For those who missed it, here’s the story I read at The Chicago Comic Vault‘s Zombie Con. Enjoy!
One Step Ahead Of The Dead
By Martel Sardina
“Zombies are not scary,” Trisha said as she turned off the TV.
She flopped back down on the couch next to me.
“Bullshit,” I said. “They’re re-animated corpses. They want to eat your brains. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.”
Trisha yawned. “Zombies are boring. They’re so slow. The problem with idiots in horror movies is that they seem to forget that. The victims always wind up being sitting ducks. They get themselves trapped in a building. If they were smart, they’d just outrun them. Anyone who can’t outrun a zombie deserves to be devoured.”
“Ok, maybe I’ll have to give you that,” I said. “But what about when you can’t run anymore?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if you’re outnumbered? You know, the Zombie Apocalypse?”
“Might I remind you that zombies aren’t real?”
“But what if they were?”
“You and your landlord mother would be in trouble. This apartment’s not up to code. You’ve only got one way out. Good thing they’re not.”
“Admit it. You’re scared of zombies.”
“I am not.”
“You noticed the weakness in my floor plan.”
“I was just pointing out the obvious.”
“You notice things, but you don’t want to dwell on them. Are you really that afraid of thinking about what you’d do in case of the zombie apocalypse?”
“Why should I waste my time thinking about something that’s never going to happen?”
“How do you know it’s never going to happen? Scientists have made zombie dogs. Drained their blood, electro shocked them back to life. How long do you think it will be before they start testing that out on people?”
“Why would scientists want to create “real” zombies? It’s not like they’re useful or anything.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Movie zombies might not be useful. But think about what you could do with a “real” zombie. The military applications alone…”
“You spend way too much time thinking about this stuff. I’ve had enough hypothetical discussions about zombies for one day. By the way, how’s the job hunt going?”
“I’ve got a few leads,” I said.
“Maybe you should spend more time focusing on finding a job and less time watching Romero’s masterpieces.”
“You’re starting to sound like my mother,” I said.
“Can you blame her for wanting her nearly forty year old son to become a productive member of society?”
“Truth does sometimes.”
“I write horror,” I said. “I get paid to think about zombies.”
“Five cents a word, if you’re lucky. Remind me, when was the last time you sold a story?”
“You know the market is tough these days. Magazines are folding. It’s not like I’m not trying to sell something.”
“We’ve been engaged for three years now. We dated for six years before that. How much longer do you expect me to wait before you give up this dream of yours so we can actually have a life together?”
“You want me to give up writing?”
“No. Of course not. You can still write your zombie stories. Just do it after you come home from a job that actually pays enough to get you out of your mother’s basement.”
“You know I can’t do that,” I said.
“If you can’t do that then I can’t do this,” Trish said. She took off the engagement ring I’d given her and set it on the table. She pushed it across to me. “Call me when you’re ready to grow up.”
I never made that call.
Oh, I got a job three days later. But I wasn’t about to tell Trish or my mother or anyone else about it. They’d find out soon enough.
“Welcome to the Center for Resuscitation Research. We’re glad to have you on board.”
“Thanks, Doc,” I said.
“I have some paperwork for you to sign,” he said as he handed me a large stack of forms attached to a clipboard and a pen. “Don’t forget to name a beneficiary.”
“I want you to send all of the money to my mother,” I said. “Should buy her a nice retirement in Florida, once she forgives me, that is.”
“I’m sure it will,” the Doc said.
I handed the stack of signed documents back to him. He flipped through them.
“It looks like everything is in order. Are you ready to get prepped for the procedure?”
“You’re going to do me up right, aren’t you, Doc?”
“Of course. We treat all of our test subjects with the utmost dignity and respect.”
“No bullshit, Doc. You can’t turn me over to the military until after I see Trish one last time. That’s our deal. No bait and switch.”
“Of course not. After the procedure, you’ll be given the opportunity to say goodbye to the life you had. It’s an important part of the process. You won’t be able to fully acclimate to your new life without a clean break.”
“Ok, then I’m ready.”
“I must warn you, our research with human subjects is limited. There is no certainty that you will retain your memory or your ability to speak for that matter. Your cognitive functions may be severely limited. We will still take you to see Ms. Evans but if there’s anything you want to say to her, you might want to write it down.”
“Just seeing her will be enough.”
“Let’s get you down to pre-OP,” the Doc said.
“Lead the way.”
I woke up to blinding lights in the OR.
The Doc pulled the paddles off of my chest, set them on the crash cart and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Kevin? Blink once if you can hear me.”
He looked at his watch.
“Time to response: forty-two seconds,” the Doc said. “That’s average. You’re doing fine.”
“Can you try to say something?”
I tried to say “Sure, Doc” but it came out all garbled and left my cheek wet with drool.
“This is even better than I’d hoped,” the Doc said.
“ISH,” I said. “ISH.”
“Tomorrow, Kevin. You’ve got to rest and build up your strength. Then we’ll go see Trish.”
A well-balanced zombie diet consists of three to five servings of brains per day. I’d missed three meals due to the procedure. But the Doc hadn’t forgotten. A fresh tray had been brought to my room within a few minutes of being brought down from recovery.
They did not taste like chicken.
Death can really take a lot out of you. Bulking up on protein did help with the weakness. By the next morning I felt much better. Moving took a lot longer than I remembered. But the Doc said the sluggish feeling was to be expected.
We arrived at Trisha’s apartment just before dinner.
The Doc rang the bell for me.
“I’ll be waiting in the car,” the Doc said.
“ANKS,” I said.
Trisha opened the door. She gave me the once over. “This is a joke, right?”
“ISH,” I said.
“I know you’re upset that I dumped you, but you could’ve at least showered before you decided to put on your Halloween costume and drop by.”
“ISH,” I said as I shambled toward her.
“This isn’t funny, Kevin.”
I wasn’t laughing. I grimaced as I felt the first twinge of hunger pangs.
“What’s this?” She gra
bbed my arm and looked at my wristband. “Where you in some kind of accident? Are you ok?”
“Center for Resuscitation Research?”
As I locked my fingers around her wrist, she screamed.
“Let me go!”
I pulled her closer.
I pushed her back across the threshold.
She jerked away from me, skittered backwards and fell down near the closet door. She jumped up, opened the door, scurried in and slammed it shut.
Oh, Trish, I thought. Whatever happened to anyone who can’t outrun a zombie deserves to be devoured?
Revenge should always taste this sweet.
I pulled open the closet door only to be surprised by the cold steel of her sawed-off Browning pressed against my forehead.
I never considered the possibility that Trish had actually spent some time thinking about what to do in case of a zombie attack.
“Call me when you decide grow up,” she’d said.
She’d never said that she didn’t share my passions. Maybe she really loved me.
This changed everything.
“ON’T…OOT,” I said.
But that’s exactly what a zombie would say to lull his victim into a false sense of security.
I couldn’t blame Trish for not listening.