Axel twisted the throttle and the Harley roared to life, leaving the shambling group of undead in a cloud of exhaust fumes. In one swift motion, the biker pulled the pistol-grip shotgun from his back holster and unloaded both rounds into the face of one last zombie blocking the highway. With a grin, Axel raised his left middle finger high in the air and aimed it backwards at Las Vegas — now truly the city that never sleeps.
Sweet, Chris thought, leaning towards the laptop screen. He read the paragraph once more, nodded with satisfaction, then uploaded the file. One last zombie story, he thought with only the slightest regret. Although the e-zine “Chronicles of the Undead” paid a ridiculous sum for each story, and had actually enabled Chris to make a living as a writer, he felt destined for greater literary glory.
It was very early morning, prime time for zombie writing, and Chris was tired — he shut the laptop lid, yawned, and headed for bed.
You’ve got to be kidding me, Chris thought, more than a little pissed off. The doorbell rang insistently, the caller apparently not willing to admit defeat. Rubbing his eyes, Chris checked the time. Jesus, he thought, eight o’clock on Sunday morning? Quickly pulling on a shirt and sweatpants, he yawned and stumbled towards the front door.
Chris checked the peephole to see two well-dressed men in suits, holding pamphlets. Shaking his head, he opened the door to dispose of the unwelcome visitors.
“Mr. Chris McDonald?” the closest man asked politely. Nodding reflexively, Chris opened his mouth to reply, but never got the opportunity. With surprising strength, the visitor picked Chris up off the ground and carried him back into the house. The second man followed and quietly closed the door. It was at that moment that Chris noticed the stench.
“Dude, we are seriously disappointed with you,” the man said, easily carrying Chris into the living room and dropping him into the well-worn sofa.
“Seriously disappointed,” the other man echoed as he made his way into the kitchen.
Back in the living room, Chris had found his voice. “What the hell?” he said angrily as he reached for the phone. The man casually slapped the handset onto the floor.
“Nope, no phone for you,” the man said calmly. “Not after the crap you just sent us.” With a disgusted look on his face, he threw the pamphlet down on the coffee table and Chris recognized it as a hard copy of his latest zombie piece.
“We at The Chronicles of the Undead take our zombie stories very seriously,” the man continued. “You could almost say we take them personally,” he finished with a menacing grin. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a large handkerchief and methodically scrubbed his face and hands. Chris watched in growing horror as layers of heavy theatre makeup disappeared to reveal pale, decayed flesh.
“Much better,” the creature sighed, stuffing the handkerchief back into its pocket and leaning back into the couch. “I hate wearing that shit — makes my skin itch. And as you can see, I don’t have a lot left to itch.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Chris said quietly with disbelief. “You mean…”
“Yep, zombies are real,” the creature replied with a huge grin, which quickly disappeared. “All you writers think you know us, but you don’t know shit. At least your stories showed some originality — you were the only writer who gave us names and even let us have some payback. My favorite piece was the one when you had us attack that lousy rap star and his entire posse. Who needs a swagger coach anyways?” It chuckled, then sighed.
Suddenly, the creature lurched forwards and stabbed angrily at the papers with a rotting finger. “Then you turn in this lousy “blow away the zombies and ride into the desert” garbage. We all thought you were different.” It shook its head sadly in disapproval.
Suddenly a gravelly voice called from the kitchen. “Hey, Chris buddy, where’s the bacon?” Before Chris had a chance to respond, there was a hoot of triumph. “Forget it, man, I found it,” the voice said happily. “Ahh bacon, the candy of meat.” Sounds of raw bacon being devoured soon echoed through the kitchen. Chris fought the urge to puke.
Frowning at the interruption, the zombie in the living room leaned towards Chris. “The Chronicles of the Undead is just a sideline for us — a bunch of us actually have full-time writing jobs with the government. The feds set us up in these huge, underground secure offices and we crank out all of those bills for them to argue about. All we ask is a nice juicy senator from time to time and they leave us alone.” He turned towards the kitchen.
“Hey Frank,” he called, “remember that senator from Arkansas?”
Laughter, muffled by chewing, echoed in the kitchen. “Man, we snacked on that guy for months. Nothing like real southern food.” The laughter became louder, turned into choking, then was replaced by more loud chewing noises.
The zombie in the living room chuckled, then turned back to Chris.
“Now, back to business. I’m afraid that we need another writer with this huge Health Care budget coming up.” The creature looked at Chris with an apologetic expression. “We have a real deadline problem and need someone we can depend on. And that someone, my friend is you.”
Adrenaline finally kicking in, Chris jumped over the back of the sofa and bolted for the door. Which was unfortunately blocked by Frank, bits of bacon littering what was left of his face.
“Sorry, buddy, nothing personal,” Frank said, as he lunged forward and took a big bite out of Chris’ shoulder. Chris screamed with horror as the flesh around the bite immediately started to decay.
Patrick Perkins writes in British Columbia, Canada.