The War On Horror: Tales From A Post-Zombie SocietyNathan Allen / Humor / Horror
The War On Horror: Tales From A Post-Zombie Society
By Nathan Allen
Copyright 2015 Nathan Allen
Cover image by Biserka@99designs
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Also by Nathan Allen
All Against All (novel)
The Cycle of Violence (short)
The Fine Print (short)
Available now for free download.
Elliott was sorting through his phone messages when he learned of his unexpected windfall. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “I’ve just inherited seventeen million dollars!”
Miles sat opposite and fiddled with the vents above him. He was trying to get the minibus’s air conditioning to work, but many years had passed since those vents had blown anything other than warm air. “No kidding,” he said without looking away. “I guess this means you can pay me back the twenty dollars I loaned you last week.”
“It says here,” Elliott continued, “that a distant relative of mine, a guy names Johannes Maxwell Elliott, died recently in a tragic zombie attack.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It turns out he’s a member of the Swiss royal family, and that I’m his closest living relative. Which is weird, because I’ve never even heard of the guy.”
“It’s also a bit strange that his last name is the same as your first name, rather than having the same surname. Or that Switzerland has no royal family.”
“Let me guess,” Adam said from the driver’s seat. “They can transfer the money into your account just as soon as you pay a small administration fee?”
Elliott skimmed through the rest of the message. “It doesn’t mention anything about fees. But even so, who cares? Seventeen million!”
“Maybe you should ask them to waive any fees in exchange for a percentage of the inheritance,” Miles deadpanned.
“Hey, that’s a good idea.” Elliott sat up in his seat and began composing a reply.
“Come on Elliott, I was joking. You really shouldn’t engage with people like that.”
“Relax, baby,” Elliott grinned. “I’ll just have a bit of fun with it.”
“I doubt they’ll see the funny side if you start jerking them around. Those people are known to get pretty nasty.”
Elliott let out a dismissive snort. “What can they do from the other side of the world?”
Miles sighed and gave up on the air-con.
The minibus struggled to pick up speed as it travelled up a steep incline.
A minute later the GPS instructed Adam to take a left into Shriver Court, and they quickly spotted the creature they had been called out to collect. The jovial mood inside the bus subsided. Elliott put his phone away. Miles’ pulse quickened a little.
“This could get a bit tense,” Adam warned as he pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the ignition. “A situation like this, we’re going to have to be extra careful.”
Their target this Friday evening was a young man in his early twenties. Or at least he was a day or two ago. Now he was a zombie. He wore a blood-drenched Fugazi t-shirt and ripped black jeans.
But he wasn’t what Adam was referring to when he said they would have to exercise caution. He was talking about the burgeoning crowd that had gathered nearby.
The three collected their equipment and stepped off the minibus.
The zombie staggered around in the middle of the road, while concerned residents watched on from their houses. They stood guard on their lawns, brandishing brooms and rakes, or whatever else they could find to protect themselves. A few hurled insults and abuse at the neighbourhood interloper. Others hurled rocks and bottles.
Adam and Miles knew from experience that this was where the real potential for conflict lay. The zombie didn’t pose any significant threat to their safety. They had collected hundreds, maybe even thousands like it over the past three years. Zombies were easy to handle because they were predictable. A restless crowd was anything but predictable.
Adam could sense trouble brewing, so he quickly moved in.
“Everybody listen up,” he announced to the crowd. His voice dropped down to a lower register in an attempt to convey a more masculine and authoritative tone. His years spent at drama school came in handy in times like this, where he could turn into Bruce Willis when the situation demanded it. “I’m sure you’re all familiar with the NEVADA law, which states that any act of violence or aggression towards an undead being is a criminal offence.”
This proclamation was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd. Further missiles sailed through the air. Adam pressed on.
“You may not agree with it, but it’s the law. So if you could all please return to your homes and we’ll have this under control as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“Why are you protecting a killer?” came an angry voice from somewhere in the crowd. Several others expressed their agreement.
Adam ignored the vitriol fired in his direction. He was experienced enough to know it was pointless trying to reason with a volatile mob, and the best way for him to defuse the situation would be to get the job done as quickly as possible.
He and Elliott moved in on the zombie, while Miles stood back and kept an eye open for signs of trouble.
