Genre: Horror (Zombies)
Friday, May 30, 2014
IN THE FLESH: PART ONE
IN THE FLESH
Friday, September 13, 2013.
Also known as: Day One.
Patient Zero was a man named Raymond Clark. His bloated, distended corpse was found floating face down in the reservoir after more than a hundred residents of Cherrywood were hospitalized from drinking contaminated tap water.
A rapid infection that had spread from a gaping wound in his shoulder was determined to be the cause of death. The wound and the infection killed him before he hit the water and had a chance to drown. The medical examiners considered the possibility that Raymond had crossed path with a vicious, undomesticated animal that inflicted this wound.
Whatever it was that bit him, it took a fairly large chunk along with it. An animal was an easy scapegoat for the examiners, a way to write off their tension. In reality, those teeth marks didn’t look like the work of a feral beast. They looked human.
In hours, this mysterious virus spread through the infected patients. They ran high fevers, developed sores and blisters on their bodies. They grew too weak to eat, to walk, to speak. By noon, the majority of the patients were pronounced dead, their bodies moved down to the morgue.
But when a young orderly returned sometime later to tag the bodies, he stood aghast. The bodies had vanished within the hour. “I hope I don’t get blamed for this shit,” the orderly muttered.
But that was the least of his or anybody’s concerns.
Trevor Virden trotted into his comic book store, late again. He was clutching at his throbbing head, his eyes half-wide and bloodshot.
“Bro, did I really drink twenty-four shots of tequila and make out with three girls last night?” Trevor asked Kenny Sudrow, who was seated behind the counter, reading the latest issue of Crossed: Bad Lands.
“No, you drank five shots of Southern Comfort and two beers. Then you puked in a dumpster, dry humped a tree, and reenacted William Shatner’s rendition of Rocket Man on karaoke. The place went dead silent after you finished.”
“Oh…that’s not at all what I remembered when I woke up this morning. Where did you go, by the way? I remember you bouncing before last call. That I can remember at least.”
“I had work this morning,” Kenny reminded him.
“At the meat factory?”
“It’s a spa. And yes, the job blows. Yes, I hate working there. Yes, I hate seeing geriatric men wander around naked trying to find the sauna or the steam room. You ever seen an uncircumcised penis before? It’s like a cross between an anteater and a Civil War helmet.”
“So why don’t you quit? Come work here.”
“I practically do work here!” he exclaimed. “Who do you think opened the store at twelve o’clock when I got off of work? I came over and saw you weren’t here yet, figured you were hung over and still passed out. You’re lucky I have a spare key.”
“Where the hell’s Devin anyway?” Trevor wondered. “He was supposed to open for me this morning.”
“He called at one, said he’d be late too. What do you care? I thought you hated the kid?”
“Ah, he grows you,” Trevor said.
“Yeah, like a tumor,” Kenny replied.
“Speak of the devil,” Trevor said, shaking his head in mock disapproval as the doorbell chimed and Devin Morris strolled in. “You’re two hours late.”
“Sorry,” Devin Morris tried to explain, his eyes as red as Trevor’s. “I had a wild and crazy night at this bachelor party. I didn’t get him until four in the morning.”
“I guess I can’t be mad seeing as how I just got here myself,” Trevor chuckled. It was a wonder he was still in business.
“So how are things at the meat factory?” Devin inquired.
“It’s a spa,” Kenny insisted.
“Whatever you say, man.”
The bell chimed, alerting them that a customer had entered the store. In the years Trevor had been the proprietor of Atomic Comics, he’d seen people walk in with Halloween costumes, Twilight and Harry Potter getup. He’d seen people dressed as Spiderman, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. He even had a guy walk in dressed as Chewbacca.
So when he peered over the counter and saw a girl lumbering in with blood dripping from her mouth, makeup on her face and arms to make it look like her skin was rotting, he wasn’t the least bit shocked. He studied her movements and was impressed. She had the mannerisms of a zombie straight out of a George Romero film. She even growled like a zombie.
It wasn’t until she approached the counter that Trevor realized it wasn’t latex and corn syrup he was staring it. This was the real McCoy.
“Stay back!” Devin warned them. “She could be all hopped up on bath salts!”
The girl sprang towards them, but her body was not able to find the strength to make it over the counter. With both arms stretched over the counter, her hands slashed back and forth wildly as she tried to claw at them with fingers that were already rotting down to the bone.
Her eyes were fixed, mouth foamed with drool that dripped down her bloody chin. Trevor searched frantically under the counter for the baseball bat he knew he kept stored there for rowdy customers, or for this particular occasion, a zombie apocalypse.
Devin and Kenny stepped back to give him room. He didn’t wait for the wind up or the pitch. He just swung for the fences and dislocated her putrid jaw with one stinging blow. But the pain did not seem to register with her.
“Hit the bitch again!” Devin shouted.
Trevor raised the bat over his head and brought it down with a loud crack as it connected with her skull. He raised the bat again and again. He didn’t stop swinging until the counter was riddled with fragments of skull and globs of grey matter.
“Check her pulse just to be sure,” Devin suggested.
“Her brains are all over the fucking counter,” Trevor screamed. “I’m pretty sure she’s dead as shit.”
“She looks dead as shit to me,” Kenny said.
“Shut up, Kenny. You’re not helping right now. Let’s figure out how we’re going to explain this mess to the police.”
“I don’t think you’ve got to worry about it,” Kenny said as multiple sirens emanated in the distance. “They sound like they have their hands full at the moment.”
In Keystone, Florida, the police discover the mauled body of a cemetery caretaker. They also find more than two-hundred excavated graves. The caskets all empty, busted open, the inside of the lids marked with deep scratches. In the sweltering swamps of Louisiana, a teenager’s body is found half devoured. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the gators that got to him.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a rotting corpse is reported ambling through a woman’s backyard, tearing down her clothesline in the process. In Tacoma, Washington, a man reunites with his wife, who has been dead for nine years.
In Mississippi, a woman turns on the radio to hear bizarre reports of what’s being described as mass resurrection occurring in parts of France, Russia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, as well as parts of the United Kingdom and Malaysia. She turned her attention away from the radio for a second, as the faint scratching at her front door was the signal that her cat was ready to come back in the house. She opened the door and was greeted not by her cat, but by her neighbor, who died two nights before of a heart attack.
Are you starting to get the picture here?
It was the abandoned house near the reservoir where Cherrywood police had discovered the woman’s body; the tip of an iron crowbar rammed through her skull. Though this was a recent discovery, the woman appeared to have been dead for quite some time. There were advanced signs of decomposition that suggested this woman had likely been dead for years.
As the cops helped the paramedics seal her corpse in a cadaver pouch and hoist her onto a metal gurney, an uninvited guest greeted them at the door. He flashed a badge none of them seemed to identify. He wasn’t the police, the FBI, the CIA, the DEA, or the ATF. He wasn’t even FDA as far as they were concerned. This man and his badge, his presence held no merit until he made the proper introduction, which the men could tell by the look on his face, he was about to do.
“Hello, gentlemen. My name is Willard Pickman. I’m with the CDC.” He was an older man, much older than the rest of them. His thinning grey hair was combed over to one side as a way of strategically concealing his bald spot. He sported a livid scar below his right eye, a scar he seemed to wear with modest pride.
“The CDC?” one of the officers repeated verbatim, though he was clearly bemused.
“The Center for Diseases Control. The rotting corpse you just stuffed into that garbage bag is Julia Pickman. My wife. Gentlemen, I’m afraid our troubles have only just begun.”
To be continued with Part Two: Abandon All Hope