Envy the Dead

Reads: 264  | Likes: 4  | Shelves: 3  | Comments: 5

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts
Challenged to write a short story with myself as the protagonist during the zombie apocalypse. With just a cursory editing pass, I offer the following....

Submitted: October 04, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 04, 2018

A A A

A A A


Envy the Dead

Chuck didn’t deserve to die. Rugged survivalist. A kind-hearted loner who had spent his entire life not trusting the government, wearing plaid flannel shirts, and shooting at things. If anyone was going to survive the zombie apocalypse, it should have been him.

“Pick up your gun, Porter!”

There was a spider on my rifle. A huge hairy one. I stood frozen, mid-crouch. You’d think that my brain would give me a break what with the slavering, shuffling, hygene challenged dead bearing down on us.  But that’s the thing about phobias. They’re called ‘irrational’ fears for a reason. Sure. I knew that the spider wasn’t going to kill me. I could just reach out, brush it aside, and start shooting. The dead were certainly going to kill me.  And eat me. Not even necessarily in that order.

My world narrowed. It only included the spider. It was staring at me with those horrible black jewel eyes. If I moved it would kill me.

“Porter!”

The dead shuffled right past frozen me and went for the man making all the noise and waving their arms.

My gaze flicked up briefly when Chuck started screaming. When I looked back down, the spider was gone. And I was suddenly free to move. I scooped up the rifle. But it was too late. Chuck was steak.

Chuck… steak... ground Chuck… If Chuck had been on fire he would have been a Chuck roast. Surely my brain isn’t the only one that goes to weird places at inappropriate moments? I almost chuckled.

Chuck-led.

Sorry.

I love puns.

I’m a writer, though not a very good one. My stories tend to ramble a lot. The narrative voice becomes muddy and confusing. One moment the protagonist is in a heap of danger. The next I’m talking about something that happened in their childhood that only has the thinnest of tangential connections to what had been going on before. I think it’s clever. But it’s probably more annoying than clever.

Which is a decent enough working description of me as a person; probably more annoying than clever.

My mother used to say that I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached.  She’d been eaten in Toronto. She also said that if I applied myself I could be anything that I wanted to be. But I never really got around to applying myself. I just sort of half-assed it through life until one day I woke up, middle aged, working in a comic book store, and realized I’d just sort of wasted my life. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. So I had a hard time believing that anyone else would like him either.

Nikita Khrushchev famously said “The living will envy the dead.” He had been talking about the horrors of nuclear war and not the pent up frustrations of a forty something non-writer stuck in retail. But I understood the sentiment. The dead felt nothing. It was the living that had to suffer disappointment and the disappointment of their parents. The indifference of their sibling. The myriad little stings of a life not so much lived as existed through.

Of course, Khrushchev would have had to re-evaluate his statement in light of recent changes.  The dead certainly had lots of feelings now. Or rather a single pervasive feeling; a seething, relentless, all consuming, ravenous hunger. Not that much of an improvement, if you asked me.

Oh right… zombies.

The noise of the rifle startled me. It was always louder than I was expecting. Of course I missed. But the sound drew their attention. Which was more of a bug than a feature.

“Sorry,” I said firing again. “Sorry.” I’m Canadian if such distinctions hold any meaning in the anarchist free-for-all that emerged in the wake of the rising dead.  Though I have lived here in the States for the past twenty years, I still embody the Canadian stereotype of politeness and apologies.  Of course you can have the last can of sardines. No please after you in the stampede for the door ahead of the pursuing hoard.  I’m sorry I’m shooting you in the head.

Or trying to at least.

If zombie movies had taught me nothing else it was the value of a well-placed head shot. My corollary appeared to be if you shot enough bullets at something eventually you would hit the head. Fortunately, I lived in the United States. While we as a society might be running low on staples such as peanut butter and toilet paper, bullets were unsurprisingly in plentiful supply.

Nobody I met had any idea why the dead began to rise. One moment I was refereeing the eternal argument “Could Wolverine’s claws pierce Captain America’s shield” and the next I was listening to breaking news stories about bizarre coordinated attacks on funeral homes across the country.

You never really think about just how many dead people there are out there until they start clawing their way out of their graves.

“Jesus Christ, Porter. I think you shot me.”

“Chuck, you’re alive!”

“For the moment,” Chuck agreed. He coughed weakly and pushed himself out from under one of the recently dead. Re-deaded? We were going to have to come up with a whole new verb tense just to deal with this. Admittedly quite low on the list of priorities. “I swear you are one of my least favourite people on God’s great Earth.”

I tried not to take that too personally. To be fair, Chuck really didn’t like much of anybody. I hurried over to lend a hand. Chuck was bleeding from the shoulder. He was scratched and bitten and looked like I imagined roadkill felt. A walking bloody bruise. He groaned and my finger twitched on the trigger.

One of the places zombie movies had let us down was in the whole getting turned into a zombie thing. Oh sure, if they killed you… you’d come back as one of them. You’d also come back as one of them if you choked to death on a chicken bone, or had a heart attack or died in your sleep of natural causes. But not from a scratch or a bite. I shuddered to think how many poor souls had been needlessly dispatched during those early stages of the outbreak. You couldn’t blame people really.  We’d been primed to think anyone bitten was about to become another hungry mouth chomping at our throats.

But turned out… nope.  Ooops.

And it also turned out that zombie people weren’t exactly the most dangerous killing machines out there. Being dead didn’t make our fingers any sharper. It didn’t make our teeth or jaws any stronger. In the movies you see zombies just tearing into people, pulling out guts, ripping off arms and splintering bone. But people make horrible predators. If it wasn’t for our opposable thumbs, tool use, and an ability to problem solve we would have been knocked off the top of the food chain a long time ago.

Somewhere a dog howled. A wet gurgling sick howl.

“Oh crap.”

Zombie movies also never went into what happened when all of the other dead came back. I’d heard stories of people being torn apart by zombie bears. I’d seen what happens to someone who gets caught out in a swarm of zombie mosquitoes.

It’s not a pretty sight.

The pack of undead dogs shuffled into view.

“Run, Porter,”

He didn’t have to tell me twice.


© Copyright 2020 Michael Porter. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply