living room, surrounded by the orange glow of the plastic jack-o’-lantern lights from the dollar store.

“What a sweet boy that one little guy was,” she said. “You think we should go next door tomorrow and say ‘hi’ and meet his parents? Since we are new in the neighbourhood?”

“Sure dear,” I said, and sipped my beer. “Anyone raising a kid like that must be all right.”

Judy brought some of her Hallowe’en brownies. An old man with his aged wife behind him answered the front door and held the storm one open.

“Can I help you?” he said defensively.

“Hi, yes, we’re the new neighbours from next door. Just thought we’d stop by and say hello since we saw your son trick-or-treating last night.”

A look of painful sorrow, then disbelief and fear overtook the man’s face.

“That’s impossible! Our son is dead. He was hit by a car on Hallowe’en fifteen years ago, when he crossed the street in front of your house.”

Let There Be Light

I am going to be famous. I will go down in history. I will be the first person to receive Digitally-Assisted Complete Vision Restoration (DACVR) – the first person truly and completely blind from birth to have their sight fully restored.

I have a picture of reality in my head, what the world is made up of: how people look (from feeling their faces); the size of rooms in my apartment, the grocery store, the university hospital; the jagged cracks in the sidewalk outside the stoop of my building. But it’s all aromas, noises, textures – what will vision be like? For how can anyone describe for me an experience of a sense I do not have? The qualia that are the fundamental building blocks of the universe and our perception of it?

“They’ll be a slight tingling sensation,” Dr. Matthews says. He checks the wires running from my temples down onto the bed, over to the machine humming next to me.

“Any words for this momentous occasion?” says the nurse.

“Let’s do it,” I say. “I want to see. Let there be light!”

I hear the switch flip and there is a rising humming growing in volume and intensity like a fluorescent light coming on. Then, following it, the darkness gives way slowly to – is this what light is? So bright! – then, figures, these must be the doctor and nurses. Oh! Oh God! NO! NO! MY GOD!

And then I’m flailing and thrashing in the hospital bed, and hear my voice screaming, as if far away, in another body: “TURN IT OFF! OH GOD, TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!! NO! PLEASE….”

The Ivory Dagger

“That’s quite a rarity these days,” Dr. Stihlman said, as I picked it up. “What with the trade being outlawed now and all.”

It was a beautiful dagger, long and flowing and curved. The blade was spotless, with nigh a sign of rust nor a notch, but the handle was what intrigued me, and to what the Professor referred: it was carved ivory in a luxurious shade of creamy yellow-white. It fit snugly into my hand, the hilt ending just at the edges of my palm, and the intricate flowing curves and mystical-looking symbols carved into it gave it a strange textured feel beneath my skin.

“Yes, I’ll treasure that blade for as long as I live,” he said. “Got it when I was on the big expedition in Africa, just after Mildred died… God rest her soul.”

It wasn’t until years later when Stihlman himself passed away that I realized why the carved handle had felt so strange in my hand.

For when the executors of the Professor’s estate cleared out his belongings, they found buried beneath a trapdoor in the cellar a skeleton identified as none other than Mrs. Mildred Stilhman’s. The cause of death was uncertain, but even the newspaper noted one strange detail found in autopsy which could not be explained: a three-inch length of bone missing from the right femur.

Nothing to Lose

The engine revs and I feel the blood race in my veins. I will hold nothing back; I have nothing to hold back anymore. Full throttle. Let’s drive this hunk of metal full-tilt into a brick wall. I don’t give a shit. Nothing to lose.

I push my foot to the floor and the engine roars and we peel off down the dark, secluded highway amongst the rocky hills. nothing to lose Nothing to lose NOTHING TO LOSE NOTHING TO LOSE the slowly rising needle of the speedometer screams at me.

I reach over to the passenger seat and pull the strip of duct tape back. She screams. The lights of the night fly by with incredible speed, and the terror in her eyes only make the blood in my veins race faster.

As we cross the bridge, 600ft above the freezing waters of the cove, I pull the handle on the passenger side door and kick it open, nearly losing control and sending the us plummeting into the rail and over the side of the bridge but I don’t care.

“GOODBYE BEAUTIFUL!” I laugh. I kick her hard with my boot and she flies out the door and hits the steel of the guardrail like a ragdoll, flipping over it, up into the air and then out over the waters of the bay where she’ll fall to her death. I laugh.

I grab the gun from the glovebox and hold it up to my face and push my foot down on the accelerator hard. In my mind I see the house burning, the kids inside; her running out back door screaming, sweater alight; and the wispy black oaks of the neighborhood awash in lights of red and blue.

Nothing to lose, the speedometer coos from the dashboard. I turn the wheel, and pull the trigger.

Excavation

It was on the 10th of March that things first started to get really fucked up. That was the day Briggs shot Meyer in the face, put a bullet clean through his left eye and out the back of his skull, scattering his brains all over the far wall in storage and onto the cold concrete floor.

“He’s dead,” Fritz, the compound doctor had said, bringing his hand back up from the body’s neck. I’d watched him push the eyes closed and his own followed halfway. He’d looked so tired all of a sudden. I saw the blood stain his fingertips.

“He… he attacked me…” Briggs had stammered. “He was crazy. Raving. He came after me! Tried to bite me in the neck. Claw my eyes out. I had to kill him!”

And you know the crazy thing? Everyone believed Briggs. Because of what we found in the tomb.

“It got into him,” he said, eyes wild, hands shaking violently. “You all saw it when we pulled that thing open. That cloud of dust right into his face, those things that flew out – how could anything survive down there for thousands of years, let alone with the cold? There was something down in there, something evil. It got into Meyer when he opened the lid. And now it’s only a matter of time now before it gets into all of us.”

That was three days ago. But let me tell you something – I’m not a superstitious man. They all died, at each others’ hands or Briggs’, because of what they thought they saw. But nothing got into anyone. There was no evil spirit, or virus, or alien life form down in bottom of that tomb. There’s only us here. Us and two thousand miles of God-forsaken frozen rock.

It’s just him and me now. My breathing is heavy. Blood trickles down the side of my face from where the bullet grazed me. I lean back against the wall, clutching the pistol tight with sweaty hands. One shot left. I hear Briggs’ voice echo down the long steel corridor:

“I’m coming, Eddie… I’m coming…”

Exile

There is no hell, only the one I inhabit.

There is, however, a God, and he wanted to punish me. It’s nice to know that servitude is rewarded and honoured, but ambition and aspiration are what brings down the wrath of those who are on top. As on Earth so it is in heaven.

I thought I didn’t care about man. I thought I didn’t need anyone but myself. But I know now that I do. Some say hell is other people, but it’s not. It’s loneliness. Pure hell is isolation.

I know who I am, but now because of him, no one else ever will. I can never tell them the truth – for who would believe it?

Descartes – ha, strange bastard he was – he was wrong. The soul is more than just the sum of one’s memories. It’s more than just the mind. The body forms identity as well, and as I’ve now discovered, no small part of it moreover.

I am not lost, but wander, as I’ve been doomed to – through time, space and physical manifestation. It doesn’t matter whose form I borrow, or for how long. I will never be whole again, and no one, no one except him and me, will ever know.

This is hell.