Miles positioned himself in such a way that the zombie and the crowd were both within his field of vision. While his role tonight was to keep watch on the crowd, he still couldn’t let his guard down with an unsecured zombie on the loose. He trusted that Adam and Elliott could apprehend it without too much difficulty, but it was always best to keep in mind the possibility of a surprise attack.
He scanned the crowd, trying to get a sense of who these people were. They were generally just everyday folk whose only concern was their family’s safety, regular homeowners with jobs and mortgages and flags flying proudly on their front lawns. They may have been afraid, but that was mostly due to their own ignorance rather than any real threat to their wellbeing. There was a small minority who were more vocal and seemed eager to stir up trouble, but they were all talk and no action, shooting their mouths off from the safety of the crowd. If they were going to do anything about it, if they had planned on following through with their threats and take the law into their own hands, they would have done so already.
But there was one guy in particular who caught Miles’ attention. He stood away from the main group, talking into his phone. He kept his voice low and shielded his mouth with his hand. He made brief eye contact with Miles, before quickly turning away.
This kind of behaviour was a red flag. There was every chance he was calling up friends or hired muscle to come down here and dispense their own form of justice.
“How we doing there, Adam?” Miles asked tentatively. He had kept his cool up until then, but now the nerves were slowly starting to kick in.
“We’re almost done, guy,” Adam replied.
Adam had recently started referring to everyone as “guy”, believing this was how young people spoke these days. This had begun a couple of days earlier, when he overheard Elliott saying it during a phone conversation. He was unaware that Elliott was talking with his older brother, and that his brother’s name was Guy.
“We’ll be out of here in about three minutes,” Adam added.
Miles looked around and tried to piece together the sequence of events in the hours leading up to this moment. It wasn’t all that difficult to figure out; the empty beer cans scattered nearby were a dead giveaway. In all likelihood, a group of liquored-up young men got a bit too close to our undead friend, and this was the result.
And then he saw the reason for all the hate directed towards the zombie. Sitting on the side of the road, clutching at his wrist with a tear-streaked face, was a young man by the name of Lucas. He was twenty-one years old and, thanks to the chunk of flesh missing from his forearm, wouldn’t live to see twenty-two.
How this all went down was fairly easy to figure out. Lucas and his friends probably came across this stray zombie on their way to a party and thought it would be hilarious to have their picture taken with it. This was the latest craze sweeping the internet; strike a crazy pose next to a zombie, take a photo, then post it online. Unfortunately for Lucas, he let his guard down for half a second and ended up paying the ultimate price. He wouldn’t be the first to get too close to a zombie under these circumstances, and he was unlikely to be the last.
Situations like this were becoming all too frequent. Friday and Saturday nights was the most common time for zombie attacks, and the victims were predominantly young men. Alcohol was almost always a contributing factor, as was a low IQ. No matter how many times they were warned, they simply refused to take the risks seriously.
“Invincibility” remained the leading cause of death among young males.
Another bottle flew through the air and smashed at the zombie’s feet, just as Elliott almost had it under control. It staggered back a few steps and unleashed a vicious growl.
“We better get moving,” Adam said. He knew the situation wasn’t about to get any easier for them. On jobs like this one, “concerned citizens” can escalate into “rabid lynch mob” with frightening speed. All it took was for one ringleader to do something idiotic and the rest would soon follow.
A fist-sized rock hit Elliott between his shoulder blades. He winced at the sharp sudden pain and spun around, ready for a confrontation.
“Hey!” he shouted in the direction from where the rock came. “Who threw that?”
This inquiry was met with further missiles and catcalls. Elliott took a step forward, the blood surging to his head. Miles threw an arm out to hold him back.
“Let it go, Elliott.”
“We’re just here to do our job! Don’t they realise they’re only making things worse?”
“Look at it from their point of view. Under the circumstances, we have to show a bit of sensitivity and understanding.”
Out of nowhere, a car pulled up with its tyres screeching. The doors flew open and a bunch of gorilla-sized dudes with neck tattoos and baseball bats emerged.
“Uh-oh,” Miles said when he saw the roid-ragers approaching.
“You think they’ll show any sensitivity and understanding?” Elliott said.
Adam grabbed a hold of the zombie, who was now fully shackled. His hands were bound together with cable ties, and a protective muzzle was clamped around his face to prevent him from biting anyone.
“Okay,” Adam said. “We better get him out of here.”
