Authors: David Pardo
Independent Digital Edition
(A short novel)
Translated by: Christopher Showers
Spanish E-Book Edition: 2012
© David Pardo
© Juan Antonio Abad González (Juapi)
This work is copyrighted.
In accordance with current intellectual property law, it is strictly prohibited to totally or partially reproduce, distribute, publicly display, make digitally available, transform, or otherwise exploit - through any means - the Contents of this work without the express, written consent of its rights owners.
To my little girls
Special thanks to: Carolina Márquez Rojas, A.M. Caliani, and Marta Junquera for their help and guidance to become a better writer.
This story contains bloody and violent scenes that could be found disturbing by some readers.
DEGENERATION is fiction. Any name, similarity, or likeness to reality is mere coincidence.
Translated by: Christopher Showers
he sun had stopped shining days before.
I've always been a somewhat temperamental man, with firm convictions that noticeably mark my strong character. I've always been a hard man, the type who doesn't cry, the type who fights to hide his feelings from others. Because of my strong character, I refused to abandon my home when the living dead epidemic came over the village. I thought that I could fortify my house and protect my family... maybe I was mistaken.
My life was normal until a few months ago. I was happy in Navarrés, a small village of the providence of Valencia, Spain, whose inhabitants hardly numbered three thousand. I worked on my father-in-law's farm, surrounded by animal feed and pig excrements. I was married to a wonderful woman and the proud father of an adorable little boy. I had an idealistic life in a rural setting; it was peaceful and far from the city smog that had watched me grow up. I used to like to take walks along Playa Monte Lake and to get lost in the Selda Hills. Exchanging the convenience of the asphalted city for the fresh air of the country had been the best decision of my life and –far from consumerism and a cosmopolitan society– I was finally able to grow as a person. I soon discovered that there were different ways to go about life and that happiness isn't always tied to a bank account number. Anyway, I'm talking too much about myself and this isn't my story: it's theirs. I'm just one more in the grand scheme of things.
The first images of the epidemic reached Navarrés via TV. A morning news program was doing a live broadcast of one of the mass demonstrations against the Government's social cuts. People were peacefully protesting in the streets of Madrid when, suddenly, the cameras panned away from the reporter and began to shoot a group of young people who were running towards and beating the protesters. The youngsters were yelling fanatically while they toppled over people. Their clothes were torn and covered with blood. They seemed to be wounded and extremely violent. Seeing so much unrest, many of the protesters thought that the anti-riot police had started to use its force against them; which, in turn, caused panic to instill amongst the thousands of people who had gone to protest peacefully. The crowd started to run from one place to another, confused and unsure of what was happening. Some people got tripped up and fell to the ground; others piled up in the doorways of buildings and invaded the few shops that had remained open. Asphyxiation from trampling, fights, and looting ensued in midst of the chaos: people had gone crazy.
While terror took hold of the streets, the anti-riot police seemed unresponsive, exchanging stupefied glances. After having seen their brutal wrath on previous demonstrations, it was ironic to watch them there: in a line, unsure of what to do. That day they hadn’t been given orders to control the protesters and when they reacted on their own initiative to calm the upset mood, it was too late. They waived their billy clubs, raised their weapons, and shot rubber bullets at those who had caused the riot, but the troublemakers didn't stop; they continued to wreak havoc amongst the protesters. Soon, the situation got out of the police officers’ hands and they, too, found themselves being attacked by the violent agitators. A camera captured one horrifying scene: one of the troublemakers pounced on a police officer and bit his face, ripping his cheek off and taking a piece of flesh the size of a tennis ball with it. The officer fell to the ground, convulsing. Then, suddenly, the programming was interrupted and no more information was made available.
During the two days following the riots in Madrid, news arrived to us little by little. Some TV channels theorized that the dead were coming back to life, but governmental sources quickly squelched this type of report. Still, in a digital age of instant, uncensored information, social networks were on fire. Photos were spread at an unbelievable rate, a few of which cleared up some doubts: an epidemic of starving zombies was devouring any living being that found itself in their path – and they were spreading through the country at an alarming rate.
The city's leaders called an urgent meeting in the town hall and the mayor suggested that we go to the safe houses that the army had set up just outside the major cities. He was the first to flee to Valencia. As he was a politician, his number-one priority was to save his ass. Almost all the inhabitants of Navarrés opted to follow in the mayor's footsteps, including all the police officers. I, on the other hand, decided to hunker down in my house and protect my family. What place could be safer than my own home?
I tried to get in touch with my parents, but there was no answer. I supposed that the city which had watched me grow had probably already been ravaged by zombies. I was sad to think that I had lost them, but this wasn't the time to feel bad: it was the time to keep fighting.
The church bells were incessantly ringing all the morning. Some believers had decided to go barefoot or on their knees through the Stations of the Cross until arriving to the Holy Christ Hermitage, imploring a divine intervention that would never arrive. While my neighbors were loading their cars with clothing and personal effects, I was bursting into the supermarket to take necessary supplies: food, canned goods, seeds for planting crops, and batteries. I took a shopping cart and ran through the aisles of the supermarket, pouring the contents of the shelves in the cart as I went.
I left the shop, loaded the car to its brim with food, and closed the trunk forcefully. Next, I drove my 4x4 vehicle at high speed through the narrow streets of the village to get to the gun shop.
