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Authors: James Barton

Tags: #zombies

Decaying Humanity

BOOK: Decaying Humanity
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Special Thanks to:

Tiffany Barton
Michael Barton
Nikki Reynolds
Jason Privitera

 

Cover Art by:
Dao Neyung

 

 

All characters are fictional. All similarities to real people are purely coincidental. All things referenced are to be taken as a work of fiction and in no way depicts businesses, people, or places in real life.

Prologue

    Everyone hates to admit when they’re wrong. This was one of those times that thousands of people had to do just that. That is, if they ever even got the chance to realize their sin.

    We spoiled Americans had it so good, we actually craved hardship. That’s when the zombie craze was born. What wasn’t to love about the idea of scavenging for food, defending ourselves from threats, and valuing human life? Those are all things we used to do before we became mechanized, digitized, and survived off processed food products.

    And so, the Hollywood version of zombies, while around for a long time, really started to take off in the new millennium. It wasn’t long before zombies were on our TVs, video games, movies, books, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. There were even survival guides written as though these things actually existed.

    I remember those foolish people saying, “I’d love it if we had a zombie apocalypse; my life is so boring and I’d finally be able to kick some ass. I just feel I was meant for it.”

    I wish I could lie to you and say I wasn’t one of those people, but I was. Can you really blame me? I lived in a lower-middle class trailer park. My 40 hours a week were spent pushing shopping carts at the local super store. I needed an escape from it all.

    Harvey was my roommate and if we weren’t working, we were watching movies. I’m sure you can guess the genre. If we ran out of movies, we were slaying monsters in an online universe. We weren’t rich, but we had everything we really needed, heck we even had enough spare cash to feed our medieval weapon collection. You could sometimes even catch us outside sparring with our practice gear. It wasn’t LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) I swear, this was more like a training camp that occasionally had imaginary dragons. Turning 25 wasn’t going to be the death sentence for my childish fun.

    But, there is a difference between dreaming of a zombie apocalypse and actually getting one.

    One day, videos on the internet and footage of realistic zombie attacks started showing up everywhere. Unlike a person who has never seen magic, our generation was saturated in it every day. When we saw these videos, it barely even fazed us; seeing someone being ripped apart wasn’t anything new. People in the comments even made jabs about how the blood and guts looked fake. When people took it seriously, it was already too late.

    Now these monsters, the living dead, zombies, walkers, or whatever the hell you want to call them, are nearly identical to the stories and movies of George Romero. It made us wonder. Did our love for these murderous beasts will them into existence, or did a fanatical scientist make them? We might never find out, and honestly, I didn’t care.

    I had to learn how to survive against an enemy that never quits. One minute I’m complaining about a three cent increase in gas prices and the next I have monsters knocking at my door. The worst part is that I’m not sure who caused the most damage, the zombies or ourselves…

Chapter I: The Real Monsters

    “Jason, get up and start filling the cart bay!” I nagged over the cheap blue radio. I was a cart pusher at the local Allmart. I really hadn’t planned to be the only 25 year old man wearing an orange vest, but life dealt me some minor hurdles, and I gracefully tripped over them.

    I previously had a good job as a computer repairman, bought a singlewide trailer at the age of 20 and then immediately got fired. Instead of crying to my parents or losing the house, I just grabbed the first job available. At least I had moved up to head stockman, which really just meant I was the focal point for management’s gripes and complaints. The extra 65 cents made putting up with them worth it when I got my paychecks.

    “Jason, if you don’t stop hiding and do some work I’ll have you written up.” I cringed after those words left my mouth; I could just picture a child screaming “
I’m telling mom!
” I didn’t really enjoy being in charge. I just wanted to work hard, get paid, and clock out. Instead I had to wrangle pot-heads and high school kids.

    “Dude, I’m grabbing carts in the back lot,” he said with a slow drawl.

    I slid the cart bay door open and like I expected, found him crouched behind the carts. That would have been a good hiding spot, if it hadn’t been the fourth time he’d used it. I wouldn’t even care, but I’m out there busting my ass while half of the stockmen are hiding, talking, or taking four-hour shits.

    I glared at him and walked through the main store aisle towards the back offices. I wasn’t in the position to write paperwork. So, like a tattling brother, I had to tell my boss. Telling her usually just resulted in being brushed off with comments like, “Just get to work and I’ll take care of it.”

    As I walked past the grocery aisles, an in-store ad played on the TV about a new flavor of pocket pizzas. A mother filled her grocery cart while cocking her head to the side, talking on her phone. Meanwhile, her two children chased each other, swinging loaves of bread like helicopter blades. I chuckled to myself; I thought it was funny, but probably not the grocery employee. Today was an average Wednesday, including the tattling on Jason.

    My phone vibrated in my pocket and I pulled it out and read the screen.