They bundled the zombie into the minibus and closed the door behind them. A feeling of slight panic was beginning to creep in. They were parked in a street with only one way out. If another vehicle blocked them in from behind they could find themselves in a world of trouble.
Adam jammed the key into the ignition and prayed the bus wouldn’t stall, as it had a tendency to do. His prayers were answered when it started on the second attempt.
Another bottle slammed into the side of the bus as it sped away from the scene. It didn’t smash, but it did leave a sizable indentation.
Adam cringed. He’d been arguing for months with Steve, his partner in both business and life, about the need for Dead Rite to replace the creaky old minibus. But every time the bus returned from a job with further damage it just strengthened Steve’s resolve to not bother getting a new one. He didn’t want to shell out money for a new vehicle if it was only going to get trashed.
“That got a bit hairy,” Adam said once they were finally in the clear.
“Yeah,” was all Miles said in response.
“Was is always this bad?” Elliott said, running his hand over the lump forming on his back where the rock hit him.
“It’s hard to say,” Adam replied, his speaking voice reverting back to its normal camp pitch. “I think it’s been getting worse in the last year or so.”
“It’s definitely been getting worse,” Miles said. “The first year, we saw something like that maybe three or four times. And that was only in the rougher areas of town. Now we’re getting it three or four times a month, and in the suburbs too.”
The three of them had dropped into a nearby Aqua Bar, a popular health food franchise, for a quick bite to eat. The place was mostly empty, save for a few late-night revellers who thought that having a sushi roll instead of a kebab would cancel out all those calories they consumed earlier in the evening. They’d left the zombie in the minibus for the time being, which was a slight breach of protocol – they were supposed to take him directly to a processing centre – but none of them had eaten yet, so they stopped by for a sandwich. Besides, it was a fairly quiet night (the events of the last twenty minutes notwithstanding) and they figured they may as well hang around the area a little while longer and wait for Lucas to turn. Make it a two-for-one kind of deal.
“Did you see those kids throwing rocks?” Elliott said, shaking his head. “How old do you think they were? Ten, eleven maybe?”
“And the stuff coming out of their mouths,” Adam added. “‘Kill it! Smash its head open!’ Where do they learn all that?”
Hostility towards the undead had risen dramatically in recent times. It had always been there, simmering beneath the surface, but lately it had exploded. A recent poll showed that seventy-seven percent of the population now believed that all zombies should be exterminated rather than quarantined. A further sixty-three percent said the government were not doing enough to protect the public from zombies, despite attacks on civilians dropping by almost eighty percent in the past two years.
Elliott sucked down the remainder of his juice and looked at his watch. “So how long we got until Lucas turns?”
“Not too much longer,” Miles replied. “Maybe another half an hour.”
Elliott shook his head sadly. “Poor guy. I can’t imagine what that must be like. Not knowing how much longer you have left to live.”
“None of us know how much longer we have left to live,” Miles said.
“You know what I mean.”
“Don’t feel too bad for him, guy,” Adam said. “I don’t mean to sound callous, but he has no one to blame but himself. If those kids had done what they were supposed to do, which is report the zombie and have us come and collect it, then he’d still be alive. Instead, they saw the zombie as a source of amusement rather than something tragic. Something that not too long ago was human. It might even be considered poetic justice.”
“It might also be considered improving the gene pool,” Miles quietly added.
“Still,” Elliott said, fiddling with his straw. “It seems like a harsh price to pay for one moment of stupidity.”
While Adam and Miles had been in the undead management and control business for some time now, Elliott was still relatively green. He had joined Dead Rite just two weeks ago – he and Miles had been friends since childhood, and Miles had helped him get the job – and he didn’t yet have the hardened outlook on life the others had.
“Our tax dollars at work, eh?”
They looked up and saw a spotty young guy, a raver wearing a tight pink t-shirt, passing by their table.
Miles’ eyebrows shot up. “I’m sorry?”
“Hows about you get a real job?” the raver sneered as he walked to the door.
“Hows about you mind your own business?” Miles called out after him.
He shook his head in annoyance, before noticing that Adam and Elliott both had smirks spread across their faces.
“What?” he fumed. “Just because we’re taxpayer-funded means we’re not entitled to a meal break?”
“Ignore it,” Adam said, more amused than offended. “It’s not worth losing any sleep over.”