Unstoppable Millions

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Following the scent of barbecuing meat the corpse found its way out of the forest. That is how it started. Gary Svenson had been missing for days and, shambling dead, came back to civilization.

Unstoppable Millions
 
By Martin Rusis
 
1.
Following the scent of barbecuing meat the corpse found its way out of the forest. That is how it started. Gary Svenson had been missing for days and, shambling, had come back to civilization.
Ingrid Teague, kept awake by the loud drunken barbecue four doors down, had the first sighting, unconfirmed. Late in the night she’d seen a man leaving her yard (which backed onto the woods). She called the cops described the man, walking unsteadily and slowly, falling down a lot – standard drunk – who’d been in her yard seemingly baffled by the fence. He eventually found the open gate through which he entered and left. Before he was lost again in the dark the last Ingrid had seen was him shuffle straight into a tree … twice. Same tree. The police soon arrived and wrote nothing particularly unusual for a Saturday night in their notebooks. They then went over to shut down the party.
Ten hours later in full Sunday morning glory, stinking and stupid, Svenson was definitely found. Dead. And walking, arms raised, down the town’s main road.
People of the small community gaped.
“Hey! Come and get a look at this dirty ‘tard!”
“Holy shit, mum. It’s a real live zombie.” The kid got a clip over the back of her head for the profanity.
‘Svenson’ was naked from the waist down and this, along with what appeared to be either settling putrefaction or astonishing filthiness, kept the gawkers a healthy distance off. The zombie saw them all. Though its head didn’t move its eyes were ceaselessly rolling from one body part of one member of the crowd to the next. Then it saw what it wanted. It made a bee-line straight for Shelley who’d interrupted her morning jog to see what the others were fussing over.
“Ooh, looks like he’s seen something he likes,” someone commented as the thing turned toward the teenager.
The throng, holding off, accommodated the zombie’s path. What would it do to its first victim – the pretty blonde girl? Many people recorded the scene on their phones. Muscles warmed from jogging Shelley scarpered. It took some seconds before the zombie realized the thing he was after, the water she carried, was not where it was before. It stopped. Dumb. Its eyes rolled around again. It moaned. People laughed. Ingrid called the cops again.
“Right, I’ll see to this,” said Till in the throng. He went back to his house at a purposeful stride, spinning his keys around his finger. He made for his gun locker. At first he withdrew a carbine then, remembering all he knew from the movies, switched to a bolt-action rifle, weighed it for drama, and then switched to his shotgun. He went back out to the street.
But the police had pulled up just as Till got back. Constable Miran, wearing three pairs of latex gloves and a surgical mask, was nifty with the cuffs. He merely pushed the zombie left when it took a step with its right foot. The filthy thing went straight down. It resisted arrest in a way that suggested it had no idea what was going on. Miran knew what drunks were liable to try and kept well out of bite/headbutt range. Miran heaved it up and shoved it into the back of his cruiser.
“Dispatch, bit of a strange one here. Ten-47. Man down … I think,” Miran said. Those last four words became quite famous.
“Please repeat, is that a ten-47,” the radio operator replied.
“What do you call it, Marko, when there is no pulse but there’s still movement?”
“What kinda movement, Miran?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this boy is a twitching stiff. He has no pulse and he is walking around. Looks dead drunk. Smells like shit.”
“Sounds like a zombie.”
“Looks like a zombie.”
“I’ll send a meat truck without sirens.”
“Ten-four.”
 