    “Do you believe these zombie videos?” my friend and roommate Harvey texted. The last couple of weeks, popular streaming media sites were flooded with zombie themed videos. They encompassed a lot of styles, like shaky hand cam, gun battles, close up journal entries, pleas for help, and even some pretty impressive gory encounters. It didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. Heck, it was almost October and zombies have become pretty popular. I even signed up for a zombie 5k run.

    “Pretty entertaining,” I texted back.

    “No, I mean I think this is real,” my phone beeped back. “God, there is a video journal entry in German. She’s looking out an attic window at a street full of them.”

    Absorbed in my texting conversation, I didn’t notice my boss walking up to me. It figures that I would spend all morning working, only to be caught on my phone. “Jim, the parking lot is still full of carts and the only person I saw working was Jason. You need to stop playing on your phone and get back to work,” said Jaime the assistant manager.

    Jaime was a shorter woman with a tangle of hair the color of strained carrots. She had a face full of freckles and oval shaped glasses. She tucked both her hands into the pockets of her red manager smock and wrinkled her nose in disapproval, clearly waiting for a response.

    I couldn’t help but give her a nasty glare in response to her comment. Pushing aside all the things I really wanted to say, including the option to explain myself, I knew better. She would just swat away anything I said and probably cut me off with something like, “
Just do your job.

    I decided, like I always did, to just respond with a, “Yes ma’am.” Just to clarify, this isn’t a sign of weakness; strength is putting up with crap so that I can pay the bills. I went back to pushing carts. Little by little, I noticed Allmart was busier than usual. It wasn’t the usual mid-day wandering customers either; it was mostly grocery shoppers.

    My pocket kept vibrating and I knew Harvey was probably sending me more texts. I figured I’d check them in the safest place available to a vest wearing associate … the bathroom stall. Hey, I never said that I didn’t use any of the tricks myself.

    So there I was, checking my text messages in a less than sanitary bathroom. “
Jake was here,
” “
Good Time Emily 338-6060,
” and an oversized penis was carved into the wall. While checking my messages, I also had the privilege of being serenaded by a man winning the battle against constipation.

    

    
--4 NEW MESSAGES--

    
“I have a really bad feeling.”

    
“I think this is really happening.”

    
“Get supplies, I just got paid I’ll pay u back.”

    
“I’ll be there at 3, we’re getting stuff.”

    

    I can’t say that I believed zombies were about to start roaming the streets, but I could see the value in installing storm shutters on a clear day. Plus, we were due for groceries anyway.

    “K,” I simply responded.

    I looked at my watch; with only two hours left I decided I should get some work done before Harvey showed up. I went to the sink and splashed some water on my face. I stood staring into the mirror; my wavy brown hair had become a tangled mess, but I wasn’t impressing anyone today. I looked at the reflection and thought to myself,
I’m sure it’s all just a big hoax.
With the final trumpet blast from the fellow in the stall, I made my way out to finish my work.

    

    Harvey stepped out of the passenger side of an old white car and his co-worker waved him goodbye. He was wearing his old patched up jeans and a black shirt with a heavy metal band logo on it. He brushed his shoulder length black hair away from his thick prescription glasses.

    “No, dude, I think you are seriously going overboard,” I said as we walked inside.

    He paused for a moment and ran his hand through his short goatee, displaying a nearly two-day shadow of facial hair. “You won’t be saying that when the zombies get here,” he responded.

    Harvey cut straight for a small table that advertised an in-store credit card.

    I raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were just going to use your paycheck.”

    He didn’t look up as he finished the forms. “I was at first, but you see, with this I can get everything we need and I’ll never need to pay it back,” he said, which prompted a scowl from the portly woman behind the table. He finished his application and was handed a temporary card that allowed him to rack up the debt right away. I suppose if he was right, it would be a smart move. If not, then I’d be harassing him for rent.

    We began our one thousand dollar shopping spree right that instant. It began in the first place Harvey thought would be important—the sporting goods gun rack. Unfortunately for him, there was a gun buying law that required a seven day wait. So we went around the store filling our carts and making multiple trips to the car. I hate to admit that it felt awesome, but it did and for so many reasons. One of the reasons was that it wasn’t my money. Part of me was ready to start hacking up zombies with our new Bear Grylls approved Machetes, on sale for only $39.99. It took us nearly three hours and I think if I wasn’t secretly fantasizing about hypothetical post-apocalyptic adventures, I would have grown bored long ago.

    My small car was filled to the point of drooping with random survival items: gallons of water, machetes, batteries, flashlights, wind-up radio, magnetic door alarms, backpacks, medical kits, industrial sized bags of rice, cans and cans of food (I reminded him that in the last movie I saw, cans will become the new currency), protein bars, protein powder, sodas, and lots of other random foods that had extended shelf lives.

    “Why did you catch a ride here? We could have carried more stuff with both cars,” I said while loading up the last shopping bag.

    “Why pay for gas when you can catch a ride for free?”

