Authors: Thom Adorney
Mr. Elkins and the Zombies of Elbert County
By Thom Adorney
Copyright 2013 by Thom Adorney
Cover Copyright 2013 by Ginny Glass
and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Mr. Elkins and the Zombies of Elbert County
By Thom Adorney
Unless you’ve been living under a rock someplace, you’ve no doubt seen some pretty curious things on the internet. There are sites for everything imaginable under the sun, and, frankly, some that are unimaginable. Some sites do their utmost to perpetuate urban legends, you know, like the lady who found a human finger in bowl of chili at a fast food restaurant or that Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine. And other sites do their best to beat them down. (The chili-finger one is false but the coke-in-the-Coke one is true.) About a month ago, I ran across one such urban legend that involved zombies running amok through farms in Kansas, and the subsequent government cover-up, complete with videotaped footage being confiscated and destroyed, and reporters being forced to sign affidavits to ensure their silence. Of course, this was proven to be false. But the legend bears such an uncanny resemblance to something that truly did happen here in Colorado that I thought I should set the story straight. You see, it happened on my farm.
It all began one October, several years ago, when we started having trouble with something going through our vegetable garden at night, pulling down the row lines. At first, we thought it was some of our livestock getting loose at night. My wife, Ruth, reminded me to be sure the latches on the pens were secured properly, which I did. But then I started noticing footprints, not real clear ones, mind you, because they were quite messy, but clearly human. And the way they were dragging this way and that looked as if some drunks had stumbled through our yard. Frankly, I suspected some teenagers came though our property as they sometimes do. We raked the tracks and promised ourselves that we’d keep an eye out for further late night revelry. Well, we had to put that notion to rest after we found the same messy tracks across the garden, through our lima beans and broccoli, without hearing a sound. It was most disheartening.
Then I saw one. One Tuesday night, October 6th, I went around securing the latches on the pens and fences on account of gusty winds from an incoming cold front when across our backyard comes a zombie. Now, you might be wondering, how does anyone know at first sight that they’re looking at a zombie? Believe me, there’s something inside of you that just clicks and says, “Zombie.” Not in an irrational, panicked voice, but calm, and matter-of-fact. I’m not one for horror movies, and we try to steer our children away from such things. But my oldest son, Seth, has seen a zombie movie at his friend’s house and, sure enough, when I told my family that I had solved the footsteps-through-the-vegetable-garden-mystery and that I’d seen a zombie, Seth looked at me wide-eyed with his spoon halfway between his corn flakes and his mouth and uttered, “Dad, you saw a zombie?” There was a measure of amazement and disbelief in his voice and of course everyone looked at me with the same shocked expression. All except Ruth, of course, because I had told her as we were climbing into bed the previous evening.
“Hmm. Well that explains a few things,” she said, nodding her head in a knowing way.
I described the zombie to Seth, keeping the details sparse so as to not upset our morning appetites, figuring he would be the one most likely to confirm it from his horror movie watching experiences. He looked at me with a dead-on stare and said, “Dad, you saw a zombie”—the exact words that he had said moments before but this time with an air of certainty.
Michael, who’s ten, lit up. “Dad, that is so cool!”
Our youngest one, Cecelia, got back to eating her cereal, not quite sure of what was so impressive about their dad seeing a zombie walking through the backyard.
Cecelia even asked, “Daddy, what’s a zombie?” to which I explained that a zombie’s a dead person who came back to life.
“Don’t we all come back to life after we die?” she asked.
Here my wife took the opportunity for a mini Bible lesson, explaining that when people go to heaven it’s only in spirit, but with zombies it’s as if the spirit is gone but the body’s still walking around.
“Oh,” was all Cecelia answered back, obviously satisfied with the explanation.
Seth then began a series of eating, stopping to look at me, eating some more, then stopping and staring with the same awestruck and perplexed expression. It was 7:15 by this time and Ruth encouraged the children to finish in order to catch the bus, which would arrive in another five minutes. (Out here, you don’t miss the bus or you’ll be doing a lot of walking.) Seth, who’s normally bustling around, shoving down another slice of toast while loading his backpack and pulling out permission slips or what have you for us to sign that he’d let go to the last minute, perhaps intentionally, was walking around slowly, deep in thought, as if he’d hit a pothole in his morning that had flattened a wheel rim, every so often shooting me one of his still-perplexed glances.
“I’m not going to say anything about this at school,” he finally said. He paused and nodded, confirming his decision.
“That’s probably best for now,” I agreed.
Then Cecelia chirped up. “Daddy, can I tell the teacher you saw a zombie in our garden last night?”
Again, Ruth stepped in, as she often does with the young ones. “Let’s just keep it to ourselves for now,” she said kneeling down to look Cecelia in the eyes. “Until we’re sure,” she added. Cecelia shrugged and skipped out the door to catch up with Michael who was already out by the curb.