The only gun shop that existed in Navarrés belonged to Mr. Bonifacio. He was an endearing man –a lover of hunting and of guns– and only had a few years left before he could retire. I stopped my 4x4 in front of the shop: it was closed. I was surprised that the inhabitants of the village were leaving without looting it; they trusted the army and the integrity of the safe houses too much. "What idiots," I thought.
The gun shop's exterior was bulletproof and I had to be a little creative with my entry technique. I backed up, put it in first, popped the clutch, and slammed on the gas. I closed my eyes just before impact as the front of my 4x4 broke the bulletproof glass in a fraction of a second. The alarm went off, but the police had already gone and nobody else seemed to care. I got out of my car and took a look at the front end: a couple unimportant scratches. I hurriedly filled the back seat with boxes of cartridges for my old hunting rifles. I also snatched two 9mm Parabellums and a large amount of munitions for the firearms. If I had decided to stay at home, I'd better show my wife and boy to shoot.
When I was just about to get back in my vehicle and go home, I felt the locked case that held the imported weapons calling my name. Whenever I needed something from the gun shop, I always spent a minute drooling over those guns, feeling a special desire for the imposing
Browning Maxus Composite
, a semiautomatic shotgun made in America that shot 12/89 cartridges. Gun law made shop owners store these types of weapon in a locked safe, but Mr. Bonifacio knowingly ignored this rule so that his high-caliber toys could be displayed to the public.
"It's a beaut, isn't it?" Mr. Bonifacio used to say to me, standing by my side and flashing me the friendly smile of a good salesman. "Once you shoot a super magnum, there is no turning back... its recoil is the closest thing to an orgasm that I know of. And boy, you have to have some strong arms to tame this beast, and I think you'd take to it like a fish to water."
Mr. Bonifacio always tried to sell me the shotgun, but I just couldn't afford it. That day, with the gun shop abandoned and left in fate's hands, I couldn't let the opportunity to have it pass me by. Without wasting any more time, I tapped on the glass window that separated me from the
with my knuckles to test its strength. I then walked to the counter where the decorative pieces were stored and picked up a very heavy, medieval club made of metal whose tip had an ornamental, diamond shape. I used it to shatter the case that held the imported weapons to pieces. Next, I carefully loosened the shotgun from its supports and looked at it up close. It had even greater beauty in my hands. Having possession of that beast, capable of splitting an average-sized man in half with a single shot, made me feel like one of Harrelson's men.
"Finally..." I whispered excitedly, still mindful that nobody could hear me. I slid my hand down to my inner thigh and realized just how excited I had become. Later, I put the shotgun in my 4x4 and loaded the vehicle with super magnum cartridge boxes for my new acquisition. I took advantage of the fact that I had smashed the imported arms case to smithereens and I grabbed a sniper rifle with a scope and, of course, the medieval club – it would be good for hand-to-hand combat.
I got in my 4x4 and turned the key. That's when I had my first moral dilemma. Had I become a thief? No, I was doing this to protect my family. The world was changing and I was just adapting to those changes, that's all. Plus, Mr. Bonifacio had left his store in fate's hands and I supposed that he wouldn't mind. I skidded away from the gun shop with a clean conscience.
That's when I ran into Salvador and Manuel, two brothers who lived a few streets below my house. Salvador was my age and sometimes we played football together. Manuel was a bit older. The brothers parked their truck next to the gun shop and got out of the vehicle. Both were gripping hunting rifles and walking carefully. I backed up and stopped my 4x4 at their side.
"You guys staying?" I asked, sticking my head out of the window.
"Of course," nodded Manuel. "We aren't going to abandon our home."
"Shit!" I shouted, as I saw an elderly zombie walking slowly towards us. A shiver went up my spine: it was the first living dead that I had seen up close and I must say, it was one of the most repulsive and terrifying experiences of my life. The zombie seemed to be stunned and didn’t appear as violent as the ones that I had seen at the protest, maybe because of its age. It was well-dressed –with a black suit and tie– but its pants had mud stains on them and were torn at the bottom, probably from dragging its feet up the hill. It had a bluish face and regurgitated blood from its mouth.
"That... that's.... Shit!" muttered Salvador as he shook his head. "It's Uncle Severino. He died a day before the epidemic fell on the capital. His body mysteriously disappeared during the viewing at his house. Aunt Enriqueta swore that organ traffickers had stolen it. She blamed some foreigners she had seen prowling around their house. Poor woman, I don't know what type of crazy bastard would want to rob an old man's body."
"Well, it seems to me that he left to take a morning stroll," I commented with irony. "Poor man, he doesn't seem violent and he must just be disoriented. Will you guys take care of it? I don't have any damn idea what to do."
"Of course," said Salvador. He immediately picked up his shotgun and blew off the zombie's head with one shot. His brain matter scattered on the sidewalk. My stomach was used to the lingering smell of pig feces, but when I saw Uncle Severino's brain in lumps on the ground, it turned inside out and I thought I was going to barf. The old man was lying motionless on the ground, dead.
"Holy shit," I stuttered, as pre-vomit saliva filled my mouth.
"Problem solved, neighbor," Manuel said, smiling. "It's the second one that we've blown to bits so far today. You have to shoot at their heads to kill them. Don't forget: always aim for the head."
"I won't forget," I said. My eyes unconsciously fell upon Uncle Severino's body. "Listen, don't use up all the gun shop's munitions... this could last a while."