2.
She’d made the calls and her journalistic cynicism was rolled over by her inquisitorial zeal.
“Jim, it’s really really true,” said Tiff Rey to Jim, the TV channel’s station producer.
“Bull,” Jim replied.
“No: real live zombie.”
“And we got it?”
“They want to talk to us – we’re local.”
“Who wants to talk to us?”
“The Chief.”
“Good, tell him he’ll get lots of time. Should loosen him up. Grab Elle from make-up, take her along.”
The local police chief, angling for mayor, smiled like a split watermelon when the news team showed up. With dignity he bore Elle’s attentions.
“There was no resistance – there’s no avenue for funny business with my boys,” the Chief bragged to the camera.
“Is it the missing hiker, Svenson?” Rey asked.
“We cannot confirm any personal further details yet.”
Rey knew the Chief was lining up the balls for second and third TV appearances as more information “came to hand”.
“We followed the book. We isolated the threat and delivered. The zom … suspect … is at the hospital now undergoing secure evaluation. It was a hazmat operation and we delivered that thing safe and sound, rest assured.”
The news item then cut to a half-second establishing shot of Valley Hart Memorial Hospital, then to Doctor Lewinstein.
“What we have here is a very unusual case, we are keeping the patient … subject … under observation,” Lewinstein said.
“Doctor, is it true there is no pulse?”
“That’s not the case. The vitals of the subject are definitely there but very low. It is very unusual.”
“Fatally low?” Rey pressed.
“Normally, yes.”
“What do you mean ‘normally’?”
“I have never seen nor heard of a case with such low vitals but such obvious consciousness and movement.”
“It’s conscious?”
“Let me just say, this is a very unusual case and we are giving the best possible care.”
The news report then cut to Miran.
“You said ‘man down, I think’, why?”
“Well people there were sayin’ ‘zombie’.”
“In your opinion is it a zombie?”
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. I know what I’ve seen.” The station’s showcase movie followed the news: Undead Vengeance.
The cellphone footage and the news report hit the net like a bomb.
***
The local news station was part of QA Network and QA was part of a conglomerate. The conglomerate had wide interests, including healthcare. Valley Hart was part of those interests. QA’s chief brought her best producers in and pitched the business case to the top of the conglomerate. Within six-hours the contracts were welded tight. Teague, Shelley and Miran became instant millionaires on the provision they only spoke to QA. An entire floor of Valley Hart was emptied of other patients and a large suite was fitted to panopticon levels with surveillance equipment. Z-channel Screen-in-Screen was live on air. It was a non-stop cavalcade of medical isolation and observation. The producers decided to be largely hands-off with the zombie to see what it would do.
Within a day Svenson’s family came forward. Offers of money for exclusives rained down. Justine Svenson felt she had no option but to sign with QA. It seemed the only way to get close to her husband. Contracts were law and even the government was locked out until it could turn the necessary cogs.
 
The talk shows of QA Network promoted Z-channel as a public service. “After all a scientist only has one pair of eyes,” the hosts would say. “You could pick up something others miss. Our feedback line is always open and you can email any time. Right now we have Emma Camden live. Emma are you there?”
“Yeah. Hi guys.”
“Hi Emma.”
“Yeah, I have been watching the zombie all day, and I have question for it.”
“Emma we are streaming live audio into the secure facility … go ahead, Emma.”
“Yeah, Mr Zombie, I just want to say: go back to wherever you came from. I mean this was such a good place before you got here. What have you got against us?”
The zombie gave no indication it heard or understood, it just stayed there on the eastern side of the room as it always did in the mornings.
“Thanks Emma. As we’ve reported the official identity of the zombie has yet to be released to the public but by almost two-to-one online poll the fact is that the zombie is missing hiker Gary Svenson. Svenson as you’ll remember went missing 20 miles from zombie ground-zero two weeks ago. We have the Svenson family up next.”
The ratings for Z-Channel were phenomenal.
QA only had it to themselves for another five days.
 
3.
The little old lady cooed over her grandson, who was nearly too big for her to pick up anymore. She never heard the gigantically fat zombie amble out from behind the shrubs. As its shadow crossed her she turned just in time to watch it come down on top of her. Fat, pressure and darkness engulfed her. She and the child quickly suffocated.
Police came across the scene of a hugely fat man, a flattened mound of meat, with little feet sticking out from under him. In the estimated 14 hours she’d been under the zombie the grandmother had become wreathed in delicate fungal cilia. Neither victim showed any bite marks or scratches. The fat zombie was isolated and identified: Smeldon Busch. It was a news-for-all. Proof the zombies were killers saturated the media.
Lewinstein put Busch’s case as two weeks old. Z-two, as Busch was dubbed, had come through the forest and down from the mountain range from the cold, small town that he had left on a survivalist trek three weeks before. He wasn’t overdue and when the family was told 22 TV stations were on the doorstep to record the family’s reaction in slow-motion. Of course the Busch family wanted to see Smeldon, of course they would be allowed if they just ‘signed here’.
 