When we sat down to dinner that night, no one mentioned the zombie, and we carried on with our usual tableside conversation about school, sports, and chores that needed doing. Later that evening, with the younger ones in bed, Seth, Ruth and I sat around the kitchen table sipping coffee, figuring we’d all stay up to watch for zombies. We’d never even voiced the thought, but, sure as the dawn, we each had the same intention. I suspected from the onset that there might be more than one because of the shuffling footsteps I had occasionally found. Raking them out takes longer when there’s more than one of them, you understand. We sat for a while at the table until Ruth got up and walked out onto the back porch. Seth and I followed, being careful to not let the screen door slam, so as to not wake up the younger ones. Ruth buttoned up her cardigan and I dug my hands deep into my pockets. Seth cupped his mug to his lips and sipped coffee.
No one said a thing until Ruth, with a nod of her head toward the southwest corner of the yard said, “Here comes one now.”
Sure enough, into the light, with the now familiar shuffling gait, came a zombie. Not the same one I’d seen before, but one just the same. Now, those of you who haven’t seen a zombie before may not know this, but when zombies walk or shuffle or drag themselves (some have two bum legs), they have the look of someone who is vaguely lost, at the same time knowing and not knowing where they’re heading, similar to those giant sea turtles returning to the sea after laying eggs on the warm summer nights down along the Florida coast. They always travel, at least on our property, in a northeast direction. You don’t want to say anything, perhaps instinctively knowing that they’ll become distracted and lose their bearings and head off in the wrong direction, possibly into your house. And then you’d have a whole new problem of how to get a zombie out of your house, to which I have given considerable thought in case the event should present itself.
We stood there watching as the zombie shuffled through the string bean lines (that, I might add, Ruth had just re-stretched that morning), apparently not disturbed in the least by its feet getting loosely tangled in the strings and vines and dragging beanpoles behind him. Ruth let out a sigh.
“I’ll have to get more string from the shed.”
Then, just as one was leaving the arc of light in our backyard cast by the porch lamp, Seth nodded his head to the southwest again, and, sure enough, there came another. I dug my hands a little deeper into my pockets, feeling the chill of the evening, and blew out a little puff of air, wondering if I could see my breath. Sure enough, I could. I looked closely at the zombie and noticed that no steam came out from his mouth or nostrils, which triggered two thoughts: either zombies don’t breathe, or, when they do, they’re so stone cold that no vapor is formed. I looked at Seth and Ruth and blew out a little breath so that they could see the steam. They took notice and nodded, barely taking their eyes off the zombie.
This one carried on like her predecessor. It was the first she-zombie that I’d seen. There’s something about seeing some young man’s former sweetheart as a walking corpse that awakens one to the mortality of life. After all, whoever had loved her in her wakeful days would certainly find his lips hard pressed to even mouth the words, “I love you” to this poor creature, let alone kiss her. Time spent underground takes its toll on a person.
As she shuffled across the yard, stumbled once, and righted herself, I noticed the look of concern and pity on Ruth’s face. I could tell she was deeply troubled. “Poor soul,” she whispered, slightly shaking her head as the she-zombie traipsed off into the shadows. The three of us stood there awhile, quiet, watching for more zombies. You may know this feeling, but when the night is disturbed and the disturbance ceases, you just get the sense that it’s done. The breeze settles or picks up, or the clouds hide or reveal the moon. We knew when the show was over, and, without saying a word, walked back into the kitchen. None of us had much to say.
“Not something you see every day,” Seth commented, staring over his coffee cup at nothing in particular.
“No, it isn’t,” added Ruth. “Poor girl.”
You might imagine that, after such a scene, one wonders where to go with it. I certainly was. After considering several scenarios in each direction, I decided it was best to do nothing. After all, you don’t necessarily want to tell the neighbors or the police or the minister for fear of the repercussions. Fate would play its hand and tell them if that’s what needed to happen, and, sure enough, the cards were dealt.
You may be asking yourself how the news got out, not that we were being overly secretive. It’s just that most people aren’t inclined to ask, “Seen any zombies lately?” along with other seasonal banter about the frosts and nighttime temperatures and local high school football highlights.
What finally brought it to folks’ attention was a drawing by Cecelia that raised some eyebrows at school. While it was a little hard to decipher, as is most artwork by first graders, by her account it was of a zombie going through our yard at night, tangled in plot lines and beanpoles just like I’d described. It was part of a class activity along the lines of “What October Means to Me.” Her teacher, Mrs. Peevey, apparently was trying to elicit responses from the children that associated October with autumn colors, bird migrations, jumping into piles of leaves, and that sort of thing, in an attempt to embrace the newly enacted school board policy to disassociate October from Halloween. (Apparently, a small group of parents had irritated the school board to no end to stop endorsing this “pagan rooted tradition.” They wouldn’t agree to it as a holiday. “There’s nothing holy about worshipping demons!” charged one of the parents, who, in my opinion, is as overly pious a woman as there ever was. All I can reckon is that she somehow lost the perspective that Halloween’s just a fun sort of celebration, along the lines of the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. In our house, we’ve never found much conflict between leading a reverent life and dressing the kids up as pirates and skeletons for a night of trick-or-treating.)