    As I started up the car we both had stupid grins on our faces. My smile began to fade away as I glanced in the back seats. What if this were real? It wouldn’t be fun or glorified like it was in the movies. Harvey held his cellphone out, pointing the screen at my face. There was a video playing of some teenagers laughing at a drunk old man. I immediately knew where this was going and my stomach began to churn.

    The older man staggered right into the McDonald’s and the kids followed him. The customers inside were either staring blankly at the menu or consumed entirely into their phones. The man suddenly dove onto a larger woman ordering the number one. There was an unsettling resolve in the camera man to capture the entire scene while the other customers began to scream and flee the area. Then the image went to a gray static screen with a message in large white bold letters “THIS VIDEO HAS BEEN REMOVED.”

    “The video cut out,” I said solemnly.

    He turned the phone around examining it himself. He looked puzzled and began fiddling with it as I turned the key and started our drive home. There was an eerie silence as my mind began battling over whether or not we were about to fall victim to an elaborate hoax or truly encounter something horrible. What if this was real?

 

    We pulled the car in backwards all the way up to the door. Our home was the last one on the street. There was a small wooden fence that separated it from the main road that ran past the trailer park. A wooden walkway roughly the width of my car ran the length of the trailer to the front door. We decided to hide the massive amounts of food we were offloading. I’m not saying that trailer parks are filled with bad people. It was just my rule to be distrustful and overly careful. My neighbors seemed like good enough people, but if they run out of food, I think anyone would venture outside their morals. The two of us loaded $921.84 worth of supplies into the house.

    We stored most of the supplies in the spare bedroom. When we finished, I put the car back. I came back into the house and faced Harvey, who stood motionless in the living room. For a moment, we looked at each other, lacking the proper thing to say. I had gone from complete dismissal to wary suspicion and I didn’t know what to do. Should I be nailing the windows shut or was I boarding the paranoia train?

    Harvey installed the cheap door alarms with a strip of double sided tape. They might only be six dollars, but they made one hell of a racket when the door was opened. I look at him with unease as he hooked the machete into his belt. With the final snap on the belt, I actually shuddered as a wave of odd depression rolled over me. That machete solidified his dedication; I think even with all the supplies we bought I hadn’t realized how much he really believed in this idea. He reached into the plastic smiley-face bag and held out the other machete. “Might want to go ahead and buckle in,” he said. He made it sound like we were about to go for a ride, and perhaps we were.

    “Yeah I guess so. Do you want to play some Megaquest?” I asked, hoping that by playing our favorite game, I could get my mind off the idea of the world falling apart.

    “Yeah give me a bit; I just want to look up something real quick.”

    It wasn’t quick; I sat in my computer chair next to him as he pulled up video after video of zombie related material. There were so many videos of zombies, all cell phone shots from roof tops or from the edge of a crowd as people began to tear each other apart. I sat, stunned, not able to take my eyes off his screen.

    That night my necromancer, Magus, did not kill any digital monsters. He simply spun around endlessly on the login screen, waiting for me to play the game. There was a heaviness in the air and I shut off the computer and went to bed. I laid there staring at the ceiling fan for what felt like hours.

    I thumbed through the contacts on my phone and realized I didn’t have anyone to call. Harvey was pretty much the only person I had left. The contact PARENTS with its white letters taunted me in the darkness.

    My parents had died in a car crash when they were struck by a drunk driver. I was only seventeen years old. Like every teenager, I couldn’t wait to move out and be on my own. Yet, as they were stolen from my life, I realized that I would do anything for just another day with them. Their contact number still hovered in my phone, disconnected I’m sure, but deleting it always felt like saying goodbye for the last time.

    It was my senior year when it happened, so Harvey’s dad had let me move in with them. They were good people, but I was ready to be on my own. Using my small inheritance I paid off half of the trailer and moved in after graduation. I was taught to be independent, but times like these made me long for some parental advice. It took a while, but restless sleep finally overtook me.

 

    I slapped the alarm to snooze and it did not respond. The bright red numbers 6:15 pierced the darkness in my bedroom. I dragged myself around my morning routine and while brushing my teeth I started to laugh. There was no apocalypse. We were still here and the sun was still shining—in a week they are going to come out and admit this was the biggest prank ever pulled.

    I banged on Harvey’s door, “Hey man, you want to carpool?”

    There was an immediate and fully awake response, “I’m off today.”

    “What are you doing up so early, then?” I asked.

    There was a long pause and then, “Hey, just be careful.”

    I shook my head at that remark and started to walk out the door, “
BWWWAANNNGGG BWWWAANNNGGG,
” the alarm screamed. I cussed and jumped back, forgetting it was still turned on from the last night. I flicked the switch off and got into my car. I looked around, half expecting to see burning buildings and people running from the undead. There was nothing of the sort, so I simply drove to work. Halfway through the drive, my phone rang and I pushed the Bluetooth button on my car.

BOOK: Decaying Humanity
8.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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