4.
As spring became summer another dozen zombies appeared, several were found lying on top of mouldy roadkill or smothered small animals. Other stations copied Z-channel. Web vids streamed live and constantly. Still, no one could beat QA simply because it had the first and most advanced zombie.
As the longest day of the year approached further zombies came out of the woodwork. The most accurate counts put the entire ‘worldwide infestation’ at 87 confirmed zombies. This was before QA began exaggerating the count. As facts became unrelated to reality, ratings rose.
Bloggers went wild, twitterers too – they followed zombies around as they wandered, giving minute-by-minute updates about how they felt about what the zombies did. Rubberneckers followed in entourages behind the confused, staggering monstrosities. You were out of harms’ way if you could outrun something that could barely stay on its feet. Very soon each zombie would stumble across someone who took exception to its existence. Most were beaten to ‘death’ or chopped up, shot, dropped from great height, set on fire or pushed in front of trains before the authorities or the news networks could get to them. Others were trapped and then sold for huge sums. George Romero and Max Brooks were each doing upwards of 10 interviews a day.
Still, the 87 were enough. Almost all the fights were filmed. It was thrilling to see normal, everyday folk kickin’ undead ass. Even children got involved.
News coverage increased. Hardware sales increased. Gun sales increased. Long-life food sales increased. Locksmiths had never had it so good.
Apart from Z-two every zombie that had tangled with a human had been neutralized before it could do what everyone knew it was trying to do. Every day a new anti-Z hero – from little girl to old man – was lionised. The government thanked the media for spreading news of the threat, keeping everyone ‘vigilant and informed’ and thus safe.
 
5.
By mid-summer Z-one was the most famous thing in the world. Every relevant detail about it was released, even a crawl of its depressed vital signs ran endlessly along the bottom of Z-channel’s broadcast – the uneven blips of its respiration and heart rate quite inhumanly slow. People across the world would wake up to the day and switch on Z-channel as they got ready for work. Watching it’s routines – sleeping, eating, shambling east to west – became routine. Every now and then the producers pulled a stunt to make it moan or do something else but for the most part people seemed satisfied to watch the monster’s powerlessness.
The night before the longest day of the year, Z-one did something entirely new. The night-vision cameras showed it had climbed onto the bed it, until now, had ignored. There, perched on the highest point in the room, it stayed, head thrown back, still. As the lights came on for the day shift the cameras picked up what the night vision could not: from the zombie’s upturned nose a thin, black stem had grown. Millions viewed live the nodule form at the tip of the stem and as the hours passed they watched it inflate to the size of a ping-pong ball. Almost exactly at midday Z-one sneezed and the ball popped in a puff of black dust. Spores.
Z-one collapsed to the bed.
The vital sign crawl suddenly changed in character. The lopsided and wobbly graphics sped up and trended back toward human normal. In an uncommon flash of intuition Jim yanked the crawl.
Jim turned to the director: “Loop the old crawl, get doctors in there. Cut to break and give us as much live-delay as you can”. It was ‘no smoking’ in the control room but Jim lit up anyway.
The ad was for Z-bats – to the strains of Ride of the Valkyries children defended themselves from comical hordes and then ran into the arms of their very attractive mothers.
The doctors suited up then rushed in. They prodded and tested Z-one. A pinkish flush spread across its body, it yawned.
The ad break was winding up. Jim’s brow knotted, he instructed not to take up feed again.
“But…” the director said.
“No buts. Our case is a week more advanced than anyone else. I think we’re going to need these few minutes.”
“But why?”
In the suite Lewinstein was listening at Z-one’s mouth, dangerously close. Then Lewinstein turned to the main camera: “He’s back!”
“Say again,” Jim said into the control room mic.
“Gary Svenson is back!”
“What?”
“He’s groggy, he’s tired, malnourished, but it’s him.”
Then a doctor’s mic picked up the words that brought the whole circus down. It was Svenson. The voice was stammering whisper..
“I’m not a zombie. I could hear what they were saying about me. I’m … I couldn’t do anything.”
In the control room all eyes turned to Jim.
“Get legal on the phone.”


Submitted: September 10, 2009

© Copyright 2021 Martin Rusis. All rights reserved.

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